Cornelius, Mogwai, Arsonists Kick Off Matador Records Birthday Party

Indie label feted with rock, hip-hop and electronica bill.

NEW YORK — Indie label Matador kicked off its 10th birthday

celebration in appropriately quirky style here Thursday night with a

six-band, six-hour bill that moved from old-school rap to futuristic

space-rock and beyond.

During his headlining set, oddball Japanese pop-rocker Cornelius saluted

the label with a sci-fi rendition of "Happy Birthday," coaxing a wobbly,

spooky version of the song's melody out of a theremin. As Cornelius and

his band played the tune, the screen behind him showed cartoon images of

Goofy, Mickey Mouse and the "Peanuts" gang gathering for their own

birthday celebrations.

Earlier in the night, rappers the Arsonists paid tribute to Matador by

leading the crowd in an exuberant hip-hop chant of the company's name,

which until recently was associated mostly with such indie-rock icons as

Pavement — still one of the label's flagship bands — and Guided

by Voices and Liz Phair, who are no longer with the label.

Pavement are scheduled to headline the second night of the celebration

Friday (Sept. 24), on a bill that also features the rock bands Cat Power,

Chavez, and Guitar Wolf, among others. Rock bands Yo la Tengo and Come,

Helium singer Mary Timony, electronic pop performer Solex and space-rock

band Bardo Pond will close out the three-day event Saturday. All shows

are at Irving Plaza.

On Thursday, the bill included rock, hip-hop and electronica. Banners on

the wall sported sardonic slogans such as "1989–1999: Sorry" and

"We're not getting older, we're getting over," but for the most part,

the evening's bands — all of whom are signed to Matador — didn't

mention the occasion. They celebrated simply by playing their own music.

Instrumental rockers Mogwai apparently decided to take revenge on the

industry-heavy crowd, which chattered audibly over the hushed, dreamy

passages at the beginning of the Scottish band's songs.

Mogwai's leader, pudgy guitarist Stuart Braithwaite, grinned as the band

repeatedly followed the strategy showcased on such songs as "Mogwai Fear

Satan" (RealAudio

excerpt) — they mesmerized the crowd with those quiet

introductions, then leapt into monstrously loud metallic chaos with all

the force of a horror-movie bogeyman jumping out from the shadows.

The pop culture–obsessed Cornelius was less confrontational in his

set, which found the mop-topped singer and his bandmates clad in identical

pseudo-military uniforms. They mostly bypassed their poppier material in

favor of sample-driven garage rockers such as the frantic "Count Five or

Six" (RealAudio

excerpt).

Throughout the set, film clips from such diverse sources as an old Dr.

Pepper commercial, "E.T." and Cornelius' beloved "Planet of the Apes"

played behind the band, sometimes in perfect sync with the music. During

a final, punk-influenced jam, Cornelius threw a beat box into the crowd,

allowing audience members to add their own percussion to the mix.

Earlier in the evening, the live electronica band Red Snapper presented

themselves as a cross between the trip-hop of Massive Attack and the

jazz-rock of Medeski Martin & Wood. Rapper MC Det added dance

hall–inflected hip-hop to the mix.

Though many fans came and went during the evening, some saw the evening's

diverse bands, which also included rappers Non Phixion and the electronica

act Jega, as part of a unified whole.

"Matador's about taking it to the edge and sticking to real music," Jeremy

Voss, an 18-year-old New Yorker, said.

As he sat in a booth at the Belkmont Lounge, around the corner from

Irving Plaza, on Friday afternoon (Sept. 24), Pavement guitarist Scott

Kannberg, 33, reflected on what the label has meant to him and to the

industry.

"I think [its influence] has been tremendous," he said (RealAudio excerpt

of interview). "There are a handful of record labels that are in

the same ilk as Matador. But I think Matador has meant more to the general

state of rock. Unfortunately, it gets termed 'indie rock.' But it's just

rock. The bands have all been very prolific ... [although] not in sales,

obviously."

Pavement have recorded all five of their full-length albums, including

1991's highly regarded Slanted and Enchanted and 1997's

Brighten the Corners, for Matador.

Chan Marshall, the 27-year-old rock artist known as Cat Power who

released Moon Pix last year, said she appreciates the way the

label's co-founders, Chris Lombardi and Gerard Cosloy, treat their artists.

"They're really nice to me," she said. Marshall signed with Matador

in 1995.

Matador released a 10th anniversary CD, Everything Is Nice,

featuring new and old tracks from most of its best-known bands, Sept.

14.

The anniversary concerts are being webcast in QuickTime video through

CDNow (www.cdnow.com).