Music

Fucking in the Streets

Park Versus Theme Park

Fucking in the Streets

Keith Johnson

Last Thursday, a punk-rock show in Georgetown and a dance party on Capitol Hill demonstrated two very different modes of dealing with the past, preservation, and progress in urban spaces. In Georgetown, Brooklyn fuzz punks Japanther played a show at Mini Mart City Park, a new SuttonBeresCuller project that's just what it sounds like: an old gas station and convenience store turned into a public-park-as-art-installation. As of last week, the unfinished park still looked mostly like an overgrown grassy lot; indoors, there were some wall panels explaining the history and environmental impact of this and similar gas stations, as well as some roped-off, under-construction areas.

The show was the second at the park—the first was a performance by "Awesome"—but the first featuring amplification. In between bands, Wu-Tang blasted from a stereo—this was an Implied Violence benefit, after all. Planes flew low overhead at regular intervals. Apparently, during Strong Killings' set, which was out front on the street side of the building, a city bus stopped nearby and several passengers wandered over to see what was going on. Neighbors dropped by throughout the night, curious and affable. Japanther set up—their drum head looked like it said "Japantier," like it was French—and tore through one of the best sets I've seen from them in years, playing favorites like "1-10," "Challenge," "River Phoenix," "Fuk Tha Prince a Pull Iz Dum," and "Mornings."

What made it so good wasn't the set list—it was just the perfect, almost chance combination of band, crowd, and setting. The band played with heart and humor, drummer/vocalist Ian Vanek talking his usual snarky but sincerely inspirational shit between songs; the crowd danced and pogoed and pumped their fists and sang along as one big sweaty mass, kicking up clouds of dust from the ground, Pig-Pen-style; and the setting, a disused industrial backyard in the midst of being transformed into a place for new and vital art, was sweet. I rode my bike back to the Hill buzzed and still singing the songs.

Up on the Hill was something else entirely. In the parking lot of Havana, the folks behind the Cap to the Hill blog had erected a one-night-only re-creation of the old 500 block of Pine Street (Cha Cha, Bus Stop, etc.), with painted facades of the old storefronts and life-size dioramas of the bars' decor set up underneath a giant projected photo of the real thing. The whole thing was funded, weirdly, by JanSport, thanks to the hosts having won a contest to throw a party to the tune of $10,000 (I would love to see a breakdown of how that money got spent).

Other than insanely long lines, the party was fine, but off. For one thing, many of these bars still exist—Cha Cha, Bus Stop, soon Pony—only changed and relocated. Hell, the new Cha Cha was literally across the street. Its ersatz version was just labeled "Lounge," since the party's promoters couldn't get the consent of the real Cha Cha's owners. Whereas Mini Mart City Park is taking an old space and transforming it, the 500 Block Party felt like a theme-park re-creation of the past, a shrine in painted cardboard for a nightlife neighborhood that goes on living, like it or not. recommended

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That show kicked fucking ass!
Posted by Rambo on August 27, 2009 at 2:24 PM · Report this

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