Saturday was Altered Zones at the New Museum, an event hosted by Pitchfork wherein a bunch of bands, DJs, and visual artists performed on all floors of the museum. The musical line-up was meandering and diverse; I wanted to see Eric Copeland and Trash Talk. But the sold-out event felt oddly low budget for the steep price of $25 per ticket, and overall poorly orchestrated. The power went out more than once and there weren’t nearly enough seats on the main floor. The ticketed “open” bar was beer only and required braving a series of long, shapeless lines.
You couldn’t bring drinks on any floors but the lobby, something about which I overheard more than a few gripes. Though it was understandable, as it’s a museum, not a venue, it ended up overcrowding the lobby and depriving bands of sizable crowds. The result was a tenuous occupation of the lobby, where some very meh DJs played. A couple short guys attempted some unfortunate futuristic dancing, but their awkwardness prevailed, and it didn’t last long.
Another weird thing: members of the New York Table Tennis Federation had set up shop in matching tracksuits, and were lackadaisically playing ping pong in the middle of all this. That form of entertainment was courtesy of Puma (a Pitchfork sponsor) — thanks for that one, Puma. You really know how to get a party going. Due to the lack of seats, I ended up sitting on the ground behind the ping pong table, where little orange balls bounced off our foreheads, sometimes landing in our cups.
But, enough of that. On to why it was good! The music!
Eric Copeland played right before Trash Talk, one of the last bands of the night, in a downstairs theater that suited his performance perfectly. Bjorn Copeland, an artist and member of Eric’s band Black Dice, projected his artwork onto the walls. Here are some thoughts on the visuals, which I loved: amoebas, nineties, bodies, color, static, a cacophonous mass of primitive animation, Windows 95. Copeland played his usual, noisy electronic sounds. He looked the same he’s looked every time I’ve seen him since 2007: black hat, head down, face hidden, mic pressed against his mouth, rocking back and forth.
The combination of experiences was entrancing. The room was full of a whirling, palpable energy. Images embodied the music and vice versa. There was no divide. While the show started out in a daze, things became increasingly hectic. The flood of stimulation was at times paralyzing. Eric Copeland — and Bjorn Copeland, though in a visual sense — has an incredible ability to manipulate melody, seamlessly transitioning through an indescribable landscape of sound.
Trash Talk played in the same room right after. It couldn’t have been more different. The California hardcore band has been blowing up pretty steadily as of recent. The last time I hung out with those guys we were running around San Francisco on mushrooms, and It’s funny seeing them now, some time later, splashed across the front page of The New York Times Art section. Funny how things change. But once you’ve see them live, it’s clear they deserve the recognition.
They yield a furious energy. The room will feel stagnate, then without warning explode into a violent crushing mess. This fluctuation makes their shows exciting. If you’re in the pit there’s an element of suspense not unlike watching a scary movie, awaiting an impending danger, never knowing when you might get taken out or slammed in the face. My five inch heels gave me a bit of a disadvantage but I didn’t care. Like all punk shows, if you get taken out, someone always whips you up off the ground, and as was the case with me, the person who slammed you over is usually an old friend.
Their set was familiar, with not a whole lot of new material on rotation. It all happened very quickly. Lee, the singer, was crazy as usual. I think they might have been expecting a larger crowd, but no punk kid is going to spend $25 to see their friends band. That’s just silly.
The bands we’re awesome, the event was not. Here’s a quote from Alana Wilson to sum up the evening: “No one who’s not a sucker is going to pay that.”
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Photo by Erez Avissar and Erik Liam Sanchez