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Didn’t have a good time at Capital Cities? Impossible

Eric Webb
ewebb@statesman.com

If you didn’t have fun at Capital Cities, you are wrong.

Now, not everyone is a fan of the bro-baiting dance party enthusiasts with their shimmering veneer of irony. That’s fine; not everyone is into feel-good, platitudinous lyrics and unrestrained, braying brass. But here’s the thing: Apparently, and this came as somewhat of a surprise, Capital Cities is bigger than you. They’re bigger than all of us. But they’re not bigger than their 2:15 p.m. audience at the Samsung Galaxy stage. The multitudes began pouring in as soon as Broods finished up on the same stage at 1:15 p.m.

A sense of scope: The chair people had colonized the ground directly in front of the portable toilets.

Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian’s Los Angeles dance machine was surely the Pied Piper on Friday, and they win the award for most propulsive set of the fest thus far. They set the groundwork with songs off their debut, “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,” like the groove-worthy “Kangaroo Court” and “Farrah Fawcett Hair.” (Which, sadly, did not take advantage of everyone’s hopes that Andre 3000 would recreate his guest verse live.) Simonian in particular was kinetic and feeling the heat of the day more furiously than most as he laid beats and spun tracks. As if Calvin Harris himself had possessed the crowd in the form of the beach ball bopping in the horde, the jumping was uncontainable, the flailing arms unrestrainable, the “Weekend at Bernie’s II” leans unassailable.

By the time Capital Cities worked their way into “I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo,” the MVP of the dance party broke away from the pack: trumpeter Spencer Ludwig. Though slight in build, his effervescent brass (which could quite easily become a gimmick) completely girded the show. He waved his instrument like a baton to incite rhythmic riot; he jumped higher than anyone, and simply implored the same of those watching.

Now, if you expend your biggest hit two-thirds of the way through your set like Capital Cities did with “Safe and Sound,” that’s normally cause for concern. And indeed, the elated, stereophonic experience, which was wrapped in buttery brass, was all any Capital Cities fan really needed to get by.  And indeed, a large portion of the audience filed out soon after the song wrapped.

That aforementioned propulsion, though, turned the band around the corner into festival highlight territory. Anyone who skipped out after “Safe and Sound” missed a funked up, booming, sexy rendition of Sinead O’Connor’s (or Prince’s) “Nothing Compares 2 U,” shortly followed by a lovingly rendered cover of Madonna’s “Holiday.” (The band had also rolled out a faithful “Stayin’ Alive” in the early third.) To close out what Simonian called a “surreal” engagement at Zilker Park, Capital Cities stepped away from the instruments for a dance remix of “Safe and Sound” that culminated in an en masse removal of garments in the crowd, which itself culminated in an en masse helipcoptering of said garments in the air.

Returning to your hit song after you’ve already played it? Can you do that? Did it. Didn’t apologize. When you get right down to it, when did logic ever help someone have a good time?