Sic Alps / Magik Markers
Live @ the Old Firehouse (aka DCTV), Manhattan
March 10th, 2011
The Showpaper benefit/rock concert/pop-up art installation held last night at the preserved, historic fire station on Lafayette Street, right across from Santos Party House, was kind of exactly what you’d expect from a Manhattan-ized version of the Brooklyn DIY scene. The space was about 35 percent cleaner, the beers were 10 percent more expensive, the crowd 20 percent older, and the air 100 percent less chain-smoky (though it smelled like weed anyway). At the risk of being super lame—these were not terrible adjustments! There was still a certain off-kilter charm about it all. You could buy glowsticks at the card-table bar, but nobody brought a wine opener (bartender to white wine seeking lady: “You don’t have one, do you?”). Pavement and Sonic Youth bassist Mark Ibold held court, gabbing all night by the merch set-up. Upstairs, in the bathroom line, time was killed by looking at an enormous glass display case filled with real Emmys with dubious sounding titles like “Best Teen Programming 1986” and at least a half dozen statues won for a single 1983 documentary on Nicaragua, which must have been a real corker. “Where the hell are we?” glances were exchanged freely. (In its post-firefighting life, the building has long hosted DCTV, a community-minded television production space. I just Googled.)
he show space itself had a big open floorplan, mostly filled but not shoulder-to-shoulder, and a stage just high enough off the ground that a music critic of respectable height could see the performers from anywhere. Lit by projected images of vintage porno, Magik Markers were gloriously off-trend as usual, making a rough, noisy racket designed to engender bad vibes in all. “This is going to be a short set!” barked Elisa Ambrogio at a lull between white-noise squalls, which wasn’t a wry remark. Whether pressured by a tight curfew or just an outpouring of chronic misanthropy, the band ended their set after an almost unrecognizable, mean groove in a car-crash version of greatest hit “Taste,” which happened to be song number three. With such messy brevity, it’s hard to call this a “good” set, but every time I see them I’m just sort of glad they exist, and I totally liked it just the same. (Though, for context, I should probably note my enduring crush on Ambrogio, and her feral Gilmore Girl stage presence.)
I’ve seen the San Francisco rock band Sic Alps a few times now, and every time I’ve felt like I was rooting for them to be a little better than they actually are. They seem to suffer from the Times New Viking Paradox, which afflicts bands who actively sound better on terrible speakers. The sound system here was surprisingly good, and the band was just alright. Dressed in three differing shades of long-sleeve plaid, they played a particular brand of hissy, bar-bandy classic rock, which was solid, dependable and in the end, not all that charismatic. Their best song was probably the uber simple “Do You Want to Give $$?” which swaggers through several iterations of the line “do you want to make…MONEY??” There’s a sour Lou Barlow-ian humor there, as the band’s dogged independent nature and cool, but sort of samey, just-plugging-away aesthetic is the opposite of cynical trend chasing. But again, I wanted to like it more than I actually did.
Post-music, the night ended with a “Piñata Death Duel,” in which a perfectly innocent piñata was tossed in the air, jumpball style, and then viciously stomped, KIDS skate-park style. So, that was weird.