On this past rainy Friday in LA—the beginning of a winter storm—I found myself feeling down on my city. Earlier that afternoon, I’d discovered that an old parking ticket I contested a while back had more than doubled. I hadn’t been notified that my plea was rejected. Thank God, that night, for De Lux at The Echo. De Lux, along with opener Fartbarf, the self-proclaimed post-neanderthal analogue synthesists in ape masks, the admirably bizarre presence of which helped scatter my hanging cloud.
Both bands hail from LA, and the song De Lux chose to launch with, “LA Threshold,” was what I was looking for or needed to start feeling good about my city again. The song begins with clapping and some difficult-to-comprehend mutterings about having a great time and all the cool bands being in the 70s’, before getting into it: “To drive in LA…Is the worst of my day…And to drive in LA…Is the best in the rain…And to park for the shows…I give up, I’m going home…There are girls in the world…Staying wealthy by taking selfies.”
Within The Echo’s tight confines, ideal for dancing under the overhead disco ball and lights, the song’s guitar synth-line created a hypnotic vortex effect—it strapped the audience in for a funkadelic fling, minus the traffic, down the freeway.
Heading into the show, I spent some time thinking about what appeals to me about this particular post-disco group started by Sean Guerin and Isaac Franco, in spite of my distaste for the source genre. As much LCD Soundsystem and Classixx as Van McCoy, they’re considerably less poppy than Daft Punk, I like. De Lux’s electronic melodies have the ability to leave you just staring at a wall. “Else,” their edgy cover to the 1999 Built to Spill song, is a good example (one which, disappointingly, they didn’t perform).
Just as easily, they could incite the most stationary among us to grooving under the lights. The group’s lyrics are actually worth listening to—especially if you’re one of the restless who came to this city looking for something. But it’s also not necessary that you do.
The second track that night, “Writing Music for Money, to Write More Music,” from 2018’s More Disco Songs About Love, was accompanied by a montage featuring Bob Ross, the late, iconic, cheerful landscape painter of 1980s PBS fame. His afroed likeness served to prop up the chorus of “Just get-get up and just get what you want.”
The strikingly funky montages that appeared throughout the night really added to the vibe. “Sometimes, Your Friends Are Not Your Friends” featured a jarring juxtaposition of Steve from Nickelodeon’s Blues Clues, Jack from The Shining and footage from what I believe was the original Kung Fu. Later, they pulled imagery from retro videogames. Super old-school Fifa and Star Wars come to mind.
I met a 24-year-old who described herself as “an inner grandma escaped from her cage.” Her name was Alex and she’d made the dreary drive up from Orange County with a couple of broken headlights, to see the group for the third time.
“Some songs,” she said, “like ‘A Cause for Concern,’ make you want to dance for your life. Something about it always comes back to dancing and disco, even though it’s emotional.”
Coming from the point of view of someone who actually loves funk and disco—the original stuff—she added: “There’s no one else out there like them, right now, on the scene.” They’re revitalizing the genre.
She’s been to a few and described a De Lux show as “a big ole’ party with all your friends, and you guys all have inside jokes together. You’re getting down dancing to all your inside jokes. You feel like you’re their friend even though you haven’t even met them.”
One of these inside jokes materialized during the “Brighter End of Dark” with the four-piece taking turns to shovel cereal from an oversized bowl and spoon into their mouths, keeping time between their spoonfuls and their upbeat melodies. Lead singer Sean Guerin called this performative gesture “the most important part of the evening.” I didn’t get it, but it didn’t matter.