So what's up, Brooklyn, why ya gotta be like that?
I've talked about this show a few times already here (I know, I know … enough already, Alex), but herewith my two cents on Devo's show last night at Brooklyn's McCarren Pool. I picked up tickets for this concert several weeks back and was hugely looking forward to it. The fact that it was in Brooklyn was largely incidental – it's Devo; they play, and I show up. It's that simple. I'd never been to the McCarren Park Pool before, but I'd heard interesting things about it. A massive, open-air space that used to be a – wait for it – huge public swimming pool capable of containing up to reportedly 7000 bathers (this doesn't sound appealing to me, honestly), the McCarren Pool was opened in 1936. After decades of gradual erosion, the pool fell into severe disrepair and closed in 1986. It remained dormant and rotting until relatively recently, when it was re-imagined as a concert venue. For more on McCarren Pool's history, click here.
In any case, my incredibly hip neighbors, Bruce & David, had checked out a few shows there and had compelling things to say about it. Again, Devo could play at an abandoned Howard Johnson's-turned-crack-palace in the South Bronx, and I'd show up, so to hear that the venue was a cool one was just icing on the cake. The three of us procured tickets some weeks back and looked forward to it.
Getting to the park proved to be a somewhat protracted affair (my navigational skills when it comes to going to Brooklyn are pathetic on a good day, so I just followed Bruce & David). As we approached, we could hear the sounds of The Tom Tom Club – the second of two opening acts – wafting through the Summer air. This didn't bother me too much. As much as I love Talking Heads, I never gave too much of a damn about this band. Sure, "Genius of Love" is a fine single (although it's been forever ruined for me by the lamentable sonic offal that is Mariah Carey's "Fantasy"), but don't ask me to get excited about their other fare. We entered the hulking, endearingly decrepit arena to find it swarming with lanky Williamsburgers in all stripes of hipster finery and aging, geeked-out Devo fanboys, some even sporting energy domes. I haven't seen as white and pasty an assemblage of rock geeks like this since the last WFMU record fair. I was again among my own kind.
After some high quality people watching over the course of several six dollar (!) Brooklyn Lagers , Devo's signature introductory film crackled to life on the screen above the stage. The boys arrived to mass applause, and we were off. Leaning very heavily on the first few albums, the set list was pretty much the same as it's been since their return to active duty circa 2004. Apart from a track or two off Oh No!.. and New Traditionalists, it was pretty much all the first three records, and nary a track off of Shout or any of the records after that (no, they did not play the Dell computer ad track). Regardless, I was well into it and danced myself ragged (nothing like pogoing in worn Chuck Taylors on unrelenting concrete for a couple of hours….oy!) I can't supply an accurate set-list, but highlights for me included "Secret Agent Man," "Uncontrollable Urge" (I will never tire of this), "Smart Patrol/Mr.DNA," "Blockhead," "Gut Feeling" and the timeless "Jocko Homo." The boys themselves all look fatter and grayer for the most part, but then, so do I. Regardless, they put in a high energy performance, and I loved every minute of it. David accused me of "rocking out," and I shan't deny it. Rock out I did. And I'd do it again, too.
So, if you're read this far, you must be thinking, "What up, Alex? What's with the slur on Brooklyn?" Well, here's the deal. Throughout Devo's performance, there seemed to be a little friction between the band members and the venue support staff. Both Mark Mothersbaugh and Bob "Bob 2" Casale seemed to stalk towards stage left a couple of times with angry expressions. The trouble set in in earnest after their first encore (a rousing rendition of "Freedom of Choice"). Customarily, the band leaves the stage only to return as fronted by mascot/disquieting man-child Booji Boy (actually Mark in a mask). Right after they left the stage, some McCarren Pool goon came onstage, gruffly announcing "that's it, thanks for coming – exits are at the back!" Massive booing ensued. Chants of "one more song" started. Mark/Booji Boy appeared in full regalia to massive applause, but no band. Booji started doing his usual shtick (pulling cold cuts and bananas out of his pants/diapers and throwing them into the crowd), still clutching the microphone. A second venue goon came out and forcibly removed the microphone from Mark's hand. End of discussion. The unfinished show was very decidedly over. I'd have liked it if a riot ensued, but no such luck (and being that the venue is all concrete, it probably wouldn't have burned especially well anyway). The crowd dutifully dispersed with a bit of a bitter aftertaste.
The problem, I'm assuming, is that the McCarren Park Pool is newly surrounded on all sides by a phalanx of towering, space-age condos that look like cardboard set-pieces from the inevitable live-action adaptation of 'The Jetsons.' As such, the community has presumably became much less tolerant of 'noise.' That said, after over two hours of live music, would one more song have made that much of a difference? What happened to Brooklyn being laid back?
I'm obviously biased, but this would never have happened in Manhattan.