St. Vincent, Britt Daniel, Bon Iver, Zach Galifianakis,
Janeane Garofalo, and more
Haiti Benefit @ Music Hall Of Williamsburg
Saturday, January 23
BrooklynVegan might best be known for having the most obnoxious commenters in the entire music blogosphere (which, in fairness, is certainly no small achievement), but give the borough’s most famous animal products opponent credit: dude’s got a good heart. And reach, apparently. It’s not just any half-assed blogger who can get icons of both alt-rock and alt-comedy together for an impromptu fundraiser for Haiti Relief. According to the BV post announcing the benefit, “100% of the proceeds” from the show were split between the Red Cross and a Haitian orphanage selected by performer/newly minted movie star Zach Galifianakis.
So, in the spirit of charity, I won’t bag too much on hosts Leo Allen and Brian Tisdale, except to lament that they fell into the alt-comedy trap of assuming that an ironic sensibility would compensate for a lack of actual jokes, and that pretending they were at a Katrina benefit might have actually seemed like a vaguely funny idea before they actually did it–and got no response. Following opening sets from solid folkie John Shade and Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac (who ended his set with an inspired riff on the inanity of PETA comparing factory farming to the Holocaust and slavery), Spoon frontman Britt Daniels offered up a three-song set that was minimal even by his already exceedingly reductionist standards. Daniels–dressed in a leather jacket, no discernable haircut, and what I hope was a fitted shirt–performed a cover of John Lennon’s “Isolation” and a ragged take on ace-ballad “I Summon You.” Backed with a makeshift, but spot-on, drummer and nothing more than the most precise and barest chord changes possible, Daniels let his effortless, classic jazz-musician level cool fill the parts that the other guys in Spoon play.
To put it lightly, Janeane Garafolo and Zach Galifianakis have different performing styles. Garafolo kicked off her set by announcing that, after the week’s political upheavals, it was now officially Jumpsuit Time in 2010. (Hers was black and sleeveless. I’m not sure why they’re the official uniform of disillusioned liberals either, though I’m always pro-jumpsuit.) She then turned a riff about Obama being on antidepressants into a plea for the audience to mail her Adderall. (I don’t know. She seemed pretty serious.) Meanwhile, Galifianakis’s set reconfirmed his status as a talented joke writer who needs to get over his tiresome audience-baiting performance-art shtick. Though, to be charitable, by the time he told the 21-year-old Fashion Institute Of Technology student that he dragged onstage for an awkward interview that “the only thing I’m getting out of you is your tampon,” even he seemed to realize that he was coming off as an asshole. What united the two comedians was their acknowledgement that there is absolutely nothing in the world us hipsters love more than big name hipsters making fun of us for being hipsters. So, cue plenty of jokes about ruining Williamsburg, McSweeney’s, Grizzly Bear, and the L train. All very funny, though it leaves one with the thought that perhaps Jeff Foxworthy is not receiving the proper credit for his influence on modern alternative comedy.
Annie “St. Vincent” Clark and Justin “Bon Iver” Vernon’s sets (both solo and dueting together with a bassist and drummer friends) stuck to the hits. Mostly other people’s hits, actually, though they did find time for Bon Iver’s “Flume” and Twilight soundtrack dury “Roslyn.” (Though no time for Bon Iver’s “re: Stacks,” apparently, despite several audience pleas.) By the end of the night, the pair had cherrypicked their way through the catalogues of Jackson Browne, Dolly Parton, Neil Young, Tom Petty, John Prine, Annie Lennox, with Clark’s propulsive take on the National’s “Mistaken For Strangers” making a strong argument for its new standard status. Along the way, the pair demonstrated palpable creative chemistry, deployed Vernon’s rarely heard but deeply impressive baritone, and reconfirmed Clark’s status as an absolute guitar beast whose shredding ability has yet to be adequately captured on her ornate records. (Let’s hope she goes the power trio route on LP3.) By the end of the night, it seemed like BrooklynVegan has assembled the ultimate indie rock cover band, all in the name of charity. Again, certainly no small achievement.
A second Music Hall Of Williamsburg Haiti benefit, featuring The Roots, Kaki King, Eric Krasno & Matisyahu, will take place this Wednesday. You can also donate to Haiti relief directly by visiting RedCross.org.