Long before any musician took the stage, there was a row of conspicuously young looking girls lining the area around the speakers at last night’s Sounds Like Paper concert, hosted by Paper Magazine in an old warehouse converted into a skate park in Greenpoint. The event was 21 and up. Joe Jonas was playing. You do the math.
The more legal attendees stood around drinking free Corona in a peaceful summer haze until a blood-curdling roar announced the arrival of the middle Jonas Brother. That collective scream from the most dedicated—and underaged—fans let up only for a few quick breathers during Mr. Jonas’ 15-minute set of songs, highly influenced by the lineage of other aging boy band members to break out on their own (Justin Timberlake et al.).
The half of the crowd that was there to see the following act, Swizz Beatz, were not exactly impressed. A mass exodus stampeded to the courtyard outside and began passing around joints, that familiar smell mingling with the skunked beer from discarded Corona cans lacing the ground. Skeptics aside, Mr. Jonas had an admirable live band complete with two large banks of synthesizers, bass, drums, and a fluctuating coterie of back-up dancers, their moves clean but chaotic on the cramped stage. When Mr. Jonas removed his red smoking jacket to reveal the (surprisingly impressive!) set of biceps underneath, the howl released from the adolescent crowd at the front of the stage went on for longer than what seemed physically possible.
Even though Swizz Beatz’s hypeman had the bigger pair of arms, the Joe Jonas throng switched places with the stoners out back when the rapper took the stage. Swizz Beatz was rail thin and wore a white suit with a black Reebok cap. He had a live band, but the instruments were mostly for show. The bassist and guitarist used their instruments as props to dance with more than they plucked away at the strings. The “band” was in all black. At least three of them were wearing sunglasses at any given time. By the end, the set had devolved into Swizz Beats merely singing along to selections of his songs that his DJ played through the speakers as he jumped and flailed about the stage.
A “special guest” was rumored to appear and even the staff of Paper did not know his identity. The rumors that circulate in these moments are always a little hyperbolic and only half-serious (DMX via satellite, etc.), but it’s safe to say no one was really expecting the Knicks’ forward Carmelo Anthony to walk out onstage. Swizz Beatz yelled out “Carmelo Anthony!” and people applauded, some of them rapturous, for others…let’s just say Swizz Beatz’s introduction of the basketball player was more necessary. Mr. Anthony stood awkwardly onstage as the rapper shouted a variation of his song “Reebok Back,” announcing: “The Knicks are back! The Knicks are back!”
The lights clicked on and the crowd surged outside. On the corner, Joe Jonas stood in the center of a huge group of people closing in on him.