Alex Zhang Hungtai (aka Dirty Beaches) exudes an effortless cool with his rockabilly style while toting an electric guitar. He looks like he has step out of a Wong Kar-wai film. (Funnily enough most of Dirty Beaches’ You Tube videos are posted by a wrongkarwei.) On the early Tuesday evening, Alex gracefully ascended the stage at the Mercury Lounge to set up his various pedals and loops for his set. He was checked with 10 minutes to spare, so decided to start ahead of schedule.
Expanding from a solo outfit, Dirty Beaches added friends Francisco on saxophone and Jesse on drums and percussions. Playing the recorded drum beats off loops, Alex and gang rocked through tracks from Dirty Beaches’ recent effort Badlands and new songs. For instance the newish song “Shake That Thang” rings with an R&B heavy sound set against jarring guitar riffs. Another new song declared “New York, I love you.” Alex screamed into his mic. At the tune’s conclusion, Alex exclaimed, “I love you New York. I work so hard for you.”
All through the night, Alex was spitting on stage like the old grannies and gramps in neighboring Chinatown. There was a few disgusted comments from the crowd, which was funny as Alex complained in his lyrics, ” Why you got to say that shit to me.”
Under the distortion and production of Dirty Beaches’ songs is Alex’s ability to channel a sea of cacophony into a symphony. Many have asked about his sampling and in his blog, he has replied:
* To all inquires in regards to samples *
I sampled vintage drum machines I couldn’t afford from youtube and other software programs that compiled the drum sound files. All the prior releases before badlands were written by me and played by me. Misc instruments were midi triggered software instruments from: Mellotron, Chamberlin, and Optigans (i.e. Synths, orchestra, flute, strings, horns, choir, etc) The rest are keyboards and guitar. Hope this explains to all the questions in regards to my recording and sampling set up.
Alex seemed genuinely thankful and appreciative of the crowd. At one point, a fan yelled, “That was so hot!” He sheepishly replied, “Thank you.” Indeed the evening was concluded perfectly with fan favorite “Lord Knows Best”. No encore, but fans didn’t mind so much. The crowd were loving him and he was truly thankful.