When we spotted Jim Jarmusch on Delancey Street the other day with a guitar strapped to his back and a gig bag in tow (a Lower East Side tableau if ever there was one), we knew something must be up. Sure enough, yesterday an advance screening of the director’s new vampire flick, Only Lovers Left Alive, brought a crowd (Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Glenn O’Brien, etc.) out to Sunshine Cinema and then over to Santos Party House where musicians who scored the film — including Jarmusch himself — took the stage.
To get everyone into the “crypto-vampire” mood, parts of Santos — the venue owned by Ron Castellano of Rosette and Andrew W.K. of, well, Andrew W.K. — had been redecorated with books and candles to look like the lover’s lair where Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston sucked blood popsicles. Uniformed “nurses” handed guests herbal shots as they entered the basement lounge.
But the action was upstairs, where Jozef Van Wissem hypnotized everyone with minimalist arpeggios on a double-neck lute, complimented by the haunting, ethereal vocals of Zola Jesus. Next up, sultry songstress Yasmine Hamdan crooned the number she sings during her appearance in the film, plus some others that leaned on half-possessed/half-Middle Eastern vocals, droning guitar that at times got the Jimmy Page violin-bow treatment, and hair-raising crescendos. Then White Hills injected some fuzzy, straight-forward RAWK into the mix (bassist Ego Sensation sported a leather bodysuit).
After midnight, Van Wissem returned to the stage as the guitarist for Jarmusch’s band. After an evening of dark, distortion-heavy droning, SQÜRL (with an umlaut over the u, Jarmusch pointed out as he introduced the trio) brought more of the same — though their jams were noticeably less polished (the band describes itself as “enthusiastically marginal”). Even so, it was a treat to (barely) see Jarmusch — in aviators, natch — teasing the evil out of his effects pedals and laying down dramatic, discordant barre chords while Van Wissem pounded out muffled metal riffs (dare we call them “vamps”?). I say barely because at times his trademark shock of white hair was the only thing one could see amidst the fog of smoke and vampire-friendly lighting.
That being said, you’ll have to forgive the quality of our video. But enjoy!