Matt and Kim, the Thermals, Autobot
The Beaumont Club
Wednesday, June 22
By Kent Szlauderbach
Since their viral, naked video in Times Square
, Brooklyn's Matt & Kim
has in some ways become more brand than band, making last night's show at the Beaumont more expo than concert. Beyond the blast of sugar-high, club-punk anthems, the Matt & Kim name streaked across ubiquitous 8-foot-tall billboards, underscored by their sponsor, Shure Microphones. Their cartoonishly cute faces were stamped and stretched out over 50 tornadic stage balloons.
Didn't bring a camera? Matt & Kim disposable cameras were for sale, giving you the chance to take Matt & Kim pictures and send them to Matt & Kim's website via the billboard's 3-D barcode. Even the bar napkins read, "Call us! 374-762-6350 - Matt and Kim," in Xeroxed black Sharpie. A photocopied wink on the backside of a napkin plugged Sidewalks, their latest record.
The dense pit's teenage audience bought right into all of it. Disheveled and shoeless teens spilled out from the wing of the security alley after first-time crowd surfs. A possessed skater-boy catapulted onstage only to be brutally tackled and kicked out by the Beaumont's tightfisted security. Hundreds of sunken-chested dudes (including a 6-year-old held up by his mother on the pit wall beside me) stripped on command, helicopter-twirling their shirts in the air. And everyone got to sing along to jams like Biz Markie's "Just a Friend," Alice DeeJay's "Better Off Alone," and even 30 seconds of "The Final Countdown," all brought to you by the keyboards and drum kit of Matt & Kim.
Compared with all this, the Thermals' earlier show was like an ancient punk epoch for a barely older generation. But what the Thermals lack in amphetamine pop, hip-hop tributes and guerilla-marketing tactics, they make up for in punk politics. 2006's The Body, The Blood, The Machine, from 2006, is a landmark album for a young punk, and its songs are still the most cutting of any Thermals set. Released near the climax of Bush's America, the album is spiked with scathing invective aimed at the heart of the neo-conservative Christian goliath. "Locusts, tornados, crosses, and Nazi payloads/They follow," sneers Hutch Harris in the leading lines of "I Might Need You to Kill," which last night seemed to mostly shoot over the heads of Matt & Kim's young-adult army.
Hardly art, hardly starving/ Hardly art, hardly garbage. The crowd just nodded.
As Harris' vintage Fender amp began to fizzle, the kids became distracted, and the generation gap seemed to widen. In the space between, bassist Kathy Forster inquired about the existence of the Beaumont's mechanical bull, which everyone seemed to fondly miss. Harris never stopped provoking, playing his oldest dig at the toxically inherent decadence, excess and commercialism in American art, "No Culture Icons."
They understandably were more interested in Kim dropping her booty all over the audience and shoving beer cans down her pants. At one point, she walked onto the hands of the crowd during a sample of Major Lazer, getting so low the teenage boys who touched her might never wash their hands again. She also repped her new concoction, Red Bull and red wine, which she called "the new Four Loko."
There were distractions everywhere. An oversized Eminem on a Kanrocksas truck peered through the front window for the duration of the show. A suit outside drank cough syrup and challenged the audience to games of three cups. There was also the acid-trip-inspired It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia apparition, Green Man, dancing around and giving free Kanrocksas T-shirts away to the entire audience.
The Thermals have five albums and show no signs of age, but compared with Matt & Kim, they also have no brand power. Matt & Kim only have three albums, but they a have whole new market of young fans. Cooperatively, the bands smoothed over these gaps of genre and generation -- mothers, fathers, children, teenagers, young adults -- and created a setting where everyone could discover, or rediscover, punk and rock and roll at one simple show.
Stray Observations/Critic's Notebook:
- Six-year-old with the Misfits T-shirt and the gun-range headphones is the only one in the audience truly discovering rock and roll.
- Matt's speaking voice is higher than Kim's!
- Kim's biceps in the stage light look as big as that Misfits kid's head.
- The Beaumont's smoking porch is a horizonless prison yard surrounded by DMZs lit by three-story-high fluorescent lights. Worst cigarettes ever.