James Murphy & Soulwax began 3-night Despacio party residency (review/playlist)
James Murphy and David & Stephen Dewaele (Soulwax/2ManyDJs) kicked off their three-night Despacio party residency at the Knockdown Center on Thursday (3/30). Having traversed Coachella, Panorama, Barcelona’s Sonar Festival, and other one-off events, last night’s set only expanded on the impressive repertoire of house and disco that the trio have been spinning at their marathon vinyl-only parties. The Knockdown Center was perfect for the event, providing much needed quiet spaces for those wishing to step off the black-and-white tiled dance floor for a breather. In addition to the Knockdown Center’s usual bars, there was also a popup version of James Murphy’s Brooklyn restaurant, Four Horsemen, pouring natural wines (Murphy even took time to sniff some wine while he was behind the decks).
The main attraction of the event was arguably the sound system, which consisted of seven customized McIntosh amplifiers standing an impressive eleven feet tall. With the Dewaeles and Murphy tucked away behind a partitioned DJ booth, the speakers, which were surrounded by red velvet ropes as if to designate VIP status, became the de facto guest stars of the night. Though the event technically started at 8 PM, the room was relatively empty until around 9:30, when Soulwax boldly kicked things off with Paul McCartney‘s “Check My Machine.” That cut set the tone for the evening’s setlist, which, as with previous Despacios, was focused heavily on disco and new wave from the ’70s and ’80s. But “The Hustle,” this wasn’t. Everything from Black Sabbath to “The Safety Dance” blared through the towering speakers (check out a partial playlist of the night below).
The main focal point of the room was the cartoonishly large disco ball, which, when illuminated by day-glo lights, lent the room some Paradise Garage type vibes. At one point, the disco ball was cast in yellow light as The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” blasted through the speakers, an almost surreal experience that brought the daylight indoors at 2 AM. By the end of hour eight, the dance floor had thinned slightly, and the DJs had carefully brought the vibe down to a zen-like state with spoken word records and ambient overlays. Rather than go quietly into the night, however, the DJs ended things with George Benson’s “On Broadway,” an apt homage to the city that, at least for one night, truly did not sleep.