Death From Above 1979: déjà vu cult lane

dfa cover
Photo by Daniel Young

Being excited about going to a Death From Above 1979 show in 2014 is an exercise in nostalgia. The dance-punk band from Toronto, comprised of Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler, played two back-to-back dates, the first date this past Wednesday at the Vogue. Hump day, all-ages, no ins-and-outs, ended before midnight, theatre seat – even with these potential downers, it felt like a Saturday night somewhere that wasn’t in Vancouver, a city that, on the whole, isn’t well-known for being especially energetic at live shows. DFA 1979 was a trip down memory lane. Revived after a ten-year break-up, DFA 1979 was ostensibly on tour to support their sophomore LP, The Physical World, which came out last fall on Last Gang Records, and it felt every bit like a high school reunion.

Those in secondary school at the beginning of the millennium know indie rock was all, and Arts & Crafts God. DFA 1979 was a lightning bolt of loudness snapping up acolytes with their riff-rock sound, a raw formula based out of necessity rather than conscious planning. But Wednesday night wasn’t for people jonesing for a quick teenage fix – there were twenty-something people wearing snapbacks, there were thirty-something people in suits, and there were kids in the front helping other kids crowd-surf. DFA 1979 brings people together.

“We’re gonna keep playing hits for you guys; that’s all we got.” This was one of Grainger’s memorable lines of the night, and they can be counted on a single hand. Although he and Keeler were naturals at crowd-work with their easy-going banter about drugs, they focused on letting the music speak for itself. Grainger and Keeler were charming when they spoke, which was rare, and it was ultimately the music they played that lit everyone up.

A wise choice when DFA 1979 performed hits like “Going Steady”, “Cold War”, and “Turn It Out”. Shuffled in between new songs like “Trainwreck 1979” and “Right On, Frankenstein!”, DFA 1979 moved people with rough grooves, and it was their older songs that elicited the most fervent responses from the audience. Undeniable energy, it was amazing to see adrenaline at a rock show for the masses when the hype and the party are swung so heavily in electronic music’s favour.

Gratitude and respect was a common byline in recent interviews Grainger and Keeler had done, and it was reflected in The Physical World. The album paid homage to the fast drumming and heavy bass that spellbound fans, with Grainger singing, “It’s the same old song, just a different tune,” on “Right On, Frankenstein!”. A powerful aroma of buzz, DFA 1979 promised a retro evening that rested more on classic tunes than innovative risks.

View more photos of Death From Above 1979 at the Vogue here.