What have I been doing? Not
The show started with a bunch of keyboard noodling -- the guy was crouched over his synthesizer, twisting knobs and adjusted sliders, producing a sound that had a not-unpleasant resemblance to whale songs. The sound reached a kind of crescendo, and then he turned it off. The rest of his act was him playing guitar and singing, running both the mic and the guitar through a chorus pedal. It was, you know, okay, but it could stand to have been more intelligible. It was so distorted, in fact, that at one point the sound guy commandeered the PA system and said, "Can you turn that down? People are walking out of here because it's too noisy." Fluffy Lumbers obliged, muttering, "When a voice from above tells you to do something, I guess you've gotta do it." But he must have known his goose was cooked, performance-wise: I bet the booth engineer never tells Jack White to quit it with the pedals. He finished up with a wan cover of "I Think We're Alone Now," after which I peaced out.
The next day, Nina and I went out to Newtown Barge Park for Titus Andronicus' Northside show. Barge Park is pretty much just a basket court with a baseball diamond painted over it. ... Patrick Stickles stopped after the first couple of songs to announce: "I know it's fun to go to outdoor music festivals," he said, "but let's not forget about what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico right now. And you know what the ground looks like after an outdoor show -- there are cans and bottles everywhere. So would everyone please remember to recycle your bottles?" I don't know why this kind of liberal scolding doesn't chafe more, but it doesn't. In fact, I think it's pretty endearing. And he sounds even more fussy and pedantic in the profile of the band that ran in the L magazine they were handing out at the festival. Maybe it comes across as charming because Stickles looks like a cross between William Tecumseh Sherman and Abraham Lincoln.
"This song's about feelings," he said, and they launched into "No Future Part III: Escape From No Future," which I'm still humming to myself between home and the subway. They played a lot of material from their fantastic "The Monitor," changing the arrangements at times to segue one into the next. Somehow we wound up on the non-dancing side of the crowd; I had to content myself vicariously with observing the thrashing of the Jersey contingent, many of whom I'm starting to recognize, bandanas and all, from previous shows. I managed to infiltrate the pit for "Titus Andronicus" (how could you not?) but then retreated. You'll always be a loser. And that's okay!
After the show was over, Nina and I put our plastic bottle in the proper receptacle and bought some food at San Loco, which was, predictably, very tomato- and onion-y and perversely free of cilantro. A few vendors milled about aimlessly. A Heineken guy at a booth in an empty and inaccessible part of the park drummed his fingers on the table. We left and walked down through Greenpoint to Williamsburg, where there was some kind of street fair going on. There were kids -- lots of kids -- cavorting, getting their faces painted; and there were Cirque du Soleil types flipping around on trampolines. We stopped at Fabiane's on Bedford Ave. for food and drink and ended up staying there in the air conditioning for almost two hours, watching skinny young fathers with beards tote their babies around. One of the bits of the fair involved mats of sod being laid out in the middle of the street. Boston terriers, golden retrievers, and Jack Russell terriers splayed themselves with abandon.
It put me in mind of the movie Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist, which I Netflixed a week or two ago. I really liked Raising Victor Vargas (also by Peter Sollett) when I saw it -- it struck me as both deeply romantic and emotionally frank -- but this one left me cold, and I've been trying to figure out why. I guess I was taken aback by the self-absorption of the two protagonists, both children of means who almost have to work to invent the problems they struggle with in the film. They spend an evening jetting from one conspicuous L.E.S. hotspot to another, heedless of their surroundings, moping all the way; the revelatory bit of philosophy that comes toward the end is:
Norah: There's this part of Judaism that I like. Tikun Olam. It said that the world is broken into pieces and everyone has to find them and put them back together.And of course it certainly feels that way when you're seventeen. Look, I'm no Jane Jacobs, but isn't the promise (and fatal flaw) of edgy neighborhoods like Williamsburg or the Lower East Side that you'll get to be the star of some bohemian fantasy replete with undiscovered rock 'n' roll bands and exotic food? The reality is, of course, that there's not really room for more than a few main characters per acre. You've either gotta resign yourself to being a background artist in the big pond or you've gotta find some new part of the city (any city) to colonize and destroy.
Nick: Maybe we don't have to find it. Maybe we are the pieces.
We ended up meeting Winnie in Chinatown to help her feed her sister's cat, an adopted stray named Fei Dao. After filling his bowl, we stood in the mostly un-unpacked bedroom and looked out the window at a display of fireworks being set off, unheralded, over the Hudson. On the way out of the building, I stopped to look at a waterbug I'd stomped reflexively on the way in. It had been swarmed with ants, the ministrations of which were triggering stray muscular contractions in its legs. "Boy," I thought. "He doesn't seem to like that much."
Then we had ice cream.