Live: Travie McCoy and Pete Wentz's Black Cards Get Emotional at the Gramercy Theatre
The Sgt. Schlepper's Who Needs Hearts Club Band Tour feat. Travie McCoy, Donnis, Black Cards, XV, and Bad Rabbits Gramercy Theatre Tuesday, March 24
Better than: Being broken up with by email.
There was apparently some sort of apocalyptic weather going on outside the Gramercy Theatre on Thursday night, although inside the Gramercy Theatre, where the five-act Sgt. Schlepper's Who Needs Hearts Club Band Tour was powering through a musically stuffed show, things were as sweaty as they might have been on a spring evening. (Not summer, since there were quite a few people sporting outerwear. But other people wore sleeveless tops underneath their coats!)
Bad Rabbits, a five-piece r&b act from Boston, opened the show with a blink-and-it's-over set that was only lacking in the time it was given. They got the crowd that was trickling in at 6:30 up to speed right away, quoting "Poison" and leaping around the stage in a frenzy; lead singer Dua Boakye at times exhibited a growl that could only be referred to as "Johnny Gill-like." (It makes sense, in a way; New Jack Swing auteur Teddy Riley is producing their first full-length.)
XV (that's the letters X and V and not the number 15, as a Speak and Spell-assisted song helped remind the crowd) was a ball of energy from Wichita, Kansas ("There's black people there... some know how to rap") who enthused about porn, videogames, the Pixies, and the general awesomeness of the crowd while leaping around the stage. (His "Hey"-sampling song "Nevermind" brings a few of those interests together.) As a pitch to the locals, XV brought out the Queens MC Consequence and allowed him to perform a bit of "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly," although that the track was referred to as a "classic" was a bit of a stretch. (It came out in 2007! The nostalgia cycle isn't that fast!) XV also came out during the set by Donnis, an Atlanta rapper who balanced talk of dark times with celebrations of weed and effusive compliments to the ladies in the crowd.
Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz has taken the band's hiatus to launch a slightly sunnier--but no less fame-obsessed--project called Black Cards, anticipation for which was high--the mere raising of their banner over the stage elicited quite a few woos. Musically, the band shimmies back and forth between pop-reggae and spiky dance music; frontwoman (and Staten Island native) Bebe Rexha has a swoopy, somewhat reedy voice that was put to particularly excellent use on a brief cover of "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)," and as she stalked the stage she exhibited a bit of Teena Marie-like swagger. She made a fine foil for Wentz, who served as the set's MC, pontificating on happiness and flicking picks into the crowd. "Just pretend you're not seeing any of these people ever again and have a good time," he instructed at one point, and if only more people at shows all over this city--including this reporter!--would take his advice.
Travie McCoy came to prominence as the frontman of the hip-pop act Gym Class Heroes, although his current album Lazarus is a solo joint; his Bruno Mars-assisted wish for the good life "Billionaire" peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100 last year, and there was a similar air of wistfulness permeating the night's mostly uptempo material--including nostalgia for lost youth, lost toys, and the days when Britpop could actually crack American radio ("We'll Be Alright" borrows its hook from Supergrass' 1995 ode to letting it ride "Alright").
McCoy has an easygoing charm about him--his blissed-out grin after a particularly satisfying song, or a notably lusty eruption from the crowd, proved a nice counterpoint to the bittersweet lyrics. And oh, could he talk. His New York metropolitan area shout-outs included a name-check of Long Island. He instructed everyone present to turn to their left and right and exchange hugs with the people around them, a la the sign of peace ritual that takes place at your more lax Catholic masses. (I did not get a hug. Blame the notebook.) There was a rant about the utter crappiness of people who send passive-aggressive emails in lieu of just cutting the cords on lousy relationships that may or may not have been directed toward his ex Katy Perry. There was even a moment of silence for Nate Dogg (although the people trying to get McCoy's attention by yelling during it should probably get a lesson on the good and bad types of notoriety).
The night ended with a run-through of the Gym Class Heroes' Supertramp-interpolating breakthrough single "Cupid's Chokehold," and when it was all over, McCoy asked the crowd to come in closer. When they obliged, he didn't flop his sweaty self onto the outstretched arms in front of him, as so many other artists might have done--instead, he hopped into the crowd, after preparing himself by applying a very liberal amount of breath-freshening spray. Which may be one of the most polite things I've ever seen a musician do.
Critical bias: I, too, want to be a billionaire so freakin' bad.
Overheard: "Somebody asked me for a nickel back on their beer."
Random notebook dump: The Gramercy Theatre is a cozy enough venue--especially on a night with such vicious weather--but could the down-one-flight ladies' room be any more awkwardly situated? It seems like it was designed by a practical joker, or at least someone who wanted female patrons to play a real-life version of The Adventures Of Lolo any time they had to pee.
Setlist: Akidagain Bad All By Myself Critical (feat. Tim William) We'll Be Alright After Midnight Dr. Feel Good Superbad (feat. Pete Wentz) Don't Pretend Billionaire Need You - Cupid's Chokehold (feat. Dua Boakye)
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