On Saturday the 26th of June, I attended Intel and Vice Magazine’s Creators Project party at Milk Studios in New York City’s Lower West Side. While no one seems to be able to explain what specifically the Creators Project is, everyone appreciated their throwing a completely FREE party complete with hamburgers, gelato, an open bar, incredible light and art installations, film screenings (including a Q&A with Spike Jonze) and a very impressive bill of high profile musical acts. I was thrilled to find that with the exception of a Chelsea Market lunch, the only money I spent that day was on subway fares. However, to attend the event, your name had to be randomly/mysteriously selected after a pre-registration. Many people, including a few of my friends, were disappointed to not get confirmation emails two days prior to the event. I felt pretty fortunate just to be there, a rare concert-going sensation for me these days considering how expensive tickets can be.
The line-up was, amazingly, festival worthy (a small, yet highly entertaining and well run, corporate festival). In no particular order: Interpol, M.I.A., Neon Indian, The Rapture, Gang Gang Dance, Sleigh Bells, Die Antwoord, N.A.S.A, Mark Ronson, and a wide variety of DJ sets. In an act of frustrating crowd control, many of the performances overlapped with each other. Consequently, I was only able to attend four full sets (although I caught bits and pieces of a number of other acts).
In chronological order:
The first real performance of the day was The Rapture’s, at Milk Studios’ Loading Dock. The Loading Dock was the main stage of the event and basically a large warehouse/garage that opened up onto the street outside. While it was a really nice idea for a venue, the garage’s brick walls did little for the bands’ acoustics. The sound technicians valiantly fought back the bass frequencies that occasionally overwhelmed the rest of the band (particularly the Rapture’s synths and saxophone).
Despite this, the Rapture were great. The band played songs from all over their discography, including favorites from 2003’s renowned Echoes such as “Olio”, “Open Up Your Heart” and “House of Jealous Lovers” as well as a few songs from a yet to be released album. Credit must be given to the Rapture’s rhythm section, which never faltered throughout the fast paced, drum and bass heavy set. They sounded extraordinarily tight for the whole 45 minutes. The lead singer and guitarist, Luke Jenner, initially seemed a bit disappointed with the crowd’s energy. Many people (admittedly including myself) started off the set with gelato and hamburgers in hand, and doing very little non-masticatory movement. In any case, by the time the band played my personal set highlight, “Whoo! Alright, Yeah…Uh Huh” with its refrain, ‘People don’ dance no more, they just stand there like this, they cross their arms and stare you down and drink and moan and piss,’ the crowd was dancing appropriately. I really wanted to hear “The Coming of Spring” or “No Sex For Ben” but whatever.
Considering every song off their recent album, Treats, sounds like it’s peaking well into the red, I honestly was a bit disappointed that Sleigh Bells weren’t louder. They were loud, but they should have been painfully loud. They are one of the few bands where when the sounds are muddled and fuzzed together in an overwhelming amount of distortion and volume, it sounds right. The sound also wasn’t balanced very well. Both members rocked out all over the modest stage of Milk Studio’s 2nd Floor Gallery, perhaps to mitigate the effects of the spotty sound. Sleigh Bells definitely get an A for Effort. While she was a charismatic performer, Alexis Krauss’ voice was rather screechy as opposed to the sweet, airy, girl groupy vocals she provided on Treats that contrasted so well with the distorted guitars and heavily compressed beats. The guitar lines which were so awesomely in your face and almost violent on songs such as “A/B Machines” were overpowered by the P.A. system. Basically, I wanted less vocals and more guitar. Fortunately, none of this really mattered, because Sleigh Bell’s music doesn’t require a high amount of finesse and the crowd was pogoing and head banging to the band’s mid tempo, hip hoppy beats. At this point (around 9 P.M.) the open and impressively well-stocked bars had been steadily servicing attendees for nearly 7 hours. A cursory survey of the crowd confirmed that people were properly prepared to have a good time in any environment.
Interpol was by far my favorite band on the roster. While I am a massive Interpol fan, I’m well aware that Interpol has a hit-or-miss live show reputation. The only other time I had seen the band was at a show at Madison Square Garden where they were overshadowed by Liars’ opening set. Nevertheless, they were the band I was most excited to see. I guess it helped that I’m one of those rare people who actually like Paul Banks’ voice. While I’m at it, if you think Interpol are overly derivative of Joy Division or Echo and the Bunnymen, you clearly haven’t listened to any of those bands sufficiently or sincerely. I digress. Despite recently replacing bassist Carlos D (whose mustache and ostentatious fashion sense conflicted me) AND playing among the iffy acoustics of the Loading Dock, Interpol sounded good if not great for all of their set.
Songs from Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics including, “Obstacle 1,” “Say Hello to the Angels,” (the overrated) “Slow Hands,” and (the underrated) “Not Even Jail” all sounded fantastic. Additionally, while I’m not such a fan of new single, “Lights”, the new album’s “Summer Swell” was, remarkably, a standout in a superb set list. My friend Zain and I agreed that the highlight of the set, and where Interpol really hit their stride, was on “PDA”. It’s an amazing song on an amazing album that was played perfectly and balanced equally well. The song’s breakdown, in particular, really soared. The band members also seemed to be enjoying themselves, probably happy to be playing again and pleased with the positive energy from the adoring home-crowd. New bassist, Pajo (who toured last year with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), seriously held down, so no worries about Carlos D’s departure. At one point Paul Banks stepped on the wrong effects pedal and there were a few seconds of guitar silence mid song (I forget which song) that he casually laughed off. Contrary to the reputation of Interpol’s live performances, this gaffe came across as endearing rather than embarrassing.
Elated after the Interpol set, I immediately rushed upstairs to try and catch M.I.A. at the 2nd floor gallery before the space reached capacity. There weren’t any real conflicting acts going on for her set so I knew it was going to be packed. Upon reaching the second floor, I was immediately ushered into a line outside of the performance space. Die Antwoord’s set in the gallery hadn’t finished yet, but the event security was already preparing for the flood of M.I.A. fans. Luckily, I was at the very front of the line that soon stretched throughout the entire floor. Die Antwoord’s set ended and pretty much everyone in the room stayed for M.I.A. The facility was rapidly filled to every corner of its dimensions. M.I.A.’s posse and DJ appeared on stage first with their funky hairstyles and glowing clothes. After several minutes of hyping, M.I.A. entered at the height of the crowds’ anticipation with some crazy goggles and red, white, and blue hair. M.I.A. plunged straight into new song, “Born Free,” which, when I first heard it, made me want her and Diplo to be pals again and make Kala Part II. However, M.I.A. is clearly a pro at priming/entertaining her crowd and her set took off from there, never slowing down.
M.I.A. and her backup dancers all got as sweaty as the crowd, which by the time “Bamboo Banga” played around the middle of the set, was completely losing its shit. Sound quality wise, M.I.A. suffered from similar problems as Sleigh Bells (certain parts of the songs weren’t balanced perfectly), but since there isn’t any analogue sound in her performances and she doesn’t really sing, it was completely not an issue. When I hear people criticize M.I.A. live, it’s usually after they’ve just seen her perform at a large, outdoor festival. I’m pretty positive the Creators Project show was how you are supposed to experience M.I.A.: a cramped/sweaty room filled with a fire safety violation amount of people and an open bar complete with a huge P.A. system. My one extremely trivial complaint was that M.I.A.’s husband got on stage at one point and was taking Flip videos and just being up in the grill of the dancers. Kind of a party foul. Other than that, M.I.A. has a healthy catalogue of great songs and the crowd was really enjoying themselves.
All in all, in a world of Ticketmaster domination, it feels petty and almost impolite to complain about anything, as I was able to attend this incredible event completely on Intel and Vice’s bill. The bands were only a part of the experience, and what an experience it was. While I’ve reckoned that at this point I run the risk of seeming like I’m either A. gloating or B. obnoxiously enthusiastic, I can confidently say that this was one the best concert going experiences I’ve ever had.
Some pictures of my favorite light installation:
(All photos courtesy of Brooklynvegan and the Creators Project website)