This Weekend In New York: Reading Rainbow, Xray Eyeballs, Crystal Ark, And Thee Oh Sees


In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.

This past weekend, Debbie and I finally reached our limit of how many shows we could attend and actually “see” over the course of three hours. Shit was like flipping channels!

Friday started off at the “secret” Thee Oh Sees show at Death By Audio, although scheduling conflicts caused us to see everyone but the main act. First up was the Philly band Reading Rainbow; originally composed of husband-wife duo Sarah Everton and Rob Garcia, they recently added another person to flesh out their sound. As garage rock goes, it was jangly and happy, with some loose solos to keep it from being too straightforward. Everton didn’t miss a beat as she harmonized with her dude on songs about getting fucked up, dancing, “wasting time” and other topics relevant to the interests of the young and carefree. They’re a different animal entirely, but I can’t help linking them spiritually to bands of yore like Schwervon and the Blake Babies—crazy kids who sound like they just want to have fun.

Next up was sweaty D.I.Y. standby X-Ray Eyeballs, who recently released a kinda-sorta NSFW video for their languid jam “Crystal” that made all the scary people who comment on BrooklynVegan simultaneously horny and furious. Although bassist Carly Rabelais got almost-topless in the aforementioned video, the person to keep an eye on live is guitarist/singer O.J. San Felipe, who looked like he was ready to jump out of his Mishka eyeball leggings from the second he got onstage. He climbed up on the bass drum and shook his little bum. He yelled “Who got mushrooms?!” He briefly exposed his manhood. I am told he later broke the paneled ceiling because he dangled off of it by his feet, although according to his hungover tweets the next day, he didn’t remember doing much of this. Party on, dude.

Just when things were getting good at Death By Audio hightailed it to Bed Stuy, where booking outfit Abracadabra had arranged a special performance by the nine-person ensemble Crystal Ark, led by DFA’s Gavin Russom. (The core group that actually records is Russom and vocalist Viva Ruiz.) I should begin by telling you that Debbie and I are irrationally biased against electronic music (I once reprimanded a DJ friend for getting “too ravey” at my birthday party), but Abracadabra’s Seva Granik (a friend) had never steered us wrong in the past.

We were immediately struck by how vast, labyrinthine, and retro the space was; not in a trendy way, but a “we have not seen fit to change anything since the ’80s” way. Sugar Hill Disco is a place straight out of 1982, with dingy mirrors, out-of-print arcade games in the basement (Street Fighter II!), a huge backyard with a classic car sitting in it, and numerous disco balls. Russom took the stage around 1 a.m. and introduced the band, gradually adding people until he had a decent jam going with synths, live percussion, loops, (funky) bass, and a coven of three black-clad singers. There were also two scantily clad, blue-painted dancers who threatened to steal the show, looking alternately like Hindu gods and that alien opera singer from The Fifth Element as they gyrated. (Especially the male one, whose glittery mustache was simply mesmerizing.) As the music built to numerous ecstatic climaxes, I was also reminded of the world music/rave/orgy scene in The Matrix II where all the remaining humans in the world make sex on each other. But in a good way! Some MDMA and a less busy schedule might have allowed us to enjoy it all more fully; the swirling visuals by Bec Stupak were enough to cause spontaneous astral projection.

Saturday we finally caught Thee Oh Sees, albeit in the sterilized environment of Brooklyn Bowl. Seeing Thee Oh Sees at Brooklyn Bowl was better than missing Thee Oh Sees altogether, or so we reasoned. One problem with that space is it’s so big that it always looks kind of empty; another is that music isn’t necessarily its main focus. However, the band dutifully ignored all the people who were busy eating Blue Ribbon fried chicken or bowling a few games and played their hearts out for the ones who cared. It always seems like they’re giving it their all, whether they’re on a Caribbean cruise or playing their tenth SXSW showcase in five days. John Dwyer made a passionate Popeye face as he wielded his 12-string up high like a gun, and Petey did this circular headbang thing while looking so stoked. By the third song or so, a decent sized mosh pit had formed; it’s a testament to the band’s appeal that relatively straightforward, blues-y garage rock could elicit a response on par with a hardcore show. (See also: The Black Lips.) Dwyer yelped, soloed, swallowed the mic, split his lip somehow, played all our favorites off Warm Slime, and did everything in his power to entertain. For about thirty minutes, we all forgot where we were.