So a couple of nights ago a couple of colleagues and I attended the Zach Galifinakis-hosted New York x New York magazine “Indie Rock Trivia Night ” and Les Savy Fav show at The Highline Ballroom. The sting of the rather princely $30.00 entry fee was assuaged by a 46-issue subscription to New York magazine, the prospect of seeing Les Savy Fav live for the first time and, certainly not least, some very generous contributions from some of the good people at Dailyrind, who thought that we could potentially bring home the gold. I’m sorry we let you down, guys.
I’m not one to brag but I think I have a reasonably decent grasp on “indie” trivia. I was born in 1977; I came of age right around the time punk “broke;” I subscribed to all the magazines; bought all the records everybody was supposed to buy; I went to hundreds of shows; I read all the books; I have carried on lengthy, (and occasionally extremely pretentious), conversations about the New Zealand “scene,” Japanese No Wave, African Funk, Quebecois Noise, rare ‘80s hip-hop, and any number of other music geek obsessions. (‘Cause hardcore wasn’t doing it for me no more.) I realize that I am hardly unique in this regard. There are of course millions of people just like me, and I knew full well that quite a few of them were going to be showing up to a shindig where you could win 500 bones for knowing something as obvious as who took the picture on the cover of Slint’s Spiderland .
We were feeling pretty confident when we arrived. It was a good looking crowd, which is definitely preferable in these sorts of contests. What you don’t want to see is Indie Asshole Jones, some portly beardo in a vintage Guru Guru t-shirt, who’s loudly telling someone second-hand anecdotes about that awesome Scratch Acid show in 1986, and whose bald head serves as his own ultra-limited edition of the Trouser Press. And no disrespect to New York magazine, I am after all a subscriber to their publication, but how hard could these questions be? We were told there were to be four rounds: current New York indie, ‘90s, ‘70s and ‘80s, and then a fourth secret round. Unfortunately this is the one that would ultimately ruin everything.
And the questions really weren’t that hard for the most part. Name the New York venue where Les Savy Fav’s new digital-only live album After The Balls Drop was recorded. List 3 out of the 4 artists covered by Nirvana on their Unplugged album. Finish this Leonard Cohen couplet – “I remember you well at the _______” (New York landmark). Identify this artist and album based on a visual cue of the cover art sans text (Daydream Nation, Loveless, and London Calling fer Chrissakes!).
We blew the one about David Lovering (stupid!) and maybe one other but we were otherwise cruising. We had fun yelling out bunk answers. My partners and I (The Ice Road Truckers) became quite convinced that victory was at hand. In retrospect this was a little delusional. We were going up against some pretty giant teams, (one of them included LSF’s Seth Jabour if I’m not mistaken), but a steady diet of PBR and the comedy stylings of Mr. Galifinakis, the self-described “Marijuana Santa Claus” and “Wolf Blitzer at Burning Man,” had us feeling pretty giddy. I did become somewhat embarrassingly exacting about the way my boy was writing down some of the answers (“Damnit put the umlauts on Hüsker Dü!!”) but otherwise it was a great time to be young and alive in New York City.
Sadly, victory and the really great story that would have come with it were not to be. Some wag, in his or her infinite wisdom, had evidently decided that the great equalizer in this equation would be to devote an entire round to Kanye West, whom you don’t have to be a semantician to argue is neither indie nor rock, no matter how cool his sweaters might be, or how amusing that video with Will Oldham and, oh yeah, Zach Galifinakis was. I can only infer that the latter was the inspiration for the category “Kanye Or Nay,” in which one had to identify whether a particular lyric was from a Kanye song or not.
Now, I have (though maybe had is the word now) nothing against Kanye West. I have listened to and enjoyed a goodly number of his recordings and would (did) consider myself sorta kinda familiar with some of the deeper regions of his discography. However, why ANYBODY would bother to retain the particular lyrics that were selected is beyond me. I mean I know that was probably the point but if any of those quotes were Kanye’s (and I’m really not 100% certain that any of them were), I really have to applaud the question writers for managing to dredge up the most banal and generic phrases he’s ever put to wax. Mr. West’s BFF Zach Galifinakis was on question 2 before I, and I think probably many others in the room, realized he wasn’t kidding. There was a certain amount of uproar from certain sections of assembled hipster masses, but shit, indie rockers are used to disappointment. Still if anybody from New York magazine happens to see this I want to cancel my subscription.
Les Savy Fav, of course, were great. (The Michael Showalter as the most “indie” artist of all time video skit that preceded their set was a little disappointing, but it was hard to sort out one’s feelings at that point.) As I mentioned previously, I had never seen them perform live. The closest I had come was listening to the newly released and immensely satisfying Frenchkiss Records digital-only release After The Balls Drop , which is available now at fine digital retailers everywhere. Frontman Tim Harrington came on stage as an uncomfortably intimate middle school teacher, patting audience members on the head and reassuring them that they were always his favorite student. He later donned some sort of poncho, dropped his pants (prompting Galifinakis to do the same), lost the shirt as well, and ended the show in his Slim Goodbody outfit. They burned though a few of my favorite LSF jams, sounded pretty great, and wrapped things up nice and early so the winners of the trivia contest could be announced. Oh right the trivia contest.
Most creative name went to the “Dead Ted Kennedys” which I think is highly indicative of the malice in the hearts of the organizers. It was announced that two teams had tied for second so those teams got on stage to hash it with a series of lightning rounds that included the aforementioned question about the Spiderland photo [nope Dave Pajo is not the right answer] and a challenge to name three bands that Calvin Johnson has been a part of, a question that was on the promotional materials for the event! And that was the clincher! The winning team, who we came to find out the next day was some all-blogger supergroup of ringers, took their immense Kanye fandom one step further by aping his famous graciousness and modesty when accepting awards. (Their speech: “We rule and you all suck”).
I was feeling a little blue when I came in to Dailyrind HQ the next morning and had to report to everyone that their dollars were in vain, that we didn’t even win the Saucony vests or whatever that was that the second place team received. Still Les Savy Fav saved the evening (I was just kidding about cancelling the subscription New York magazine – I paid for it and I want it – I love the crossword and the “Approval Matrix”) and if they do a trivia night next year, me and the squad are gonna get our money right. Stack our dollars ’til they get sky high .