Live: TV On The Radio Pop Up In The Sky


TV on the Radio
Billboard at the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones Sts.
Wednesday, August 17

Better than: “Not a concert,” said someone standing next to me.

Two days ago Maura forwarded me an email from a Heineken rep giving her the heads-up on a “newsworthy event” set to take place the next evening. “Do you want to check this out?” she asked. I did. Worst case I’d grab a few free drinks, stand among the beautiful people, and watch a pretty good band play a half-hour of music. This is almost exactly what happened. (I also ate some free guacamole.)

Maybe it’s because I’m still new to this sort of thing, but I find it amusing when PR people (or anyone, really; we media types are as guilty of this as anyone) promise that something will be a newsworthy event. Such a statement isn’t just a promise, it’s a performative—a speech act that does the action it seems to describe. So even if nothing happens, the fact that nothing happened at an event that was proclaimed as newsworthy will be newsworthy.

Fortunately, the event was a little more exciting than that, with TV on the Radio playing atop a building on the northeast corner of Lafayette and Great Jones. Considering that their speakers were seven or eight stories above us, they actually sounded pretty good; and considering that the band members themselves were equally high up, they played a respectably lively set, the silhouette of Jaleel Bunton and his hair dancing around the makeshift stage.

In an unusual twist, the crowd below, assembled at the last minute, turned out to be perhaps the least important component of the evening. The show’s targets, it seemed, were the countless (although I’m sure someone was counting) drivers heading west along Great Jones, rubbernecking as they tried to figure out what all the fuss was about, unable to see above the Heineken Light advert that hung below the band. Beyond them, it targeted the countless (although, again, I’m sure someone is counting) people who will open up their browsers today and learn that a Heineken-sponsored TV on the Radio concert took place last night. Then again, without the crowd, the whole event would fall apart, because the drivers would cease to rubberneck and the press would call it a farce.

Considering the concept of staging events in the “real” world only so that they can reverberate across the internet, I had to ask myself what’s going to happen when we’re able to do away with the idea of the “real” event and only experience the reverberations. A TV on the Radio-hosted party on certainly isn’t the answer, but it might be closer to the answer than that site’s detractors (myself included) seem to think.

But while we wait for what’s next, dude standing next to me was right: this was better than not a concert, and “Wolf Like Me,” the song with which the band chose to close their set, is still fantastic.

Critical bias: In my opinion, Heineken’s brand still hasn’t recovered from Blue Velvet.