a few notes on a fabulous weekend

Okay, this is going to be perhaps completely loopy after that last bolus of self-indulgence. I’m tired and should probably should go to bed, but I know if I wait until tomorrow to write this up I’ll just never do it at all.

My weekend rocked, in a precise New York 4/4 time signature.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who likes doing ridiculously extravagent things for his friends wrote and said that he’d rented a skybox at Madison Square Garden for the Coldplay concert, and would Miranda and I like to attend? My disassociation with current pop music had gotten bad enough that I only vaguely recognized that Coldplay was a brit-pop band, but I accepted happily on the grounds that how often would I get the chance to see an MSG concert from a skybox, and quickly went searching on Kazaa for Coldplay mp3s. I was happy to discover that their two albums were actually both extremely good (yes, I now know that I am two years late to this party, thanks), so I wasn’t going to spend the entire show waiting for the band to finish up so I could get back to socializing.

So on Friday night, Miranda and I met up in Penn Station and proceeded into the Garden. Now, the last time I’d been to a full-on Arena Stadium Rock Experience was getting on a decade ago: Metallica at the Philadelphia Spectrum, touring behind the black album. (I banged my head for four hours straight, and then couldn’t move my neck for about a week, much to the amusement of my girlfriend at the time.) That had been a bracing but borderline terrifying experience: my seats had been on the first row of bleachers before the floor seats, and I’d gotten to watch as the entire general admission area turned into an enormous most pit within seconds of the first song.

The skybox experience at MSG is…about as far from that as you could get. You enter via a side-door, get your ticket validated by a polite attendent, and then take an elevator all the way to the top. When you get off, there’s a catering table and bar in the lobby where the other people are milling, and you can make smalltalk or wander into your box, which is actually like a small hotel suite, with a private bathroom, an icemaker, and a smiling stadium employee who pops into the room every few minutes to cart away any excess trash and see if you’d like any more orders of sushi. This, apparently, is how the the other half lives.

There were about 15 people in the box, including John and Michael, my friend Glen from Boston, who I hadn’t known was going to be there, and whom I hadn’t seen in about 3 years, and his lovely friend Dafney, who instantly bonded with Miranda but who of course is just about to move to Berkeley. Everyone else seemed to be friends of Michael who were in town to celebrate the launch of their new magazine, which I think could safely be described as Vogue for Chelsea Clones, but they themselves were unpretentious and fun.

The opening acts were pretty much a loss. The first group was called Eisley, and appeared to be a trio of British women who were perhaps 16 years old. They actually had a fairly nice sound — a lot of ethereal harmonies a la Miranda Sex Garden — but…ah… actual quotes: “This is a song about treetops.” “This song is about a dragon.” Sadly, they were not talking about Trogdor. They were followed by Ron Sexsmith, who I’d heard good things about, but who was apparently having an awful night: he played only six songs and was consistantly offkey.

Coldplay’s set, happily, was uniformly good. They don’t have a deep back-catalogue to draw on, so the set was pretty much what you’d expect: the highlights of their two albums. I was really worried about how their pop-floydian introspection was going to play in an arena setting, but Chris Martin was more than up to the task: he wailed, he moaned, he pounded on the piano, he ran around the stage like a maniac, and pattered amusingly and disarmingly at the crowd. The band was tight and well-rehearsed, and the lightshow complemented the music without being overly show-offy. For my money, the best song of the evening was a heart-rendingly perfect rendition of “Everything’s Not Lost”, but the crowd seemed to get most into “In Your Place” and “Yellow.” For their second encore, they covered Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar”, which was a great treat for us Old Farts in the audience. We stumbled out at around midnight, tired, full and happy.

But wait, there’s more!

After spending Saturday first completely failing to get Miranda’s DSL working and then stranded at my office by a sudden downpour after we’d detoured there to pick up a box of lead I’d left there, we wandered into Prospect Park to hear a free concert by Blackalicious, who are only the best goddamn band to appear in the last five years in any genre and the authors of the best hip-hop album I have ever heard, period, so I was just a little excited to see them. We were going to meet up with and at their apartment first for dinner, but ended up running horribly late, and when we called them, they were already sitting at the bandshell…and snagged three seats for us. Perfect.

The opening act was Sekou Sundiata, a spoken-word/rap/poetry-over-jazz/hip-hop act who was…okay. Under other circumstances (ideally a smoky club where I was not waiting for Blackalicious to play) I probably would have liked him better, but some of his pieces dragged, and his set seemed to wear out its welcome about halfway through. And I was here to see Blackalicious, damnit.

Apparently Gift of Gab missed their last NYC concert because he was recovering from eye surgery — I’m happy to report that he was here, in good shape, and holy god, yes he can rap just like that live — and freestyle. I have now heard “A to G”, “Alphabet Aerobics”, “Paragraph President” and “Chemical Calesthenics” performed live, and I can pretty much die happy. The entire hipper-than-thou Brooklyn crowd was on their feet, cheering, dancing and waving their hands in the air the entire night. I’m feeling stupidly giddy just thinking about it. It was easily the best show I’ve seen in the last few years, and I’m going to run out of adjectives if I keep at this: just go see them when they come to your town, okay?

Afterward, invited us back to her apartment for an impromptou barbecue: was the grill master, and one of their friends produced this insane duck, turkey and fennel sausage that I am going to go to whatever lengths necessary to procure again. Michaela and Karen were, as usual, the perfect hosts, and plied us with food, wine and good music until we were all falling over.

And at this point, I’m going to have to go all Wachowski-ish and say: To Be Concluded, because it’s 3:17am and I should really turn in right fucking now. Coming tomorrow: Night of the Living Yentas.

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