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Thursday, 17 July 2008
digital press in the upper west: first-hand observations...
Now Playing: know your rights on eastvillageradio.com
Topic: event reports

there was a strange in-out, in-out from my headphones that made me think something was wrong with my mp3 player. turns out it was the headphones themselves. that just figured. i was already a little uptight about attending a digital press conference sans laptop and no portable recording device, but diapers and milk come first, you heard? children ain't cheap. so i hopped the metro-north train in harrison and made my way down to grand central terminal. serious love goes out to mom and pop hyatt for allowing us crazy kids into their upper west side home (across from theodore roosevelt park and next to central park west, no less).

once the elevator opens, you go right into their apartment and the scene is already buzzing with artists, podcasters, videographers, and hostesses running here and there. i step to the bar area and get a brooklyn beer to loosen myself up. i don't know why, but i can never travel to the upper west or east side without wondering where's the invisible border that separates the well-to-do areas from the tenements. how the hell does stuff suddenly change within a city block and who's responsible for drawing that class line? someone once suggested that the line is where central park ends going north, and i'm inclined to agree.

before i can put more unnecessary thought into this, a young friendly face catches my eye and introduces himself. it's mark williams, one of many musicians in attendance. his mini-bio is impressive, and our conversation centers around rock bands with jazz influences. i speak on the heaviness of helmet, he dotes on the brilliance of living colour. i agree wholeheartedly and find myself pleased whenever the younger heads discover bands that came before them. it just so happens that his vocal coach used to work with corey glover. shortly afterwards, i spotted a familiar face from podcamp nyc 2.0. it's tara, producer of the queens artists podcast. this was the ice-breaking conversation that i needed. we started building on various podcasting strategies including music sources, ways to attract more listeners and how to get reliable stats on the listeners that you do have.

the craziest was meeting ming, who i know as one-half of ming & fs, an amazing dj/producer duo. he's been keeping himself busy producing other artists, including michael lynche, who was also in attendance. i thought it was pretty wild that the two of them would cross paths, and i was able to get both perspectives after talking with michael later on (that will be covered in a separate blog entry).

big shouts to wendy st. kitts. we chatted and laughed about being older heads forced to jump into new media and the dangers of social media overload. the takeaway point for us both was finding your niche and milking it for all its worth. work with the tools you're comfortable with and freak that technique to your advantage. all the best, sister. last but not least, much respect to lena, an extremely pleasant person that i'm glad i got to finally meet.

cyber pr just put a bunch of photos up from the conference on their flickr page, so make sure you check that out. in addition, main hostess ariel hyatt just released a quick wrap-up of the event via utterz. judging from the success of this latest conference, it'll be interesting to see what jumps off at cmj 2008...


Posted by macedonia at 1:00 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
the kids are alright...i think: an aging raver's confessional
Now Playing: gilles peterson world wide on giantstep.net
Topic: event reports
when we was rave:  mr. and mrs. macedonia, early 1993.

i'm thinking that i probably posted this shortly after the event in question, so figure late summer/early fall of 2001. i was 27 when i wrote this - i can't even imagine being 34 and going to an event like this. maybe to spin, but even then, i'd still feel old...

-jrs.

========================================

* the following story is an eyewitness account from an event called Stereotopia @ The Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC. *

saturday, august 25, 2001 7:30 p.m.

older security guard: “it’s been pretty smooth, so far. we could have a decent night here, if it keeps up like this all night.”

younger security guard: “cool, cuz i’m not tryin’ to do no cavity searches or nothin’, man...”

there seemed to be better treatment from the security blokes outside than in. no harassment or anything – just that look like they had you all figured out or something. not all of them inside, just a few. if a girl took out her mascara, one of them was right behind her making sure all was on the up and up. they had reason to be somewhat suspicious – between some of the patrons walking wide-eyed arm in arm, pockets of weed smoke here and there, and tagging throughout the stairwell.

but that would come later.

stepped into the main room and was greeted by Scott & Josh playing Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” a few early bird ravers congregate in corners and exchange hugs. time to scope the place out. beth and i made our way into the basement - Venom and Scorpion were just getting started. a lone head lamented at the fact that they were going on so early, but the youngins didn’t seem to mind stomping to some prime time hardcore.

up in the Grand Ballroom, folks were just making their way in. darkness ruled the day as far as the jungle was concerned. early birds got a chance to really bust loose cause there was all the room in the world. some skipping vinyl problems in the beginning, but heads got it together. getting to the Grand Ballroom from the balcony area would prove to be a task during the midnight hour. either you waited and waited and waited for the elevator operator to pick you up or went trekking up several flights of stairs. after that, most that made their way up tended to stay there.

10:00 p.m. - in the main room en route to the basement - Pleasurehead’s doing his thing to a very appreciative core of followers. what he spins nowadays isn’t quite as mind-numbing as what i remember him doing back in ‘98 up in Albany when he was starting out, but it still doesn’t move me. down to the basement - Knowledge is on. his was one of my favorite sets of the night: an old school breaks set that took me back to 1993...when buildups actually took you somewhere and didn’t take five minutes to complete. older heads were feelin’ it, but the youngins were making a b-line up to the main room for Spacegirl. some were actually chanting her name on the way up. they would have to wait a while, though – her live PA got bumped to a later time. X-Dream was on instead, which didn’t disappoint the glow stick collective one bit.

11:00 p.m. - “GIVE IT UP FOR SUPA DJ DIMITRY OF DEEE-LITE!!!” cheers raised the roof. after some feedback and sound problems in the beginning, he was off and running. the first ten minutes of his set reaffirmed a very sobering lesson: older DJs in the scene have a choice to make - either continue to blaze a path or bang it out. Dimitry chose the progressive club banger route. it was weird, cause he’s funkier than that. i couldn’t help but feel disappointed. oh well, may as well see what Reid Speed is playing. to my surprise, Knowledge is still on, now playing hard house (which, i’m told, is what he usually spins back home in Connecticut). kids were feelin’ him on that end. not sure if Reid Speed or DB actually ever showed, though i might have seen DB in the crowd...just a quick sec in passing.

12:10 a.m. - after waiting for what seemed like 20 minutes in the balcony for the elevator, beth and i stepped into the Grand Ballroom for a full house to check out the X-Ecutioners (sans Rob Swift). words couldn’t do it justice. all i’ll say is this: if vinyl could bleed, Mista Sinista, Rob Swift, and Total Eclipse would all be considered mass murderers. ABSOLUTELY INSANE SKILLS - OFF THE DOME. ridiculously fast hands, body tricks, the whole nine. their performance alone was worth the ticket price. i heard from a reliable source hours before the event that Ed Rush and Optical wouldn’t be there (apparently, they were). really wanted to get into the jungle afterwards, but by that time, the ballroom was insanely crowded and the bass was trying to make a permanent home in my chest cavity. time for the chill-out room. some of the best music of the night was played there, thanks due to Saskai and Ranka of Echolounge fame.

1:30a.m. - Emma Feline had the basement rockin’ with a blend of two-step, drum and bass, and house. not a fluid mix, but certainly varied, peppered with joints like Origin Unknown’s “31 Seconds,” Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You” and Missy Elliott’s “Get Your Freak On.” (as long as two-step and drum and bass are around, Missy and Timbaland’s work will always appear in the mix. they need us a lot more than they’re willing to admit.) every time the beat would drop and the bass line would threaten to rip the woofers apart and the crowd would go nuts, Emma would rewind it and play it again. i rather like a rewind at the right time, however...have you ever seen or heard a DJ rewind a cut WITH NO MC AROUND TO CALL FOR ONE BEFOREHAND? it’s a little disconcerting. every time it would happen, i found myself yelling “rewind!” just so it wouldn’t seem so weird.

during Emma’s set, i get a hug and a pound from this blond-haired kid that couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15. “it’s my first party, man.” i welcome him into the fold and show respect. the whole time i’m thinking to myself, what was i doing at 14 or 15? i was involved with school plays and developing a budding interest in poetry. i was getting into the music of Frank Zappa. if i went out to a club, it was a teen night or something like that. i didn’t go to my first rave until i was 18...going on 19. i’m shaken out of my generation gap moment with Emma’s closing track: Armand Van Helden’s remix of C.J. Bolland’s “Sugar Is Sweeter.” thanks, Emma. Ming & FS were setting themselves up at this time. once they got on, the breaks continued: one handling the beats while the other rocked the scratches and cuts.

2:30 a.m. - main room. Joey Beltram? Nope. this didn’t sound like him (nice to know that he did indeed show). this was a live PA. i check the screens of either side of the stage from the balcony. ah yes, Spacegirl. after hearing not so great things about her sets from a technical standpoint, the quality of her music wasn’t that bad. in fact, surprisingly interesting for modern-day trance (and particularly in comparison to what previous DJs had played earlier that night). looking down upon the party people, i was amazed. the whole floor was into it, pumping their fists, stomping, making noise, tossing their glow sticks in the air in a fit of delirium. clearly they loved her.

it was 3:00 a.m. when Derrick May finally went on. this was the set beth and i were waiting for. this was the sound of Detroit. it was beautiful. real, relentless, uncompromising techno - crafted in the mix by Derrick’s steady hand. he was merciless. i was going nuts up in the balcony. but looking upon the dance floor once again, my instincts proved correct: some of those kids would have rather been dancing to Spacegirl. some were definitely feelin’ it, but not to the point that they were digging her live PA.

so, what did this aging raver learn?

1. you can’t go home again. well you can, but everything’s in a different place since you last left it. and why wouldn’t it be? someone else is taking care of the house.

2. massive parties are like (fill in whatever city, state, or country you think fits): nice place to visit, but i wouldn’t wanna live there. while i had fun, i’ve had more fun at smaller functions. i’ve danced my ass off at upstate New York events, that’s for sure. perhaps i need to get out of Gotham and see how other places get down.

3. overbooking is a bad thing. too many good people on in too many different areas (and for too short a time period sometimes). and in the Hammerstein, that could mean going from the basement to the Ballroom. i’m up for the trek, but it’s just slightly annoying. it’s the price you pay for being into different sounds.

4. for the longest time i had been hearing about these pants called UFOs - baggy with reflective stripes hanging out of the pockets. most of my heads were annoyed by them and usually referred to them as today’s rave fashion standard. i thought they were all kidding about that until i saw it for myself. it was like a cult - a short, bouncy, 140 beats per minute dancing cult.

5. for the most part, my younger heads probably wouldn’t understand what i do as a DJ. my style’s for everyone, but it’s not for everyone. meaning that everyone’s welcome to check it out, but perhaps most would reject it for a number of reasons (too varied, too slow, too hard to pigeonhole, too rhythmically complex, etc.). and if i were to pull out the hardcore techno i’m listening to, it would make all the Rob Gee fans run for the hills.

6. it’s a rave new world...and i’m just passing through. either that or i’m the rest stop on route 909.

{macedonia}


Posted by macedonia at 4:38 PM EDT
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Thursday, 16 June 2005
four tet? you bet...: in-store and much more
Now Playing: Hatch radio show on WFMU (wfmu.org)
Topic: event reports

so this past Monday i went to see an in-store performance by Mr. Kieran Hebden a.k.a. Four Tet at Other Music. packed house, good size crowd for the store. Kieran worked off of a pair of Sony VAIO laptops and a bunch of effects processors running through a mixer. this allowed him to improvise during the songs, punch in the beats and take them out, as well as flood the environment with random sounds. honestly, his performance was a lot more brutal than i was expecting. anytime you see the multitude plugging their ears because their senses are being assaulted, you know it's on. you have all of these pretty tones and rhythms, but eventually they're overtaken by mass distortion and digital squeals. it was almost as if he was sonically saying to the audience, "if any of you describe my music as 'folktronica' one more time..."

heads probably came away from the show looking at him in a different light (and not a positive one, perhaps), but i dug it. precisely the sonic assault i needed. anyone wanting to know more about Four Tet can check out his website and cop a few MP3s here, one of which includes "Smile Around The Face," a wonderful song from his latest album and one of the tracks that he played at the in-store. (the album version is considerably toned down from what he did to the song on Monday, though...)

Posted by macedonia at 5:38 PM EDT
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Monday, 6 June 2005
memorable moments in may
Now Playing: Sinner's Crossroads w/Kevin Nutt (wfmu.org)
Topic: event reports

outside of the nine to five at the salt mines, a lot of good things occurred last month. here are a few of them...

  1. my wife Beth turning 35 on May 12th. might i say, she looks DAMN GOOD for 35.
  2. spinning some tunes for my man Zeke and my wife at the Rivington bar three weeks back.
  3. Beth and I in the pit during the Gang of Four concert at Irving Plaza, NYC, May 18th. the song: "Damaged Goods."
  4. an eclectic gathering of friends, family, and acquaintances in honor of Beth's 35th over Thai food at the Lemongrass Grill.
  5. gettin' down to the afrobeat sounds of The Femm Nameless and the Wonderland Orchestra, along with DJ Center in the mix (the man is DEADLY. ocean floor deep crates...)
  6. finally being able to clean several decades of grit and grime off a B-side of a Meters 45. The song: "Chicken Strut." FIERCE.
  7. my good friend Andy aka Redlox ought to change his name to DJ Proud Papa. his new daughter, Hannah Eliza Katz aka Redloxella was born on May 23, 2005. seven pounds, nine ounces, nineteen inches. husband, wife, and baby are doing fine.

Posted by macedonia at 10:28 AM EDT
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Monday, 13 December 2004
(giant) steppin' till the a.m.
Now Playing: The Zutons - Who Killed...The Zutons
Topic: event reports

So the guy who never wins anything ended up scoring a pair of tickets to the Giant Step holiday bash last Monday. Unfortunately, wifey?s in the midst of grad school hell, so she couldn?t go. My man Mikal had a freestyle session to host that night, so I called on my friend Ezekiel. He was down, so I met up with him in front of the Canal Room for entry. The holiday bash also doubles as an annual toy drive, which is really cool of them to do. All toys were donated to the IHB day treatment center, which takes in boys and girls ages 5-12. Felt good to bring some games down for the kids.

The Canal Room is quite glam looking, a place you?d expect all the beautiful people to hang out. Unfortunately, this is how most bars and venues in the city look as of late, as if only the trendy matter. For those of us that don?t feel the need to keep up appearances, the down-home and humble spot has quickly died out in NYC (if anyone knows of any left, let a brother know). Interestingly enough, the Canal Room used to be Shine, which used to be the New Music Cafe some ten years ago. It was there that I first got an education in how to be musically diverse in the mix and make it work. It was the fall of 1994 when I had my first Giant Step experience. During this time, Giant Step was a weekly party; they had yet to become the marketing giant they are now. Nickodemus opened up for the night and Jazzy Nice spun for most of it. Special guests included Sens Unik, a hip-hop band from Switzerland ? they did my head in. I heard hip-hop, funk, soul, jazz, and house all in one night. It completely changed the way I thought out listening to music and spinning records before a crowd.

(Come 2005, Giant Step will have been in existence for 15 years. That?s just nuts.)

But that was then. Last Monday represented the now with sponsorships by LG Mobile Phones and Puma, a varied crowd ranging from the soulful to the hipster to the corporate. Drinks were being served with little lights in them. Zeke says, ?Hey! I wanna drink with a light in it.? After a while, we both started to wonder how that could possibly be safe. It was then I concluded that neon must be the new hip ingredient to put in your drink (abysinthe was SO last year?). All that aside, the music was still bangin?. A number of joints in the opening set: J-Dilla?s take on ?F**K The Police,? SA-RA?s ?Glorious,? a track called ?Feelin?? from Q-Tip?s Kamal The Abstract project, and a bunch of others. While waiting the live performance to start, Zeke and I shot the breeze talkin? about music (what else?) and I got to catch up with my man Emil (DJ Center of Open Thought) as well. Saw Synapse in the place later on that night, too ? he is one seriously hard workin? DJ. It?s good to see heads out there doin? it and not lettin? the BS and the drama get to them. That?s encouraging.

Special guests Dwele and Slum Village?s T3 introduced the live act for the evening, The Platinum Pied Pipers. They have an album out on the Ubiquity label entitled PPP. Waajeed and Saadiq definitely bring the funk flavors with the hip-hop swagger not too far behind. They kept the performance loose (perhaps a little too loose ? they seemed a bit unorganized at times) so they could just flow and let their vocalists get open. Opening their set was a MC named Invincible. She stormed on stage decked out in army fatigues and her hair in pigtails. I think a good number of heads in the audience didn?t know what to think when they saw her, but she KILLED IT. Real ill flow ? watch for her. She got busy later on in the night with a freestyle session alongside T3 and Wordsworth (who?s just nasty off the top of the head). They took words from the audience and just went with it. Also making an appearance from the album was vocalist Tiombe, whose sultry pipes won the crowd over. Mark my words, there?s a big band project in sista girl?s future.

After PPP got through rockin? the house, it was Dego?s turn to take things to the next level. Dego MacFarlane is best known for his work as one-half of the duo 4 Hero and runs his own record label entitled 2000 Black, an imprint responsible for turning the world onto future soul sounds (what most call ?broken beat?). He kicked off the set with a tasty cover of ?Evil Vibrations? done by The Rebirth. Gotta admit, I fronted on this cover when I first heard it. You gotta hear it in a party setting ? you can?t help but get caught up in it with everybody else. (For those that don?t know, ?Evil Vibrations? was originally done by The Mighty Ryeders and was heavily sampled for De La Soul?s ?A Roller Skating Jam Called Saturdays.?) A little later, he threw in Spymusic?s ?Cloak? (hot midtempo jazzy house) as well as Soho?s ?Hot Music? (doesn?t matter how many times you play it, the joint will still fill the floor).

Then he launched into some broken platters and soulful house. Great tunes all the way, but I can?t say Dego?s the most technical cat in the game. Some sloppy segues here and there (one or two were straight up trainwrecks), but as a few heads relayed the next day on the Giant Step bulletin board, that?s not why he?s paid the big bucks to spin. Brother man?s a tastemaker and a dope producer, and that can?t be denied. (Check for the DKD tune ?Future Rage? and you?ll see what I mean. Just naaaasty.) Got my dance on until about 2:30 a.m., then broke out for the long subway trek home. Thankfully, I did the smart thing and took a personal day so that I could recover. Hooray for contest winnings.

Posted by macedonia at 5:48 PM EST
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Sunday, 12 December 2004
reawakening
Now Playing: The Kleptones - A Night at the Hip-Hopera
Topic: event reports

Last Sunday, I dragged myself down to the Knitting Factory with money that I didn't have to spend to check out a documentary called Afropunk: The Rock and Roll Nigger Experience. I met up with my man Mikal who was hanging out with his friend Brian. Somehow, I knew I was gonna kick myself if I didn't go. I am SO glad I went: the film was amazing. A gang of artists that I greatly respect were in the joint offering various perspectives on what it means to be black and involved in punk and hardcore: Walter Kibby and Angelo Moore of Fishbone, Jimi Hazel of 24-7 Spyz, Chaka of Orange 9MM, members of TV On The Radio, Djinji Brown (never knew he had a punk/hardcore past), Mike Ladd, Latasha Natasha Diggs, and a host of others. Some wicked performance footage of Bad Brains, too. The film focused largely on four individuals and their experiences being black in a predominantly white subculture. All four had very compelling stories, but there was one that totally floored me - not only due to the nature of their experiences, but because this individual is the younger relative of a very good friend.

One of the four artists largely featured in the documentary is a brother named Moe Mitchell, lead singer of a hardcore group called Cipher. Moe is the baby brother of older twins Marvin and Matt Mitchell. I met Marvin and Matt at SUNY Albany. Marvin and I were DJs at the on-campus radio station together. To this day, I still remember him as "Marvin the Martian." I used to refer to myself as "the Space Negro" while on-air. We definitely bonded on some interstellar Nubian type steez. I can remember Marvin introducing Moe to me at a party that I was spinning at and checking out pictures of a show that Cipher had played on Marvin's website. I had no idea that Moe was in this film; I almost fell out of my chair when he appeared on the screen. The trip down on the subway was worth it for that moment alone.

Almost immediately after the flick, I relayed that news to Mikal. It was Marvin who introduced me to Mikal back in the spring of 1999 at what was perhaps the last party thrown at this skate park in Albany. So the two of us began to share with Brian how we connected that night. Mikal thought that he was the only one that went completely and totally bonkers on the floor while raving. I used to think the same thing...and then we met each other. We hit it off right away. He knew what it meant to be the few brown-shaded souls at a rave and have some white kid ask him for ecstasy or weed because they figured he was probably selling (and seeing as how Mikal wears his hair in locks, I'm sure he got asked a lot more than I did). He knew what it meant to be getting lost in the music and have some kid come up to him and ask, "Hey man, what are you on?" It's amazing the looks of disbelief that you get when you simply reply, "It's the music." Mikal suggested that if you were to talk to black people involved in electronic dance music and the rave culture, you make a documentary that would draw similar conclusions, and I know he's right.

Two bands performed after the film: Fillmore Brown (from Philly) and The Eternals (from Chicago). Fillmore Brown were absolutely amazing. I have to catch them the next time they're in the city. A five-man troupe including two vocalists, a bassist, a drummer, and keyboardist, they ripped through tunes with blistering accuracy and intensity. It was Negro punk poetry, it was gorgeous, it was cathartic. I hadn't banged my head in a long time and I was really getting into it. During one song in particular, I was totally caught up. Several thoughts occurred in my mind at once. I thought about how it had been so long since this side of myself had been spoken to and how desperately it needed to rise from its slumber. I thought about dancing on top of a speaker while attending my first rave back in October of 1992. I thought about every time I got caught up in GOD while at church and danced like no one was watching at the pew because I knew that I owed the Creator of the universe some major back payment in praise. I thought of the footage of rituals in Haiti that I had seen on PBS and watching the townspeople become so engrossed in the service that it was clear that something else had a hold on them. I was able to make a personal connection between the spiritual and secular moments of liberation and euphoria in my life. There was no contradiction between the natural and supernatural highs that I had experienced: they all represented a part of my walk through this life. And while banging my head, I started to cry. I'm still not entirely sure why. I was just so thankful for the moment I was in, for the connections being made, for blackness without rigid constrictions (whether placed upon us by others, ourselves, or each other).

The Eternals KICK ASS. A tighter than tight trio that use a various array of sounds and instruments, they're impossible to classify. Sick drummer, a bassist that doubles on keyboards, and a lead vocalist that also plays keys as well as a number of other electronic devices. Sometimes they're dub reggae, other times they're hip-hop, sometimes rock, sometimes avant-electronic...but always challenging. They have releases on both the Thrill Jockey and Aesthetics record labels. Mikal and I were both inspired that night. For him, the whole night confirmed that he needs to have his hands in a number of different musical projects, not just hip-hop. He had gotten away from the other sides of himself and he wants to change that. As for me, a reawakening has taken place. In frenzied and spastic times like these, the audio extremist in me can't afford to die. While I may feel like hip-hop and house today, I could just as easily be free jazz and experimental noise tomorrow. Regardless of the rigid constructs that others have made for blackness, fluidity is essential for my survival. Beyond that, my Christian walk cannot be boxed in either. Christ ought to be the overarching umbrella that covers every area of my being, every role that I play in this life: the husband, the co-worker, the writer, the DJ, and so forth. It doesn't mean that I'm preaching 24/7 while playing these roles, rather that I allow God to take control of me while I function in these roles. That way, my life becomes a sermon - I shouldn't have to say a word.

Much props to James Spooner for making this film. Funny, honest, and very moving, Afropunk is a must-see. If it's playing anywhere near you, I highly recommend it. Click here for more information.

Posted by macedonia at 2:05 PM EST
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Monday, 25 October 2004
Junior Boys in-store appearance @ Other Music
Now Playing: Dangermouse vs. Jay-Z - The Gray Album
Topic: event reports

You knew what type of crowd you were hanging out with just by the dialogue exchanged with a taxi driver waiting at a traffic light:

Cabbie: Excuse me?just out of curiosity, what?s the line for?
Patron: It?s an in-store performance for a band?a small band?Junior Boys?
(silence)
Patron: They?re a small band?tiny band?
(more silence)
Patron: You?d have to shop here.

Probably the thing that made me laugh the most was listening to this guy behind me fishing for ways to tell the cabbie that he couldn?t possibly know who Junior Boys were. Quite frankly, heads that are all about the underground don?t know who they are. They?re currently on a North American tour with Mouse on Mars (an absolute favorite of mine), so hopefully that will change soon. Their new album called Last Exit was released earlier this year on the Kin label in the UK and was just released domestically on Domino. It?s extremely engaging pop music tying in a number of different influences, on some New Order meets Timbaland kinda steez ? very cool. And seeing as how I?m poor, a free in-store at Other Music was the only way I was gonna be able to see these guys play.

Junior Boys is made up of two men: Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus. Jeremy?s the singer and songwriter while Matt keeps himself busy on the keyboards. Occasionally they trade places on basses and guitars rigged up through a various assortment of pedals and effects. I was already smiling because once inside the store, I saw my friend Ezekiel?s album stocked on the shelf. Even stranger, Jeremy is what Ezekiel might look like with longer hair, about 15-20 extra pounds, and a scruffy beard. Junior Boys are unassuming blokes, though, and after inviting us to come closer to their setup, they performed several songs from their album and engaged in some witty banter in between selections.

?We played to about 600 people last night, yet this is so much more nerve-racking,? Jeremy uttered to light laughter from the audience. He then motioned to his partner behind the synths and said, ?Poor Matt ? he looks positively bored back there. Supposedly, the more bored you look, the more intense your performance.? He also admitted to window shopping while he was performing because it was such a great store. I don?t blame him ? I?ve dropped enough dollars that I didn?t have in that place on many an occasion. ?Anybody here buy the new Mouse On Mars album ? show of applause?? A scant few of us applauded and cheered. ?Well, we?re on tour with them, unfortunately, but the album?s pretty good, so you should definitely pick that one up?even though we don?t really like them as people.? Of course, everybody cracked up after that, to which Jeremy added, ?They?re all here tonight, by the way.?

After four songs, they definitely left us wanting. Some heads went to talk to them after their set, others headed towards the register to pick up a copy of the album. After seeing them perform a few tracks from it, Last Exit has definitely been placed on the must have list. If you do nothing else, stop by their website and listen to a few tunes.

Posted by macedonia at 5:04 PM EDT
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Sunday, 1 August 2004
party for your right to fight: culture jamming in NYC
Now Playing: Howard University Marching Band - "Got To Get You Into My Life"
Topic: event reports

Saturday, July 24, 2004

It was around 9:30 p.m. when I found myself looking up at the Manhattan Bridge from a Brooklyn street corner down by the water?s edge. I was waiting on line with dozens of others to get into the Lunatarium. They were hosting a party entitled New Nation, some sort of multi-purpose festival with DJs, bands, carnival acts, and activist organizations. The heads at Complacent were involved, so I already knew the angle: somewhere between revelry and revolution. These functions are rarely ever without their share of hedonism, which was the very thing that made me wary about going in the first place. Decadence and I just don?t see eye to eye lately. Then again, when you tell yourself that you?re trying to live life like you know God is watching you (and sometimes acting as if you never said that to yourself), the tug-of-war between the spirit and the flesh reminds you that this battle is a daily operation?with no signs of an end anytime soon.

Visuals from a laptop were on display along the side of the warehouse with people text messaging from their cell phones in order to fill in the blanks of the broadcast statements. A man appears from around the corner in a white suit and a preacher?s collar, speaking through a megaphone. ?Now appearing on stage?the beautiful?sexy?Female Bureau of Investigation! Your chances of getting laid will increase greatly if you see this band! One can only hope that they investigate us?conduct a search?pat us down?? Apprehensions or no, too many people I knew were performing for me not to be there, plus there were some acts that sounded interesting. So I paid my ten bones, cast my dispersions to the side and walked in.

F.B.I. provided live funk and soul from a garage space. Opposite them was a tent area peopled with various organizations including Greenpeace, Dancesafe, and The League of Pissed-Off Voters. Functions like these always bring an interesting mix of people out: the ravers, hippies, hipsters, hackers, b-boys and b-girls, the well-to-do, the down and out, the anarchists, the activists, the undecided, and everyone else in between. Spent about the first half hour walking around and talking with random folks in the crowd (it?s amazing how easily my Boondocks/Okayplayer t-shirt can start up a conversation), as well as catching up with some heads I hadn?t seen in a while. It?s always wild when you see people from different areas of your life all in one spot. I could already tell it was going to be a memorable night.

I was encouraged to step into the garage to check out Femm Nameless, an all-female afrobeat band. Live bands that lay down a danceable groove are definitely my flavor right now and these sisters did not disappoint. They were tighter than a mosquito?s posterior from the moment they started and quickly whipped the crowd into a dancing frenzy. The lead singer (who also played a mean trombone) brought the politickin? to our doorstep in between songs: ?It?s not only about making your vote count, but who counts the votes. DEMAND YOUR MOTHERF**KING RIGHTS!!? The crowd answered back with cheers of approval. They closed their set with a cover of Fela Kuti?s ?Water No Get Enemy,? leaving us wanting more. We clapped, stomped, and chanted for one more song. The femmes took the stage and absolutely KILLED Fela?s ?Zombie,? which I was secretly hoping they would perform. I went nuts. Once it was over, I made a beeline to their booth to cop their CD.

By this time, the festivities under the night sky began to resemble a carnival. People piled onto a bus that ran on vegetable oil that sat across from a van serving as a confessional booth. Out near the water, short films were projected onto a silver screen and people took turns being tossed back and forth on an apocalyptic-looking machine complete with a body harness. Got a nice hook-up from one of the activist booths handing out goody bags from The Nation. Meanwhile, anti-Bush administration shirts were a big hit that night ? ?My Bush would make a better President? for the ladies, ?My Dick would make a better Vice-President? for the men.

Video installations of Dubya and protests line the walls inside. People are having their faces painted in a corner. A naked man walks among the crowd as if nobody's supposed to notice that the emperor has no clothes on. Three rooms separate one series of sounds from another. Just around the bend emanate the sounds of disco and tribal house. My man Jordan?s got the multitude body to body on the dance floor. The lights go out and screams of delirium erupt. I leave this scene to condense my two carry bags into one, just in time for the DJ to drop ?The Nervous Track? by Nu Yorican Soul. And from there it?s on. I think it was Tyler Askew of Rude Movements holdin? it down on the tables. Deep and soulful house met up with broken beat in the mix. Every musical experience so far was further confirmation that I was in the right place?and my friends hadn?t even taken the stage yet.

During a 15-20 minute wait on the porta-potty line, I was entertained by The Hungry March Band, a raucous dose of Mardi Gras spirit infusing their performance. Between Femm Nameless and Tyler Askew, I danced so hard that I was literally wringing sweat out of my Boondocks tee. Luckily, The Nation goody bag had something to change into: a short-sleeved shirt that simply read ?November 2.? I made it back in time for the second half of 3rd Party?s set. As always, they did their thing ? real hip-hop at its finest. Rabbi Darkside, Farbeon, and my man Hired Gun sound better every time I see them. The way in which they trade verses off each other and keep the crowd going consistently is a beautiful thing to witness. And it was just getting started up in there. A seamless switch was made from 3rd Party to Open Thought, and the hip-hop flow continued. MC/beatbox artist Baba flipped verses off the dome, including a freestyle about hooking up with Dawn (his fiancee). That in particular was a really touching moment, especially if you know them and what a blessing it is to see them walk through life together. Baba called Dawn up to the stage (who was taken to the spot blindfolded by members of her bridal party, including my wife) and just kicked the verse, then kissed his bride-to-be as the crowd applauded and cheered.

(Let?s just stop there: how many hip-hop shows have you been to that celebrate love in such a fashion? Or even take the time to mention it? I didn?t even think about that aspect of it until just now.)

It had become a bit of a sweatbox inside and my wife needed to get some air, so we headed out for a few minutes. A drum circle started by the water with fire dancers adding their own pyrotechnic movements to the spectacle. Feeling the breeze come off of the river, reality begins to set in. I began to think about the war of economics that my wife and I fight daily, the idea that the money that I make at my current job is half of what I used to make at my previous one, and the bills still have to be paid. The fact that my wife's full time gig ends mid-August and then it's back to grad school, leaving us with nothing but my current salary to live on. The lack of savings, the abundance of passions and dreams, and how the two sides never seem to come to a compromise. Beth and I held hands under the bridge, the wind from the water numbing us both, trying to make sense of it all.

Back inside, the crowd was merely concerned with the get down as DJ Rekha hit 'em with the bhangra beats. Around the corner, DJ Chrome assaulted body movers with dark drum and bass as MC Hired Gun supplied microphone motivation. After about 20 minutes or so, I retreated to a corner to rest. The sounds from different rooms began to bleed into each other and the visuals would follow suit. George W. loomed large on a wall while a video manipulator put words in his mouth with a few clicks of a mouse. Behind Bush Jr. came a parade of protestors demanding to be heard, refusing to leave until their concerns were addressed. This symphony of sensory confusion provided an apt soundtrack to what I was feeling at the moment, let alone the political climate of our nation at large.

Watching the sun rise during the drive home, synapses in my brain called out for a rewind. Tyler Askew's set came rushing back to my memory, along with the feeling of euphoria while dancing to certain selections. It was good to have been in the midst, to party and politick alongside so many. What we do with the information that we have shared and received remains to be seen, although word has it that $16,000 in donations were raised for a number of political and activist organizations that were there that night. One thing's for certain: no matter what happens, the next few months leading up to Election Day are going to be quite interesting...and that's probably putting it lightly.

Posted by macedonia at 2:10 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 1 August 2004 2:15 PM EDT
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