Baby’s First Roadburn: New York

Yellow Eyes

I realized quite quickly that a trip to New York couldn’t be something to capture on a daily basis. Instead, this has been a whirlwind series of experiences. Above all else, it’s imperative that I thank my friends who went out of their way to lend me rooms. Having a place to crash is vital when traveling and without the help of my friends Automne Zingg and Megan Osztrosits, I’d have had an immensely difficult time traveling in this city. Automne’s musical work as Lacey Spacecake is likely familiar to folks who follow my social media, as she allowed me the honor of singing on one of her songs. She’s also the author of two cookbooks: Defensive Eating with Morrissey and Comfort Eating with Nick Cave, both of which can be pre-ordered now before their October release . Megan fronts the band Couch Slut, whose album My Life as a Woman is ugly in all the best ways. Vinyl copies of the record are still available and the band just might be working on new things at some point in the near future, so keep an eye out.

Automne Zingg and Myself
Automne Zingg and Myself

In a city full of life, culture, and people, I was pleasantly surprised to know that one of the people I had time to meet with was my cousin David. David and his wife Lauren were able to spend an afternoon with myself and Automne visiting the Whitney in Manhattan. While many exhibits there excited me in some fashion, I was particularly gripped by the top floor’s “Astro Noise” exhibit, which was a series of video installations and images documenting the severity and rawness of the United States’ actions abroad after September 11th. There was something so beautifully human and evocative about this exhibit that made some of the other art I encountered seem just a bit less charged.

While the extent of my involvement with the visual arts regrettably ended with just one museum (albeit an incredible one), I was fortunate enough to visit a few great watering holes in a handful of different neighborhoods across the city. Automne showed me Madame X, a dimly lit yet inviting bar with reasonably priced cocktail specials that lightly played the music of Al Green and Michael Jackson up front while some sort of interactive theater troupe screamed and howled in the back. I enjoyed a special called “Born Yesterday,” which tastefully mixed the herbal bite of gin with a hint of mango, before I settled in with a glass of Macallan 12, a spendy yet smooth and rewarding scotch.

Serving almost a direct contrast to my experience at Madame X was R Bar in Williamsburg. I met with Megan late on Sunday night to enjoy a couple pints of $3 Coors Banquet while we played songs by Wolf Eyes and Acid Bath on the jukebox. To quote Megan, “R Bar is the kind of place where people go to not be noticed,” but there was still a familiar warmth in our bartender Ella and everybody seemed to know and adore Megan, who had her own reserved seat in the front corner. People seem to feel that dives are cold and lackluster places, but I could easily see why this was a perfect melting pot for a rapidly changing community.

Megan Osztrosits and Myself
Megan Osztrosits and Myself

My third and final bar experience was a visit to the almost invisible 124 Old Rabbit Club in the East Village, where I had the good fortune of being served by Zachary Lipez of Publicist UK. Zack served up a couple delicious and strong Belgian beers while introducing me to the music of Gun Club and discussing Prong’s Sisters of Mercy cover. Pairing good conversation with new musical discoveries and good drinks is always a pleasant time for me, leaving me wishing that Zack had been able to sit on the other side of the bar with me to enjoy a drink of his own.

Aside from the libations across town, it’s impossible to document a trip to New York on a music blog without making mention of the record store and concert experiences I was fortunate enough to have. On a sunny afternoon I found my way to Material World, recently renamed after having been the institution known as Heaven Street Records. While I can’t speak for any differences from its former name, it was an incredibly well curated and tantalizing place. Instantly memorable punk rock played in the background while I flipped through records I never thought I’d find online, let alone in an actual record store. Still, I curbed my impulsive tendencies and only left with a copy of Imperial Trumpet’s demo cassette and a Distel tape I had never heard of before.

It only felt appropriate that, having purchased a tape from the House of First Light family, I found my way out to Yellow Eyes’ European tour kickoff gig on my last night in town. Due to transit delays I missed a large part of Sanguine Eagle’s set, catching only their final song, which was a churning and impassioned affair. For a group performing their first show, they were surprisingly well formed and had clearly spent time crafting a performance. Yellow Eyes followed with a deafening and glorious set. From the opening ambiance that kicked into “Silence Threads the Evening’s Cloth” (my personal favorite of theirs), I was entranced and found myself nodding mindlessly along until their set’s end. I was able to gather a few special treats from their merch table and meet the folks responsible for creating such essential albums before turning in for the night.

Today I found myself feeling far more confident on subways that only days prior had confused me as I made my way to the Newark airport. I feel that New York City could’ve kept me for another week and I’d still not have spent enough time exploring and adventuring, but I think that’s the city’s appeal. I’m finishing this post somewhere south of Greenland and east of Canada at approximately 9pm Eastern Time. With just four hours until I land in Amsterdam, I’m filled with excitement for the wonders that await. By the time this is posted, I’ll likely be holed up at a café in Tilburg as I borrow some WiFi and prepare myself for the most exciting musical experience of my brief time as a writer. Thanks for following along, dear readers. I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, enjoy a few extra pictures I took in New York of random, silly things.

The only blossoming tree on this street in Williamsburg had a trash bag in its branches.
Trees growing where there was once a railroad track on the Highline near the Whitney
Old friends
Old friends socializing on a corner in Bedford