Kenny and Tara’s proposal to cover Lollapalooza for the good ol’ KWUR blog has inspired me to write a little bit about at least one of the concerts I’ve seen while here in exile at my parents’ place in Brooklyn. I’ve hesitated before writing about the other stuff, since I generally think that the KWUR blog should be about St. Louis and the community, but I’ve decided that that is kinda bullshit, and that it’s also the mission of the station and thus the blog to talk about good stuff that’s going on all over. Long story short, here is the tale of a concert I saw this Sunday with our former personnel director Claire, and fellow DJ Karl: Tall Firs, King Khan and the Shrines, Deerhunter and Black Lips at McCarren Park Pool. I failed to take any photos or video, but thanks to YouTube and Google, it will be like you were there!
First, the venue. You can read more extensively about McCarren Park and the pool parties respectively here and here. Basically, a long time ago, before the city went ass-bankrupt (I believe that’s the financial term), the city built and operated a gigantic public pool in McCarren Park, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Flash forward to when the city did go ass-bankrupt, the pool suffered from neglect and was finally closed and drained in 1984. For a period of about twenty years, the pool remained shuttered, although it also was filled with some remarkable grafitti, some of which has unfortunately been painted over. In 05, as part of an overall rehabilitation plan, the city permitted Jelly NYC to organize concerts in the space. Jelly NYC brings in some killer acts, and I’ve had some great experiences there. The space is gigantic, and the acoustics are pretty good, although I generally get there early enough to get a close seat. Among my personal McCarren Park highlights: the Mighty Hannibal, maybe the best Man Man show I’ve ever seen, and watching Questlove referee a dodgeball match. The drawbacks to the space is that the concrete of the drained pool tends to make the heat approach the edge of tolerable, and then of course, being in Williamsburg means dealing with the too-cool-for-schoolers. I counted not one but two polaroid cameras at the pool. Gag me with a spoon. But that’s the price you pay for a great show.
First up, opener Tall Firs, which had “we have a really good manager who shoehorned us into this gig” written all over them. Noisy sounding, but didn’t really go anywhere. I don’t particularly want to beat up on them. This dialogue between me and my friend Sam pretty much sums it up:
Sam: Their amps are so tiny!
Me: Is that why they’re so boring?
Sam: Maybe it’s because they don’t have a bass player. Then again, maybe not.
On reflection, it makes sense to me to discuss the other outlier in the bill now, even though they came between King Khan and The Shrines and Black Lips. King Khan and The Shrines and Black Lips sort of worked as a unit, since they both have this garage revival sound, and both are on Vice Records and share Vice’s “let’s have sex right here, right now, on this dirty rock” style. I don’t really know why Deerhunter was included in this bill. My best guess is that the connection is that both Deerhunter and Black Lips come out of Atlanta, but Deerhunter’s arty, noisy, wending rock doesn’t really mesh with garage. I’m not really into Deerhunter, but I figure I’m pretty well disposed to them. This show, however, was only ok. It had its highlights (Brandon Cox’s fuzzy, fingertapping guitar solo comes to mind), but generally, it was the same noise punk you’ve heard before. A solid B plus, but not anything to phone home about, although King Khan coming on stage, bending over and sticking flowers in his exposed ass during the last song definitely ended the set on a high note.
So, King Khan and the Shrines:
During this set, the following things happened:
1) King Khan encouraged the crowd to throw their trash on stage, at him, which they proceeded to do for the rest of the set, resulting in:
2) King Khan being nailed right in the balls during the set, inviting the chuckee on stage, and smearing his face with banana
3) An old man in a shriner’s helmet rollerskating on stage with a bag of bananas, which King Khan proceeded to chuck into the crowd, which in turn threw mashed banana back at him
4)King Khan ripped out a picture of Duffy from Spin Magazine, poked a hole in her mouth with his finger, sung a verse using the picture of Duffy as a mask, ripped out a picture of her body, poked a hole in the crotch and stuck his finger out of it.
5) King Khan sung the last song from under a strange space robot helmet.
That was the show, more or less, and it was a great one. I say this even though the volume was inexplicably low (at first I thought he just wanted to emphasize the bass, but when the horns came in at a whisper, I knew someone had screwed up), and that, with all the antics, they probably did only five or six songs. But the energy! And the soul! To say King Khan has a great stage presence is the biggest understatement I could possibly make. Besides all the antics, he looks like a wonderful relic from a sketch alternate universe, bedecked in silvery underpants, a cape, and a sequined swim cap (Sam and I: “What are those scars on his side?” “It looks like he was pierced with something” “Looks like bite marks…”). But he knows all the soul cadences, and with his hoarse, whiskey-soaked voice, he can bring the house down with a scream or an extended ape grunt. And his band has chops, especially the keyboardist, who was flipping the thing around and playing it upside down like an asshole – but an asshole who’s earned it.
Then, Black Lips:
Like I said, Black Lips and King Khan worked as one entity, more or less. Cole Alexander comes on wearing women’s underpants, and Ian Saint Pe comes on with his fronts (the only white man I have ever seen or can even think of wearing fronts),
and the gritty garage madness continues. King Khan comes on, rips apart some tour bus pillows, and throws the down into the audience. Brandon Cox plays a solo on Cole Alexander’s guitar with a chihuahua’s paw. King Khan sings the vocals on the best song of the night, “Too Much In Love”. Rolls of toilet paper go flying into the audience (and then, of course, back on to the stage). And the Shriner guy keeps rollerskating in the back of the stage. Oh yeah, and the music: solid, fun rock and roll, garage at its best, to the point, satisfying and delirious, with doo whop hooks and savage guitar. By the end, we’re covered in toilet paper, pillow stuffing, and…smiles (aww).
Overall reactions? Claire was meh on this show; although she had a fun time, musically, the Black Lips and King Khan didn’t particularly appeal to her. And you know, I can see that. As I’ve written on this blog, I’m wary of anything that can even loosely be corralled under “revival”. Critically, it’s always a problem. And musically, they really aren’t the most interesting or innovative bands out there. But then, that’s not always the most important thing. Black Lips and King Khan make great rock and roll, libidinal, nasty shit that makes you dance and sing along. They deliver it at a fever pitch. So what else do you want? Like a tool, you just wanna say, rock and roll, man, rock and roll.