NYC Scene–Darren O’Brien

Swoon Masquerade Ball 2007


by Darren O’Brien

Shangri La in Greenpoint is awe-inspiring just to see–a living room and foyer that double as a 1000+ capacity live music venue and art space–and any event held there had better truly be an event to be worthy of its environs. If for no other reason, the Swoon Magazine Masquerade Ball at Shangri La on December 15th would have to be considered a success simply because the overwhelming majority of attendees actually came in masquerade. This seems unthinkable outside of secret society orgies, but the crowd was almost unanimously decked out in feathers and sequins. Fortunately, the party was a success on most other levels, as well. Swoon is a rising-profile, Brooklyn-based alternative fashion and culture magazine about to release their fourth issue, and they managed to put together quite the event this night: a stacked-deck music lineup, hundreds of beautiful attendees, plenty of diversion and curios, and, after an intimidating $15 cover ($12 online), all the beer and vodka/energy-drink you could stay awake for.

As I arrived, opener Austin Donahue was finishing up his set of singer-songwriter tunes over prerecorded beats, synths, and guitar noise. Afterward, I played with my band, Jock. We make an aggressive version of the herky-jerky, 60s-intensive side of post-punk dance, or something like that, and I think I can say, humility intact, that we’re pretty good. Next up I caught Brightside’s electro-rock for the second time; they’ve recently shed a member and adopted a slightly more guitar-oriented sound, and while I missed the overbearing synth lushness I remember from the first show, singer Stephonik Youth is a captivating frontwoman, and in its live form “Vanishing Twin” sounded like 2008’s ubiquitous indie-hit.

I continue to hear that the “will they please just blow up already?” band Young Lords sound like the Rolling Stones, but I’d say they sound more like Primal Scream sounding like the Rolling Stones, which really just translates into straight-forward rock ’n’ roll with some Brit-country flair. After sitting by the stage all night, talking only to each other, the band took the stage in their wizard-hippie garb and magically transformed into party machines. Not songs for the heart or mind, just good fun while it lasted. Even more fun were Stalkers, who riff around in prime proto-punk fashion ala the higher energy moments of the New York Dolls, the Saints, and the Dictators. Just the kind of band you want to throw yourself into wild abandon to, playing at exactly the time we were most willing to do just that.

Variously between all this was an amazing pair of acrobats, a blink-and-I-missed-it fashion show, and a bubbly but stiff MC. DJs Jonathan Toubin and Sune Rose Wagner seemed to spin for an inordinately short time, but then, by the time they were on I was beyond all temporal perception. The other room had some fun amusements, as well. I wasn’t paying $10 for something I don’t believe in, but the fortune teller gave me some journalistic privilege and let me draw one tarot card. I don’t remember what it was or what she said; something about the Alamo, I think. Jock frontman Basil Bayne spent a great deal of time in the rhythm room, a closet-sized space with a studio’s worth of beat-making toys, packed with people improvising their best poly-rhythms. Just outside this was a fashion shoot setup where anyone could have a picture of themselves looking like a model. All this and cake, too.

Details get really shaky towards the end of the night, when the beer had finally run out and the impresario was trying to get the last of us clowns out the door. I get the feeling that six hours of energized vodka had made people a little ornery, but I have no way of knowing just how many spats and/or hook-ups resulted. At the very least, people got to see a good rock show, but it always felt like more than that, and I think we all learned something that night. But for the life of me I can’t remember what.