Tunde Adebimpe stays dry, bespectacled.Photo: Elizabeth Cline
On Sunday morning, the sky looked like the East River was being lifted up and poured out over Brooklyn. But, amid thunder, lightning, and flood warnings, it was business as usual at McCarren Park Pool, where concert staffers were patching leaks in the stage roof with duct tape. TV on the Radio, meanwhile, were busy sound checking in preparation for one of the most anticipated shows of the season. While waiting out Mother Nature (the skies cleared up right before the band’s incendiary set), we chatted with TVOTR’s arty, kind-hearted front man Tunde Adebimpe about Sonic Youth, hamburgers, and the apocalypse.
So, do you think this show is going to happen?
If it got apocalyptic, they’d probably call it off. But I think people will show up without promise. It kind of feels like it’s going to start clearing up.
I think it feels that way because it couldn’t get any worse.
Yeah, exactly. What if suddenly the sun turns blood red and… [makes insane, crackling noises].
Do you guys like doing the outdoor concert thing?
I actually prefer to play indoors because it usually sounds better and everyone’s in it together. Festivals are like rock-and-roll shopping malls. Every time you’re playing, you’re wondering if the Smashing Pumpkins are going to cut into your set.
Does it piss you off that people are doing Slip ‘n Slide and playing dodgeball during your set?
[Laughs] I don’t mind being less interesting than Slip ‘n Slide, because I’d be doing Slip ‘n Slide if I weren’t playing.
Have you been to a show here before?
Last night was the first one.
Oh, Sonic Youth. How was it?
It was awesome! With that record particularly, it’s just [drops jaw]. I walked past someone who summed it up with, “If someone told me that when I was in my thirties, I would see Sonic Youth in a pool in Williamsburg with Live Nation sponsorship, I would have called them a fucking liar, but here I am with a burger in my hand.”
Since you live in Brooklyn, were you able to just roll out of bed and come to the show?
I very much just rolled out of bed and walked over to the park. It made me think that instead of building these stupid condos everywhere, they should build a hostel at this place for musicians and people should just come here and live in this hostel, play free shows, and then move on.
What have you been listening to this summer?
The last thing I got that I really liked is this group called the Green Arrows from Zimbabwe. I just walked into Sound Fix and it was playing. They’re part of the pantheon of bands who should be held up when people ask that weird question, “Well, is it weird that you guys are black and playing guitars?” African guitar music was futuristic in the late fifties, and it’s still awesome.
What are your plans after this tour?
I need to do something super-quiet. I’m trying to do a book of paintings now. As soon as I have a break, I’m going to go on a road trip and stop and talk to people about what’s going on or what they think is interesting and then do a portrait of them. Then, at the bottom would be a field for text, an excerpt of the conversation. It lets people talk about themselves without me assuming anything about them that they’re not offering.