I strolled up to a nearly deserted marquis at the Music Hall of Williamsburg last night; past a few disgruntled scalpers who barely bothered to offer me a ticket, through the vacant barricades, and right up to the empty will call window. I wasn't sure what to expect from the Kaiser Chiefs
, having never really found my way to their music, but this desolation certainly wasn't it. After all, they're a pretty huge act; songs all over the British airwaves, and pretty impressive album sales on both sides of the pond. In hindsight I suppose I should have known better, last night New York City was graced by a 40-degree evening, which after the last few polar vortexes might as well have been a balmy summer's eve. Brooklynites and their happily shoeless pups moseyed slowly around the streets of Williamsburg just basking in the glow of the imaginary July: nothing was really as it seemed.
I pasted on my photo pass, ditched my puffer with coat check, and headed up the stairs prepared for sardine can standing room. After all, a packed venue could be the only explanation for the tumbleweeds outside. Surprised again. Look, don't misunderstand me, there were plenty of people there—Bushwick's own post-punk clip Honduras
was bangin' out an awesome sound that was somewhere between The Vines and Black Lips, and the crowd was bangin' right along with them—all I'm saying is that I walked right up to the stage without running into any elbows. So, I settled in to what I thought was going to be one of those rare intimate performances where there was actually room for a mosh pitt. Not so.
The crowd swelled a little bit as Honduras wrapped their sick and sweaty set and waved thanks to some pretty female fans. The usual set change went underway, still plenty of standing room, and then BANG, all at once the crowd exploded. Those of us in the front were immediately acquainted with one another. It was as if 50 people had showed up all together, and almost as soon as I was pushed up against the chick in front of me, out came the Kaiser Chiefs and all bets were off. What was an energized, rock steady crowd became an all out riot as "Factory Gates", a track off their forthcoming album Education, Education, Education, War
, pumped through the speakers.
If Pat Philips of Honduras is a pit starting punk rocker, then Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs is a bonafide rock star. The lead singer coasted onto the stage teeming with equal parts cool confidence and humble gratitude, and together the group brought the Queen-Mother-fucking-ruckus. Wilson spent the entire show, well, all over the entire venue.
It wasn't just the Ricky Wilson show though. Wilson was all about the crowd, and the crowd was all about it. They offered themselves to him immediately, timing their screams with his conductor's hand. He pulled a lucky birthday gent onstage for a romantic slow dance, after greeting him by name as a reward for early attendance and throwing a playful 'tsk tsk' to the late crowd. He skipped, dipped and air drummed with the rest of the band. Nick, outed as 'Peanut' by Wilson half way through the show, hopped off the keyboard to start up a rhythmical clap. Oh, and in true Wilson fashion, the singer hopped offstage to do some climbing up the walls; ultimately huddling on the floor with some fans and raising and lowering the height of the crowd with just one hand. By the time the show ended the first time (an encore kind of goes without saying) Wilson stepped in and out of the backstage door, using his presence as a mute/unmute crowd function.
The boys from Leeds avoided literally bringing down the house with established crowd-screaming hits like "Everyday I Love You Less and Less" and "I Predict a Riot" by cutting them with upcoming releases like "Coming Home", and some conversation. It was during one of these momentary conversation breaths that the 50-person crowd of latecomers I had imagined to be all together began chanting, "Yorkshire! Yorkshire!" and the hall was consumed with Northern England accents. Suddenly the Kaiser Chiefs were playing a home town show. Turns out I wasn't far off with my original theory.
The Kaiser Chiefs performance was an all out resurrection of summer Festivus that us frozen Brooklynites desperately needed. When last night finally ended, invigorated sweat soaked fans streamed out of Music Hall and into Brooklyn's 40-degree summer night.