In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.
This weekend brought the end of one driving force in underground music and the beginnings of a new one, all within the confines of 285 Kent. But I’m not going to turn that into a sign of the times re: Where New York’s Sound Is Headed, because that would be depressing. (It would also not be true.)
Friday we solemnly visited 285 Kent for Parts and Labor’s sold-out farewell show, which featured strong opening sets from pals Neptune and Oneida. P+L has been one of the great workhorses of New York’s scene for the past ten years, putting out consistently good albums and touring extensively without ever reaping the financial rewards of colleagues like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On the Radio. This type of dedication inspires a special type of love in scene diehards (see also: the Melvins), and as such the place was packed front to back with everyone who’d ever appreciated them over the years, including BJ Warshaw’s parents. The two-hour-plus show included songs and members from every era of the band, plus some horns and an actual bagpipe player, and at one point they passed around a video camera so the proceedings could be shot from every angle by members of the audience. “Pretty much everyone I love or have loved for the past ten years is in this room tonight, so, with too many people to thank, thanks everyone in this room for being here for us,” Warshaw said before launching into an epic encore in which all four drummers played at once. In the end they demolished the drum kit, the cardboard backdrop, and the paper stalactites hanging from the ceiling as BJ made feedback with his bass. “Thank you so fucking much,” he said before making his exit. Dan Friel lingered a bit over his processors, drawing out the noise and the moment for as long as possible.
Saturday began with a punk and metal show at Grand Victory, the latest incarnation of the space formerly occupied by Bruar Falls. Local thrashers Tournament made an energetic showing despite the crowd of leather-clad longhairs’ curious immobility. Have the club’s new cocktail-bar furnishings made the room too nice for moshing? Dressed simply in jeans and t-shirts, the dudes of Tournament ripped through riff-heavy songs like “Big Shitty,” “CG Oi” and “Life Is Over,” with frontdude Montana Masback singing in a raspy yell reminiscent of Lemmy from Motörhead. Ever the puckish banterer, he gave props to openers Sannhet and Gentlemen before razzing Gang Signs a bit: “You should go home right after we play. I’m serious; they’re, like, ’90s death metal.”
Next, we returned to 285 Kent for a night billed by Jelly NYC as “Gender Blender II: Seapunk Raev,” which despite its name included some rock acts as well; psych-pop group The Pharmacy was especially impressive, if not very seapunk. Looking around, I spied some young-looking kids with green hair getting down to the techno playing in between acts. Glowsticks, water bottles, dilated pupils, plastic crustaceans… was this nu-rave microtrend taking over the youth of New York?
Instrumental band Starscream might not explicitly identify as seapunk, but their twinkling 8-bit loops had an underwater quality that the raver kids seemed to like. (And, as a member of one of the bands explained, “the good thing about seapunk is it can be anything.”) Augmented by live drums and processed guitar, their compositions possessed a similar type of energy to those by weirdo-electronics godfather Dan Deacon, with the crowd jumping up and down each time they hit something resembling a chorus. Beers were thrown, crowds were surfed, and young couples made out all over the place. Spastic projections of stars, spaceships, triangles and pentagrams further excited the crowd.
Headliner Zombelle confirmed my suspicions that “seapunk” isn’t a new microgenre as much as it is witch house tweaked approximately two degrees, both musically and aesthetically. To be fair, it’s two degrees better, as Zombelle (a.k.a. Shan Beaste) seemed actively interested in entertaining us. She’s also not too self-serious to admit to being seapunk, which, as far as I could tell, is kind of the point. “Where my seapunks at who came here to rave and have a good time?!” she asked, following up often with exhortations like “I wanna hear you move right now!” She also embraced the role the web’s played in seapunk’s trajectory, saying, “I wanna give a shout out to the internet right now…it’s so nice to meet a lot of you from the internet!”
Over ’90s dance beats provided by cohort Ultrademon (who looks kind of like a green-haired Skrillex), Beaste sang in a thin voice, occasionally breaking into a spooky soprano or a sensual whisper. With lyrics like “And when you see that there is no hell/ you are the paradox that can’t be quelled,” she came off like Ursula the Sea Witch’s artsy teen sister, and the kids down in front ate it up. I got the sense that whether or not any of this was/is “good” is not too important to seapunk’s project of peace, love, unity and turquoise, which might be how the “punk” part is justified. Her parting salvo/intro to Ultrademon’s DJ set was one of genre fealty as youth culture: “Dance party for real—no guitars, no bullshit, no dad music!”