Party Planning With Dean Wareham

Dean Wareham at the Standard Hotel, New York City, June 2011. Photo: Scott Meriam

“It’s winding down,” Dean Wareham said when I asked how it is that he’s doing another “Dean Wareham plays Galaxie 500” show, days after what was supposed to be the last of the “Dean Wareham plays Galaxie 500″ shows. It’s appropriate that this enterprise — which began last summer and features Wareham and his wife/musical partner Britta Phillips performing the much-adored songs that first made Wareham indie-famous — should end with a meandering fade-out. The best Galaxie songs have that kind of unhurried elegance. Wareham, who, in person, is heartthrob-ish in a laconic, cerebral sort of way, was leaning against the railing that separates the ostentatiously glam circular bar from the ostentatiously glam split-level pit at the Boom Boom Room, inside NYC’s Standard Hotel. Indie god that he is, Wareham still isn’t too lo-fi to appreciate the setting. “The room is pretty stunning,” he wrote in an email inviting me to the event. “Even the toilets have an amazing view.”

It’s true. If you’ve ever wanted to piss all over Manhattan (and who hasn’t?), this is the place. On this night, it was also the place for a collision between the people who usually hang out in the meatpacking district on a random weeknight (rich, bored, French manicured) and the sort who like this band (higher educated, wear A.P.C. jeans). Wareham was jumpy. The band was supposed to have a private room in which to dump their stuff, as well as a bartender devoted to their alcohol needs, but he never materialized. “Where is he?!” the singer mock-whined. It was already 11:30 pm and people were still filing in. “We’re leaving for Taiwan in the morning and still have to pack,” he said. For a rock star, Wareham is unusually detail-oriented. “Someone has to be,” he said.

Preschool teacher-worthy organization skills aren’t the only thing Wareham picked up in two decades of fringe rockstardom, first with the aforementioned Galaxie 500 and later with Luna. He also perfected the recipe for ideal onstage drunkenness. “You have a drink at soundcheck, two at dinner, one before you go on and suddenly you’re just this side of drunk without even trying,” he explained. “That’s what I did in Luna, but now I try to hold off at least until I’m onstage.” He looked around in vain for that phantom personalized bartender, then excused himself to say hello to friends, including producer Victor Van Vugt (who did Luna’s landmark album Bewitched, among others) and restaurateur Sisha Ortuzar of Riverpark fame.

I walked the room. A gigantic woman in a sheer jumpsuit and McQueen heels sauntered by with a friend, in what looked like a painter’s smock, both with zombie eyes. “There are women here with legs as long as I am tall,” commented an attractive but human-looking blonde in a pageboy and vintage dress. To my right, a statuesque Aggy Deyn look-alike in a giant felt hat misjudged the height of the stairs and toppled forward, her drink flinging, ice and all, out of her glass with an odd grace. In the back of the room, near the stage, a couple made out on a circular couch, a dish of chocolate covered strawberries on the lacquered table, the dude’s hand disappearing under the girl’s summer-white shorts. This place is a sexy mess, just as advertised.

Back at the bar, Wareham and Phillips — dressed like a foxy babysitter in daisy dukes and wedges, hair in a ponytail — stood near the stage, ready to play. The show was a glittery dream, Wareham’s distinctive voice high and light like the skyline, above lush, lackadaisical guitars. I stood stage left, resting one leg on the cream colored bench of a grand piano. In between songs, Van Vugt spun stories about his family’s boat being hijacked by Somali pirates. As I leaned in to ask him how, exactly, one delivers millions of dollars in random to a bunch of marauding thugs, I spotted Wareham taking a long, luxurious sip of his cocktail. So much for staying organized.

RELATED POSTS