“Artists in Music and Conversation:
James LCD Murphy & Sam Lipsyte”
Tuesday, December 16
“Self-consciousness is a bitch but we’re going to plow through it,” novelist Sam Lipsyte promised. Saying it out loud, unfortunately, made it worse. The Tuesday night event–ostensibly, a dialogue between Lipsyte and Murphy–was vaguely described as “part conversation, part consternation, and part Ultimate Fighting” by the press release and as “the future of lit rock” by its two participants. They apologized in advance, lest we get our hopes up: Their conversation in the car ride over, apparently, was much better.
Lipsyte and Murphy, billed as old friends (Murphy engineered tracks for Lipsyte’s band, Dung Beetle), spoke to one another the way old friends do, rehashing shared memories from a decade ago. Sometimes it felt like listening in on two middle-aged guys at a reunion: the plate of french fries and beers on stage helped, as did their similar, generous silhouettes. That kind of shared awkwardness transforms a room, especially when that room is Joe’s Pub, with a mere handful of people sitting on pillows, a two-drink minimum, and a Prix Fix menu. The sort of cat-calling and shouted questions that usually end a night started 10 minutes into the hour-long talk.
To placate the crowd, Murphy and Lipsyte projected a bulletpoint list of topics on the overhead: punk is gay, why Johnny can’t drum, “Infinite Jest,” “The show’s started, bitch.” These points corresponded to stories: about how their friend quit heroin; the first words Lipsyte said to his wife; why punk is gay. One tip: never show shock or surprise at how much people paid to be there ($20, plus ticket fee).
Both Lipsyte and Murphy are from New Jersey, and early on Lipsyte talked about “the New Jersey of the Mind verses the New Jersey of the Soul,” referring to the pervasive sense of hometown shame the author once wrote about in his novel, Home Land. Europeans were surprised and delighted by “North American Scum,” according to Murphy. They thought Americans weren’t capable of self-loathing. They should have seen Murphy last night. –Jessica Suarez