my week beats your year

"My week beats your year." -- Lou Reed Liner notes to Metal Machine Music

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Move my tired ass!!

It takes a good hour to get from Windsor Terrace, home of puppy dogs and grandmas and a park designed by Olmsted, to Bushwick, home of abandoned warehouses and strange wrinkled men who give you the evil eye and tug on a cigarette with an ash longer than the remaining paper wrapper as they shuffle past you on a dark street replete with hidden art spaces, anyonymous apartment houses and big, silent cement silo-thingies. As I made the trip last night on the F and then the L trains, I passed the time by listening to XTC's "Black Sea" very loud on my obligatory ipod (I get a nice tax break because I own one, don't you?), and thanks to my standard three cups of coffee, the tunes got nice and twitchy. "Generals and Majors always seem so unhappy unless they got a war!"? Stomp, stomp, stomp! Twitch, twitch, twitch! Yar! The big extended family on the next bench sort of scootched down a little. No matter. I think looking crazy on the subway is helpful.

The L deposited me at the corner of Montrose and Bushwick in, er, Bushwick. (This used to be my stomping grounds. Yep, I traded it in for some more suburbanish digs just south of Park Slope, where I can wander home drunk very late, and the "sketchiness" alarm in my brain is silent. Plus not a hipster in site -- except myself, I guess -- but if I am in the mood for that sort of thing, it's a brief, one-seat ride to the Lower East Side.) Two blocks from the train, I'm in a crowded stairwell leading up to the Asterisk Art Space, for the Deli Magazine's party.

Full disclosure. The Deli has been very good to our band. They reviewed our album quite well, and they interviewed us, allowing us the chance to sound like jackasses, which I'm always jazzed about... And they let us play last Thursday's Deli show at Tonic. And they let us bring in a horn section to play with us, our pals in The Porn Horns (of Country Club and The Porn Horns). If you don't see the appeal in a horn section, well, I have no response to that.

The lineup was really good. A few weeks back, I was standing in the DJ booth next to DJ Mojo at The Delancey. I always enjoy hanging out with Mojo. Another pal of ours, and a NYC institution - with him, it's always yarns about the music scene: what it was like seeing Iggy Pop, who the local bands are these days that I should be listening to... The Beastie Boys have an old song about him, "Egg Raid on Mojo" -- one of their punk tunes -- never asked Mojo about it, maybe I will next time I see him... Well anyway, he was popping in CD after CD of local bands, and he played a few tunes by bands that were playing this Deli party. So, why not. What the hell else am I going to do? My girlfriend is in law school, and it's exam time, so she's, shall we say, preoccupied. That's cool, she should focus on that. So, what would I be doing if not trekking to Bushwick on this particular eve? Eating Captain Crunch and playing Playstation? No, that's for later, when I got home drunk. There has to be an intermediate step before that happens. One where I go out of my way to travel across town and blow some money on booze. That's the way it's done, right?

So, back to the stairwell. It leads from the street to the art space. There are two girls and a brawny, tattooed dude at the landing at the top. One girl for the mailings list, and one girl for stamps, and the dude for ID check and money (!). I hadn't been at Asterisk for about 3 years. I played there when my band was just starting, with a proto-lineup and a horrible cold on my part. I've never played a show in the throes of the flu before, and I hope never to again. I recall that I cleverly wrote the set list for everyone in red ink on yellow legal pad paper, and the stage we played on was flooded in red light that night... Then I got mad at my drummer for not being able to see the songs! I'm great. Truly a boy scout. Well, the last time I was there it wasn't so organized. I was a little surprised. I guess they do this sort of thing a lot now.

I walked into the big middle space. The kitchen was cordoned off by a small bar where I procured a generous pour of Jim Beam in a plastic cup. Neato. There were two big rooms at either end of this middle space - in each of those two rooms, an invisible band was making a terrific cacophony. I immediately ran into my friend Eric, member of the smart rock trio Die Romantik. I went to college with him - a fellow philosophy guy up in Morningside Heights - and he filled in as bass player in my band for a short time about two years ago. Our bass position is sort of like the drummer in Spinal Tap - they spontaneously combust, they whatever, point is we're in need of one fairly often (as we are now). Eric and I started catching up. It was really really loud in that room, a true noise arms race; Eric remarked, "It's so much quieter in here [than where the bands were playing]! I can actually hear you!" Yeah, I guess. I can't complain, if a band isn't loud I get kind of pissed off.

Andrew, my buddy and keyboardist/saxophonist in my band, showed up, and soon we were meeting old acquaintances and random people. The most memorable was Aubrey, who, I suppose is a bit of a veteran of the music scene, said with a knowing smile when I asked her to introduce me to someone, "You know she's gay... Oh, for networking? Yeah, gotta do that."

It's true. She's right. It's like everyone's running for Borough President or State Assemblyman or something. Crikey. Yes, you have to network. It's hilarious sometimes, you're in this crowded loft space in a demilitarized zone of a 'hood, drinking cheap spirits from plastic cups, and on the one hand you do enjoy meeting people, but on the other - here's Aubrey with her grin again - you do have to "network." Network? Why would people want to meet me? What am I doing here?!? Does my breath smell of the guacamole I had with dinner??? ... Luckily, before I descended into a pit of feeling kind of gross and useless, Eric and I shoved our way into one of the rooms and saw a band called Earl Greyhound, and I was satisfied again. They were playing in a corner of the room, and I was in the opposite, on a second riser, right next to a little cave where the sound guy was, surrounded by a bunch of glowing equipment that made his habitat look like C-3PO's escape pod in the beggining of A New Hope. This band was laying down some mean MC5/Stooges/Led Zeppelin stuff. Yeah, that doesn't sound so exciting. But since I tend to think every note on every instrument has been played, I'm generally not looking for someone to claim the next zeitgeist with a mewing table saw and laptop or something like that, no, I'm out for some good energy and a new twist. These folks were a picture: you had two long-haired rawk dudes, one slamming on a drum set and the other tooting his Les Paul, and then you had this bassist that cut this great picture, this chick with a big 'fro and white heels and a skirt, enthusiastically plucking at what looked to be a Fender bass. It was Kings of Leon but with the missing testicles; it was great.

I went back to the main room and tussled my hair and grabbed the required PBR (another tax break is coming my way. You gotta look into these things.) I went out to the terrace. The wide windows of a big old factory a short distance away glowed with incandescent lights and curtains. Eric and I were now drunk, and he started talking about another band he was there to see, Apes and Androids: "It's really good. It's kind of depressing. You tend to wonder why you're playing music at all."

I knew the band that morphed into Apes and Androids, the predecessor outfit Call Florence Pow. Like CFP, these dudes had about five tiny synths, two of which had these neat pink flourescent lights on it. And that was sort of the vibe of the band. These tall guys up front with great haircuts and tank tops, all those synths, a slick dancey racket, a black Fender Strat with thick white stripes. People were - gasp - kinda dancing. I couldn't believe it.

Even though they were, like Eric promised, really, really good, I was in the stage of innebriation where I couldn't really sit still. So I wandered over to the other room. Proton Proton was playing. With a frontman who wore a guitar but didn't seem to ever play it, a bassist and a drummer, they made the most noise for two people I'd ever seen. The frontman had a sort of lanky, drunken exuberance and he seemed to taunt everyone, invading their space and sneering. More people dancing! What am I to make of this?

At this point Andrew and I decide it's time to roll out... I run into a friend of mine who's a cartoonist, drawing grotesque and clever confections for the New York Press, and say farewell to Aubrey, as well as a college acquaintance who don't remember my name (that's cool - but don't give me that blank stare and sneer, folks, our college just wasn't cool enough to justify that).

Well done, Deli - I have to say the cool thing is, they put together a night with bands that actually had energy, and stage presence, that actually made me move my tired ass a little. That's pretty good. Especially in this town.


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