duran duran at the hudson hotel last night
i’m seriously tired and i’ve had three vodka gimlets, but honestly if i don’t write this before bed, i won’t write it in the morning.
first of all, fact:
there is shit that happens in new york that does not happen anywhere else.
only in a major metropolis like this do you get the glitterati doing something as BIZARRE as a guestlist only party for a magazine, sponsored by a vodka, starring a band like duran duran…for an audience of two hundred random non-fan people, at a bar two stories underground, beneath a hotel that is so expensive that one night it the best suite costs more than a MONTHS rent for a relatively nice 1-bedroom apartment in brooklyn.
i got a text at 7pm from a chick i’d met the other night at the shorty awards who was a journalist.
she’d taken a shine to me and possibly knew (psychically?) about my love for duran duran. i actually watched duran duran live for about a half an hour the other day…david lynch was directing a live webcast of the band with different camera angles (it was some exclusive for youtube, i think) and was on twitter (of all places….!) that i saw the titles of duran duran songs trending. i followed the thread to the webcast just in time to watch beth ditto (from the Gossip) do a duet with simon le bon on “notorious.” i tweeted it. i was giddy to see that a lot of my followers on twitter were duran duran fans. they tuned it, too.
david lynch directing a duran duran duran webcast at a club in LA?
awesome. someone has a good idea. i wonder how it felt for them.
so i got this text from the journalist.
she told me that duran duran were scheduled to play this party in a club in the basement of the hudson hotel, and would i like to come along….?
are you FUCKING KIDDING ME? it’s DURAN DURAN.
yes i’d like to come along thank you please. i raced to get out the door.
someone had a bad idea.
it is 1986. i am 10.
never mind the mullets, it’s duran duran.
i grew up with a limited record collection, but the vast majority of it in 1986 was duran duran (squished in there between the doors and madonna)….most of it stolen from my older sister alyson.
my sister loved them so much and worshipped so faithfully at the altar of simon le bon’s boyish face and fuck-me lips that i felt my energies were better spent on the cure and depeche mode, where my sister would not tread. she got simon le bon’s lips, sure, but I GOT robert smith’s LIPSTICKED LIPS and TRAGIC LYRICS. ha.
she got U2. i got prince.
we divided up bands like possessions in a divorce. but it wasn’t actually like that, it wasn’t mutual. i just couldn’t love a band she loved – she’d already staked out that territory.
i COULDN’T have the same favorite band as my sister, it was just not allowed.
she had guns n’ roses. so i went george michael.
but GOOD GOD….i fucking loved duran duran. i didn’t WANT guns n’ roses. i never related. i tried. i failed. the music didn’t work on me.
but duran duran.
i played those records into the GROUND. “seven and the ragged tiger”, the self-titled, and the double-LP “arena” (the live record, which had “wild boys” on it)….
when i was in my early twenties i would go to clubs and wait and wait until the DJ spun “the chauffeur” (it was an expected regular song at Man Ray, in cambridge, on wednesday nights) and close my eyes and lose myself in a taffy-stretch wishing-well plummet of sonic bliss.
those melodies, the synths, the hollering, pained vocals with lyrics that make no sense without themselves – those BASS LINES.
i remember realizing only a few years ago that the BASS was what made duran duran sound like duran duran and NOTHING else. the bass doesnt just hold down the standard 80’s bass line, it BLEEDS melody.
“rio.” “careless memories”, “the reflex”, “new religion”, “save a prayer”, “girls on film.” “planet earth”…..and later, “ordinary world.” (but i really couldn’t get into that album. i tried. recently, actually.)
the lyrics were alien, but they sounded fucking convincing. not “this is the only person who understands” my deep, deep down shit – like the cure, where my teenage fandom clinged – but the SOUND of the band transfixed me….it ate me, and i liked being eaten.
and i knew that they were superstars.
and that was part of the draw.
they were larger than life. the videos, the whole package, it dazzled the senses.
yachts. girls. gloss. bliss. coke? i was too young to fucking know what coke was.
but i’m sure if you’d told me what it was, i would’ve look at you, paused, and said “whoa. that sounds aMAZing. you mean, you actually inhale it THROUGH your NOSE? WEIRD. cool.”
i remember being with my friend holly when we were in 8th grade and she had the uncensored VHS tape of the “girls on film” music video.
WITH TITS IN IT. we watched that shit over and over and OVER again. it was our porn – but it wasn’t even the tits: it was the glamour factor ofd this band having a thrilling and decandent enough life that they would MAKE AN ARTY MUSIC VIDEO WITH A GIRL RUBBING ICE ON HER TITS. this was a band i could stand behind. it was SEXY. and bizarre.
i need to state a terrible trivia fact here, and he may kill me, but i actually just finished reading an early BIOGRAPHY of duran duran.
i won’t tell you who the author is.
but he’s british, really cute, has a dog, writes books, and might be married to me.
yep, it’s neil gaiman. it was back when he was an young upstart journalist in the 1980s and he apparently got a call from a publisher and had choice between three bands…if memory serves it was something like barry manilow, def leppard, and duran duran. he chose. the book is not bad. and you can buy it for $100 on ebay – or $2361.18 in hardcover – if you’re feeling curious.
he apparently even MET simon le bon (on a YACHT, i shit you not) back in the nineties. simon said he liked the book. true story.
and i AM trying to read ALL of neil’s work gradually. please don’t judge me for reading the duran duran book before “sandman”…
…just don’t….christ i’ve dug a hole here, haven’t i? moving right along. nothing to see here.
so, a few years ago, i think it was 2006, the dresden dolls played the the roskilde festival in denmark and duran duran were the main headliners.
if i believe wikipedia, there were about 100,000 people there. ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND.
all FREAKING out about duran duran.
we were as close as we could get.
simon le bon was about 45 feet from my body, and i was like:
I AM FORTY FIVE FEET FROM SIMON LE BON. HOLY FUCK.
they played a great set. i watched them and thought: this is what they do. they know how to play to a crowd of 100k people.
here’s a photo stolen from the web:
me & brian were VIPs, since we had played earlier and had festival wristbands, and we got to get to the special front row section near the stage.
there was a GIANT barrier – with a gap of about 15 feet between the band and the audience, and ANOTHER barrier sectioning off the crowd into four groups
(you can see the sectioning off in the photo above.)
a few years earlier, in 2000, pearl jam had headlined, and NINE PEOPLE had DIED as a result of the crowd pushing towards the stage.
there was a memorial at the festival to commemorate the deaths.
they weren’t taking any chances. i got that.
so at 7pm i get a text from my journalist friend. i tell her i’ll go, and i get to the city just in time to give my name at a counter and descend 2 floors into a hidden basement bar of this hotel.
at first i think there’s a mistake. my friend has texted me “HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and i’ve just walked into a bar where it seems like there’s no live band, just a booming stero system, because everybody is just gathered around the bar, chit-chatting. i start to despair. am i going to miss the show? you never know how long bands are going to play at these wierd secret promo magazine gigs. sometimes it’s just 3 songs.
but i was actually wrong.
i turn the corner and lo and behold, it’s duran duran. playing to a bar of 200 people.
and nobody cared.
ok, i’ll take that back. i manage to meet one actual duran duran fan later that night with a duran duran tattoo on her wrist, and the setlist to prove she cared enough to grab it.
but pretty much….nobody cares.
i’m so confused. really confused.
the room is so small that it only takes me a minute to find my friend.
“what’s going on?” i scream over the music, “why aren’t people excited?”
she shrugs and throws up her hands.
“this is the worst crowd i’ve EVER seen,” i say.
“…EVER. this is SURREAL.”
and i look back out at the crowd.
nobody is dancing. there is some head nodding.
nobody is cheering. nobody seems engaged.
the front row is thin and nobody is trying very hard to be near the band.
here was my view:
i took 3 pictures, they all came out terribly.
it was really awful, the feeling in that place.
is it me?
is it them?
is it duran duran?
am i deluded?
am i OLD?
are people so afraid to freak out?
or do they not WANT to freak out?
do they know WHAT this band IS??
what the fuck is going on here?
i only had 5 minutes to get ready for the show, but i managed to not slob out….i put on my crazy business suit, slicked my hair back (and hairpsprayed it), put on heels, and tried to wear my sunglasses indoors.
i figured this was appropriate attire for duran duran. i wanted to look as close to THIS as possible:
i danced on the couch. i wasn’t going to regret this.
i was seeing FUCKING duran duran in a BAR with 200 people.
why weren’t people FREAKING the FUCK OUT?
but they just weren’t. they weren’t.
a song ended and there was anemic applause.
i looked at my friend. i was BAFFLED. like, really confused.
i was stone cold sober at the time, too, this was BEFORE my three vodka gimlets.
i screamed into the thin crowd: DONT YOU LOVE DURAN DURAN?
(nobody answers me.)
this is when i realized….maybe this was just a bad match.
maybe? i mean, this WAS an industry gig. maybe it was possible that there were simply no fans, no real fans, of duran duran at the show. possible?
or were the real fans so outnumbered by the non-fans that they felt self-conscious?
the dresden dolls have done these parties. we’ve promoted albums the traditional way, we’ve played slots at SXSW where nobody gave a shit about our music, played 4-band radio station shows in the midwest where people there with giveaway tickets, curiously glancing at the band on stage, played weird magazine parties where everybody was technically “excited” to see you but wouldn’t so much as put their hands together to clap or make noise if asked, if BEGGED, out of sheer terror that they will appear dorky, traitors to cool-party etiquette.
we’ve been there. i’ve been there. years of gigging and you can’t NOT be there a few times.
but i assumed those gigs VANISHED when you’re as fucking BIG AS DURAN DURAN.
it just happened, i saw it.
we know this: a band, especially a band on a “THEY’RE BACK WITH A NEW ALBUM AFTER 7 YEARS” tour is always going to play these tastemaker / hip / magazine / fill-in-the-blank events.
i knew the deal. i’d PLAYED this gig a dozen times.
this was the thing that HURT: looking at simon le bon. he’s a STADIUM performer – he’s used to screams, noise, and love of beatlemania proportion.
….and instead, he had a lukewarm crowd of relatively uninterested people vaguely, BARELY engaged. people drinking their free drinks and perhaps interested in hearing the music, but with NO interest whatsoever in acting like fans, getting excited, making noise. no fucking way.
you can’t blame the people who put on the event; i don’t think.
that’s like blaming the venue. or the barman.
it’s the AUDIENCE. who WERE these people?
industry people? agents? models? writers? all media, no fans? was it just some cosmic, awful, karmic collision of people who ALL BELIEVED that they were exempt from cheering?
that it was somebody else’s job but NOT THEIRS? i was told that the gig was ultra-secret and impossible to get into.
if it was so hard to get into, why weren’t people showing the BAND they were excited to be there?
there was a wrap-around balcony…people hung over the edge, cocking their heads at the stage, barely even clapping when the songs were over. it was FUCKED.
the band played hard, they played well, they played a mix of old awesome hits (i screamed along, SCREAMED, fuck the crowd, to “careless memories”). they delivered.
the first row in front of the teeny stage all had phones in their hands. they were taking photos, or texting.
lots of people in the crowd were just talking with their backs turned.
i remember going to see the red hot chili peppers play at a private party for the democratic national convention about 9 or 10 years ago.
it was a totally private, we-willl-pay-you-80k(or whatever)-to-show-up-and-play-our-tent gig. there were a few hundred people there, almost all in suits.
it was one of the most painful moments i’ve ever seen.
people milling around, some at tables set up near the stage with cocktails, some bobbing their heads along to the band, a lot of “oh, i know THIS song!!!”
nobody gathered up to the lip of the stage; nobody rocked out.
the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS. in 2001. they were HUGE. this shit happens. it happens.
duran duran are legends. but…when? now? then? now. to me. to who? when. how? what….?
when the band left stage after playing 10 or so songs, nobody cheered for an encore.
PEOPLE DIDN’T CHEER FOR AN ENCORE.
people didn’t clap and holler.
PEOPLE DIDN’T CLAP AND HOLLER.
at a private, “impossible-to-get-into” gig – in a bar that fit 200 people.
pretty much nobody did fucking anything except stand there and continue their conversations.
i yelled. i tried.
people probably thought i was drunk, but i wasn’t. promise.
at that point, i was only on my first vodka gimlet.
i was drunk on the idea of duran duran playing 15 feet away from me.
i screamed as loud as i could.
i was actually convinced that they were backstage, having this conversation:
“is this fucking FOR REAL, man?”
“should we bother to go back out there?”
“there’s no applause.”
“but we might has well, we’re practicing for our arena show tomorrow.”
“there is one girl screaming.”
“ah, fuck it, let’s go back out and play for that one screaming girl.”
this was duran duran. and i know the etiquette.
that’s WHAT YOU DO.
some people joined. some people clapped.
god it was so fucking lame.
they came back out.
in silence, the band came back out to the stage.
some more people clapped.
john taylor, one of the best bassists in the world (i repeat: those songs owe MASSIVELY to THE FUCKING BASS. duran duran would be NOTHING WITHOUT THE BASS. trust me), came on first.
he went up to the mic and said something along the lines of (don’t quote me, i can’t remember word for word) “that was, in terms of encore encouragement, incredibly lame.”
the audience was too zoned out to even really listen to him. they didn’t make up for it by going crazy and winning back his love.
they just chatted. it was heartbreaking.
he introduced “girls on film” and they launched into it.
i looked at my friend and said: “that’s it, i’m going into the crowd.”
she agreed this was the best course of action and came with me.
i stuffed my wallet and phone into my underwear and headed to the stage.
i walked, with almost no resistance from the crowd, to the front lip of the stage. there was one security guy sitting there.
i stood, 3 feet from simon le bon, and i watched his face. i thought about roskilde. about people killing each other to be this close – not even this close.
he introduced the members of the band, one by one, over a solo section of the song, and they all took solos, while simon tried to whip up the crowd.
the crowd didn’t come with him.
the crowd were simply NOT there for him. you could see in his face…the pain, the disbelief, the….it wasn’t really anger. i don’t know the guy. i can’t speak for him.
but you could tell – he wasn’t happy. i wouldn’t have been happy. but here’s the rub.
and we discussed this, after the show, upstairs in the swank-ass hotel lobby over vodka gimlets no. 2 & 3….
what are you allowed to expect?
are you allowed to expect everything? anything?
a british 50-year guy at the bar upstairs, who had no idea that duran duran had just played downstairs, who was in town to work on a financial project said: “eh, they were a boy band. i always thought the music was crap.”
“girls on film?!!!??” i said.
“well, no. that’s a catchy one.”
“well, that one’s good too.”
“i rest my case.”
i’ve struggled with this. as a famouser band, you get used to a response from a crowd. you want it. you rely on it.
and sometimes you don’t get it. sometimes you have to fight an audience, a bored one, win them over, make them listen.
and sometimes they JUST WON’T LISTEN. sometimes you just lose.
but i grew up with this man, this band, as…gods. this made no sense.
to my 15-year old self, it was as if you’d put bob dylan in a bar of people and everyone talked over him, treating him like some ignorable teenage hack doing out-of-tune nirvana and creed covers.
the band mostly just concentrated on their instruments and rocked out – letting the sound envelop and protect them. but simon had to face the crowd.
i put my hands up in the air.
i did what fans do.
i stretched my fingers.
i closed my eyes.
i opened my eyes.
i knew he was watching me.
because i was one of the only people really watching him.
i danced, i sang, i screamed.
i fucking love “girls on film.”
i couldn’t not.
they finished the song.
and i held my two arms up, hands splayed in the universal symbol of YOU ARE AN ICON, in the air in front of simon le bon’s face.
that’s what you do.
but nobody else did.
i was in arena-behavoir. worship mode.
the girls next to me – it’s very probable – didn’t actually know the name of the man who was standing in front of them.
he grabbed my two hands and clasped them. i looked at him and said “thank you.”
and that is the story of how i touched simon le bon.
i only wish i could have, in that moment, apologized for every person in that space who – if there was any fairness in the world – should have given up their few cubic feet of real estate to a fan who would have killed to see the band in a space that intimate. it smacked of backwardness and unfairness.
thank you duran duran. thank you simon le bon, thank you nick rhodes (the one i always secretly wanted to bone more than simon le bon…my sister had claimed simon le bon, so i needed you, and you looked hotter in eye make-up anyway), thank you john taylor your bass-playing is god-like, thank you roger taylor, thank you horn player and back-up singer, and everybody else in the band i had no clue about.
you guys were great.
i hope the rest of your tour gets better and better and that this was the lowest of low points, forgotten in a haze of yachts, blow, hot women, champagne, lip gloss, and actual love.
i am definitely going to check out the new album, and hopefully come see the band again. in a place. where people scream. and dance. and try to crush each other.
but not to death.
and oh my fuck i cannot WAIT to tell my fucking sister.
she’s going to wet herself, i swear.
p.s. this is the guitar tech’s set list…