Tibet House US Celebrates the Year of the Water Dragon

Published February 14, 2012

ABOVE: (LEFT TO RIGHT) PHILIP GLASS, LOU REED, THE PATTI SMITH BAND, DECHEN SHAK-DAGSAY, JAMES BLAKE, ANTHONY, LAURIE ANDERSON, AND TIM FAIN. PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY KETCHER.

“I always think, when I go on stage, of that cartoon frog who only sings when he’s alone,” worried Stephin Merritt as he stepped up to the mic at Carnegie Hall last night. Merritt began to sing “I wish I had an orchestra behind me,” and lo and behold, he did! Or the Scorchio string quartet, at least, who happily joined in. The occasion for this odd pairing was Tibet House US’ 22nd annual benefit in honor of Tibetan New Year (Losar), which begins next week. On Feb. 22, the year of the iron hare will turn into the year of the water dragon, all of which sounds pretty exciting to us.

Traditionally, Losar is celebrated over two weeks, with artists gathering outside the official residence of the Dalai Lama. With Carnegie Hall standing in for the Dalai Lama’s house, an eclectic group of artists took to the stage, including Tibetan singer Dechen Shak-Dagsay, James Blake, the surprisingly hilarious performance artist Laurie Anderson, beatboxer extraordinaire and original member of The Roots Rahzel, violinist Tim Fain, the Patti Smith Band, Das Racist, Antony and our old friend Lou Reed. “There’s probably a fifty year age span” between the artists, said composer Philip Glass who, as a co-founder of Tibet House, served as artist director for the evening.

ABOVE: DAS RACIST PERFORMS WITH THE SCORCHIO STRING QUARTET.

We were not sure what to expect from such an amalgamation of musicians; when Heems and MC Kool A.D. of Das Racist came on stage dressed in suits and accompanied by the string quartet, we thought we were in for a very adult, Carnegie Hall-appropriate evening. Then Dap came on and began doing hip thrusts while Heems removed the American flag from its post at the corner of the stage and paraded down to the audience. While we are big fans of the trio, we got the feeling that this would be the first and last Das Racist concert for many of the concert attendees. “A little change of pace,” remarked Glass.