At the wildest, craziest Pool Party ever, King Khan & The Shrines stole the show. The line-up at McCarren Park Pool (QRO venue review) was tailor-made for some out-of-this-world stage antics, with headliners like The Black Lips (QRO photos) and Deerhunter (QRO photos). But it was opener King Khan & The Shrines that were the most extreme, as they did everything but throw the kitchen sink at the Pool Party on Sunday, August 3rd.
Now in its last year (before McCarren Park Pool gets turned into – gasp – a community pool!…), the free Pool Parties (QRO Free NYC concert schedule) have been recently been getting bigger and bigger. Last week there was the massive MGMT show (QRO photos), which saw the place packed practically from the get-go with first opener Ting Tings (QRO photos). This Sunday promised to be even more so, thanks to the pitch-perfect weather and a feature article about the Parties in the one-and-only ‘paper of record’, The New York Times. But this time, things seemed to run smoother, and while McCarren still hit its 5,000 maximum capacity, more people knew to show up early, and they were rewarded with an absolutely unforgettable set from King Khan & The Shrines.
Montreal’s King Khan leads the Berlin-based band, and while The Shrines line-up has changed over their life, Khan’s amazing antics have not. Already a legend in the States after recent performances at South Street Seaport (QRO venue review) and Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago (QRO Festival Guide), Khan didn’t need the hot weather to only dress in what appeared to be biker shorts and a trash bag. While he started the set on guitar, he quickly shed that so he could play wild frontman.
For one song, Khan invited the crowd to throw trash on stage – and threw it back at them (also thrown on stage & back were numerous beach balls – there seemed to be more at the Pool than ever before…). He drummed his belly and wished a happy forty-seventh birthday to their manager (you know she was just so excited that Khan announced her age to everyone – no wonder she refused to come on stage). For “I Wish I Was a Girl”, he first told the guys in the crowd to the song’s ‘dance’, which was to put your penis between your legs and pretend you were a girl. He then stormed into the crowd, mike cord trailing behind him, before returning to the photo pit, where he led the men in the crowd in a sing along of the title chorus line. For another song, Khan encouraged the crowd to take out a dollar bill and tear it up, because they “don’t need money anymore” – again leaning over the photo barrier, and this time a woman on a guy’s shoulders stuff her bill into his shorts, with which Khan stuffed the bill he ripped up into her shirt.
But that wasn’t even half. Upon climbing back up on the stage, Khan found a Spin that someone had thrown there during the ‘trash-throwing’ segment of the show. Pop diva Duffy was on the cover, which Khan ripped off, then took her face out of it, and made it into a mask (complete with mouth-hole for his tongue). He used the rest of the picture as a bib, before finally stuffing it all in his pants – and then removing & eating it! Later, he spat & threw bananas at the crowd (who promptly threw them back) with an old guy in a fez & rollerblades. When one fan scored a direct hit on Khan, the fella was invited on stage – and given a sloppy kiss.
This isn’t to say that the rest of the band were slackers – though they didn’t have the two free hands like Khan did. First, there was a go-go dancer dresser like a flapper, sporting pom-poms. Then there was the guitarist and bassist, who’d synchronize their steps to the lip of the stage. The keyboardist would leap & fall and basically do everything he could while keeping at least one hand on his Korg (which was often knocked over). At one point, the three-man sax section held up toy shrimps, before one of them and the keyboardist ran into the crowd with tambourines. The keyboardist also scored a direct hit on Khan with a banana, with which the bassist ran over and crashed into the Korg. The guitarist windmilled on his axe, while Khan windmilled with his mike cord.
King Khan & The Shrines playing “Stone Soup” live at McCarren Park Pool, NY:
After the electric “Stone Soup”, their anti-drug song (complete with Khan reenacting shooting up and throwing up), King Khan & The Shrines ended things with a mass medley of confusion and action. Khan pulled out a serpent scepter and tried to hit the keyboardist with it, before leaving the stage, only to return wearing an oversized, bright blue helmet (to match his shorts), like something from Dumb Donald in Fat Albert or Lord Dark Helmet on Spaceballs. One saxophonist battled the guitarist, while another played on top of the bass drum (poor drummer – he never got to get into any of the fun…), and Khan rocked his guitar like a violin.
The Black Lips and Deerhunter didn’t skimp on the stage antics, either (including Deerhunter’s dressed-as-a-cheerleader guitarist doing cartwheels and the gold teeth on a Black Lips’ guitarist), but they couldn’t help but be overshadowed by King Khan & The Shrines (though one does admittedly have to wonder if The Shrines’ garage-rock would be particularly memorable without the stage show…). This is the last year for McCarren Park Pool as a venue, the last year of The Pool Parties (rumor has it they’re going to return next year at Williamsburg Waterfront, another abandoned, aquatic Brooklyn locale), but they’re certainly all going out with a bang…