The Strokes Blow It
The swaggering spirit of rock ‘n’ roll returned to the Mercury Lounge on March 22, but it wasn’t happening onstage. While the thirtyish trio Honus Wagner-author Thomas Beller on drums, music publicist Jim Merlis on bass, and mystery-bookstore manager and Beastie Boy buddy Tom Cushman on vocals and guitar-played the same catchy, late-80′s indie rock they’d played together in the late 80′s, a couple of kids with ironic haircuts were ruffling the audience, which included Mr. Beller’s girlfriend, Parker Posey, who had urged the band to perform in public (perhaps to further confuse those who feel that the tall, tight-T-shirted, floppy-haired Mr. Beller is in fact turning into his friend Stephen Malkmus, the tall, tight-T-shirted, floppy-haired musician).
Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr., the singer and guitarist of the downtown band the Strokes, strode into the East Houston Street club and shoved their way to the front of the stage to see Mr. Merlis, their publicist, even though the sparsely populated room left them a clear path. The Strokes are currently the hottest thing in New York music, having sparked a record-label bidding war and appeared twice in Rolling Stone after recording just three songs. Their music has been compared to proto-punks like the Stooges, but these 20-to-22-year-olds aren’t rebelling against suburban mediocrity: Mr. Casablancas’ father John is a former president of Elite Models. He met Mr. Hammond at school in Switzerland; the rest of the band went to Dwight.
So their lack of manners felt almost mannered. Both knocked The Transom en route to the stage. When Mr. Hammond lurched again on his way back, he got an elbow in the ribs. Mr. Casablancas laughed as his friend clutched his side. “I’m not coming near you!” he said, choosing an alternate route. Later, at the bar, Mr. Hammond politely apologized, adding that he thought it was “cute” that he had been shoved back. Then he stomped on Nirvana biographer Michael Azerrad’s foot and returned to the show. (Perhaps it’s no coincidence that they’ve retained lawyer Rosemary Carroll, onetime protector of Courtney Love.)
Toward the end of Honus Wagner’s set-Ms. Posey having been supplanted by the stumbling Strokes as the object of curiosity among the music critics in attendance -Spin editors Tracey Pepper and Sia Michel were getting their coats when Mr. Hammond jostled Ms. Pepper. “That’s it,” Ms. Michel said in a joking tone, “we’re not writing about them.”
– Christine Muhlke
Bob Pollard: Almost Famous
On a recent afternoon, Bob Pollard stopped by Other Music on East Fourth Street. For the vinyl-listening, vinyl-wearing set that shops there, it was the equivalent of Michael Jordan stopping by the N.B.A. Store unannounced for a pair of sneakers. “Oh my God,” one young woman in the psychedelic section was heard to whisper to a male friend.
“Oh my God,” he replied.
Mr. Pollard, the mild-mannered frontman for Dayton, Ohio’s Guided By Voices, is kind of an indie god. He hit it sort of big in the early 90′s with crappily recorded but tuneful songs like “I Am a Scientist” and “My Valuable Hunting Knife.” But Mr. Pollard is most semi-famous for his fecundity: He has written about as many songs as Mr. Jordan has scored points. On the day in question, he’d already dashed off seven while sitting in a Starbucks near the Flatiron Building. “I got a couple Krispy Kremes in me,” he told The Transom. “I drank a cup of Starbucks. I got buzzed watching the weirdoes walk by-that’s my favorite thing to do in New York.” He wrote his ideas in a little notebook, one after another; songs with names like “Everywhere With Helicopters” and “Air and Also a World.”
Lately, he’s been hoping one of these will hit it big. Top 40 big. He’s been hyping his band’s 12th album, Isolation Drills , all around the country, and was currently hyping it in New York. “One of our best towns was Orlando,” he said hopefully. “If they like you in Orlando, they like you everywhere.” But so far, Guided By Voices hasn’t made a peep on the Billboard charts. This pisses Mr. Pollard off. He talked angrily (and a little enviously) about groups in the Top 10. Matchbox 20, for one, has a No. 5 hit in “If You’re Gone.” “I hate that fucking band,” Mr. Pollard said. “How does shit like that get anywhere? Where does it come from?” He’s never heard the song, so in order to mock it, he had to make up his own version: “If you’re gone, man / What will I do? / If you’re gone,” he sang. “It means a lot.”
So Mr. Pollard has good reason to like Other Music. They have no albums by Matchbox 20, and about 10 by Guided By Voices. “I love this store,” he said. “They have lots of good stuff.” It’s a world where he’s as big as it gets.
It took the 43-year-old Mr. Pollard a long time to get this somewhat big. He kept his job as a fourth-grade teacher until 1994. His taste for Other Music music-the Go-Betweens, Godz, the Bevis Frond-didn’t get him far in southwestern Ohio, where hardcore bands like Dementia Precox ruled.
But he has never entirely fit into the New York scene, either. He knows some areas of rock well, but as he combed through the display rack, Mr. Pollard couldn’t find a single album he’d heard of. ” Tipsy ?” he asked, pointing to one. ” You like that band,” he told The Transom with a shy grin. And pointing to another: “Grandaddy. You like Grandaddy.” Mr. Pollard, however, was having a hard time finding something he liked. What about Other Music best-seller the Magnetic Fields? “I don’t like the way that guy sings,” he said of Stephin Merritt.
Mr. Pollard eventually settled on IV by the Fucking Champs, an instrumental trio that he wasn’t too familiar with, but that had been recommended by one of his label’s publicists. “It looks pretty good,” he said. Suddenly, he was sounding like a Top 40 producer as he read the back cover: “Good song titles. You can tell a lot of times whether an album is good by its cover.”
But as hard as he may be trying, Mr. Pollard isn’t in danger of losing his indie cred. As he was leaving the store, a young woman in black came in. “Oh my God,” she muttered.
– Ian Blecher
Sunglasses at Night
Despite the umbrella-stripping storm the evening of March 22, a healthy showing of intrepid industry grinds and a smattering of brand-name folk “traveled to 2015″ at the Sama Eyewear party being held at Drive In Studios in West Chelsea. As far as parties go, it was just another example of corporate America shaking hands with Hollywood shaking hands with The Cause. Although the shindig ostensibly benefited recovering drug addicts while showcasing Sama’s new line of sunglasses, the guests seemed more interested in the promised time travel and the opportunity to ravage the goody bags-which, coming from a fashion outlet, held considerable promise.
But the guests soon learned that all goody bags are not created equal. While the standard partygoer found a pair of the new Line 3 sunglasses nestled in the bag among shea butter lotion, eye shadow and mints, those with a little more oomph behind their names were blessed with somewhat snazzier models.
Alicia Witt, the wispy redhead who played Serena in Bongwater and, more recently, Cherish in Cecil B. DeMented , scored a pair of amber-colored shades which, she reported to The Transom, “make everything look bright and sunny.” It seems Ms. Witt has a soft spot for wearable knickknacks. “I love accessorizing! It’s a good thing!” she said, channeling Martha Stewart over the booming music.
Actress Kidada Jones (Quincy’s little girl) was also pleased with her translucent-framed freebies and shared Ms. Witt’s strong need to add that certain je ne sais quoi to her attire. “Accessories to me are everything ,” she gushed to The Transom as “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” reared its ugly head from Samantha Ronson’s turntable and a promotional flick played on the monitor-cum-coffee- table. “You can look great in a T-shirt and a pair of jeans as long as you have great shoes, a great bag and, like, some accessories-I live by that rule.” Indeed, Ms. Jones sports the ultimate accessory: a collection of tattoos, including former beau Tupac Shakur’s face on her arm, a crown on her back and a couple of Indian goddesses flanking her leg.
Ms. Jones’ little sister, Rashida, who is also having a go at the entertainment business by way of a Boston Public stint, was also in the accessory groove. “I think that accessorizing is a very tricky business,” opined the Harvard grad, “because some people take the trend too far and will mix, like, 10 trends in their accessories. I think it’s about being simple and personal and, like, not overdoing it.”
The trend that evening was pretty pure: It was all about glasses. The Sama employees wore them, as did the glitter-sprinkled go-go dancers. But the waiters weren’t so lucky. In keeping with the space-agey theme, their glasses were painted on in silver goo. Weaving their way around the dimly lit space, offering sea urchin on rice cakes and asparagus spears from brightly glowing trays, they left a trail of naked-eyed guests blinded in their wake.
– Beth Broome