A deep-rooted fear was churning my stomach as I walked through the Kendall Hall TV studio doors on Feb. 13. The Gay Blades, arguably one of the New York tri-state area’s most prominent and promising bands, was scheduled to play a televised show for WTSR’s Concert Series, and I was charged with deciphering the chaos I knew would ensue.
If the snarky, withering sarcasm of vocalist and guitarist Clark Westfield (a.k.a. The Aristocrat of Crime) and drummer Puppy Mills (a.k.a. The Snitch) weren’t enough to intimidate me, the plastic patio chair thrown at my head from the back of the room was.
To further complicate things, The Gay Blades – WTSR’s sixth most heavily rotated band of 2007 – project a barrage of blistering sound at the listener, so unfathomable that I wonder how two people could create so much potent sound. In accordance with the Blades’ “Buck Fass” mentality, who needs bass anyway?
Later in the evening, Westfield would proudly proclaim, “Bass players are the worst people in the world, so we’re actually plus 10.”
Gay Blades haters, who make up easily a quarter of the band’s press section on its Myspace page, are easily incensed by the band’s attitude. Some treat the band as a cliché or a joke, but actually, the joke is on them. The Gay Blades hold a mirror to the collective pretentiousness of the indie genre, and the haters simply don’t like what they see in the reflection.
The Gay Blades took to the stage after a brief interview with Rob Viviano, WTSR music director. I was afraid for Viviano. I grinned, wondering if he was aware that he had just been thrown to the lions when the cameras rolled.
Westfield and Puppy Mills had their way with Viviano, but he kept his cool and was able to ask some entertaining questions. I was proud of Viviano when he was able to bring the true story of The Gay Blades’ origins to the surface.
Apparently, Westfield met Mills as a traveling circus performer whose specialty was juggling. Neither of the two knew how to play their instruments, but according to Westfield, they both knew the makings for a band were there. He said he and Mills “stepped into a band’s skin.”
The Gay Blades’ performance certainly seemed as natural as that. They took the stage after demanding several rousing chants of “Guns up!” from the crowd. The lights dimmed, and came back up to the unmistakable juggernaut drumming of the song “O Shot,” as Westfield shimmied and sashayed his way toward his guitar.
Throughout the song, punctuated by vicious snare shots and a series of snarling guitar riffs, Westfield stomped around the stage in his distressed cowboy boots, threatening to punch a hole through the concrete.
I suppose I was an easy target, sitting in the front row with my notebook and pen. I had been the victim of Westfield’s on-stage ridicule in the past, and I’d learned to accept it as a badge of honor. Thankfully, as Westfield launched his assault on me, the person seated to my right began to yawn.
“If you’re going to yawn I’ll make you sit in the back,” Westfield lambasted. After consoling the curly-haired audience member, he offered, “I loved your work on ‘Boy Meets World.'”
Other mainstays of the Blades’ live act continued to fan the flames of the band’s already explosive live act throughout the evening, including “Bob Dylan’s 115th Nightmare” – dedicated to Mr. Zimmerman himself – “NHDN” and a new song debuted at a separate gig a few months prior, “Mean Muses.”
During “Dog Day Afternoon,” Westfield proceeded to walk through the crowd, landing in the lap of a photographer seated directly behind me. Echoing the song’s bridge before its climactic final verse, Westfield reprimanded the photographer with the gentle goading of “Don’t be mad!” as Westfield kissed him on the side of the forehead.
Several times throughout the evening, I looked down the row of chairs to my left or over my shoulder, seeing no shortage of bobbing heads or mouthing of lyrics.
The show came to a head during the song, “Robots Can Fuck Your Shit Up.” It began innocently enough, with Westfield asking Mills, “Hey Puppy, want to play a song about Robots?” The song began to culminate with the grandiose fanfare of its parade-like ending as Westfield marched through the crowd.
I turned my head just in time to catch the sight of a plastic chair careening toward my face. I ducked, and the girl seated next to me bore the brunt of the impact, but at least Westfield hadn’t gotten the best of me that night.