What do New York City rap legend KRS-One, The Daily Show’s resident English comic John Oliver and Japanese noise band Boris have in common? They were three of a day’s worth of diverse acts at Sunday’s free bash at the South Street Seaport that marked East Village Radio’s fifth anniversary. The one-day event was initially scheduled to be held on Saturday, but the threat of high winds and rain from Hurricane Hanna forced the event to be moved to Sunday. The only fallout to the lineup was the disappearance of Mark Ronson (who hosts a long-running show on the station) and Dr. Lonnie Smith, though few seemed to notice.
Michigan’s Awesome Color was on stage when I arrived. They churned out a gritty attack of psychedelic garage rock that was melodic and noisy. Somehow, that segued into a half-hour standup slot by John Oliver, who the crowd listened to attentively but didn’t seem to get all of his biting jokes.
Oliver (pictured above) was completely out of his element (did he owe someone at EVR a favor?), but the comedian did his best and offered observations about drugs, the recent political conventions and the Olympics. At one point, he tried to put a baseball cap on backwards, and he immediately pointed out how silly he looked. The high point of Oliver’s act was when he talked about the global food shortage and how countries are hoarding rice, which is now as powerful a commodity as gold. He joked that some day rappers will be flouting cachets of rice in their videos and Snoop Dog will brandish a chest full of basmati. He took liberty with Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)” and said it will be changed to “Rice Rules Everything Around Me.” The crowd laughed, especially when he flashed Jay-Z’s triangular hand sign, rather than Wu-Tang’s “w.” The comedian appreciated the correction and the “smattering” of applause for his only music joke.
KRS-One, who hosted the party, followed and tore through a string of his hits, including “The Bridge Is Over.” As the Blastmaster prowled the stage, he spit his lyrics, even improvising and freestyling at will. Though he might not rule the sales charts as he did in the ‘90s, KRS-One reminded everyone of his incredible vocal prowess. He concluded his set by heading into the crowd with a wireless mic, and signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. How cool is that?
Next came Devin the Dude (pictured above), a one-man act whose songs referenced weed and whose R&B influenced tracks conjured up memories of The Pharcyde. A few of his lyrics made the crowd take note, but he paled in comparison to KRS-One on the mic.
The sun set on the Big Apple, and the stage was set for headlining act Boris. Hailing from Japan, the band unleashed a din of guitar driven noise that would make Sonic Youth and The Melvins blush. Their lyrics were sung in Japanese, but the cacophony they created had a universal appeal. The final song lasted well over 20 minutes. As they cajoled their amps into a perpetual state of feedback, drummer/vocalist Atsuo emerged from his kit and stood at the front of the stage, flailing his arms with the obligatory devil horns. He then hopped off the stage and dove into the crowd, sailing back to the stage a few minutes later.
When Boris finally switched off their amps, it was then end to a diverse presentation of live music. It was accidentally international yet distinctly New York.
Words & images: Darren Ressler