Highlights from my first month living in New York City:
Had My Sexuality Openly Questioned by Ice-T Has anyone asked Public Enemy mastermind Chuck D, point-blank, how he feels about his hype man Flavor Flav amassing stupendous fame and fortune via a VH1 show that stereotypes, degrades, and humiliates clearly deranged women who inexplicably aspire to have sex with him? Can Chuck—who has denounced his cohort’s past reality TV antics as “Flavploitation”—reconcile his own decades of thoughtful activism with Flavor of Love, the horrific, thoroughly depressing find-Flav-a–soul mate program that, incidentally, is the funniest thing on TV that is not The Colbert Report?
I merely ask because the future of autumnal hip-hop celebrity seems to follow Flav’s example. Look for Ice-T’s Rap School this fall on VH1, wherein our hero teaches a bunch of sheltered, oblivious Upper West Side prep school kids the finer points of hip-hop culture. Spoiler: The season ends when Ice-T’s charges—named YPC, a/k/a York Prep Crew—open for, appropriately enough, Public Enemy, at a B.B. King’s gig taped in early May.
The crowd, though impatient for “Don’t Believe the Hype,” was willing to roll with this. A torrent of cute-but-terrible scratching and cute-but-terrible rapping transpired, and then lingered unnecessarily; the assembled throng’s mood gradually turned from bemusement to annoyance to hostility. Specifically, we began loudly booing a pre-teenage rapper dressed in a trench coat who for some reason reminded me of Fozzie Bear. Fozzie’s well-being seemed to be in danger, until an irate Ice-T stormed back onstage and suggested that those who would disparage the performance of such innocent little kids was—and he does not use this word lightly—a “faggot.”
I feel this rebuke’s sting. Forgive me, Fozzie.
(Bonus for Flavor of Love fans: The second season will go on as scheduled; when someone in the crowd shouted, “Where’s Hoopz?” Flav replied, “Ask T.I.”)
Sailed on a ‘Booze Cruise’ Around the Statue of Liberty to the Soulful Strains of a German Cover Band Named Booga Suga Let it be known that Booga Suga did George Michael justice.
Accosted by a Bouncer and Denied Entry to a Show Where I Was Supposed to Be on the Guest List A rite of passage. Screw you, Hugh Masekela.
Attended One of Those Indie-Rock Shows Where the Audience Consists Entirely of Bloggers Beirut are a fine, up-and-coming faux-Balkan rock band, but their gala Knitting Factory debut was the first concert in history to acknowledge MP3 blog hype by incorporating the equivalent of download times between every song. Each tune dissolved into an endless interlude of nervous smiling and feverish ukulele-tuning, as the packed house shifted its collective weight from foot to foot and patiently waited for someone to right-click: save as. Meanwhile, I approached one of the many photographers at random to see if he’d gotten any good shots—it was the brooklynvegan.com guy. Whoops.
Two weeks later, at the much more fluid Mercury Lounge follow-up, Beirut definitively proved what lusty Internet hype buys you in 2006: Two brand-new bitchin’ ukuleles.
Witnessed the First Show of A Two-Night Stand, and Got the Crappier Set List This is going to happen to me roughly 10,000 times a year. I can feel it. Mogwai’s mid-May Friday-night Webster Hall soiree was just fine, but evidently the Saturday set included “Tracy,” “Mogwai Fear Satan,” “My Father My King,” and “Christmas Steps.” God dammit. At least instead I was doing something worthwhile that night, namely . . .
Zeitgeist Alert: Window Shopped at American Apparel (Ding!) While Bumming Around Williamsburg (Bong!), Before Going to See Danielson (Brrung!), Who Sucked (D’oh!) We are the generation that praised a record titled He Poos Clouds and we get what we deserve.
Kicked My Own Ass Repeatedly for Failing to Sneak Into One of Those Apparently Thoroughly Righteous Guns N’ Roses Gigs My regret is an emotion likely more profound than any to be expressed on Axl’s perpetually forthcoming Chinese Democracy.
Mourned the Death of a Beloved Band via a Funereal Solo Record Store Gig
You are lucky they just broke up, because you will largely be spared my admittedly sketchy contention that Grandaddy is the best rock band of the past five years. We are the generation that praised a record titled Just Like the Fambly Cat, etc., etc. But an awestruck loyalist I remain, and with great trepidation did I bow before frontman Jason Lytle at Other Music, his bandmates discarded and probably disgruntled back in California, strumming an acoustic and sweetly warbling tunes of Nature vs. Technology disaffection in his trademark mesh-back trucker cap that suddenly seemed less like ironic affectation and more like a sad necessity. “Summer . . . it’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone . . .” he murmured, like a broken record, for about 45 profoundly uncomfortable seconds. He has apparently fled to Montana for time immemorial; you will miss him, though probably not as much as I.
Almost Forgot to Explain the Name of This Column In the late ’90s I attended a Ricky Martin concert (he was almost kicked in the groin by a backup dancer during the gala “Livin’ la Vida Loca” opener) at a Cleveland venue named Gund Arena. Several also unnecessarily tall colleagues joined me. “Jesus Christ,” one exclaimed. “We’re like the Duke basketball team all hanging out watching Ricky Martin.” At that exact moment he was drilled in the back of the head with an eggplant flung by an irate fellow concertgoer who couldn’t see shit. My friend has yet to emerge from his coma. “Down in Front” is an order, a mantra, a cautionary tale. And it reads nicer than “Aloof Corporate Asshole.”
Antagonized Fellow R Train Passengers by Blasting the New Mission of Burma Record Through Headphones at Absurdly High Volume As the song goes, I, too, am haunted by the freakish size of Nancy Reagan’s head.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 6, 2006