Sunday, October 29, 2006

vega beta

And just when I was questioning the notion of physicality at a concert, I wound up at PS1's Music is a Better Noise opening, with Alan Vega playing live. Now Vega's schtick is old, old like Iggy Pop, like the Dolls, arising out of the early 70s scene and based on confrontational rants. As I'm standing near Nibs, I express my fears that Alan Vega may actually be bald, his scully cap actually containing a dark mullet stitched into its seams. Today, even as his body no longer stands up to the strain of flinging himself into that most dreadful see, the audience, Vega does like he always does, rants and conjures breath, revels in his voice bouncing off the physical entrapment of the space, of the stage. In a way, it reminds me of another NYC noise-maker/ performance artist, Charlemagne Palestine, who is known more for his suspended dream-baby drones now (due to a slew of reissues on Baroni, Alga Marghen, and others) rather than his early performances of shaping notes in his throat and then flinging himself against walls or hardwood floors, the impact changing the sound. Similarly, Vega's painful to listen to, and almost everybody rolls eyes as his distorted, echoing caws grow in intensity, though only leading to the B-Boy slogan: "Fight for your right!" he squawks, leading to crowd titters. Or maybe it's a Flavor Flav joke now.

I tell one girl that it's like drawing a scalding hot bath, painful to dip into, yet soothing once you've slipped in, but she replies, "It's never too hot." Okay then, it's like prison sex with a duct tape condom, awful and yet --like former Texas governor Clayton Williams once said about being raped-- "as long as it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it." It helps that Vega mumbles something about Bruce Springsteen before launching into "Dream Baby Dream," attaining such an edgy though relaxed state.

Next, we are led outside to watch a video from the K Foundation, yet another Bill Drummond project from his glory days in The KLF, this one about their public stunt burning a million pounds. Stephen O'Malley, almost naked sans his SUNN O)))) robe, hides behind a bank of eight amps. The DVD starts, and the 1995 shoot is tedious indeed. Who woulda thought that burning "a million quid" would be so boring? Jeff from Excepter leans in and whispers one word, "Work." To make that money? To un-rubberband it all? To crouch in front of that hungry fire and dump in fistfuls of dollars? To stand and listen to O'Malley fart around on a Moog? Yes. The 8 amps set-up is as ludicrous, as is the act of burning paper money, and nothing worth a shit is happening, to the point where I start to call "Bull Shit!" on the whole endeavor.

It's then that the sound of those words gets stuck in my throat. O'Malley doesn't hit the brown note per se, but he elevates into that register, the chilly autumnal air turned into a clear aspic. Ribs begin to fibrillate, all of our voices chopped and screwed as if we are yelling in front of some god's summertime fan, rattling in our necks and making everything sound funny. The vibrations also kill the DVD player. The massage continues unabated as they have to reset the K Foundation movie. Myself and a few others continue to howl along inside the thick air, reveling in the sound of our voices getting throttled out of us.