Williamsburg Dances Barefoot


I walked past the doormen at the Music Hall of Williamsburg last Thursday thinking about which Fashion Week parties I was missing that night and the degree to which I actually needed to attend Saturday’s MisShapes spectacular—the official release of their picture book and the final weekly party of the trio’s career. Nearly three hours later, I said goodbye to Music Hall security and began plotting my future, which involved driving a beat-up truck and nurturing a garden. Or a baby. Or, like, the world. I also wanted to eat a lot of mushrooms. Such is the power of Patti Smith.

I’m not a 40-years-late hippie. Not even close. There was a dalliance with the Grateful Dead my senior year of college, but only because I was making out with a boy whose single greatest possession was a first edition of On the Road. (He probably never even read it.) I’m a materialist who looks forward to the days when Vogue and W arrive. I love to shop. When Smith lambasted credit-card companies during her performance, I felt pangs of guilt for being one of the suckers whose lives those companies, you know, own. But I’m serious when I say that anyone who left at the end of Thursday’s show and didn’t want to be a better (and more financially responsible!)
person on some level might be sociopathic. Punk’s poet laureate, as she’s so often called, is known for her soapbox stances, but during this performance—which was supposed to be the Brooklyn venue’s debut—she never seemed preachy. She was just funny and smart and good.

But it wasn’t the debut; Tuesday’s inaugural show was postponed due to last-minute construction delays. Smith addressed the issue immediately upon taking the stage, accepting partial responsibility for the fact that ticket- holders to Tuesday’s show found out only a few hours before the scheduled start time that the performance had been pushed to Thursday. Brooklyn darlings Matt & Kim would initiate the Music Hall’s fancy-pants stage on Wednesday instead, which actually made pretty great sense for the borough that loves them best. Only problem was that they were opening for Against Me. I mean fine, whatever, I’m sure Against Me performed well—they’re just not all that exciting. A more fitting choice for the last-minute opener would have been Saturday’s painfully buzz-worthy bill: Yeasayer and Vampire Weekend. We may not remember either band in two years, but they’re hot enough right now that that totally wouldn’t matter.

Regardless, Patti played like it was still her job to christen the Music Hall (which is a dead ringer for the Bowery Ballroom). When she was done warming up the audience—rapt from the beginning—she launched into a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” apologizing after for it not being perfect. “I just wanted to try it out anyway,” she shrugged. She dedicated a song to the recently deceased Luciano Pavarotti, sharing a story about the time she found her then–eight-year-old son, Jackson, behind the house at midnight with a fishing pole and a “boom box,” listening to the opera giant. Jackson, it should be noted, now plays in his mom’s band. (Jackson, it also should be noted, is dreamy.) She talked about how her next New York performance, this Friday at the Beacon, falls on the birthday of her late husband (and MC5 guitarist) Fred “Sonic” Smith, who died in 1994 at the age of 45. “Even if you aren’t at the show to celebrate, send some good thoughts his way,” Smith said, smiling. “I wrote this song for him.” She then sang “Dancing Barefoot.”

And that’s how much of the show went: goose-bump performances and a healthy dose of honesty. I was taken by her words, which, as the night wore on, became increasingly about love and kindness. But I was more taken by the fact that, even when she wasn’t saying it out loud, that message was still clear. Smith seemed happy, healthy, and, as my friend Amalia put it, like one of those people who have carved out for themselves the life that they want. I was inspired in spite of myself.

So much so, in fact, that after Thursday the idea of spending Saturday night at Don Hill’s was completely outside my realm of possibility. The MisShapes were celebrating five years of downtown celebrity, which culminated in a 228-page hardback of the party’s trademark pictures and three short forwards by Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, Vogue‘s Sally Singer, and punk journalist Legs McNeil. I didn’t think the final night would be any different or more notable than the other 200-plus Saturdays, especially since the fashionable trio (Greg Krelenstein, Leigh Lezark, and Geordon Nicol, as if you didn’t know) seem sick to death of themselves in the myriad interviews they’ve done for the tome. Say what you will about that party—it’s probably been said anyway—there’s no denying its cultural influence. So here are some pics from the book to remember it by in the Voice. We’re done talking about them.

Instead, on Saturday night, I stayed true to my short-lived quest for the Summer of Love and fulfilled a Fashion Week obligation at the same time: I got stoned and watched The Devil Wears Prada. It was, as Smith sang in her lovely Lou Reed cover encore, “The Perfect Day.”