New York, roughly one month after Sept. 11, is completely and not at all the same. American flag symbols cover storefronts, jacket lapels, and other more unlikely surfaces, slogans of war and peace are scrawled on walls and stenciled on sidewalks, and conversations rarely go past the 10-minute mark without some mention of That Day and its fallout. One thing has undoubtedly shifted: In the city's post-9/11 social strata, firemen are the new rock stars. Any passing FDNY truck is greeted with an enthusiasm usually reserved for the kind of rarefied celebrities who probably haven't snuffed out their own candles, let alone a fire, in years. Meanwhile, nearly unnoticed in midtown, rock stars of the more traditional kind are enjoying a seriously reduced celebration of their talents at this year's delayed CMJ (College Music Journal) Festival. It's the nature of a touring band's game that bookings are done far in advance and scheduled tightly to coincide with linear tours and appearances; very few of those slated to perform on the original dates in mid-September were able to return three weeks later for a rain check. That includes many of the big-ticket names and, unfortunately, several of Seattle's best exports. The belated four-day festival was not without its highlights, though. Clinic, the band even Radiohead drops their dinner plans for, wowed a jaded industry crowd on Wednesday night. One could almost hear the click of the Great Brit Hope spotlight shifting their way. Thursday, meanwhile, saw every art-school brat in the city—tricked out in full punk-as-fuck regalia, circa 1983—crowd the midtown superclub Exit for Electroclash's showcase featuring Peaches and the fantastic post-mod performance art/rock operatics of Fischerspooner. Half the show was in the people-watching, as actresses and professional downtown darlings Chlo렓evigny, Natasha Lyonne, and Tara Subkoff vied for attention with
legendary design diva Patricia Field and musicians David Byrne (looking amazing, in a Sting-like, Tantric-yoga-and-wheatgrass kind of way) and Rufus Wainwright in a Most Fabulous Audience Member showdown. Whoever declared the death of irony obviously didn't give Peaches the memo; her permed mullet, ripped fishnets, and sexed-up karaoke took up well more than an hour, with the number of "motherfucker"s and out-of-sync pelvic thrusts ringing in at an impressive all-time high. Weirdly entertaining, but not nearly as much as the stunning performance by Fischerspooner, who, with Kabuki- worthy makeup and a peacock farm worth of feathers, elevated visual theater to a new level. On record, their deadpan electro/New Wave antics don't exactly signal a new world order, but live, they're a surreal, stunning spectacle. The crowds surged—as fast as they could in their tight, tight pants and weighty asymmetrical haircuts—to the upper level, where buzz band Soviet played their New Wave hearts out. Moving on from the Exit to Brownies: Friday night saw an overstuffed and eager crowd pushing for the Walkmen and dashingly suited headliners Interpol (or, as we like to call them fondly, Joy Division). Busting at the seams with hipster cred (Interpol's lead singer had his five minutes with Ms. Sevigny), the intensely photogenic band ripped through a set that would, depending on his mood, make the late Ian Curtis either very proud or very, very pissed. All things considered, CMJ rallied impressively from a devastating last-minute monthlong delay, and few could expect the rescheduled event to match years past. The city's mood, and the scrambled logistics of rescheduling, made that impossible. Though there are rumors of financial trouble at the magazine because of the many canceled acts, it's hard to imagine next year's festival circuit without this annual extravaganza of schmooze, exhaustion, and left-field discovery. Right
now, the fest's survival is undoubtedly the least of New York's worries, but still, keep your little music-lovin' fingers crossed. . . . Here at home, we had our own fest. The inaugural run of Bent brought together queer punk boy bands (USAsexual, Pansy Division, the Skin Jobs), radical dykes (Infinite X's, the Butchies), and tons of fans and followers who fit in somewhere in between. Among the standouts—and the uncategorizable—were San Francisco's Erase Errata, Elvis-esque El Vez, and the always amazing Gossip. Festival organizers got a tremendous response from our area's gay and lesbian indie populace and look forward to continuing the extravaganza in the coming years. . . . So much for firsts, how about lasts? Saturday night's show at the soon-to-be-retired Rendezvous was advertised, at least by the Kinko's contingency, as such, but we've since seen new flyers making the same claim. No matter, Saturday's blast of neo-New Wave post-punkology will remain forever in our memories as The Last Truly Great 'Vous Show. A crowded, whiskey-filled back room and raucous sets by Weird Science, the Stuck-Ups, the Intelligence, and our new favorite Portland band, Epoxies, are sure to solidify the Rendezvous' reputation for posterity. . . . And finally, folks, since we were nearly the only ones in town who opted not to fall into the Gap with Blonde Redhead on Friday night, we'll take just a moment to illuminate an important aspect of our sister city to the south: They don't call it Tacomatose for nothing. The Strokes show was, despite the N.Y.C. boys' best retro-rock efforts, flat as four-week-old soda. Openers the Moldy Peaches? They're the band that the aforementioned David Byrne would have if he wanted to do the Elephant 6 thing with the Sesame Street set, but geez, the Temple Theater? What are those people accustomed to, the Ice Capades or
something? Next time just come back to the Crocodile, Mr. Casablancas.
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