The electro post-rock band Collapsing Scenery has been hailed as “the voice of LA’s new underground,” so it only makes sense that their tripped-out, abstract videos are essential to their music. Cool, but doesn’t every synth-dominated band these days sorta need visuals to make what is by and large a cold-blooded genre cluster feel even remotely emotive? And what’s so special about swiping a bunch of “found footage” from YouTube, throwing on a glitchy distortion filter, and calling it a “short film”? If you answered “yes” and “nothing,” in that order, then you’re exactly right– only, not about Collapsing Scenery.
Art + Culture
Wolf Eyes, Eartheater, Twig Harper
Saturday April 22, 8 pm at Brooklyn Bazaar: $13
Wow, what a whirlwind couple of years these must have been for Wolf Eyes– and this #blessed bestowance is well deserved for the band, which started out making noise, then moved toward not-noise-at-all noise that really was noise, until they transcended noise altogether. The comeuppance has meant, among other things, a new record label to call their own, a music festival in their honor (Trip Metal Fest will be back this year for a second go-round), a stream of sold-out shows in places that are just slightly above the underground and well beyond the borders of Metro Detroit, and now Undertow, a new album hot on the pup paws of 2015’s I Am A Problem: Mind In Pieces.
It’s true that one of the saddest sights in the world is a lifeless party struck down by under-attendance. We’ve all been there, at some point, and the sorry scene is always the same: a mostly empty room forms into a joy-sucking vacuum, where laughter feels forced and boozing looks like desperate denial. But nightlife veterans know that parties too big for their britches can be just as bad, and that even great parties will start losing their collective spirit as more and more people pack it in.
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Panteha Abareshi specializes in cutthroat portraits that pair the rawness of ecstatic creation with the realness of first-hand experience. As a young woman of Jamaican and Iranian descent, it seems only natural that she paints other women who look like her. But according to Abareshi, there’s much more at stake than the physical appearance of her subjects.
“I draw women of color only,” she has said of her effort to bring greater visibility to women who are so often left out of, or invisible, in the art world (not to mention under- and misrepresented everywhere else, too). But there are no smiling models or perfect angels in any of the paintings on view at The Girl Who Loves Roses, a show of Abareshi’s work at the new downtown gallery Larrie, NYC (“It’s a women’s space,” founder Emily Spitale told me). Instead, the women you meet are brooding, suffering, and embattled. Often they are splattered in blood, wearing a vacant expression, and seemingly staring at a target point that hovers right between your eyebrows.
Tournament, Big Huge, Barbed Wire, Dealer
Saturday April 15, 8 pm at The Glove: $10
Grow a pair (or a pear?) and show your face at this pair of shows featuring some unfamiliar faces and others you know well. But don’t expect some double-mint/doppelgänger situation either, as these shows are mirror images of one another in a variety of ways.
If you’ve never been to a Pink Mass show, and everything you had ever wanted to know about BDSM (but were afraid to ask real people) you learned from 50 Shades of Grey, then grab your smelling salts for this one. Even I found myself flinching at photos of the bands live performances– gory scenes of large, sweat-soaked men sheathed in balls-to-the-wall bondage gear, bending into various shapes of mastering and submitting, and abiding strictly by the band’s stated “personal interests”:
Xiu Xiu, Dreamcrusher, Gold Dime
Thursday April 6, 8 pm at Brooklyn Bazaar: $13
If you’re wondering what Xiu Xiu is all about, take Morrissey’s whinny, combine with scratchy dance music and pop presence, and dump the resulting liquid on the ground, because Xiu Xiu is anything but rut-stuck. If there’s one habit that the depresso-electro outfit can’t quit, it’s danceability. Leading vocal dude Jamie Stewart might sound like he’s violently ripping his hair out at the moment, and so sad that he might tip over a newspaper stand if he comes across one, but he’ll never get in the way of you and your shimmy.
Sometimes I hate my friends. Like right after the release of Pokémon Go. Nearly every single one of them not only downloaded the dang thing, but actually used it in public. In broad daylight. In front of other people. Meeting up for a drink at the bar turned into scavenging the streets for more bars with more Pokémons. This had to be an ironic thing that my pals would forget after a day or two, I assumed. But after weeks of this nihilistic nonsense, I was feeling like so many of the little things that make life tolerable had been invaded by an army of tiny, mind-numbing jerks. Pokémon Go seemed like a harbinger of the kind of voluntary sedation that could become the norm in response to some scary stuff from above. So maybe Oliver Stone came across as just slightly insane when he likened Pokemon Go to “totalitarianism,” but I kind of agree with him. Pokemon Go feels like nothing less than a small, but important sign of the coming cultural apocalypse.
The Girl Who Loves Roses
Thursday March 30, 6 pm to 9 pm at Larrie, NY: free
Kelsey and Remy Bennett, granddaughters of Tony Bennett, are working artists, outspoken feminists, and curators of various exhibitions and art happenings. You might be saying to yourself, “Of course they are.” But that would be a jerk move, since the Bennett sisters take after their family patriarch, who is widely known as one of the nicest dudes in showbiz (the Daily Beast called him “one of the greatest living Americans” for his long history of service to just causes including “Nazi hunting” and participating in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches of the Civil Rights movement). Their approach to curating is ultra-inclusive and social justice-oriented, but it’s not motivated by self-congratulatory horn tootin’ and seems instead to come from an easy, natural inclination to do good work.
Up until, ahem, pretty recently, you could get away with making the claim that as Americans we are far more enlightened than we were 50, or even 10 years ago. The numbers appear to support this– fewer of us are going to church, the youngins among us are far more tolerant than the olds, 60 percent of us are down to see marijuana legalized, and best of all, this whole “Golden Age of TV” thing means that even our beloved Idiot Box is smart these days. We all know what happened next– which meant that progress was not only going to be stopped, but deported back to Angela Merkel’s lap and replaced by nonsense rhetoric (the “best people” are doing “tremendous” things to make the U.S.A. “great” “again”) and “alternative facts.” We are only a few months into this horror show, but the impact on art, and how we process art, is already being felt.
Something strange is happening in the American psyche right now. Just a few years ago, the heroes of New York City-centric comedy TV were disconnected 20-somethings with suspiciously fancy apartments who wandered the earth clueless as to why no one wanted to date their flawless Tinder profile/soulless body. Now, they’re much tinier creatures that we rarely notice IRL and if we do, we’re like gagging and pointing and screaming: “Gawwwwd, I think that rat is bubonic.”
Hot on the hoofs of Louis CK’s The Secret Life of Pets, and HBO’s Animals (which just returned for season two), a new animated feature from Brooklyn-based animation company Cartuna offers a peek at what these city-dwelling creatures see in us humans. Obviously, it ain’t pretty.
Fred Thomas, Kyle Forester, What Next?
Wednesday March 29, 8 pm at Union Pool: $12
Back in 2007 when Saturday Looks Good to Me had found its way into CMJ, the Detroit Metro Times wondered, “Will Success Spoil Fred Thomas?” The short answer has turned out to be, no, not really. The slightly longer one is that Fred Thomas is a nice guy. So nice is Fred Thomas, that even after finding some well-deserved recognition in a fast-shrinking corner of music that is still confoundingly known as “indie rock,” he still does normal cool-dude stuff. He recently even stooped to record the lowliest trash-life punk that Detroit has to offer: the K9 Sniffies, whose members I hesitate to even call “musicians” (but who I am obligated to admit are my friends, or whatever).