The Long and the Short of It: What Happens When You Send a Hipster to an Indie Rock Show

Ahhh! We’re idiots! In the hullabaloo surrounding our birthday, we forgot to plug the Whirlwind Heat show @ the Mercury last night. Oops. Lucky for us (and for you) Whirlwind Heat team up with MC Paul Barman at Southpaw on Valentine’s Day. (If you were caught up in the hullabaloo about the potential terrorist attacks and forgot to send love or buy presents, you can still do so.)

We BUSTED OUT THE BOOGIES for them because we think they ROCK. And all our friends did too. Fo’ real! We thought they’d hate them, but they too were charmed by the allure of little white boys spazzing out to loud noise. Maybe even M.S. thought they were good too!

Whirlwind Heat’s debut album will be released on April 15 on Third Man Records. They’ll be right next to The White Stripes, because the alphabet works that way, so you might as well pick up a copy of their LP while you’re getting Elephant.

So the V-day show, you gotta be there if you’re not lucky enough to be at that other show. YOU CAN MAKE OUT AFTER THE MUSIC — IT’LL STILL BE VALENTINE’S DAY!


Basically, if it’s free, we’re there. That’s because we love free. It’s also ’cause we’re young and poor, so free really fits into our budget. So when we were offered tickets to the February 7, 2003 Apples in Stereo show, we graciously accepted.

But since we wouldn’t know an Apple in Stereo from a f*cking Banana with Mono, it makes sense when we tell you we were really there to see Stellastarr*, a local band from New York City who were the openers.

The first time we’d seen Stellastarr* was last summer at Luna Lounge. We’d gotten there late and we were all the way in the back but we thought them to be alright. Luna Lounge was P-A-C-K-E-D with scenester Lower East Siders and the band’s friends — which sounds kind of redundant now that we think about it — and it was ghastly lit, in the manner of most shows at Luna. Just like how Gypsy Rose Lee would drive men out of their minds just by coyly taking off a satin glove, when we’d catch a glimpse of lead singer Shawn’s elbow or bobbing head through the throng of people, it was like someone was doing us a favor.

The only other time we’d seen them had been at Tiswas @ Don Hill’s during CMJ, where we saw them play two sets in the same night. It confused the hell out of us because we were already a little out of it, spending most of the night on the vinyl couches across from the bar with our heads in our hands trying to make the ringing stop. At the point we weren’t sure if we were tripping on something or if time had folded upon itself causing us to re-live our not-so-distant past… or they actually were playing twice in one night.

The truth being told to us, we weren’t crazy and they WERE playing twice in one night. Later on at the gig there was a moment of bizarre when Johnny Marr got onstage with Haven — causing things to get really f*cking surreal. The high heavens opened up and Jesus descended down from heaven to take us away. Long story short, the next morning we woke up and didn’t know exactly where we were, but we’re proud to say we eventually figured it out because we lived to tell about it, didn’t we?

But back to our tale — we were interested in seeing Stellastarr* on a big, proper stage. There was a fairly large crowd gathered around the stage for the band, quite impressive seeing as how they were going on at 9pm, A.K.A. and ungodly uncool early hour. For as we all know, hipsters such as ourselves run the risk of turning into a pile of dust if we’re seen being somewhere on time. So we tried to play it cool, pretending that “Oh! We thought the show started at 8! Hrmph!” and ladies and gents, we think the crowd bought our pack of lies because people will believe anything you tell them.

When the band came on the stage the crowd went “woooh!” Woooh! For the unfamiliar, Stellastarr* is a 4-member band whose music verges on Britpoppy, Cure-ish, sounding vocals and melodies. They’re sooooo popular with the Tiswas crowd because Tiswas seems to be a weekly meeting of people who make it a full-time job of being an ’80s revivalist: “Did you hear the new Smiths single?” “Yeah! It’s great, but they’re nowhere near the Cure.” “Are you kidding? That joker Robert Smith? He’s got nothing on the Moz!” Then fights with hairspray ensue. During the heavy-heated debates someone brings out the plastic bangles and all hell breaks loose.

Tiswas was totally repping because who else would be screaming for “My Coco” like an Oasis freak who’d just heard the intro to “Wonderwall�” Sure enough, a quick glance around the room and we could pick out about nine people who looked vaguely- to definitely-familiar. Then there was that one girl wearing “The Socialites” t-shirt that’s written like The Strokes’ logo and we could sorta guess SHE wasn’t here to see Apple Sauce in a Blender.

Honestly, we can’t even tell you the set list or any of that, because that’s not the kind of people we are. We can’t remember the names of songs and stuff. But we bet they played “Jenny.” Sure they did. And probably that song “Somewhere Across Forever,” but honestly, we can’t be sure about any of this. Most of their set was spent with us dancing in our own little space and giving weird looks to the girl in “The Socialites” shirt and the people who looked familiar from Tiswas.

There were some hard-core Stellastarr*-ites. The one that particularly stands out in our mind was this girl with light brown hair in a chin length bob, wearing this red apron/shirt thing and jeans. That girl? She LOVED the Stellastarr*. She was right in the middle up toward the front flailing her arms and singing along like no one’s business. Then a bunch of people we guess she knew kinda huddled by her and did more subdued versions of what she was doing.

Shawn Christensen, or as we like to refer to him, Shawn Stellastarr*, has real presence onstage. Like when you watch him singing and stuff, you kinda get the sense that this is exactly how he sings in front of the mirror at home. And that’s a good thing, right? Keepin’ it real and not letting the audience affect you? Singing the same if there’s one person there or ten thousand people there?

Amanda Tannen, bassist, looked significantly more glam than we remember her being. We don’t really know it that’s even a valid statement because she could be all like “haven’t I always been glam?” but we’re gonna stick with it because it’s a compliment, not a dis.

Arthur Kremer brought out his usual half-naked drumming stylings — black electrical tape on the chest as per usual, and those bizarre looking glasses that make him look half house painter half bug. There’s something about half-naked drumming that makes you think, “yes, this guy is serious about his drumming. He’s like f*cking half-naked, he MUST be into it.”

We had always thought guitarist Michael Jurin vaguely looked like he belonged in a Placebo tribute band (perhaps it’s the dark short hair thing going on), and maybe one day he’d like to be!, but right now he’s in Stellastarr*. But back in the day (last summer), we thought he was the “which one of these things is not like the other” band member — and maybe it’s because we’ve just kinda gotten use to the fact that these four people ARE in a band together and clearly they get along — but now he kinda seems to fit in the band.

So their set got the Tiswasers in a tizzy, but I’m not sure they went over with the Apples and Orangers crowd. They were probably confused, having never been fans of epileptic dancing or naked drummers. So as soon as Stellastarr*’s set ended, all the people in the tight pants and blazers headed toward the exits and left us in a sea of stone-washed jeans and t-shirts.

We held on for dear life.

Oranger was the second band to go on, and they’re from the West Coast — San somethingorother and they looked like they fell out of the ’90s. Long chin length hair and sweatshirt hoodies, oversized t-shirts, and other unmentionable crimes against fashion that are safe to wear at home — and even outside, given inclement weather — but certainly not on a stage.

Noise began, piercing our ears with incessant droning WHATEVERNESS. We retreated downstairs to the bar to drown out our sorrows and text message SOS to everyone in our phone book.

Staying down there for most of the set, we decided to give it one more shot and we headed up to the stage area once again. And it still blew. They were putting the SUCK in SUCKS. But one dude in front of us doing an AIR GUITAR clearly had a different opinion. He thought these dudes but the ROCK in ROCKTABULOUS because he started doing AIR DRUMS soon after.

We texted messaged some more with charming messages like, “PLEASE KILL ME, I WANT TO DIE.” and “I’M CRYING!” If liking droning pap like this made you Indie, we were gladly willing to throw in our Chucks and let these losers have the title. A voice told us to embrace our innermost feelings and wear them on our lapel like a finely crafted brooch bought at a London flea market for 7 GBP. And that, our friends, is when it all became clear: WE WERE NEVER INDIE. HIPSTER AND PROUD OF IT!

Soul-searching had reached a new level.

Oranger got off the stage and manna fell from up above. We got back up front for Apples in a Petrie Dish and waited for them to set up. Bored out of our minds, we accosted two young boys from NYU and told them that they had to listen to the White Stripes new album and get up to speed with who The Rapture were because they were f*cking amazing. The one with the pukka shells did not seemed swayed in any way, but the one wearing the hooded sweatshirt might have thought about it.

When Apples came on stage, the guitarist’s gear wasn’t working and we had to wait for them to set up again.

Apples’ lead singer was actually really funny. We can’t specifically remember what he said that was so funny, but remember thinking his inter-song banter being clever. Despite the fact that the lead singer was really amusing, and all the people in the band seemed and looked like good people, we really couldn’t have gave a flying f*ck about being there anymore.

Indie music is FINE for some people. Some people LOOOOOVE it. They sit at home on their Macs designing cool little twee buttons to wear at shows, or they get on some Interweb message board and post obsessively over reclusive band members and create group fan fictions stories. LET THESE PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY WANT, BUT FOR THE LOVE OF JESUS, DON’T PUT THEM IN THE SAME ROOM AS US.

Because we won’t like it.

Realizing that we couldn’t keep text messaging people directly in front of the lead Apples singer, we moved the hella-izo out of there, retreating to the balcony. We stood up in there for about half of a song, then realized that it wasn’t going to get any better. We’d spied the set list while we were up front and estimated that there were still about 4 songs left — and 5 encore songs to go. This made OUR HEADS HURT.

Making the decision to escape the clutches of musical torture, we ran our asses down the stairs, and flung open the exit doors to freedom. “Hallelujah!” we would have cried had we been in a motion picture film. Then we heard the most glorious sound you could hear after skirting out on an unbearable band — the precious sound of silence whistling through our ears. Serenity now.