In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.
Debbie and I arrived at Fashion’s Night Out like lambs to the slaughter. Never having attended before, we had no idea what kinds of mewling, puking throngs would fill the streets with tangles of flesh, like some kind of underfed Boschian nightmare. But amid it all, there were some enticing musical performances on the offering, so we went. Oh, how we went.
Hoping to kick things off right, we headed to the MAC store in Soho to see Beth Ditto perform some of her cheeky pop. Like most FNO venues, the place was packed to the brim with black-clad youths eager for free champagne, but Beth attracted some Ditto-specific fans as well. After the president of MAC introduced her (calling her old band “Gossip” and her “Beth Dee-toe”), she took the stage in a clingy, rainbow-colored dress and crimped black bob. “If you shoplifted, I hope you got a lot,” she said in her sweet Southern drawl. Then: “I wanna see a grind or two!” People ground as much as space allowed.
Beth’s solo material takes more than a little inspiration from early-’90s Madonna, so it was fitting that after two originals she and her two already-voguing male backup dancers did a spirited cover of “Vogue.” “My name is Beth Kardashian,” she joked afterwards. “I don’t understand why the chubbier Kardashian doesn’t make a plus-size line. Queen Latifah did it.” She then did a clubbier rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” yelled “fashion is a bitch!” and left a trail of grins and glitter in her wake.
Next, we struck out along Mercer Street, where we saw Anna Wintour herself pass by with her entourage, smartphones aimed at her from every angle. Taking this as a sign we were doing all right, we pressed on, past the weird live-mannequin window displays, to a store where instruments seemed to be getting set up. Who was playing there? Why, it was Sean Lennon’s band, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. And free mini-bottles of champagne were being given out.
“I thought the stage was gonna be bigger,” Lennon joked. “I had to fire my drummer.” He was seated behind the drums, his lower body handling rhythm duties while he sang and played the guitar. His model girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl played the bass and occasionally handled xylophone and accordion duties; a third member played the trumpet with heavy use of a wah-wah mute. The playful, folky tunes—occasionally augmented by some Eastern-sounding guitar noodling—sounded inescapably like the Beatles’ late ’60s wacky period, but there was something uniquely New York about the band’s spin. Also, French: most of the song titles were in French, and they covered Serge Gainsbourg’s ’69 sexytime duet “Je T’aime” complete with breathy “O” noises. On a whim, I approached Lennon on my way out and told him I was writing up the show for the Village Voice. “I love the Village Voice!” he replied. “I’m a New Yorker, I’ve been reading it since I was like, five.” This brought us much joy.
To close out the night, we hit up an afterparty at the impossibly bitchy Mondrian Soho, where fake ice sculptures and sparkling chandeliers formed the backdrop for a great, if incongruous, set from Neon Indian. By the time we’d convinced the gatekeepers we weren’t lying about our press credentials, they were two songs in, and I noticed something curious: the fashion people were paying attention. Some were even dancing!
Bolstered by real drums and a bottle of Patrón, their performance was surprisingly energetic for a band people insist on calling “chillwave;” even the lazy days anthem “Deadbeat Summer” took on a kind of sped-up verve. Group leader Alan Palomo has grown into his sudden renown well; with his towering quiff haircut and impassioned moves (even as he switched between the mic and his rack of synths and processors), he resembled Morrissey’s cheerful Mexican cousin. It can be tricky for a bedroom project to transform into something that’s fun for a room full of drunk people to watch, so good on him. Also endearing was the awkwardness with which he addressed the haute couture crowd: “We’ve got just a couple more songs for you guys, after which you can continue to patrol the streets with alcohol, or hopefully psychotropic drugs,” he said. I can’t think of anything more terrifying.