That’s Your Man

Bilal has a couple of things going for him, besides being 20, cute, and considered the next big soul star. There’s his voice, which can rasp, preach, and jar his nine-member band through a sandpaper rocker like “Second Child,” then turn into cream soda while wafting “My Funny Valentine” over a vintage keyboard. But his real trick is making the moment last. Last Thursday, the transplanted Philly kid vamped over a groove, insinuating himself with cracks about the Fort Greene intelligentsia who always dominate BAMcafé. He milked his only released song, “Soul Sista” (from the Love and Basketball soundtrack), breaking off pleading to rant, “Why the fuck you be coming to me to borrow money? That’s your man.” Covering Marvin Gaye, he looked up to the heavens for support, ripped off his ’70s Cosby hat and glasses, lifted himself up, and let his body fall. The ladies batted every squeal right back.

“Debra,” my friend whispered, invoking Beck’s satiric r&b drama, which was a little myopic but not entirely wrong. When Bilal starts posturing, he rolls his eyes first because we know it’s all been done before. Thankfully, he doesn’t stop there—just pulls it off anyway, with physicality and romantic fearlessness. He didn’t make love to the floor this time, like at the BAM Prince tribute last December, but he sure hugged his chair. The new material, due this fall on Interscope, came off schematic, his band a little tentative. But part of the new r&b—whether an unlikely amalgamation like Lucy Pearl or Angie Stone’s young funk players—is that all of the pieces aren’t in place; everything remains a game of make-believe. These may be the only experimentalists left in pop still confident of an audience. —Eric Weisbard

‘Night, Mother

In 1996 Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynell did something very brave: They bought a nightclub in Manhattan. They weren’t trying to bilk tourists and yuppies, nor were they fronting for drug lords. Valenti and Dynell invested in a 10-year lease on an elderly building they renovated and rechristened “Mother” to nurture nightly events in an atmosphere as spontaneous and diverse as a Dada soiree. Jackie 60, their original cabaret night, soon expanded into a series of theme parties modeled on anything from a multimedia salon to a Warholesque be-in.

This tiny meat-district dive was already grandfathered as both bar and cabaret before Johnny and Chi Chi bought it. This didn’t matter to the multiagency platoon of city inspectors currently harassing many small nightspots out of existence. Inspectors have been hitting places like Mother during peak hours, halting activity for up to an hour at a time as they comb the space for fractional infringements of regulations that have always been selectively enforced. Tired of constant invasions and anticipating costly mandatory renovations, the founders of Manhattan’s most artist-friendly nightclub are selling the remainder of their lease.

On Mother’s Day—one week after a city inspection followed Mikhail Baryshnikov’s participation in a tribute to Martha Graham—the owners of Mother issued a closing announcement. “Our beloved laboratory for late-night club performance will close on June 29, 2000. . . . [We] spent way too much time on [the] minutiae of arcane city ordinances, and we confess—we no longer care if the ‘No Smoking’ sign in the bathroom has fallen off the wall!” Although Valenti and Dynell will continue to produce events elsewhere, their great sanctuary is dismantled. Our current administration’s repressive social policies killed Mother, and surely they’ll kill again. —Carol Cooper

Self-Obsessed and Sexxee

More often than not, any hard labor put into advertising one’s band becomes little more than empty fodder for the rain and sun to batter, but if you’re bibliophilic grunge grandpas Sonic Youth, you get an exhibition to show off the prescience of your tastes. “Sonic Matters, Sonic Kollaborations” (at the Printed Matter bookstore through September 9) shepherds almost 20 years’ worth of ephemera, posters, and art-world collaborations into an installation of charming interdisciplinary sprawl.

Described by the scrawled, wall-length introduction as a “semi-popular NYC Music Kollective,” Sonic Youth have always known how to pick their horses. Tour posters cover 20 years of stage partners from Liquid Liquid and Flipper to Big Black and Das Damen to Nirvana and Mudhoney to Pavement and Beck. High art collaborators stretch from Raymond Pettibon and Tony Ousler through Gerhard Richter and Mike Kelly to Jutta Koehler and Rita Ackerman—a pretty strong summary of the most important work in the art world’s last two decades. Not to mention all the Madonna imagery.

“They were just our friends,” explains Thurston Moore, who worked at Printed Matter in the late ’70s, and even slept at the Dia Foundation when it was located at Printed Matter’s current Wooster Street location. “Kim went to school with Mike Kelly, and she knew Gerhard Richter’s wife. We never attached any celebrity to it.” But a larger question remains: How the hell did you schlep this stuff around? “This is just a tenth of our ephemera. I’ve always just sort of saved everything. At this point my collections have really gotten into secondary and tertiary levels of architecture. But Allen Ginsberg and Andy Warhol were pack rats, too. Warhol saved every napkin he ever had.” —D. Strauss