Dark clouds rolled over Brooklyn in the most ominous way on Thursday, July 26th. Dense layers of storm clouds gave an early sundown over the House of Vans in Greenpoint, where music lovers are treated to a concert within their converted indoor skate park, and enjoy free brews and cheap eats outdoors. But as those clouds piled up and darkened the outdoor brew tables and grease trucks, fans were crowded inside early, and treated to an early start to a night of intense rock and roll salvation (with a break for some odd, gimmicky rap – more on that in a minute).
After the Jump: Soul, Psych, Gospel, and Rump Shakin’!
New Jersey’s The Everymen opened up with a set of poppy hardcore. Their tunes are emphatically, poppy, as a matter of fact. It’s the sort of music you kind of expect a band called the Everymen would play. They didn’t lose the audience to hardcore’s more aggressive tendencies, nor did it start a mosh-pit, despite a few shoves from some teenagers who, I’m sure, were thinking that it’s just what you do at a concert. Oh, all-ages shows! How you make us all super-aware of ourselves! This is not to say that the Everymen were ineffective or were terrible just because they couldn’t get the crowd moving in any way. Their tunes are plentifully hooky, and the drummer in particular plays with some serious energy. And who can ever hate on a band that features a big bad-ass dude playing keyboard? Not me, that’s for sure. Generally, a solid show previewing their tunes from their up-coming debut LP, New Jersey Hardcore, which will be released October 9th.
(Check out their Facebook page for some demos, found way down on the timeline, and preview the first track on their Bandcamp page).
Much like King Khan and the Shrines’ style, variety is the rule of the day at these House of Vans shows, and after the hard-pop of the Everymen, came Nicky Da B, who is not quite indefinable, but hard to say much about. According to his bio on his website, the music is defined as New Orleans Bounce music, a mix of hip-hop and club electro, with the focus on the beat. Sure.
But the music doesn’t really venture far from the same beat with maybe a few different sounds layered on top of it – think of it like a refocused version of Dubstep with more a faster drum loop. As a result, it sounds as though Nicky’s not rhyming but shouting the same slogan forever at a rat-a-tat rate. In some cases he is, but it’s not worth listening to what he says because the spectacle on the stage: a massive platform of three hired dances (two women, one very large man) scantily dressed, pulling people on stage to shake what their mama’s gave ‘em. spent most of the time trading quips on where else you can possibly find more crack, cheek, or butts, in one place. Even King Khan came out in disguise at one point, dressed in blue spandex and a long black wig to shake with the rest of the fans. But even at half an hour set, unless club music is your thing, it was a bit much to keep up. And I have never felt more old after writing that last sentence.
Finally, late into the night, King Khan himself appeared, and offered up an amazing set that was at once rock and roll spectacle and an intimate family affair. In a feathered head dress and a gold lame, glittery shirt, the band introduced their supreme leader with a haze of building beats and smooth horns, while the crowd greeted him with hands raised and fingers shaking. Blazing through favorites like “Bite My Tongue” and “Welfare Bread” (which he played in tribute to his wife, who shared the stage playing tambourine with his two young daughters), a somewhat sedate crowd finally came to life and, at the very least, shuffled their feet. Even fans who attempted to start a pit in the middle of “Land of the Freak” were overcome by the good vibes of the music to spend the energy dancing than just beating each other up.
Nicky da B’s shakers made for an impromptu go-go crew, still dressed in their lace-and-spandex outfits and glittery faces, while bodies surfed the crowd and the Shrines climbed and jumped from all over the stage. At times, it was distracting to see King Khan’s girls as they stopped playing to move about the stage or obviously lose rhythm with the rest of the band, or to see his wife move back and forth behind the set texting on her phone. Yet, it somehow made the experience all the more intimate, that even with all the planning that goes into a show, the point is to lose yourself in the moment and stop caring.
And ultimately, that’s the difference with King Khan and the Shrines. Beyond the ability to put on a dynamic stage presence and be as wild as possible, this is the band who have put more effort into ownership of a moment and ideal. Anyone with working ears can point to some of King Khan’s music and see obviously lifted riffs or song ideas. “Land of the Freak” is clearly modeled on “Land of 1,000 Dances,” and doesn’t hide being so derivative. But whether the song is a tribute to a classic, King Khan and the Shrines play their version as if they had personally discovered rock music in a foreign land and had to bring it back to America, piecing it together by memory, and it becomes a classic if only for that three minutes that they play that song. Then on to the next one.