It was hard to miss the twins. Even with the ring of twenty-somethings in face paint manning the door at Mother New York’s 36,000 sq. ft. headquarters and the stuffed grizzly bear standing guard at the entrance, Eboni and Erica Davis were impossible to ignore. Identical silky pigtails, identical spangled tank tops, identical booty shorts, and identical milk chocolate skin have a way of commanding attention. Were they here for the concert?
“We work at Mother, it’s an advertising agency,” the leggy aspiring models said in near-unison, punctuated by fits of giggling. “They wanted twins for the front desk. It’s just a fun concept. So when clients walk in: Double!” said Eboni. Or maybe that was Erica, it was hard to tell.
The night was still young, but the crowd, including MediaBistro’s Laurel Touby, was already trickling in, willing to brave the drizzle outside and shlep out to 11th Avenue in Midtown to see the show slated for Mother’s new basement sound stage. Das Racist, a Brooklyn-based rap trio made up of alumni from Stuyvestant High School and Wesleyan, was first on the line-up. But the main act was Big Freedia, a bounce artist from New Orleans best known for the rump-shaker, “Azz Everywhere.” What did the concert have to do with Internet Week? And why was Mother, a creative shop with a reputation for the unconventional (like a nine-sided billboard in Times Square), hosting it? No one seemed to know—or care.
But Internet Week, New York tech’s annual booster club, was topic of the night.
“Oh, I love it. Of course I love it, it’s my game,” said Bucky Turco, editor-in-chief of ANIMALNewYork, an online magazine about underground culture. So had Mr. Turco actually attended any Internet Week events? “Hell no,” he shot back. “Most of the time when I meet the people that I know on the Internet, I don’t like them—with exceptions. Some people it’s just like: Wow, you were better when you were on email.”
On the other side of the bar, comedian Alex Blagg had similarly conflicted feelings. But first he needed to know whether the Observer wanted him to talk in character, as the founder of his fake start-up Bajillion Hits, or not. We let him decide, and he opted to be himself. “A person can only wander around being a ridiculous buffoon for so long before the self-loathing starts to overtake any enjoyment out of the process,” admitted Mr. Blagg, whose routine consists of parodying industry jargon like pivot, disrupt, and paradigm.
Mr. Blagg said he’d enjoyed the people at Internet Week, but still found the cocktail of celebrity-and-cash surrounding tech companies ripe for satire. “If Bret Easton Ellis was going to write American Psycho today, he would probably be a digital ad planner at somewhere like this,” he added.
But the time had run out to ponder whether inflated valuations and easy investments have made the tech sphere New York’s new Wall Street. The concert was about to start.
While Das Racist’s front men Himanshu Suri and Victor Vasquez, who are Indian and Afro-Cuban/Italian, respectively, led the crowd in a subversive chant of “Everybody say, ‘White people,’” the Transom thought we recognized a familiar face in the crowd.
We walked up to an inky-haired, ivory-skinned tattoed girl with a nasal septum ring.
Didn’t we see you on stage at Big Freedia’s Brooklyn Bowl concert last weekend? “Yes!,” she said, offering a helpful reminder. “I was the one with the ass tassels!” Heather Loop—Miss Spoke to her burlesque fans—works at a bike messenger and seamstress in Bushwick. How did she hook up with Big Freedia’s entourage? “I have a big ole booty and I know how to do the dance,” explained Ms. Loop.
About that dance. “Sissy bounce” shows tend to feature an androgynous, sometimes transsexual or transgendered performer chanting call-and-response over sped-up beats as the women work their backside up-and-over, round-and-round at an awe-inspiring pace. But rather than dance for the men in the audience, the women do it for themselves—and the performer. You might say subversiveness was the theme of the evening. Hence the sight of Big Freedia, a tall, broad-shouldered black man with flat-ironed bangs, white pants, and a rainbow-colored Greatful Dead belt (whom everyone addresses with the pronoun “she”), calling out, “Shake it for Freedia. Work it for Freedia.” Female Mother employees obliged. At least as far as the Observer could tell from the chant of “Go intern, go intern,” coming from directly behind us.
Big Freedia’s dancers including Rocket, a young woman who had flown up from New Orleans sporting skin-tight, white booty shorts and a turquoise tank, performed feats best left to the professionals. Like throwing a leg up over another dancer and then restarting the motion, or mounting another dancer in a human stack of gyrating derrieres. After inviting the audience up on stage, Ms. Freedia declared it was time for a dance competition: one of her’s vs. a willing neophyte to the rumpus. “I need seven people that are going to stay up here. The twins are already two. Ya’ll aren’t going nowhere,” she said, addressing the young ladies Davis, who had jumped up on stage.
From the back of the dance floor, which permeated with a certain skunky smell, Mr. Turco noticed something as he surveyed the crowd. “You know what’s missing? Where are the Blackberrys and iPhones?”
Like that scene from Requiem for a Dream?
Erica and Eboni Davis!
The ladies Davis, again.
"Rocket is fucking athlete," is a verbatim line from Transom's notebook.
Two words: Ass. Tassels.
In medias mounting.
The professionals in action.
Fans of face paint.
A group effort.
Shake it for Freedia. Work it for Freedia.