Hey, Party People! I guess I’m throwing another one of these out here, because I’ve been keeping busy. This time of year for me is sort of like vacation, and as someone who makes shift pay, it’s also vacation from money. However, I have good luck, good friends and enough charm to manage to have a very good time. And sharing is caring!
On Monday, I worked at Webster Hall, where my fab employers the Bowery Presents hosted Atmosphere. I love these guys live. They are really down-to-earth (like our own oxygen-based atmosphere), and spend a lot of time before and after the show meeting-and-greeting their fans. This makes for a very excited and enchanted crowd that dances, shouts, sings and generally gets along with one another. I’m going to tell you a little trade secret here, folks: most people I know hate staffing hip-hop shows. Aside from bad tipping at the bar (bartenders typically complain about their tips, and I don’t feel very sorry for them, as I make $75/night), the rowdy crowds are hard to direct/get to follow rules (arguments ensue!). Then there’s always the chance of drunken violence (though that’s most shows).
A lot of indie hip-hop I’ve seen in recent years has been terrible. Especially East Coast acts. Many guys simply call it in by plugging in a Mac and a mic and compensate by turning the volume up as loud as fucking possible. Yeah. This one goes to 11. Imagine the thrill of watching a guy stomp back and forth across the stage, shouting hoarsely over crackling speakers, admonishing us to make some muthafuckin NOIZE!!! Everyone has a sore throat at the end of the night. It’s like aerobics with a bunch of teenage boys and beer.
That said, a number of West Coast guys (and more and more rappers in general) have decided to make some effort to actually entertain their audience. Atmosphere (though Midwesterners) have never been slackers. Even when performing with their just their core members Ant (beats) and Slug (words), they bring a great show. Add live bass, keys, and back-up vocals and it’s it’s like a revival. And their sincere appreciation for their fans makes it that much easier to get pulled along by the rich sounds and solid beats. Such nice boys; must be that Minnesota upbringing. Also, they gave me a shirt for my birthday.
Tuesday was my b-day proper. I worked in the box office for a couple hours, but had no plans for a show. While outside smoking and talking to Mia Sladyk on the phone about birthday plans, I witnessed something disturbing. An SUV was stopped at the light on East Houston at Essex. I heard shouting, then the passenger door opened and a pair of legs in green pumps sprawled out as the woman inside began to scream “I want to get out of the fucking car!” The car proceeded to blow past the vehicles ahead, door still open, fly through the light around the corner, then away. So I told Mia I had to call 911. I approached a group of people on the sidewalk who had been closer to see if they had gotten the car’s plate number, make/model, etc. I had heard one of them say, “I’m just going to forget that I saw that.” Hey, I understand how powerless this kind of situation can make a person feel. We all know that it’s uncomfortable to see an intimate, passionate argument become public. But the truth is this:
Every day, three women in the U.S. are murdered by their husbands and lovers. Three per day.
Even if this situation had been — and I doubt it was — benign, even if the cops had been unwilling or unable to do anything, the least we can do is to let the police know that we expect something to be done. This shit is very serious. Violence is totally and completely unacceptable, and everyone has the right to say so. A woman in a speeding car with an open door is not safe. I wish I had had the presence of mind to go over and help her get out. It made me sick with worry for a long while. Then Emily bought me a steak.
Wednesday, I went to see Ebony Bones with the Drums. I had caught a glimpse of Ebony Bones for the very end of their set at McCarren Pool a couple summers ago, and I was intrigued. I really wanted this lady to be my kaleidoscopically-costumed new acid-funk queen. Relatively fresh from a recent van accident/fire, and with pretty low attendance at the club, the band and frontwoman did not display the verve for which I longed. The shimmy and shout-along aspect of contemporary indie-dance shows leave something to be desired. Yet Ebony Bones are a bit different from the usual electro-ethno-garage-beat-party-rock fare that’s all the rage with the kids these days. Along with a dirty South London sound, there are elements of West African songwriting (complete with harmonies and steps from two rather Zap Mama-looking belles), as well as hints of trippy dub/dancehall. I predict that the American Apparel generation will soon be hounding indie record stores clerks (the remaining few), asking if they’ve ever heard of Lee Scratch Perry, Eek-a-Mouse and maybe some of the more urbanized Miriam Makeba stuff or Betty Davis. One can hope.
Speaking of American Apparel, the Drums came clad in skinny jeans, thrift-store tees and various poly-cotton knits. They have a bright pop sound, a “Hey everybody! Let’s get together and bounce around!” kind of glee-rock. They have an enthusiastic singer who clearly owns a copy of Rio. They have two adorable backup singers who whistle (my dream gig). They have bass and keys. Yet, despite their moniker, they only have one drummer who plays your standard backline kit. I came in not knowing what to expect from the Drums, but what I did expect, and did not receive, was drums. With their upbeat attitude and carefully crafted, accessible pop tunes, this band can go places. But I desperately want them to throw some corn starch in their rhythm section’s gravy, and give their stage show the respect it deserves with at least a suit coat — preferably something shiny or primary-colored.
Thursday, I worked at the Jarvis Cocker show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Jarvis is one of those skinny, angular dudes who does a lot of entertaining moving and grooving. He also has clever lyrics and the balls to put an enormous harp on stage. I enjoy his storytelling, but as I told a fellow concert-goer that night, I’m not just not really into irony. She responded that things must be pretty hard for me these days, to which I agreed. Anyway, Cocker was destined to fail with me for his previous little stunt with my dearly beloved and departed Michael Jackson.
All was not lost, however, as I saw a friend that night who is also an agent. She very kindly gave me a ticket to Friday’s All Points West show, which brings us to my experiences yesterday at Liberty Island. It took me a while to get my ass going, and sadly, I missed Seasick Steve. I did catch Fleet Foxes, the National, Vampire Weekend, the Pharcyde, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Jay-Z. I could go on and on — even without talking about the food in the VIP tent, the wonderful artistic structures on the concert grounds, the beauty of the site or the fallout caused by the torrential downpour. Perhaps tips and tricks for successful festival-going can be a separate post. For now, I’d prefer to talk about the musical acts. Let’s go one by one:
A co-worker asked what the big deal is with the Fleet Foxes, and I told him that they sound like America. And who doesn’t like The Last Unicorn? The Foxes have sweet, tender love songs with five-part harmonies. Like Steely Dan but with better pants, more beards and I presume less coke. People like that mellow stuff. I enjoy it, too, especially now that I’m older and I realize that too much coffee makes me an angry person.
Yay for baritone! I love seeing these guys live. They’re always completely immersed in what they’re doing up there. “Mistaken For Strangers” is like a sad indie-rocker’s soundtrack for their cardio/free-weight regimen. Feel the burn! I also found myself wondering if drummer Brian ever takes his wristbands off. I have never seen him without them. Does he have prosthetic hands, like Luke Skywalker? Is that why he can hit the skins with such accuracy? Maybe I’ll ask him sometime.
This band is really tight. There are a lot of unexpected changes in rhythm that occur within their three-minute pop pieces. But I still don’t give a shit.
This was the highlight for me. I never thought I’d get the chance to see these guys, and it was a lot of fun. They’ve all been working out and look really great. Fatlip took lead vocals while the rest of the dudes did a synchronized dance to Bobby Brown‘s “My Perogative.” So much fun.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Karen O used to seem so shy, sad, and introverted to me. Now that she knows that people enjoy her kookiness, she just goes for it and smiles a lot. I’m really happy for her and her success. She has a very unique voice and the band grinds snappily along. The cover of the Cramps‘ cover of “Garbageman” wasn’t definitive or anything, but the love was there. I also liked the giant inflatable eyeballs that were released into the crowd during their set.
THAT was pretty mind-boggling. Jay-Z is another guy I never expected to see live, but the man stepped up and took the reins as headliner for APW Friday after the Beastie Boys‘ announcement of Adam Yauch‘s cancer diagnosis. We’ve all got our prayers out for you, MCA! Appropriately, Jay-Z began his set with a cover of “No Sleep Til Brooklyn,” then launched into his own vast catalog. His music is obviously an enormous part of our collective pop culture, and of course I recognized a lot of the songs. Still, I have a hard time getting into him, probably because I don’t relate, you know, to having shitloads of money, (formerly) drinking Cristal, etc. But it was fun. The stage show, with the crazy video screens and audio assault from an incredible band was quite luxurious, especially to a person like me who is impressed by cleverly employed rope lights. Again, the backing band was superb, with two drummers, a horn section, wheels of steel, keyboards, bass and rippin guitar. I found Jay surprisingly endearing, and more than just a shallow, vain man. I’d describe him now as a single-minded performer hell-bent on being the most successful entertainer alive. Thanks for the spectacle, sir.
Alright, guys. I’m going to see the Mekons tonight. If you see Jay-Z, please ask him if he will be so kind as to buy me a new pair of sneakers, as I utterly destroyed mine yesterday in the mud. I figure with all that cash, he can probably float $50 for my Adidas.