Wednesday night: Dinner at Bonnie’s Grill, a beer at O’Connor’s, a DJ slot with a bunch of local bands at Southpaw… you’d never know I’d left the ‘hood. I returned for the first of two Brooklyn Responds fund-raisers for Hurricane Katrina victims, and only wish that some of the other groups and DJs whose names came up during the booking process had backed up their verbal enthusiasm with a firm commitment to play. Words are all well and good, but it’s actions that count.
The ever-changing line-up kept rotating until the night of the show, when all-girl Brooklyn trio Au Revoir Simone opened proceedings shortly after 7pm. DJ Mark Ronson, who is part of the Manhattan in-crowd and has played Southpaw’s Jelly party a couple of times, spun before and after Domino, whose debut EP he’s producing. Sadly, I missed all these acts –you can only get to a venue so early when you know you’ll be there until closing. I showed up instead during Pela’s set, and quickly understood why a Gothamist online review from their CMJ show last week compared them to Stellastarr*: while the songs themselves were relatively conventional, there was a most familiar yelp in the singer’s voice. (Talking of which, the new Stellastarr* album is on the stereo as I type: anyone heard it already and care to comment?) Craig Wedren, of Shudder To Think, backed by a full band, then offered up an emotive set of eclectic rock matched by his considerable personality.
Vito from The Rapture, who apparently lives within walking distance of Southpaw, was scheduled to DJ mid-evening, but never turned up and didn’t respond to several reminder phone calls. Is there a valid excuse or should we put him on a shit-list? Dirty On Purpose, whose name also appeared on posters until almost the day of show, were replaced at the last minute by the unknown Group Sounds, a band whose set threatened to descend into comedy when their keyboard player stripped to his birthday suit, and whose penchant for a soon-to-be-dated disco-pop was saved only by a firm mod influence. I liked them, but would have liked them more if they’d made at least some reference to their reason for playing – unless their only concern of the night was to goof around.
For my part, as DJ, I ensured that my first set offered commentary relevant to the occasion: the Lee Perry remix of Radio 4’s ‘Nation,’ ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials, ‘Armageddon Time’ by Willie Williams, ‘One More Time’ (“in the ghetto”) by The Clash, ‘Monkey God’ by Tim Booth, and ‘Imagine This’ by Mediacracy – on which George W. Bush’s voice is cut-up and perfectly re-pasted to sing ‘Imagine.’ The song is available for free download at this web site.
Radio 4 were clearly the biggest draw of the night and put in a solid set that, naturally, included ‘Save Your City,’ and two new songs – ‘Enemies Like This’ and one that currently has a chorus about a ‘Government Tree.’ The set was bookmarked by the lyrically apt ‘State Of Alert’ and ‘No Reaction.’
I returned to the decks, and upped the tempo for a brief set that included a couple more thematic choices – ‘Pardon My Freedom’ by !!! (with that immortal line, “Go tell the President to suck my fucking dick”) and ‘To Hell With Poverty’ by The Gang of Four, and then a couple of dancefloor songs by some of our British iJamming! pub friends: ‘Payola’ by IDC, and ‘Be You’ by Punks Jump Up.
The night ended with a brief set by The Cloud Room, a Brooklyn band on the cusp of a hit single with their debut album’s effortlessly singalong opening track ‘Hey Now Now.’ The rest of that album pales by comparison, but on stage, they were engrossing, their laid-back country-esque appeal marked by use of what I believe is a zephyr. Sadly, they were finished before I could get a photograph. Anyone attending the Maximo Park show at Bowery Ballroom this Sunday might want to get there early to catch The Cloud Room in what appears to be their better domain: onstage.
Sunday also sees the second of the Brooklyn Responds benefits, with a far stronger line-up. (In retrospect, one night condensing the two bills would have been a better idea.) They Might Be Giants, The Wrens, Matthew and Ira of Nada Surf and The Harlem Shakes are among the many groups offering their services. There will also be all manner of items both for raffle and for auction. Wednesday’s prizes included not only signed albums by Saint Etienne, Ambulance Ltd and Hot Hot Heat, but certificates from 5th Ave establishments like The Royale, Red White and Bubbly and Press 195. There’s also a signed copy of my newly-updated Moon biography up for auction on Sunday: every penny you offer to spend on it will be split between American Red Cross, Second Harvest and Humanity First.
Sadly, by Sunday it looks like we’ll be dealing with another hurricane disaster on the Gulf Coast. Watching the newspaper and online pictures of 100-mile tailbacks as the whole of Houston tries to escape the eye of the storm, I’m not quite so cynical as to suggest that the proper placement of Army and National Guard is because Hurricane Rita is threatening the President’s “home” city. It’s surely more a case of Once Bitten, Twice Shy. But that does not excuse the Government’s complete ineptitude regarding its response to Hurricane Katrina. Those of us who gave of time and/or money Wednesday all wish our efforts were unnecessary, but we were happy for the opportunity. Thanks to Southpaw and Trampoline House for putting the event together, to KEXP for co-promoting it all the way from their Seattle base, to the groups and other DJ, and to all the local businesses and bands who donated prizes. It was a proud reminder of what a great Brooklyn community I’ve now left behind… at least until my next visit!