When we parked off of Cecil B. Moore and began walking towards a solitary block that looked more like a penitentiary courtyard than a location for a block party, all I could say was:
“What is this place?”
“It’s awesome!” Sweet T said, busting out her camera before we could even put our stuff down.
“Fuckin’ Music State Penitentiary over here…”
“Shut up, Roc.” Kingpin and Skinny Pete moaned in unison.
We had rolled up completely hungover and ratchet. The razor wire and tall brick and mortar buildings looked so industrial and impressive that I was certain we were entering a prison rather than a block party. Two stages were set up so you could see each one from the other, and would be alternating sets of local musicians back and forth all day.
We were greeted by Dan Kaufman, Magic Death Sound’s head honcho (and block party host) who directed us to a spot on the sidewalk where we could set up our gear and make a home base.
“Right in the middle, along the sidewalk here.” he pointed to a spot that was at the midpoint of both stages.
“Right here?” Kingpin asked, rubbing his temples gently.
“Yup. Perfect. You guys are gunna get fuckin’ blasted with music today. Front row seats!”
I had told myself I wouldn’t drink as I was already too hung over but…
“Fuck it,” I said as the rest of the TD2BD crew walked over to the food and drink table with their allotted cups in hand. They were right; I was going to have to drink. It came with the territory, after all.
“Hello!” the smiling young woman at the provisions table beamed, “Beer, or food?”
She was dressed in trippy, brightly colored clothing and food service gear. She was decked out fantastically, like the Wonka factory lunch lady would have been if Willy Wonka had maintained a cafeteria. She and some other vagabonds were serving all this delicious food too; including potato salad and black bean salad, and beef and veggie burgers with all the fixin’s included with your ten dollar entry.
If this city block was a penitentiary, than the revelers were like a different class of criminal. Wild, erogenous, and loving, they projected a sense of community on a block whose surrounding neighborhood was far from harmless. Their style was energetic and welcoming amidst the cold stone architecture and skin-grafting fences. The musicians were easygoing, friendly, and accessible despite their immense talent. Every one of these bands could easily be on mainstream radio one day. They were the type of people you felt compelled to party with until long after the block party had ended and the music had stopped.
The sun came out, and I wiped my brow with my bandana, slightly melancholy that this would be my last block party of the summer. I took another chug and put the thought out of my head. I saw tables set up along the sidewalk, and wondered what kind of stuff I could mindlessly spend my money on.
The vendors were somewhere between pornographers and artisans. One table had apparel with the word c*nt proudly emblazoned on every piece. Another had coasters made from cut-outs of celebrity mug shots and vintage porn magazines, and even coloring books made out of colorless stills from porno shoots (there’s a picture of a carrot being shoved where no real bunny would ever put it which required several double takes, and yes, of course I bought it). Sweet T bought a shirt that had so much sideboob action, I was practically begging her to put it on. It was all very eye catching, to say the least.
Connections were being made through compulsion; my need to dance and party was fueling my need to connect and talk with others. The music was superb and I found myself talking to more than a few of these artists.
While every band was excellent (and I did watch all of them), a few notable acts stood out due to their sound, their construction and their styles. This list included the opening act, Exar Kun, who was comprised of two long haired thrashers who both played bass and had no drummer.
There was Lil’ Merica, whose melodic beats and strange lyrics were both haunting and entrancing.
I couldn’t help but buy a cassette from Dream Safari (formerly Flamingos), who was among the danciest and most up-tempo of this group.
I was blown away by Tygerstrype, who seem to have invented space-hip dance-hop music that was coupled with guitar shredding and effects pedals (who I also purchased a cassette from).
Then there was Dolphin Mouth, a one-man-band from New Orleans who was banging a cymbal and kicking tambourines and used other wacky instruments while generating an insane amount of noise.
Last to preform were Banned Books, who played strange and obtuse rock that was both catchy and puzzling and had me torn between rave dancing and thrashing wildly.
Here, amidst the concrete architecture and razor wire, was a group of people worth getting to know. The block was rife with all sorts of undiscovered talent. These were legends that have not yet become legendary; performers and artists who were ripe for the plucking with potential mainstream success.
“Strange ruminations on this August evening.” I said to Skinny Pete as I sipped my final beer.
“How do you mean?”
“All of us here, we all want the same thing.”
“We all want to party hard one last time before the summer ends.”
We finished our cups and patted each other on the back.
We had partied so hard, that with an hour or so still left to go, they announced that we had officially run out of beer. My life had become so debaucherous that it no longer felt like debauchery. This was just par for the course for me now, and here I felt wonderfully under par. As we broke down the TD2BD set-up and the excitement and hilarity of the day came to a close, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was packing up the entire summer in my backpack.
The bottom line:
The Magic Death Sounds Block party was an excellent time and it was the perfect way to round out TD2BD’s Summer Block Party Tour. You can rest assured that if this is a yearly event, I’ll be there again to enjoy the tunes and the people. The collective, collaborative group effort and fanatic revelry was strong and could be felt amongst the troves of people present. There isn’t a community quite like this one. I was saddened that the day had come to an end so soon but I was happy to have had the chance to party hard one last time before the summer’s end. Check out the Magic Death Sounds Label at the links below!