Friday, May 5, Seattle America. TV On The Radio On Cinco De Mayo. The Showbox Theater is in the pulse of downtown Seattle on First Avenue, adjacent to the legendary Pike Place Market, which is famous for everything from kitsch creating crazies to fish throwing fools. As I checked my gigantor watch, the Sea-Pathfinder (awarded time piece of the year by Oceanography Magazine in 2004), it clearly stated the current time was 8:50 p.m. Sitting on a bench along the waterfront I watched the last cruise ships of the day come back to shore. The Puget Sound was illuminated divine as the sun sank into the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. This was the perfect environment for this astounding New York City music making collective.
I entered the dormant room with skeptical hesitation. I could hear voices speaking loudly. Indie babble about Tapes 'n Tapes, Wes Anderson, & the new line of throwback Converse all-stars resonated around the room full of dead paste people. I made my way to the bar and squeezed into a seat in the back of the hall. The main attraction was not to see action until 11 p.m., two goddamn hours from right now (right then). This lapse of worthless time felt like my freshman year at Palm Beach Gardens High School when Jason Brooks and me went to our first official high school party at 7 p.m. when the bash didn't blow up until past midnight. I'm habitually punctual, always arriving at the scene of the crime before any blood hits the walls.
I placed my instruments for this evening's dissection on the amoeba shaped table. Blue pen (one), sheets of paper (three), Stab At Sleep buttons (handful), and a giant jug of filtered water. Slouched back into the seat for a quick snooze, shut eye for a second, as there was nothing but slow time to kill. This is right about when SHE entered my evening.
"Is someone sitting here or are you alone?" she smiled.
"Yes?" I answered.
"Can I sit here or are you waiting for someone?"
"Should I look for another table or is this ok?"
She chuckled a nervous laughter as she parked it in the booth next to my bored bod. Every question her mouth fired off was juxtaposed to the previous one. Like a late night David Lynch film, I couldn't for the life of me understand what the hell was happening.
"Do you like talking or am I just yapping too much?" she continued.
Indeed I was. This inquisitive chicky d was sent to rescue me from these two miserable hours of waiting, the most hideous display one can encounter at a rawk n role shoe. Those bastards at the club always pull the same scam to suck more money from the music lover, squeeze more bills from willing bitches who wish to have their ears blown out by the night's best band. Day of show price upgrade, concession tax, and the doors open three hours early so they charge super inflated rates for shit piss beer. Pabst Blue Ribbon at this joint is $4...for a can.
"Do you drink?" "Why aren't you drinking?" "What's your favorite drink?"
"Free," I tell her.
This girl quickly grabs my water tub and puts it between her thighs underneath the table. Reaching into her purse she pulls out a small Tanqueray bottle and asks, "Do you like Jameson?" "Love him," I replied. What the hell kind of drunk puts whiskey in a gin bottle I thought silently. We each took a shot of the sneak sauce and the plot you are sinking into began to thicken like gramma's stew.
Jameson on the rocks came to the table, Heineken bottles chased down the Irish whisk, all of which was drained into the tank over a 25-minute span. The drink she flipped on her dime began to erase any trepidation that I once had about this annoying girl who began to look real cute.
Celebration, the opening band, was now on stage and I could care less. Lead singer looked like Polly Jean Harvey in a vicious red dress while our intimate room was now filling with KEXP listeners who wanted to hear some triptastic tunes from TV On The Radio. But they, like me and my ring-a-ding-deaf ears, would have to wait another hour.
"What's the pen for?" she asks, clicking the top like a bewildered animal. I turn and gaze deep into her hazel eyes and reply, "I'm going to draw the stupidest looking person I see."
"Do you want to draw me?"
"I said stupidest LOOKING."
I don't talk much to people I don't know. Hell I don't talk much to people I know. I only yell. And cry, mostly at night alone, in my closet. Needless to say this conversation was going as smooth as David Blaine's botched underwater attempt to replace Houdini.
"I'm Venezuela," she said with a dash of spice.
"My name is Jason fucking Anfinsen."
I gripped her fragile hand, smooth like a black and white actor, and pulled it close to my lips where I kissed mine instead of hers. She giggled at my obnoxious sophomoric humor. I preached my stupid semantics, neighborhood poet type shit while she schooled me on her studies of holistic medicine, homeopathy, and herbal remedies.
Jameson on the rocks came to the table, Heineken bottles chased down the Irish whisk, all of which was drained into the tank over a 25-minute span. The drink she flipped on her dime began to erase any trepidation that I once had about this annoying girl who began to look real cute. She wore thick glasses like Adrian from the movie Rocky, choppy black hair and everything I said caused her to laugh. Of course that means either I'm berry high-larious or she is clinically insane, either way my jokes are worth Gold.
When the clock finally reached 11:10, the lights went dark, the anxious crowd cheered with glee and the anticipated program finally got underway. The peculiar looking quintet launched into a punky version of "The Wrong Way," the first song on their debut long player, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. The high-octane delivery of the opening number was a sure signal that this set was going to smoke. There is nothing more boring than listening to a band's album being acted out as charades on stage as the exact replica recording stifles the stereo speakers...the audience feeds on spontaneity, life, action, and if we want to feel a studio session then damnit, we'll rock the record at home!
Five kids on stage - drums, keys, three axes (one has chimes on the neck like Eddie Van Halen's classic smoke holder), and an emcee Tunde Adebimpe, who rocked the cobra arm all evening, the kind of rapid fire strike that most street corner preachers use to emphasize their blistering rhymes. He was strong. "How's it sounding Seattle," he asked the audience who answered with a blast of feedback.
"Oh I love them. They are so cute," says Venezuela, now dancing in the aisle...alone. She bumps into the table and spills water all over my flip flopped feet. I never skipped a beat, slammed down the Heiney and continued absorbing the refreshing set which gushed new tracks found on the major label debut, Return To Cookie Mountain.
TV On The Radio banged out an admirable performance fueled by a suave vitriol that can only be compared to a vinyl wearing dominatrix smacking your bare ass with a barbed paddle, "thank you ma'am. may I have another."
I appreciated the way these musicians took chances with their bent arrangements, avoiding any conventional label for a new hybrid style I wish to call 'experimensoul.'
Switching between two microphones, a bullhorn, and white accordion, the players chip chopped those memorable studio session recordings, improvising and following in the moment discoveries for an uplifting piece of live music mastery.
I appreciated the way these musicians took chances with their bent arrangements, avoiding any conventional label for a new hybrid style I wish to call "experimensoul." Some sort of score for an altered rollercoaster ride. Plenty of hearty servings of soulful screeching, much passion with a debonair angst that was respected and admired throughout their emotional set.
My body remembers listening to the explosions pound through the Showbox speakers as I looked back down at my body sitting there, in that chair, water spilled everywhere, and this Venezuela swaying and locking me into her deadly stare.
These chords, words, noises were played from the heart. The brain appreciates when it can be stimulated by another body's pulsating organs. So much of a tribal and spiritual feel to the show, which again consisted of plenty of sugar coated goodness from Return To Cookie Mountain.
The bell rang at midnight and before we all turned into pumpkins, the band came back for a two-song encore that truly made the evening authentic and real for my badly bruised ears.
"Staring At The Sun" was rearranged and massacred as if the kids from DFA were mix mashing it up on the spot. The dreamy tune flowed very organic, as did the evening of music that was genuinely created by these inspirational artists.
"Ambulance," which was introduced with the tag line, "love something before you die," was absolutely breathtaking. They were drum less for this number, as the only white kid in the clique (Larry is the white guy. People think he's funny, a real-estate investor who makes a lot of money) evoked the late great Human Beat Box to help this crew shine through an unplugged voyage. It was life, beautiful and harmonious, absent of fear or control. Together the audience joined as one and flew through the night with this primitive sound guiding everyone towards a better world. As the song escalated towards a body-shaking climax, all players ended up on the floor, audience clapped in unison to the invigorating rhythm, which eventually ended the Cinco de Mayo TV On The Radio night of musical mojo.
The next morning when I walked Venezuela to her car she smiled and said, "that was really fun last night." Yes, yes it was.
Seattle America 2006
Jason Anfinsen is a contributing writer for The Tripwire & Redefine Magazine and author of the book Stab At Sleep, a bizarre collection of fuckjaw poetry, homicidal tangents, and stupid monologues. Catch his weekly new series Bellevue Mental Hospital.
Anfinsen is a professional noisemaker who has performed weirdo kkkomedy for the past decade at theaters and comedy festivals in Singapore, London, Toronto, New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Kuala Lumpur, and Seattle. Jason is the founder and artistic director of Jerk Alert Productions, an independent theatrical revolution that produces experimental stage, film, sound, print projects on Capitol Hill in Seattle America. His loudmouth voice has blasted 103.1 The Buzz in West Palm Beach, Virgin Radio in New York City, and can be heard screaming every weekend on 107.7 The End.