Live: The Preposterous Supergroup That Is Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, Kid Cudi, and Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij
Bethany Cosentino, Kid Cudi, and Rostam Batmanglij
Music Hall of Williamsburg
Tuesday, July 20
It was just two weeks ago that Converse attempted to answer the "Hey, What if Kid Cudi, Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, and Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij Made a Song Together??" question, hosting the three disparate musicians on one jovial, summer-themed track. Next up? Seeing whether the three sometime-stoners had any chance at all of recreating the song, "All Summer," live, in front of an audience. Thus last night's private Music Hall of Williamsburg showcase: DJ set by Batmangili, rock show by Best Coast, rap concert by Kid Cudi, and a surprise grand finale. In theory, it was an excellent idea; in real life, not so much. As Kid Cudi said, later in the night: "You take advantage of my kindness." We kind of know the feeling.
Beginning his DJ set, Rostam Batmanglij hunches over his Macbook with an expression as blank as those giant, paper mache heads that he and his buddies are wearing in the "All Summer" music video. The crowd is sparse during this brief performance, a few devotees pushed up against the stage, watching him transition Sting into M.I.A. and, later, into "Killing Me Softly." Then Batmanglij shyly exits the stage, giving way to a mini-set by Best Coast.
"I always freak when I get high," a notably undistorted Cosentino sings from the stage. "I'm always crazy when I miss you." Nearly every Best Coast song is of this mushy Facebook-status ilk, but Cosentino, squishing her face with middle-school heartbreak, is hard to be mad at. Toward the end of the set, Cosentino displays a devil-horned hand gesture and shouts, "Converse!" This makes her self-conscious. "I just did this on a stage in front of a lot of people. Pretty stupid move." Afterwards, a photographer in the front mockingly imitates Cosentino. "Boooooyfriend," she says with nasally undertone. I'm guessing this one prefers Kid Cudi.
Cudi is up next, ready to "show off his aggressive side"--as he later tells us--with new tracks from Man on the Moon II: Legend of Mr. Rager. Shortly afterwards, Cudi spots a fan in the front. "What's yo' name, baby girl?" he asks. "Tamica!" she yells back. "I love you," he deadpans. Another audience member unties his Converses. "You are an uncool fan," he tells her. "You take advantage of my kindness." Later, he gets confessional. "I was wilding out and shit," he says of his recent arrest. "Now I'm sober and I'm feeling good. I just smoked weed." A particularly potent shot of Jameson forces him to stop and restart his MGMT/Ratatat collaboration, "Pursuit of Happiness." During this time, Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child is sighted. "I bet she's the surprise performance that's on later," a friend predicts.
The Surprise Grand Finale: "We're such stoners, we can't figure it out!" concludes a baffled Kid Cudi, now sharing the stage with his Converse compadres. Batmanglij's amplifier isn't turning on. "It just needs time to warm up," Cosentino decides. Reluctantly, the amp resuscitates itself. They begin. "Alllllllll year looooong," Cosentino howls. During the first word, her voice cracks and the five dudes in front of me gasp with laughter, spilling beer on the floor.
Batmanglij's production has segmented the song in the style of a Girl Talk mash-up, transitioning to Cudi's verse, then to the Cosentino chorus, then back again. This rigid arrangement is replicated on stage: Rostam hunching over the guitar, chugging away at the strings in double-time; Cosentino remains locked in position, holding her ear to avoid another squeak; Kid Cudi sticks to the left and raps/mumbles. Later, Consentino and Cudi grab shoulders, posing like you did in those goofy photos from middle school. Then she noogies Kid Cudi, the single instance of these Converse stars acknowledging each other's presence during the song. The tune ends, Cudi shouts "Peace!" and the crowd dissipates immediately. "Wait, was that the surprise performance?" my friend asks. "What the hell happened to Kelly Rowland?"