11:48 AM – M Train from Bushwick into Manhattan
A Mariachi band just rolled up in this car. A quartet in crisp, black cowboy hats. Never have I seen such on the M Train at this time of day. The music is strong in accordian. They played a quick tune, brought one of the hats around, and moved to the next car. It seemed rather sterile after they left.
12:12 PM – Dunkin’ Donuts
Drinking the Kool Aid.
The Ayn Rand-ish book cover art at Dunkin’ Donuts is weird.
1:28 PM – Meeting at the BTR office on 23 Street
I just thought of a really silly, yet somehow intriguing question to include in my interview battery for CMJ this year:
What form of natural disaster do you find the most terrifying, and why?
Well, not the best question, I guess. Maybe it’s because I find tornadoes to be infinitely fascinating…
This is a better query:
What animated character, from your youth, do you remember the most fondly, and why?
I like it.
2:28 PM – Subway platform at West 4th Street
Just got off the M, walking up that lonnnnnng ramp, deep in the bowels of the underground subway complex at West 4th Street. The walls on either side of this urban couloir are lined with ads for Made In New York, which must stand for eye-goggling examples of architecture. Last year I think it was lined with ads for the latest Saw film. Still reeks of pee.
2:31 PM – Corner of 6th Ave & West 3rd Street
The basketball court on the corner is all torn up! I miss walking past the game.
2:35 PM – Judson Church NYU
I’m back at the Judson church off of Washington Square, where registration for CMJ 2010 is going strong. Now that I think of it, it’s the first time I’ve been in a church since coming here last year. I dig the space though. As far as registration ambience, mood & atmosphere, this is one category where CMJ beats SXSW. Nothing beats a church for making something feel beyond important.
What song is this I’m hearing? That’s definitely a metal xylophone I hear, like the ones from elementary school music class. Reminds me of the music in the film American Beauty. Now it’s switched to Dum Dum Girls… I think.
2:54 PM – Kimmel Building, 4th Floor, NYU
Goodie bag attained. A nice black & white pinstripe bag this year, stiff with strength. Whack music up in here though, sounds like a television show theme song. It looks like I missed the American Hardcore Panel. All I can see now is a panel on the Green Day musical, or email marketing, nevermind chins on live streaming, Syncing and something called “360 does a 180.” Sure. Tempted to put on the free pair of YouTube tube socks that came in the CMJ ad bag.
3:07 PM – Kimmel Building, 4th Floor, NYU
Stole 3 shiny cardboard containers of ear plugs from the Sennheiser booth at the Kimmel Center.
3:12 PM – Judson Church Stoop
Leaning against a post, watching Moose from CMJ interviewing Das Racist (with microphone & HD camera). They just asked him if he could name any of their songs. I am pretty sure he said “no.” Now Moose is asking Heems & Vazquez a series of rapid-fire, word association questions like:
NY or LA?
CD or Vinyl?
Dungeons or Dragons?
Twitter or Facebook?
Rock or hip hop?
Peanutbutter: crunchy or creamy?
3:35 PM – New York City
Just saw a pay telephone on the street.
3:47 PM – New York City
Headed back to the BTR office to finish recording In The Den for Wednesday. Check it out at Noon tomorrow ya’ll!
4:37 PM – 23 St subway platform
Hello again M train, I’m headed back to Bushwick to finish a show & eat dinner. There is a solo guitarist/singer on the platform with an operatic voice, playing Spanish guitar. I’ve lived in NYC for 2 months, and have never seen a music busker at this stop, or on my M train ride into the city… until today.
5:17 PM – Myrtle Ave/Broadway subway platform
“Rudy! You owe me 50 cents bitch!”
Overheard as I got off the M train at the Myrtle Ave/Broadway.
10:36 PM – 659 Bushwick Stoop
I just saw a dude run across the street. No cars were coming for blocks. Totally empty. And he had been walking slow and normal on the sidewalk. Once he stepped down from that curb though… EXPLODED across the street. And then he started walking slow again. Strange.
10:52 PM – M train
Deserted. I will debark at the Essex Street stop, and journey to The Cake Shop. What will I find there, I wonder…
10:58 PM – Cake Shop
They are no longer accepting badges here. So much for O’Death. Onto Pianos for Das Racist!
11:01 PM – Pianos
Walking into the back room, on the stage I see a frontman in a black suit with a banjo. There is a violinist too. Upright bassist on the scene. Drummer, of course. And all in ties. We have a rather relaxed mood in this room. I feel like I just walked into a Western film, where a dramatic scene is about to take place. Shit’s crazy in bar though, you can hear it in the background, like the ocean. “A true life tale of punk rock redemption,” Franz Nicolay just said, introducing his next song.
This number is decidedly more rousing. Why am I thinking of Irish fighting songs? And what does that phrase even mean, “Irish fighting songs?” Well, you know what I mean…
Franz Nicolay has good sound, no issue there. But I don’t think this flavor of music is for me. This last song, wow, it could be in a musical about Dickensian street urchins. Very in-your-face & anthemic. Totally unlike the prior songs, which were far more subdued.
11:28 PM – Pianos
Word around the campfire is, We Are Trees is (are?) up next. (‘Are’ is right, but I like using ‘is’ in this particular sentence). They were just added to the bill, apparently. And that’s the extent of my knowledge on We Are Trees.
Naturally, while waiting, I wonder. Should I have a beer? Reckon it would taste fine. But I can’t be doing that if I manage to interview Das Racist later, hmmmm. Got to keep my T-shirt refreshed.
11:38 PM – We Are Trees
Drummer = Josiah Schlater. Singer/Guitarist = James Nee. Violinist – Rocky Capizzi.
“It sounds a little dead. Not, like dead, but you know, a little dead.”
– Rocky Capizzi, violinist, during soundcheck.
The drummer, Schlater, has a badass shirt I tell you. Big wing collars with embroidered panels.
Oh shit, that was a soundcheck. I thought that was the first song. And here we go, writin’ mad checks. We Are Trees use mad hypothetical paper.
Now they be tuning, Capizzi & Nee. The soundcheck drags on. Everybody in the room just turned to their right and started talking to each other.
11:43 PM – We Are Trees
They hath started. The music has stompy drums. I think this song may be called “Rise.” When they sing it, “RiseriseriseriseriseriseRISE,” that’s the best part.
The second song starts with Nee just singing, harmonizing some lyrics with scant accompaniment y’know. Dude’s got a true voice. This music reminds me of Ugly Organ-era Cursive. Now we have some of that pondering violin, the shit Arcade Fire own, though We Are Trees are working hard and saving.
11:51 PM – We Are Trees, still
I can dig it. But this is the kind of band where I can’t wait to hear the next album, y’know? They got a sound though. For some reason I feel like I should be at sea, listening to this. Rolling tides. And when they harmonize, the girl & the guy, fucking trees growing in the ocean man.
Each We Are Trees song, in this set, is better than the one before it. Maybe the trio came clenched, and are just now beginning to sigh on they backs like stretching cats.
11:59 PM – We Remain Trees
The drums are George of the Jungle. At times the violin amplifies to speeding train whistle bout to run your shit over. My left ear feels a little echoey now, like a room wif no carpets. 12:04 and we at the last song from We Are Trees. Now the violin is being plucked, versus bowed. Serious boom bap beat. This beat always wins, I am trying to think of another example. Regardless, it’s obvious why this is the last song.
12:11 AM – Intermission at Pianos
I was hoping the place would clear out a bit post-Trees, but no such luck. Pianos is warming up. Layers are being added. One of those evil, gargantuan insect-looking creatures from The Matrix would have a field day ‘harvesting’ all us human batteries up in here.
12:31 AM – Das Racist
The ones & twos are being set up. The bartender’s playlist is annoying me. He just played “Basket Case,” by Green Day. Weak. Then The Beatles with “Hey Bulldog,” Justin Timberlake with “Futuresex/Lovesound” and then INXS with “New Sensation.” No one can justify that Green Day song to me right now.
12:35 AM – Das Racist
Victor Vazquez just stepped onto the stage, wearing a pale pink ski hat. Dude setting up the tables is not fucking around. He has been fine tuning this shit for a while now.
12:38 AM – Das Racist
“Hey yo sound man, where you at?”
– Le’roy Benros, Das Racist manager
12:40 AM – Das Racist
“Soundmannnnnnnnnn? Soundmannnnnnnnnn, where you atttttt?”
“The left turntable is not working. Anyone got an extra turntable?”
– Le’roy Benros, Das Racist manager
12:43 AM – Das Racist
The sound man just carried a turntable above his head through the crowd. The speed of progress.
12:45 AM – Das Racist
“Drink tickets! Drink tickets! Drink tickets! Drink tickets! Drink tickets!”
“Where our drink tickets?”
– Victor Vazquez, Das Racist
The bass just dropped super hard, Jesus. The walls of my skull are vibrating like the arms of a tuning fork. Lakutis is on stage with Das Racist, just throwing ice at people, one by one, from a cup. He looks high as fuck.
“Macbook computer!” x8. This cracks me up, because I always thought that was the best line in “Who’s That Brown.” I am happy to hear Heems highlighting it via many repeated declarations.
Lakutis is now hanging back a bit, sending texts on stage.
12:56 AM – Das Racist
Das Racist just led a chant of “Music Sucks!”
Lakutis is now smoking a cigarette on stage. Heems is hammered, but damned if he isn’t rhyming perfect. Jesus, I wonder how good he is when sober? Dap just took 3 mics in his fists and did some rhythmic scatting, bringing the show to a standstill. A perfect stop and punctuation. The beat comes back in, and Dap says “penis,” and then “nipple,” apropos of nothing. Genius.
Holy shit! They are now doing a cover of “You Make Me Wanna,” by Usher.
“Thank you, we’re Usher.”
– Heems, after the homage.
1:04 AM – Das Racist
“THAT’S HOW YOU DO IT RIGHT? THAT’S HOW YOU FUCKING PUT IT DOWN!”
Dap, with conviction, after a fierce rendition of “Rapping 2 U.” I laughed out loud at how utterly unflappably he proclaimed this (dude was right, no one could question it).
1:09 AM – Das Racist
Das Racist just got yelled at over the PA by the soundman, for smoking. Wow, I feel like someone’s Mom just came home early from work. You know, killing the high school hooky party on the patio? Classic.
“If you want more Das Racist, no more smoking in the crowd.”
Das Racist is now leading a chant of “No More Smoking In The Crowd!”
Fat Tony guesting now – he had been sitting off to the side of the stage, smoking cigarettes with Lakutis.
“I got the beat on my flash drive.”
– Fat Tony, while talking with the DJ & Das Racist about the next song. There is some trouble in getting it started.
“Yo he got the beat on his flash drive!”
– Heems, noticing and siezing the moment.
1:10 AM – Das Racist
Das Racist just led a round of “Boo Us!” & “You Suck.” The crowd struggled to comply.
1:15 AM – Das Racist
Lakutis flamboyantly smoking another cigarette on stage.
“We’re gonna fulfill that joy!”
– Heems, in a brilliant moment of realization.
1:19 AM – Das Racist
“This kid is gifted like Christmas.”
– Fat Tony
1:20 AM – Das Racist
“I don’t remember the worrrrrrds.”
Das Racist is the only band that is awesome when they are hammered.
“Hello we’re Das Racist we never practice we don’t care.”
“CMJ is bullshit!”
After Das Racist did the obligatory introductions of everybody on stage, you know, asking the crowd to “give it up for __” each time, Heems then asked a girl in the front what her name was. It turned out to be Stacey, and then Das Racist led a round of “Let’s give it up for Stacey!” multiple times, and the crowd was into it. Then, Dap said:
“I don’t know Stacey, she could be a demon.”
1:25 AM – Das Racist
E’rbody in the club gettin tipsy.
1:40 AM – Das Racist
I just talked to Victor Vazquez at the bar, and asked if he & Das Racist might be down for an interview. He told me to hit them up at Dasracist@gmail.com.
Denied to the Gmail!
No interview. Oh well. I said what’s up to Heems, complimented him on the show, he was quite hammered. I would not want to interview them like that anyway, so, maybe it was for the best.
After being shot down, I stood at the bar with Vazquez for an awkward moment, waiting for my beer. I wasn’t doing an interview, so I decided to have a beer & cap off CMJ Day 1. I kept trying to think of something to say, something clever, like, “for real I got good questions, nothing like that other shit,” or something, but nothing seemed sure enough.
1:51 AM – Pianos, post-Das Racist
Bad interviewers make my life harder. It’s just like dating a girl who had some fucked up ex-boyfriend before you came along. Some people ruin things for everybody.
I often wonder how I would be at my ultimate best. I just saw Das Racist perform, and they were (a little not) at they ultimate best. And it was still the dopest show. I wish I could hit ’em wif my questions, I really does.
2:00 AM – Ludlow Street outside of Pianos
I can see how NYC could doom a man who, as Johnny Cash once said, “only lives to see the lights of town.”
2:19 AM – Subway at Essex Street
There are indeed many rats in the subway. What a strange place, massive, fluorescent time of day always. Still breezes. Football fields long. Glad I am going home, I be tired.