Monthly Archives: March 2014
The Rock Shop, Saturday night. There to listen and watch and listen to a band.
This place, on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn is full of young musicians, young customers, young bartenders, and me three times as old as everyone else in the place. The place is a typical emerging Brooklyn bar. The back bar has small batch bourbon, single barrel bourbon, a good selection of Irish whiskey, and plenty of beer including Brooklyn and Goose Island Honkers beer.
And then there’s me, sitting at the end of the bar, the old fuck, with a shot of Grey Goose in front of me and sixty (yes 60!) years of listening to R&R songs of young love, young rebellion, and young identity crisis. Ok, so I’m just a guy who likes music, the type of music that can change your life, can give you direction, can save you from the hell of conformity and suburbia.
Let me give you a few examples. I was one of those teenagers, a million years ago, who sat in the balcony of a darkened theater and heard Bill Halley bang out Rock Around the Clock at the end of the movie Blackboard Jungle. Like a fucking lightening bolt into the brain! If you haven’t seen it, put on your to-do list. I will begin to give you an understanding of where and why rock and roll emerged in the mid 1950s as a medium of youthful rebellion.
Listen to the angst-driven lyrics of early Bruce Springsteen on Born to Run or the magical guitar playing of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman in Derek and the Dominos (and thank you to Jim Gordon for that driving piano riff) or Janis Joplin screaming her heart out with a bottle of Southern Comfort to sooth the pain.
The crowd tonight, here in Brooklyn and a million years later, is different from the crowds at the Fillmore East or of the State Theater in Hartford in 1955 or 1956 (help my memory is fading), my first rock and roll show. The Allen Freed Show, spreading the Rock and Roll gospel with Chuck Berry, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and Fats Domino. Tonight’s crowd does not have the level of excitement or commitment to the music earlier generations. Too much social chatter while the band played. Jesus Christ could play guitar and few would notice.
This is not a punk crowd nor is it an early R&R crowd of Presley crazy girls and cigarette smoking rebels against everything, Beatle screaming wet teenagers. The crowd here is mostly a middle class kids, educated, polite, and clean. Beards trimmed, these new age rock and rollers, listen quietly. No hipsters. No Goths. No Emos. No punks. Just a lot of white kids trying to escape, but not knowing how. The girls are well dressed, the boys looking like future hedge fund managers all dressed in brand-name clothes unaware if the global implications of wearing designer clothes.
And the bands played on.
I drink Grey Goose with ease here. Doesn’t everyone here drink the Goose? I stand out in the crowd even at the back of the bar, who is this old fuck listening to young music?
The bands are ok, but derivative and sitting squarely in the middle of the road. Nothing new or exciting, Nothing for the listener to say: holy shit did you hear that? The musicians work in Brooklyn or Manhattan, they play at night, I am not sure when they sleep, they are young .
I sit and wait for the next rock and roll messiah to lead us out of the hell we have created for ourselves.
Freddy’s Bar. 5Th Avenue in Brooklyn. Freddy’s is a local,bar, not too raucous, not on fire as I expected arriving at 9:30. I am there to see the local barista play his songs with a band. “Chris Buckridge and the Last Friend.” It s Halloween, so everyone is dressed in all kinds of costumes. Some big guy dressed as Little Orphan Annie walks by me while some young hottie is showing more flesh than I can handle.
I am here with my buddy Bill to see and hear young bands. We both are. Young bands trying out their stuff. I guess I am hoping to see something really different. A new sound. I wonder what it was like in Liverpool when John and Paul were just starting. I want to repeat my experiences at Max’s Kansas City when Patti Smith was reading poetry with an electric guitar in the background. Or David Byrne and his boom box at CBGBs.
I start with a double Grey Goose on the rocks. Self-medicating. So I get a bit buzzed before going into the room where the bands play. I order a second at 18 bucks a hit. And this is Brooklyn. I enter the room where the bands play and bump into something and drop the drink. The sound of breaking glass announces me to the crowd. I say fuck and they all laugh. Little Orphan Annie looks at me like I’m a class A asshole plus I’m older than anyone in the room. So I try to pick up the mess of the broken glass and surer than shit I cut my fingers picking up the broken glass. Now I’m back to the outside bar to get another $18 drink and I better be careful since this is costing me a fortune just to hear this band.
It tell Little Orphan Annie that this time I have made it into the room without dropping the drink. He chuckles and ignores me.
My lifetime buddy Bill who has some music chops. We enter the music part of the bar to listen to the band. The band does their thing. I know the singer/songwriter who plays away. The band, by the way, has a female bass sax player and a female violin player. My buddy Bill is in love.
I’m listening to the band when I notice I am bleeding from my finger from picking up the broken glass of my stupid dropping the drink routine. I lick and such my fingers because I know that saliva has some clotting ability. Blood drips on the floor and all over my Iphone, which I am trying to take a few pictures before finally stopping. It’s funny, blood has little or no taste. So what is with these vampires? I’m tasting my own blood, but no taste. WTF? All the time the band plays on.
I watch the locals enjoy themselves. Young people playing the meeting and mating game. Would you like a drink? Hey, you’re looking cool tonight. Speaking of cool the local hipsters are in the bar too. Pork pie hats, fifties look. what the fuck are these posers doing here? Hipsters do not do Halloween. Hipsters do not hang out in bars like this. Go read Burroughs’s Junkie to get it right. It’s ok to want to be a hipster, but live the life, not some Disney version of it. Get real.
Freddy’s is too nice to be a hipster bar. Any bar that says they are a hipster bar, is not a hipster bar. Anyone who thinks they are cool is not. Anyone who says they are a hipster is a poser. You want to be a hipster, get arrested. Sit in a bar where old guys piss in their pants and pour rot gut into their stomachs. Walk the streets alone at night. Hysterically orate Ginsburg into the dark empty streets. Live at the bottom for a while. Touch the bottom. Smell the bottom. Maybe then, you might be a hipster although you may nevertheless know it. In fact, who really gives a shit?
Four shots of Grey Goose later, I walk home through the streets filled with the left overs of Halloween, 2013. Nothing much changes does it? Same half drunk people, a few kids wilding for one night of fun, Late night drivers hoping not to get in a crash, bars still filled with the lost children of this generation, and me, walking home again. Slowly.
One of the many incredible places in Brooklyn for music is a small bar called Barbies. And lucky for me, it is just around the corner from where I live.
So, last night, I buddied up with my BFF (don’t you hate this kind of abbreviated shit?) and after a great dinner near by we floated over to Barbies for a 6pm show of a young lady named Mamie Minch. Now a 6pm show is a bit of an anomaly even in Brooklyn, but here she was booked for that time.
We are seated right next to the stage, great to see, hear, and for me, maybe take a pictures. I am drinking beer because I tend to get really dry when I am in this mood.
Mamie walks in carrying her two guitars, one a 1937 National Duolian Resophonic, the other one, equally rare, that I could not make out the name clearly. She plays a mix of country blues and old timey type music, some covers and some original. All with feelings that should be more in an old black blues player than a young white female living in trendy Park Slope.
The audience also interests me. They are older for the most part, looking like 60s lefties aging but still hanging on to the music. They tap their feet, nod their heads but stay seated or standing in the back. No dancing, no yelling and screaming, no drunken revelry, just enjoying the music. This tells me that I am not crazy to be doing this at my age. The My Generation generation still rocks on. This need for music does not slow down as you get older, others things like kids and work get in the way, but it is there and I am revitalizing myself by injections of live music.