Monday, September 22, 2008

Sauw's Corner: Meeting TV on the Radio

It all started about half an hour before I was about to leave work and head back to my humble Brooklyn abode for another typical, Netflix-infused weeknight. It was around 5:30pm that a knowledgeable friend at work informed me about a very under-the-radar performance by TV on the Radio that would be taking place on the fire escape of the Ed Sullivan Theater as the final segment of a Late Show taping. Seeing as I'm currently obsessed with their new album Dear Science (to be reviewed in the very near future) and that the band has rapidly become one of my favorite new acts of the last few years, that it would probably be worth waiting an hour just to see them play one song...and what a great decision that turned out to be.

After a brisk run in my work clothes down 53rd Street I arrived to reserve the best spot available, which due to the guard rail configuration was on the opposite side of the street from the fire escape where the performance would be. After waiting about 45 minutes, I hesitantly followed someone wearing a "Late Show" badge away from my seemingly good spot to another waiting area that they claimed would get me to the front of the crowd, which was about to pour out of the theater. Despite being led half a block away, we were eventually escorted back to the space within the U-shaped guard rails, just below where TV on the Radio would soon be playing 15 feet above our heads.

By 8:10pm, the members of TV on the Radio began coming out of the theater. And so, as promised, the band sprawled across the two levels of the fire escape and played their punchy, lyrically packed, "It's the End of the World As We Know It"-esque song titled "Dancing Choose", the second single off their new LP. As producer/guitarist David Sitek delivered the goods from the heights of the upper tier, a trio of horn players along the stairwell led down to the rest of the band, steered chiefly by Tunde Adebimpe's rambunctious vocals.

The crowd (which I estimate from eavesdropping that more than half of which hadn't even heard of the band) was simultaneously enthralled by the performance and upset that it was over so quickly. This lack of fulfillment actually favored my chances of getting to meet the band, as many people quickly began to file out and disperse through the streets that had brought them there. And so, as I had hoped for, the band descended to street level and I quickly began to make my rounds.

My one worry about the band's possible fan negligence was quickly expelled, as all of the members that I talked to were incredibly down to Earth and willing to talk to me. After telling singer/songwriter Adebimpe how great I thought they sounded, he thanked me and with a smile said that it was actually pretty weird playing up on the fire escape. I also got to speak to the bassist Kip Malone, mostly discussing our shared love for our shared residence of Brooklyn. After telling him that I've only been living in the BK for a few months, he paused and proceeded to give me a very genuine and straightforward "well...welcome." Lastly, I was able to stop Sitek to tell him how great I think his band is, who responded with a similarly honest "thank you very much."

I once read a review of TV on the Radio's 2004 debut album Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes that said that the band was five years ahead of its time. Looking at the music scene four years later I firmly believe this. There is no other band out there today that sounds like TVoTR, creating lush soundscapes and towering compositions reminiscent of such rock gems as David Bowie, Prince, and even Radiohead. Much like the Pixies in the late 80s, TVoTR is a band that has harvested a body of innovative rock that sounds like nothing before them, but which many will sound try to immitate down the road. Mark my words, 10 years from now they will be among a handful of bands that are referred to as having defined the daring new steps that music took during the 00's.

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