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July 1, 1998
CitySearch Music!

No Sleep Till Brooklyn!

Anyone in New York City will tell you that the weekend really begins on Thursday and it did so in a big way when the mighty Solomon Burke played MetroTech that afternoon. Despite the fact that the man is a great-grandfather, his voice is still a wonder, whether cooing the soothing "Big Beautiful Brown Eyes" as his son handed out long-stemmed red roses to half the secretaries in downtown Brooklyn, or ripping out a version of "Shake, Rattle 'n' Roll" that had King Solomon's gilded throne shaking as dancers of all ages crowded the stage. And he carried the crowd for a long time, refusing to take a break between sets because "someone'll give me a chicken or something and I won't come back." Twenty-one children may be the secret to vocal longevity, or maybe it's a healthy appetite. Or perhaps it was just Solomon Burke's visible delight at playing "here in Brooklyn, for my people."

Another kind of Brooklyn peeps hit the evening's PlatformMHZ show at the Brooklyn Anchorage--but could they all get in? Even at 9pm, there was a "Day of the Locust"-like mob scene outside and customs-level security inside. Once you made it past the checkpoints, however, sensory overload set in: constant turntabling and rapping onstage, intermittent breakdancing on the floor, weird, techno performance art in the back room, graffiti murals created before your very eyes, and, if that wasn't enough, a half-pipe full of skateboarders. Actually, the skaters were still building their playground as DJ Cam rounded up his all-too-early, all-too-brief set (somebody wasted too much of the afternoon sitting around with a bong doing Cartman imitations, eh?), but they finished if off and filled it up by the time the stage show kicked into full gear.

Glitches in the sound system recurred throughout the night: some of the microphones screeched in mid-throwdown and turntables tended to bounce. These problems were commented on by an MC named WordsWorth, who spent a good 10-15 minutes weaving sound problems, flashbulbs, audience members, and the Brooklyn Bridge itself in one of the finest examples of the freestyle I have ever beheld. Another unexpected highlight was an appearance by the (almost) all-girl Anomalies crew--three breakers, three MCs, and two DJs. One of them, Halex the Armageddon, dropped some of the finest rhymes on the X-ecutioners' album; another woman, whose moniker I didn't catch, was also a top-notch MC, wielding her bottle of Aquafina like a 40 and throwing real fear into the evening's hosts with the evil eye she gave them as they fiddled around with her mic. That woman dropped rhymes that could crush your skull if you didn't get out of the way.

Also notable was Craze and the Crash Dummies crew, whose sharp, beat-heavy scratching had heads bobbing off and on stage. Sinista and Roc Raida of the X-ecutioners were also present, as well as representatives of the west coast's Invisibl Skratch Piklz, but we well know the quality of those crews, so I will not reiterate the obvious here. All I can say is: have another one of these parties, dammit! It was the BOMB--and that's a word I never use.

Friday offered a few musical experiences of the distinctly low-end variety, as I took in a few of the Times Square attractions that are probably not long for this world. After strapping on a few Howard Johnson's Long Island Iced Teas, we went upstairs to the legendary Gaiety Burlesque. Madonna cast her "Girlie Show" tour and "Sex" book (as well as shooting some of it) in this hallowed squalor and they returned the honor by having "Dominick" drop trou to her latest single. Can anyone tell me why all sex industry outlets blare the same Top 40/crappy dance music soundtrack? The sole exceptions were the guy with the nipple ring who did naked handstands to Massive Attack's "Teardrop" and the junkie who flashed his tattoos, mod haircut, and a few other bits to Pulp's "This Is Hardcore," while staring vacantly at that yellow light on the ceiling. In conclusion: you haven't lived until you've seen a coked-up, baby-oiled, naked man jackknifing his ass into the air in time with the climax of Celine Dion's rendition of "All by Myself." After that, feel free to leave this earth any time.

The only way to top this, of course, was to go to the Honolulu Steamship Company a.k.a. the uber-cheesy piano bar at the Milford Plaza, where the bartender needed to reconfirm my order for straight bourbon three times (he obviously had no idea what I'd just been through) and we joined the foreign tourists listening to the ersatz diva and the electric piano player behind the bar rip into their "We Are Family"/"I Will Survive"/"Tell Me Something Good" medley before granting our request for "(Theme From) Mahogany." My companion, Mr. Diva, claimed to enjoy playing "stump the lounge singer" even more than looking at naked men, but he was somehow unconvincing. I won't go into what else happened, except to say that I found myself at Life at 4:30am, digging some righteous hip hop and gazing vacantly up at Mark Wahlburg, who was disporting himself to the tune of "Still Not a Player" with several underweight blonde nonentities and looking suspiciously like the guy I'd seen humping the Gaiety stage to Celinestopheles several hours earlier.

The last Saturday in June means Coney Island's Mermaid Parade. David Byrne was King Neptune this year, though for a figurehead he made himself pretty scarce throughout the day. Among the best floats were a guy revving the engine of his teeny, flame-adorned Speed Racer-style hot rod (never mind that it was being towed behind a truck) and a flatbed featuring a duo called "Wet Zeppelin" whacking out a rhythm-section-free version of "Rock 'n' Roll" for an audience of enthusiastic sea creatures.

Up on the Boardwalk, Da Brooklyn Bums thumped out their homeboy swing for a good-sized crowd, in direct conflict with the karaoke stand down by the Grill Palace, which hosted three versions of "Barbie Girl" within half an hour. But, as always, the best musical entertainment to be had at Coney Island is the Polar Express, the fast-spinning, hip-hop-blaring, go-in-circles-till-you're-sick ride (they had to stop it twice to let people off). The Big Punisher blared, the guys who run it (Puff Daddy and Busta Rhymes lookalikes) took turns shouting into the mic and standing up in the cars, the kids on line busted some righteous moves, and I tried not to be crushed by centrifugal force. It rocks.

After a pit stop at Junior's for matzoh ball soup and Zombies, it was back to the Anchorage for "Black Metropolis," better known as Detroit techno night. The men who invented techno--in the '70s, in America, mind you--are finally beginning to get some stateside recognition (Europe already appreciates them as the godfathers they are) and if this evening proved anything, it's that those who believe in the '80s Euro version have been sold a shoddy bill of empty goods. The biggest props went to Carl Craig, and not just because he looks like a mini Clyde Frazier. His sharp-edged beats were hypnotic, funky and--gasp!--soulful. Craig spins something like post-breakbeat, semi-industrial disco. His deconstruction of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" was just the ticket to make one forget the absence of seating. If you've been saying "heck no to techno" all this time, Carl Craig will change your mind. Juan Atkins, the evening's other luminary, also turned in a superior set, somewhat more mechanized and "traditionally" techno than Craig's, but with definite glances backward to psychedelia and forward to ambient music.

By Sunday, even I was tired. Damn tired. I hit the Pride Parade long enough to see a few people and a few things, many of which were played out to much of the same wack dance music I'd heard on Friday, but no one was (completely) naked. I returned eastward, dropping by the Avenue B Social Club to catch the Rev. Vince Anderson channel Tom Waits, ably assisted by His Love Choir. As the Reverend pounded his piano and poured out a 10-minute opus on the virtues and vices of being an asshole (good if you are one, bad if someone else is) it occurred to me that I haven't had a day off in months.


Horoscopes for the week of June 22nd.

Courtney Love sucks and some of the reasons why.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The Lounge Lizards, and Afrika Bambataa & the Soul Sonic Force.


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