Harder, Faster, Stronger, More Surprising

Kanye West drops in on the Natural History Museum’s suddenly splendid soiree

As the baby in a family of four girls, I never wanted a younger sibling. The gig's just too good to give up—my sister Katie frequently accuses me of operating under the assumption that rules don't apply. But I would so allow Melissa Young, the Chicago MC who goes by the moniker Kid Sister, into the Fischer clan on one condition: I could share her closet.

The indie rapper took the stage alongside her DJ, A-Trak, Friday night at the American Museum of Natural History in a billowy mini-dress ("nice stems," in the immortal words of wise Christian, Alicia Silverstone's Friend of Dorothy in Clueless), patterned platforms, flashy bangles, and black-and-white nails. (And yes, of course I checked: Her toes were done up, but in red.) Her flapper-inspired hair was styled in slick, blond waves and pinned in the back; all exposed skin was flecked in gold glitter. She was there for Flavorpill's One Step Beyond—a monthly party at the museum that began last May—and you couldn't take your eyes off her as she set the room spinning, handing the mic down to the front row and taking requests from some fellow Chicagoans, dancing around to "Shake and Pop," giggling, and adorably retying the giant bow on the front of her dress.

And then Kanye West jumped onstage to join the pretty MC, sending the planetarium into pandemonium. The audience—which was enormous; the museum pre-sold something like 1,700 tickets—was already rowdy, having warmed up with the Cool Kids and A-Trak. But when Kanye's oversized fur jacket unexpectedly hit the spotlight, I'm telling you, the crowd went positively apeshit. And his roadblock bodyguards knew it—they were most firm regarding his safety. (Firm like this: "I don't give a fuck who you are, you need to get out of the fucking way right fucking now," sending an arm the size of my thigh directly into the lenses of around seven cameras. Thrilling!) The Grammy winner's first U.S. stage appearance since he lost his mother in November included four songs, including the latest and greatest, his Daft Punk rip "Stronger." Surprise guests always make me sort of uncomfortable, because I'm terrified I won't recognize whomever I'm supposed to and so will miss out on that short-lived collective frenzy people talk about for days to come. But, um, Kanye West! Even if I hadn't known in advance, I would've recognized him. (Probably.)

So, connect the dots: A-Trak (real name: Alain Macklovitch) is a hot-shot DJ who was crowned DMC World Champion at the freaky age of 15, and later founded two labels: first, Audio Research, with his brother, David (the guitarist and lead singer of Chromeo), then Fool's Gold, with Nick Catchdubs. Fool's Gold smartly signed Kid Sister, who got her start rapping for her brother, J2K, one half of DJ duo Flosstradamus; even smarter, A-Trak dates her. Kanye is featured on Kid Sister's first single, "Pro Nails"; A-Trak is Kanye's go-to tour DJ. So picture A-Trak, Kid Sister, and Kanye all onstage together Friday night, having a grand old time—oh, right beside A-Trak's mom, who beamed with pride as she watched the whole shebang.

Of course, hip-hop's Cool Kids had set the whole thing off, promptly at 9 p.m. It was Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish's third New York appearance in as many days—Wednesday they stopped by High Voltage at the Annex for a DJ set, and Thursday they brought the house down at Studio B with Freebass 808, No Question?, and Tim William and the Arcade Stars (why does his song "She's So '80s" name-drop Saved by the Bell, which, while it premiered in 1989, was obviously early '90s?)—before they jump across the pond for a taste of Europe. I, like many, missed most of it. There were complaints about the lines, and the coat-check did seem particularly slow, but mostly I missed it because, in this instance, being fashionably late wasn't so fashionable: The Cool Kids were very much on time. (If the '80s can be considered on time.) I suppose I'll just wait for the Chocolate Industries album that still hasn't been released.

All in all, the minds behind One Step Beyond seem to have finally have gotten their party's formula right. The museum's Rose Center for Earth and Space was pulsing with an early-to-mid-twentysomething group (heavy on the earlies) that hadn't previously shown up in such force; the closest was September's Bonde do Role installment, which supposedly wasn't close at all. From the Cosmic Pathway—a 360-foot walkway that winds one and a half times around a giant sphere seemingly suspended from the ceiling—the main floor was a sea of waving arms and twisting torsos. When I went to one of last year's parties, the attendees were scolded for leaning against the barriers that describe and protect the Cullman Hall's exhibits, including a 39-inch, fluid-filled globe not 10 feet from the stage. Friday night, though, there was no stopping the fans clamoring for a closer look, and the barriers served as convenient stepstools for those lucky enough to be near one. (Also, the glass ecosphere? We were all this-close to swimming with its contents, on a floor already swimming with empties.)

Museum security was surprisingly chill. They didn't break up the lovebirds making out among the deer dioramas. They let us take our drinks outside while smoking. And while they probably weren't thrilled with the girls (yes, plural) throwing up in the bathroom, they didn't escort them to the doors, either. Next month's guest is DJ Jazzy Jeff, and March brings a live set by Simian Mobile Disco—which, if it's anything like the one that the duo hosted last year at Studio B, will be incredible. One Step Beyond could be the best (and only?) reason to hoof it to the Upper West Side.
 
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