2:38 pm Aug. 24, 2012
Can you have a good time at a show you dislike?
Of course you can, and even if music is getting lamer all the time, “venue” has slowly come to mean anything from the Guggenheim Museum to a boat chugging around Manhattan Island. You might or might not come to such venues for the music, but who can resist the novelty of a not-really-club locale to see bands and D.J.s?
That was part of what drew me last night to the Harbor Lights, a 250-capacity party cruiser that regularly hosts music events (one of several boats routinely used by the Rocks Off promotions team). The guest of honor was Teengirl Fantasy, the Oberlin-to-N.Y.C. duo of Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss, who make half-assed synth-pop with the above-it-all frosted cool of a subway fashionista pseudo-nonchalantly rocking a two-foot-high pink-pastel collar.
Teengirl Fantasy’s new, second album Tracers is so vaporous it refuses sustained attempts to pay it any attention. The stalactite-like synths arc and build to climaxes that never arrive; it sits in place, preening and indeterminate. (My notes had one song at the show as “the one that sounds like a lame ambient remix of ‘Electric Feel.’”) If you love music that reaches for the ineffable and couldn’t care less about whether or not anything is grasped, well, you shoulda been there.
Not that I minded being there. Who can resist sailing around New York harbor on a perfectly temperate late-summer night? The crowd was convivial—a few yelling party-hearty types, lots of excited friend-knot chatter—and much of the evening’s fashion matched the headliners' ’80s-inspired music. I preferred the clothes.
Not to mention the D.J.s. When the Harbor Lights set off shortly after 8 p.m., Massacooramaan played a set of rough, dirty, frenetic tracks with endlessly repeated phrases (“Get down on my,” “I want that ’dro, ’dro, ’dro, ’dro”) that sounded improbably apt over the open water.
Throwback synth-poppers Lemonade, who came on next, were more songful than the headliners, if not necessarily much better. Then came D.J. MikeQ, aptly attired in an "IMA READ" hat (MikeQ made the best of several remixes of Zebra Katz feat. Njena Reddd Foxxx’s “Ima Read”), whose tracks were less cut-up, more straightforward: Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap” sounded better than I remembered.
Set and setting aside, and even against better music, it was hard to be actively irritated by Teengirl Fantasy. The band, often lumped in with the "chillwave" sound—which is to say synth-pop turned to blobs—evinces their dance-music roots at the best moments: the best track they played all night sounded kind of like Orbital. But there's a fundamental unapproachability; they sort of hang their music there like gallery art, rather than songs or grooves meant to make a connection.
The city views, on the other hand, were impossible not to love.