There was a not-entirely-common sight down around the Brooklyn Navy Yard last night. Dozens of cabs lined the street, because depending on where you’re coming from the Navy Yard can kind of be a pain to get to, and also because NYC’s been doing this thing where it’s decided to just rain constantly in December, which isn’t so fun. The reason there were enough people to fill dozens of cabs going to the Brooklyn Navy Yard on a Friday night is that Vice was taking a brief respite from eating Williamsburg to throw a big blowout for its 20th birthday. Set in the Duggal Greenhouse, Vice’s party revolved around a concert with an honestly pretty insane array of guests, including Jarvis Cocker. If Jarvis Cocker is going to be someplace, you tell me where to be and I’ll be there.
Once you got past the big concrete gates to the Yard and the somewhat surprisingly glacial-paced check-in line, there were fancy shuttles with lots of little blue lights inside them that took you a few blocks away to the Greenhouse. The music didn’t start until almost 11, so for the first 90-ish minutes, people milled around inside the gigantic white room inside the Greenhouse, taking advantage of Vice’s free drinks. Now that the company’s valued at 2.5 billion dollars, it was nice of them to buy everyone drinks (and falafel) for a night. There was a DJ for this first chunk of the night, wisely sprinkling NYC favorites liberally into the mix — everyone around me was psyched for LCD Soundsystem’s “Someone Great,” and there was also a really cool remix of the Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime.”
The show kicked off with Andrew W.K. singing, of course, “Party Hard.” The way this worked was Vice put together a house band (led by Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner), and aside from temporarily ceding to a punk supergroup, a metal supergroup, and a few DJ-run songs for the rappers, this band played behind everyone, doing an array of the guests’ own songs and covers. After he started the show, W.K. stuck around as the MC of the night. The rest of the set was kinda whiplash-inducing, but a really awesome version of whiplash where one moment you’re watching Ghostface Killah and then another you’re watching Jonah Hill sing “Marvin’s Room” with Spike Jonze on guitar. Seriously.
The randomness of the latter was the trademark for the night, and made for some really, really unique concert experiences; I go to way more shows than is probably good for my health, but I’m hard-pressed to think of something as quirkily awesome as seeing Stephen Malkmus sing “Remedy” by the Black Crowes. (I had the setlist ahead of time and had seen the name, but assumed it would have to be some other “Remedy.”)
Scarlett Johansson showed up and sang “Bizarre Love Triangle” by New Order.
Meredith Graves came out and did the Strokes’ “New York City Cops,” a NYC anthem of the last twenty years but also the one moment of the night that obliquely referenced the more depressing events in NYC this week, outside the temporary fantasyland of Vice’s birthday extravaganza.
The latter chunk of the night was the best, though. Because Jarvis Cocker sang two songs (including Celine Dion’s “The Power Of Love”) and it’s always awesome to see Jarvis Cocker do his thing.
Karen O sang “Maps” and because we’re in NYC and this is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs we’re talking about, that was probably the emotional peak of the night.
That came before Lil Wayne. You know, I’ve never been too much of a Lil Wayne fan, but I’m a convert after last night. The guy knows to come in at the end of a party and take it someplace way crazier. He also promised he’ll be leaving Cash Money “soon.”
On my way out, I glanced up at the big Vice sign hanging over the exit, flanked by walls full of pictures of Vice covers. I started thinking: I’m not too excited to see that big Vice sign glaring out at me in green neon every time I take a cab over the Williamsburg Bridge, if that rumor comes true. But I wouldn’t mind going to more of their parties, at least. Maybe next time they’ll get Mila Kunis to sing Blondie, or something.
Here was the setlist: