Posted by: trailerpilot | 03:09::2009

On Two Experiences Yesterday Evening, Specifically Dean Wareham’s and Britta Phillips’ Concert at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Being in a Car Accident Placing Around 6 Or 7 On A 1-10 Scale of Car-Accident-Seriousness.

We were almost late to the theater. It was raining, although not as hard as it would be later. We picked up our tickets and found our seats. It was the first of two sold-out shows. There was good energy in the house. A woman to Erik’s left asked if I was hiding a small dog in my jacket. I explained that I always bring my dog to concerts, although usually in a handbag.

Either the screen tests‘ playback was massaged to fit the duration of each song, or the songs were written and performed to coincide exactly with the screen tests’ durations.

I would’ve preferred film but the video projection was, really, just fine. The concert tour’s promotional website URL, 13mostbeautiful.com in fact redirects to a product page at Brooklyn-based indie DVD label Plexifilm’s site.

The thirteen most beautiful.

The thirteen most beautiful.

Billy Name was responsible for The Factory being silver. Didn’t know that.

Britta Phillips sang “I’ll Keep It With Mine” steady chugging to fit Nico‘s screen test exactly. Britta’s, and maybe the evening’s, best moment.

It poured in Chicago later on. The drunk guy slammed into us a little before two in the morning, deep in the zenith of a classic, crazy, flash-flood-inducing, drown-standing-up, massive Midwest electrical-storm-cum-torrential-downpour.

I’ve always thought Dean Wareham‘s lyrics were stronger than his singing voice, and I’ve always assumed he thought so too. But he mumbled much of the little that he sang last night. One lyric I remember went “Put your hand down my pants,” something something, “and take a chance,” which I would probably mumble too. But a lot of it was classic, succinct Wareham. “There are eyes in my smoke” is one such great line and the title to the song accompanying the screen test of Ingrid Superstar. That’s another of the suite’s finest moments, that song and how well it fits that piece of film.

Andy Warhol knew how to move a camera. It’s cinematography saturated with mischief and daring to [or at least to pretending to (try to)] mean nothing.  It’s also really free and natural–one can sort of climb into his act of seeing another being and take it in, or at least sense what he wants you to think he’s experiencing while seeing another being, or at least what he thinks you expect him to be experiencing while he’s doing all that looking business.

Dean Wareham, Lou Reed and Britta Phillips at Lincoln Center.  Photo by Derek Meade.

Dean Wareham, Lou Reed and Britta Phillips at Lincoln Center. Photo by Derek Meade.

When you could see how the film and song fit together, it really was beautiful. It didn’t always happen, but when it did, wow, good show.  Richard Rheem did duty for an overture either prerecorded or performed from offstage.  A sort of soundscape–simple, noodley.  Actually, I was reminded a few times of Stereolab’s 1992 Peng!, during the Rheem “overture” and for Mary Woronov* and the few inevitable nods–not too many–to the Velvet Underground the band pulled off with real grace.  Lou Reed’s own “I’m Not A Young Man Anymore” goes on top of footage of a 24-year-old Reed in sunglasses and holding a Coke bottle like a layer of Technicolor over the silver gelatin.  It’s a lush, sensory experience, not unlike the color experiences of the flowers Warhol had begun painting two years earlier.

Dean Wareham knows his Warhol, knows New York, likes being where it all happened.  His minimal banter with the audience–his bandmates were mute–consisted of huskily-whispered anecdotes about who such-and-such was and something interesting that happened before, during or after their screen test was shot.  I especially responded to how what Wareham was saying reminded me, us, that here were three minutes in the lives of thirteen extraordinary people whose paths crossed Andy Warhol’s…but just three minutes.  A few times the plain nature of the screen tests project came back around full-frontal.  Collectively, these songs first and foremost underline these films’ status as art, and as significant art at that.

We were rear-ended by a car last night going home.  While stopped at a red light another driver behind us didn’t stop, or even slow down judging by the force of the impact, and threw us through the intersection.  We owe our lives to the fact that we were wearing seatbelts and there was no cross-traffic moving through the intersection at that point.

The caramel-colored, Peruvian Alpaca sweater I was wearing has a lace-up neckline with giant, poofy wool tassels at the end of its laces. I suppose peeking out of a half-unzipped jacket they could conceivably be mistaken for the coat of a small dog.

A few times last night I wanted to be in a different kind of space.  I’ll say it again:  I love that theater, but I wanted to be in the setpiece Factory and Max’s Kansas City rooms of I’m Not There or, shit, even Factory Girl. I wanted crowd chatter and people causing trouble because, otherwise, we were all just sitting politely–so politely–thinking “rock and roll” and learning of heavily-perfumed, dramatic, autodefenestrative suicides.

But then other times it was perfect, it was clean and abstracted and hard and conceptual, and everything (presumably) Andy would have wanted it to be.

(But then so many people are always talking about what Andy would have wanted it to be, and even those who probably can say so annoy by actually doing it. Who am I to say so? Nobody, certainly. So who knows what he would’ve wanted. But, yeah, sometimes it was perfect in the space, clean and abstracted and hard and conceptual.)

By the end of the performance, thirteen songs ended up sounding more like one song, a song that felt like a piece of art.  At the very least, it amply lubricated one’s journey into a few out of thirteen other works of art.  I’ve seen most of those screen tests before; it wasn’t that I was looking at them more closely because of the songs, but it was like they were easier to see in the aural environment of Dean & Britta’s, and their terrific band’s, music.  Easier to see for what they were:  The same thing Warhol’s films did for their subjects.

It was a hit and run, fer chrissakes.  The man walked up, said he had insurance, said he was drunk, he saw Erik on his phone, turned tail and sped off in the pouring rain, his busted front bumper plowing the wet off Western.  Got his plate number though, we think.

A DVD of 13 Most Beautiful… Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests by Dean & Britta will be for sale beginning April 7.  The videos will be available on iTunes as well, and the performance will hit Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art March 21 and Mass MoCA on March 28. Dean & Britta are also on MySpace.

Many thanks to the comprehensiveness of warholstars.org

*Or at least I think I remember it being that song.  My program is likely soaking wet, somewhere on the floor of my boyfriend’s car, which is undriveable and parked legally just off Western Avenue north of Roscoe Village.

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