Got the spirit, but lose the feeling.

Falling behind here, but between the shoddy service of Time Warner Cable (NAMED AND SHAMED) and a cycle of daily recreation spiralling quickly into Dali-esque ridiculousness, I can’t really help that.

This gig, though, is the first one I’ve been to at the Williamsburg Waterfront. The Waterfront gigs seem to be Important to the People of Williamsburg in some discernable but slightly nebulous way. I gather that they were under threat from something, possibly the recession, but that they were saved. More on that later.

The line-up is amazing. Deerhoof & Xiu Xiu combined, performing Unknown Pleasures in its entirety. Why? I don’t know why. But wait, the last support was also called Why? You might know and love Why? already, but if you don’t, maybe reading me yammer incorrigibly about their live shows and their album will help. Also on the bill were Pictureplane and Fang Island.

I showed up early enough to catch the start of the show, but Pictureplane were horrifyingly bad the last time I saw them, so I got a slice of pizza and watched some of the World Cup final, which was on that day. I got into one of my favourite types of conversation with the other pizza eaters – the kind where Americans don’t know what they’re talking about regarding football and I friendlily inform them of the actual state of affairs. Examples of some claims: “that was definitely offsides” accompanied by an attempt to explain the offside rule incorrectly, when what had actually happened was a foul, and the pizza man claiming that Brazil were playing when, in fact, they were not playing.

I got to the place and sat around for a bit while Fang Island emo’d out on stage. Guess what you can’t buy at Williamsburg Waterfront? Coke. As in Coca Cola. Can’t be had. Your choices are Brooklyn Lager, water or Vitamin Water. Which is ridiculous. I got a crab juice.

Here’s where it starts getting good though.

Organ fades up with Yoni still not on the stage. He strolls out in a retro shirt and a pair of Kappa shorts with hair so short at the sides it’s essentially a mohawk, and does the Fall of Mr. Fifths, potentially my favourite ever Why? song. It’s a good start.

The rest of the set flies by. He does some Eskimo Snow stuff, and the crowd reaction is noticeably more muted, but for the most part he sticks to the Alopecia hits – no Crushed Bones or Rubber Traits, but plenty of other great songs and of course the opportunity to actually look at a man while he tells you about getting stuck into his therapist or failing to mate or taking loads of cocaine or having syphilis or weaving anger into a gadzai to bring to an alma mater’s holiday fundraiser boutique thing.

He also did the Do The Right Thing dance. Which was a highlight.

There are more highlights. The organiser/outdoor MC/shouter of the word Brooklyn emerges after Why? and thanks the corporate sponsors or whoever else needs to be thanked. Then he says this:

“People always ask me why the Senior State Senator of New York State cares so much about keeping these events at the Waterfront. You know what I tell them? It’s because the Senior State Senator of New York State is FUCKING AWESOME!”

Uh oh… they’re not going to…

And there he is, the Senior State Senator of New York State, a cleanly, white-haired Jewish-looking man in his 70s, standing on the stage about to give a speech. Bad taste in the mouth already. But wait, a challenger appears. A long-haired guy of about 25, two rows from the front:

“FREE PALESTIIIIIIIIIIINE! FREE PALESTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE! WHY ARE YOU STRANGLING A PEOPLE? FREE GAZA!”

The Senator tries to speak.
“FREE PALESTINE!”

Senator’s confused. But he’s a Senator, and the two ways to become an elected representative are being smart and knowing how to manipulate large amounts of people. So he pulls it back.

“LET’S JUST HAVE FUN!”

Crowd cheers. Guess what he shouts next. Guess.

“THIS IS BROOKLYN AT ITS BEST!”

Yeah, he shouted Brooklyn. It always works.

“THIS IS NEW YORK AT ITS BEST!”

It is pretty good actually. Free gig, great bands, Waterfront.

“LET’S FORGET ABOUT POLITICS!”

Um… if you insist, elected political representative who is clearly on the stage to remind people that he is their buddy and they should vote for him…

“ENJOY THE SHOW!”

He exits. Bizarre, bizarre stuff. Point 1: get off the stage, state senator. This is a rock show. It doesn’t even fit. Point 2: even if you want Palestine freed, maybe shout it twice or hold up a flag and refuse to cheer even when the senator shouts the word Brooklyn, but it gets a little awkward if you’re shouting over him. Luckily, Greg Saunier shows up and starts setting up his drums.

So, Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu combining their significant forces to cover Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division. We know they’re friends. Greg Saunier, Deerhoof’s drummer and primary compositional genius, produced The Air Force by Xiu Xiu, and they’re both based in San Francisco. But putting them together was the best drunken idea anyone ever had. Line-up as follows:

Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) – drums
Satomi Matsuzaki (Deerhoof) – noise guitar (normally bassist/vocalist)
Ed Rodriguez (Deerhoof) – bass (normally guitarist)
John Dieterich (Deerhoof) – lead guitar
Angela Seo (Xiu Xiu) – synth, breaking glass (seriously)
Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) – vocals

I’m sure it’s consensus knowledge that Greg Saunier is one of the best drummers around, and John Dieterich is one of the best guitarists around. And Jamie Stewart, even if camp whispering is not your bag for some reason (it should be), is a huge personality. So hopes were high.

They play the album straight through and don’t address the crowd. It’s meaty as fuck, heavier than Joy Division probably ever played it and as dark as they did too. Mosh pits form at various points, with the biggest one happening, predictably, during She’s Lost Control. Shadowplay is a facemelter. While the tempo keeps up, the crowd stay with it, and though attentions wander a little when the closer starts its dirge-like trudge, the sight of Angela Seo throwing three wine glasses at a time into a barrel and then crushing them with a large metal stick keeps me from being distracted at any rate.

It ends and I leave to try make the Roots and Talib Kweli at Prospect Park for some real Brooklyn-shouting, safe in the knowledge that I’ve seen something I would never see if I’d stayed home to work in the bookshop.

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