This Weekend In New York: Florence Welch And A Perpetual Sweat Machine
In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.
This past Saturday was Debbie's birthday, and what better way to spend one's birthday weekend than with punk rock, cheap beer, and a nice, intense, purifying shvitz? Why bother to go to Spa Castle when you could get the same experience at 285 Kent for a fraction of the price, and with a better soundtrack to boot?
Friday we went to see Florence and the Machine at Central Park, which was kind of a strange experience. We got there just as their set was starting, which was a bit of a tactical error; diehards had crammed themselves into position hours prior, and there was no penetrating them. Attempts to make our way to where we could hear, see, or take photos were met with glares, shoves, and nasty comments. I don't think I've experienced that level of hostility since a years-ago Nine Inch Nails show where I attempted to save my friend a place in line.
I ended up stuck in front of a girl who spent the night singing off-key and yawping ceaselessly to her friend about what drugs they were going to do later. Thanks to her mouth being close to my ear I learned at least as much about that girl's coke habit as I did about Florence Welch's abilities as a performer, but thankfully, Florence was great enough to make the minor indignities worthwhile. I can see why she has so many rabid fans: girlfriend's got pipes. Her voice can go from soft flutter to birdlike coo to strong belt to straight-up scream and back again, all in the span of a minute or two. Her gauzy green Gucci outfit made her look like some sort of powerful fairy-princess rock star as she raised her arms up, spun around, and worked all sides of the stage. I saw elements of Stevie Nicks, Grace Slick, and Tori Amos, which is to say: Florence is a much-needed dose of singer-songwriter girl power for those who prefer poppy rock music to stuff that sounds like it's been generated by some evil genius fembot.
Saturday we hit up the eternally infernal 285 Kent, where we sweated the toxins out of our systems. First up was spunky teenage Danish punk band Iceage. Lacking the throat for a full-on metal growl, frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt contents himself with yelling hoarsely and fiercely, and he comes off about as badass as someone who looks to be about 14 can. (It helps that he mimics a young Sid Vicious in both appearance and mannerisms.) He moshed and crowdsurfed for the entirety of the last two songs, sometimes disappearing completely from view (but yelling, always yelling). Although I'm used to seeing people get hurt by now, I couldn't help feeling a little concerned when he started bleeding from under his chin and behind his ear. I hope he remembers to call his mother back in Denmark once in a while and let her know he's OK.
Next up was JEFF the Brotherhood, who performed almost as well as ever despite technical difficulties. "Can I get a grounder?" singer/guitarist Jake Orrall asked. "I'm gettin' shocked real bad." "Get electrocuted for rock and roll!" someone yelled. Despite someone donating him a sock to serve as protection between him and his microphone, he pretty much did; at one point, he had to put his hair in a ponytail because it was so sweat-slicked that it conducted electricity to his body each time it hit the mic. Ouch.
JEFF blend blues-metal and hyperactive punk and throw in a tasteful amount of distortion. I don't know if it was because Jake was sick of getting shocked, but they leaned more toward the former at this show; he didn't sing as much as he usually does. Instead, they specialized in relentless, non-wanky, headbang-inducing solos, interspersed with catchy choruses and adorable lyrics like "I think you are so sexy/ won't you mellow out with me?" and "I've been thinking about your sister/ you can tell me if I shouldn't kiss her."
By the time Fucked Up went on, everyone was rather intoxicated due to the one-two punch of imbibing alcohol and sweating. (I hate to harp on how gross it was, but it's important to note that this type of physically taxing environment creates a self-selecting group of people who really, really want to see whatever bands are playing.) There are a lot of things that work against a hardcore punk band gaining crossover success, but Fucked Up balances those out with some melodic guitar parts, sprawling compositions, and the goofy charisma of frontman Damian Abraham (a.k.a. Pink Eyes). "This song goes out to everyone who's a little sweaty," he said at one point. "Even if you're not overweight, now you know what it feels like to be. It's called 'I Hate Summer.'" Another song went out to record collectors; yet another, to "everyone who's been fucked over by someone with a badge for doing absolutely nothing wrong." Judging from the cheers, that applied to most of the people present.
The entire front half of the house was a mosh pit from start to finish. Pink Eyes stage-dove, put a plant on his head, and mugged for the camera. He took an audience poll on whether we liked him better with or without a beard. He thanked us and the other bands profusely. The band climaxed with their ten-minute opus "Black Albino Bones," after which Abraham said: "I think my heart's gonna explode. We're gonna do two more, then I'm gonna die." I think it's safe to say a lot of people would be really sad if that happened.
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