(Originally posted for my job here, with a bunch more photos)
Last night for CMJ I went to see Das Racist, noted joke rap farcical over-educated serious clownfart deadpan funny-funzo’s dumbest of the dumb-dumb absurdist and epicurean drunk willfully obtuse high-and-low trash fringe artists. It was the most idiotic and enjoyable show of CMJ! Constantly making meta self-aware comments like forcing a crowd of white people to chant “WHITE PEEOPPPLLLE” can either be annoying or delightful, depending on how clever you fancy yourself. Das Racist fancies itself to be clever. In fact, they are to a large extent, but not always. This is of course the curse of the Wesleyan grad.
To Das Racist, the Wesleyan leash must seem suffocating. Many have already balked at the preponderance of calling Wesleyan an “art college” (it is neither an art school nor a college), but at the same time the assocation with MiGMiT sure hasn’t hurt group’s press any, nor has having the wonderful but clearly one-note joke name Das Racist for a duo comprised of a Spanish guy and Desi guy. And as a fellow Wesleyanite myself (go Cards/fight till the end when might and right etc), I can appreciate how the blending of trash culture with privileged over-education can yield sublime results. It is in fact the very heart of Wesleyan.
Unfortunately if you can’t hear the lyrics, very little of this translates into a live show. Amidst the deafening and endless overuse of airhorns (irony?) and sending a micstand crowd surfing (irony!), Victor Vazquez and Himanshu Suri command the stage with a drunken urgency that is somehow both feral and bored. Throughout all of this, they are stumbling and bumbling their way through their very catchy and bon mot-laden anti-raps, rife with references to the Modern Lovers, Cypress Hill, Speedy Gonzalez, and [insert name of philosopher/playwright/civil rights crusader here].
Songs are started and aborted and started again by a DJ who seems as unnecessary as the third MC and various other yabbos who also joined the duo throughout the set. With no structure, the performance was a shitshow of yelling the same words at the same time, dance breaks, and willfully surreal audience baiting. The conclusion of the show, during which Das Racist played Alphaville’s “Forever Young” (the maudlin undancey version) and WWF wrestler dance-walked their way off stage, is reminiscent of the way the Notorious MSG ended their equally ridiculous sets by tearing off their tracksuits and flexing suggestively over shrill dog and pony show music.
The question for Das Racist then becomes whether or not they can surpass the gift/curse of their viral deconstruction online views-accumulator “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.”
As an audience member I can honestly say there was a moment of meaningless anxiety as to whether they would even perform it. The “will they? won’t they?” aspect seemed to me more leaning towards the latter, as I’m sure Das Racist has no desire fall down Superdrag’s “Who Sucked Out The Feeeeeeeeling” rabbit hole of playing a novelty well past its prime (File under: They Might Be Giants, Andrew Dice Clay).
More importantly, how do you expand on a joke that is derived from a YouTube clip whose punchline you get in the first 20 seconds, which has already been somehow expanded into a 3 minute song? Obviously you cannot. Performing Taco Bell live would have been useless and deflating, and ultimately would have robbed the original video of its charm. In the original YouTube version, Taco Bell’s strength lies in repetition rendering the eponymous phrase absurd, and repeating repeating repeating it until the absurd becomes transcendent, which you don’t realize until you’re in the middle of listening to it for the first time. In the live show, we realize how little the lyrics matter — the same ripostes and excessive verbiage that characterize Das Racist’s other songs and make you realize they are not in fact dumb-dumbs are the same that are conspicuously absent in Taco Bell. That is to say, lyrics don’t matter until they do.
When Taco Bell gratifyingly, inevitably begins its Armageddon synth opening, the new live lyrics evolve thusly:
I’m at the Pizza Hut. I’m at the Taco Bell. I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. (repeat 3x so we’re all on the same page)
I’m at the Baskin Robbins. I’m at the Dunkin Donuts. I’m at the combination Baskin Robbins Dunkin Donuts.
I’m at the Fedex Store. I’m at the Kinko’s Store. I’m at the combination Fedex store and Kinko’s store.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the combination best of times and worst of times.
The imaginary leap from chain stores to Dickens was, again, transcendent. Achieving a new layer of revelatory irony from an already preposterous premise made all the other bush league antics of the Das Racist show fleetingly irrelevant, because it succeeded in momentarily justifying the group’s cleverness in a way that had been hitherto lacking. The group freed itself from its own chains using its own rules: lyrics matter until they don’t matter, and when words don’t matter, you can say whatever you want:
I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. I’m at the combination Baskin Robbins Dunkin Donuts. I’m at the combination combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell and combination Baskin Robbins Dunkin Donuts.
I was mildly impressed. I was consistently entertained. I was the combination mildly impressed and consistently entertained.
It was a good review. It was a bad review. It was a combination good review and bad review.
I'm writing to let you know that I love you all very much and that I've been dumb busy. I didn't even get to go to the WFMU record fair today, sad emoticon. I've got a bunch of pictures and vinyl burns and cranky old man ramblings, but literally no time to put any of them up. I even have an extensive live review of the Das Racist show from CMJ!
Until my life slows down somewhat, here's a song I've been enjoying a great deal.
Outputmessage ~ Bernard's Song (mp3)
I just moved apartments and found all this stuff that I've been keeping because I'm a pack rat. I'm trying to stop hoarding shit (I only last year and after great reluctance threw away my Simpsons VHS tapes that I made all through high school). One thing I'm sad to see go is this Panasonic walkman, which in my estimation is the best walkman I ever had. It only used 1 battery for Christ sake!
And of course, so long to you, random tapes that I've bought and listened to maybe twice!
What's that cassette? You are lonely because you're the only obsolete technology around? Well why didn't you speak up earlier? Say hello to Mini-Discs! In case you haven't heard, they are the wave of the future!
This is what all my records look like when they're in boxes: