See, Speak, Hear No Evil

Recently a band playing at a local watering hole in Jersey City asked the audience (of fifteen) to get up and dance because 'Jersey City is supposed to be wild'. Unfortunately for the band, I had no intention of giving up my seat on the sofa to shake my body around because, frankly, the band wasn't really very interesting (my sentiment was shared by the handful of others in the room). If Jersey City is supposed to be wild, then New York City across the Hudson River is obviously much wilder. NYC is the epicenter of all that is hip and cool within a hundred mile radius. All other cities and towns in the afflicted area rate themselves in relation to New York City. Audience movement in NYC is usually incredibly restrained, especially at the shows I frequent. There's the usual head-bobbing--maybe if a band is having a good night some audience members who shake back and forth, perhaps even in time with the music. That's itĄthat's all a band can usually expect from an audience in NYC. Participation is not guaranteed.

But there is the rare exception of a band whose sheer joyfulness and fun can command the attention of and compel several hundred New Yorkers to do synchronized hand movements. The Hidden Cameras began their set with a procession through the audience, banging out a simple prelude on their most portable instruments. As a rule, I'm afraid of performers who cross that invisible yet well-defined stage line. On the other hand, this is due to some specific experiences with loud-mouthed drag queens. This gang of Canadians is much less imposing. After all eleven band members finally stuffed themselves onto the small stage, Joel, the main singer/songwriter/ringleader of the circus, led the band into 'Golden Streams.' Violin, cello, saxophone, drums, xylophone, a few guitars, bass, two synthesizers, plus certainly some other things hidden behind some extra band member or two joined in and created a gorgeous racket. The best music is hard to describe to someone, but you know it when you hear it. Vaguely folky, church spiritual music with lyrics about gay life might not sound so great on paper, but, in practice, the sound is uplifting, joyful, thoughtful, fun. What more can one ask for in pop music?

The go-go dancer made his entrance wearing tight pants (not long on his body though) and little else besides a jock strap mask. Is that supposed to be sexy or just disturbing? I vote for the latter. The single 'Ban Marriage' came up very early in the set as a speeded up versionĄimagine a 33 RPM record being played at 45 RPM (if anyone still listens to vinyl; otherwise, just imagine the song being played faster). Soon after came the point of this all. Before beginning 'Breathe On It' the band gal dressed something like a cheerleader announced that the song requires accompanying synchronized hand movements that involve covering one's eyes, mouths, and ears (see, speak, hear no evil). And here's the amazing part: from my view in the balcony nearly the entire audience was participating. And even more amazing, they were enjoying it. Another song later in the set involved even more difficult hand motions, including opening a book/Bible and various other acts, that surpassed even the previous levels of participation.

And I left the club thinking: 'This is great! This is amazing!' Because the Hidden Cameras are.

© 2003 Matthew Hintz


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