New York slayed me in the best possible way. I had only seen a few parts of it before on a trip in 2003 to the Grammy Awards (I saw mostly the tall buildings of the Financial District, the neon Times Square area, and Madison Square Garden) so I missed out on so much of its character before this past weekend. My friend’s boyfriend James is a walking New York history book, like even better than those headsets they give you at Alcatraz. Spurred by a childhood interest in Spiderman and other superheroes from NYC, he soaked up just about as much trivia about the city as anyone I know, so James was the perfect guy to hang around with this weekend as he would spout random historical facts in flawless form. We walked through almost every neighborhood in Manhattan, and some of Queens. We missed out on Brooklyn and Bronx and Staten Island this time around, but I’ll be back.
This week’s belated Monday Music Roundup (after a red-eye home on Sunday night) is a loose collective of the sounds I’ve been hearing and relating to these last couple days. It’s not a “New York Mix” (you already got one of those), it’s “My Weekend, Sonically.” There’s a constant hum and pleasant cacophony in that city and I loved absorbing it all.
MC2 (Theme Realidades)
Willie Colon/DJ Le Spam & The Spam Allstars
Our first night in New York started with a ferocious, sexy bang at the SOB’s (Sounds of Brazil) club in Greenwich Village. My friend Zein recommended meeting there to see a certain DJ Le Spam and The Spam Allstars who were in town from Miami, and remixed old 45s with a live band fronting. It was a Latin/Jamaican/African/funk extravaganza, and I loved it. In addition to the DJ (Le Spam himself, nee Andrew Yeomanson from Montreal), they had a guy on African & steel drums, an electric guitar, 2 saxophones, and a spry flutist. They gave out free CDs too, so this is kind of how it sounded. From the Fania Records: Live 02 From Miami//DJ Le Spam CD.
Positively 4th Street
So the next time I go back to NYC I want to take a big fat map and plot on it all the musical references from bands I love, and then do a 100% admit-you’re-a-dork walking tour. I am sure such a guide already exists; I saw this crazy map once about Hold Steady references in the Twin Cities and loved it. I could do the same thing with Bob Dylan and all of his continuous references to streets and avenues. This is the song that was winding its way through my head during the entire meander we made through the lovely Village on a rainy Saturday.
Love Me Or Leave Me
We were enjoying bibimbap –or “bippitybop” as one of us endearingly called it– at a very dimly-lit Korean place called Dok Suni’s in the East Village (near St. Mark’s) on Saturday night when I happily picked the distinctive piano interlude of this song out over the din. I have long loved the growly sass and smoky perfection that Nina Simone brings to this song. The DJ was mixing it in with present-day dance grooves, and it perfectly held its own among more modern company. Certain sentiments are always in style.
To Hell With Good Intentions
We stumbled into the “bring your laptop and required intelligentsia reading” Think coffee shop near NYU, and this was blasting over the speakers. At the very moment that I was wondering, “Who is this?” the fuzzy guy working the registers yelled to the other bearded/spectacled guy making the espressos, “Hey, who is this?” McLusky was a Welsh band that released this hard, fast, catchy Britpunk album McLusky Do Dallas in 2002 (produced by Steve Albini) and now seem to have kind of vanished. They don’t even have a MySpace, if you can fathom that. But how fantastic is this tune? I just can’t get enough.
Hotel Chelsea Nights
My first night in NYC, we had been careening through the dark streets at some ungodly hour and I caught a fleeting glimpse of the Hotel Chelsea around a corner, and then it was gone. We finally made it back into that neighborhood Sunday evening before my flight for a quick pilgrimage to this hotel that has housed a whole lotta musical and literary history. This song perfectly encapsulates the vibe of the neighborhood, and the bohemian feel of the hotel that Ryan called home for a time. I listened to this tune on repeat as I took off from NY over a huge yellow harvest moon rising.