No Context: End of Summer Jam


photos by Rebecca Smeyne

No Context by Zach Baron

End of Summer Jam
Tompkins Square Park
September 30th

At Tompkins Square Park, a friend yelled “Bring back the old school flavor!” in the direction of A.R.E. Weapons, and erstwhile ‘80s rap A&R Dante Ross — a man whose old-school flavor extends to having been caricatured as a duck in the artwork to Three Feet High and Rising — turned around instead. Old school, on certain NYC blocks, can have a lot of definitions. But A.R.E. Weapons were old school, as far as Sunday went — their ’99-to-now run represented more years put in than the rest of the bill combined.

The bill: Mod Rockets, Sahra Motalebi, Sh-Sh-Shark Attack, The Virgins, A.R.E. Weapons, and the L.E.S. All-Stars, the last of which who were described to me as “dudes who hang out at Max Fish.” Arrived late, and thus caught only the last two, but got the idea: sociology before sound — i.e., downtown — and geography — i.e., New York — before genre. Extremely young kids with skateboards and RICH GIRLS t-shirts, retail mafia, Ryan McGinley, no alcohol. This was better than it sounds, not least because the temperature was a cool 73.4 °F and everyone there was in a great mood.

“This one’s about caring about stuff,” said A.R.E. Weapons. Does this band even still have their bad rep? All that menace, live, is clearly as much self-directed as it is antagonistic. Something is at stake: they’re going to get the best of their fear and their squalling synth blasts and granular thrash guitar or it’s all going to get the best of them.

On Sunday, they played godfather to the masses — perhaps it’s an antagonistic thing when they leave New York, or open for the Pet Shop boys or whatever, but when they’re in their own neighborhood, they seem like they’re on the same side as their audience, who deal with the same kind of social terror they do on a daily basis. Surely there are worse sins than dramatizing the lives of those who battle it out below 14th Street?

Everyone was in it together; I even got pitched on the idea, via text message. “The turnout should be tremendous,” said the Q, via the show’s organizer, Off-Bowery guy A-Ron, “all community, all bands been friends for years even before they had bands, which is real cool.”

The Virgins’s Donald Cumming

That is Lizzy from Gang Gang Dance