To celebrate its 20th year, Vice rented out the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Duggal Greenhouse on Friday night (Dec. 5) for the kind of hybrid, manic, alien-like show that only the media brand can. It was concert roulette for three straight hours, and the bearded, beanie-wearing Brooklynites in attendance soaked it right up.
Just before 11 p.m., the house band — Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ Nick Zimmer, Miike Snow‘s Andrew Wyatt, Gorillaz‘s Pauli PSM and The Raconteurs‘ Jack Lawrence — took the stage with “semi-official emcee and host” Andrew W.K., who performed his hit “Party Hard” and offered the only real speech of the night: “Welcome to Vice’s 20th anniversary celebration. Perhaps you’ve heard, there are several supergroups, surprise performers, just for you. It’s gonna be crazy but it’s gonna be fun. There will be covers, originals, spontaneous orgasms — enjoy yourselves!”
And with that, the whirlwind of performances kicked off. Chromeo performed “Needy Girl,” a song released on Vice Records 10 years ago. A metal supergroup with members of Megadeth, Testament and Municipal Waste performed Metallica‘s “Seek and Destory.” Action Bronson cursed and puffed up a storm. A punk supergroup led by Cro Mags’ John Joseph took the stage. Jonah Hill performed “Marvin’s Room,” conceivably as and to Drake. (“My heart’s been broken,” the actor said, “I thought you and I were friends, Drake. Accept my friendship.”) The-Dream covered M.I.A.‘s “Paper Planes.” Ghostface Killah and Raekwon rapped the 1996 classic “Daytona 500.”
Andrew W.K. then returned, singing “Happy birthday, dear Viiiiiice,” and offered further address. “You realize that everybody here came because they want to be here, they wanted to be a part of this, they put this together just for the occasion,” said the long-haired host in a white tee. “I remember 14 years ago when I first met the founders of Vice — they said they liked partying, and we hit off.”
The sometimes forced edginess of the brand is the same aesthetic that has swept through Brooklyn, its very home. Decorated by the many provocative covers of Vice’s print publication (and a projection of the words “Vice Turns 20” stacked neatly into a box), the space housed bartenders dispensing drinks by the handful, while women in oversized sweaters and men with “man buns” tossed them back. There was a festival-like feel both on stage and in the crowd, appropriate for the generation of attendees. The 20-somethings present likely grew into their cool as Vice did and now, here they were, cans of Budweiser crammed into their back pockets as they absorbed the carousel of stimuli on stage.
The Black Lips followed Ghostface, and Perfect Pussy‘s Meredith Graves followed them. “Hey NYPD, the whole world is watching. Black lives matter,” she said, before starting The Strokes‘ “New York City Cops.” Stephen Malkmus did “Range Life” by his band Pavement, and “Remedy” by The Black Crowes. Scarlett Johansson shared a stripped-down cover of New Order‘s “Bizarre Love Triangle” that got the crowd abuzz.
Members of Pussy Riot noted that they were protesting the night before in Times Square, in response the verdict following Eric Garner’s death, and said, “It might not be right to talk about American problems, but I think that murder is murder everywhere and murder should not be met with indifference. Let’s grieve and protest for those who are no longer with us.”
And then, Karen O — it was either the potency of her performance, the crowd’s entrance into drunkenness, or a combination of both — but the energy picked up and stayed airborne for the remainder of the night. “I’d like to dedicate this song to Eddy Moretti, to Shane Smith, to Suroosh Alvi, to Vice,” the Yeah Yeah Yeahs member said before diving into “Maps.”
Throughout the altogether rapid-fire mishmash of a night, there was minimal time between acts and rumors of a Nicki Minaj appearance (that never came to fruition). Jarvis Cocker, frontman for the English band Pulp, took on Sham 69’s “If the Kids Are United,” with the chorus “If the kids are united, then we’ll never be divided” taking on a special significance. And in closing, Lil Wayne performed “John,” “Loyal,” “Believe Me” and “No Worries,” and offered a few words on his frequently delayed new album: “Due to technical difficulties, I’m f—ed up in a bad situation, but I will be out of it soon, and I do it for y’all. So put your fives up for Carter V.”
If there is any parallel to be drawn from Vice’s first twenty years and its 20th-anniversary show, it is perhaps the frenetic ambition and youth-filled intoxication. No one person knew every performer, but they knew at least some and still took in the sheer immensity of the bill — like Vice’s growing conglomerate — that could only leave a crowd impressed.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.