Swirlies w/ Psychedelic Horseshit
Beekman Beer Garden
Sunday, July 24
Better than: Rolling over in bed at 2:30 p.m., imagining what civilization was like before air conditioning, and pulling a down comforter up to your chin.
OK, nothing is that good. But there was something respectable about showing up at Manhattan’s docklands right as a brutal heat wave broke in order to be pummeled by noise, whether or not you were the type to append a “-pop” suffix to this particular breed. Indeed many at the overnamed Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club, a strip of sand with cafeteria tables slotted amid the mallspace of South Street Seaport, where you can drop $40 on four pints and a bratwurst, were not: opener Psychedelic Horseshit was getting booed from the back of the tent soon enough, not that they could hear it.
The duo, dressed in cutoff shorts, baseball caps and basketball jerseys, weren’t hostile, though they may as well have been. Roughly 8% of the yuppie white crowd, here to enjoy Sunday beers and bar food–to say nothing of some frighteningly competitive billiards, foosball and ping-pong matches–left as soon as the live music got started. “What the fuck,” one woman mouthed in pain as Psychedelic Horseshit launched into a tonelessly abrasive, 35-minute set. Others simply sipped their drinks and winced. At any given moment about 12 actual fans were arrayed in front of the stage in a vague approximation of interest. A lone cheer went up at the clatter of “Another Side,” off Laced, the latest and most accessible of their lo-fi shitgaze LPs, but that was because they’d announced they only had two songs left.
To judge by the eight-year-old in an arm cast who had his palms pressed flat against his ears, Swirlies were the volcano to Psychedelic Horseshit’s space heater, though half of that heat can be attributed to having a live drummer in lieu of knob-twiddling and janky beat loops. The ’90s shoegaze stalwarts—more Isn’t Anything than Loveless, to gratuitously employ the MBV scale—were right away able to pick out certain swooning grooves. Leaning on the grubby, sickly side of dreampop, and not once lyrically decipherable, the reunion version of the group (featuring half the original members) was the loudest free thing in New York since Dinosaur Jr. hit Central Park. One wondered how a bona fide wall-of-sound bill wound up attached to this relaxed venue instead of, say, Death By Audio.
“What’s this band called, ‘Awkward Silences’?” a balding man in a tank top asked (were there many bald men, many of those with ponytails, or was that an illusion?), the lulls between each crunchy squall making for a raw contrast. Despite these pauses—those of a band making sure they nailed every last detail for the assemblage of pale, Gen-X fans—the best performances bled together. Feeding off a clamor for the stuff of their meatiest albums, Blonder Tongue Audio Baton and They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons, they tripped through “Bell” and “Sounds of Sebring” in what looked to be genuine bursts of fun. The hazy and sprawling “Vigilant Always” was summarily dedicated to “everyone who wanted to hear ‘Vigilant Always.'” There were, it hardly bears mentioning, a lot of those people.
By the encore those people were deciding what would come next—I think the final vote was between “Sunn” and “Wrong Tube,” but it hardly matters, as nothing stood a chance against “Wrong Tube,” which exploded out of the gate with liquid metal riffage to the total rapture of every earplugged veteran pressed against the speakers. Gathering behind the Brooklyn Bridge was a bank of ominous thunderclouds; there was finally a nice breeze to speak of; the East River was a map of little mountains. Nothing else was necessary.
Critical bias: Will listen to anything once if you describe it as ____gaze; given, it would seem, to melancholic thousand-yard stares.
Overheard: Two of the innumerable security guards discussing the unbelievable gall of a guy who got caught smoking a joint and asked if he could just go ahead and smoke it anyway, complete with one guard’s impression of said guy’s fully slack and witless facial expression.
Random notebook dump: Tempted to complain about how the stinging insects of all five boroughs congregate on this pier for daily ritual bloodfeasts, but I spotted a dragonfly the size of a pigeon flying over the stage from thirty yards and just feel lucky it didn’t get closer.