Day 3: Oct 18
By Michael D. Ayers
M.I.A.’s official CMJ gig is tonight at Terminal 5, but she played a warm up gig at the same place last night. I wonder if they same type of people who went last night, would go tonight- will tonight be mostly music industry and young music industry hopefuls? Or will it be more of the circus sideshow that comprised last night’s audience? And I say that in the most affectionate way, because to me, it’s quite impressive that M.I.A. has cultivated an audience that seems so diverse. I guess I could make some sort of analogy on how she, like her music, is a product of globalization and post-industrial, wired era, and her audience’s diverse looks reflect that. But that’s for some NYU’s student’s senior thesis.
Side-shows are fun to watch, and so is her crowd. If you haven’t ever seen M.I.A., or maybe it’s been awhile, the crowd she brings goes absolutely, bat-shit bonkers for her. They’re from all walks of life it seems, and even though it’s hard not to notice the over-the-top ironic folks, wearing silver fanny packs, and looking like Tina Yothers circa the end of the Family Ties run, it’s interesting to see everyone thrown together. Some care about looking really cool; some don’t, and some just seem really cool.
They also get pissed if she takes too long to play. DJ’s spinning Justice and the like are fine for a few hours, but when the opening act Rye Rye had technical difficulties, the crowd wasn’t having it. Chants began. In an attempt to distract us, a guy started up with “when I say “EM EYE” you say A”. That worked. Then he switched to “when I say EM EYE A, you say “Whoop, there it is!” EME EYE A. He was promptly greeted with more boos.
So when she finally took the stage, starting with what she’s started with all summer, the bass heavy “Bamboo Banger,” the collective orgasm that let out was near deafening. Like, I can’t remember when I’ve heard the holla’s, the shrill screams, and near-to-tear reaction for someone as I did last night for M.I.A.
It’s quite impressive.
She’s been playing a lot of festivals this summer, and I saw a few of those performances, but she’s best experienced in a club such as the new Terminal 5, which is much more narrow in contrast to the other 3000-person venues. She also was fooling around with a touch-screen sampler, selecting the programming during her set. I’m no DJ and surely don’t keep up with the latest trends in equipment, but this is the first time I can remember her actually participating in the sounds we were hearing. I always wonder how much she can do besides “wax politics,” and apparently she does have some skills. I think she deliberately chose not to include the string section (a.k.a. the sick part that makes every one freak) of “Jimmy” via this touch screen thing.
Towards the end of her set, she requested that audience members join her on stage for “Bird Flu,” so therefore, the entire stage was flooded with dancers, adoring young ladies who were busy snapping up camera pictures of themselves on stage, the crowd, M.I.A., and whatever else they could think would capture their on-stageness.
But what’s great is that she didn’t end the show there; they kicked everyone off, and continued. Remember the “whoop there it is guy?” Turns out he was Afrikan Boy, who is credited on Kala during the song “Hussel.” They played that, and the crowd seemed to forget they hated him no more than an hour ago. He tried his “whoop there it is!” line again. And it worked. No boos, but 3000 people screaming “whoop there it is!,” non-ironically. I think that might qualify as things coming full circle, but I’m not sure. It was perplexing.
Walking out, I might have come to the realization that Afrikan Boy might have had something else on his side. Admidst puke, staggering people, couples groping each other, eyes rolled back in their heads, it was pretty clear that M.IA.’s audience likes to get wasted beyond belief. So that’s good for them, I guess.