Anticipation. That’s what happens before a The Juan MacLean show.
Doors opened at 10:00pm at the U Street Music Hall for the modest line that had formed outside. Once inside, the sign at the ticket counter hinted the band was scheduled to go on at 11:30pm.
With time to kill, with a drink and a conversation, one could groove to Tommy Cornelis owning the DJ booth. He gave the growing crowd, many fitted with full backpacks, amble reason to dance.
And dance they did, because 11:30 came and went. Tommy kept the momentum going. Finally, just after midnight, the members of The Juan MacLean, including it’s namesake John MacLean, took positions. After building even greater anticipation, Nancy Whang, formerly of the disbanded LCD Soundsystem, appeared on stage and began to sing in earnest.
Yet it was as if the sound was on mute. Singing was evident, but none of the lyrics escaped the stage.
Partway through the second song, something snapped and the sound came alive. The crowd let out a riotous cheer. Dancing took over, and unconvinced head nodding was a thing of the past.
The Juan MacLean released their third full length album, In a Dream, late last year. The new song “Running Back To You”, accompanied by Nancy’s vocals and a tambourine, does hint at LCD Soundsystem’s sound. You could almost be forgiven for thinking it was LCD Soundsystem, which is meant as a compliment.
“A Simple Design”, one of two singles from In a Dream, is a bouncy, groovy track that you literally can’t get out of your head.
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The other new single, “A Place Called Space”, starts with a more traditional, and yes, space-aged techno beat, that could double as the soundtrack to any Star Wars knock-off, then shifts into an almost moody jam-band breakdown of instruments with a round of lyrics from both John and Nancy.
“Happy House”, an older but catchy, complicated mix of beats, that can be described by Nancy herself, ‘Thank you for just being so damn excellent’. Yes, thanks.
Armed with an array of strange instruments (what was that tuning rod type instrument that John MacLean repeatedly hunched over with great concentration?) and a mix of interesting looks (like the drummer’s Richard Simmonsesque headband and frizzy hair), The Juan MacLean gave the expectant audience a ready-made reason to move and enjoy themselves.