Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Afro Punk Festival: TV on the Radio; Janelle Monae

TV on the Radio; Janelle Monae
@ Commodore Barry Park
Brooklyn, NY - August 26, 2012

I'm going to leave the authenticity debate, and any other debate, about the Afro Punk festival alone, except to say that I don't dig skateboard culture. Nevertheless this year's Afro Punk fest was the tool by which I finally righted a long wrong: the drought is over - I have now seen TV on the Radio. After 8 long years - I've seen 'em live. One of the missing links in the fever pitch of the last decade's live show pilgrimages (outdone only by the Strokes - 10 years and counting and counting and counting...), it just hasn't been right that this band - makers of major, important music, album after album - eluded my live gaze.

Unfortunately, this moment was diluted by a poor sound system that lost the band's sound in the big open air of the park. Much of the instrumentation was faded. Dave Sitek may as well have not been there. Tunde Adebimpe's vocals were also hard to hear. And really terrible - I couldn't make out Kyp Malone's hair. The elements the band had to fight against included of course, you guessed it, Frank Stallone (kidding and credit Norm MacDonald). The chatter. The chatter drowned out a band. The chatter drowned out a loud band. In a large park. It's a good thing I knew "Wolf Like Me", "Dancing Choose", and "Caffeinated Conciousness" by heart or I'd have thought the whole thing blew. Damn.

This was not the case just a little bit earlier on the other side of the park - the smaller playground side of the park. Janelle Monae had the technical works all in her favor as she also made her first appearance before Pennypacker's concert eyes. She (mostly) commanded a crowd (there was still a lot of chatter) that was amped by the appearance of a popular individual named Pharrell (who I believe once produced a Hives record). The crowd robotically stampeded to get this chap's image on their mobile phones. The phones mostly went away during Monae's set, which was an incredible, elastic, scamper of her Cylon Ziggy Souldust persona mixed with down-to-Earth redo's of the Jacksons' chance song and "Little Wing" by Hendrix. It was all worth it for the queen-making encore, a Cab Calloway-meets-Rockabilly-meets-B-52's epic I have just learned is called "Come Alive (War of the Roses)". Whatever one wants to think of the idea of Afro Punk yesterday, today, and forever, let it be this and think well of it.


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