Last night I fulfilled one of my top seven life goals... which was to see a crazy rock band play in an abandoned storefront on Madison Avenue. OK, that's not really in the top seven, but seeing San Francisco's mighty Enablers perform an impromptu set sponsored by Neighborhood Public Radio and in conjunction with the Whitney Biennial was definitely one of the best and most unusual live events of recent memory.
Neighborhood Public Radio, or "NPR" as they rather hilariously refer to themselves, is an ongoing broadcast art project with roots in everybody's favorite left coast looney town of San Francisco. According to their website, NPR is "an independent, artist-run radio project committed to providing an alternative media platform for artists, activists, musicians, and community members". Since 2005, the folks turning the wheels behind the project have hosted thematic Web and Low Power FM broadcasts in numerous San Francisco art galleries, as well as at Chicago's Version 5 Festival, San Jose's Zero1 Fest, and at numerous points across Europe. NPR also boasts the curious honor of probably being the only entity to ever be featured in the Chicago Reader, Artforum, and Punk Planet. Talk about a trifecta of distinction.
Through some glorious twist of fate, NPR was invited to participate in the Whitney Biennial, which everyone ought to know is among the most widely anticipated and discussed exhibitions of new American art. The Biennial just opened a few days ago, and according to NPR's press release (which you can download here), their plan is to "install a broadcast point inside the Whitney museum, as well as transmit programming from another publicly accessible location in New York." (In this case, at the above referenced storefront at 941 Madison Avenue.) "It will also install remote studios in cities across the U.S., each sending live community radio programs to the New York hub". (Upon first tuning in yesterday afternoon, I was treated to a hypnotic solo recitation of the lyrics to "Goodbye to Love" which I later learned was originating live from one such "remote studio" in Chicago. I was able to capture part of the stream on my computer, and you can download the MP3 of it here).
Arriving shortly before 8 PM, I quickly said my hellos to my pals the Enablers, and after the most perfunctory soundcheck in history, (Soundman: "Play one loud note". Band: "BLHAAMMKKKTT!" Soundman: "OK, we're ready") the band proceeded to blow the doors off the small space crowded mostly by friends and onlookers who'd spilled over from the museum just a few doors down. If you've not heard the Enablers' music via their two brilliant albums on Neurot Records, I can say that their swarming musical tension definitely invokes a luridly appealing noir sensibility. The cinematic desperation of 4 AM phone calls and anxiously huffed cigarettes is vividly summoned through vocalist Pete Simonelli's disquieting poetry, as this MP3 of Enablers performing the song "And Last Night?" live on my show in 2005 demonstrates. [Download]
If you're looking to see a band at the top of their game this rainy weekend in NYC, do yourself the service of seeing Enablers tonight (Saturday) at the Luna Lounge in Brooklyn, or tomorrow (Sunday) at the Knitting Factory tap room. Be sure to pick up one of the tour-only 12"s they'll be hawking at the shows, which feature beautiful hand-silkscreened sleeves, and wish them well on their upcoming European tour.