Around 9:30 p., on Friday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, a modest line trickles into the fluorescent-lit entrance to see Ra Ra Riot. It’s a rather cute crowd of post-grads in bouclé jackets and tidy jeans—a far cry from the swarm of neon tank tops, striped button-ups, and gelled hair we passed at the neighboring Sea Thai Bistro just moments before. The block is alive, livelier, even, than the last show I had caught on the block a mere 4 months ago. And it’s not just the block; the whole drag is more diverse and overrun than what I had gotten used to. Punky girls still pout on street corners, and half of the neighborhood still looks as if they’re lost members of Belle & Sebastian, but for the most part, Williamsburg doesn’t discriminate. Before my partner in crime and I made it over to North 6th Street, we were lured away from an overly-crowded sidewalk by signs advertising frozen margs in Vera Cruz, a Mexican spot on Bedford. A few older, pot-bellied men sat at the bar alongside what seemed to be a sorority date function. When the food is good and the drinks are cold, the crowds don’t care who they’re sitting next to.
After fish tacos and fundito, we warmed up in the bar at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I usually get pretty annoyed when the bar is in a separate space as the show and I’m stuck making trips to the trough, so we talked the bartender into giving us Big Gulp-sized Jack and Cokes, with a price tag of just $16 a piece. By now the bar area was starting to look like the end of a successful college basement party, with boys and girls chatting in dark corners, and couples playing grab-ass as they sloppily bound up the stairs to the stage area. It’s obvious that Ra Ra Riot’s college following (the band formed while in school at Syracuse) followed them to New York this week. They had kicked off a four-night New York City run on Tuesday night, and were finishing it off at the Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight, to a crowd of both dedicated, and newly found fans.
Their set, which included offerings from both The Rhumb Line, and their newest album, The Orchard, had the polish of a seasoned pop-band. The lead singer, Wes Miles, has a natural stage presence. His vocals sound even better live than on tape. But beyond the mechanics of what made the show a good one — perfect pitch, entertaining banter, interesting instrument changes — what makes RRR a powerful live band is this inexplicable enthusiasm they exude. Sure, there were a lot of Syracuse alums in the crowd, but I can’t help but feel that every show I’ve seen them play feels a bit like a homecoming show. They’re free and relaxed, they experiment and get lost in the music by accident, a quality that was especially apparent during “Ghost Under Rocks,” after which Miles giddily commented on how great of a time he was having.
After the show, and the big gulps, we slipped into Cyn Lounge to unwind with a few $3 PBRs, but the mopey crowd’s low energy level didn’t mesh with our post-show glow.
Also on Friday: Further uptown at the Chatwal hotel, Vikram Chatwal and Jeffrey Jah hosted an “Impromptu Gathering” and rounded up pals like Lukas Haas, Josh Groban, Maxwell, and Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, with Paul Sevigny playing DJ.
Saturday Saturday was a night of surprises, thanks to two pop-up parties. Over at Cedar Lake Studios on W 26th Street, Details magazine hosted their hotly anticipated DETAILS @ Midnight, an event that gained popularity because no one knew what it was all about. The invite that was sent out had no incentive to attend, other than an air of mystery: the party location was not to be released until the night before, and the special surprise performer was to be kept a secret. Enough to make tongues wag, as you can imagine. In any case, it was Kid Cudi that did the surprising, and the rapper—who once played a BlackBook party for a sack of fast food burgers—ran through a selection of new tracks off his upcoming album.
While I’ve yet to catch wind of a secret, last minute pop-up party, here’s what looks good tonight.
Monday Parties to Crash ● It’s Liiiiiiiza! Liza Minelli plays Nur Khan’s Rose Bar Sessions, 6PM. ● Party at Libation for the First Annual Bloggers Soiree to Benefit Restore NYC at 7PM. 300+ leading bloggers in the area will be blogging about their “Brick by Brick” campaign, which aims to raise $50,000 to build a safe house for sex trafficked victims in the city. Ticketed Events ● Exploring the Arts 2010 Gala kicks off at Cipriani Wall Street at 6:30PM, with Tony Bennett performing, as well as Natalie Cole. Parties for the People ● M.I.A. plays Terminal 5 with Rye Rye (duh) at 7PM for $35. ● Regina Spektor plays the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 7PM for $35, with proceeds going to the Daniel Cho Benefit. ● For those who like cerebral parties, VLAK launches with a proper shin-dig at the St. Marks Poetry Project at 8PM. VLAK is an international curatorial project with a broad focus on contemporary poetics, art, film, philosophy, music, design, science, politics, performance, ecology, and new media. Bottoms up! ● Opening night gala of Metropolitan Opera’s “Das Rheingold” at Lincoln Center at 6:45PM. There’s also a free telecast into Times Square with seating for 2,000 (rain or shine). Hotspots ● The East Village’s White Noise is one of those awesome bars that closes its doors at 2AM, but if you’re already safely inside, you can party all night (well, until 4AM), which carries the connotation that anything goes. Pierre Stone and Ben Brunnemer DJ the Monday night “Fever” party: “that ol rock and roll and good people, no disco shit.” ● One of our all time favorites, Franco V, DJs along with Eli Dias at the Mondays @ Kenmare party.