The emotional intensity was as high as the temperature on the Williamsburg Waterfront for yesterday’s JellyNYC Pool Party. The free concert had sets from Pictureplane, Fang Island, Why?, Deerhoof, and Xiu Xiu. Expecting a huge crowd (when I tried to see Grizzly Bear at the same venue last summer there were 10,000 people who showed up) we got there early, only to find that in fact the World Cup had lured away the masses. Who knew Xiu Xiu fans were so into sports? After a couple of hours amusing ourselves with people watching (tights in summer! hordes of suspenders! skeletal people! tattoos of 80s TV shows!) we entered East River State Park and got a spot right at the front of the stage, leaning on the barricade. I don’t think I’ve been that close to a concert in years. Unfortunately, this probably means there will be pictures of myself on the internet looking like I’m going to melt.
Pictureplane of Denver started the show, with washed out electronica. It was all right; it’s hard for me to get excited by someone who uses their iPod as an instrument. It was something I’d be more into at a dark trance warehouse party than an outdoor concert. But wow, what an outfit: biker gloves, copper bracelets, triangle necklace, ripped and patched jeans, vintage boots, homemade t-shirt with the words “Totally Dude,” police sunglasses, baseball hat. I did like “Goth Star.”
The highlight of Pictureplane was the random giant dancing sandwich and girl in a fat suit wearing a sandwich necklace (see second photo). That finally putting the party in things, but what about the pool? If you’re wondering why a “pool party” would be held on a huge concrete slab by the East River, which is really nothing like a pool, it’s because they used to be in the McCarren Park swimming pool. Since that pool is under renovations to become a functioning pool again, the concerts were moved to East River State Park.
Next was Fang Island, who I really enjoyed. They had a whole wall of guitars and appeared to be having a great time playing. The Rhode Island band describes their sound as “everyone high fiving everyone,” and I don’t think I could state it any better than that. The guy in the star hoodie shirt kept putting the microphone under his hood to sing, like some sort of indie grim reaper. I was into that.
Why? played next, whose Alopecia was one of my favorite albums of 2008. Despite having a lot of their music ingrained in my head, I’d never had a chance to see them live. It was a really spectacular performance, and I loved finally hearing songs like “These Few Presidents,” “By Torpedo or Crohn’s,” and “The Hollows.”
I would describe Why? as over sharing spoken word with flavors of hip hop and indie rock. Lead singer Yoni Wolf has awkward dancing down to an art form, yet somehow makes it incredibly cool. Also, their drummer/percussionist is insanely talented.
Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof combined at the end to cover Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures. I’m really into this band merger covering trend (see also, the Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarves covering Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon). Actually, I first saw Deerhoof when they opened for the Flaming Lips at the UFOs at the Zoo concert, and then again at the Conservatory in Oklahoma City. I’d also seen Xiu Xiu at the Conservatory, in a really intense performance that included cathartic yelling and long moments of silence. I know I already used the word intense to start this post, but I can’t think of a better one. Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof independent of each other are already sonically aggressive, if in different ways. Xiu Xiu is like peaking into someone’s therapy session; Deerhoof is like walking in an unpredictable, disjointed fairyland. Together covering the defining record of Joy Division, one of the most abrasively gloomy bands ever, they were stunning.
Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu took over all of Ian Curtis’ vocals, bringing the dark tragic sound to songs like “Day of the Lords,” “She’s Lost Control,” and “Insight.” Deerhoof’s drummer Greg Saunier really killed it. Both times I’ve seen Deerhoof before, I’ve been impressed by how much he pounds out of what must be one of the smallest drum kits of any band. I was hoping for an encore performance of “Dead Souls,” but I can’t complain. I have no idea how long it took for Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof to play the whole album; I really lost track of time. It was, yeah, intense.