Saturday, May 13, 2006

BUSHWICK MIX. Played a show in Bushwick tonight. A first for me: back in the day, Bushwick was for Mike Tyson, Bushwick Bill, and other criminal acts. An ensemble of our acquaintance called Demo Moe, made up of sculptors and musicians, had a forge out there then, but the rest of us stayed clear, content with Lower East Side mischief. Real estate values have since done their work in Bushwick, I'm told, and I did see white, well-appointed youngsters on bicycles and in clusters, but otherwise it was as I imagined. The envrions are still stained with graffiti, and empty lots leave the industrial buildings (some with the warm orange glow of gentrification in their windows) and residential tenements standing lonesome and forlorn in the great shadow of the Projects.

Our venue, the Wreck Room, stood near the Life Cafe -- two well-appointed embers smoldering in a dark stretch. The young folk at the Wreck Room were Friday-night giddy. They dressed well, as all young New Yorkers do, but they seemed easier and less self-conscious than the inland versions I was familiar with. The more famous semi-demimondes of New York are brightly lit stages, and those who trod them tend to notice that they have a role to play.

We did get some pressure from the short, cute singer of Hollis, which is also her stage name. She worked the crowd aggressively-friendly to get people to stay for her set. She said she had just taken a share in Queens ("In Hollis?" I asked; "No, Astoria," she said, "though that would be really cool"), having recently graduated with a double major in art history and communications, which I told her was an excellent pedigree for a rock star, her freely admitted ambition.

But I couldn't stay. Bill the drummer and I trudged up Morgan to our train, and were joined on the station bench by two young hiphopsters wearing baseball jerseys over t-shirts and white pants. They asked about the musical apparati we carried. They were more familiar with all-in-one sound producing units like the Triton Workstation, but they had a sincere interest in our old, clumsy gear. They liked music. The more voluble one, wearing a tight doo-rag and sporting a grey, metallic bottom row of front teeth, said he had a Yamaha acoustic that he played a bit. They were relaxed but polite. I asked about the neighborhood these days. "You got the white people coming in," the talkative one said, "and they got the lofts, and you got people like me. But it's cool."

Well, yes it is. They're working with a fellow called Heater. I wish them well, and Hollis well (May 27 at the Continental), and the hard-rockin Saint Bastard and all the rest of tonight's acts well. All musicians, except for those at the tippy-top, are slumdwellers in spirit or in fact. We could all use a break.

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