We were looking at Young’s pieces “Chains,” which are exactly that: carved wooden chains, created in what Young called a “kind of monotonous, boring, really unsatisfying use of my time. It was only satisfying at certain moments,” like when he stepped back to see the enormity of his progress.
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It seems silly now to imagine that some of us groused about the opening of a “Mini-Mall” in the Realform Girdle Building– it just seemed so yuppie-ish and suburban and right there on Bedford and North 5th, like the places we’d escaped to get to New York. If you can image, “gentrification” wasn’t yet a watchword.
But by 2001, along with the Verb Café (RIP, well sorta– there’s a Verb 2.0 in Greenpoint) and the Internet Garage (read: before email was on your phone, you’d stop by here to “Get high on speed!!!11” as their Facebook page advises), you could stop by Mikey’s Hookup and play ping pong while picking up a guitar cord.
Kristin Dombek’s legendary essay “How to Quit,” published in the winter 2013 edition of n+1, garnered heated word of mouth and praise from the likes of Brooklyn Magazine’s Kristen Iversen, and that was before Dombek won a Rona Jaffe award, published “Letter from Williamsburg” in The Paris Review, and got a double book deal.
The first of those books has arrived, and it’s called The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism, out this week from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, and while an essay might have a hard time making a splash in a media ocean churned by Trumpty Dumpty and the Olympics, the book has already drawn praise from the Times.
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The Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho is a bleak, desolate landscape that reminds one how ineffectual words can be when describing a landscape truly bleak and desolate. The remains of a volcanic eruption 2000 years ago, the vista is perhaps better described more symbolically. A Shoshone-Bannock myth, recorded by Ella E. Clark, describes an immense serpent that coiled its body around a mountain. Angered by lightning, the snake tightened its coils until the stone of the mountain melted; the serpent squeezed out liquid rock until it caught fire and was killed.
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The yellow Blue Bird school bus creakily climbed the ascent of the Williamsburg Bridge, the vinyl seat was hot against my legs, the air from the half-open window crisp and sprung. The kids in the back of the bus stomped the floor, and sang together: “Nothing good happens past 2 am.”
The Rosemont, the new one from Aaron Pierce of bygone Trash Bar, has soft-opened in anticipation of a grand opening in May. For those who remember the Trash Bar (however fondly), The Rosemont (a play on its Montrose Street location) is more than a distinctive step up—it’s really nice, by any standards: gorgeous banquettes, a lovely bar with chic padded barstools, an inviting outdoor courtyard, and spiffy bathrooms. The venue still has live music, but the narrow stage in back will cater to jazz rather than drunken rock, and the specialties behind the bar tend towards bespoke cocktails that have more ingredients than “PBR and a shot.” (Try the ‘69 Camaro, a nice turn on an Old Fashioned.)
Sons of an Illustrious Father was playing their electrifying track “Extraordinary Rendition” as a line down the block inched into Maggie Mae’s in Austin. The song set the tone: a thumping bass line played on a keyboard by Josh Aubin (bearded, wearing a speedsuit), alternating with a deliberate hiss on the hi-hat. The back and forth rhythm was intensified by the chords from guitarist Lilah Larson, fierce in black jeans, black T-shirt, Joan Jett cool. Over the top were the plaintive lyrics from the drummer, who wore what I believe was a solid-tone green dashiki but read from the floor like a boxer’s slick robe. The band treated these outfits as uniform, and wore them at every show at SXSW.
With literally thousands of bands to choose from at South by Southwest, even the most casual enthusiast has to become a music critic—just to decide what to see. It can be hard to turn off during shows, as people scan their phones—and their homemade spreadsheets—to gauge whether to bail and hit the next band on the list. In the midst of all this, I somehow managed to see 26 bands from New York and scribble down some thoughts while hiding out at Casino el Camino. (Thanks, Brittany!)
At the 30th year of the SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals, Alia Shawkat told a crowd that she went to Sarah Lawrence for two days before bouncing, because she was told she had to go to a mandatory pizza party. “There can’t be a mandatory pizza party,” she said. She moved to New York and basically took a year off, which answered a few questions as to why she seemed to vanish after the end of Arrested Development.
When I first hit play on A Smurf at Land’s End, the new album from Howardian, for a fraction of a second I thought I was listening to some early Flaming Lips—then there was a Talking Heads sample before it spun off into low-fi raggedy rock. I managed to catch the latest band from artist and rabble-rouser Ian Vanek at their official SXSW showcase late Saturday night in Austin.
New Myths, made up of Rosie Slater on drums, Marina Ross on bass, and Brit Boras on guitar, claim to blend electronic elements with “fuzzy guitars and haunting vocal melodies,” and pull it off. They released their first album, Give Me Noise, in 2014, and got some nice CMJ write-ups that year from both The New York Times and The Guardian.