LCD Soundsystem knows how to throw a party. The dance-rock brainchild of 41-year-old James Murphy has been shaking things up for more than 10 years, first in the form of house parties (that is, if a house party can take place in a venue that's not technically a house) and now as a band whose last album, 2010's This Is Happening, debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 and briefly trounced Lady Gaga on the dance/electronic charts.
When LCD Soundsystem announced in February that it would play one final show, at New York City's Madison Square Garden on April 2, and then call it quits forever, tickets to the performance sold out in seconds. They were snatched up by resale websites like Stubhub.com and flipped for thousands of dollars, leaving most fans without seats. The band responded by booking four additional earlier shows at Terminal 5, another New York City venue, and offering much cheaper tickets.
As I arrived at Madison Square Garden to see the band off for good, I thought about how best to encapsulate LCD Soundsystem: I could mention Murphy's unlikely rock stardom he comes across as a pudgy music geek who could just have easily spent his entire life working at a vinyl record store and the significance of the band's attempt to make good on the "I hope I die before I get old" sentiment that most artists never manage to realize. But that's not really the essence of LCD Soundsystem. For Murphy, the point is and always has been to have a good time. And the final show was no exception. Here's what it was like.
9:08 p.m. The stage lights up and the audience stands at attention. The band has asked us to wear either black or white to the concert. This being New York City, almost everyone has chosen black.
9:11 p.m. James Murphy walks out on stage in a white shirt, black blazer and white sneakers. He looks like a dad. Or maybe a wedding guest.
9:12 p.m. Murphy thanks us for being here as he throws "one last big party." "We're hoping it'll be a real weird experience for everyone," he says. People take pictures of him with their cell-phone cameras.
9:13 p.m. The first song, "Dance Yrself Clean," starts with a lone drumbeat that doubles up on itself as Murphy mumbles lyrics about how sick he is of the same thing happening every night. "Present company excluded," he says in the song. Nice save.
9:17 p.m. The scent of pot is unmistakable.
9:18 p.m. Lights flash, synthesizers rock the arena, and what has been almost a spoken-word performance suddenly turns into a dance party. The guy next to me starts writhing to the music. I don't know this yet, but he won't stop for nearly four hours.
9:23 p.m. People in panda costumes run through the aisles. A security guard follows after them.
9:31 p.m. There are 19,000 people at Madison Square Garden, and every one of them is dancing. People are jumping, slamming, head-bobbing and swaying. One guy on the ground floor is wearing a suit jacket adorned with flashing lights. That's got to be annoying for the people sitting behind him.
9:50 p.m. An empty panda suit flies through the audience.
10:03 p.m. We're one hour into the concert, and Murphy announces that the band needs a quick break. The members are back less than five minutes later. The frenetic keyboard starts for "All My Friends," and the entire arena cheers. This is one of the band's most popular songs. When it came out in 2007, it was listed on nearly every official "best of" list, including TIME's. But it never even made it onto the charts.
10:07 p.m. The guy next to me is having trouble figuring out how to dance and text his friend at the same time.
10:14 p.m. James Murphy's brother Tom is introduced to the audience. His sister and her kids are also there somewhere. All things considered, this is a pretty awesome family outing; my family just goes out to dinner.
10:23 p.m. Is that Reggie Watts? The musically inclined comedian appears on stage to add some groove to a sample from "45:33," the 45-minute track that Murphy released in 2006 and that I have listened to only once because, well, it's 45 minutes long.