Last night while I was watching The Points perform at Velvet Lounge, I experienced a minor epiphany. Standing there, staring at bassist Danny Darko’s gleaming golden dental grill, feeling empty cans of $2 Schlitz whiz past my head and onto the stage, I realized that I was kind of scared. Furthermore, it felt good to be a little bit scared.
I think a little bit of attitude is necessary to a successful concert experience. Of course, I’m not advocating Murder Junkies-drum-stick-in-anus-style provocation or mondo-druggy self-destruction in the pursuit of cheap thrills. But there was something to be said for a band that was bizarre enough to make you feel like events had temporarily slipped out of control. Or feeling that a band had really put everything—health, dignity, the prospect of a relatively normal future and golden years spent somewhere other than a double-wide surrounded by virgin Mary statues—on the line in the effort to forge an identity that is utterly its own.
Anyway, it got me thinking about some of the scary/impressive/thrilling shows I’d seen over the past couple of years. Here are a few notables:
Sometime in ’01 or ’02 I went out to Kansas House and saw Brooklyn duo Japanther. When I walked through the door and into the living room I found myself one foot away from Ian Vanek, who was kneeling in the middle of the floor, his pants halfway down, staring at the ground and screaming into a microphone at the top of his lungs. Behind him the rhythm track blasted out of what seemed like a seven-foot tall PA system that was hooked up to a Walkman. Usually when you see a good band you can identify with them a little bit—it makes you want to start a band. You can project parts of your own identity into their role, which is part of the entertainment value. But there was no way in the world I was ever going to be able to act like Japanther. I was, and still am, way too wimpy.
Coughs were a Chicago quintet that included a busty transsexual saxophone player named Jail and two drummers that pounded on giant oil drums. They were absolutely awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band throw down so hard for such a tiny audience. The lead singer spent the entire set screaming, convulsing, and spitting water into the air. It was kind of like the scene in Pulp Fiction where Jon Travolta gives Uma Thurman the adrenalin shot, but for 20 minutes. Jail climbed out onto the seats and sat on top of one of the audience members. A while ago a friend tried to sell me on the Teenage Jesus and the Jerks reunion show in NYC. But after seeing Coughs, I really didn’t see the point.
Now that he’s modestly popular and all, maybe you wouldn’t assume that Dave Longstreth could be very creepy. Fame of any sort has the tendency to make eccentricity more acceptable. But when I saw Dirty Projectors at Warehouse Nextdoor Longstreth’s I had no idea who he was and I felt pretty intimidated by the bizarre mix made by his rather gentle music and extremely forceful personality. After the show he asked me if I wanted a slice of his orange. I told him that I did not. He then told me that it was full of acid. I declined once more. He then told me that the orange would give me the “kill bush power.” I still didn’t eat it. I’m not sure if this clip really captures the feel, but I guess it will do.