Review: M.I.A. pops and fizzles while Die Antwoord sizzles at Creators Project launch
The launch party for the Intel/VICE joint venture Creators Project at New York's Milk Studios on Saturday marked a lot of firsts for me.
This was one of the first free booze parties in New York -- particularly in the Meatpacking District -- where said free booze didn't run out, even past the midnight mark.
This was also the first solid VICE party that wasn't at all, even remotely, a headachey clusterf*ck. The registration process for free entrants was seamless, 3,500 people came and went all 12 hours, the flow of crowd traffic didn't deaden my soul, stuff started on relatively on time and attendance over the three floors of art and music wasn't oversold. It's set this roving international party on the right path by beautiful execution and curation, sweaty and drunk and pretty.
This was the first time I'd seen Sleigh Bells and Die Antwoord live. And this was my first front row M.I.A. experience. (She was announced as a performer only the day before.)
My only complaint is that Interpol -- new lineup and all -- played a gallery space about the size of my bathroom, unmanageable for even an hearing-only gander.
Speaking of bathrooms, that seems to have been the inspiration for the acoustic engineering of M.I.A.'s sound, which amounted to audio soup in between the bigger better-known hits like "Galang" and "Paper Planes." The high ends tinnily bounced off each other in a set of no stops, the bass muddy and the vocals buried.
Maya Arulpragasam arrived excitedly in a camo jacket, hood up over her Bomb Pop colored hair, donning for half the show what could only be described as hot pink marijuana leaf tinted hologram goggles. (I'd love to see under which subsection on eBay they'd reside.) Beneath, it was a V-tee over a metallic bikini top. Having thrown herself as crowd-surf meat several times, she took off the unnecessaries; she is beyond petite, and ga-ga-gorgeous.
But for all the Grammy and festival footage, the media blitz and the hype drumming for her forthcoming July 13 set "/\/\/\Y/\" ("MAYA"), it was a set that started strong and then faded into a volume seven flatline. She shot out of the canon with new "Born Free" -- with its violent video cast behind her, but from there, the lyrics and pump-up banter was indecipherable, as songs bled into one another. She had two freakishly overstimulated male backup dancers (one of which looked like a mix of Guile from "Street Fighter II" and Chucky). She had two hype men, a rapper and colorful brain-drip animations, but still it all felt samey-same over an hour, no matter how hard the front pit pushed and how many times the rap-talk-sing-singer punched the air. It just wasn't her room.
She should have taken the advice of South Africa's Die Antwoord, who played before her and had the right mind to request to "turn up the f*cking volume." Because it worked.
"We're gonna f*ck this f*cking party in the f*cking face!" exclaimed Ninja, front man of the three-person operation. I still think it's a joke that Interscope signed what is, in essence, a joke hip-hop and obscure subgenre band from overseas, whose internet fame will likely go the way of the OK Go: lots of traffic hits, very little in the way of sales. Still, their Zef mix of outdated music samples and styles, mixed with mindless rhymes, the high-pitched voice of straw-mop-headed Yo-Landi Vi$$er and the merciless harddrive of DJ Hi-Tek sounds like hell on paper and was positively bitchin' live.
Sleigh Bells, in something like half an hour, roared through half their record. A friend rightfully said vocalist Alexis Krauss sound much less shrill live; she performed under a curtain of dark brown hair and skulked and pointed a lot. I love their record and I love this band, but I think it'd actually be a plus to have a live drummer to push those low ends and tricky rhythms more than just Derek E. Miller on guitar.
I spent little time with the art and with Spike Jonze's s "I'm Here" videobooth debut, sadly, but I can tell you Muti Randolph's "Cube" took my breath away and The xx's "A Sculpture of the Album" was a good place to check my voicemails.
Creators Project is now visiting various cities worldwide, "to empower and inspire the next generation of innovators to realize their artistic visions through creative use of technology." Dates and locations are here, on the right, and include stops London, Sao Paulo, Seoul and Beijing.