Electro to NY: We're Not Tired!

W.I.T.'s Melissa Burns flanks the pages of Billboard and Interview. Casey Spoonerand Soviet get even bigger acclaim with spreads in Spin and The Face. But is the trendy electro scene, that Brooklyn-based movement hinged on heavy referencing of '80s Euro-pop, over?

Fly Life considered this at the Hole last Thursday, where a live show was being staged by—performance artist? musician? we're not sure—Phiiliip. While the party was cool—Spencer Sweeney, in Kiss makeup, spinning '80s funk and r&b; plenty of cute, arty boys—we were horrified to witness Phiiliip screaming epithets over a looped breakbeat track. The poor boy could not carry a tune.

"It's becoming like a clown circus," said an electro insider who wished to remain anonymous.

Rapture: Fab 5 Freddy signs an autograph for a fan.
photo: Joshua Farley
Rapture: Fab 5 Freddy signs an autograph for a fan.

Granted, in the DIY concept-driven ethos of the electroclash scene, winking artifice is much more important than staying in key, or even actual singing—the W.I.T. girls have no qualms about lip-synching onstage. And while we get the coy dis of pop moppets like Britney and Christina, how much better are W.I.T.'s Melissa, Danielle, and Christine if them bitches can't sing either?

"It won't go very far if there's nothing to back it up," said photographer Ryan McGinley, who documents the electro scene. Still, he endorses artists like W.I.T. "They're awesome."

According to scene queen Sofia Lamar, criticism is inevitable in a town where people are frantic to declare a trend's expiration date. "Some people are like, 'Electroclash is horrible, but the Strokes are wonderful!' Gimme a break. I think they sound OK, but everybody likes the Strokes because they're cute."

For Spencer Product, business partner of electroclash ringmaster Larry Tee and co-promoter of the electro night Berliniamsburg, the genre is serious about creating a new homegrown culture in NYC. "Personally, if people have a bad taste in their mouth, then so be it. We're doing something we all love," said Product. "I feel like, 'OK, then show me something different.' "


Lamar, by the way, just appeared as an extra (playing herself—10 years ago) in the recently wrapped Party Monster, the star-packed retelling of the days of Disco 2000 and its infamous promoter, Michael Alig.

She reports that the club-kid costuming was startlingly accurate. "It was scary. When I saw Macaulay[Culkin] as Michael, he looked just like him. I received a letter from Michael this week. He said, 'I'm glad that you were in the movie. I thought they were gonna use fake club kids.' "

Lamar enjoyed working on the set—younger stars like funnyman Seth Green, who plays Disco Bloodbath author and estranged Alig confidant James St. James, would hang out with the old-school club kids playing themselves in the film. "Seth was really nice," recounts Lamar. "He insisted on hanging out and learning about what those days were like."

Did the beauteous nightlife fixture have fond memories of back in the day?

"Actually, 'back in the day' was kind of gross," said Lamar. "People were on so many drugs, they were like zombies."


Somewhere in Red Hook, the cops were threatening to stand in the way of art—as well as the scenesters drinking on the street. It was the high-profile opening of photographer-documentarian Jamel Shabazz's "New York Underground" exhibit at the Secret Gallery, which focuses exclusively on his subway portraiture, and hip-hop art heads were clamoring for autographs from the author of Back in the Day, his recent collection of stylish teen portraits from the nascent era of Bronx hip-hop.

Fab 5 Freddy was among the onlookers. How did the former Yo! MTV Raps host feel about hip-hop's rejiggering of society? "I was happy to have been a part of it," said Freddy, who's been busy writing screenplays and contributing articles to magazines like Vibe.

Although his work has become a source for idea-hungry stylists, Shabazz's subject matter was anything but glamorous. "I saw a troubling world," said Shabazz of his photos of black and Latino New Yorkers riding the subway. "I felt the need to go out and talk to these people."


SPOTTED: Queen Latifah chilling with an entourage of girlfriends, including singer Blu Cantrell—hit 'em up style, girl!—at Lovergirl, the popular black and Latina dyke party . . . Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixonwalking on Seventh Avenue in shades and a bandanna top with a pal—she looked better dressed down in real life than on this season's dismal round of episodes!


jgermosen@villagevoice.com

 
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