SUNDAY, AUGUST 12: In twenty years, when your kids are putting beer on top of your coffee-table books and spilling chips in the crevices of your expensive couch while you’re out playing golf in Big Sur, the warped faces looking up from those books upon your return will be Gang Gang Dance. I go to a lot of shows and a lot bands pass before me on a monthly basis and very few leave me really thirsting for more. But Gang Gang Dance is going to be remembered as one of the seminal bands of this time—mark my words!
I was sitting with Jorskie yesterday at the very end of Social Registry’s wonderful and surprisingly pleasant (more on this later) two-day music festival waiting for Gang Gang to set up and discussing best bands of the 2000s thus far. I said the Kills were one of my faves because of their live performances and Jorskie wrinkled his nose and said, “Nah, not innovative enough—what’s original about them?” I nodded my head—I had to concede. (One of the things that annoys me endlessly about Jorskie is that we’re both devil’s advocates so I often find myself arguing points just because I like to argue and then I get all tangled up in a battle of “You’re right, you’re, I agree.”) Next I said Vietnam, and again he said, “Nah, good, but not new.” No way! I countered. But maybe he was right again, although all those hungry supermodels walking SOHO in Vietnam shirts can’t be wrong. Then he looked up and said, “Gang Gang Dance.”
Hmm. With the sun now fully set and the band set up, we sat in plastic chairs in a shady halo of trees along the Gowanus Canal waiting for the band to play. Final chords were tuned on the guitar and then Brian turned the knob. Now before I continue I would like to say that I have seen Gang Gang Dance play twice before and each time it was different. The first was at McCarran pool last year and the place was packed and the band was pushed for some reason to the back of the stage; the second was at a club and I had to keep running in and out to scream at my ex-boyfriend. Neither was particularly memorable, except that everyone else for some reason seemed to be obsessed. I had heard their music on CD and liked it alright and I even interviewed them for L.A. RECORD (an experience that was nothing short of lovely) but if you asked three days ago would I rather go to a Gossip show or a Gang Gang show, I would have had to think about it. (No disses to Miss Ditto!)
The music started out how I remembered: pre-recorded wailing and beats and samples from films or looped chants, but then suddenly a deep distorted voice started muttering, “Lift up your eyes and open your heart to God / lift up your eyes and open your heart to God.” A red light and a spinning rainbow psychedelic orb and a smoke machine had been placed on the rickety wooden plank stage and smoke started to push out into the audience, and it crept out over the canal like a scene from Night Of The Hunter. For two days, everyone had sat back and chatted quietly while bands played but as Lizzi started to squirm and chant with her eyes rolling into the back of her head and the guitar intensifying to match the beats and drums, one group of people approached the stage and another cluster got up and joined them and soon everyone knew what was happening and rushed up to grab front-row real estate. We snagged a spot right in the front and were transported into the world of Gang Gang. The guitar playing in this band is hugely ignored and underrated; what keeps these almost-dismembered songs together are the hidden guitar melodies underneath, and when he does solo, it’s mind-blowing. But of course the percussion is pushed to the forefront, and wisely so, because as Jorskie so aptly puts it, that’s what makes them innovative. And just as everyone was sweaty and mesmerized and they were building up to the climax of the best song of the night, the power went out and the stage went black—the Christmas lights set up around the space, the lanterns over the shed, the amps and the smoke machine all seemed to disappear. The band acted as if it wasn’t planned.
Other bands played and they were good as well—definitely check out Electroputas, my new favorite band of the minute after yesterday’s performance (at some further date I would like to do them more justice) Sian Alice Group from England was also very nice—sort of Lavender Diamond meets psychedelic surf music–and of course TK Webb was amazing as usual.
My best advice to you? If Gang Gang comes into your town, do yourself a favor and go. I watched as the back of this little boat shed became what I will remember as one of the best shows of my life. It felt how I imagine watching the Velvet Underground in the sixties might have felt or the Pixies or Nirvana in the late eighties/early nineties, or to watch Kathleen Hannah rip off her shirt and write BITCH across her chest, or see the great Janis Joplin wail herself ragged. It was something I will always remember.
Reporting Live From New York,
I’m Nikki Darling And You’re Not!