Brooklyn DIY Is Dead? Tell That to Glasslands and Famous Swords Collective
Power Animal System w/ members of Maiden China
All photos Lindsey Rhoades
Better Than: Your typical Brooklyn DIY show
During his solo set last night at Glasslands, Adam Schatz took a moment to lead the audience in a collectively-sung cover of Funkadelic's "I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody's Got a Thing," He repeated that line for the audience, as well as the one that follows: "When we get together, doin' our thing/In order to help each other/In order to help your brother." The crowd chanted these words, pausing briefly for Schatz's sax solo before enthusiastically taking up the mantle once again. This was a room full of people who believe in creative collaboration, and the sentiment was perfectly appropriate; it represented the evening's eclectic performers as well as creatives in the audience supporting each other to turn an already memorable night into something productive and transcendent.
Schatz, for instance, typically performs in Man Man and lately has been seen fronting his own band, wildly inventive indie pop outfit Landlady. He joked about being unprepared for the night's set, which consisted of a few more soul covers, an original song he described as the most "overtly sexual and patriotic" he'd ever written, and a short ditty about being on the road featuring a jittery sax part that echoed his own displacement traveling through time zones. Despite the nervous energy he exudes, Schatz seems like the type of person who could perform every night, given the opportunity.
Opportunities for artists like Schatz to have a forum for a show that takes some unusual turns are increasingly rare, even in Brooklyn, whose DIY scene has suffered some hits with the closure of Glasslands neighbor 285 Kent at the beginning of this year, and the announcement that Death by Audio, a venue that shares the same block, will also shut its doors in just a few months. And it is still a DIY scene that mostly revolves around bands playing music. But Alyse Lamb is aiming to shake things up a bit. She fronts EULA, an off-kilter prog-punk band that bursts with a peculiar rawness. EULA headlined the show with lively aplomb, but Lamb herself curated the lineup to showcase artists' collective Famous Swords, which she also founded. Calling the event "Castle of Spices," it was Lamb's goal to make attendees feel transported. In an interview with Brooklyn Magazine, she explained, "This is for people who need to shed all the overwhelming anxiety that comes with living in the city." And it was a unique chance for showgoers to revel in those "things" that "everybody's got" -- from odd musical side projects to poetry readings to dance performances.
For Jason Martin, that "thing" is Animal Power System. Martin wore a women's business suit and somewhat creepy dog mask, topped with a blonde wig. He played screeching guitar noise and recited some anti-capitalist verses but spent the rest of the night on the dance floor boogieing to DJ Jackie YO's set as though he were dressed in everyday attire. His eccentric merits weren't just tolerated, but embraced -- people took selfies with him all night, the way visitors at Disneyland might with Mickey Mouse. There are admittedly few forums beyond Castle of Spices that could foster that kind of enthusiasm and support for such an unclassifiable project.
That kind of support is a boon for more seasoned performers as well, like Amy Klein, who first entered the Brooklyn scene as guitarist and violinist for Titus Andronicus and now plays with Hilly Eye. Castle of Spices allowed her to share a lesser-known pursuit -- she read poems about Ferguson and loneliness over a sparse backing track and occasional live oboe. It also allows artists to branch out with new projects, as was the case with Short Nerve, a drums/guitar/xylophone ensemble featuring Greg Saunier of Deerhoof and Ofir Ganon of Speedo. Their dissonant, untamed set was a bit of a spectacle, even more so because they were joined on stage by belly-dancing trio Maiden China, who've made many rounds at Brooklyn DIY shows, often performing choreographed collaborations with bands like Courtship Ritual. But before Short Nerve's set, the ladies had the floor to themselves for once, undulating through the venue to hip-hop-inflected beats.
Most importantly, a collective like Famous Swords keeps the Brooklyn scene thriving and vital through its transformative powers. In one of the strongest sets of the night, the room literally witnessed a band becoming something other than what it was when its set began. Initially introduced by their former name, Andra, vocalist Alex Nelson noted that it was a big night for them, having released their first single, "The Knot," earlier in the day under new moniker Oracle Room. Nelson's been working on material that showcases her phenomenal PJ Harvey-goes-pop vocals as a duo with drummer Zach Fisher, but this particular performance made it clear just how big Oracle Room dreams -- with the addition of guitarist Justin Gonzales and Joe Sucato on keys, as well as a mini-choir, the brand-new band feels like the next big thing. And as Castle of Spices proves, everybody's got a thing, indeed.
Overheard: "They seem so familiar but they're so weird!" -- an enthusiastic EULA convert from Astoria Random Notebook Dump: Adam Schatz's anecdote about always dressing like a vampire for Halloween because of his widow's peak is some of the best stage banter I've heard in a while.
Critical Bias: I want Alyse Lamb to be my best friend and plan all of my birthday get-togethers for the rest of time; girl is connected and knows how to throw a dang party.
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