Matthew C.X. Langford, AOL Alex Zhang Hungtai, the one-man band dubbed Dirty…
- Posted on Mar 4th 2011 11:30AM by Kenneth Partridge
Either way, it was a thrilling spectacle, and in its wake, Hungtai was looking to retain the feeling of danger. His show is fairly provocative to begin with -- what with him singing otherworldly rockabilly songs over mostly canned guitar and drums, doing a sort of chillwave Elvis karaoke -- but here, he went back to the surefire way to rile up any New York City audience: challenge its grit.
"Let's see what you got, New York," Hungtai said, his voice echoing with the mighty Sun Studio-squared reverb he employed throughout the short set. On his third or fourth time repeating the phrase, an electrical malfunction silenced not only his pedal, but also the tiny microphone he sings into and holds in his right hand during those rare moments he flails away on his Strat. The room went silent for about two seconds -- then everyone, Hungtai included, broke out laughing.
Perhaps coincidentally, he announced the next song would be his last. The crowd groaned, but then Huang told them what it was going to be: 'Lord Knows Best,' a blogosphere fave that also appears on Dirty Beaches forthcoming debut, 'Badlands.' It's his most haunting tune, and given that it's driven by phantom piano plinks, he was able to go guitar-less without guilt and focus on his ''68 Comeback Special' poses. When the song ended, he remained onstage and answered the call for what he said was the first encore of this tour, an East Coast swing with Dum Dum Girls.
That band's singer, Dee Dee, was among the members of his "tour family" who joined him for the finale, an eight- or nine-person improvisational thump-a-thon. Huang's friends grabbed whatever instruments were handy -- two tag-teamed a drum kit -- and Hungtai sang wordless, hiccupping melodies.
"I don't want to play anything -- I'll croon the f--- out of it," he said. "Let's do some caveman s---."
It culminated with him again leaping offstage, only this time, he crowd-surfed to the back of the room, grabbed a hold of a railing and pulled himself up to the balcony. Freed from his equipment and the responsibility of adding to the racket, he looked down with pride, a primal rock 'n' roller at his most primal.
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