The Daily Show Throws a Party
Most of these people were not actually there
The Daily Show: Ten FU@#ing Years (The Concert)
Superchunk + Mountain Goats + Clem Snide + Upper Crust
November 16, 2006
I'm not entirely sure why this thing existed in the first place. It's pretty remarkable that The Daily Show has been on TV for ten years, but in that time, it's switched formats, hosts, bits, correspondents, joke styles, and pretty much everything else. From what I could tell, the show pretty much started as an excuse for Craig Kilborn to interview Norm MacDonald. The real ten-year anniversary isn't going to come until 2009, since that'll be a decade from the point when Jon Stewart took over the show and turned it into the insanely consistent fake-news thing it's become. And it's a little weird that the show decided to celebrate its own anniversary with an indie-rock show, since I can't really think of any pop-culture juggernaut less synonymous with music. When political science types guest on the show, they usually make the lame joke that political scientists get treated like rock stars, but it's not like the show routinely has rock stars go anywhere near it. The Daily Show is half an hour long, and that doesn't leave a lot of time for musical performances. I guess the White Stripes performed on the show once, and occasionally Stewart will interview some music luminary like Wynton Marsalis or Ice Cube; Stewart asking Ice Cube to define crunk may have been the most uncomfortable moment in the show's ten years. I guess Bob Mould wrote the theme music and They Might Be Giants recorded it, but that's a stretch. There was also a really funny from the 2004 election season when (I think) Samantha Bee interviewed young voters waiting in line outside an Atmosphere at Irving Plaza and asked them what issues were important to them; some dude said something about "the purity of music." Still, I didn't really know what I'd be walking into last night; I half-thought that these bands would only be playing a song or two and then letting Jon Stewart tell jokes onstage the rest of the time.
But no, the show seemed to exist for two big reasons. One was to throw a benefit for Dave Eggers' 826NYC nonprofit, the Park Slope writing workshop for kids. And the other, as far as I could tell, was so the people involved in The Daily Show could book a bunch of bands they liked and then get a bunch of their friends in for free. Comedy-types generally have weird tastes in music; they tend to get behind uber-dorky stuff like They Might Be Giants and Deerhoof. And I guess they're totally willing to rep for nonsense like openers the Upper Crust, who dress like 18th-Century French nobles (leggings, powdered wigs) and sound like a band that tries to sound like AC/DC, a one-joke premise they've apparently managed to keep going for fourteen years. The less said about these chumps the better; the only real notable thing about them is that their drummer looks like Barf from Spaceballs.
All night, there was a sort of weird clash between people who were there to see the bands and the people there for Daily Show-related reasons. It meant that the conversational din in the venue was absurdly loud during both the bands and the between-set comedy bits from the show's cast members, which ranged from really funny to not really all that funny. Jon Stewart wasn't there; his involvement was limited to a video introducing headliners Superchunk. Instead, most of the show's current correspondents came out to do different bit. My favorite was probably former correspondent Ed Helms, who came out with two other guys and played a totally straight-faced old-timey bluegrass song before introducing the guy from the Jersey fake-metal band Satanicide, who came out to yowl a power-ballad bluegrass cover of "My Heart Will Go On," which sounded sort of amazing. People shut up for that part, at least.
The long-running New York indie band Clem Snide, best known for doing the theme music for season two of Ed, wasn't so lucky, mainly because they play quiet music that isn't particularly interesting. They do the sort of depressive Tom Waits drunken-waltz thing that doesn't really work at all if you can't get everyone to be completely hushed and reverent. They couldnt' get everyone to be completely hushed and reverent.
The Mountain Goats are the reason I was at the show, literally; no publicists wanted to get me in, but John Darnielle was nice enough to put me on the guest list after I asked him directly. Darnielle is sort of a friend of mine, so I probably shouldn't write critically about his band anymore, but they did release my favorite album of last year. He played last night with as many as three people backing him up. Franklin Bruno played guitar and piano, and the drummer from Superchunk sat in on a couple of songs; for Darnielle, that's sort of the equivalent of a 50-piece orchestra. He started the set out doing quieter recent stuff before building in intensity to "No Children" and "This Year," both triumphant songs in their own ways, and the arrangements' extra thwack really worked to give them an added force. I wouldn't be mad if he got himself a full-time band.
Voice review: Nate Cavalieri on the Mountain Goats' Get Lonely
Voice review: Christian Hoard on the Mountain Goats at Northsix
Voice review: Laura Sinagra on the Mountain Goats' We Shall All Be Healed
Last night was the second time I'd seen Superchunk; the first was on the second stage at Lollapolooza in 1995. The band's music calls up all sorts of mid-90s associations for me: Before Sunrise, butt-cuts, Starter jackets. They're still around, and they're still closing shows with the first single they ever released, and somehow that's not really the least bit depressing. Their charged-up fuzzcore felt deliriously warm and comforting even when it was new, and they still take a visible childlike glee in guitar windmills and peals of feedback. "My friend has this theory that we have the pandering set and the teaching set," said Mac McCaughin from the stage. "We don't have that many new songs, so pretty much all we can do is pander." I hated seeing the Circle Jerks last month; it seemed like such a cynical ploy for these middle-aged guys to keep pounding out the same angry tantrums they wrote when they were teenagers. But Superchunk wasn't anything like that, maybe because their songs deal with emotions and ideas could be considered adult. I didn't really get "Slack Motherfucker" when I was 13; I'd never had to work a shit job. I get it now.