I’ll admit it: When Andrew Bradick, the editor of Prefix’s New York events site, e-mailed me asking if I would go see Psapp at Joe’s Pub, I was a wee bit apprehensive, for two main reasons. First off, Joe’s ain’t my most favorite venue in the five boroughs, due mostly to its deadly two-drink minimum. And, make no mistake: Those bastards will soak your poor ass. Expect to pay no less than six bucks for a domestic pint, among other injustices. At this Psapp gig, I and my plus-one very nearly got coerced into buying a sixty dollar bottle of wine from some blonde waitress-in-training, all in the name of the two-drink minimum. (If Waitress-in-Training is reading this, I only asked how much a bottle of that stuff would cost, I didn’t mean for you to bring the whole damn bottle out uncorked and in the little metal ice bucket and everything. And, also, you have great legs.) Joe’s Pub: most niggardly venue in all of money-makin’ Manhattan? Most definitely yes, now that the Bottom Line has been subsumed into the NYU empire.
The second reason I was apprehensive about seeing Psapp at Joe’s Pub had to do with the band itself. Psapp, if you don’t know, is a male/female British duo that is totally, bizarrely, scarily obsessed with cats. Twenty years from now, Carim Clasman and Galia Durant will be kicking it in matching rocking chairs somewhere outside the M25, surrounded by dozens of cats whom they will coddle and for whom they will knit things and with whom they will stage elaborate recreations of scenes from 1950s musicals. For now, though, they’re a pop band. And, if you get past their aggressive puddy-tat cutesiness, they’re a rather pleasant, hooky, unassuming little pop group.
Psapp is pronounced just-plain sap, silent “p”; don’t say “P-Sapp,” like I did, or you will be roundly mocked by their fans (really). I kinda like P-Sapp better though — reminds me of P-Funk. And believe it or not Psapp, accompanied by a four-piece backing band complete with a pierced-nipples drummer pounding away, did indeed get a little funky — especially in the last couple songs, when the bass drum was kicked up a notch or two and made this huge, driving, booming boom you could feel way down in your balls or vagina, as the case may be, and even your asshole too. The band’s better tunes reminded me of Stereolab circa Emperor Tomato Ketchup — back when those crazy commies weren’t trying so hard to be a soft-rock jam band and wrote some spectacularly weird-ass pop melodies instead. Psapp’s music isn’t as good as all that, but a healthy percentage of the songs gave off the same happy, fruity, bouncy, violin-y — how you say? — vibe as S-Lab’s once did.
But then there was the aggressive cuteness thing. Lead singer Durant likes to meow and do goofy high cartoon voices, and at one point she busted out two hand puppets and sang a “duet” with them, causing my plus-one to erupt with paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter (she was the only one laughing). I guess their fans like this stuff, but I dunno, it kind of creeped me out. And, yes, I fully realize that if it were a man doing those same things, I might conceivably be praising his weirdo genius and playful comic timing right now — double standard fully acknowledged and engaged. But still. These are cat people we’re talking about, don’t forget. You’re kinda creeped out too now, right?
I should mention that in one sense, the members of Psapp are very giving to their fans: They gave them lots of homemade cat toys, each one with a different absurd name made up seemingly on the spot, like Falafel Jones or Spunk Trimmer or Burp (not actual PsappCat names, those were made up by me on the spot). But they weren’t nearly so generous with their music. The whole Psapp experience lasted an hour exactly, no encore — although it did end with a cover of “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat” from the old Disney movie The Aristocats, which I thought was just cute enough.
“About Fun” video