Grandin spoke for a while on US policy in Latin America, and then the moderator got up again. "Our next speaker" -- he raised his arm in a "show of hands" gesture -- "Is there anyone here who doesn't know who Noam Chomsky is?" A pause, while he confirmed that no hands were raised, then he turned and made the introduction gesture: "Noam Chomsky."
Chomsky at one point phrased US policy as "democracy promotion is the best thing since ice cream." But you can't have democracy promotion for lunch, so I'm unconvinced. Anyway, after the brief talks they opened it up for questions. The moderator requested that people coming up to ask questions be sure that they actually have a question; also, "although most of you came to hear one particular speaker, please do make sure to ask questions of Noam Chomsky as well."
G and I ducked out as the first questioner got up to say "I just wanted to start out with one point, Professor Chomsky, because I completely disagree with what you said ..."
WE MET UP WITH D to grab dinner before the show. Grendel's Den, which had been one of D's favorite haunts before it closed down. Now it's back again. I mentioned its temporary non-existence, and D said "Yes! It's true! They brought it back just for me."
"Then why isn't it called 'D's Den'?"
"Because D likes mythology."
"Oh does he?"
AFTER DINNER, WE WALKED to Central Square. Arrived at TT's in time to find a couple other friends before the State Street Liars took the stage. I have really only one word to describe their sound: loud. If I were to add three more words they would be: too much feedback. So it was no great surprise when the guitarist turned to the bassist and said into the microphone, "Hey is that smoke coming out of your amp? Is it on fucking fire?"
In fact, it was.
The guitarist did a solo rendition of "Somebody Kill Me" from The Wedding Singer while the bassist attempted to sort out his shit. All in all, it was good that they blew an amp, or we would have had to hear more of their stuff.
THE NEXT BAND came on the stage and unveiled a skull-and-crossbones banner at the back of the stage. The lead singer announced, "We're Teenage Bottle Rocket, and this is 'Radio.'" I'm not sure whether this was the name of just the first song or the title of the whole first half of the set, because for a while they just dove from one song into the next with barely any breaks. The first song went something like this:
Radioo--o-o-o-ohMost of their other songs had similarly varied lyrics.
At some point, the singer introduced his twin brother as the drummer, who promptly busted his snare drum. The band continued, undeterred, into "Bloodbath at Burger King." I kept waiting for him to introduce the rest of the band, but he never did.
Overheard while the Phenomenauts were setting up:
"I like flashlights. I just do. My grandfather liked flashlights, my father liked flashlights, I like flashlights."
THE PHENOMENAUTS ARE probably best described as The Red Elvises meet Devo obsessed with the Space program. Their banner has a sort of Starfleet crossed with the UN logo with the motto "Science and Honor" beneath. They managed to avoid much of the bad gig karma of the evening, but were late getting started because two of their members were missing their costumes (most of the band wears TV-scifi-y uniforms while the Professor, on keyboards, wears a lab coat). Fortunately, they had fans in the audience who were decked out in Phenomenaut attire, and the Professor and Commander Angel Nova managed to bum uniforms off of them.
In addition to the coordinated outfits, the Phenomenauts have a really polished show. They begin the set with a countdown/preflight checklist (Bass ... Drums ... Audience ...) before launching into their first tune. One of the singer/guitarists, Corporal Joe Bot, wears a silver helmet with an antenna and other weird devices on it, that completely covers the top part of his head. Somehow, despite the fact that his eyes are hidden, he manages to be expressive with just the bottom part of his face along with whole head and body movements. There's one bit that they do, where the Professor tosses a harmonica to Joe Bot, who begins to play while Angel Nova plays Joe Bot's guitar from behind. The choreography isn't going to blow anyone away, but it's well executed.
The only thing they broke was by design: A large globe balloon that they float out over the audience during the song "Earth Is the Best," that eventually bursts, showering people with confetti strips. D got one of these pieces caught in his hair, and when we pulled it out later, it looked like a fragment of someone's credit card statement.
Overheard while the Epoxies were setting up:
"That's just levelling the playing field, I mean, you had a better upbringing than me. I never even saw fucking adults until I was an adult myself."
WE'D SEEN THE EPOXIES before (not on purpose). I remembered them as having their sound jacked up as high as the State Street Liars, so that you couldn't make anything out, and the overall impression was "Ow." Also that they had horrible, discordant keyboard playing. D remembered that the lead singer was kind of cute, had a funky costume involving being wrapped in electrical tape, and had an energetic dancing style that's sort of like the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O turned up to eleven. I agreed that her dancing was much more entertaining than her singing, or the rest of the band's playing.
The lights dimmed, and a single white light started sweeping back and forth across the audience. The keyboardist said into the mic, "Killer. Thanks, Phenomenauts, for unplugging our smoke machine. Now all these lights we brought will be for nothing. That's all the pyrotechnics we could afford. $12,000 of lights. Fuckin' Phenomenauts. Way to upstage us. OK all you monkeys out there, the only way this show is going to be cool is if you make it cool. We lost our screaming monkey intro, we don't care. We lost our lead singer, that's irrelevant. But everybody, smoke. Smoke a lot, because that's the only way these lights are going to look at all cool."
The singer did make it on stage (though she was skankier, and less cute than D remembered, as well as having less room on stage to move around than before), and the smoke machine got going after a while, but so did the too-aggressive moshers. We left.
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