The line ran down Banker, turned the corner at Meserole all the way to Crawford. Did all these people think they were going to get in? Maybe they did. Such is the turnout for a free show featuring one of the best triple bills in recent memory. In a word, this show was bananas. I have never seen Studio B more packed, or with a more completely blitzed audience, or more crowd surfing or stage diving. That last part, actually, I haven’t seen anything like that since I had to go to the Warped Tour in 2000 for a job. And before that, Lollapalooza 1994 when my friend Rachel got kicked in the head braving the Beastie Boys pit. I think that’s what happens when you cram that many drunk people into a club and the temperature nears 90…inside.*
I was watching CSS‘s wild set from the relative safety of the side lounge/VIP area. It’s always a party with these Brazilians but tonight especially so. The stage was decked with balloons that had been decorated with Mr. Potato Head-esque stickers. There were confetti cannons. And the general mayhem that comes with Lovefoxxx being the official Party Queen. But then people started leaping off the railings next to me, sideways into the crowd…
…and I just watched in awe. And danced. How can you not? A full year later, CSS’s debut album still holds up and they continue to be one of the best live bands right now. I said the same back June after seeing them at Irving Plaza, which was a better show than this. (Faint criticism.) Irving Plaza you could watch the band, here you had to watch out for flying idiots.
There was apparently some drama backstage though. Preceding band Shout Out Out Out Out‘s set was only about 25 minutes, cut short due to some mangled set times / set-up time, including — I heard — some rough water between them and CSS, though it might have been more between manager types. I don’t know. I just hear things. I will say that wehn I got into the club at 9:30 or so the stage was crammed with the equipment of three bands. Shout Out Out Out Out (who are kind of Canada’s answer to !!!) had the most equipment of the three — two drummers, loads of keyboards, and lots of basses. But not enough beer. And no guitars (more on that later). Main Out and band vocoder dude Nik Kozub begged for beers onstage and when someone from the crowd brought them a round of MGDs, he said "I guess we owe you a handjob."
It’s too bad, for whatever reason it really was, the set was so short as they were just geting the crowd going with the back-to-back combo of "Dude You Feel Electrical" and "Procrastinator’s Fight Song" when, after some off-stage conversation, Kozub told the audience, "Sorry, that’s it."
I’m not sure why things ended up being so late. Dirty on Purpose actually hit the stage when they were supposed to, right at 10pm. The odd men out on a bill of dance-rock, but I thought they held their own — though really f-ing loud — and they even included a cover of Real Life’s 80’s dance classic "Send Me an Angel." I’ve said it before, but DoP’s guitarist George Wilson is one of these wunderkinds who manages to get new sounds out of his instrument that’s aren’t pure noise. You should see his bank of custom-made pedals. But sometimes he forgets things… like putting six strings on his guitar. Or brining a second guitar. Singer Joe Jurewicz took mike time to ask for help from the other bands. "Hey Shout Out Out Out Out — any way we could borrow a guitar?" I don’t think he realized till much later in the set that they didn’t have any guitars at all.
Luckily, George can do more with five strings than most can do with five guitars. I don’t think I would’ve noticed had it not been made public. The band played a nice, 40-minute set with most of their best-known songs, that new wave cover, and a couple new songs which should feature on an upcoming EP due this fall.
Oh… if you’re wondering why the show was free, the whole thing was sponsored by Camel cigarettes, as part of their The Farm music program — "Free Range Music," whatever that means. This sort of thing has been going on for almost ten years — I saw Violent Femmes play a show at Tramps in 1999 that you could only see if you traded in your Marlboro Miles or, in my case, had a corporate hook-up.* (Never smoked, thanks.) There were Camel Farm projections, some sort of faux merch booth that I didn’t bother to check out, and RJ Reynolds lackeys going around giving away those blowtorch lighters (as well as pairs of ticket to see Say Hi To Your Mom at Knitting Factory), but it didn’t actually feel like one giant cigarette commercial. And I know all the bands got paid well. I’m not sure why RJR does these sort of things, actually. It was a 21+ show, and I figure most people have decided to smoke or not by then, so I can’t imagine anyone left the show thinking "I think I’ll start smoking" or "CSS must stand for ‘Camel – So Smooth!’" I think cigarette companies are pretty much evil, but every dollar that goes into a deserving band’s pockets and not into buying a new HDTVfor some RJR suit is okay by me.
*That Violent Femmes show was one of the odder concertgoing experiences of my life. There were tables set up on the floor at Tramps (a first for me) with white tablecloths. A buffet of steam tables featured recipies from the Marlboro Country Cookbook (High in cholesterol, but low tar). Most of the crowd were either corporate marketing douches, or people cashing in their Marlboro Miles, the latter seemed to have no clue who the Violent Femmes were. It was either spend the Miles on a duffel bag or this. Their were ladies in hotpants giving away cases of cigarettes. (I was working for Microsoft Sidewalk at the time, and our marketing dept offered everyone in the office tickets. I might be a douche, but I’m not a marketing douche.) Gordon Gano looked like he would rather sell his plasma every week than be playing this show. After playing an all-hits show, they set up tables where the band had to sign autographs. I felt bad for them. The CSS show was not like this, I imagine many had no idea it was a Cigarette-sponsored show. We’re probably playing into RJR’s latest evil plan. Take me to Flavor Country!