Fiona Apple and the Fashion Set Look Down on New York

Fiona Apple SXSW

Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.

Rock and roll is the grimiest, most adolescent and least moneyed genre of pop culture but it’s also somehow the coolest. One of my favorite games is attending rock shows associated with non-rock worlds: Bands playing at art galleries, bands DJing at film premieres, and the ultimate in genre mashups: bands playing fashion parties. For all their self-consciousness and exclusivity, fashion people make most unabashedly enthusiastic rock fans ever. They display none of the pretentious too-cool-for-school-ness that is a hallmark of New York City rock industry folk. I thought about this as I rode the mirrored elevator in the Standard Hotel up to the Boom Boom room earlier this week to attend a private performance by Fiona Apple and a pair of willowy girls in crocheted shorts and platforms were clasping each other in excitement on the ride up. “I just love her so much,” one said. “I wonder what she’ll be wearing,” cooed the other.

The answer to that question turned out to be black cotton slip dress and combat boots, a variation on Ms. Apple’s standard deranged ballerina uniform, but we wouldn’t find that out for a while. I started the evening accompanying my jetlagged father, and his fishing hat (in honor of the fashion theme of today’s column I’m going to tell you what everyone wore) to Peels on the Bowery for dinner. Very worried we were going to miss Fiona’s 11 pm set time, already pushed back from 10, my friend (comely fashion maven, in a sheer shirtdress, red lipstick and shag-able shrink glasses) deigned to take one of those mini van cabs to the meatpacking district and dashed upstairs at 11:10 just in time to catch the opening notes of … “Rich Girl,” by Hall and Oates. Ms. Apple’s piano was set up but other than that there were no sign of her yet.

We made our way through the bejeweled throngs and upstairs to the roof deck/smoking lounge. En route we rubbed up against an almost comical assortment of fashion bold names. Phillip Lim was there sipping a beverage adjacent to some tall scruffy dude wearing double denim with a red bandana tucked into his shirt pocket like a handkerchief. Down the banquette was modelish artist Charlotte Kidd and influential fashion bloggers like Into the Gloss’ Emily Weiss and Tales Of Endearment’s Natalie Joos rubbed shoulders with fashion-y rock people like Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek, in a leather skirt, belly shirt and matching leather blazer.

“This is the least macho cigarette of all time,” a friend of a friend (male, wearing a neutral linen button down) announced while puffing away desperately at a Virginia Slim. “I figure one way to quit is to smoke skinny cigarettes but I just end up smoking two at a time.” Right in the middle of a fairly compelling conversation about who was about to be fired from what glossy fashion mag, the xx into the Smiths cut out and suddenly the speakers upstairs were silent. Fiona time? We all ran downstairs, me galloping away with ease in flat shoes, everybody else grasping the banister as daintily as possible as they descended in towering heels.

We were those girls pushing through obnoxiously and claiming a spot heartwrenchingly close to where Ms. Apple would soon be singing. “If you stand there you’re going to push me over,” the girl teetering on the stair behind me tapped me on the shoulder and announced. I glared. Someone has to bring the cranky rock spirit to this place. “I think it’s my boobs that are getting in the way, actually,” she said.

When the singer finally took the stage, in all her elegantly anguished glory, the girls behind me with the killer (and obtrusive) rack started calling out each song she played after hearing the opening few notes. “Sleep to Dream!” she’d shriek as the lush throb of that telltale bassline kicked in. “OMG Paper Bag,” she’d squeal. “You must have telescopes and watch people through these windows,” Apple said in between her short set. “That’s all I want to do right now.” Almost collectively the room shook its head. Hell no, Fiona, these people have eyes only for you. And they’re not afraid to admit it.