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Fucking in the Streets

The End Is Far

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Morgan Keuler

Last week felt like the end of the world. It started with Pony, whose demise spanned two nights and ended up being more of a meltdown than a blowout. Tuesday, November 27, turned out to be at least as much fun as the bar's official "last ride" the next night. Ponymaster Marcus Wilson discovered that Tuesday-night openers Talbot Tagora were partially underage and promptly kicked the band off the bill. Then the Pharmacy started a crowd-surfing, bar-trashing rock riot. Somebody broke the windows next door. The cops came. Wilson had to shut the show down. The Pharmacy only managed about three and a half songs. It was a blur. Everybody left wanting more.

The following night, the bar was packed to capacity with a line down the block, the dance floor was grinding despite the PA repeatedly cutting out, and revelers were pissing in the sinks, the mop closets, and the Dumpsters. After last call, things got even more out of control. Wilson announced that his iPod had been stolen and he shut down the bar not with thank-yous or a toast but by tossing bottles at people and shouting: "Whoever took my iPod, I'm gonna kill you! Everybody get the fuck out!" He found his iPod in his office the next day.


Les Savy Fav put on a live show that feels like Revelations. Lead singer Tim Harrington makes a terrifying and thrilling postpunk Antichrist, a wild beast of a man—huge, bald, bearded, and pot-bellied, an awesome anti–rock star parodying onstage sex appeal with ludicrous lewd gestures. On Friday, November 30, at Neumo's, he commanded the crowd with his ragged scream-singing while tearing through a stuffed unicorn mask and multiple costume malfunctions.

Highlights of the set: Harrington disemboweling the aforementioned stuffed unicorn and tossing its polyurethane stuffing out over the crowd like fat snowflakes; Harrington making his way to the back of the room and singing death disco anthem "The Sweat Descends" from within the crowd; the crowd erupting into a frenetic mosh pit as Harrington jumped back up onto the stage, then tugging and tearing at his shirt until he removed it to reveal a wall of sweaty flesh; his between-song banter, which included the dazed declaration of Neumo's as "a safe space" and tonight as "a special night" (like he was reassuring himself out of a bad trip); the introduction of the wide-eyed "We'll Make a Lover of You" as "a song about the future"; the running joke about being various hardcore tribute bands ("We're Standing in the Waiting Room, New Jersey's premier Fugazi cover band"); the rousing dedication of balls-out, encore-ending anthem "Who Rocks the Party" to Seattle and Neumo's co-owner Jason Lajeunesse.

The most telling moment of the show might have been Let's Stay Friends' upbeat manifesto "The Year Before the Year 2000," which Harrington dedicated to Prince, saying, "The end is far." For all the newfound lyrical optimism on latest album Let's Stay Friends (their old "party now, because tomorrow we die" attitude has mellowed with age into "party now, but try to sustain yourself for tomorrow"), the band still play like there's no tomorrow—for this one, Harrington crawled off the side of the stage onto the crowd, who hoisted him up by his ankles to serenade the balcony. He returned to the stage coughing up too much accidentally inhaled unicorn stuffing, looking ironically or maybe appropriately exhausted—it is hard to party like it's 1999.


The Thermals' The Body, the Blood, the Machine is an apocalyptic masterpiece, and the band pretty much played it in its entirety on Saturday, December 1 (also at Neumo's). A good all-ages crowd turned out despite the day's sudden flurry of snow, and it was the most moshing and crowd surfing I'd seen in a long, long time. The Thermals stopped the show at one point ("It's like we're Fugazi") to make sure no one was hurt or ejected from the club. Security nabbed some would-be stage divers but missed others. At one point a guard and a kid grappled as the kid leaned backward off the stage; security eventually had to let him fall onto the crowd. The band were electric and pummeling; end times have never sounded sweeter.


In other words, everything last week tasted at least a little of the apocalypse. I didn't realize it until Friday night, standing outside The Belmont, the art-house-demolition party that was the physical, architectural, and social embodiment of all Harrington's self-immolating stage antics. The Belmont ended in a near-riot street party complete with Balkan brass and Dumpster drumming.

Of course, the whole point of Let's Stay Friends is that, to quote Harrington, "the end is far"—the real challenge is to keep the party going, to sustain the good time. Pony, the Bus Stop, Manray, Kincora, and the Belmont are over, but that block is survived by a new hub of activity around 10th Avenue and East Pike Street that includes Neumo's, the Comet, the Cha Cha, Havana, and more. Nightlife will go on. recommended

egrandy@thestranger.com

 

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