Ironic moustaches, drunk millionaires, and man-bulges

By Jesse Sawyer

Dance! Fuckin’ dance, you fuckers! They’re pouring their hearts out for you, why don’t you fucking dance?! These were the inebriated cries that punctuated the space between songs at Art Brut’s sold-out performance at the 7th Street Entry Tuesday night, and they emanated from the beer-breath throat of my best friend’s boss, who, it turns out, is a self-made millionaire, as well as an Art Brut fan. Art Brut’s moustachioed frontman, Eddie Argos, took my drunk companion’s cue, ripping into a frenzied rendition of “Modern Art” by leaping into the bouncing pit of fans while terrified stagehands held on to their rock star’s microphone cable, who continued speak-singing the words to the song while submerged in a sea of newly-made friends. For one set, we all forgot ourselves and dissolved into the shared glory of the rock idiom. The show killed any sign of hipster cynicism that may have been present, and immediately replaced it with unabashed love of everything rock and roll. Like lepers to the Jesus-robes, we came, we touched, and we were healed.

By the time I got into the Entry, opening act Gil Mantera’s Dream Party were already into their fifth song and down to their tightly-fitting underwear briefs. Two large, long-haired men, supposedly brothers, but playing it up with an awkwardly gay swagger, this band is quite possibly the most fun type of uncomfortable known to man. Sporting the phrase “Ageless Wonder” across his crotch, lead singer Ultimate Donny represented for all of the ugly bearded men who love to show their bloated naked bodies off, belting out songs as if in a packed arena, even as he roamed the sparsely-populated dance floor singing to no one in particular and everyone at once. Brother Gil manned the electronics and the synth, wearing a tight leotard with Zubaz patterns, occasionally reaching into his underwear to, ahem, rub himself while playing. Their music was bouncy and electronic, Devo meets Xiu Xiu, perhaps, but it was the performance that made me love them.

Before Art Brut hit the stage, a band of hip-looking youngsters took up the instruments and broke into the intro to… “Enter Sandman?!” But, oh wait, here comes our hero Eddie Argos, emerging from the shadowy wings to take the microphone and redirect the band into opener “Formed a Band,” a song about, um, forming a band. Clever ruse aside, the energy that poured off the stage and into the crowd was palpable from the moment that infamous Metallica riff was played, a blend of hip ironic love of rock that somehow transcended itself, to such a degree that I’m still not sure whether to consider the Metallica intro a catty swipe at a self-indulgent band, or a straight-from-the-heart homage. Such is the nature of a band who will continually reference Jonathon Richman while still proclaiming, “I can’t stand the sound / of the Velvet Underground.”

The set continued to blow minds and move bodies. Argos’ charisma was a force impossible to overstate. He wore simple dress shirt and pants with tie, all of which could have easily come from any corner rummage sale. His hair held its longish post-goth look, and his moustache, like the band’s sound, could just as easily have been genuine as ironic. Debuting some new songs (including one more about his little brother), he seemed as eager for us to love them as we were to lap them up. His eyes twinkled a genuine love of performance that suggested he was perhaps more excited to be there than we were.

The charm of Art Brut rests not only in the fact that they’ve mastered the rock/punk guitar-driven sound, but in the fact that they represent a self-effacing lack of cool. By further revealing the details of already-personal songs, Argos allows us into the young adult awkwardness on which he thrives, a period when poses were transparent and all that mattered was rocking out and trying to find a place for yourself. In the ode to unfortunate impotence, “Rusted Guns of Milan,” the added detail of “It was Valentine’s Day,” was sung with such sincerity that at times I thought Argos was on the verge of tears, while an updated bridge to “Emily Kane,” a song about the singer’s 9th grade girlfriend informed the audience that Emily was back in touch with our intrepid vocalist, and that she was “doing fine” ten years after being Argos’ “only true love.”

Such is the dripping sincerity of Art Brut’s performance. The y are undeniably the coolest kids on the block these days, and yet they are a vulnerable crew, one that claims a desire to “write teh song that makes Israel and Palestine get along,” but truly only wants to “talk to the kids.”

“This is all I ask in a concert,” I had said to my housemate on the way to the show, “that they play the songs well and look like they enjoy it.” Based on this simple criteria, Art Brut’s show could very well have been the best show I’ve ever seen. It was gracious and it was fun. Drunk millionaires screamed into my ear, I stared into the confrontational bulges in the opening band’s underwear, and I watched irony melt in the glaring heated intensity of a truly genuine performance.