Music


Apocalypse Dudes

The snow prior to Turbonegro's March 30 performance at the Mercury Lounge seemed a friendly enough omen for the recently regrouped Norwegian death punks on tour in the U.S for the first time since 1997; but less than 10 minutes into the night's pageantry, vocalist Hank Von Helvete was pegged in the head by a beer bottle. Bleeding heavily, he left the stage and didn't return. There were shouts of "Respect the Vikings!" and tales of how David Yow would've kept it real, but the crowd's disappointment was most plaintively externalized through a misleading chant of "I Got Erection."

Fall-down funny: Alloy scores Speedy.
photo: Courtesy The Harold Lloyd Trust
Fall-down funny: Alloy scores Speedy.

Currently laying low as the supporting act for Queens of the Stone Age, Turbonegro, formed in 1989, are top-billed at a few one-offs to promote Scandinavian Leather, their follow-up to 1997's Apocalypse Dudes, which was recently reissued along with 1996's Ass Cobra on Epitaph Records. To make room for Sunday's ticket holders, Monday's show was moved to the Bowery Ballroom, a space well suited to a group whose vocalist is known to end sets by sticking an ignited sparkler up his ass.

So for the second time in two nights the comeback kids emerged to raised fists and the pre-recorded strains of "The Age of Pamparius," a song about multi-instrumentalist Pai Pot Pamparius' pizza shop in Oslo ("Gonna bake a motherfucking pizza tonight!"). Only this time they got to keep going.

A shirtless and powerfully hirsute Von Helvete chocked up his quick recovery to his "good head," explaining, "I used to have a Mohawk, I used to throw bottles, then I realized what kind of demon I was—I was a denim demon!" Indeed. A daunting re-envisioning of the Village People as fans of the Stooges, the band blazed through the set list they'd intended to play the night before. Von Helvete dripped Alice Cooper face paint; bassist Happy Tom, the flaxen-haired sailor, fellated a microphone; the helmeted Pamparius engaged in phallic "Prince of the Rodeo" piggybacking with guitar prodigy Euroboy, who nailed a solo while crowd surfing ("His magic fingers can find every G-spot in the universe!" Helvete enthused). The encore, which included "Get It On" and "Denim Demon," was capped with an endlessly riffed version of "I Got Erection," offering Helvete the opportunity to play AT stadium rock, dividing the audience in two for a sing-along of the eponymous chorus. And while the band continued to trot through a number of double entendres, Happy Tom led a cheer of "H-A-N-K."

Before leaving the stage with the rest of his Tom of Finland crew, Von Helvete grabbed the microphone and offered a "Thank you, good night, I forgive you all." His absolution made it seem, in a way, like we were each atoning for something different. —Brandon Stosuy


Hip-Hop You Sorta Heard

Jean Grae and the Juggaknots is the type of show that I root for. The Juggaknots lead MC, Breezly Brewin, spits so effortlessly that he makes MC’ingsound like his first language. Grae is hip-hop’s reigning black humorist. At her best, she plays the dozens with misogyny and gender. If she isn’t unfurling a list for some herb on how to lose his girl (“Number eight: Masturbate but only with her and only in public/In romantic restaurants, baby rub it”), she’s swilling 151 and turning lesbian at the sight of the apocalypse. March 18 at the Knitting Factory, with Iraqi endgame approaching, Apocalypse was not out of the question. A seamless exhibition of talent, however, was. This was, unfortunately, the underground show at its most cliché. There were too many cameos by unknowns. The audience brimmed with NYU white dudes. The women could be counted on one hand. Onstage a huddled mass of MCs and hangers-on milled back and forth. When a mic was passed, freestyles meandered out of speakers addressing nothing particular. Nothing happened on time.

The stars of the evening got by—and not much more—on talent alone. Breeze’s butter flow took him through “Troubleman,” “Clear Blue Skies,” and a randy rendition of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” But in between songs, he worked out some issues, noting that underground cats never have groupies and then instructing the crowd to yell “Breeze gets no ass!” Grae, humorous as always, was the only act who offered anything resembling charisma. Still her records skipped, and she forgot whole verses. At the end, she laughingly asserted that this was the worst show ever. It was sort of funny, and then sort of not. —Ta-Nehisi Coates

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