Live: Ke$ha Brings Her Loft Party To Jones Beach
Ke$ha w/LMFAO, Spank Rock Nikon Theatre At Jones Beach Saturday, August 20
Better than: Watching a live-action recreation of Vampyros Lesbos in Bushwick.
I wandered the parking lot of the Jones Beach Theater on Saturday night covered in glitter, delirious, and hoarse. The past 90 minutes had been spent singing along with Ke$ha, a particularly hedonistic pop star whose lyrical specialty is her own enjoyment; the whole night I kept thinking of Kathleen Hanna, the OG riot grrrl who espoused "the radical possibilities of pleasure" on a 7-inch back in her Kill Rock Stars days. She did so on a song called "I Like Fucking," a sentiment which, judging by how Saturday night spooled out, I think Ke$ha would embrace.
Ke$ha's brand of partying stands apart from that of so many other pleasure-minded pop stars because of its unabashed recklessness; she does not give a shit about your VIP areas or your bottle service orders or what other D-listers might be waiting in the wings as long as she can have a good time, and maybe get some Jack Daniels with which to brush her teeth when all's said and done. On "Sleazy," the song that opened the night, she raps (in a style reminiscent of the similarly pleasure-minded L'Trimm), "your money's not impressing me; it's kind of weak," and proclaims, "me and all my friends, we don't buy bottleswe bring 'em." The visuals of the night matched her fun-on-a-budget attitude; the stage setup was simple scaffolding with her in a sort of "Batdance"-inspired pod filled with samplers and synths in the middle, the balloons she sent into the crowd had "K" and "$" scrawled on them in marker, the dragged-out dancers had beards and repurposed their wigs as merkins when they fell off during particularly strenuous bits, the outfits worn by her and her dancers consisted of ripped leotards and shredded t-shirts that looked like they'd been rescued from the bottom of a closet. (Whose closet? Perhaps the closet of the "rich dude's house" where a party in another song was thrown, against his will.) There was lots of glitter, both from her and her camp and from people in the crowd.
As she shrieked and rapped and at times sang in a way that recalled Alanis Morrissette (appropriate, given the scorched-earth first single the former You Can't Do That On Television star burst onto the scene with in the mid-'90s), she took on a take-no-prisoners aesthetic that cast the boys (even those dressed as women) aside. In a way it felt like someone had taken loft parties and girl punk shows and curdled the resulting mix just enough, then exploded the whole thing into a spectacle that could nearly fill a mid-sized amphitheater. This display of bravadonot to mention a lengthy string of catchy-as-fuck songs that could be easily learned for singalong purposesunited much of the mostly female crowd in adulation. Near the end of the show she pulled out "Grow A Pear," a dis track about an overly sensitive lover that manages to work the word "mangina" into its lyrics; she called up a young fan to the stage, duct-taped him into a chair, and gave him a lapdance that eventually resulted in him getting up close and personal with the lower reaches of a costume worn by "Mr. Penis." (There was also a dancer dressed as a pear onstage; he also got some frottage time with the larger-than-life phallus.)
"I fuckin' love you guys," Ke$ha crowed at one pointthe contented drawl of the inebriated person who's filled with happiness at how her night turned out. But who could blame her? Even with Jones Beach's stringent policies on in-venue consumption of alcohol, which seem antithetical to Ke$ha's "all for partying, and partying for all" aesthetic, the feeling seemed to mostly be mutual. After she ran through her two chart-toppers, the hip-pop earworm "Tik Tok" and the It Gets Better-core anthem "We R Who We R," the show ended with a dude in a Santa suit leading what was left of the crowd through a spirited rendition of "Fight For Your Right (To Party)" while Ke$ha and her assemblange of dancers whacked at a piñata that had been brought down from the rafters and the audience emptied the last of their glitter bottles all over one another. Which, honestly, was probably the only way that the night could have closed out, save human sacrifice or an on-stage orgy.
Critical bias: Hated "Tik Tok" on first listen, came around on her thanks to the sugar-rush chorus of "Your Love Is My Drug," entered the camp more fully after the Andre 3000 assist. Now pretty much 100% on board.
Overheard: "Do you have an extra eyeliner pencil so I can draw on my face?"
Random notebook dump: In the early '90s I went to Jones Beach to catch David Lee Roth on his tour supporting A Little Ain't Enough. (I was mostly there for the opening acts, Extreme and Cinderella.) The one quirk of the tour was that the gargoyles on the album's cover would be reproduced and placed in the crowd, and would spit Jack Daniels on the audience at opportune momentsbut Jones Beach, being a state park with rules about alcohol consumption, forced the crew to fill the gargoyles with iced tea instead. It was with this in mind that I bemusedly took in the copious amounts of patter about getting way-sted from both Ke$ha and LMFAO; the only people getting drunk as the show went on were the suckers in the VIP section who paid extra to suck down overpriced beers.
Set list: Sleazy Take It Off Fuck Him He's A DJ Blow Blah Blah Blah Party At A Rich Dude's House Backstabber Cannibal The Harold Song Animal Your Love Is My Drug Grow A Pear Dinosaur Tik Tok -- We R Who We R Fight For Your Right (To Party)
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