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Published: 2003/06/08
by Jesse Jarnow

Brothers Past, Half Moon Cruise Ship, NYC- 5/30

B>NYC ROLL-TOP: From The Restorative Seas

For centuries upon centuries, there have been those who rabidly extol the
virtues of the sea air as a remedy for Modern Plagues. I am one of them. As
such, the Rocks Off Boat Cruise – which whisks stoned and drunken revelers to gentle reverie on three hour
tours around the cape of Lower Manhattan – unequivocally kicks arse. I mean:
a boat, a band, a lovely summer evening. And it doesn't particularly matter
what group is playing. The other night, it was Philadelphia's Brothers Past, entertaining with
their heavy hippie electronic thing. They were perfect. So was the night.

The boat departed from 23rd Street, on the lower ridge of the city's old
Gashouse District. The patchwork quality of Manhattan extends out even to
the piers. To get to the Half Moon, the boat Rocks Off has been hosting on,
one must first walk by an opulent James Bond-like craft (replete with a
helicopter parked on the deck), through a sketchy looking passageway, and
past several other touristy looking boats, before skirting down a slightly
shimmying gangplank to the boat's entrance. It's just like finding any other
tucked away club in the city, and just as satisfying.

Shortly after the boat's departure, the band – with their sprawling towers
of gear and completely ridiculous light show – plugged in and fired up. I
probably couldn't name a single song they played all night, but I enjoyed
the hell out of it. I spent a good deal of the time floating between the bow
and the cabin, where the band was set up.

At one point, a lot was made about the new electronic bands – the Disco
Biscuits, Sound Tribe Sector 9, and the New Deal, mostly – and about how
their shows would revolutionize live music to the extent that the bands
would no longer be the center of attention, because – like a rave or some
shit – peeps would just go to dance. It only partially turned out that way,
and a typical Biscuits show looks more like a Rock Concert every time they
come around. But, in a weird way, that's all Rock Concerts were all along —
people just showing up to dance. (Seems the whole geeky listening thing that
Phish pushed for was mostly an aberration.) As a pure experience, though,
with the band as a decentralized attraction, the Rocks Off cruises make
swell headway.

And after the Biscuits' truly horrendous outing at B.B. King's earlier in
the week, the Brothers Past made that point all too clear. Could ya really
beat the Manhattan skyline as an attraction? Well, the BPers' outlandishly
stadium-sized light show certainly tried to give it a run on the voltage
level (their gear was blinding even outside). Inside, the music was
as equally as blinding — sharply focused beams of noise over ticking
torrents of beats. The compositions were still a bit derivative, but in
improv space, the band was more than able to hold their own.

The boat cruised under the Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn Bridges – their structures echoing the city's development from stone to steel – and
around the Financial District, the weird battery of whatever it is that's
going on in the world right now. Drifting by languidly, out of sight of the
closed off streets and machine gun toting soldiers, it felt peaceful, even
old-fashioned. Sitting on the deck, with the band's paranoid grooves
swelling in the background, it seemed like a distant worry: the city no
different than it's ever been. And then down to the Statue of Liberty, gift
from most heathen France.

Whether or not it was a good Brothers Past show is irrelevant, it was a good
show. With a literally captive audience, the band performed admirably. They
are more comfortable in their own skin than they have ever been, and well
worth seeing. As is Manhattan, despite whatever is eating at it. That was
the joy of the show, I guess: seeing Brothers Past's inward control over
their outward fray contrasting with the placid flesh of Manhattan masking
its own seething and feverish guts. Get yer rocks off, kids.

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