By 11 last Tuesday night, 14 models— all draped in designer Rebecca Turbow’s neo-noir silhouettes—had been lined up in a V-shape across the stage at Don Hill’s for
an hour. They stood as still as statues, their eyes glazed over.
"They’re already too tired of standing up there," said Turbow, a
30-year-old Cleveland native with short bangs. "Oh, well, too bad,
they’re models." Her assistant handed me a bag of swag, which I promptly
deposited on top of a banquette. A barefoot Asian woman was rifling
through it before I had even let go of the handles. It was everything a
Fashion Week event should have been, except that it was kind of punk.
Don Hill the man has long straggly hair and a gaunt, slightly haunted look, like a cross between Tom Petty and Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. He
was holding up the far end of the bar as usual. "I like the fashion
parties, it’s something new," he said, looking not quite sure, but
pleased enough to have customers. When I told him that I first met him
as a kid when he worked with my dad at The Cat Club in the 1980s, he lit
up a bit. "Those days were wild. They were some good fucking times."
His emphasis trailing off a bit he added, "But change is important, and
this, well, this is change."
The mannequins filed off and The Beets, the
spirited, Jackson Heights-based trio, started tuning up and quickly
launched into a set of Ramones-influenced garage rock. Those famous
punks from Forest Hills figure so heavily in The Beet’s cosmology that
the band has its own sort of Arturo Vega. His name is Matthew Volz, and
he’s partial to artwork with "a lot of blood and guts." Asked his
artistic influences, he said, "Vega, man, and the trannies with
switchblades in Jackson Heights."
The Beets is fronted by Juan Wauters—a short
28-year-old originally from Uruguay—who writes its songs as well. "The
Ramones are huge in South America, fucking Beatles-huge!" he said, still
visibly buzzing from his performance and grabbing tightly onto his
girlfriend, also a musician. Without prompting he added, "She’s a lot
smarter than these fucking models, you know." Asked if his songs—the
lyrics of which are sometimes difficult to understand—were mostly about
love, he nodded. "Yeah, love." Then he paused for a second, adding, "and
hate and violence. They’re mostly about hate."