Warpaint and Javelin Luminary Center for the Arts August 5
East Coast battled West Coast last night at the Luminary Center for the Arts, as dynamic Brooklyn sample sluts Javelin opened for Los Angeles' languid post-punk goddesses Warpaint. Now, it wasn't really a battle, because they both killed it, but the contrast of almost timeless rapturous psych with very-now party jams proved to be a surprisingly danceable triumph. Though many local music junkies were sweating to Deer Tick and celebrating the life of Fattback's Dave Hagerty at Off Broadway or getting their 1997 on with Hanson at the Pageant, Warpaint and Javelin drew a hundred plus eager fans, impressive for a gig-clashing evening.
Javelin brought the house down early with their recycled beats and retro video clips, which were an endless barrage of wacky images and vintage adverts -- manatees swimming at Sea World, a dashing young Andre Agassi with a full head of hair, BMX biking on a surburban rooftop and campy Casio commercials. While sampling and mash-ups are nothing new, Javelin is on a short list of artists who have succeeded in DIY innovation.
Fully conscious of its own ironic hipster appeal -- Brooklyn, busted up boomboxes on stage, an airing of the HEALTH remix of "In Heat" -- Javelin delivered a high-energy set that kept bodies moving from start to finish, without guile. George Langford happily pounded out tropical and funk beats on his drum pad, cymbal and cowbell while Tom Van Buskirk sang and jammed buttons on his miniscule Casio and array of effect and sample toys. The latter's shoes were made of trampolines and singing is apparently not a strenuous activity for him -- if he wasn't bent in half pressing a button or turning a knob, he jumped up and down in place until it was time to tickle the Casio or play the kazoo. Yes, the kazoo.
Javelin was all over the map, cribbing early hip-hop, Ludacris's "Pimpin' All Over The World," multiple Mariah Carey classics and Blondie, interlaced with electronic squeaks and break-beat squirts. While many a white dude with a laptop has ganked beats and sampled from the deepest depths of the Interwebz, but few have done so and managed to create intriguing, original music. The crowd loved the energetic, spazzy duo so much they weaseled an encore out of 'em, a maximal rendition of the 8-bit burner "Oh Centra," that Langford introduced as "a song about a cat."
Warpaint replicated the delicate, wispy sounds from its 2009 EPExquisite Corpse quite well, but the band does loud and soft with equal aplomb, moving seamlessly from shoegazing to shredding. Even at their loudest, the chords, the harmonies and the vocals come in waves, washing in and out. Emily Kokal's Lucite-clear voice is even more beautiful live, so much so that the recordings may have done her pipes a disservice. She can diva belt and she can croon in a lacy whisper. All four of them sang at one point or another, but Theresa Wayman and Kokal did the majority of the work -- their voices melding into one or harmonizing, as on "Polly."
"Beetles" may have hit the ten minute mark, and oh, what a blissful ten minutes it was. Less angular somehow, the guitars wandered from passive to menacing. The band wound the song down, fooling the crowd into clapping too early, only to bring it back up, launching us into the far reaches of the psych stratosphere.
The third song, a new one called "Majesty," had a false start, Mozgawa started the song over and one of the girls joked that "Stella's the boss," they do whatever she tells them, to which Mozgawa replied, "I am the woodpecker." This truth emerged on stage, perhaps it's natural given their respective instruments, but Mozgawa ruled the set with her ferocious kit destruction. Wayman, Kokal and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg seemed hypnotized at times, breaking occasionally to covertly pull faces at each other like good girlfriends are wont to do.
The new songs "Bees" and "Composure" show an auspicious evolution -- and in fact, Warpaint's songwriting has certainly become stronger. In interviews the band has said they grow their songs over a period of time; most of the tracks on the EP were written several years before the 2009 release, and it's obvious it's recently hit their stride as a group. There's not a single live video of Warpaint on YouTube that sounds half as good as they sounded last night, which bodes well for their full length due out on Rough Trade in October.
Kokal prefaced "Burgundy," saying "We're going to take it down before we bring it way up, so act accordingly." The entranced crowd obeyed, nodding along until the song hit its zenith, and danced their way into the final song. "Elephants" just fucking ruled.
Javelin: On It Lindsay Brohan C-Town Vibrations Soda Popinski Tinslowe Promises Twyce Visualize Murgatazoid Radio We Ah Wi Off My Mind Moscow 1980 Barrel Roll Marimjob (Van Buskirk called it "Saint Louis 2010") Oh Centra
Warpaint: Warpaint Beetles Majesty Composure Polly Bees Burgundy Elephants
Personal Bias: Is my obsession showing yet? Is Stella Mozgawa the cool drummer best friend I never knew I desperately needed? Can Javelin play at my wedding, the one where I marry all the members of Warpaint? It could happen, maybe someday in California, thank you Judge Walker and hopefully United States Supreme Court.
Critic's Notebook: They didn't play "Billie Holiday," and I think I'm okay with that.
*It's never okay to get on the stage unless expressly invited by the artist. It's distracting and downright rude. I'm all for audience participation, by all means crowd the stage, dance like you're celebrating the fall of Mordor or the GOP, scream, yell, spill beer, but jumping on the stage to dance is fail. Other than that, most energy I've ever seen from an audience at the Luminary.
*Where are all the videophiles these days? I know you're out there, digging this music and combing the blogs like the rest of us and I would trade my cats for some raw footage of last night's set.
Also: More than one person said last night's show is a contender for the best show of 2010. A friend said after Javelin that it may have been his favorite set of the year, but he was rendered speechless after Warpaint; a rueful shake of the head said it all.