M.I.A.: Invasion of the Bona Fide Art Hustlers
Watching M.I.A. raise hell onstage Saturday night, the phrase “Wu-Tang is for the children” definitely came to mind. At Saturday night’s Creators Project event in New York, the Sri Lankan rapper’s set was a scene of jovial chaos, with dancers and toasters and random characters roaming the stage. M.I.A. came on to “Born Free” in a blast of Seventies speedfreak organ blasts, rocking a rainbow wig, pot-leaf shades, a camouflage hat, and tennis shorts in front of a sweatbox art-gallery crowd. Hype man Whyte Boi Bart had the funky moves to go with his Slayer T-shirt, while the three back-up singers wore what could have been either burkas or anarchist shades-and-hoodie uniforms. M.I.A. did her hits (“Galang,” “Paper Planes”) but also dipped into her fantastic new album Maya, setting off nuclear vuvuzelas in “Teqkilla” while her ever-increasing entourage poured the front-row fans shots of what sure looked like tequila, although they probably could have used some water.
M.I.A.’s set was the undisputed highlight of the Creators Project event, a multimedia showcase that brought an art, fashion and music crowd out to the West Village’s dreaded “meatpacking district,” a tourist bullpen where the bachelorette parties have been known to take hostages. The event, organized by Vice magazine, included art exhibits, film screenings (including Spike Jonze’s short I’m Here) and live bands, as well as occasional hints of air conditioning. I was there for the music, but the people-watching was pretty excellent too, with hordes of dehydrated aesthetes packed bumper to bumper in sauna-like conditions — lots of impossible princesses (as Kylie Minogue would say) teetering to the open bar in cruel shoes (as Steve Martin would say). New wave hairdos battled the humidity all night.
Interpol’s much-anticipated homecoming show was aces, with two new members, Slint’s David Pajo on bass and the Secret Machines’ Brandon Curtis on keyboards, to replace the dearly departed bassist and holster-wearer Carlos D. Any doubts about whether Interpol still had it were blown away by new guitar monsters like “Success” and “Lights,” along with classics such as “Obstacle 1,” “Evil,” “Mammoth” and the Rock Band 2 fave “PDA.” Salem did a superbly dour set of electro-droog menace, Sleigh Bells rampaged with their Brooklyn synth-punk, and the South African screamy-freakazoid rap duo Die Antwoord basically scared the beejezus out of everybody with their eagerly awaited New York debut. Neon Indian brought a four-piece full-band bang to the already-fetching synth-pop tunes. The Rapture did a set of older material, inspiring thoughts of how they were to DFA what Craig Mack was to Bad Boy or Teenage Fanclub was to Matador. At one point, one of the DJs was spinning Whitney Houston’s “Million Dollar Bill” — no idea why, but it sounded cool.
Mark Ronson and his absurdly brilliant haircut took over after midnight, with a set that included his summer jam contender “Bang Bang Bang.” The night was wrapping up, so I hauled ass back to Brooklyn in time for the Beets’ late show at the Knitting Factory. They rocked the house surf-garage style, with two guitar dudes from Jackson Heights, Queens, a kick-ass punk-rock drummer girl, and a hand-painted banner proclaiming “The Beets Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who’ve Sold Their Souls.” They dedicated “Happy But On My Way” to the Urugayan soccer team and flailed “Why Should I Leave When I Don’t Fit” like the Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Mary Chain. The perfect capper to a perfect night of music.
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