Surviving in New York City is hard enough without a concert addiction and Ticketmaster fees bleeding you dry. In 2015, I caught over 50 shows in NYC, and more importantly did not go broke in the process. One day I will bore my grandchildren with the tale.
Below is my 2015 Favorite Concerts list, the fruit of many lengthy rides on the N/Q, G, L, and 7 trains. Special shout-out to Mixologi and Spectrum Culture for sending me to shows in 2015.
Last night as I walked through Chelsea Market’s narrow strip of shops, past a bakery, a charcuterie, and a clothing pop-up, a disconcerting question grabbed my mind. Where is the nearest exit? Twin bolts of urgency and paranoia thundered from the deep recesses of my subconscious. To my left, down a ramp, a door to 15th Street stood a 20-yard dash away. The thought of a situation where I would need to dash to the door seemed absurd, and yet somehow it didn’t. People walked past me, talking, observing the art on the walls. Others sat eating. No one made any sudden or loud movements. I continued on my mission to find my parents an anniversary card. The thought of sprinting, while under attack, disappeared all together as I stared at books I wished to buy.
Leon Bridges and Brittni Jessie perform “River” inside Music Hall of Williamsburg.
A week ago, at my roommate’s insistence, I sat through Terminator: Genysis, a film whose migraine-inducing, clustercuss of a time-traveling plot made zero sense to my bayou brain. If you told me Texas soul-singer Leon Bridges, whose live show I witnessed in Brooklyn two weeks ago, accessed the Terminator: Genysis teleportation chamber in order to travel between the 1960s and now I would believe you. At worst, this explanation of Bridges’ retro voice, stage mannerisms and fashion sense would make more sense than the movie.
As I wrote in my review of his Music Hall of Williamsburg concert, Leon Bridges is a green performer despite what his classic sound might suggest. His smooth voice offers a fine facsimile of R&B legends but his stage presence does not inspire the same awe. One would guess, when his time-traveling act returns to NYC in the fall, that many of the wrinkles in his show, much like those in his high-waisted pants and polo shirt, will be ironed out.
Lizzy Ellison (right) and Randy Bemrose of Radiation City perform Friday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Photo: Me
Three years since I left Portland for NYC, the former city’s late-night food truck excursions, karaoke make-out sessions and forever gray, forever drizzly winters seem remote like a hazy memory of an ex-lover’s touch. On Friday night inside Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Portland-based timeless pop/rock act Radiation City unlocked past glories/misadventures on Hoyt, Burnside, Belmont and many other streets and intersections whose names I forget. Of course these memories existed a continent away, if not a lifetime, but for the band’s half-hour set all of these ghosts felt present in one room.
The scene outside my apartment this morning.
Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 49 looks back on The Blizzard of 2015 That Wasn’t. It’s worth noting the blizzard delivered as advertised across the Northeast, just not in NYC.
The Blizzard of 2015 That Wasn’t came and went, it seemed, in a New York City minute. One day after professional weather guessers and election winners warned this could be The Big One snow, not SNOW!, sat meekly on curbs across the city. Just one day earlier Mayor Bill de Blasio cited meterologists in declaring this storm had the potential to rival, or even eclipse, the worst snowfalls in city history, with up to three feet of snow accumulating over two days. The blizzard delivered its predicted brunt instead to Long Island and areas of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire – aka areas the NYC-based national media does not shit bricks over. In all, cities in six states recorded over a foot of snow, according to the National Weather Service. A blizzard everywhere but NYC, it turned out.
That trash ain’t going nowhere.
Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 48 chronicles the start of the Blizzard of 2015.
QUEENS – Outside my second-story window, pellets of snow, aided by a brisk north-south wind, are hurtling toward the concrete like a legion of kamikazes intent on arriving in hell at the exact same time. The sidewalks are turning to chalk with each passing minute. The N/Q trains are playing their standard, deafening soundtrack this morning as they rush past my apartment window. How long until their hum goes silent remains unknown.
The blizzard of 2015 is in its infancy. New York City could be inundated with up to three feet of snow the next two days, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. Such a scenario would rank as one of the worst blizzards in the city’s history. As someone raised on the humid, mosquito-infested bayous of south Louisiana any amount of snow that sticks is notable. Three feet of snow? Sounds like the winter equivalent of a hurricane minus the hours of gridlock on the highways. (Two weeks ago I wrote about not enjoying snow. That sentiment remains true but this is more exciting because it involves watching history, not just dealing with shitty weather.)
Even taxis aren’t immune to the snow.
Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 47 explores my love-hate relationship with New York City in winter.
I have a love-hate relationship with snow, I told a co-worker Wednesday. You have a love-hate relationship with New York City then, she replied without hesitation.
This is my third winter in New York City. When it comes to adapting to freezing weather I am still a rookie struggling to acclimate myself to the landscape before me. I wonder how New Yorkers thrive in this shit. On days like today, I feel like a block of ice, skidding from one place to another without any desire to linger and soak in the essence of the city.
It’s nine degrees outside my apartment. The wind chill is seven-below. I want to wrap myself in walrus fat and crawl into an igloo made of whale bones and hibernate till Spring.
Oh, and it’s supposed to snow today.
I will tell you anything! Just stop extracting blackheads!
Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Today’s post No. 46 is titled “Withstanding Torture, One Facial At A Time”.
The needle jabbed points east, west, north, and south on my face like an explorer marking conquered lands on a map with thumbtacks. Each prick created a prolonged stinging sensation. The bridge of my nose served as the intersection of the most jarring pains, and verged on crumbling, or at least I thought.
Surely, the pinkie-sized Chinese woman standing behind me wielding the instrument of my present discomfort didn’t intend on jamming the needle through my skull. And yet, I fought the desire to wave my hands in surrender.
I squirmed and squirmed and squirmed some more, like a worm removed from its precious dirt. Each time I did so my “captor” retained her surgeon’s focus, intent on extracting as much from me as possible.
“Blackheads,” she mumbled.
Merchandise frontman Carson Cox stepped onto the Music Hall of Williamsburg stage Tuesday night right out of central casting, it would appear, for a remake of a Brando or Dean flick celebrating men of a different era blessed with a certain je ne sais quoi. His sandy blond hair shaded his sculpted jaw, his T-shirt rolled above his bicep like some neo-greaser, his voice toed an androgynous line both sensual and aggressive. An overhead green stage light highlighted his mysterious, effervescent cool.
He screamed without screaming: “I am here. Watch me.”
Hailing from Tampa, Fla., a bay city not renowned for its effervescent cool, the quintet Merchandise plays lush rock-n-roll that lingers in the air, searching, yearning, driving toward something unknown. They started out playing DIY shows in the Sunshine state, and have since evolved to a sound classicists would not label punk. They’ve released three solid records, the most recent of which, After the End, dropped earlier this year on 4AD. Oh, and there are the Morrissey comparisons vis a vis the aching, feminine air to Cox’s croon.
Among the retired jerseys of Kidd, Williams, and Petrovic I took my seat above the snow line inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn to watch Montreal art-rock ensemble Arcade Fire wrap up their three-night residency two weekends ago. I purchased the ticket at a discount on Groupon the week before as a means of (hopefully) closing a nine-year-old wound incurred when I skipped an Arcade Fire show, for which I had tickets, because I did not want to drive alone to New Orleans. Just typing that sentence makes me shake my head.
Seeing Arcade Fire four albums and 10 years into their career at the Brooklyn Nets basketball arena, as opposed to on the floor performing their first album at the House of Blues in New Orleans, would need to suffice on this August night. Alas, when I arrived at my section, seated parallel to the left of the stage, I couldn’t help but feel a wee bit of regret. There were seats, for one. And they were a football field from the stage. I held a $5 cup of Coke in one hand and a $7 bucket of cheese popcorn in the other. The two combined accounted for the price of one beer, enough to make any concert a sober experience.
Credit Arcade Fire and their tremendous songbook for erasing my outrage at beer prices and disappointment at my seat location. They are an arena band now. Connecting with the back row is, in many ways, as important as connecting with the front. And from where I was standing – closer to the heavens than ever before at a concert – I’d say Win Butler and Co. did a damn good job, leaving me enthused about the Arcade Fire “experience” even if the conditions I experienced them in were less than my ideal. Dare I say next time Arcade Fire comes to town I would spring for $80 floor tickets? Yes, yes I would.