The Story of O
Like a record, baby, right round round round. If the Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ year-long odyssey from L-train heroes to international art stars has made them dizzy, it doesn’t show. At Thursday’s homecoming gig at the Bowery Ballroom, on the eve of their new even-hotter-than-everybody-hoped debut album, Fever to Tell, they were just three kids in the dark tonight, and their baby’s a shark tonight. Stalwart drum shemp Brian Chase and eyelash pimp Nick Zinner, who seems to have Adam and about six of the Ants crammed into his guitar, beat out a bent rhythm as new-wave imperatrice Karen O did the E!-walk for her big entrance, in a black minidress with saggy black leotards and yellow socks underneath. By the time she got to the mic to do “Black Tongue” (“Boy you’re just a stupid bitch/Girl you’re just a no-good dick”), the YYY’s had already turned the entire room into a seraglio of their own personal love kittens.
Faster than a rolling O, Karen wangoed and tangoed through the hyperactive scuzz-funk riffs, proving herself the most virtuosic beer slosher of our era every time she tried to sing with a mouth full of Corona, which was very, very often. She also dedicated the sweeter-than-fuck ballad “Maps” to practically everybody in the room by name, which took longer than the actual song. “This guy keeps calling to me, Karen, Karen, Karen,” she confided at the encore. “But my name’s not Karen! My name doesn’t start with a K! My name starts with an . . . IIIIIIIIIIII!” With killer timing, the band crunched into “Our Time,” and the crowd instantly sang the rest of the line (” . . . may be dead, honey! But I was left with my eyes!”) as Zinner flashed his only smile of the night. —Rob Sheffield
The late John Phillips, singer, songwriter, and co-founder of the pop-folk dysfunction junction that was the Mamas & the Papas, was also a Virgo. His horoscope, reproduced on the back cover of the M-&-the-Ps’ third album, 1967’s Deliver, reads in part: “Your high sense of discrimination, amounting to an intellectual snobbery, protects you from getting involved with intellectual inferiors, for you have a very finicky taste in matters of people, dress, food and house furnishings and can be extremely critical when your sense of good taste is offended.” You’ll never catch Loser’s Lounge ringmaster Joe McGinty and his team of tributists engaging in snobbery of any kind. But as they demonstrated while honoring Phillips and his band last Friday at Fez, their well-documented affection for schlock masks extraordinarily good taste.
Vocally, no one really filled Mama Cass Elliott’s muumuu, although Lianne Smith’s “Dream a Little Dream” nailed the knowing regret with which Elliott elevated pop gems and kitsch alike. Tricia Scotti located the seeds of Lucinda Williams’s honky-tonk martyrdom in Michelle Phillips’s “The Achin’ Kind.” Champale singer Mark Rozzo located the wounded SoCal romanticism in “Malibu People” (an attack on those who get stoned in glass houses, from Phillips’s 1970 solo debut, John, Wolf King of L.A.) Nick Danger located the complete drug-addled insanity in John’s doomed Broadway musical Man on the Moon—although if couplets like “You can take your helmet off/You’ll find it is no shelter for your mind” are any indication, he didn’t have to dig that deep. And Joe Hurley gave the underage-groupie ode “She’s Just 14” (off Phillips’s Jagger/Richards-produced Pay, Pack and Follow) the full Sticky Fingers treatment. Astounding song; Phillips’s wackmobile daughter Bijou should totally cover it. And pay McGinty a nice finder’s fee. —Alex Pappademas
A.R.E. Weapons want you to know that life is meant to be awesome. Shit-that-was-a-big-hit awesome. Lord-on-high awesome. Omigod awesome. Which may explain why the fashion crowd loves them: Life must be awesome if you can afford $7 bottles of Bud at posh playground the Park. But since no self-respecting St. Marks dirtbag would turn down the chance to snort coke off a model’s tits, we’ll forgive their choice of venue for their coming-out party last Thursday. As for those of you so cool you proclaimed this buzz band crap before you even heard them so as not to come off as the petty hanger-on you no doubt are, well then, you should take a page from Chloë Sevigny—in attendance and looking hot in heavy eyeliner and a tutu—and stop being so fucking self-conscious. “This will only take 20 minutes,” said stringy-haired lead singer Brain McPeck as $8 Absolut cocktails started sousing the front lines. Brain’s flying mic stand brained a Voice colleague and the collateral damage went running, clutching her skull. But like the rat-bones rebellion at a Sunday-afternoon Brooklyn Banks sk8te contest, the scene threatened more attitude than violence: A girl with hair circa 1980s Tony Hawk never got the kick in the head that that coif deserved, and Brain emerged unscathed after a crowd badass half-jokingly took him down during “Headbanger Face.” But mainly it was Matthew McAuley’s grating guitar and Paul Sevigny’s blistering beats doing the assailing as the trio barreled through most of their self-titled debut, including teen-spirit anthems “Hey World” and “Don’t Be Scared.” It was easy to forget the phonies packing the room when Brain screamed things like “People think you’re a loser, a drug abuser, ’cause you like to get high, well so do I!” In a world gone mad, that’s a message destined to be embraced by eighth-graders everywhere. Yeah, the kids will be all right. —Carla Spartos
The vile term “Special Surprise Guest” often heralds the equivament of the cardboard puzzle in a box of Cracker Jacks. Saturday March 22 proved to be the rare exception, as Bottom Line/WFUV’s A Required Listening series delivered a diamond prize among the peanuts and Carmel corn. The evening began with WFUV’s Claudia Marshall welcoming singer guitarist Tony Furtado, who almost apologized for being unable to bring either his band or banjo, but quickly won over the crowd with his finger-picking guitar wizardry. Second up came songwriter Richard Julian, and after a short break, singer Amy Correia. Reminiscent of ’70’s pop-folk singer Melanie, complete with a wide, trembling range and songs about her childhood. The dessert de jour, was Brooklyn’s upbeat faux-French band, Les Sans Culottes, a tasty melt of ’60’s British invasion and the B-52’s.
Then suddenly, a new buzz began, and celebrities appeared. The house lights dimmed, and a band took the stage. The room erupted, the roars began as we sighted a Beatle! Ringo Starr and band performed “It Don’t Come Easy”. Between grins, Starr flashes a tee-shirt reading “peace & love”, and led the band through the boogie woogie rocker “Memphis In My Mind”. When they launched into “Photograph,” Ringo jumped behind the drum kit for the first time, for a rousing medley of “I Wanna Be Your Man”/ “Boys”. After another new song, dedicated to George (way better than the one Paul dedicated to John) the crowd was treated to a sing along of “Yellow Submarine”. For his final song, get this, he welcomed his own special guest! A giddy Norah Jones joined him in an encore of “With a Little Help From My Friends.” —Andrew Aber
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 8, 2003