Giant Step’s Resident 32: TV On The Radio, Alphabeta In Greenpoint and Studio at Webster Hall

By Mawuse Ziegbe

Recently, I’ve been making some fun social gaffes that I thought you would enjoy. I must have spent the past few months with my head up my butt because I completely missed that TV on the Radio was playing three shows at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. I absentmindedly texted a friend close to the source about 3 hours before the show for tickets. Due to my tardiness, I expected him to type back “LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL” or delete my number but he graciously came through. Now, most frou frou music critics will tell you TVOTR is significant because of how transcendent their discordant rhythms and twisty vocals are. But sometimes, I have no idea what they’re saying. To me, the lyrics on Return To Cookie Mountain often sound like, “I undressed my mother, and peed by the sun” or “I wake up in flour, go fetch the gun.” Their latest project Dear Science infuses their woozy soul rock with sprinkles of Afrobeat, big band and new wave, making their new stuff preternaturally funky. The hour-long show was stacked with numbers from Science like “Crying,” “Golden Age” and “Dancing Choose” and well-worn faves like “Wolf Like Me” and “Province.” I had a blast but I think TVOTR fans just aren’t used to dancing. Boo.

Backstage after the show I began chatting up a cheery guy who recognized my name from the guestlist. I’m making vapid small talk and then I ask, “so what do you do?” The smile melts and his gaze hardens as he says, “I’m the guitarist.” See, when he said his name was Dave, I didn’t realize he meant Dave Sitek, guitarist, producer, founding member and friggin’ epicenter of TVOTR. Asking what Dave Sitek does at a TV on the Radio show is like waltzing into the Vatican, eyeing the Pope and asking “who’s that pale feller in the dress?” Silly.

So on Friday, I left my foot-in-mouth foolishness behind me and checked out the opening reception for the Younity Heart & Soul exhibition at Alphabeta in Greenpoint. Younity is a group of around 60 female visual artists which includes legendary graf writer Lady Pink, and co-founders Alice Mizrachi and Toofly. For this exhibition, all the artists made a piece which represented love. The walls were plastered with obvious symbolism like hearts and smiley children but there were also photographs of pink heels, skateboarding wounds and a display of wooden jewelry. The subject matter had a lot of schmaltz potential but I thought the ladies executed the show handily (I’m trying to get through this without bellowing, “girl power!”…oh wait). There was also a freshly painted and incredibly intricate mural that was admirably intense. I dug it.

Easily the most intense performance of the week was the Robot Sex Guy (I never caught his proper stage name) at the Studio at Webster Hall. It started innocently with some DJ in a lab coat spinning a bit of hard house but it quickly got ridiculous. The main performer, covered in what looked like neon Christmas lights, marched onstage and started yammering about how robots are sexy too. Ok, whatever. Then, he started singing about amputated fingers (which, I guess is integral to robot sex) and then crooned into a camera that was attached to a steering wheel. The show climaxed during a song about self-love where he stroked a huge metal hose between his legs and leveled ping pong balls at the unsuspecting audience. I was in the front row and caught three to the head. I finished my drink and left. It was like watching Daft Punk if they had considerably less money and ate paint chips. Now, for some a ping pong facial is enough reason to never venture out again. But no matter the type of humiliation, there is nothing – not robot lovin’ gone awry nor complete ignorance about Brooklyn visionaries – that a stiff drink and hasty retreat won’t fix.

Giant Step’s Resident 31: Pete Rock, N.E.R.D., Raphael Saadiq, Kelis

Photo from Pete Rock at Hudson (c) Bartek Radwan

By Mawuse Ziegbe

The most authentic thing about Sex and the City is all the bitchy conversations New Yorkers have about relationships. Every single time I venture out for dranky dranks, the talk always turns to how batty single people are and how dating in New York is like lighting your head on fire. There’s the girl whose ex-boyfriend used to beg her to go to crappy parties and then ignore her while he danced with other girls. There’s the guy who freaked out and sent his lady friend home in a cab when she received a text message after midnight. And then there are my poor guy friends who, no matter how fugly or partially unemployed, always end up swatting away giggly girls who furiously claw at their nether-regions simply because they’re single. Yeah, boo hoo. Anyway, finding a meaningful relationship in NYC is like trying not to laugh during a Sarah Palin speech. But for knuckleheaded dreamers like myself, that doesn’t dull the chase.

And that’s why Pete Rock’s recent Giant Step throwdown at the Hudson was double the fun. Everyone there was simply too attractive. Men with velvet blazers were sipping cocktails like they were born with a pinky ring. I spent most of the time nursing a red wine and making eyes with the fellers (I’m too much of a loony tunes to actually talk to boy people). Pete Rock was getting all House Party 2 with it, blasting Johnny Kemp and TLC like it ain’t no thang. Despite his groovy, soulful album offerings, as a DJ he’s usually good for a boot-stomping, ashy-knuckle, Boyz N The Hood type of time. But I liked the switch up because pajammy jams are like totally more fun than drive-by shootings.

Also high on the funness scale is Raphael Saadiq. Raphael touched down at SOBs for his last New York performance of the year. He’s one of the few artists that I just become a drooling mess for. Me at a Raphael Saadiq concert is just this sad mix of two-stepping and screaming. Raphael takes the stage and then I’m just bellowing foolishness for the next 40 minutes: “Oh my god, he’s doing a rock version of “Be Here!” Oh snap! He just mixed “Get Involved” with “Feels Good!” Is that a 12-minute reprise of “Sky, Can You Hear Me?!” Yes, dear god encore!” Then I mouth the lyrics like he’s talking to me, impale other people’s feet with my stilettos and steal posters. I’m that person. And it feels great.

Another semi-authentic thingy about Sex and the City is getting into that party. Last week, one of the places to be was arguably the N.E.R.D. and Nas throwdown sponsored by Smirnoff at Capitale. I used to constantly hit up these corporate ragers, knocking back cocktails and hi-fiving the typical group of industry ankle-biters who crowd these things. I stopped going to these events because there is always an infestation of people at the door trying to get in. The crowd was also this goofy mix of ruddy, balding corporate fatheads and shallow, downtown hip hop fatheads. However, all was forgotten when N.E.R.D. took the stage and did their “I’m wild at 35!” dilettante rock. Nas is talented and all but he has the stage presence of a brick of cheddar. But he did get my attention when he brought out Kelis to sing “If I Ruled The World.” She wandered out, drink in hand, and listlessly crooned the chorus before kissing Nas and wandering off as unceremoniously as she came. Yes, honey, it’s late and we’ve all seen this pony’s tricks before. But at least you got into the party and you’ve got a man. Some of us are making careers chasing both.

Giant Step’s Resident 30: Detroit, Home Sweet Home, Sarah Palin, Maxwell

Photo of Jazmine Sullivan at STEVEN (c) Donna Ward

By Mawuse Ziegbe

When I’m not camping out in craptastic bars in the LES or at a concert furiously scratching notes like a geekazoid, I daydream about the most fantastical situations. Maybe one day I’m making Smores with Amy Winehouse. Maybe I’m taking a magic carpet ride with Diddy. Maybe I’m shaving Common’s head. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m in the Midwest having the bestest time in a truly underrated city. Last week, I went to Detroit on business which is like Narnia for cheap beer-swilling, early ’90s dance addicts like myself. God bless the Motor City Casino Hotel where the driveway is lit up with a maze of rainbow lights like so many glittering Quaaludes. Ce Ce Peniston and Crystal Waters jams are pumped throughout the lobby and the rooms look like the set of a J. Lo video. I partied with some friends at an “apartment” (which, after living in “cozy” NYC apartments, looked like an airport hangar) that held a boutique, a DJ booth and a mess of bedrooms. People were cheery, the music was good and when it wasn’t good, it didn’t matter because alcohol in the Midwest basically costs a hug and a kiss.

But New York is the only place you will find buxom soul singers sweatin’ out a shoe store full of beautiful people. Our precious Giant Step orchestrated another throwdown at Steve Madden’s LES outpost which was swarmed by rapturous Jazmine Sullivan acolytes who knocked over precarious stiletto displays. It was a short 3-song set which she ended with her balmy reggae single, “Need U Bad.” Music heads who have been waiting for her time in the sun and newly enchanted well-wishers were all pouting for more. But children, she is going on tour which, by the by, is fronted by MAXWELL!! I mean, THE Maxwell – in all his singing-naked-in-the-bathtub, Afro-and-sideburns-before-it-was-cool, making-songs-for-sex-scenes-of-every-Sanaa Lathan-movie-since -1995 glory, – is actually coming to your city! You can pay to watch him gyrate for a few hours and maybe touch his head or something if you camp outside the tour bus. With Maxwell, John Legend and Raphael Saadiq on the road, 2008 is officially the year of the intellectual groupie.

2008 is also the two-year anniversary of one my favorite bars, Home Sweet Home. It’s basically an unmarked, unfinished basement packed with taxidermy and a broken disco ball. But its appeal is the reckless, sensual and, if I may, crackity sensibility that makes downtown NYC so legendary. I’ve had nights where one minute I’m teaching some hipsters the Soulja Boy and the next I’m vomiting onto a stuffed weasel. So, of course the anniversary party had to reflect that psycho glamour with complimentary Patrón and a giant moose ice sculpture which doubled as a shot luge. Resident performers Sweatshop Labor and Young Lords held court and even smiley trip-hop vocalist Sia came out for a drink and a dance. And yes, I got a little reckless, sensual and crackity.

However, more than taxidermy and making up adjectives, the hottest thing in the streets right now is the election debates. When they plucked that Sarah Palin woman from Baby Siberia, I thought she must have been a brainy, ambitious, innovative politician who could really shake up the stodgy and grim Republican ticket. Instead, we have this aging beauty queen with prom hair and a foreign policy perspective that’s seemingly informed by Rainbow Brite. I wish I could skip through the most important test of my life winking and giving shout-outs to 8 year-olds. Maybe, just maybe…if I keep dreaming.

Free Show: Nikka Costa

One of the things I love about being in this business is getting the opportunity to work with and help promote great artists. You know the ones that can move your soul and give you goose bumps? Well, Nikka Costa is someone I put in that category and we are proud at Giant Step to be involved in promoting her new release.

This Monday in Miami, we are continuing our monthly music series at The Florida Room in The Delano Hotel. We started the series in May with the goal to present great artists in a city that is known to be high on style and low on substance (no diss intended). So far the series has presented Jose James, Alice Russell, Janelle Monae, Little Jackie and last month we had the pleasure of Jazmine Sullivan.

So on Monday, October 13th, if you happen to be in Miami and want someone to rock your world come down and see Nikka live and say hello to me as I will be there too

More Info and RSVP here

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcyMOnHDWSs[/youtube]