by Eric Tullis
Tuesday, March 24
The last time I ate at a Chuck E. Cheese, it was for a frat brother’s 25th birthday gathering. I remember it fondly, how a pal and I pulled off a plot to smash a piece of cake in the birthday boy’s face. But what I remember most about that day is where we all sat—right in front of the giant, animal-bot musicians. Periodically, music would come on, and Chuck E. and his bandmates would move around as if they were actually playing their instruments, performing their songs. It really creeped me out. Tuesday night, I was equally disturbed by my experience with Australia's Cut Copy, whose performance was just as mechanical and automated and actually quite similar to those of Chuck E. Cheese's boys.
In fact, the only significant difference between the children's one-stop restaurant/party destination and the Cut Copy show were the few dozen, three-foot-long, fluorescent lightbulbs racked up behind the band. They flickered an Easter-basket worth of colors, serving as a visual distraction for everyone who might have otherwise realized that the overcharged elecontronic-rocksters were channeling their inner Milli Vanilli. While the sounds coming out of the Cat’s Cradle speakers seemed ethereal enough, the guy on the guitar—flailing around the stage like a wayward jackhammer—could not have been, in any way, playing all of that goodness. When the band had to retreat into a 30-minute intermission due to “technical difficulties,” the entire idea of authenticity—and of the show itself—was shattered. Why did I leave home to watch what was, essentially, a cross between karaoke and professional wrestling?
Three songs into the set, Cut Copy's lead vocalist (or puppet, as it were), Dan Whitford invoked the dancing segment of Cut Copy’s show. The crowd erupted into one of the most anti-dancing frenzies I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t help but wish that I could somehow replace the pencil-sized glowsticks being tossed through the crowd with birthday cake I'd aimed at my friend so long ago. Each song started off as a hectic, spin-cycle notion, eventually wandering off into that zone where there's no gravity. You and all your excitement and dancing anxieties are left floating toward the men's room, where there's some guy on his iPhone leaving messages on his tight dog's voice mail about how he's somehow having the time of his life.
Of course, about 75 percent of the crowd seemed to have no idea that their favorite electro-pop Aussies were neither playing nor singing most of the material. The ones who did made it obvious, at least, dropping remarks like “Dude, these guys are totally fucked if their laptop crashes” or even, “Man, that was the worst shit I’ve ever seen in my life" all around me. But, even if only half of the music was actually being played and sung live, at least half of the attendees, in all of their splendid naiveté, had fun at the Cut Copy (Paste) show. Fuck it: Let them eat cake.