Imagine a nightclub not clouded by cigarette smoke, a club with room to dance, where the music is never loud or painful. New media group Eyebeam created this idyllic environment last Saturday at 540 West 21st Street as part of the Silent Project, a 10-hour marathon with a variety of local DJs, like James Murphy, Marcus & Dominique, and Plexus, spinning.
There was one catch for traditionalists: Instead of music booming through a sound system, it was funneled through wireless headsets, which allowed patrons to control the volume and to wander away from the dancefloor, spilling outside onto the sidewalk. The transformation of what is normally a communal experience—dancing to music spun by a DJ—into one of collective solitude made for an amusing social experiment.
Onlookers stood outside the rough, warehouse-like space, curiously staring at those wearing headgear. The only audible music came from the bass bins, which rumbled at subsonic levels. DJs were forced to mix entirely in their headphones—with no crowd reaction (most weren’t dancing) and no bumping beats, it must have felt like they were spinning at home for their cats, trying not to wake the neighbors.
If the Silent Project turned many clichés of nightlife upside-down, the setup seemed a perfect match for clubbers’ usual self-absorbed stance: standing around and schmoozing. Of course, the headset internalization nearly forced participants to listen to the DJs’ selections, but the inverse happened, too. After the novelty wore off, several people took off the headsets and chatted. For once, there was no reason to shout. —Tricia Romano
This Is Yardcore
Six million albums sold, four shimmying girls, shirt unbuttoned to the sternum, and tight leather pants: Anywhere but here, Miami, and the mother island itself, Shaggy would have been the featured act at a dancehall revue. But to the slice of Flatbush Avenue transported to the Hammerstein for a Hot 97- sponsored show on Sunday, September 8, his shenanigan-filled set was merely a footnote.
Mr. Boombastic’s no fool, though. He wisely brought out old-timer Barrington Levy to croon his trademark scat melodies, serving up needed cred while still charmingly exposing Shaggy & Co. for the carbohydrates they are. Such buddyhood was the order of the eve: Sean Paul brought out the excellent Spragga Benz. T.O.K. paired with Wayne Wonder. Bounty Killer introduced Wayne Marshall, Kardinal Offishall, and Bronx big man Fat Joe.
A little bit of hip-hop teased the Brooklyn massive, but they were no strangers to the unfiltered raw. Badman boyband T.O.K. accompanied their hit “Chi Chi Man” with bursts of flame. Newcomer Sean Paul scored with a string of naughty hits—some his, some not.
By the time the show hit the headliners, longtime rivals Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, the crowd had already used up its shot-licking quota. Beenie headlined over Bounty—a subtle nod to his current chart standing—but befuddled in his Jacko-worthy sequined suit. Bounty was comparatively demure in a black half-tunic, but his tunes—like the punishing “Sufferer”—showed up Beenie’s pop hucksterism, including his bizarre call-and-response rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”
Beenie needn’t have tried so hard. The show peaked an hour earlier, when upstart “energy god” Elephant Man, decked out Ronald McDonald-style in red blazer and yellow hair, served up lyrical Tourette’s. After “Haters Wanna War,” “The Bombing,” and a pair of R. Kelly rip-offs, Elephant brought a dozen girls onstage for “Log On” and its eponymous dance. They turned the toe-tapping routine into a bumping war with their host. At song’s end, one low-leaning, deeply muscular combatant knocked Elephant onto his back with a vicious thigh thrust. At last, a proper bashment. —Jon Caramanica
Hush and Howl
If we do not rock, have the terrorists won? This was the dilemma live music venues faced last Wednesday. Most of the city’s rooms from the Beacon to the Bottom Line were closed, but New York is a striver’s town, and a few chose to commemorate The Tragedy by forging on. The Knit was the last stop for the Underground Poets Railroad, a spoken-word tour to benefit the families of black firefighters who died a few blocks away, and Luxx had a show called “Brooklyn’s Loudest Salute New York’s Bravest.” Makor hosted an NPR-style gabfest, while St. Mark’s Church counterprogrammed the Reverend Billy. CBGB and its Gallery got over with “tributes” drawn from their regular talent pool, and meat markets like Arlene Grocery and the Continental (which saved for Saturday its tribute to Johnny “Heff” Heffernan, Bullys leader and firefighter) held their usual midweek showcases, although it’s hard to imagine who could have been out scouting.
“We wanted people to get away from their televisions and all the tragedy of the day,” says Chris Lauter, who was in the WTC PATH station that day and put together a show called “Life Goes On” at Finally Fred’s. “A lot of people told me they were planning to hide under the covers all day, but a few of them came out because they didn’t want to be alone. Bartenders told me I was doing a great service.”
Artists with Wednesday night gigs faced the toughest call. Eddy Davis, who leads Woody Allen’s band at Café Carlyle on Mondays, has had a midweek slot for his own combo at Cajun for three years. Management wanted the show to go on, and that was fine with the maestro. “We have some regulars, and they wanted to hear a little music and be a little happier,” he says. “Newspapers and TV didn’t stop performing. We have to keep the wheels going no matter what’s falling off the truck.” —Josh Goldfein