Monday, August 20, 2007

Black Butterfly Grounded


      This past weekend I briefly attended Sunset Junction, the annual street fair that normally takes place right in front of my Silverlake apartment and stretches several blocks down Sunset, one of the major road arteries in Los Angeles. This year it was moved a few blocks west and expanded, complete with big-name corporate sponsorship. The bad news, as anyone who attended the festival in the past will tell you, is that Sunset Junction has become a too precise mirror of this genrified, hipster-infected neighborhood. Years ago, what made the festival so dope was that it was a true community event, and the community itself was an effortless fusion of cultures and types: immigrants from across Latin America; a healthy sprinkling of all stripes of Negroes; gay folk whose idiosyncrasies made them too quirky, too real and too undigested for the gay ghetto of West Hollywood; true struggling artists of all hues and backgrounds.
      Now, of course, Silverlake is crammed with trust-fund bohemians, the same strain of obnoxious faggotry that permeates West Hollywood / Chelsea / the Castro, and lots of rich folks with dollar signs in their eyes and calculatedly ill-fitting, second-hand clothing on their ever-posing frames. Latino families are still here but, in many cases, just barely holding on as rents skyrocket and apartment buildings that were once allowed to all but rot are cleared of old tenants and then kissed with costly make-overs to lure a new breed (i.e., lighter complexioned) renters. Negroes are fading fast, though resilient scraps of Negritude are holding on. (There are small, roaming bands of young half-Negroes with their good hair done up in dreads, though. Clad in ripped, skinny jeans and punk tee-shirts. Little Lenny Kravitzs and baby Ben Harpers.) Silverlake is a very self-conscious theme park of faux-diversity that has a money-driven, class-banked, reinforced center of whiteness. But I can't lie. It's relatively safe, centrally located, and I have a good deal on an apartment in a city where good deals are all but dead.
      Sunset Junction has replaced all those booths of amazing, diverse Latin American cuisine with pretty much the same greasy, overpriced crap you can get at any neighborhood's street fair in the country; seller's tables that years ago were heavy with handmade blankets and clothing largely have been traded in for tee-shirts and overpriced trendy shit. It's cookie-cutter community clap-trap.
      Where the festival has improved, though, is in the musical line up. Check here to see what this year's roster looked like.

      Saturday night, I attended the line-up of the Emotions, Deniece Williams and Morris Day & the Time. Click here to read my review of the Emotions and Deniece Williams. (That's all the LA Weekly wanted me to write about.) I'll just add that I fell in love with Niecy all over again, in large part because of the way she handled what happened to her at the concert but also because I was simply reminded of how amazing her older music was/is. I'm not a fan of her gospel music and would be happy to never hear "Let's Hear It For the Boy" ever again, but those first few albums, and then the brief musical comeback she had starting with "Silly," are simply unfuckwitable.
      I didn't stay for the entire Morris Day set. The Time wasn't the real Time, of course, just some dudes wearing some vintage suits, trying to get paid by backing Morris. They were fine but... so very much not the Time. And Mr. Day was sprinting through the songs like his ass was aflame. He sang all the hits: "Get It Up," "777-9311," "Wild & Loose," "Cool," as well as some of that bullshit music the Time did from Purple Rain forward. He was in great but badly miked voice, still pulling off that synchronized choreography and still charismatic as hell, but kind of on auto-pilot. What did make a favorable impression was how much sexier he is now than he was when the Time were those ninjas. Back then, he was a cocky punk, flamboyantly and theatrically full of himself in the way that young men often are. Unearned self-adoration. It was all for show, of course, tongue-in-cheek, and balanced out by some seriously, seriously funky music. (Those first two Time albums are mandatory listening.) But Saturday night, those same elements of the cocksure strut and gleefully lascivious sexuality gelled and resonated in a different way; Day had an air about him that was truly c-o-o-l. He was a man, seasoned, been through some shit. And he was leaner, seemingly more fit, than the last time I saw him a few years ago. Which made it all the more disappointing that the show he put on was just a slightly better performance than you'd get in one of those casinos dotting the outskirts of Vegas proper. Seriously, if he could reunite the whole of the old Time and bring all that he now is to the table, that would be one hell of a show.

1 comment:

redbone said...

Oooh, the '80s! I smell Jheri Curl juice! LOL!