Okay, typically, I am somewhat troubled by the unending deluge of young people describing the excruciating minutae of their daily lives on the internet, but shit, everybody else is doing it, so maybe I will be entitled just this once.
Last night, our band played at the VICE Magazine 15th Anniversary/Halloween party, which took place in some kind of unfinished warehouse space on N. 10th Street in Williamsburg. The theme of the party was "1994," and thusly, we were contracted to play a set of Weezer covers for generous compensation. Also, Jesus Lizard and Bad Brains were playing, and who doesn't want to play with them? Sounds great, right? Yeah, I thought so too.
The people who put on the event were very nice and gave us lots of free beer and sandwiches and all manner of other swag, and took special care to see all of our needs were met and gave us a nice room to hang out in, and so on. Around the time that Jesus Lizard were supposed to start, we crossed the street to try and see what was to be seen. We should have known we were in for trouble when the security gaurds wouldn't let us in, despite the fact that we had artist wristbands and guitars, and wouldn't explain to us why we were being denied. "I'm in a band, we're playing tonight," I told one burly gentleman. "Cool shit," he scoffed. Eventually, we had to be escorted in by the arist liason, who had to keep constant walkie-talkie communication with his colleagues. It was really bonkers!
Once we were inside, Jesus Lizard was hard to enjoy for all of the indie "Lord of the Flies" type shennanigans going on all around us. For every person drinking a beer or snorting coke in the bathroom, there were five people taking his or her picture, and they seemed to all be dressed as characters from Pulp Fiction. Okay, fair enough. It is fun, like, for Facebook and stuff, right? Something like that? Okay, fine, but by the tenth or eleventh time that some stranger took our picture while we were trying to relax and pretend we weren't in a swelteringly hot and disgusting filthy warehouse, my partner and I had had enough, and tried to seek shelter downstairs. This was equally terrifying (but kind of cool too, actually), wandering around the ground floor, which was covered in a very thick artifical fog, from which skeletons and other assorted ghouls would appear without warning. Yikes!
At this point, Bad Brains were playing, and it was clear more trouble was in store, when some guy in some sort of medeival doungeon master getup tried to crowd surf during "Attitude," which inspired the security to storm the stage twelve or so deep, evacuate the Bad Brains, and stand like some sort of musclehead Stonehenge along the end of the stage, while their leader informed everyone, "This is not a concert, this is a party. Have a seat." Of course, the floor was covered in horrible grime and broken glass, but whatever.
Poor Bad Brains. Or is it? With all due respect to these legends of hardcore and reformed homophobes, I don't know if I can ever recall a more phoned-in performance in all my life. This should come as no surprise, based on the ubiquity of weed stench emenating from their dressing room, and the equally ever-present site of all-time-greatest-hardcore-singer front-runner HR sitting motionless on a couch (seriously - this hardcore legend did not move an inch during the whole evening!). I mean, whatever floats yr boat, HR, more power to you, but for this Greatest Hardcore Band Ever to get onstage and have their singer remain motionless in body and completely monotone in voice... I dunno, it is just not how I imagined it might be. Disappointing at best.
Well, this whole scene was fucked, clearly, and my ladyfriend was getting more and more disturbed by the assholery on display (or sexual harassment, as she would call it, and perhaps rightly so) and the constant picture-taking by stangers, that she had to go home and try and live like a reasonable person. I wish I could have followed her, but as will become a theme throughout this sad tale, I really needed the money. So, I escorted her out of the building and out of the hellish nightmare that was this party, and I was glad to see her moving towards a more peaceful and decent evening.
Okay, so here is where shit got really weird, for me, anyway. I guess I should mention that I was dressed as Ulysses S. Grant, albeit a more glam version (I had no pants that matched my military jacket, so the above-mentioned ladyfriend lent me some blue leggings - a liberty I felt free to take), and my principal props were a cigar and a mid-sized American flag that I had attached to a mop handle. Understand me very clearly - there is no punk that loves the idea of America and what the flag represents at its best (all humans being created equal, land of opportunity, hard work and ensuing prosperity, forty acres and a mule, a potato in every pot, etc etc), and while some might take issue at my version of our 18th president being more in touch with his feminine side than he probably was, this costume was an unironic celebration and homage to a man that I deeply admire, drunken murderer that he was. Anyway. This is the important part!
Upon seeing my partner off, I was confronted by a large security gaurd, clearly recognizable as the sort of fellow I have encountered on NJ Transit and in the bro bars of Hoboken and frat parties the world over more times than I care to recall.
"You can't have that flag in here," he told me.
"Huh?" I asked.
"You can't have that flag in here, you have to take it outside," he replied.
"The flag?" I asked, confused.
"Just step outside," he said calmly.
This seemed like an odd request, but hey, he knows what he's talking about right, and perhaps he just wants to explain things more clearly to me when we are further displaced from the incessant thumping of electronic music, so I followed him a few yards in the direction of the door, at which point, he yelled, "NOW LEAVE!" and, grabbing me around the torso, began forcing me towards the metal barricades. I protested, primarily in the form of "Hey! Hey!" Not my most locquacious moment, but I was baffled. Growing frustrated at the effort it was taking to get a one hundred forty pound man in tights to do what he wanted, this gentleman grabbed me around the throat and lifted me off the pavement, tossing me over the barricade and onto the sidewalk. I figure that either, a) he saw his position of authority as a good opportunity to stomp queers like he used to with the other good old boys, or, b) this guy was a real American and seeing a degenerate hipster like me hoisting Old Glory was just so offensive a sight that he was driven into a blind rage, like any reasonable person would. Point is, I was now forcefully ejected and, indeed, physically assaulted, and unable to gain access to the event where I was expected to entertain the assembled masses. Did I mention that this assault was probably the single moment of the night that wasn't documented in about a hundred photographs, currenlty weighing heavily upon the Flickr server? Again, I digress.
So, at this point, feeling very insulted and violated, my neck now a mess of red handprints, and not really getting anywhere with my howls of, "You can't treat me like this! I'm an American!", I made my second-ever call to 911, who told me that police would be along shortly to see to my needs! Woo! Indeed, the police did arrive a minute later, sirens and all, and I ran after the car to tell them that I was the man who was so ghastily offended, but they turned the corner and sped off into the night, probably quite satisfied in knowing that the victim was some hipster douchebag who probably had it coming. Thanks, guys. To serve and protect. Fantastic.
Anyway, I called up my man, Ian, who is smarter than me about this sort of thing, and he came out to get the 411. Upon hearing the abbreviated version of my ordeal, he ran back inside to find the artist liason and get things sorted out. He returned a minute later to have my back, because that's how we do it in New Jersey baby, but upon trying to explain the situation to our ever-vigilant protectors, he too was swarmed upon by five or six mighty gorillas (Ian is about a hundred fifty pounds, by the way - none of these guys looked less than two fifty) and forced out in a similar fashion to myself. Hoo boy. What a pair we made, out there on the sidewalk. Ian is a good guy. He always has my back. A friend like that is hard to find.
Soon enough, the artist liason, a very nice young man named Joe, came over and found himself unable to sufficiently explain to the security that the two men they had just delivered minor-league ass-whuppings to were hired performers and needed to be inside to do their jobs, we had to be snuck through the back door. We met another security gaurd here, who I suppose was fairly high on the totem pole, since upon seeing me, said to Joe, "This guy's not getting back in. I saw one of my guys throw him out." Admirable, isn't it? Such integrity, such a commitment to excellence. This guy is going to make sure that his carefully-selected team of professionals is going to do what they believe to be the best job possible, even if it means assaulting the performers and alienating and terrifying the promoters who hired them.
I was ready to get wild at this point, so I berated this man to what I thought was a well-warranted degree, to which I was told to, "Calm down," since the man I was yelling at, "didn't know what happened." I told him that I did know what happened, and if he knew, perhaps he wouldn't be so keen on calming down either, which I thought was very fair. He must have thought so too, since he told me he wanted to start at "Ground Zero." Too soon?
Anyway, we were escorted back inside and played a very shitty set of Weezer covers. No, playing the all-time greatest guitar lick at the end of the "Buddy Holly" solo did NOT make me feel better.
Talking to the people from VICE following our performance, we learned that some young women had been ejected in a fashion much like the one I experience, though with an even more disturbing sexual twist, which I did not get the details of. They also said that they had severed their ties with the good people at Tight Security (http://www.tightsecuritygroup.com, if yr curious) and were actually going to sue them for their heinous misbehaviors. I agreed that I would give a statement whenever they needed. Is VICE actually going to do this, or were they just trying to hush me up and get me out of there? Time will tell. Next time you see one of those VICE folks, ask him or her how the lawsuit is going. I somehow get the feeling they will be too concerned with the latest gold lame unitard ad from American Apparel to give you much of an answer, but I hope I am mistaken.
With that, Eric, Liam and I went back to my apartment and watched "Trapped in the Closet Chapters 1-12" and felt all better, mostly. Walking young Liam to the L Train this morning, we found ourselves behind some typically costumed "hipsters" who delighted themselves between games of grab ass by smashing beer bottles on the ground and rearranging police barricades. Wow, you make us all look so great. Guess where they were headed? You win, you clever reader - they headed right into the very warehouse that had been such a portal to hell the night before.
Ughhh, this all raises so many questions! New York City is supposed to be a haven for people like me, and I am still getting my ass kicked by the same goons who were kicking my ass in high school. They probably want to kick my ass because they see what huge assholes we all are, with our cocaine and our cameras and our annoying music. I also wonder why it was that so many thousands of people wanted to stand for hours in the rain to get hot and filthy and have their pictures taken by strangers and probably get their asses kicked to boot. I was there too, and didn't want to leave despite any of these issues, and why? Because I am no better than anyone I despise and couldn't stop chasing the green monster. I degraded and debased myself for a few bucks, and yes, we all know where that money is going.
The whole thing is fucked. VICE is a perfectly fine magazine, and the people who work there are decent folks, but they really are bad at not getting mixed up with the wrong people and inspire my generation to really weird and troubling behavior. Tight Security Inc is raking in the big dollars by pointing fallen high school football superstars in the direction of easy targets. We are being choked and beaten and sexually assaulted, and all the while, my peers dance and snort cheap coke and photograph each other for the hundreth time. I scoff at it all now from atop my high horse, but I was there too, because I am poor and when people want give me money to play my guitar, I can't ever say no.
Kids, we are blowing it. Everything they say about us is true.