Clubbin’ NYC 2: Electric Guitar Boogaloo

What’s this? Another post already? That’s right I’m goin’ classic rock with a Two Fer Tuesday edition posting.

First off. I would like to address the previous post and say that I am not opposed to rap music. I think there has been groundbreaking music from the hip hop genre over the last 30+ years, and I am a fan of the music of NWA, Public Enemy, Outkast, and the Wu Tang Clan. Yeah I know they aren’t cutting edge anymore, but I like some new stuff like Rocky ASAP and Shabazz Palaces too.

What I detest is the stuff that is Pop music, which is slightly hard to define. Just like New Wave, Alternative, Indie, and Classic Rock; they are stupid names invented by music journalists, or THE ENEMY if you’ve seen the movie Almost Famous. New Wave was just a new wave of rock music, because they were still playing guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards, but they had cut their hair and the sound was evolving. Alternative was an alternative to the heavier rock sounds of the ’80s and was originally bands like They Might Be Giants, New Order, The Smiths, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, until Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden showed up and they were Alternative too, but they were also Grunge because they wore sleeveless flannel and Doc Martens, had a heavy Black Sabbath influence and looked like they needed a shower. I hate the term Grunge. Anyone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest knows that you could always find used Pendleton flannels at secondhand stores. They are logger shirts. And for a poor, unsigned musician, they were cheap.

Black Sabbath were considered the Godfathers of Heavy Metal. And what’s Heavy Metal? Not only is it a funny old cartoon movie with a very un-Metal soundtrack, it’s a line from Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild. As in “Heavy Metal Thunder.” Which is in reference to racing a car or motorcycle down the road. Classic Rock was invented in 1985, right after the failure of New Coke brought about Classic Coke and suddenly music made by bands in the ’60s and ’70s had shown some staying power. Rock N’ Roll was invented by a Cleveland DJ referring to what you wanted to do with your girlfriend in the backseat of your Chevy. What’s weird is how bands who emerged in the ’80s and weren’t a part of Classic Rock are now on those stations. Do you think Ludwig Von Beethoven set out to write Classical Music? What do you think he called his music when he hit on girls at bars? And most importantly, where did teenagers of the day go to have sex since it was at least a few hundred years before the invention of the automobile?

Of course Pop music just means it’s popular and sells singles, and makes hits, and next year it’s so uncool. But at the moment the coolest of the cool is to be Indie, which started out as independently produced music that avoided major labels yet somehow became “Pop”ular and tended towards whiny songs by guys in skinny jeans with ironic facial hair.

The point of my rant is that I love music from all of these genres, and have taken different things from these different influences. The best bands and musicians in my opinion have this attitude. Nothing more boring than a band that never listened to music outside of the genre they chose to play. Much of this is the fault of the industry itself, because it’s purely about making money. If you look at much of the entertainment business today, the CEOs all have a background as accountants. It all about the bottom line. Quality and originality are secondary to finding ignorant people to buy, buy, buy. Generally its kids because they just don’t know any better through lack of exposure. And the media sells them on the attitude that you’re young and nobody’s ever done it like you before. All your parent’s music that came before was nothing. Yeah, The Beatles never really did much.

I’ve been around long enough to see bands come and go, and it’s interesting to see their legacies. Time gives an interesting perspective. Remember when Creed was popular?

Last night I dropped in on a Blues Jam in the East Village because I want to get my guitar playing chops up. I didn’t play, I felt more like scouting the competition, this being New York and all. Now when I say competition it’s in a friendly way, because I don’t want to “beat” the other musicians, but yeah, I want to look good. Guitar players especially seem to have fragile egos when it comes to their craft, and may not always be friendly. Back in college I would go to the Monday night Blues Jam at Good Times, and it was a lot of fun with a mix of old and young but as always there was a little bit of that, “I’m better than you” attitude.

Last night had a few impressive performers, Black, White, Asian, old, young. There were also more than a few dogs as well. There was the Heavy Metal guy who didn’t know how to play rhythm and his leads didn’t say much either; the white kid who was up there only to sing, but had bad pitch, sung too quiet, and had no stage presence; and the old guy who got up to sing and play and really couldn’t do much of either. He bore a striking resemblance to Skeletor from the He Man cartoons and when he stiffly sang “I’m gonna rock you baby all night long” or some sexual reference I nearly snorted beer out my nose.

But it wasn’t all bad. There was an older black guy in a fedora that sang soulfully and played some great guitar, and a few young black kids that were impressive on the guitar. One of which was paired up with Skeletor, and I later heard Fedora tell him he needed to be louder, at which point he said Skeletor told him to turn down. Which goes to show you how in the fragile world of guitar player egos, the worst skilled will always try and find a way to sabotage you. Right Ian?

In all fairness, there were some good white guitar players, and an Asian kid that was good on the drums. And this Puerto Rican guy in all leather was playing some great saxophone, I’d even seen him playing earlier in the day in the subway. In all it seemed a decent blues jam, and one I could definitely keep up with, because I’ll admit it, more than a few times I thought, “I’m waaaay better than that guy. At singing too.” And while far from the oldest, I certainly wouldn’t be the youngest person there either. The crowd was a good mix too, with NYU nearby there was also good talent from a visual standpoint. So I’ll make my way back to be a part of the music and hopefully like in college, have some Good Times.

Thanks for listening, this is Stevie Tre Pay signing off the digital airwaves with a Two Fer from the guy that first inspired me to pick up the electric guitar. James Marshall Hendrix.

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Clubbin’ NYC

You can picture it, right? Me in a pair of shiny shoes. A popped collar. Bathed in some douchy cologne. Name dropping while standing behind the velvet ropes, trying to impress the doorman to let me and my posse in the club where I get a corner table and order bottle service like a Ukranian pimp, before showing off my cutting edge moves on the dance floor.

If you really know me, you probably just laughed into convulsions or vomited hysterically. Maybe that’s not me, and maybe that’s why I never went to the Greenhouse. And now I never will. That’s because the Greenhouse is closing down. It happens all the time for night clubs, but the significance here is that the Greenhouse was home to the Chris Brown/Drake bottle throwing melee that left shards of glass in wily NBA Frenchman Tony Parker’s eyeball. Sacre Blue!

If you’re like me and losing touch with vapid youth culture, you’re asking who the fuck are Chris Brown and Drake? And why should we care? According to Wikipedia, instant information gratification central, Chris Brown is a rapper/dancer/actor. All I ever knew about him is that he beat up his girlfriend Rihanna. Class act. But apparently he’s been on songs with other rappers, was in the movie Stomp the Yard, AND was on an episode of The Suite Life With Zack and Cody. Gangsta!

Drake is a Canadian Rapper/Actor. Apparently Canadians don’t dance eh! Drake, much like Brown, has been on songs with other rappers, but neither Wikiresume offered a specific song of their own to identify them by. Hmmmm. AND Drake was in Degrassi: The Next Generation, which was a spin off of Degrassi High.

So what this really comes down to is a battle between Disney Channel and Nickelodeon teen savants for who gets to be the baddest of the bad boys. What’s next? The boy band bitch slap fest between Ricky Martin and Lance Bass over who’s wearing the gayest shoes? Makes you miss the days of weaselly Axl Rose calling out Micky Rourke over Carre Otis. Get in the Ring!

Of course that’s the real reason for this brawl in the first place. Drake and Chris Brown were fighting over Rihanna. Now I don’t know much about Rihanna, and I’m not going to look her up, because, I am NOT a journalist. The opinions presented here are expressly mine, superior to yours, and facts are loosely based on how I want to portray myself at any given moment. Besides, I know Rihanna actually does have a singing career, because her song has been played literally EVERYWHERE for the last four months. How else would I have heard it 335,022 times? I don’t listen to the radio or watch MTV, but I’m subjected to it in stores and clubs almost constantly. Or at least I was, I think the hype has finally died.

The story of the Gouging at the Greenhouse refuses to die because Tony Parker has filed a $20 million dollar lawsuit over his injury and claims he won’t be playing in the Olympics, changing the Vegas odds of a French gold medal from 10,000 to 1 to Infinity.

This Greenhouse place just sounded like a real vortex of douchebaggery. Created under the guise of being “green”, it was supposedly powered by wind and the urinals were piped upstate for treatment and filtration then recycled as drinking water for the Jersey Shore. I just hope they got the Grey Goose bottle glass out of Tony’s eye and melted it back down. The Greenhouse is LEED certified, which means someone dropped a fat stack of Benjamins on the desk of the head NYC’s DEQ SOB. I give that all the credibility of when a business points out they are BBB certified. If you’ve ever noticed, the ones that make a point of telling you this are the sketchiest businesses you’ve ever run across.

If you’re coming to New York soon, don’t fret over the closing of the Greenhouse. There’s no shortage of velvet rope ringed STD factories with $20 covers and a guy with a laptop pushing the play button on music made by someone else while you try and buy $20 Malibu and Diet Cokes for your next booty call.

But when the bottles start to fly you better duck.

As my dad likes to say, “Nothing good happens after midnight.”

But I think mom knew best when she said, “That’s what happens when you hang out with douchebags.”

Happy International Sushi Day

I just got home from work and I was about to post a blog about my new job and I saw that today, June 18th is International Sushi Day. I didn’t know such a day existed, but when you think about it, doesn’t every industry feel the need to promote themselves somehow? Got Milk?

Of course, the relevance wears thin when every day is a holiday, ethnic celebration day, some country’s independence/liberation/insurgency day, and of course for you obsessive Facebookers with too many friends, a birthday.

So why do I care that it’s International Sushi Day? I don’t. But I’m a bartender at a sushi bar in Times Square. It was inevitable my next gig ended up this way because I interviewed at four sushi restaurants leading up to getting this job. The funniest of them all was for a place called Ninja, where the waiters dress in Ninja black, not restaurant black, and you enter the restaurant via an elevator that takes you below ground into a Japanese feudal village/dungeon where they perform magic tricks and pseudo martial arts and occasionally try to scare the crap out of you. It is described as an SNL skit gone wrong, but the prices are high and I would assume the tips should be, plus I have never worked in a restaurant where you can yell at the customers. Look up the Ninja NYC video if you dare.

Instead I am right in the heart of touristy Times Square, next to the big flashing signs and chain restaurants. It’s a good place, and the money is an improvement, the only drawback is I have to dodge 10,000 people taking pictures and gawking between the subway and the entrance to work.  There’s a naked cowboy you can take pictures with, as well as tons of costumed mascots everybody knows, like Elmo, and Mickey Mouse. I’ve grown so used to seeing them that the other day while I was leaving work at 5PM, the sun was out and people were crowding the streets, and Mickey was up ahead, and to my right I saw a wolfman, and to the left was Mario. Until I passed them and the wolfman was a black guy with extreme facial hair and Mario was just an Italian guy in a big funny hat. I was completely sober which was the part that made it surreal. I had no excuse!

There is a cool little bar among the numerous options that I was directed to by a coworker. It’s called Jimmy’s Corner, just a tiny dive with lots of old pictures of boxers on the wall and cheap drinks. Otherwise, it’s all corporate and overpriced, but what do you expect? It’s Times Square.

Oh yeah, and it’s this guy Paul’s birthday.

 

Life In the Information Age

I was working on a preview of Belmont horses, actually doing some real research into their lineages and race histories to mix in with some completely random facts and assumptions. I started this two weeks ago in preparation for tomorrow’s race and earlier today when I went to the Belmont website I was greeted by news on the Twitter feed that I’ll Have Another is out of the race with a bad leg.

The rest of the website still had articles posted about the horse and his trainer and their quest for Triple Crown glory. Thanks to the little blue bird of digital brevity, the news scrolled by in real time, one after another. I’ll Have Another is out of the race. Maybe if I was on Facebook, someone would have R.I.P.’d the 2012 Triple Crown. But yeah that’s the world we live in, everyone wants to be the first to deliver the bad news. I was in a store an hour later and the radio played an ad by Ticketmaster promoting the race and potential for Triple Crown glory, but it isn’t meant to be.

It definitely took the energy out of me. I was looking forward to going and feeling the atmosphere of watching a horse attempt the Triple Crown. Sure there’s lots of other races too, and the Belmont Stakes will still happen. I was just hoping to see it with a horse that had a shot to win it all. I’m just no longer excited to go. Funny thing was, I wanted to go and bet on a longshot. That way, one of two horses could win and I would be excited.

There was talk of trainer Doug O’Neill being dirty, with issues surrounding I’ll Have Another’s blood test and a term referred to as milkshaking. It seems vaguely similar to steroids and the issues surrounding baseball. Perhaps the final verdict was bestowed by the Horse Racing Gods. Sometimes, you can flaunt the rules of sports but the traditions, superstitions, and unspoken codes have ways of showing up at key times. That’s why you never talk about a no hitter in baseball. Don’t play not to lose when you’re winning in football, that’s how teams come back. And never, ever cheat. You may get away with it for a while, but when you get caught, it brings everything you’ve ever done into question.

The New England Patriots were caught taping their opponents sidelines, and not only punished by the NFL, they were punished by the Football Gods. They haven’t won a Super Bowl since then, and even more painful for them and their fans, they were on their way to an undefeated season, when they lost in the Super Bowl. That year the Giants were a wild card team that were barely hanging on, and when they met the Patriots in the final regular season game, the Giants played all their starters, while the Patriots rested many of theirs and enjoyed a bye week right after. The Giants kept their momentum going and when the two teams met again in the championship game, the signature play was an Eli Manning scramble for an improbable escape to make a pass to David Tyree who was responsible for the “helmet catch” to keep the drive alive. Ridiculous? Yes! When you’re a receiver you run lots of drills over the course of a lifetime trying to catch footballs. Sometimes, you’re not in the right position but you get one hand up and reach, or dive, do whatever it takes, and when your skills are good and the Gods are smiling upon you sometimes it all comes together perfectly. David Tyree was out of the league the next year, but he is part of Super Bowl legend now. And he helped keep the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only perfect team in NFL history.

Am I saying Doug O’Neill and I’ll Have Another cheated? No. I don’t know enough about milkshaking or horse racing to make strong statements like that. It just wasn’t in the cards and it is now 34 years of no Triple Crown winners. So Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, and Secretariat; pop a cork on some Dom Perignon and celebrate. You’re in rare company.

Physical Graffiti

When you walk around Brooklyn, there are lots of buildings that look like the cover of the Led Zeppelin album I stole today’s title from. I was recently in a conversation with some random person at a bar about records-vinyl, and I told him about how many of the Led Zeppelin albums had some little trick to them. Funny little things like on Zeppelin III where there was a wheel in the corner that you could spin and there would be different images you would see on the open window section. If you don’t know what I’m talking about think of children’s pop up books and how you can slide a character across the book to represent them running or something like that. So Led Zeppelin albums were like pop up books for young adults and teenagers. Things to do while you listened to the music. A lot of old albums had cool things like a gatefold so when you opened it there’s a big picture of the band, or really cool artwork. The Grateful Dead album Dead Set featured live performances from the Fillmore West and Filmore East, in San Francisco and New York, respectively. The front picture has a male skeleton looking over the Golden Gate bridge to the City and the back picture has a female skeleton looking over the Brooklyn bridge towards Manhattan. Open the gatefold and the whole picture is two skeletons back to back looking out over their cities. Nevermind the fact it puts New York in the West, it’s a cool picture.

CDs were the beginning of the death of album art. I won’t say it was completely void of creativity, but the loss of scale meant the old album features were never recreated so a kid could buy a Zeppelin CD and never know that on Physical Graffiti, which was a double album, depending on which sleeve you put in the front, and which side was facing out, there would be different scenes of people in the windows of the brownstones.

I was into vinyl in the era when cassettes were about to be taken over by CDs and was fortunate to inherit the collections of my parent’s friends who were making the transition. One collection I never got ahold of belonged to my aunt, maybe were her ex-husbands, but they were just kicking around in the bottom cupboard of a bookstand. Who knows if she gave them away or trashed them, but I remember a couple of Cheech and Chong albums. One being the Wedding Album, depicting the two comedians as Siamese twins with both the brides fully pregnant and probably many other visual gags with all the extended families. The other album was Big Bambu. That was the album that came with a rolling paper the size of the album. I’m sure many people in the ’70s used it when they first bought the album, but I distinctly remember this one being intact at some point in the mid ’80s, but now it’s long gone. But if CDs were the air strikes in the war on album art, mp3s were the foot soldiers. I know you can still buy CDs, and I know for some people, they want the tangible item to hold in their hands, but I haven’t purchase a CD in a long time. I have a massive collection of music from all the CDs I started buying in the early ’90s, that eventually were backed up on external hard drive, and many of the CDs sold used. Then there was the Napster phase of finding all the one hit wonders that I would never buy a full CD of, and swapping collections with friends. Honestly, my collection is a mess. Not a complete mess, but there are things that need to be deleted because they are awful and came from somebody else’s collection, or compiled because the artist’s name is spelled incorrectly in multiple instances; i.e. AC/DC, AC-DC. And really what I’ve done, is load just a fraction of my collection onto my iPhone and listen there, so if the album art shows, which it rarely does, it’s the size of a stamp so who cares? The rest of the time, if I’m looking for a song I go on YouTube, or if I want a certain genre I go to my Pandora playlist. In my lifetime, I’ve listened to music on 8 track as a kid in my parent’s VW bus, cassette tapes on the very first Sony Walkman, owned a five CD carousel changer-5 hours of random music on shuffle!, consolidated my CD collection to my favorite 40 to bring to Korea with me in those book style collections that let you ditch the jewel case, and still it was a bunch of extra weight to haul around. Now I sit on the subway and half the people have their headphones plugged into iPhones, potentially carrying ten times the collection I brought to Korea in the palm of their hands. What’s next? Psychic Radio? “Hey dude, can you think a little quieter? Your Slayer is drowning out the sound of my John Tesh.”

Things are changing all the time, sometimes for the better, other times I catch myself getting old and declaring, “They don’t make ’em like when I was a kid!” Which in the case of Big Bambu is true. Even though I’m a musician and not a creator of visual arts, I miss that aspect of music packaging. It’s become more simplified.

The other reason for today’s title is that I just met a friend of my roommate who’s from Brooklyn. He showed us this video he made of himself train surfing.

Crazy right! Among other subversive things he likes to do is graffiti, and he gave us the run down on waxing, which is a way of marking trains that he’s known for. Our other roommate is a tattoo artist from Spain, and he does graffiti as well, so it was decided that the two of them are going to decorate the apartment. We have these big canvases of white walls in our empty living room, so they are going to add a little life to them. Then we’ll have a party and I’ll post a picture or two.

And now for today’s music. Led Zeppelin right? In my research I found out the Physical Graffiti buildings are 96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. The steps of the buildings were also featured in today’s music, so you’re gonna get Mick, Keith, and the boys instead. What’s funny to me is these were both British bands, but even as a kid I pictured these as being in New York. Way before I ever visited here the first time. This video is worth it, if just to laugh at Mick’s goofy lip synching, and when Keith stumbles up to the steps at 1:31.

Mr. Kiwi and Mr. Pina

A Maori and a Mexican walk into a bar. Wait a minute. No. That’s just wrong.

Mr. Kiwi and Mr. Pina are actually the names of two different grocery stores. Pina being the Spanish word for pineapple, although I’m missing the ability to put that squiggly line over the N on my politically insensitive keyboard. I forget how you spell it, but it’s called an enye or N Yay! Not to be confused with that easy listening lady from the ’90s. Sail away, sail away, sail away.

These grocery stores are sort of an organic, health food type store, but without the token dreadlocked white guy. They are actually run by Koreans. Interestingly enough, on the West coast, lots of mini marts are run by Korean families. Out in New York, the mini mart is usually referred to as a Bodega. The main proprietors as far as I can tell are Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and sometimes Middle Easterners. I’m not sure what language Bodega originates from, but I’m pretty sure it means cramped, dirty corner store with unhealthy food and a deli counter.

The enterprising Koreans of New York City have sensed opportunity in the form of gentrification and realized that the yuppies, vegans, and artists that continue to populate Brooklyn are looking for better food shopping opportunities closer to home. Manhattan has a Whole Foods and other indie health food stores, so the Koreans are bringing their version into competition with the Bodegas that are everywhere around here. It’s kind of nice to see. Mr. Pina is newly built in the time since I’ve arrived and located in Williamsburg. I walked by recently and saw it had opened and right up front they were making fresh juices. I picked out some fruits and vegetables for my drink and it was only $3!

There’s another chain of Korean health food stores making their way around Brooklyn and I read an article noting the change that was happening. It almost seemed to be against this progress, siding with the Bodegas. Now, I’m all for the small business owner, but you combine lousy choices, aloof service, and high prices and maybe there’s a few that don’t need to survive from a business standpoint. Cruel? Heartless? I’ve been laid off. We’re all expendable. Create your value.

When I spent a year teaching English in Korea I remember how limited my choices felt when I first arrived. No Mexican food whatsoever. No tortillas. No salsa. No refried beans. Hell, I can’t even get Rosarita refried beans in New York, what’s up with that?

One day a month or so after I had arrived I went into the supermarket that was in the basement of a five story shopping mall, and as I wandered the aisles, I came across something familiar. Cheese. Not a common food item to find in Korea. But what really got me was that it was Tillamook Sharp Cheddar. Tillamook, from my adopted home state! I had visited the factory in the summer and had ice cream as a kid. Everybody does that when they go to Tillamook. As I stared in disbelief, the Korean music that had been playing gave way to something else familiar. Kurt Cobain was singing Come as You Are! What kind of cosmic joke was being played on me at that moment? I was nearly overwhelmed with homesickness for the green and rainy Northwest. The cheese was way too expensive for what I would pay at home, so I left without it.

Eventually, I learned to appreciate what I could find, although my mom bailed me out once or twice with a care package of food. Thanks again mom! But I began to love kim chi, dry roasted seaweed, shrimp chips, Pocky chocolate crunchy sticks, the disgustingly named Gatorade ripoff Pokari Sweat, and the veritable plethora of Korean chewy drinks. Korean chewy drinks you ask? They have pieces of fruit in the bottom of a bottle of juice. Mandarin orange, grapes, kiwis, lychees, peaches. It’s very unsettling to Westerners, and there was always a story of some oblivious rookie teacher who took their first big swig and nearly upchucked at the first indication of floaties in their drink. Remember: Drink then chew. Drink then chew.

Comfort food becomes what you make of it. We all have things that remind us of home, or childhood, and they bring a wonderful familiarity. I was raised to have an adventurous palate, and in my travels have discovered new things that I have incorporated into my list of favorites that bring excitement when I can find them. In New York I still feel that I’m in a foreign land and at times have unfulfilled food cravings, but maybe I’m just a glutton.

Mr. Kiwi is closer to my home and right down the street from my gym, so it’s great for a post workout fresh squeezed veggie fruit drink. It makes me think of Jack Lalanne and his Juice Tiger, and when I’m done I feel ready to tow a rowboat across the East River by the skin of my teeth.

I just wish Mr. Kiwi sold kim chi. It’s not something you want to buy that’s mass marketed and filled with preservatives. You need to find it locally made by the Korean community. They do, however, sell Korean chewy drinks, along with a Japanese product called Chocorooms. The package describes it as a chocolaty cap with a crispy cookie stem. Chocorooms! I once knew a hippy girl that gave me some Chocorooms. They weren’t crispy, but an hour later I was.

In defense of Bodegas, I will say that they have bags of chips for a quarter by this brand called Utz that are pretty good, and a pretzel maker from Pennsylvania, home of all great pretzel makers, called Unique. They make pretzel shells, just the outer crispy part of the pretzel. YES!