The sky cracked with the impending fury of a New York City shitstorm as I hoofed it downtown to catch Louis XIV, an act that’s been garnering a dollop of hype and airtime of late. Certain industry insiders had even hinted that their brash blend of rock and hormones was just the thing the music world needed to pull it out of its post-White Strokes doldrums. Well, it’s not often you get to see a bunch of widely heralded Rock ‘n’ Roll saviors on stage in their prime, so I took the offer as a mandate and dragged myself out through the putrid runoff of what passes for early summer in this soul-swallowing hellhole.
I wheeled around the corner and walked down Delancey to the joint. The marquee in front spelled out the band’s name, but not quite as blatantly as the crowd of well-heeled hipsters lingering by the door—poster kids for the neighborhood vintage shops were packed three deep, milling about aimlessly and sucking down their smokes. If they’d off given any air of self-awareness I’d have called them angst-ridden, but judging by their hollow patter and teased hair I sized them up as mere troops in the vast army of the urban dissolute. Angst had gone out of fashion a generation before. These kids were just passing the time.
I flipped the doorman a fin, walked into the hall, and was immediately buffeted by a filthy blast of sonic diarrhea. The foursome had already taken the stage and were in full swing, laying a choking blend of well-trod rock ‘n’ roll clichés and asinine innuendo on a crowd only too eager to slurp up the aural effluvia. I staggered from the shock: through the heavy lashings of eyeliner and almost indecipherably thick Scottish brogue (unusually pronounced, even for a band from San Diego) the sham being perpetrated here was immediately obvious. The band had obviously done their homework, however—their songs, well structured in their calculated way, played like a study guide for a seventies’ rock ‘n’ roll final exam. I was guessing the crowd had slept through a semester’s worth of lectures and were now confusing these shoddy Cliff’s Notes for the real thing. But, charlatans though they might be, just like the snake-oil hucksters of yore you had to both admire their moxie and slap your head at the gullibility of the poor saps trucking the crap home by the wagonload.
I cooled it over to the bar to order a beer and asked the barmaid what she made of the scene.
“Don’t get me started,” was her exasperated response, as she slung me a brew. “That lead singer almost threw a freakin’ tantrum earlier when he found out he was out of eyeliner and none of the girls at the bar had any to lend him. He was going to walk out on the show ‘til one of their handlers agreed to run out to Duane Reade and pick him up some. Now he looks like some goddamn downtown tranny.” With that she rolled her eyes, grabbed my cash and was off.
The chick had a point. With all their rock posturing and mincing around on stage, these guys couldn’t have come off as bigger dandies if they’d been wearing their namesake’s trademark tights, powdered wig, and beauty mark. The crowd was buying it well enough, though, so I figured I’d give ‘em a break. But when you’ve been in this business for as long as I have you get a knack for sniffing out the phenoms from the fops. I was definitely wary.
Just then they broke into their closing number. Played live, their quasi-hit single “Finding Out True Love Is Blind,” a musical litany of girls they’d like to bang, is like eavesdropping on a lunch table filled with pimple-faced high school sophomores. I didn’t yet know what was behind the front these guys were putting up, but just like those highschoolers, they seemed to be trying pretty hard to fool someone of something. As they were taking their final bows to the wild approbation of the juvenile crowd, I decided I was going to find out more.
The barmaid pointed out the band manager, a simpering little man with an oily brow and ill-fitting, standard-issue hipster duds holding court with a couple of suits over by the stage. I approached him, flashed my usounds credentials and told him I wanted a word with the fellows. He raised an eyebrow to me, looked around nervously and, leaning in close, said he’d make the necessary arrangements, but insisted that there be no cameras and that certain things would have to be kept off the record. I agreed to the camera ban but told him the secrecy bullshit was out of the question—that I had a goddamn reputation and a responsibility and that everything was on the record or no deal. His agitation increased visibly, but he agreed, requiring only that I give him 20 minutes to make the arrangements. I told him 15 and strode back to the bar. No penny-ante group of industry darlings was going to keep me waiting around. I drained a pair of Beams, made pleasant with the little honey behind the rail, tipped her a deuce and made my way to the backstage door.
Nothing I could imagine would have prepared me for what I was about to discover behind the curtain.
My suspicions were immediately aroused by the fawning guitar tech guarding the backstage access door. After a round of uncomfortable obsequies, during which he pawed greedily at my neck and shoulders and bowed low to the ground, he began making preparations for my entry. He demanded my clothes in exchange for a pair of loose-fitting Turkish pantaloons and a velvet robe. Shoes were not allowed. Willing to obey custom if only to find out what these guys were about, I agreed to the strange requests and was led by the hand past various elements of the band’s entourage—a bewildering assortment of jugglers, acrobats, menagerie animals, and attendant boys—to a dimly lit, steamy chamber. There, in a softly percolating hot tub, sat Brian and Markie, bassist and drummer for the band. Upon seeing me, the two erupted into a chorus of giggles, splashing each other with bath water and jumping up and down.
“Ooo, we’ve been expecting you,” cooed Brian. “Hurry, get out of those pants and into the tub!” With that he threw his head back, closed his eyes, and began emitting a soft, feline purr.
Now I dig rock ‘n’ roll as much as the next fellow, and I’ve certainly had my share of hot tub dalliances, but as there wasn’t a girl in sight I was a little reluctant to drop the drawers. Buying time, I asked where lead singer Jason had gone.
“Silly!” exclaimed Markie. “She gets so tense after shows, she needs an hour or so in the hyperbaric chamber before she can even make it to the tub. She’s such a queen! But now we mean it, no more interview until you’re out of those silly pants and in the water!”
Certainly you will appreciate my quandary, dear readers. Seeing no graceful alternative, and eager to learn more about these intriguing if foppish figures, I shimmied out of my pants, dropped the robe to the bandmates’ howls of delight, and eased myself into the tub. Under the water, it was all hands, and it seemed like a lot more than four.
“Ooo, we like you!” said Markie, leaning in close. “Now, what would you like to know for your silly magazine? We’ll tell you eh-neh-thing!”
I told the pair to cut the crap and get on the level, but they just rolled their eyes, shot each other a knowing glance and called over one of the attendants to take drink orders. I ordered a Bud, Brian a champagne cocktail, and Markie a pint of chilled crème de menthe. The boy slunk off silently on slippered feet, not turning his back until he was out the door. I saw fear in his eyes and wondered what horrors they had seen.
No sooner had the boy left but the door burst open again and, through the steamy haze of the tub vapor, I saw lead singer Jason enter the room, fresh from his hyperbaric treatment. He was wearing a tiger pelt cape, rhinestone tiara, and precious little else. With a grand flourish he strut into the room, alternately erupting into paroxysms of high-pitched laughter and drawing greedily on a pastel-blue cigarette. The smoke smelt sweetly of opium.
“I was told we had an outsider in our company, but I wasn’t told he was sent here to ravish me!” he blurted out excitedly as he chucked the cape and flung himself into the tub. “I only pray thee, dear stranger, be gentle, and don’t muss my hair!”
Well, that was the last straw. I was out of that tub and out the door before the drinks were served—and I never pass up a drink. The spectacle had grown wearisome. I’d gotten nothing but a Howitzer-spray of underwater gooses out of these guys, and across town I had a warm bed with a beautiful young woman in it waiting for me. Waifish and nubile, she was more man than these three put together, and I was eager to get back to the real world. I had suspended my disbelief as best I could while these guys were on stage, but I can’t say there weren’t omens in the music. I’d come here to rock and left feeling like I’d been buttfucked—I’ve got to pick my assignments better….
–Jack Larson, New York City