Lucid Culture


Concert Review: The Brooklyn What at the Brooklyn Lyceum 8/22/08

Very possibly the best show of the year so far. The Brooklyn What look and sound like something you would have seen at CBGB around 1977, not a carefully coiffed, safetypinned-and-mohawked self-parody decked out in matching mallstore Ramones shirts, but just an average-looking bunch of guys playing blazingly energetic, loud, often hilarious rock with purist punk energy, intelligence and a spot-on, often vicious sense of humor. Frontman Jamie Frey is a big guy who looks like he doesn’t deprive himself of pizza or beer (although at this show he was fueled strictly by adrenaline, drinking only water). By the time the band had started their second song, his shirt had come off, “NEXT TOP MODEL” stenciled down his hefty torso. The band – who seem to be something of a revolving cast of characters – started out with three guitarists and ended up with two. Running their instruments straight through their amps as the PA was being used for just the vocals, they played smartly, tersely and tunefully although with enough looseness to provide plenty of menace.


They hit the ground running with a blazingly catchy, upbeat number, then a couple of songs later did what has become their signature song, I Don’t Wanna Go to Williamsburg. If there is anyone alive 20 years from now, this song will be a classic, the little clique it ridicules a metaphor for a much bigger problem. The funniest thing about this song is that it’s already dated, namechecking both Northsix and Galapagos, the first of which is defunct and the second of which moved to Dumbo earlier this year. The band played it faster than the version on their myspace, giving it a vintage Black Flag feel: “I don’t wanna go to Galapagos! I don’t wanna hear the fucking Hold Steady!” On the chorus, it’s unclear whether Frey is being sarcastic or if he’s speaking for himself: “I just wanna play with the cool kids,” he hollered. If this is to be taken at face value, he’s definitely achieved his dream. This is the anthem we’ve been waiting for. As the Boomtown Rats said, watch out for the normal people: there’s more of us than there’s of you. If only everybody knew that.


They did two covers. Carol by Chuck Berry was transformed from happy Dick Clark rock to something casually but absolutely evil, like what the Dead Boys might have done with it. The version of the Kinks’ I’m Not Like Everybody Else was every bit as good as it could have been, in fact with the guitars roaring at full blast the classic nonconformist anthem might have been even better than the original. Among the other songs: a vaguely oi-punk number evoking the UK Subs, the band hollering their refrain after Frey reached the end of a verse; a slow, pounding riff-rocker; and a hilarious, backbeat-driven anti-trendoid diatribe possibly called Moving to Philly. Frey thrashed around, throwing himself to the floor, then on one number got up and took a sprint around the back of the stage – in his socks – before reemerging a couple of seconds later, picking up where he left off. The band closed with We Are the Only Ones, a defiant call to unity for all the cool kids who’d come out to see them, an almost predictably diverse mix of old and young (Frey’s grandmother among them), male and female, gay and straight, dancing around deliriously albeit without any violence. Like the Sex Pistols or the Clash, the Brooklyn What could spearhead a brand-new scene that has nothing to do with fashion, celebrity or inherited wealth. They couldn’t have timed it better. Watch this space for info about their next show and their upcoming cd The Brooklyn What for Borough President.

August 26, 2008 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. this review is totally on point. exactly captured what brooklyn what shows are like.

    they’re fucking awesome.

    Comment by tamara | August 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. Great review.

    Look out Marty Markowitz:

    Brooklyn What for Borough President

    Comment by Zac | August 26, 2008 | Reply

  3. I love the review, but the upcoming cd is entitled Brooklyn What for Borough President.

    Comment by Sam | August 26, 2008 | Reply

  4. this is such a good review! couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Comment by Maegan | August 26, 2008 | Reply

  5. Wow! This is 100% correct! I’ve known most of these guys for quite some time (Jamie and I are roommates) and i have to say you guys got them 100% right! There is a lot of pizza in our house, but I drink most of the beer! lol

    Comment by Adam | August 27, 2008 | Reply

  6. I love it.

    Comment by Pac | August 27, 2008 | Reply

  7. hell yes!

    Comment by jessica | August 27, 2008 | Reply

  8. thanks everyone for supporting us. we couldn’t do it without you guys!

    Comment by Billy | August 29, 2008 | Reply

  9. this exceptional review puts into words the essence of this original and talented band. you can only really appreciate them in two ways: through seeing them live or listening to their new cd. i strongly urge that you do both. and bring the kids…its real family entertainment…move over pt barnum

    Comment by big steve | December 20, 2008 | Reply

  10. I love the Brooklyn What! If I could think of only one word to describe them, that word would have to be: contrived.

    Comment by Jim-Bob | March 6, 2009 | Reply

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