Eulogy: Death From Above 1979

The subtitle of this blog is “Where Music Goes To Die” so it seems fitting to write some parting words for the bands and artists that burned out or blew up, and either destructed or fate kept them from continuing. Some of the best have been cut short due to one or more member’s loss of life, or contract disputes and personal issues lead to  “creative” and irreconcilable differences. Whatever the case, losing a band you love is like losing a friend or group of friends: the companionship is gone and the walls may start to close in.

The first band was introduced to me in a normal fashion, but I forgot about them and the way they were re-introduced has a much better story. One filled with coconuts, Canadians, and Rock’m Sock’m Robots.

Death From Above 1979

Conan O’Brian had some fantastic guests on his run with late-night NBC. I got to see a wide array of artists that I would have otherwise been ignorant of, but often times I’d forget that one cool band I saw because it was 1:30 in the morning. I passed out swiftly after giving a mental round of applause. The band’s name flashed during the opening credits, and I didn’t think I heard it correctly. When I heard Conan say “Ladies and gentlemen, Death From Above 1979,” I knew something magical was occurring as that was the coolest band name I’d yet heard.

What was this going to sound like? What was this going to look like?

Two skinny white kids show up, one sitting behind a drumkit and the other behind a synth. The drummer started going nuts and the bass made the gnarliest scrapes. It was enchanting.

Please watch the video here. It is well worth your time, and NBC are super nazis about their properties so they make this one an internet treasure.

The passion and intensity was unreal, and having Max Weinberg finish the song off was classic. The tune was excellent and I had that band name stuck in the annals of my brain, rattling around until it finally got plucked during Coachella. I told the first part of that story during my Coachella countdown but the second half deserves its own time to shine.

Saturday had come and gone, and Sunday was to be even more amazing, with Nine Inch Nails and Prodigy closing out our first weekend in the desert. The following was my schedule:

Gram Rabbit


The Bravery

The Arcade Fire

New Order

Nine Inch Nails

The Prodigy

I missed The Faint, Shout Out Louds, Fiery Furnaces, Junkie XL, and The Blood Brothers. Looking back, that saddens me but I did see half of those at a later point in time.

Back to the point, as we walked out of the festival (after watching Bright Eyes make everyone sad) we headed back to our tenting space. I had, unfortunately, left the cooler in my tent so nobody would steal it. Too bad the weather was a bit unruly that day, causing my tent and the cooler to both fall over and soak everyone i brought in the process. I was just glad it was the last night.

Travis sand Josh thanked the Coachella gods that they had somewhere to sleep and scurried off to bed, while I decided to brave the elements, roam around the campground, and find somewhere to sleep that night.

This idea is not very “me” or even me-esque. I wasn’t roaming in a creeper way, more out of necessity as they don’t let you sleep without a tent in the residential greenery. I stumbled upon a group of Canadians having a good ol’ time. The most alpha-moose of the group was refereeing a battle between his two canuck brethren. Both combatants had taken the two-holed lids off of the camp’s stationed garbage cans. The openings fit the arm quite snugly and led to a bunch of drunken folk carrying out a live Rock’m Sock’m massacre. It was quite entertaining.

They invited me into the shenanigans, and quickly I was stomping around the campsite with a bunch of people, probably an even mix of five girls and five guys. We found a coconut, which we busted open and drank from. I’m not sure how it got to the desert, but it worked.

The lights quickly went out, as the strict 1AM curfew Coachella used to have kicked in which meant we had to pipe down. We chilled out in a circle, passing a carton of orange juice mixed with gin. The giant circular blanket someone brought covered everyone’s legs and kept us all warm. That was until someone had the bright idea to leave the campground and go hang out in the parking lot, where there was no curfew (but the lights had been turned off).  So we left.

While in the parking lot, the same genius thought to kick-start one of the mobile generators that anchored the big flood lights. He pried open a side panel, and somehow got the thing to turn on. So in the large expanse of both camping and parking, only one light shone and it shone on us. Fairly badass, I say. Mr. Genius then grabbed his car door handle, swung it open, popped in the key and turned on the radio. Those bassy scratches came out of the side panel speakers and back into my brain.

“Is this Death From Above 1979?”

“Yea, these guys are Canadian! You know them?”

Then my Conan story started, followed by handshakes and a bottle of tequila (which I got out of drinking).

I never got to see Death From Above, but was oh so close. They toured with Nine Inch Nails on a run that stopped in both Oakland and Sacramento. The worst feeling came from discovering they were stopping two shows before ours and another band was playing the rest of the tour. Cruel, cruel world.

They put out a couple EPs, then an amazing album called “You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine.” That record is thirty-five minutes of non-stop fury you can dance to. A must have in the time capsule to show people what music with balls sounds like.

This was the message posted on their website informing the public of their demise:

I’m sure by now most of you assume the band isn’t happening anymore since there are no shows, no work on a new album, etc. well. I wanted to let you know that your assumptions are correct. We decided to stop doing the band… Actually we decided that almost a year ago. We finished off our scheduled tour dates because there were good people working for us who relied on us to make a living and buy Christmas presents and pay rent etc. We couldn’t just cancel everything and leave them out to dry… Plus I think we wanted to see if we would reconsider after being out on the road. Our label was really hoping that we would change our minds, so they asked us to keep quiet about the decision for at first.

Only on the scene for a short time (five years), DFA1979 blew my mind and gave me a shot of adrenaline so rarely found in music these days. They weren’t the next Sex Pistols or the most influential thing ever, but they carved out their niche with a jack hammer. The bassist later formed MSTRKRFT, which is an awesome techno duo. This eases the wound somewhat, but never seeing them live is a gigantic disappointment.


One of the Canadians had an extra tent. I won!

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