LCD Soundsystem have made a career out of iconic lines, from, “Daft Punk is playing at my house,” to “I’m losing my edge,” but nothing they’ve written has been quite as prescient as, “[U]s playing the show is no way an indicator that it’s safe to attend.” The band posted those words in a December 17th statement explaining why they wouldn’t be cancelling their residency at Brooklyn Steel, despite private misgivings and a COVID-19 surge in New York City. Two days later, they finally pulled the plug, bowing to outside pressure as well as a growing unease within the band.
Before that happened, scores of concert-goers may have been infected with the novel coronavirus. Consequence has spoken to over a dozen people who attended the residency, all of whom say they have had at least the first two rounds of a vaccine. After viewing proofs of attendance and positive tests, at least nine of those fans might have paid for their fandom with a bout of COVID-19. The same story has been told over and over again on Reddit boards and Twitter threads, as one of music’s most online fanbases vented their frustration.
By definition, pandemics effect all of us, and there’s a tendency to frame negative public health outcomes as somewhere between a moral failing and an act of pure evil. But COVID-19 is not going away. It may be a few years until the pandemic becomes endemic (prevalent in some areas but absent from others, like influenza and the common cold), and in the meantime we will all be constantly forced into judgment calls. With LCD Soundsystem’s Brooklyn Steel residency, the band, the venue, and thousands of fans gambled — and lost. It’s unfortunate, but it may also provide a blueprint for taking smarter risks in the future.
LCD Soundsystem announced the residency on October 1st, at a time when COVID-19 cases nationwide were falling from the summer peak. According to the New York Times COVID tracker, total cases would continue dropping until late October, and after an up-and-down November, the current surge began at the beginning of December.