Words and Photos by Sean Edgar
So self-titled really isn’t sure what kind of publicity Diesel is trying to attract with their increasingly ape-shit free shows. Starting off last fall as a full international tour–including a carnival-esque stop at the Brooklyn Waterfront–its first iteration sported a very pregnant M.I.A., Hot Chip, Franz Ferdinand and a host of PR-baiting hyperbole, hell-bent on occupying every single indie blogger for a solid five hours. Last night, Webster Hall witnessed the company’s latest concert, the Diesel:U:Music tour with a lineup that included Passion Pit, Cobra Starship and The Roots. The weird thing about these promotional orgies is that a name brand designer is actually trying to build street cred among the unwashed hipster masses. Either Salvation Army’s going to have to step up its game or Mugatu knew what was what.
Things started off benignly enough with a 3-hour camp out session at the “Red Carpet” (which bears a striking resemblance to a 10-foot stretch of the Webster lobby), where such personalities as designer Richie Rich, some football player from the Giants and old American Idol contestant Jared Cotter stopped by to pose. (I’d like to thank my Mom for helping me identify the picture on the latter.) Then the looming publicists started intoxicating the photographers with promises of “Emile Hirsch” and “Rihanna” in the background. In their defense, they might have been there, but the evening was turning into the celebrity edition of Waiting For Godot, so up to the actual music I went.
For the first time ever, I found myself wading through a sea of high heels, peroxide and actual fashion sense on the Webster dance floor. Passion Pit brought a tidal wave of blistering synths and tight chops that marked a nice progression for a young band that received a premature dose of overwhelming buzz and expectation. Cobra Starship wasn’t very good, but they have a really, really photogenic keyboardist. The first hint of promised A-list shenanigans arrived when Kanye West helped Virginia Beach rappers Clipse on their collaboration, “Kinda Like A Big Deal.” While Ye’s stage time probably lasted as long as a trip to the bar, it was a nice shot of expected spontaneity into the night.
And then there’s the headliners, The Roots. What can you say for Philadelphia’s finest that hasn’t been said before? They consistently make excellent hip-hop jam records (we’re on #9 for those counting); their backing band consists of freakishly talented improv musicians who can bisect a beat five different ways; and they still rock harder than a geologist despite their new job providing rim-shots for Jimmy Fallon on late-night TV. And they also apparently have a thing for Icelandic pixie Lykke Li, who joined them on their last three tracks including a spiked rendition of her underground hit, “Dance Dance Dance.”
Free music, free alcohol, free irony: check, check, check. Keep up the good work, Diesel.