Cold Cave, Austra, and Prurient
July 27, 2011
The Ukrainian Cultural Center
Better Than ... your college '80s party
The walls of the Ukrainian Cultural Center were dripping before the first band even started. Whether the pitifully small vents in the ceiling were even open is up for debate. Before the cavernous room was half full the air was thick and heavy with the smell of punks, scenesters, and Goths.
But the oppressive heat was nothing compared to the sheer weight of the first band. Cold Cave's Dominick Fernow's noise project Prurient took the stage under the flickering image of an icy blue tree. Listening to Prurient is like having your head caught in the garbage compactor on the Death Star, sewage and all. Or, as one person put it "I bet this is what it's like to be fucked by a broken light bulb." Industrial screeching demons from hell blasted out, leaving fans to bleed from their ears and the rest of us to flee for cover. We refugees went over by the women's bathrooms, clutching our ears and begging for it to stop.
It did, finally, but it still took much coaxing to get folks back on the dance floor. (Free drinks helped.) Fortified with liquid courage, the crowd came back in time for the stage to fill with smoke and Austra to take their positions. Under red and blue lights the opera trained powerhouse Katie Stelmanis belted out a set that would make angels weep. Her golden voice radiated over gothic electronic beats which pulsed mournfully from the speakers. The combination of her talent and the terrible sound system was kind of like drinking really expensive champagne through a sippy cup. The vessel just didn't do the substance justice.
By the time Cold Cave came out, the crowd was liquored up and ready to bust out their favorite Breakfast Club moves. In front of a backdrop of black and white '60s movie starlets, lead singer Wesley Eisold sauntered around the stage in a black leather jacket. He sang in a strong, mournful croon over '80s New Wave. It wasn't New Wave influenced or inspired or infused. It was straight up, by the book, New Wave.
For all of those kids who missed it the first time, here was their opportunity to be part of a scene that was emerging before they were born. And boy did they dig it. Doing their best Molly Ringwald impressions, they hopped and shimmied with long-dead dance steps. Or perhaps it hasn't. Perhaps this is the beginning of a revival.
Personal Bias: I absolutely abhor the New York "noise" scene, of which Prurient is apparently part.
The Crowd: Everyone suffered for fashion last night. Despite the oppressive heat, the punks still resolutely wore their leather jackets, the hipsters kept their plaid shirts buttoned up all the way to their necks, and little black dresses with spiky heels were everywhere. Everybody's eyeliner ran -- including mine.
Random Notebook Dump: Three girls wedged into a bathroom stall the size of a upright shoebox to smoke a cigarette. I have no clue how they all fit in there. They must have sat on each other's shoulders.
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The Great Pan is Dead.