[18 May 2005]
TV on the Radio
On March 14th of this year, the New York City Planning Commission approved the six actions for the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Rezoning. Under this proposition new affordable housing would be erected along the waterfront and a new, 28-acre park created for playgrounds and an esplanade. The city commission continues to pat itself on the back and everyone seems excited about Brooklyn’s pending facelift.
Everybody except the people living in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
It seems that the tenants in this area don’t like the idea of their neighborhoods getting taller, their ma and pop stores getting booted out, and the impending population escalation that will result. “Don’t let them take our light!” they plead, hating the idea of being cast in shadows, living in a concrete jungle like their Manhattan neighbors. I can understand their plight, but how do you mobilize a community largely comprised of young artists, ones trying to pay their rent and more concerned with nurturing their own creative voice rather than elevating it in protest against the proverbial man?
Throw a badass benefit concert with cheap admission and cheaper beer.
Not a bad idea.
Earlier in the day, I was informed that you cannot buy tickets online or over the phone. I was encouraged to come a couple hours early to this small record store in Greenpoint to grab a ticket; they will probably go quickly. I convince a girl I have become interested in to meet me at the venue later. She has never heard of TV On The Radio. I tell her to bring her dancing shoes. The record store is kind enough to let me sip on a couple deuce deuces while I wait for my lady friend. I am already becoming a big fan of my neighboring borough.
When we walk into the main room of Club Exit, I immediately notice the mushroom-like curtains growing from the ceiling. The room is splashed in pink wash lights. I am the preppiest kid in this joint, if only because my shirt is ironed. Balloons bounce around the crowd like we are in the bleachers at Shea. There is an eight-foot area between the front of the crowd and the stage. This I do not understand.
Tonight I am Moses. Tonight the sea will part for me.
Shouldering our way through the crowd, we plop ourselves dead center, right beneath the lead mic. This suddenly appeals to my neighbors’ senses, as they follow suit and surround the stage. I cannot contain my excitement. My date teases me.
Tonight my excitement is on par with a thirteen year old girl at a Justin Timberlake show. Tonight no hipster’s dirty glare will keep me from singing or keep my white boy hustle contained.
And then it happens.
Suddenly anticipation sweeps through the crowd and people begin to seem as excited as me. Someone mentions how much they have been looking forward to seeing this band. People begin to smile. When the band appears from the side of the stage, I take the liberty to lead the cheers.
This band possesses what everyone in this crowd is trying so desperately to imitate—a genuine sense of style. Their swagger is so sticky and sweet it hangs in the air like the smell of lemonade on a hot July morning. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe walks up to his mic and pulls it close like a woman. Guitarist and second vocalist Kyp Malone, the most soft spoken member of the group, pulls at his beard that appears to have been growing long before most people in this crowd were legal. Resident white boy and mastermind David Sitek turns his back to the crowd, plugs in and his guitar begins to scream. He doesn’t play his instrument as much as thrash at the cords, pulling on them like a disgruntled landscaper whose lawn mower just isn’t cooperating.
“Satellite” begins on a miscue and Adebimpe harmonizes an apology wistfully into the microphone. When Sitek sets the riff down, I hear something that can only be described as garbage cans being thrown through a blender, or an engine turning over at a manic rate. Adebimpe’s soulful croon elevates the crowd. He is like a preacher on his altar, dispensing his sermon. His hands waving in the air like he is swatting at flies, eyes rolling in the back of his head, we all listen to his gospel.
The band plays far too few songs tonight, but decides to close with the beautiful “Ambulance”. An a capella song on the record, it takes on a whole new life live. Fellow Broooklynites Dragons of Zynth join them on stage, as each member grabs a seat and some drum sticks. There are five people playing percussion, as everyone finds something to pound, be it a speaker or the floor. “Hearts colors change like leaves,” Adebimpe moans and I repeat the words audibly in my date’s ears. She nods her head in agreement with this sentiment. The set ends almost as quickly as it began, leaving the crowd chanting for more, to no avail.
As we are waiting for the subway back to Manhattan, my date tells me how much she enjoyed the band and especially “Ambulance”. She asks me what the refrain to the song was. I reply, ” I will be your accident/ If you will be my ambulance/ And I will be your screeching crash/ If you will be my crutch and cast.” She smiles and says how pretty that sounds, as I consider how these few lines embody almost every relationship I have ever known. I consider telling her this, but instead I only smile as the train pulls up to the platform.