To celebrate its 20th birthday, Vice Media threw itself a makeshift music festival, food trucks and Porta-Potties included.
Born in 1994 as a free punk, drugs and sex magazine in Montreal, Vice has mutated into an international multimedia corporation, complete with a news program on HBO, investments from A&E Networks and Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, and a valuation north of $2 billion.
But its loyal bench of eternally cool friends? That’s priceless.
Deep in the bowels of the Brooklyn Navy Yard on a rainy Friday night, a beyond-eclectic bill of musicians and actors playing musicians put aside all traces of ego and perfectionism to fete the brand with a marathon performance of classic originals and semi-ironic covers.
“Music is the DNA of the company in many ways,” said Hosi Simon, Vice’s global general manager, who helped curate the night’s entertainment. “It’s a hard thing to crystalize 20 years of the songs that matter to Vice into a three-hour set and for it to not come off as a shtick. But I think we managed to do it.”
The result was a “mini Coachella,” he said, with everyone from Lil Wayne to Andrew W.K., Ghostface Killah to the Black Lips taking brief turns on the same stage. Nostalgia levels — and earnestness — varied.
Above photo by Laura June Kirsch
Andrew W.K. performed at Vice Media’s birthday party on Friday.Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
Stephen Malkmus, of Pavement, looking dad-like in a striped dress shirt, did “Range Life” from his band’s 1994 album “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain,” before unleashing a faithful enough cover of the Black Crowes song “Remedy.” (Although recalling the lyrics to the latter did require the assistance of an iPhone.) Members of Pussy Riot paid passionate tribute to the post-riot grrrl group Le Tigre, while the singer Meredith Graves (the frontwoman of a hardcore band with an unprintable name) made a timely version of the Strokes’ “New York City Cops” especially poignant.
Scarlett Johansson, sleek in a motorcycle jacket, served as a surprise guest with a warm rendition of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” while Pulp’s smirking frontman Jarvis Cocker went all in on “The Power of Love” by Celine Dion. Less sincere was the actor Jonah Hill, bathed in purple light and standing in for Drake on the late-night shame anthem “Marvins Room,” ad-libbing an intro about emoji text messages. The director Spike Jonze accompanied him on guitar. (“My tombstone is going to say ‘Spike made me do it,’” Mr. Hill said later.)
Members of Pussy Riot paid passionate tribute to the post-riot grrrl group Le Tigre. Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner led the nimble house band through the variety of styles. “They wanted to do ‘The Last Waltz,’ and I was Robbie Robertson,” Mr. Zinner said of his marching orders from Vice. “I got to pick my favorite musicians,” he said.
Mr. Simon, the company’s general manager, said he delivered the mandate “be messy and do something different” to the acts, most of whom were not paid to appear. “This is a family vibe,” he said.
Asked about the total expense of the event, which included an open bar and free falafel, Mr. Simon demurred. “It’s actually not a whole lot,” he said. For its 15th anniversary, Vice spent $250,000 to put on a Halloween party. Five years later, “It’s more than that,” he said. “But if you look at the lineup, it’s a multimillion dollar lineup.”