Terror Pigeon at the Silent Barn
What’s what anymore? Do you know?
1 FOMO Forever
There’s a certain nervousness in the air, not at all Bushwick-area weird-ish rock-ish shows, not always, but sometimes, maybe often: call it the anxiety of access. In the past, the mythical Scenes of the old mythical New Yorks: if you were there, you were cool. Just showing up was the filter, knowing how to show up. Make it through the door of the Cedar Tavern, and boom, you make art and it's famous. Now, if you’re there — wherever — you have the internet. So how can anyone tell? Just looking around won’t do it, since all the costume schematics are available online, and with beer at $7, no one’s drunk enough to talk to strangers. The place looks cool -- walls wackily tattooed, crumpled zines on the floor, smell of stale rolling tobacco -- but that’s no criteria either; the inside of a Dunkin’ Donuts looks cool now, and has better snacks. If it looks like a duck and smells like a duck, well, it might just be a guerrilla marketing campaign for Buzz Balls. So, the fog of worry: Are we there? Where are we?
2 Engage the Hyperdrive
Every generation, I guess, gets to watch its dreams slip into drudgery, its own hypocrisies happily unveil. But ours -- mine -- has been fated to face a special, new, species of the phenomenon, a GMO superpredator version: hyper-disillusionment, you could say. The particulars might not be so different — co-optation is, like, how the economy works — but it’s the speed that’s novel, how wham-bang fast it goes down. We showed up at the Bedford stop in high school; by the time we were old enough to drink, we couldn’t afford to, and they were gently but firmly ushering the homeless guys into the backs of unmarked trucks. So we stumbled dazed into the cupcake shop and split a biscotti; on the way home, sold our clothes back to the thrift store, bought dogs at Target, and got jobs at the nearest branding agency.
There was, probably, nothing real to start with. But very quickly, that kernel of at least earnest irreality swelled into something other, something eerie. And then into that cupcake shop. And then a sparkly waterfront condo. And then Castle Braid.
It’s a dumb thing to complain about, I know. Things die, all the time, and many of them — most — are much better things. But we had feelings about this one! Was it really necessary to wire its corpse with blinking LEDs, sew on a fake mustache, and set it to follow us around and beat us with a wet roll of paper towel? (Or is that a soggy Showpaper he’s death-gripping?) We were stupid to believe, sure. They told us not to go into the Tall Grass. But we were little!
3 Everything That Starts in Irony Ends in Tragedy
As soon as the projector screen was hung, we suspected trouble, and were right to: while setting up up, the band ran slides of babies in funny costumes, interspersed with kitten pictures. Next were videos of Jackie Chan, which, it had to be admitted, were pretty cool; so we tried our best to stay open. Then they were wearing home-altered basketball jerseys, and there was a saxophone on stage, and things were looking very bad. We were in, it seemed, for some kind of electro-jam irony overload frat party — and the room was filling up.
4 Tap Tap Feelings
But we were wrong. The irony, it turned out, was just a cover, or an excuse, or a trick, or all of the above. They needed to get it out of the way early, because what Terror Pigeon really wanted to do was bang out drum-machine dance jams (Pfork: think less-interesting Dan Deacon, with lyrics co-written by Conor Oberst and Miley Cyrus) about white people drinking in bars and smiling at each other, or crying. And they wanted everyone in the audience to be really into it, and to jump around and hold each other like the smiley white people they were. So they told them — us — to do it, and they pressed play on the dance machine, and jumped around a lot, sweated, smiled, threw blankets over the audience sometimes, and everyone appeared more or less convinced, or at least consented to jump around also, although the few people I managed to make eye contact with seemed about as bewildered as I was.
Or maybe that’s not the right way of telling it. They weren't trying to get anything out of the way: they were trying to blow up the whole distinction. If they blew that up, the room might follow. The plan was to jam irony so hard that it burst all the way through to sincerity, or to get so sincere that it could only be ironic. Terror Pigeon meant to posit the identity of the two, their equivalence under the sign of the Cringe. The Cringe will set us free.
At one point, I found myself in the center of the crowd, and the lead singer was there. He lay down on the floor, drenched, and told everyone to sit, which we mostly did. I ended up right next to him, at the center of all the looking; not knowing what to do, I stared at a crumpled homemade comic on the ground and stroked his shoulder.
Don’t be anxious, they wanted to tell us. It’s all the same and none of it is real. If you want to feel something, just feel it. If you want to have an experience, well, just have it. Press the button and go.
5 There, There?
We walked out 20 minutes later with wide eyes and thin mouths, dazed by all the irony-sincerity schizophrenia, all the impelled emotion, and wondering about our place in the world, in culture, the tiny little culture world that we happened to live and exist on the very fringes of. We decided to take a walk, clear our heads maybe, but turned around after just a few minutes and went home. It was very cold out.