This Weekend In New York: Nobunny Thrashes, Girls Look Back, And Spank Rock Warms Up To Le Bain


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

After the mildly terrifying journey that was Fashion’s Night Out, Debbie and I wanted to return to more familiar territory, which for us means the holy trinity of punk, indie rock, and hip hop. Luckily, one of our favorite artists from each of those genres was playing this weekend, and none of them disappointed.

We began our weekend with a concentrated dose of rock and roll from Arizona oddity Nobunny. Like many neo-garage acts, this group is not exactly reinventing the wheel, but their grimy blues-punk stands out due to the idiosyncratic voice and persona of front man Justin Champlin. Clad in a filthy rabbit mask, thigh-high stockings, a cropped leather jacket, dangling handcuffs, and authentically stained American Apparel briefs, the unwashed bunnyman (fresh from the warren, no doubt) kicked, thrusted, and hiccuped his way though a too-short set of quick and dirty thrashers. It seemed like most people were there to see the headliner (about which more in a second), but a small group down in front raged consistently, especially when they went straight from their standout “Chuck Berry Holiday” into a cover of Hunx and his Punx’s “You Don’t Like Rock And Roll.” (It might have been the hardest I’ve seen Debbie dance at a show since we started doing this column.)

The house filled out considerably for Girls, a group I’d been curious to see since they rode a (well deserved) 9.1 from Pitchfork to buzz band status in 2009. With this status came additional funds, which they put to use making an ambitious, well-produced follow-up called Father, Son, Holy Ghost. The band had a similarly ambitious stage show; three female backup singers added a soulful fullness, and fresh flowers were affixed to every surface. Songs off the new album made up most of the set, and each one had an intentionally recognizable reference point—the Beach Boys, the Lemonheads, and the Beatles. Also: Pink Floyd, on lead single “Vomit,” during which one of the back up singers completely upstaged meek frontman Christopher Owens with her gospel-y wails. The new material thoroughly entranced the crowd, but the 2009 hits “Laura” and “Lust For Life” really drove them mad.

Saturday night we caught Baltimore MC Spank Rock, who was supposed to play a short set at Le Bain at some indeterminate time. As much as Waste Of Paint claims to dislike the sorts of fancy clubs that you find atop hotels, we had fun sipping champagne cocktails while enjoying the view from the Astroturf-covered rooftop. A little after 1 a.m., Spank Rock (a.k.a. Naeem Juwan) got up on a small raised platform by the DJ booth and performed seven songs (six plus one encore) while DJ Ghost Dad manned the decks. He began with a moment of silence for his friend who died last week (he didn’t say who, but I’m pretty sure he was referring to DJ Mehdi), which, miracle of miracles, most of the people in the clurrrb observed. The crowd surpassed expectations in other ways, too, like when a bunch of people (mostly girls) got up on the platform with him and booty danced during a song with the refrain, “everyday when I wake up, it feels like my motherfuckin’ birthday.” (Must be nice!) Juwan may have had similarly low expectations of Le Bain; he first introduced himself by saying, “I’m Spank Rock, I got an album comin’ out on Tuesday, I hate doing stuff like this,” but later said, “I’m Spank Rock and I love being out here for y’all tonight.” I’m pretty sure the feeling was mutual.