No doubt about it, the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage is an amazing space. As a music venue, though, this gloomy maze of looming, steep-sided chambers leaves a lot to be desired: Performers tend to drown in a quagmire of reflected sound. On June 28, the final installment of Creative Time’s annual series of avant-electronica events (a 10th birthday bash for Frankfurt’s Force Inc and its sister label, Mille Plateaux) saw some groups faring better with the acoustics than others. Panacea’s 180-b.p.m. Gothkore bombast suited the medieval ambience, but Kid606’s set was too busy and event-crammed (Boredoms do IDM) to thrive in this catacomb. SND suffered from the opposite syndrome: Too sparse even for the Anchorage, they sounded like an ailing metronome trapped in an echo chamber.
Luckily, Porter Ricks fit the space like a glove. Thomas Köner and Andy Mellweg first came to acclaim with their late-’90s releases on Chain Reaction, Berlin’s “heroin house” label. Combining Köner’s texturology (he’s an avant-garde composer renowned for bleak arctic dronescapes) with Mellweg’s grasp of house’s pump-and-pound rhythm, Porter Ricks make formlessness funky.
But that’s no preparation for how hard they rocked tonight: Imagine Eno’s On Land meets the Stooges. Porter Ricks use a guitar processor on all their synth sounds, which helps explains the added grit in their grind. Early in the set, the songs felt like spelunking through spongy-walled caverns flushed with foamy water: total body-massage. But as the beat got steadily more bangin’ and the texture-riffs flared fierce like magnesium, Porter Ricks hit a sublime pitch midway between warm pulse and cold rush: a sound as visceral as hardcore, as sensuous as deep house, as abstract as glitch. The combination of this glorious roar and the Anchorage’s architecture was like being teleported through time-space to Berlin’s legendary early-’90s club E-Werk, a disused power plant. Finally, the Anchorage became the rave temple it has always promised to be. —Simon Reynolds
Wisecracked Rear View
“I’m such a sarcastic asshole,” Eef Barzelay of Clem Snide told the capacity crowd at their record-release party at Mercury Lounge on Saturday night. As with all of rock’s great sarcastic assholes—from Dylan to Johnny Rotten to Eminem—it’s hard to tell when the leader of the Brooklyn-based band is kidding. The beauty in Clem Snide’s music (most compelling on their new The Ghost of Fashion) lies in that tension between sincerity and ridicule. The wiseass wordplay of “Joan Jett of Arc” (introduced as “a sentimental song”) barely hides the ache beneath, while that whole bit about Corey Feldman, the Bible, and Jesus playing guitar in “The Junky Jews” is downright confusing.
The set—which began with Barzelay’s spine-tingling a cappella performance of Ghost‘s most straightforwardly confessional track, “The Curse of Great Beauty,” and ended with a rollicking bar-band-style cover of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”—was no less difficult to decipher. Barzelay sang with his eyes half closed and his mouth wide open, just like an I’m-baring-my-soul-can’t-you-people-see? singer-songwriter. But lines like “When it’s my moment in the sun/Oh how beautiful I’ll be/But in a normal sort of way,” recited with a hint of a smirk over a chord progression eerily reminiscent of Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Hold My Hand,” drew laughter from the crowd. On the record, “Moment in the Sun” is pure devastation, but here the band built up its sweeping climax with such energy and abandon that it transformed the song into the world-embracing feel-good anthem it would be if Clem Snide actually were Hootie and the Blowfish, and the singer weren’t such a goddamn talented sarcastic asshole. —Amy Phillips
Eighty-four-year-old singer-pianist Hadda Brooks betrayed one minor concern during her Joe’s Pub show on Friday, her first New York performance in seven years and first ever for the JVC Jazz Festival. “That’s just the subway, right?” asked the wide-eyed Los Angeles native, momentarily startled by the low-pitched vibrations underground.
Despite her look of angst, Brooks and her decades of seismic activity outrumble any earthquake. In her glory days, she toured some 83,000 miles with the Harlem Globetrotters, kept company with Billie Holiday and Billy Tipton, and narrowly escaped sexual slavery in Algiers. She still rallies forces of nature, whether belting out “Old Man River” à la comedienne Martha Raye, demonstrating “Ballin’ the Jack” with her swiveling hips center stage, or eluding spotlights for an extended romp through the audience. As she nested in some unassuming gentleman’s lap, one had a hard time picturing her private audience with Pope Pius XII decades ago.
Although she became known in the 1940s as “Queen of the Boogie,” arthritis tends to limit her to one example per set—on Friday, the thundering “Hadda’s Boogie.” Her vocals, which bear a resemblance to Nat King Cole’s, retain some but not all of their delicious, velvety warmth. On the other hand, age has also become a surprising ally. Unlike Anita O’Day, another wild woman who has somehow survived into her eighties, Brooks works a lyric to her advantage, refusing to acknowledge youth’s monopoly on romantic ballads. “Why not take all of me?” becomes a different question in the hands of this Gray Panther than in those of any whippersnapper past, present, or future. Likewise, the words of her old TV theme song take on an added dimension: “To spend one night with you/In our old rendezvous/To reminisce with you/That’s my desire.” As Brooks sweetly crooned, she transformed the torch song into an open invitation—share an evening of song and she will give you the treasured memories of a lifetime. —Lara Pellegrinelli