Hole Gallery Serves Salem, Strippers, Smoke Machine at Basel Bash (NSFW)

  • “People pay to see others believe in themselves,” Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon wrote in Artforum in 1993. “Maybe people don’t know whether they can experience the erotic or whether it exists only in commercials. … As a performer you sacrifice yourself, you go through the motions and emotions of sexuality for all the people who pay to see it, to believe that it exists.”

    Those lines kept tumbling around in our heads last night as we saw Salem play outside at the Delano hotel’s pool in Miami Beach, a party organized by Kathy Grayson’s Bowery gallery, the Hole. White smoke billowed across the stage as the band entered. Then two women in bikinis and heels arrived, and positioned themselves precariously close to the edge of the pool.

    As a breeze picked up, the smell of marijuana passed through the crowd. And then the music started—crisp drum-machine clicks caterwauling one over another, piercing through thick waves of distorted, fuzzy drones. The women grabbed the pool’s poles and swung in place, shaking to the beat. The crowd, sitting on large white beds along the pools, reached for their cameras.

    A while back, The New York Times declared one Salem show “the kind of performance that you have seen only in your worst dreams.” Last night was also nightmarish, but sublimely so, the band’s woozy, drug-addled electronic-cut hip-hop befitting the middle of a week of frenetic Basel excess. The spectacle slowed things down, and made the crowd somehow uncannily present. Whatever live-performance problems they once had are now gone.

    On record, the rapping of Jack Donoghue—which skews toward the chopped and screwed brand of Southern hip-hop—sound as if it is digitally slowed. His lines stumble forward only through inertia, through their sheer mass. It was surreal, then, to see him, microphone in hand, channeling that same horror-film drone live.

    “First I tie your hands and feet,” Mr. Donoghue rapped on “Sick,” sounding like a drug-addled Rick Ross trying to tread through a swirling Cocteau Twins-style synth. “Shhh… / Don’t make a peep.” The women had by now shed their tops and fully entered the pool in the water. Across the pool, one gentleman waded in, beckoning for a lap dance. He got it.

    Over on our side of the pool, a handful of guests—mostly women—slipped bills under the straps of one dancer’s bikini, as she slowly slinked down half the length of the pool, posing for photos, caressing herself. She moved toward the center, joining the other dancer and they writhed together in the water.

    On “Frost,” singer Heather Marlatt sang her ghostly, high-pitched passages flawlessly, held up by layers and layers of distorted guitars, and though she could barely be heard over the music, no one seemed to mind just watching her.

    arusseth@observer.com

Comments

  1. Gaga says:

    LOL HOW WEIRD THESE GUYS ARE SO MYSTERIOUS AND FUCKED.

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