Lee Ranaldo and the Dust: Blackt Out

The Sonic Youth Guitarist and Founding Member Taps into Warhol-Era NYC

A psychedelic vision of Factory-era Manhattan permeates through the extended music video for “Blackt Out” by Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, made by his old film-school friend Fred Riedel. “We were powerless here for more than a week,” says the Lower East Side-residing guitarist of writing the track during Hurricane Sandy. “In the evenings you’d have candles lit and there wasn’t really much else to do, so I strummed around on my guitars and this song came out.” Filmed at Sonic Youth’s studio in Hoboken, New Jersey, and at gigs in Brooklyn and LA, New York’s experimental past segues through the short, with references to Jonas Mekas and Andy Warhol’s short films of the Velvet Underground and their laconic hangers-on. “The Velvets were the classics of their day, getting ideas from what was going on in the art world as well as from the history of music,” says Ranaldo, who stars alongside his and Riedel’s friend, the avant-garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs, as the wizened projectionist. “Lou Reed was my neighbor and we got to be friendly over the last decade. When he died I found it much more moving than I imagined I would. He influenced so many things and was such a New York guy—he was a victory right here.” Though the legend’s passing followed the closure of CBGB in defining the passing of the Lower East Side’s avant-punk credentials, Ranaldo still recognises the same spirit pulsing through the city: “When Warhol was here young people could live very cheaply, but it’s still a place where different creative disciplines bump up against each other. That’s been part of its character since the 1920s and that’s not going to change.”

Lee Ranaldo and the Dust’s Last Night On Earth is out now on Matador with a European tour starting May 25.

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  • ON REPLAY
    ON REPLAY

    Bounce Meets Vogue

    New Orleans Airlift Unites Two Street-Dance Disciplines for the First Time as Part of 1MSQFT

    “People who are not from New Orleans are trying to learn about bounce music,” says Katey Red, a 15-year-veteran of her homegrown music scene and self-confessed ‘queen of bounce.’ “People want to learn how to do the booty dances. And I give them the information. I say, look up Katey Red!” New Orleans bounce collides with New York vogue for the very first time, with Red co-hosting the dance clash as part of the two-day One Million Square Feet of Culture [1MSQFT] event. “People are realizing that voguing is not just a gay dance, everybody can do it,” says New York’s voice of the ballroom Jack Mizrahi. “We’re enjoying the synergy right now, to finally have a battle against bounce—a couple of weeks ago it was breakdancing vs. vogue. It’s become it’s own dance spectacle.” The event was curated by New Orleans Airlift, a crew founded by curator and DJ Jay Pennington aka Rusty Lazer and visual artist Delaney Martin to support the city’s artists in response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. “As a metaphor, gumbo works really well,” says Pennington, who also organized a rally to close the weekend and celebrate NOLA’s creative underground, set on the dusty grounds under the Ninth Ward Bridge. “You can’t deny that New Orleans is the kind of place that stews and grows really organically. This is just the beginning of bounce.” Captured by Court13, the filmmaking collective behind director Benh Zeitlin’s Louisiana-set fantasy Beasts of the Southern Wild, today’s film goes behind the scenes of the rehearsals for the ball at the city’s Wax Museum. Red, one of the city’s first openly gay MCs, hosted the ‘meeting of courts’ alongside fellow bounce poster queens, Big Freedia and Sissy Nobody, and vogue legend Mizrahi. “The first time I got on the mic was October 21, 1998. I would get on stage looking like Beyonce,” she says, “but then start acting like Nicki Minaj.”

    Find out more about One Million Square Feet of Culture’s series of curated events here.

    (Read More)
  • MOST SHARED IN CULTURE
    MOST SHARED IN CULTURE

    Shorts on Sundays: If in Doubt Paddle Out

    A Deadpan Scandinavian Take On the Cult Keanu Reeves Surfing Movie Point Break

    With news of a 2015 remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s cult 1990s buddy movie Point Break, surfer and filmmaker Andrew Blackman’s indie homage to the Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze crime capper is a serendipitous comic tale. “The way Point Break talks about surfing and the mysticism embodied by Swayze’s character Bodhi is so amusing,” says Blackman, whose short that follows a wannabe wave rider “If In Doubt Paddle Out” is an allegory of how the surfing subculture is portrayed in popular culture. “The character Thomas, played by Thomas Persson, is so profoundly phoney that all of his characteristics and traits are stolen.” Shot on location in Ericeira, Portugal, the Copenhagen-based New Zealander ensured his shooting schedule saw him in the ocean everyday. “I woke up in the dark to get a wave in before crew call, snuck away at lunch time and surfed after we wrapped until it got too dark,” says the director, who recently returned from a surf trip to the Catlins, on the South Island of New Zealand. “I was taken there by an old friend; a great surfer and a deeply spiritual guy. You could say the spirit of surfing took us there, or you could argue it was his 2010 Subaru Outback.”

    Who are you: Keanu or Patrick Swayze?
    Andrew Blackman:
    Good question. Swayze on the beach, Keanu in the water (RIP Bodhi!).

    Is surfing a way to get the girls or spiritual enlightenment?
    AB:
    For some people, me included, surfing is really addictive. Maybe this is what the kid in Point Break means when he tells Utah, “Surfing is the source man, swear to God it will change your life.”

    What’s a ‘kook’?
    AB:
    I’ve heard a kook being described as someone who does not respect the surf-spot and/or others in the water. Someone who is unprepared to surf a certain wave and does not adhere to surfing etiquette.

    (Read More)

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