For 12 hours on Saturday, Vice took over an eight-floor studio in Chelsea. It was Coachella in an art museum, basically. I’m not saying that because building and coding this photo gallery (of shots by Abbey Braden) took as long as one would from a day at a festival (though, it did). It’s for the performances, primarily by headliner-worthy acts who I’ve seen in Indio: Die Antwoord, making their NYC debut (this was their first), M.I.A., Sleigh Bells, Interpol, the Rapture, N.A.S.A., Gang Gang Dance (also: Neon Indian now with psychedelic theremin, Mark Ronson with MNDR, Aska, Sulumi, Salem). And the DJ sets, from folks like Restless People, Pitchfork kingpin Ryan Schreiber, True Panther’s Dean Bein, Telepathe, Lemonade, Nick from Islands. And the VIP balcony filled with the fading fancy faces of b-list hipster celebs: Look to your left and it’s Josh Hartnett, talking up Alan Palomo; to your right it’s James Iha, doing Iha type things. Very Coachella.
But instead of interminable walks across desert fields, there was air conditioning and elevators. In place of ad hoc field sculptures there were rooms upon rooms of art exhibits — make a digital painting in 3D, see Nick Zinner’s photographs in a dark room with 3D sound (whatever that means), stand in the center of three pillars each isolating video and audio of a member of the xx as they played through their album, maximize your mushroom boom by walking through a massive cube of stringed lights that responded to your presence, or light-panel wall boards that did the same. Eat sliders and get drunk for free. Watch the U.S. drop the ball against Ghana on a massive projector. Attend a panel where Mark Ronson, Sam Spiegel, and Neon Indian create a song from scratch. Even if you came to the scene with a healthy sense of NYC entitlement, DONT complain. There wasn’t much room for it.
It was fair to expect a shit show, based on lineup-popularity alone. Add the fact that Vice events often make news for the wrong reasons, like security accosting talent or things falling apart (literally). But lessons were learned from the Vice15/Titus Andronicus fiasco: ticket pick-up was at on offsite location, keeping the entrance to MILK Studios free and clear. There were bars slinging complimentary beverages at every corner. No eBay-baiting rubble was created.
Only four floors of the building’s eight were utilized — bands like the Rapture and Interpol performed on a street-level loading dock opening onto 14th Street & 10th Ave., Neon Indian and Salem did it in MILK’s 1st floor gallery, Sleigh Bells, Die Antwoord, and Maya in a big room on the 8th floor. (The stage was nearly eye-level there, unfortunately, but you could watch a live stream at the loading dock’s projector if you didn’t feel like camping out upfront.) The 2nd floor was mostly arty; the roof was VIP access. For the most part, crowd flow wasn’t an issue. Unless you wanted to shoot pictures of M.I.A. (sorry, no photo pit), or of Die Antwoord (sorry, photo pit collapsed — turns out this was a Vice event after all), or get close to Interpol (everybody loves Interpol apparently). But if you wanted to see if Salem had rehabilitated their live thing in a manner approximating the awesomeness of their forthcoming witched-out cough-syrup crunk LP King Night (getting there, definitely), you could walk up, leave for a drink, come back to stage repeatedly. Fucked if I know how Vice pulled this off. (Well, there was all that good Intel money — it was no small relief to see where it went.) Apparently the rumor floated that Thom Yorke was in the house, but then, I heard MJ was getting onstage with Maya, so, you know. Not that MILK needed any more bananas on Saturday.
There will be tons of videos popping up through the day, and we’ll add ’em. Starting now:
Mark Ronson, Sam Spiegel, and Alan Palomo’s Songwriting Panel:
Die Antwoord – “Enter The Ninja”
Die Antwoord – “Enter The Ninja (Redux)”
Die Antwoord – “Wat Kyk Jy”
M.I.A. – “Born Free”
Sleigh Bells – “A/B Machines”
Interpol – “Lights”