I’m afraid of flying. I’m afraid of worms. When I was a kid, I used to be afraid of the wind. But I’ve never encountered an art event, especially one in our fair Williamsburg, that has sent shivers down my spine and brought me almost to tears.
Until this weekend.
I’ll admit I’m prone to hyperbole, but in this case I wasn’t the only innocent art party attendee who was rubbed the wrong way at Secret Project Robot’s Summer Art Party Series this past Saturday. Quite appropriately named “In the Forest of Monster Island,” this particular party featured bands “Melted Men” and “Services.” Intrigued by the lure of the party’s tag, I expected a few angry lyrics, maybe even a band member with a Mohawk, a mullet, or a pair of ripped jeans. What I didn’t expect was three mask-wearing, half-naked ruffians with southern accents wielding cockroach-infested spears over our heads while banging drums and screaming profanities at those who actually spent money to watch them perform.
“It’s what dreams and nightmares are made of,” said Tracy Candido of the renegade bakery Sweet Tooth of the Tiger. She and baker Alicia Blegan took turns watching the performance while one watched the table of baked goods that was set up in the neighboring gallery, Live with Animals. “I think it’s amazing that Melted Men can recreate that atmosphere, but I’m afraid of masks. As soon as I saw them I booked it out of there!”
Enjoying a chocolate cupcake with frosting which I bought for two dollars, I agreed, expressing the exact same reaction to their performance.
In fact, I had arrived before Melted Men started playing at Secret Project Robot, and pushed my way up to the front of the crowd. A sheet was drawn like a curtain in front of the stage where two lines written in large black letters warned: “No Cameras. No Phones.”
As the music began and the curtain lifted, three men wearing intricately carved and painted baboon-looking masks appeared. While the other two were clothed, the lead singer’s outfit consisted merely of the mask, a black cape and a pair of black tighty-whiteys. I took out my camera to snap some shots and was immediately chastised!
“NO CAMERAS!!!” screamed the singer, drumsticks in his hand. “If you people want to look at screens go home to your TV’s and computers!!” Then he took his drumsticks and slammed them against another photo-taker’s arm. The sticks broke in half upon impact.
Who knew those guys were serious? And who could ever imagine that the consequence of not heeding their threats would be violent? Certainly not me! Wondering why they wouldn’t want exposure, I questioned Secret Project Robot’s director, Rachael Nelson.
“I think they’re trying to control what gets out there,” she said. “A lot of people were recording them at other shows.”
Deonna Mann, a friend of the band and a fellow musician, attested to the fact that people love recording them. According to Deonna, the trio from Athens, Ga., is very big on German and Spanish television. Funny – I can’t imagine why.
Deonna, an Amberola player who played with Melted Men on Sunday night at Glasslands, was thoroughly enjoying their rowdy performance which included polyphonic sounds from fog horns, a drum set, pre-recorded burping and vomiting noises, sirens, and something that sounded like a machine-gun.
Later, when the singer asked the audience, “Have you ever tried to eat a fancy New York City Steak and ended up choking on a pack of Big Red gum?” Deonna screamed back an enthusiastic “Woohoo!” Does that really happen to people?
Perhaps their music, which they describe on their website as “disjointed rhythms created live with broken electrics, gamelon, heavy bass, rough vocals, and audio accents,” is enjoyable to some. The house was packed, after all. For me, it was just scary madness and I actually did run screaming from the gallery at one point when one of them started running through the crowd. I left before “Services” performed, but I couldn’t help it. Those dudes were just too creepy for me.
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