20
YEARS
OF
DFA

Legendary NYC Party Turned Label, DFA, Home to LCD Soundsystem, Black Dice + More Celebrate Two Decades of Raucous Releases

Text by Hanson O’Haver

Courtesy DFA Records

The legendary DFA Records started not as a label but as a dance party circa turn-of-the-millenium New York City. Thrown by a group of friends led by music producer James Murphy, Death From Above — as it was then known — was a series of notorious late-night parties thrown in tiny clubs in downtown Manhattan. Eventually the parties got shut down, but they spawned The DFA, a production team.

The DFA produced The Rapture’s “House of Jealous Lovers,” then released it as the first single on DFA Records. That was in March 2002. In the intervening years, DFA Records has released music from dozens of beloved acts, like Black Dice, Hot Chip, Holy Ghost!, Liquid Liquid, and Hercules & Love Affair. LCD Soundsystem, fronted by DFA co-founder James Murphy, became one of the biggest bands in the world, without sacrificing any of what made the group feel like a special NYC secret. So when DFA Records celebrated its 20th anniversary last month with a series of parties and performances, Ace Brooklyn was happy to be part of the fun.

The Lobby played host to 20 Years of Bad Luck, a poster exhibition featuring forgotten gems from the label’s rich archive. “DFA started out not as a record label, but as a sort of community of friends and artists — some musical, some visual, some both, some neither,” DFA General Manager Sam Duke said. Even as the record label took off, DFA has always thought of both elements as equals. Some of its most famous output, like the iconic lightning bolt logo, has been visual.

The idea behind the exhibition came about when DFA moved offices in 2020 and uncovered some lost treasures. Matt Shaw, a visual artist, DJ, and longtime DFA family member, then set out to select some favorites:

LCD Soundsystem
photo by Tristane I. Mesquita

“DFA started out not as a record label, but as a sort of community of friends and artists — some musical, some visual, some both, some neither,”

A POSTER FROM ONE OF THE EARLY DEATH FROM ABOVE PARTIES ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE, 2000, FEATURING JAMES MURPHY’S LCD SOUNDSYSTEM.

TOUR POSTER FEATURING ART FROM THE FIRST LCD SOUNDSYSTEM ALBUM FROM 2005.

AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE FIRST THE JUAN MACLEAN’S DEBUT ALBUM, 2005. AFTER THE RAPTURE, THE JUAN MACLEAN’S 12” “BY THE TIME I GET TO VENUS” WAS ONE OF THE FIRST DFA RECORDS RELEASES.

PROMOTIONAL PHOTO THE DAYS OF MARS, AN ALBUM BY DELIA GONZALEZ & LONGTIME LCD SOUNDSYSTEM SYNTHESIZER PLAYER GAVILÁN RAYNA RUSSOM, 2005.

THIS NOSTALGIC HOLY GHOST! POSTER SHOWS THE BAND WITH A FEW DOZEN OF THE LABEL’S CLOSEST FRIENDS. SAM DUKE SAYS THAT IT “REALLY SHOWS WHAT DFA WAS AND SHOULD BE: A GANG OF PEOPLE IN NEW YORK CITY WHO HUNG OUT TOGETHER, MADE STUFF TOGETHER, AND HAD A REALLY GREAT TIME ALONG THE WAY.”

Creating some of the most memorable tunes of the last two decades (“Losing My Edge,” “All My Friends,” “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,” — the list goes on…) might be enough for most people, but James Murphy has another side project. Since 2015, he’s run Four Horsemen, the Michelin-starred restaurant that helped introduce Brooklyn (and thus everyone else) to natural wine.

To celebrate 20 years of DFA Records, Ace and Four Horsemen joined forces for a five-night pop-up in the Garden, with a menu curated by Four Horsemen’s Chef Nick Curtola and Wine Director Justin Chearno. To top it off, we threw an all-night bash on March 24 to celebrate the anniversary and how much we all like each other.

Festivities started in the Garden with a special menu of wine and savory plates, then got a little wilder with a party in the Lobby. Matt Shaw and DFA artist Shit Robot DJed, and the rest of us danced all night. We hope you’ll join us next time.