Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY — Aaaaand we’re back!
This show was originally supposed to happen a year and a half ago, and it’s undoubtedly a different experience now than it would have been then. The last nineteen months of COVID loomed large, sure, but for me personally, there was also the issue of my intervening relocation to Philadelphia. A night out in Brooklyn ain’t as convenient for me as it used to be, which, in a number of important ways, means I’m not as spoiled as I used to be. The joyous cascade of tour announcements over the last few months has offered no shortage of reminders that Philly is not the guaranteed tour stop for musicians that New York is, which means my show-going habits, if they’re to return to their former prolific glory, will need to be less selective, or more calculating, or some paradoxical amalgam of both.
So this first show back was an experiment. After many months of being stuck at home, will my aging body tolerate an early train to NYC, a full day at the office, a show, and a late train back to Philly, without being completely wiped out the next day? It turns out the answer is yes! And I managed to hit some favorite spots for lunch and dinner and bring back a baker’s dozen of fresh bagels while I was at it.
The only part that wouldn’t end up going smoothly made itself apparent as soon as I entered the venue. Unbeknownst to me, there were two openers rather than one, which meant the show would go later than I anticipated, which meant I’d probably have to leave early to make my train. A stacked bill would have taken the sting out of it, but this bill was not that. Both openers, Buddy Crime and Glove, were unremarkable new wave/synth pop revivalists, and the former’s performance was bewilderingly undercooked. The concept of singing along live to canned backing tracks isn’t inherently flawed, but absent an amazing voice, amazing hooks, or amazing moves, there’s not much there for a solo performer to hang a stage show on. My longest live music dry spell ever thus ended with something that barely qualified as live music, though it must be said that the Brooklyn audience’s characteristically supportive enthusiasm made it impossible for me to get too sour about it.
White Reaper, whose last album was one of my favorites of 2019, blew the doors off the place. Bless them. They’re just so goddamned fun. They write great songs, they play them well, and like any good party host, they seem truly invested in everyone in the room having a good time. I do wish their keyboard player were less of a distraction. Most of their songs just don’t give him very much to do, and he fills the void by doubling down on obnoxious stage banter full of jokes that rarely land, like the annoying little brother who can’t be kicked out of his sibling’s illicit party for fear that he’ll tell mom and dad when they get home. At his best, though, he’s a serviceable hype man for the rest of the band, keeping the crowd dancing.
As for me, my head was bobbing more vigorously than it has in a long time, but my backpack full of bagels kept me off the dance floor, as did that small matter of the coronavirus. Masks were required, but it’s kind of a meaningless rule when you’re serving drinks, and plenty of people who weren’t even holding beers were still unmasked. Likewise, proof of vaccination was required for entry, but verification seemed pretty cursory. The security guy appeared to be satisfied that I had an ID and a vaccination card and not especially attentive to their contents. Not great! But I was satisfied enough with the region’s/demographic’s vaccination rates and even laxly enforced rules to feel secure in the unlikelihood that this event was going to result in an outbreak.
The show wasn’t over when I had to leave at 10:30, but at that point they were into the encore and playing a cover of Green Day’s “Brain Stew,” which I didn’t mind missing. On the way home, I happily resumed my after-show custom of editing my brief videos from the night into Instagram-friendly snippets. In a sign of the times, I did my editing on Amtrak rather than the subway.
I got home shortly before 1:00. I felt good. I had had my medicine.