Live at Basilica Festival

"Freak Scene: Basilica and New York's Weird Music Scene"

by Sam Hockley-Smith / THE FADER

The event took place in an old factory with cavernous ceilings and massive old windows. It’s a gorgeous space perfect for both the weirdest of the weird and the most conventionally beautiful music around. Saturday night found a comfortable middle point. Beginning the night of music was Blanko & Noiry, a Lynchian performance featuring what basically amounted to an older dude singing in a disquieting baritone over gorgeously dark ambient music made by a couple people in robes. It was as bizarre as things got—enough that I’m not exactly sure how much I enjoyed it. There’s a point where the disconnect between what an artist intends and what an audience gets out of it gets too large, and that happened here for me. I just couldn’t connect. The biggest surprise of the night, though, was Hiro Kone, who built her set on thick pop music that breezed across the huge room—I’m tempted to say it was stoic but there was something unhinged about her performance as well.

With the exception of Prince Rama, who played the tightest set I’ve ever seen from them, the rest of the night was devoted to New York veterans Gang Gang Dance, who, every time I see them, get better at figuring out the parts of their music that people love the most and then drawing them out into full songs and Psychic Paramount, who blanketed the entire room in such thick smoke that you couldn’t see more than a few inches in front of you. It was loud and fully immersive. I think when this nebulous dark period of New York music is talked about, Psychic Paramount are a band that best represents that era. It’s not difficult to listen to, but it’s confrontational.

What I came away with is that whatever anyone might think is missing from New York’s experimental music scene…they’re not wrong, but they’re not right either. It’s just bubbling slightly under the surface, pushing against restraints, ready to be brought to the world’s attention so it can be awkwardly thrust onto a too big stage, and the real weirdness can begin.