CMJ: This is Another Piece About M.I.A. at Terminal 5
M.I.A. showed up as part of Spank Rock's entourage on Friday night at Irving Plaza; photo by Rebecca Smeyne
by Bret Gladstone
"Fucking interview me man!" some guy shouts in my ear.
"With that fucking notebook!"
"Right! First question: Why are you wearing a headband and wristbands?"
"I just came from a dodge-ball game."
"How did it go?"
"We killed those fuckers!"
"Ok! Well, thanks."
"Yeah, right, M.I.A!"
Terminal 5, the newest venue presented by Bowery Presents, is pretty much as it sounds--a vast, three tiered airline hanger for the hipster-set which gets progressively clubbier the higher you travel inside it. On the second floor, there's a comfortable little lounge with swank leather couches and a bar that charges you ten dollars for a jack-and-coke. The building still smells of fresh paint, has an over-abundance of cheap chandeliers, and everything is new new new : new styles, new tastes, new haircuts. And for just its second show, M.I.A: surfing the charging crest of acceleration, her music so catchy and "culturally eclectic," and did you see Robert Christ-Gau nearly giving himself a stroke fawning over her in his Rolling Stone review? Oh, man. And not even a backlash to the hype, so prodigious is the talent in that tiny frame, so great her capacity to instill fear and awe in all those who surround her. M.I.A!
M.I.A., however, is appropriately nowhere to be found. This is not meant to be ironic. Actually, she's just late as fuck. As a result, two psychotically over-long DJ sets presage her appearance on stage, which is appropriate for two disparate reasons. First, Terminal 5 is capitalizing on that new hipster sub-strain formed by the confluence of indie-rock and dance music, and DJ culture--where the "artist" is applauded as much for his taste and sense of ironic contrast as he is for preserving momentum and shaking asses--is pretty much the space where the ethics of indie-rock and pop converge.
More importantly, I'm entirely convinced these long sets are a premeditated tactic to psychologically condition us to her music. Hell, to psychologically condition us as an appropriate audience for her music, which is more disturbing. Mash-ups of Biggie and Queen build energy to a fever pitch, then, as the whole thing gets incredibly tedious, that energy coalesces with frustration into rage. Suddenly, we're an angry crowd, an audience verging on becoming a mob--a mob that's had the slogans, chants, and shibboleths of pop music drilled into our skulls for over two hours. And M.I.A.'s music loves slogans and angry crowds. In fact, much of its genius lies in how it understands that kind of psychology, and it thrives on antagonism. So here we are: more than mildly pissed off, jostling and sweating and pushing, and helplessly subjected to the whims of her absolute authority. In other words, she's basically re-created the environment of political outrage.