Every decade or so, an act appears that changes the entire history of music. In the 1950s, Elvis Presley arrived like an earthquake in the entire music industry. Elvis then opened the doors for the likes of The Beatles, who in the ‘60s opened the doors for The Rolling Stones in the 70’s. Rock music was here to stay – and rock would take the world by storm. Fans of these acts were treated to annual tours so they could see their favorite acts in person.
These two words have meant something to me for the last few years. In my eyes, Daft Punk were total assholes. Now don’t get me wrong: I LOVE their music. It helped get me, and millions more like me, to start liking electronic music, and then festivals made me absolutely love it. I’ve been lucky enough to see every one of my favorite electronic acts multiple times. Daft Punk is the last remaining act on my bucket list.
This is why I thought they were assholes. As Spider-Man teaches us, “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”. Therefore, if you make music that changes the lives of millions of people around the world (and make millions of dollars doing it) then you have a duty to tour and give your fans the opportunity to see their favorite act live.
Their last show was eight years ago, in 2007. Since then they created the soundtrack to Tron as well as full-length album – but chosen not to tour. They did make one appearance at the 2014 Grammys, which I took as more of a slap to the face. If they were going to grace the world with their presence, did it really need to be for a roomful of celebrities instead of actual fans?
So that was it.
I thought Daft Punk were assholes.
End of story.
This all changed this year at Burning Man, as I was watching the sun come up on the U.S.S. Christina art car as Thomas Jack was playing. I met a guy named San Quentin from Los Angeles. San Quentin was in the music industry, and after talking music and sharing champagne he pulled me and a friend aside and gave us wristbands. But not any old wristbands: they were VIP passes to a viewing platform for Daft Punk at the trash fence.
Now, “Daft Punk at the trash fence” is one of the biggest jokes at Burning Man. Every year someone says they’re going to be there, which inevitably causes hopeful Burners to ride miles away from the man, hoping to see their favorite act. I laughed in San Quentin’s face and let him know that this was not my first burn. There was no way I would fall for such a thing.
San Quentin smiled confidently and let know that that running joke that has been going on for years, and this was exactly why Daft Punk were playing the trash fence. While his vibe felt genuine, I couldn’t get myself to believe him. Too many people before me had fallen for this same ploy. But the thought of this being the year that it actually happened overtook my better judgement. I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to larger-than-life events – and if this was really the year, there was no way I could risk missing it.
Before I knew it, the day had flown by and it was time to supposedly see Daft Punk at the trash fence. I found an art car whose occupants also seemed have heard the rumor, and we headed out. As we travelled, I did my best to curb my expectations. My brain told me there was no way this was real, but my heart was beating with a flow of adrenaline for a show that I haven’t felt in years. Could this really be the moment? Was this really happening?
Once we made it there, we found a group of people anxiously waiting. Everyone had heard a different version of the same story. We all knew better, but still we were all there. If Daft Punk came out, it would go down as one of the biggest moments in our lives.
Then it happened.
Two guys in black leather coats and robot helmets appeared atop the Black Bird art car. The sight made my heart jump out of my chest. Then their song Robot Rock came blaring through the speakers. EVERYONE screamed like we had never screamed before. Suddenly I understood all of those girls in the old Beatles videos who completely lose their mind when the Fab Four play. The entire crowd was screaming uncontrollably. I went to the back of the art car and was allowed onto it, thanks to the wristband that San Quentin had given me. The entire bus was shaking with people dancing. It was really happening! The played hit after hit. Everyone sang along. This was the most fun I’d had at a show in years. It was total bliss.
Still, while this was happening, I questioned whether it was actually them in front of us. Could this really be the guys I’d been calling assholes for the last year? I was definitely watching two guys wearing robot helmets and playing a full Daft Punk set. The music made my heart flutter, and the vibes from the people around me were electric. It was then that I realized that Daft Punk are not assholes at all. They are quite the opposite. They make music that millions of people around the world adore, but they want to be different. Instead of touring like every other act, their helmets make their live show 100% reproducible. If it was not actually the real Daft Punk in front of me, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that it felt like it was real, and that everyone else around me felt we were seeing one of the most epic shows in the history of the world. We were seeing Daft Punk at the trash fence! No one could take that experience away from us.
Hopefully, this experience will make its way into festival’s after-hour parties for years to come because every Daft Punk deserves this experience that became one of the highlights of my burn.