Songs from the Soothing Shore at Jones Beach Bar and Cafe
Knowing where to start my night is always a daunting task when writing these articles. Should I mention the 40 min+ commute I take to reach Penn Station, where I experience the claustrophobic migration of frustrated Manhattan workers who strafe and fluster through one another towards their home bound platforms, or should I start with the demonstration I attended at Washington Square Park, where a crowd of at least 40 people were present to memorialize the lives of over 100 community leaders who were murdered by the Colombian government.
This is a music/media blog, so I’ll start my night at Jones Beach Bar and Café, a Brooklyn venue dear to my heart since it’s one of the few spaces I've had the luxury to perform at. I wasn’t playing, and instead came to show my support for the likes of The Convincing Actor and the rest of the manic acts they managed to curate for what always ends up being a long night at Jones Beach.
Fernando (aka Food Corps), one of the hardest working men of the dark electronic Brooklyn scene, was trying to balance the levels of the venue’s sound system as I had a conversation with Buff Chiq (AKA Ailed Hernandez), who usually provides her vocal talents for the soul-fusion rock group Junkanoo. Tonight, Ailed was stepping away from the microphone, taking it easy behind a laptop as her newly established solo moniker, “Buff Chiq”. I was also switching things up tonight by taking notes on my laptop, as opposed to my phone; sitting in the corner, ready to record my thoughts, Ailed took the time to point at my laptop’s palm rest and acknowledge we have the same graphics card (the sticker says I have a NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX).
Her set seemed to be comprised entirely of sampled instruments, with little modification made regarding production. This raw quality made the music comparable to third-party video game menu music. The first track was fairly mellow and reminded me of Ruby Rainbow (an electronic artist I had the pleasure to perform with a few months prior at Jones Beach) for its chip-tune instrumentation and meandering sensibility; fitting for a retro video-game soundtrack. The track was entitled “Adventure” and was followed by the loafing “Pumby Wumby”. Wobble bass trudged along to the determined thumping of a dry kick as percussive synth leads echoed out. The song deviated into what sounded like a minor chord progression that offered some needed thematic variety; this brief daunting shift reminded me of the off-kilter whimsy found in the Undertale OST (yeah, I used to play video games). The third track was called “Shooby Poo”, keeping with the enunciative dribble naming scheme. Delayed percussion and marimba samples pattered after a simple funk bass-line; again, this music continues to give me flashbacks to my internet coddled adolescence, with each track sounding more and more like something I’d find on the audio submission section of Newgrounds.com. The 4th track was named “Boyo”, and was accompanied by a video Ailed displayed on her laptop screen. The audience got in close, with some members taking a seat on the floor, and viewed her minimally edited AMV of slowed down clips form the “Teletubbies” television show. The video was backed by a fitting chill-wave style fusion track; soft-jazz strings swayed along to whining pitched synths, over a stripped-down kick/hi-hat drum progression. The track was minimal, in the way you’d imagine midi-lounge or elevator muzak to sound. People from the bar began to come in and stood attentively, mesmerized by the puerile projection of their daycare daydreams. The 5th song was called “Harry Potter’s Thirst Trap”. Heavier than the proceeding songs, its aesthetic emulated the stylings of aggressive trance/trap beats. Members of the audience had the most fun with this track, visibly bobbing there bodies along to the minimalist rhythms; everyone was smiling. Buff Chiq closed her set with the track “Sanic Panic”. Once again, very reminiscent of a video game score, this time mimicking the techno-funk-fusion you’d hear in an early 2000’s Sonic the Hedgehog game. Funky midi keys flared about as syncopated drums proceeded under a tight funk bass line. This track was the best arranged, and exemplifies Buff Chiq’s potential to produce some riveting electro-funk.
Following Buff Chiq’s midi levity was the brooding discord of Catlip’s harsh loop abuse. Pulsing bass rattled the room as percussive synth lines lashed out with menacing metallic tonality. Various pedals were utilized to loop and manipulate Catlip’s ominous chanting, which were filtered through a heavy layer of distortion and delay. Foreboding industrial noise continued to clip and pierce through the venue’s speakers, crackling through the air with a grating tactile force. The set continued like a daunting storm that hung heavy overhead, giving birth to a primitive sonic assault. Blown out beats swirled beneath an incessant stream of piercing noise that ruptured my ears drums and invaded my skull, swamping my soul with a monstrous sadness. The crowd stood transfixed, swaying to Catlip’s brooding exhaling and heavy electronic feedback. Breathing became screaming and then howling as another antagonizing track of arrhythmic white noise washed over more drum and bass samples. The intensity of whatever pain they were making the effort to express was palpable, but this eventually gave way to a small glimpse of light as a livelier track with brighter drums and precise rhythmic synths played. Heavy droning drums purred through the air like a manic metal tiger, or like broken construction equipment. To wax poetic, the set felt like the musings of a corrupt soul lost in a terminal tempest of distorted loops and janky rhythms. As the morose music faded into a sobering silence, I felt debased and tired. The room exploded into applause.
Drowning in vicarious depression, I spent some time at the bar trying to forget where I was. There I had a brief conversation with a woman who wrote journalistic pieces that recapitulated the lives of prisoners convicted to death row. Getting wrapped up in the lives of men condemned to die did nothing to ease my mind, so I stepped away from the bar, leaving the sorry journalist to finish her third glass of wine. Stumbling onto Zoloft Zombie’s incantations, my laptop was put away and I didn’t think twice about taking my phone out, so no notes were taken. But I’m left with the distorted memories of a man slithering through a consistent set of dreary hip-hop beats that were foreboding in nature. Zoloft Zombie wore an expression of earnest panic throughout their performance, delivering each line with an conscious flow that, while drifting off meter at times, was persistent and sincere. I was haunted by their interjection of slightly off-key singing between tracks; their minor melodies were reminiscent of Islamic cantors. At some point the journalist from before stumbled onto the floor and made a sorry attempt at encouraging members of the audience to join her in dancing; it wasn’t that type of set. ZZ’s concluded and the room resounded with enthusiastic applause. The journalist shrugged her shoulders and left.
The Convincing Actor goes without introduction. Though I’ve covered their live show before, each time I manage to catch one of their cathartic anti-sermons, I’m left reaffirmed of my own faith in the sincerity of performance art and their unequivocal genius. It’s a pointless effort to describe the raw and honest essence that permeates from their naked skin as they contort across the floor, clouding the room with afflatus brilliance complimented by the baffling command they possess over their singing voice; if there were one Earth damned mortal cursed with the gift to sing the hymns of angels, it would be The Convincing Actor. While their music is minimal, the brilliance of their ego more than compensates. This iteration of their performance left my jaw slacked, as they constructed a set from twine and tape while singing one of their operatic ballads. The track concluded with theatrical flare as they conjured a coat hanger from nowhere and set themselves to dry like damp laundry along the makeshift clothesline. Someone in the audience began to cry.
I want my night to end there, but I should mention there were two other performers who followed The Convincing Actor (also artist’s I’ve covered previously). It was late though, and what ensued was less of a performance and more so a loose DJ set. Those of us remaining stayed dancing till sunlight disturbed the darkness of our tiny disco alcove. I spent the next day wandering Park Slope with The Convincing Actor. We spent our time dissing local thrift shops for their curated selections and loathed having to navigate through this hideous mall located near the Barclay Center. I should probably keep the rest of this day to myself though - you guys get my nights anyways.