I WAS THERE: Hercules and Love Affair @ Studio B, 5.17.08

[Photos by Fred Benenson]

By Arye  Dworken

Let’s say you had no idea about the Pitchfork review or the James Murphy connection. Not only that; let’s say you showed up to Studio B on Saturday night knowing nothing about Hercules and Love Affair and waited for them to finally hit the stage at 1:20 AM even though the place was more crowded and smelly than a carton of freshly caught fish.

Nearly a dozen musicians took the stage for their first live performance with a notable nervous energy permeating throughout. Hell, you even felt it in the back by the bar. The band itself looked like a Real World cast as curated by John Waters, with a scantily dressed and hot transsexual leading them on vocals. You danced, or tried to, because Studio B definitely oversold tickets, making it nearly impossible to move anything but one’s shoulders.

After ordering a vodka soda, you heard that Antony sings lead on several of the songs from the group’s import-only debut (a Mute-distributed version of the DFA disc is due out next month) but alas, he isn’t coming tonight. However, you tried to stay positive, thinking, “Hey, you never know. New York shows always inspire random cameos.”

He didn’t come.

Anyway, the band tore through 10 tracks, including at least one of the Antony cuts. It was hard to get a good view–hello tall, gay, European posse–but you were pretty sure they used a pre-recorded vocal track for a crowd favorite entitled “Blind.” (Ed. note: There’s a stellar Frankie Knuckles remix of this single available on 12-inch or here.)

After a while, Hercules and Love Affair started to sound not like the disco revivalists your peers are attributing them as, but like a queer interpretation of LCD Soundsystem.  Which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just not what you were expecting from the colorful personalities on stage.

It was also blatantly obvious that they were new to this live thing. The glamorous, high-energy songs are there for the taking and you’re pretty sure it’s just a matter of time before the Hercs feel more comfortable as live performers because right now, it felt a bit stilted and stiff. It makes sense that this project was spearheaded by a DJ–that blonde dude standing in the background, and not an organic garage-born band.

A satisfactory evening overall and you’re still open to see them again when they return from Europe.

They’re huge in Europe.

The setlist (according to the Internet):

True False/ Fake Real
I’m Telling You
Classique #2
Precious Little Diamond
You Belong
Raise Me Up
Hercules Theme

And some more photos …