Leave it to a Trent Reznor project to keep the music industry on their collective toes. To celebrate Friday’s release of the Reznor/Atticus Ross-composed official soundtrack for the upcoming film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mouth Taped Shut, the soundtrack’s guerrilla marketing campaign, teamed with HARD to deliver a free, expertly produced dance party at Chicago’s Congress Theater, with subsequent shows planned for New York, London, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Reznor isn’t expected to make an appearance at any of the stops, but HARD did tap a pair of superstar DJs for the Chicago gig: LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Sebastian Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia fame.
In line with Mouth Taped Shut’s previous pop-up marketing efforts, rumors of the Chicago event didn’t surface until Tuesday, with details on location and artists not confirmed until midday on Wednesday. While the RSVP process seemed easy and user-friendly enough, the planned Thursday ticket pickup proved too perplexing for some, leaving many underclothed Chicagoans wandering up to the Congress Theater without tickets. Due to this confusion, the Congress justly opened their Will Call Friday evening for those unable to make the Thursday deadline, and even had security guards camped out near the entrance, safely bringing revelers in out of the frigid Chicago evening.
Once inside, protective layers were quickly shed, as the 4,000-plus-person club filled with body heat leading up to Murphy’s 10:30 p.m. set. Having first started his musical journey spinning as Death from Above (now the name of his record label), Murphy was able to build a set without relying on samples from his more well-known project (LCD Soundsystem), a feat not often accomplished by popular frontman-turned-DJs. Following Proxy‘s progressive house set, Murphy paid homage to Chicago’s dance music legacy, spinning predominantly mid-tempo, vocal-heavy house and disco tracks. During the 90-minute set, Murphy remained nearly silent, allowing the tracks to slowly wash over the audience while he casually dug for the next track to cue up. With midnight approaching, Murphy pulled the hook from The Temptations’ Get Ready, successfully reviving disco in the Windy City for the close of his set.
After replacing Murphy’s turntables with more modern production equipment, the Swedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso stepped up to the table and immediately rejuvenated the audience with a surge of electro-house. The two-hour set continued with an array of recognizable, and sometimes head-scratching, remixes/matchups. Following a mashup of Martin Solveig and Dragonette’s Hello vs. Bassjackers’ Mush Mush, Ingrosso kept fists pumping with Diddy – Dirty Money’s I’m Coming Home infused with the guitar lick from Daft Punk’s Aerodynamic. Ingrosso shed more light on the Pretty Lights’ Finally Moving and Flo Rida’s Good Feeling controversy, with his own take on the Etta James classic Something’s Got a Hold on Me. For the old-school Chicago house fans in attendance, a special applause was reserved for Ingrosso after he mixed in Green Velvet’s Flash. Judging by audience reactions, the Chicago crowd was also eager to hear Swedish House Mafia standards The Island by Pendulum and their original Save the World Tonight.
Not all of the set seemed to go over well, most notably a tuned-up electro-remix of REM’s Losing My Religion. Changing the pitch of Michael Stipe’s voice just seemed to be a distraction from the underlying composition. Ingrosso also unexpectedly dropped a heavy dubstep segment about an hour into his set, but only chose to maintain the intensity for a few moments. Was this selection a teaser for future work or an experiment on the genre’s rise in American club music? Because as soon as Ingrosso added some grimy, bass-rattling two-step, the entire audience went mad. However, as 2 a.m. neared, the set ran out of steam. Ingrosso was no longer seamlessly mixing the various mashups into a cohesive barrage, instead choosing to add breaks between changes in production styles and impeding the collective vibe of the audience.
With numerous streamer drops, confetti showers, and fog blasts, the lack of production time didn’t hamper HARD and the Congress Theater’s ability to throw one hell of a party. And with hundreds of empty theaters lining America, hopefully this pop-up concert marketing idea continues to gain traction, thus benefiting venues, artists, and fans’ wallets.