Noise Live: Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Black Dice/Liars/Devendra Banhart

WRITTEN BY
Will Hermes

1/9/04
Hammerstein Ballroom
New York City

Growing up is hard to do-so sometimes you need a drink. At the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' first hometown gig since the rough-sexy Fever to Tellcrashed all those year-end top-ten lists, banshee Karen O sucked downplenty of Coronas-though, as usual, she spit most of 'em at theaudience. ("That's my friend Frederick," she said, pointing into thefront row. "He's getting really soaked!") She also periodically slippedbehind the drum riser to swig from a champagne bottle. (Hadn't she beenwarned against mixing?)

There was plenty to celebrate at thisshow, which was a sort of graduation ceremony for art-damagedBrooklynites who've revived the free-for-all of early-'80s post-punk.Dressed in a caftan, with dried flowers in his hair, Devendra Banhartplayed acoustic guitar cross-legged and warbled about being a littleyellow spider. Next up were the Liars, currently a three-piece frontedby Karen O's preternaturally tall boyfriend, Angus Andrew, who barkedand mumbled over abstract junk funk that perversely braked just as itgot going. At one point, he confided, "Karen's dad said, 'Angus, why doya play this stupid stuff? Why don't ya play more like what the kidswant?'" (Note: Parental advice can be valuable.) Black Dice offered atastier mix of noise and groove that took electroclash back to thekrautrock that seeded it, building a mostly wordless, 30-minuteasteroid storm of tom-toms, reverb, synth squeals, and pretty guitararpeggios. Unfortunately, they got scattered boos and beer-cupprojectiles for their trouble.

For their big night, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs broke out the giantdisco ball and some leftover Christmas lights. Guitarist Nick Zinnerpeeled off goth-surf riffs, Brian Chase played drum nerd, and KarenO-looking like a Halloween superhero in an embellished leotard andglittery high-tops-flung herself around the stage and occasionallystuffed the mic into her mouth. Then, like the out-of-control girl at akegger who wakes up in the laundry room, she would pause mid-seizure,drenched in sweat and beer, put her hands on her hips, and grin likewe'd just given her the best orgasm of her life. "NYC! Holy fuckingshit!" she beamed before crashing into "Art Star." "This one goes outto you, motherfuckers! Oh, my fucking Gahd!"

It was the giddiest punk show in memory. And just when youthought the beer and bubbly had done her in, Karen O closed with asober reading of Fever's "Modern Romance"-reassuring us softly,as she sauntered offstage, that there is indeed no such thing. She maybe right, of course. But it still felt like love.

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