You’d be a fool to think that KPISS radio is some ramshackle operation. Sure, they might be tucked away in the far-back confines of Punk Alley– an assortment of shipping containers right along the Bushwick/ Bed-Stuy border where you’ll find a record store, used book purveyors, and even a mini-shop dedicated to paraphernalia from local punk bands. One by one, they’ve opened up over the last couple of years, joining maybe a dozen more smalltime vendors that were already there every day doin’ their thing, and about a year ago KPISS joined them. There’s no doubt that the KPISS.FM digs– a rectangular box with a couch and some turntables, mics, and other broadcast equipment behind a sheet of plexiglass– are pretty humble. “The last tenant was this guy who basically pissed all over the studio,” explained the station’s founder, Sheri Barclay. “No one would rent it, but I would. I called it KPISS in his honor.”
An imaginary line cuts across Broadway, separating Bed-Stuy from Bushwick and, just a few blocks north of the street’s intersection with Myrtle, Williamsburg begins. At any given hour here, the confusing jumble of crisscrossing streets are jammed with a chaotic crush of street traffic and pedestrians going about their day. The looming JMZ track overhead holds the busiest sections in near-permanent darkness, and at night, when the neon comes on and flickers across the fetid puddles of who knows what, Myrtle-Broadway starts to feel like a scene from Blade Runner. People have started to call this area “Zombieland” now that it has become a hot spot for K2, a synthetic cannabinoid that city leaders and cops can’t seem to get rid of, even though it carries a distinctly gnarly smell, and is sold and used out in the open, day and night.
When we arrived at the intersection of Myrtle and Broadway today, the often hectic meeting point of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy was even more chaotic than usual– midday traffic jams were in full effect as trains rattled overhead at the JMZ transfer point and a crowd had gathered to hear a press conference held by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. The racket was so loud that it was nearly impossible to hear at times, but the commotion was nothing compared to what went down here yesterday, when 33 people were plucked up from the area and rushed to the hospital after a “mass overdose.”
To meet with Debbie Medina, New York’s first Democratic Socialist candidate for State Senate, I was invited not to a campaign office, nor a public appearance, not even to join her on a campaigning stroll through the 18th district, but to Medina’s Williamsburg apartment– specifically, her dining room table. Here, she advised me not to take off my shoes. “You’ll ruin your socks if you do that,” she laughed.
It became clear to me immediately that Debbie Medina, who’s running her second grassroots campaign to snatch the 18th-district seat in the fall, isn’t at all like other politicians. For one, hers isn’t the sort of practiced, regal charisma that most politicos have– a perfect grin and an unerring face, both provided with extra protection from the elements by a layer of effervescent self-assurance so infectious that if you’re not careful it can briefly paralyze your capacity for doubt, and turn you into a nodding, agreeable dimwit.
Arto Lindsay Noise Quartet, Celestial Shore, Zula
Tuesday February 16, 8 pm at Trans-Pecos: $10
Arto Lindsay, the tireless no-wave guitar legend who’s been called “the perfect New Yorker” (by the New Yorker, no less), is well on his way into his 60s. And it’s true that DNA spent only a brief time on this earth, shredding weirdness at Max’s Kansas City and closing out the B side of Brian Eno’s nothing less than perfect glimpse of that particular scene, No New York (1978). But the dude is still doing all sorts of wonderful and new things in the New York music scene that keep him relevant and has been, pretty much without stopping, since the ’70s. Last fall, Lindsay showed the kids what was up when he played with seminal Brooklyn weirdos PC Worship, and in 2014 he dropped a compilation spanning his career (Encyclopedia of Arto) which, by many accounts, was all too modest and left us drooling for more.
Get anywhere near the old Pfizer building these days and you’ll be overwhelmed not with the smell of medicinal byproducts, but with the delicious aroma of cookies, coffee, and freshly baked bread. Pfizer left the massive industrial plant empty in 2008 and it was bought up by a real estate investment firm a few years later. Today, it finally saw the opening of Brooklyn FoodWorks, an educational institute, incubator, and communal kitchen that will offer low-cost co-working space for small food startups.
There are maybe more comedians in New York City than anywhere else. And while material can vary a lot, stand-ups tend to have similar backstories, or at least in what they feel like dishing. But Elsa Waithe is a comedian like not many others. Sure, she’s a transplant from Virginia who said she “dropped everything” and moved here to “follow my dream.” She’s also of the opinion that “comedy quite literally saved my life”– another common story. But instead of squeezing her way into the big clubs, Elsa is carving out a place for under-represented comics, something she considers part of her work as a civil rights activist.
And we’re back… well, sort of. We’re at least moseying our way toward the holiday finish line. Not quite ready to let go of it just yet, but so, so over it at the same time. And since you’ve just got to be exhausted from all of it, we’ve done the heavy lifting in answering the most important question of the year: What are we doing for New Year’s Eve?
Bushwick’s gay scene is thriving by almost any measure. Happy Fun Hideaway is constantly packed to the gills. Bottoms is one of the hottest bands in New York. Rashaad Newsome, the artist bringing the fine art of vogue to the fine art world, has moved to the neighborhood. The annual drag fest Bushwig popped off for its fourth year in a row this fall, and drag king performances are seeing their biggest comeback in the city since the ’90s. And which Brooklyn neighborhood can claim its own glossy culture magazine dedicated to all things drag?
If you missed Kathleen Hanna and Ad-Rock’s performance at the book party for St. Marks Is Dead, don’t worry, they may be sharing a stage again soon. Neal Medlyn, husband of the book’s author Ada Calhoun and the guy who brought the Beastie Boys-Bikini Kill power couple together for a round of punk covers at Cooper Union’s Great Hall, is performing as his ridicu-rap alterego, Champagne Jerry, and he’s bringing some of his famous friends with him.
Negative Approach, Night Birds, Child Bite, Outskirts
Sunday, Nov. 29th, 8 pm at The Acheron: $15
Years back, I was day drinking at an unassuming deep-fryer dive in Detroit. A surly looking guy with a grease-stained apron and hangover slouch from hell emerged out of a kitchen. My friend seated at the bar next to me guffawed and nudged me discreetly. “Look, it’s John Brannon.” And so it was. The hardcore legend could have been beer-sweating over my tater tots for all I know– and deep down, I sort of hope that was the case.
Erik Zajaceskowski and Rachel Nelson, the husband and wife behind art/music space Secret Project Robot and hoppin’ Bushwick bar Happyfun Hideaway, are putting the finishing touches on their latest project, a tavern, cafe, and gallery on Dekalb Avenue, in that blurry area between Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. With the grand opening of Flowers For All Occasions set for Thursday evening, the smell of fresh wood still lingers in the air and there’s a bare back room of sorts where a “zine vending machine and cabinet of curiosities” will eventually stand.
As I’m checking things out, Erik comes in, gleefully brandishing a small sparkly object.
“Look!” he says with a grin. “Pink pepper spray!”
“These are the things you get excited about after five months of construction,” Rachel says.