"Is anyone recording this?" Chris Murphy yelped midway through a marathon-length version of "Sensory Deprivation" from Sloan's 1999 opus, Between the Bridges. As all four members of Sloan write and sing, when it's Andrew Scott's turn on the mike, Murphy takes over for drums... and goes apeshit. He's already a ham when playing bass, but put him behind the kit and he turns into an exaggerated Keith Moon impersonation, a barrage of constant fills and stick twirls. Andrew Scott's voice seemed to be giving out, so "Sensory Deprivation" became one monster riff jam that kept going and going and going.
Sloan were in town just to play The Onion's Holiday Party at the very cool Union Hall in Park Slope. "Sloan has played a number of these 'corporate gigs' over the years," Murphy told the crowd. "But this is the first one we've actually looked forward to." It probably helped that Between the Bridges was chosen as the inaugural entry in The Onion's feature "Permanent Records: Albums in the AV Club's Hall of Fame," or as Murphy called it, "The Hall of Commercial Disappointments." In fact, they were giving away copies of Between the Bridges at the door.
The main space Union Hall is a quite large -- part ski lodge, part Ivy League library, part bocce ball court -- but the downstairs performance space is tiny, maybe holding 150 people. So it was a real treat to get to see one of my all-time favorite bands (who normally play Bowery Ballroom) in such a small venue and who were there mainly to enjoy the party like everybody else.
That meant a setlist that was heavy on the hits* -- where most shows lately have been comprised mainly of their excellent new album Never Hear the End of It (my #2 album of 2006). So we got "Money City Maniacs," "So Beyond Me," "Penpals," "The Good in Everyone," "Losing California," "The Lines You Amend," the aforementioned "Sensory Deprivation," plus five songs from the new album: "Some I Can Be True With," "Ill-Placed Trust," "Who Taught You to Live Like That?," "Living with the Masses" and "HFXNSHC."
There was only one encore number, unfortunately, but it was something special. David Cross joined the band for a cover of some song from Jesus Christ Superstar. I don't remember which song it was, Chris Murphy told me afterwords (he's a genuine fan of the soundtrack, at least) but it has escaped me since. Cross had a lyric sheet, but Sloan were well-rehearsed and it rocked as much as anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber could.
Oh... and Sloan were loud. They had their amps at Arena. I brought earplugs but I felt like I wouldn't be a real fan if wore them. By the end of the show everyone sounded like a Chipmunk. And my ears are still ringing.
The upstairs of Union Hall was crazy packed but the performance space wasn't that crowded for Sloan. Can't say the same for David Cross, who did a half-hour or so of standup before the band. It was Sardine City. Ten minutes of his act was a riff on why he was late, and he also told a very funny, if disturbing, story about his dog.
I missed improv group Whitest Kids You Know, but I went back downstairs for a Holiday themed screening of stuff from the Found Footage Festival folks. It was a mix of live comedy and, well, found footage comprised of corporate training films, public access TV, Jingle Cats commercials, Jan Terri and more. (Some highlights here on YouTube.) It was very, very funny, that I remember. And there were DVDs for sale. The rest is a bit fuzzy, to be honest. More on that in a minute.
I should bring up the whole RSVP controversy at this point. The Onion Holiday Party was a charitable event, and your $15 donation went to 826NYC, a children's literacy program. Despite 826NYC putting the invitation on their website with no mention of it being a "private event," after blogs like Product Shop and Brooklyn Vegan posted it (me too, but I don't get the traffic they do), many of the people who RSVP'd to the event -- and got confirmation emails -- were later sent emails saying that, oops this is a private party and actually they weren't actually invited. I had an "in" but the door didn't seem to strict. The "free Bass" was actually just a ticket for one gratis beer, and the "free food" was your standard veggies-and-cheese-dip spread. Which is fine. And apparently, after David Cross' set and the crowd waned (slightly) they let in everyone, RSVP or not.
In addition to the suggested $15 donation at the door, all sales of Jameson's went to charity. So I gave all night. Give till it hurts, I say. I've been hurting all day. This is where it all went pear-shaped:
Photos swiped from Amy Lu's Flickr photostream.