(The New) Secret Project Robot
Thursday, October 20
Better than: Buzz.
Coming through the nearly unmarked door on Melrose Street in Bushwick, one could be forgiven for thinking that the dozen bedraggled people sitting around in the dark on thrift store couches, surrounded by empty pizza boxes and watching Re-Animator on the wall, were anything than other what they seemed. But it was on this night that Secret Project Robot began its newest installation: A gradual transformation of a former auto shop and yard on the unfashionable side of Flushing Avenue into an immersive, vibrant space for art and music.
The several-thousand-square-foot room (with another few thousand square feet hidden in the back) isn’t much to look at yet. Between the art space’s proprietors’ farewell Block Party at Monster Island in September and a full-day Ocropolis installation with Oneida in an Asbury Park bowling alley a few weeks back, there hasn’t been much time yet for them to unpack. In the giant yard outside, a shipping container holds most of Oneida’s gear (there’s also a pile in the corner of the room, recently dumped from a trip to Europe). One can envision the promised Art Yard, but right now the space contains some second-hand furniture and a place to hang out. The Mennonite United Revival megachurch, partially hidden behind its own scaffolding, looms over the yard’s wall across the street.
Coming back inside, things have already changed a little bit. Smhoak Mosheein (say it fast), a lone beardo with a laptop, sits on the ground in front of Re-Animator, its sound muted, and builds a quietly casual landscape, the occasional beat and static wave-rush zipping through. He pays no attention to the gore behind him, but soundtracks it anyway. At a climactic moment, the headless doctor rising his zombie army, the music cuts and in rolls Bruce Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman,” from Nebraska—”nothin’ feels better than blood on blood”—hacked and stretched to hilarious transcendence.
Re-Animator ends and the credits roll as Knyfe Hyts drag their gear out from the morass. Secret Project Robot’s Erik Zajaceskowski throws in The Addams Family for a minute, then Priest as the trio don the capes and robes necessary for their monthly on-the-20s performance. Nobody has bothered to collect the $4.20 door price. A full half-year from April 20th, which has to represent some kind of stoner equinox or something, the Hyts are brilliant. Zach Lehrhoff and Shahryar Motia’s guitars rumble in twin shapelessness. Shahryar’s brother Shahin (costume: cape and glow-in-the-dark skeleton suit) comes in slowly on drums. The guitars lock into some kind of noise-burst syncopation, and eventually there are vocals. Harmonies, even.
Just as the old Secret Project Robot made itself special with a different configuration for nearly each performance, the new Secret Project Robot will surely do nothing but change, too, especially in the first years of its existence. In a few days, or for any of the other shows scheduled, the place will be different, the miscellaneous disco balls and stuffed owls and television sets re-tucked pleasingly elsewhere. It’s hard to say where anything will go, let alone for Zajaceskowski and Rachel Nelson, who run the place. They dream of skylights with hanging gardens and other delights, but mostly are going with the flow. They’re almost done with the wiring for Oneida’s new studio in the back. Live With Animals has moved in, and a few other tenants. One of the cats came made the trek from Williamsburg.
Knyfe Hyts play another jam, tom-tom droning with secret shapes. The music and surroundings resound with anti-buzz, a boho antidote to CMJ in the form of something slow and meticulous. Almost nobody is at the show, but then, it wasn’t really advertised, and the small crowd is hardly a concern. The band crashes to a halt. The guitarists de-guitar. Shahin sits at the drums, plays a few rolls, then a few more, and eventually notices his bandmates are changing out of their robes. “Oh, are we done?” he asks and gets up. The Hyts have forgotten to make a cassette release for this show. They usually try to. Whatever. They’re home.
Overheard: “Holy shit! The Mennonite United Revival Church has a Yelp page!?” Pause. “Oh…”
Random Notebook Dump: Not music to change anyone’s lives, but to be part of it.