Thursday, April 28, 2011

NY Weekend Culture: The Raveonettes & Tamaryn at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Punchdrunk's "Sleep No More"

This past weekend was full of the kind of cultural excitement that always makes me tremendously grateful to call New York home (for the time being at least)-- despite all of its less-than-perfect qualities. On Thursday, I went to see The Raveonettes with Tamaryn at Music Hall of Williamsburg. I’ve probably expressed my love for Music Hall somewhere on the blog before, but I must say that (at least so far) it’s my absolute favorite venue in New York because of its tri-level, wide-open space and the decidedly mellower group of people that frequent it (as opposed to Bowery Ballroom, which has a similar layout, but is smaller and more cramped-- much like Manhattan as opposed to Brooklyn, come to think of it).

A few snapshots I took at the show (Tamaryn would not get her hair out of her face, which made things a bit difficult, so these are just of The Raveonettes):

Tamaryn’s slow, dreamy, 90's-inspired psych-rock complemented The Raveonettes’ notoriously moody, bittersweet, 50’s and 60’s-inspired vocal harmonies, dark lyrics and hard-edged electric instrumentals. On the heels of their latest album, Raven in the Grave (released on April 4th), the prolific Danish duo, who cite The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Everly Brothers and The Velvet Underground as influences, put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The crowd was completely blissed-out (perhaps since it was the day after 4/20…) and I personally experienced no pushing or beer-spilling, which was a welcome change from most concerts-- it seemed as though everyone was in a music-induced trance.

Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes

Listen to "Forget That You're Young" and "Recharge & Revolt," both from The Raveonettes' newest album, Raven in the Grave, below (and if you like The Raveonettes, you should check out Sune Rose Wagner's 2009 eponymous debut solo album-- all lyrics sung in his native Danish)!!


Plus "Mild Confusion" and "Love Fade," my two favorites from Tamaryn's newest album, The Waves, released this past August:

On Friday night, I attended Sleep No More, an interactive/immersive performance based on Shakespeare's Macbeth by British theatre company Punchdrunk. The show, which opened in New York on March 7th and closes in early June, takes place in an abandoned, multilevel Chelsea warehouse that has been transformed into the "McKittrick Hotel" (made famous in Hitchcock's Vertigo) and is aptly described by the New York Times as "an environmental, stylized mash-up of Shakespearean drama and Hitchcockian noir." The piece had a very Eyes Wide Shut-meets-The Shining feel to it from the beginning-- we were made to hand over all of our personal belongings (including cell phones) to coat check, then ushered into a 1920's-esque bar lined with red velvet and mahogany where we were invited by a few charming, tuxedoed hosts to have a few drinks, then given masks to wear and whisked away in an elevator and let loose to explore the rest of the semi-abandoned "hotel," under strict instruction not to speak.

The dimly-lit, mazelike collection of over 100 rooms was so painstakingly detailed (hand-written love letters strewn around a bathtub full of bloody water, individual patient notes citing "violent nature" or "aggressive behavior" on the bedside tables of eight matching wrought-iron hospital beds, a darkroom filled with images of birds, an empty, fog-filled forest in which one can actually smell the pine, a cemetery complete with fresh dirt mounds and eroding tombstones, a laundry room hung with still-wet shirts, a doctor's office filled with menacing-looking silver utensils and hair samples, a detective's study stacked with books, files and shredded papers) that it was easy to forget we were audience members-- we were completely involved in the piece. The music faded in and out, from faraway, haunting strains of Billie Holiday and Chet Baker to a chilling, horror-movie-esque drone. Any desk drawer we opened, any file cabinet we rifled through had another piece of "evidence," a dog-eared family photograph, a full ashtray, a half-full glass of whiskey, a bible with certain passages underlined, a handwritten note. We could choose to linger in any of the environments or to follow any of the 25 wordless characters acting out scenes amidst us. I was witness to a few jarring "scenes" -- a man (Macduff?) being suffocated by another man (Macbeth?) in the midst of his nap in a luxurious feather bed, a bittersweet love scene in a tailor's shop, a silent argument in a hotel lobby phone booth, a ghostly waltz in a sweeping ballroom and a lavish banquet that ended in a bloody death-- but wished that we'd been given even more than three hours to explore, as I missed many of the rooms I'd wanted to see after reading a review on the piece. After the three hours were up, we were brought back into the 1920's bar where a four-piece jazz band was playing in full swing. All in all, it was a captivating, mind-blowing experience, and one I'd highly recommend. The masks granted us anonymity, concealing our identities, encouraging us to break established "rules" of the theatre (as Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle, directors of Sleep No More, intended) and lending us the freedom and boldness necessary to interact fully with the performance piece. My only qualm is that it's nearly impossible to investigate every aspect of the piece (and I wanted to!!), so I'd say it warrants a second or third visit. At $75 a pop, though, that's probably not going to happen on a student's budget...

A few official images from Sleep No More below (I wasn't able to bring a camera into the performance):

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