I hardly consider myself an expert on cutting-edge college music, but I just got home from Datarock’s set at NYC’s Gramercy Theater — part of the five-day CMJ Music Marathon that’s currently parked its hoodie-wearing ass in the middle of Gotham, and a quick blog entry felt necessary. Much has been written about Datarock’s initial novelty: When the boys from this indie Norwegian pop/disco/new wave mashup walk onstage in their red tracksuits and launch into synchronized robot moves, you have to wonder if they deserve to be taken seriously. Datarock is saturated in self-reflection, but their whippy music should not be underestimated. It’s some smart stuff. And they were on their A-game during a tight, propulsive set — filled mostly with the best tunes from their 2007 Stateside release Datarock Datarock (can I get a “Fa Fa Fa” up in here??) — that only grew more inspired as it flew by.
But that’s all beside the point: The reason I love these guys — and what made this concert a classic — was their decision to end the show, bring up the lights, and blast the 1987 cheese anthem “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” over the speaker system. What’s more, they stayed onstage to sing along with the track. And as I stood there grinning, I watched roughly two hundred self-important little musicheads — they of the symmetrical haircuts and slouchy boots and too-tight jeans — get in touch with their inner sixth-grader and belt along with every word, at times shaking their fists fearsomely. All I can say is: Look, there are things we deny loving all our lives, and then there’s the theme song from Dirty Dancing. Nobody in that room had the power to resist its pull. The only things missing were my Swayze-lovin’ colleague Mandi Bierly and some leotard-wearing American Apparel shopgirl running down the sloping floor of the Gramercy and leaping into the tempera-stained arms of her bearded artist boyfriend. Maybe next time.