Monday, August 14, 2006

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT: Questlove, Beirut & Friends

McCarren Park Pool Party, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 8/13

What's better than being belly up to the stage when Questlove's doing DJ duties? Few things, I can assure you. Such was my great luck on Sunday, seeing Quest spin disk in-between sets at the McCarren Park Pool Party, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I know, I know, everybody else was there to see buzz bands Beirut and Deerhoof. But not I. No, me and my mad crush on Quest saw the DJ sets as the big draw. What can I say?

His first set, between The Harlem Shakes and Apollo Sunshine was one old-skool hip-hop jam after another. His Kid 'n Play t-shirt was apropos, but I dug the old Beasties beats the best.  Catch some video footage I shot here:

DJ Questlove at McCarren Park Pool Party

Questlove at McCarren Part 2

The second set, between Apollo Sunshine and Beirut emphasized old school funk, with James Brown peeking out here and there. I loved that he spun the original funk masters whose hooks have become known only as samples in latter-day hip-hop and R&B hits, like the horn section from Beyonce's Crazy in Love. That's right, he didn't spin Beyonce, he spun the original from which the sample was snagged. He schooled us younguns on some funk history. Between Beirut and Deerhoof, he brought out the R&B and disco era gems. My heart went pitter-pat when Earth Wind & Fire, and then Stevie Wonder hit the speakers. (*sigh*) But he didn't stop with the 70s. Oh no, he even spun a Soft Cell standard into the mix. It's too bad people weren't showing him the love he deserved, as it was a master mixologist at work.

Of the bands to play, Beirut was the real discovery of the afternoon. I've been listening to theiralbum on repeat ever since. They're 50 percent Smiths, 25 percent Balkan Beat Box, and 25 percent Decemberists. A huge band, featuring an impressive horn section, a lone female on fiddle, plus a spare mandolin here and an accordion there, they are eclecticism at its best. Imagine Morrissey fronting an Eastern European gypsy band, singing sea chanteys. Give 'em a try. You won't be sorry.

Straight outta Boston, Apollo Sunshine brought the jam band vibe. They have a decidedly Western Mass approach to mixing blues, bluegrass, and noise rock into their own sticky paste. I dug 'em so-so. Lots more people dug 'em moreso.


Gotta give 'em kudos for the sheer audacity of a double-necked guitar. After that, the guitarist sat down to a pedal steel, which is pretty darned cool. But the biggest laugh factor goes to the bassist/vocalist for the falling-apart bass cab from whence his fuzzed out bass lines emitted. He had to have had a Big Muff at his feet. Then again, maybe it was the random dangling parts that gave him so much more feedback and fuzz than most bass players can muster.


Last, and in my opinion, least, was Deerhoof. Um, no thanks.

An IM conversation I had earlier today went a little like this:
TixGirl meanwhile, i'm still perplexed by deerhoof
TixGirl:  what the heck do you call that, anyway?
TixGirl:  is "arty" just a synonym for inaccessible?
TixGirl's Far More Patient Friend:  art noise - its mostly no wave, post rock, noise pop
TixGirl:  okie, i'll go with that

You decide for your self, with this little video clip:

Deerhoof at McCarren Park Pool Party

And there you have it.

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