I first heard about Bonaparte when I saw poster bills for their album release in Berlin. They looked like a unruly burlesque group. I heard they had a reputation for throwing a wildly memorable performance so when I saw they were playing shows in New York City before and after their SXSW stint, I decided I had to go see them for myself at Union Hall in Brooklyn, New York City.
The show opener was Tim Fite, a great singer-songwriter with a confident voice and hilarious lyrics. After Fite's set, I was able to talk to him for a moment at the bar. When he said he was from the Poconos, I told him I used to ski there when I was a kid. He responded dryly, "I probably served you french-fries at the lounge".
After a long weekend (Drinking Jameson and Guiness for St. Patrick's day - the day when everyone suddenly remembers that they have a little Irish blood), I wasn't sure what to expect on a snowy Monday night. Then, Bonaparte came out with all the energy and vivacity that you'd expect on a Friday night. Union Hall is a very intimate venue, with a red velvety vibe and weird archaeological bones and spiders in glass showcases. Bonaparte fit right in with their electro-punk avant-garde antics.
The dancers were performance artists of their own rite. Contorting themselves in outrageous outfits to the first few songs until they reached a explosive climax that seemed a little more like S&M than a typical rock gig. Taping themselves up and tearing their clothes off to the punk medleys of Sir Bonaparte himself while the glitter, paint, fake blood, and sweat started to turn into one indiscernible mix.
I talked to Uri, the keyboardist, upstairs while we played several games of bocci ball (or bowls as some call it. We actually played the French way so we should have been calling it pétanque - semantics). "It's been a long year," Uri said to me under a bunny hat as he threw one of his red bocci balls towards the jack on the other end of the court. "We play again tomorrow night and then fly back to Berlin." He seemed excited to head back to Berlin and didn't seem fatigued in the slightest.
Overall it was a fabulous show. Bonaparte played all their hits - Anti Anti, Too Much, Quarantine and many others. I expected the show to be more electronic but Uri explained to me that they like to mix it up. Sometimes it's more punk and other times it's more electronic. After he won a couple rounds, I realized Uri is as talented at Bocci as he as the keys.
Photos Courtesy of Lee Bob Black