When people, weeks from now, ask me where I was five minutes before Salem was due to begin their NYC set at our S!CK party, (as part of their tour that willfully ignored SXSW), I will be able to answer that I was at a McDonald’s four blocks away from Santo’s, the venue. There I was, sweating across the table from a stylishly dressed Korean woman who was sighing, falling asleep and rejecting my offers to buy her something to eat. On one side of our table were two barbers dressed in leather that looked as if it’d been attached to their bodies since the late 70′s. Their conversation was drunken: “So, whata ya wanna do? You work with me, yes? You work for me then.”  “No, I din’t say I was going to.” Behind them, a middle aged woman who’d bought her much younger companion “dinner”, was listening to his cell phone conversation, which consisted of him listing out names of parks in Manhattan and asking if “It’s cool to meet ya there?!”

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Ai came in wearing the same ridiculously amazing vampish shoes that I’d first noticed, when I spotted him freezing outside of Santo’s for the last hour. He noted that “everything is cool” and he’ll see everyone later anyway.

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Oh, and my sweating was caused by trying to wheedle an insufferable computer machine to download the two tracks that we simply had to play before Salem went on. Just remember, free wi-fi and all the neon lighting you can use is a quick McD’s perk, if you’re ever in need.

***

Food Stamps broke the silence of the downstairs stage just before eleven and had the full room quickly captivated, hooded blondes Amy and Heidi with stoic sirens’ gazes playing tambourine and drums, respectively, and singer/guitarist Tom with shrouded head, singing through his usual AM radio mic, his voice resembling Robert Smith, or at times, Gareth of the UK’s Los Campesinos. Hits like “I Am Jack’s Nightlight” and their girl/boy call and response bopper “Silence” kept the audience enchanted, not to mention their official muse, Samson the Gladiator, who was clearly the ringleader of the group, even getting one girl to dance along with him as he thrust his mighty gilt spear into the air.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVwo-Y6CHuw

Gospels, on next, proved the perfect calm before the sweaty storm of the Salem gig to come upstairs, with instrumental songs bearing mysterious titles like “Cloud Strife”and “Apparition” thrusting a dark cathedral of nuanced beats and intense moods onto the hushed crowd. Main man Taras, glowing in white, is a quiet force, but his two cohorts Clay and Ryan on synths and bass weren’t too shabby either, providing a provocative fullness.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GIglmRd2-s

The night was a collage of like-minded, yet distinctive acts. All could in some way be considered to be cloaked in a varying degree of darkness, but in no way were acts like Shams or Food Stamps or even Diamond Black Hearted Boy too cool for this S!CK school. Even the city’s top “dark” DJs like Becka Diamond, Aaron K and MDMA Arthur proved they had a little light and humor in ‘em with their standout mixes.

For many, the journey here was a lot more involved than ours; Jonathan of Shams and Alex of Blissed Out drove for 30 straight hours following their psychic senses on a direct route from Austin, TX, where they performed at a few SXSW showcases before returning to New York. They arrived back in our fair city with only a few hours for rest, shower… and then delivered knockout sets, both of them.

Shams just does his performance the way a performance should be done. You completely forget that he’s on a stage performing, it seems just as intimate as he were delivering it straight to you, like a wounded, but never bitter, love letter. The last time I saw Shams was a month ago, when he played to a much smaller crowd at the first S!CK show, eschewing the difference between stage and audience by performing mostly on the floor and gathering the crowd to his “séance” sit in. Even with an audience ten times the size, only the right things were metaphorically sacrificed.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhSwSOJls8Q

Shams

***

Back at Santo’s (after my McD’s tryst), I wound my way through the crowd right on time to hear a collective breath being held in and released as Salem’s Heather and John made their way to the front of the stage, the lights barely on, Jack standing a little behind with the drum machine (a newer addition), between two massive sets of strobe lights. Those lights will later reflect on the inside of hundreds of eyelids.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CarvqF-sn24

Salem “King Night”

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Dam8aBYtE0

Salem “Traxx”

***

After most of the crowd streamed toward the exit I went downstairs to find what at first looked like a fight but instead was the most intense and physical set of the night. Black Hearted Diamond Boy was streaming consciousness and body, saying all the needed to be said.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ6ihEX2eRE

Diamond Black Hearted Boy “Sunset”

***

Everyone’s cameras ran out of batteries by the time it came for the excellent GHXST set, which was actually appropriate, we spent the set together with their moody melodies coming to a darkness and a pitch perfect end to the night. Someone said “they sound so goth”, I asked them to “shut up and pay attention”, I think it worked, at the end of the set the audience was starry eyed and, well, happy.

GHXST

***

See you sickos next time.

***

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–Zabatay and MVW/Top B/W Photo by Rachel Chandler, other photos by Rachel Chandler and Alyssa Kazew, polaroids by Bith Joyce, video by Zabatay, Salem “King Night” video by the delightfully namedVampyrVargFesten, some good video is also coming up on the ran4t4′s channel.

 
  1. zabatay, although concisely accurate on all musical and tribunal accounts, does ignore the discourse of charlatan prophets a.k.a. use-the-douce-bags that seem to flock to salem like witches from the mayflower. Thar’ she blows is the understatement of this xyz/nyc generation, where boy meets girl who meets boy who likes girls who love boys. amateur night for the date-rape crowd. all good when surrounded by good friends, or a kind smile from a bathroom attendant. do us and allah a favor and stay home next time. 66Sick has better things to do. . . xo

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    zabatay Reply:

    @fontanella, Stanislaw Lem accurately described multi sexed society where the act of pollination required up to 6 different actors. It’s also like the subway.

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  2. I was the one who could see into the past those who can see into the past never pay. But I could also see into the future and vision of that kind comes at a high price:life, sometime, or sanity.

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  3. [...] Soars opened for Salem at Johnny Brenda’s in Phily, this is two days after the whole S!CK party thing you may have heard me mention a few times, ahem. Found some great video from this show, [...]

  4. [...] The image distributed with the original email is from the Salem show at S!CK in NYC, the one we so lovingly put together, and I swear I can see my face somewhere in the blur of [...]