Thursday night can be a hard sell. You’ve got work the next day. A late night can be a chore. But to judge from the crowd at “Paper,” the new painfully hip dance night at Harpers Ferry, there’s at least one group of people who could give a shit about groggy Friday mornings: teenagers.
It starts off inconspicuously, 9:30 pm and an empty club. For 45 minutes or so, you wonder whether strong drinks and a sweaty night on the dance floor just isn’t enough to draw a crowd to an Allston bar most people still associate with jam bands and hack blues acts. Then again, it’s always hip to be fashionably late . . . and more important, The OC isn’t over till 10. Bingo. By 10:30 the room’s packed with 18-year-old girls trying to look 21 and packing fake IDs that claim they’re 25. Or so one imagines.
The bands on a recent night are largely forgettable, a bit of background lunge and scrape for a crowd of kids to talk over. More entertainment is provided by a photographer with a large external flash who takes shot after shot of kids doing their best to look fabulous while staring into the middle distance and pretending they don’t know they were having their picture done. You can stand only so much of this. The bands wrap up and the resident DJ kicks in, spinning some seriously respectable party jams. But then he drops the Kevin Federline single “Popo Zao” — the universal signal for the chaperones to flee this fashion-obsessed prom.
Friday afternoon, the audience at the First Act Guitar Studio, on Boylston Street, looks old enough to be the parents of the “Paper” teens. The event is a brief acoustic performance by INXS before their comeback gig later that night at the Wang Theatre; the feeling is that you’ve stepped into some fucked-up parallel universe where everybody thinks that “Pretty Vegas” is a GREAT song. Not a good song; not a great song; but a GREAT song.
First Act looks more like an art gallery than a guitar shop; each of the exceedingly tasteful instruments hanging on the walls is accompanied by a plaque proclaiming its unique virtues and design philosophy. It’s informative, æsthetically pleasing, and utterly sterile — a room that makes the proceedings feel more like a wine tasting than a secret show by an international pop act.
After a brief wait, the band are hustled through the crowd and onto a small stage. It’s clear that INXS are a special breed of celebrity: they’re not just rock stars, they’re television stars. Their stage presence isn’t much, so it must be the music that has the audience rapt through three songs, including — of course — “I Need You Tonight” and “Pretty Vegas.”
There’s something endearing about a crowd that doesn’t hold it against a band that their new singer, JD Fortune, has been chosen on a television show co-starring Dave Navarro. Hell, from the degree of eye closing, rocking back and forth, and singing along, it’s clear that as far as these folks are concerned, this was prime INXS. They even laugh at Fortune's hackneyed attempts at comedy. In short, they have a good time — proof that it’s hard to be mad at a dude who just made the big time by winning the world’s most-watched karaoke contest.
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Eli Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org