Empty warehouse, North 10th Street
Saturday, October 31
So you go to the much-ballyhooed Vice Halloween Party, the 15th anniversary bash in Williamsburg that the lifestyle brand reportedly dropped $250,000 to throw. You dress up, by the press release’s official request, as a cultural cliche from 1994 (the year the magazine began, hence the anniversary, duh), and stand in a frustratingly long line that you would in no other circumstance bother with, because if you wanted to pretend you needed toilet paper in Communist Russia, you’d go to Disneyland, for fuck’s sake, this is bullshit.
But here you are, waiting with your redhead friend who tells strangers she’s dressed up like “Xanadu,” but is really just wearing tights and a blue American Apparel leotard with a belt. And you’re both waiting among the Blue Man Groups, Beavises, Buttheads, Blind Melon Bee Girls, half-assed Courtney Loves (blonde wig and red lipstick alone = lame), and more than one Stacy from Wayne’s World (neck brace, the words “Psycho Hose Beast” pinned to their backs, etc.)–because you’re dying to see Jesus Lizard again. But also, if someone was holding a gun to your head, you’d have to admit that you’re here also because me and you and everyone else you know wants to be too.
But they can’t. It’s something of a private party, you got wristbands, your friends dressed up as Charles Manson and Sharon Tate didn’t, your significant other/best friend/person of excellent moral character knows better than to deal with this sort of logistical garbage, so you’ve chosen to be here with Xanadu, who likes both live shows and fun. So you wait in line with 100s of others, listening to the castrato chorus of James’s “Laid” float out the warehouse windows, longingly eyeing a sign that tells VIPs to call Turtle, unable to ignore the unmistakable burnt-plastic whiff of crack being smoked. You watch 45 minutes pass. How is the Vice party? a text on your iPhone curiously asks. You don’t respond.
You do eventually, after you get past the bouncers. You’d tried to find out set times yesterday, but were told they weren’t settled. “It’s Vice,” the note went, i.e. remember who you’re dealing with–but to be fair, you were also told to “get there early,” but you couldn’t. So it’s now after midnight and you’re vaguely worried that you might’ve missed either Jesus Lizard or Bad Brains–two bands fittingly loved by skater fuck-up types and the sorts of gnarly people who’ve at least once woken up either behind bars and/or missing teeth. But thankfully, as you make your way upstairs, you hear Jesus Lizard’s David Yow howling in the distance.
When you saw Jesus Lizard last month on at All Tomorrow’s Parties, Yow kept bidding, “HAPPY 9/11, EVERYBODY! HAPPY 9/11!” because it was, in fact, September 11 and there probably isn’t a more twisted thing a frontman could say on such a date in New York state. But tonight, you find him less sadistic, just sweaty and feral. You can tell that his shirt is unbuttoned and hear that he’s groaning and see that he’s bellowing and flailing and freaking. You watch him writhe on the stage, crawl across the crowds’ uplifted hands, get showered in the free Colt 45, while a rotting human-banana crowd-surfs. You finally text back, Jesus Lizard are so, so good. And they are.
But then they’re done. You and Xanadu both get a cup of some free sponsored-tequila concoction, stow away a few Colt 45 cans that you picked up off the bar, then head downstairs, past the skate ramp, through a weird rave-like scene of old-school techno, to a line of Port-a-Potties tucked behind red curtains. You notice Pulp Fiction characters in every corner: a woman dressed up Samuel L.’s Jules, a perplexingly Asian John Travolta, a black-wigged Mia with a hyperdermic needle glued to her breastbone. You spot a Tonya Harding, but no Nancy Kerrigan. You see an Agent Scully, but no Mulder. You wait and wait and wait and wait.
Then a weird thing happens. Some woman behind you in line, wearing a lab coat and displaying a very real looking bloody nose, approaches you and Xanadu. You think she wants to ask for a tissue, but instead she accuses you both, out of nowhere, Hey, so if you want to do drugs, there’s plenty of room out there, you know. You don’t need to go into the Port-a-Potty and do them together and make everybody wait. You don’t generally get mistaken for an amphetamine chaser, so you just look confused and your expression sends her away. You will only later realize this was her opening.
And so Monday will come. You will remember this night as a party, not a concert. You will remember that Bad Brains really truly did suck, and that there’s very little else to say about that. You will remember that you had fun, but also how grateful you were to end up at Secret Project Robot later to see Knyfe Hyts. You will still watch VBS.tv religiously and still live in Williamsburg. But you will not soon forget this line from Titus Andronicus, the New Jersey band who played Weezer covers after Bad Brains: “We are being choked and beaten and sexually assaulted, and all the while, my peers dance and snort cheap coke and photograph each other for the hundreth time.” You will have no photos of yourself from that night.