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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sword Dancing, and nightlife...

I forgot to mention the 26th annual New York Sword Dancing Festival that I saw some of last week. Every year a few of the troupes come to the Brooklyn Unitarian church and perform after the service. Last year I skipped it, it being right after church and lunch somehow being more compelling, but this year I actually attended and was glad I did.

Sword Dancing at BK UU

The groups ranged in age from teenagers to older folks and either danced with long swords or "rappers," the latter's distinguishing feature being that they are more pliable swords. They were not sharp, thankfully, and the dancing itself was pretty spectacular and involved. A few of the members of the troupes would get up and explain the history behind these dances before each number, most of these dances started in pubs in England. Each troupe had their own music accompaniment as well which made it doubly exciting to have live music included. Highlight of the afternoon was when one of the younger kids, who I'm assuming was with this particular troupe, marched out onto the dance floor and stood between all the dancers who, while still dancing, circled around him, placed their swords on his shoulder and proceeded to swipe, after which the kid rather believably falls to the ground. Hilarious part is we all start clapping as the dancers march off and leave the kid, still feigning death on the floor. He was all right, of course.

I'd've blogged about that last Sunday when it happened but I've been crazy swamped with all the things I've taken on. I'm in fact starting to reconsider my continued involvement in all of those things. The jazz choir is too fun and anyway, I think we'll be stopping rehearsals after our concert on the 26th of March. I'm finished, for the most part, arranging "Sermonette" and we had our first preliminary rehearsal today after church. But I was too tired from a combination of having been out last night and the fact that after a year of working this overnight and trying to do church as well, I'm so used to sleeping in the afternoon on Sundays that I get tired no matter what after church. Which is why church choir is probably the one thing that I might take some time away from. Additionally, I realized that I can feasibly put the choral piece on the back burner for a bit until I get Collapsing Elbows really done. I made some strides this afternoon.

Anyway, it'd be nice to have a few weeks where I can just sleep in on Sunday and enjoy some of the day instead of having to get up early and nap later in order to adjust to being up all night. Last night was too fun anyway for me to have had to ditch at 2am and come back to Brooklyn to sleep. I was hanging out with my friend Adrienne in the East Village and with a few more friends that we met up with on Avenue C, later on. We tried going to Death and Co. first but it was way too crowded. The door man takes down people's numbers and calls when space opens up in the bar. I've been in there once, two years ago on an OkCupid date, and it's really cool. It's a rather small, prohibition themed concept bar with a ton of creative cocktails on the menu. I was just reading about some of the beer cocktails they make too. Check out the menu. I was a little disappointed we couldn't get in but Adrienne suggested a wine bar up the block where her friend ended up meeting us. But it was too crowded as well. So, moving even further down the classiness ladder we opted to go to a dive bar on Avenue A called Lucy's. Lucy is an 80 year old Polish woman who still runs the bar. Seriously. She's incredibly spry and it was fun to watch her maneuvering the crowd to fetch bottles and glasses from around the bar. Apparently, her daughter and grand-daughter were tending bar with her. Grade A people watching at this place too.

As we chatted and caught up, we kept getting cryptic text messages from our friend Sava, who was out with her boyfriend Bruce and a friend of theirs from India, with whom we were planning on meeting later. The friend from India also happened to be friends with one of Norah Jones' producers and they were off hanging out with him in the East Village as well. The cryptic text messages were updating us on their potential movements should we want to come and find them. Things like, "we're here now but we might go to this place over here." Eventually, when we finally got a straight answer out of them as to where they'd be next, we wound up on 10th Street and Avenue C, standing dumb on the corner looking for a speakeasy (theme for the evening apparently) which no one is supposed to be able to find without the address and which no one can get into without being a member or a guest. We finally got that address from Sava in a text message and walked down half a block to find a single door with the word Speakeasy painted above it on the awning. Inside the door there was a long staircase with two iron gates, one halfway and one at the top, and a gentleman at the top checked our IDs and let us right inside. I'm assuming he knew we were coming and who we were with as he didn't ask if we were members. Inside it was kind of a dive but in the good, edgy kind of way. Pool table, DJ, and good looking people dancing, but I think someone was smoking a cigar in one corner which contributed to my pseudo hangover like headache the next morning. I danced for a good bit, having been dragged onto the dance floor intially by Sava's friend. She wanted to teach me some Latin dance moves but I was a little on the clumsy side last night. We hung out until about 2am and then went our separate ways. NJ's producer fetched us a cab out on Avenue C and told the driver to wait until we were inside the door before driving off, which I thought was nice of him.

I love those impromtpu NYC nights where it feels like just about anything could happen and you really get to see the underside of the city and it's history. I'm pretty sure this speakeasy had been around for a long time and catered to the neighborhood folks. There wasn't anything special about the drinks there, no draft beer, plastic cups for the liquor drinks but it had a spirit and a history to it, just like Lucy's did around the corner, one that you could feel going into the place.

Anyway, more on the music this week as I complete the score for Collapsing Elbows and start on some new things...there's even a surprise on the horizon.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Music, music, music, music, music!!!

My plate is full and lots of stuff on the horizon, almost all of it musical. Tania and I are trying to sort out her booking for Le Poisson Rouge in early May, the show where she'll be premiering my piano sketch and performing my piece for dance, piano and electronics from last year, Collapsing Elbows. The jazz choir is performing in a little over a month and I've been asked to trasncribe a trio that will be sung by myself, a soprano from the group and my friend Rick, who is also a member of the group. Rick will be playing ukulele and I, guitar. I'm also finally starting to get a grip on the structure of the choral piece I'm writing and should have that mostly done within the week. As for when it'll be performed, hopefully before the summertime. Lacy and I are also getting ready to start taking on the NYC open mic scene in a few weeks as well. We had the one rehearsal and I'm starting now to learn the songs we didn't go over as well as practicing the ones we did.

I'm exceedingly happy right now because I finally purchased a Mac Book Pro, the device that is going to set me free, literally. I will now be untethered with my music. Meaning in a few weeks to months when Lacy and I start performing out, I can bring all of my effects and not just my guitar. Plus, it means that I can really start working out and programming all of my songs, too. I'm quite excited about it all. Ideas for the electronic music project are flying around left and right and it's all I can do to get them written down in some form, whether it's just notes about how to implement and innovate, or actually putting together new beats and learning the ins and outs of my synths and software.

What else?! Well, I got to see some more music Saturday night as well. I was bouncing back and forth between The Living Room and White Rabbit where a friend was having her birthday party. And it was really cold to be doing so but I managed. My friend Rick organizes a ukulele salon once a month at The Googies Lounge above The Living Room on Ludlow St. His group, The Suaverinos, is the headliner for the evening and each time it's an eclectic mix of anything from hip hop ukulele (which I'm sure I blogged about last time) to straight up Polynesian music to professional comedians like the one I saw Saturday night. Esther Ku was absolutely hilarious. I never saw her on Last Comic Standing but I heard that's one of her many claims to fame...one of them being rewriting oldies with lyrics about masturbation, a feat I witnessed first hand amongst some embarrassed patrons of that particular bar. It was pretty damned funny.

I split after her set to make an appearance at the White Rabbit with the intention of stopping back by to hear Rick's set at 10pm. The Suaverinos played a great set with a couple of standards, the highlight for me being "'Round Midnight." They had a sultry alto singing with them that wasn't there the last time I saw them and she just blew me away.

After the Suaverinos I dodged back over to White Rabbit to rejoin the party already in progress. The scene had changed from a few scattered groups of people, hanging out at the tables, watching the video installations and chatting to being semi-packed with much louder music playing...much louder. I had conversations that I had no idea what they were about with people whose names I never heard. But that's how you know you're having fun, right? See all the photos I was tagged in on facebook this past weekend.

Friday night was a fun one too, matter of fact. A co-worker was having a going away party so I actually got to hang out with people I work with and meet people that I only ever talk to on the phone. Again, loud bar, though. This time Meatpacking District. Place called Brass Monkey. Regrettably, it was too packed to enjoy the rooftop area in this four level bar. The weather was incredible. It would have been nice.

But here we are, 20 degree weather and another snowfall (this time pretty weak, only 2-4 inches that melted right away). Soon, this winter will be over. I can feel it. And it's going to be a great summer.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blurb #23

It was 60 F outside earlier today. I had two of my windows open during the afternoon. Hopefully, this is a sign that there's not much more of this winter left. Meanwhile, huge mountains of snow have condensed into concentrated piles of mud, speckled with debris and litter from two months ago. It's a little disgusting.

To report: the batch of kombucha I'm drinking actually tastes pretty good (yes, I'm still brewing), Lacy came by and we worked on some music yesterday, I'm still editing Collapsing Elbows for Tania to perform and the choral piece for the Unitarian church is coming along as well. I'm most excited about working with Lacy, as it's going to get me performing again, possibly sooner than I had expected. Also, it's prodding me to just go ahead and acquire the equipment I'll need, which includes the Mac Book, and also the new audio interface and headphones I just got delivered to work. If only, I wasn't going right to bed or you can bet I'd be installing all of that stuff and trying out the headphones. For now, though, I sleep. It will have to wait for the weekend.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Music for sale!!!!!!!!

Good evening. Barreling into my third year in New York and remembering something someone said to me when I was just shy of three months in the city. "It takes you three years to get set up here, that's generally the rule." I'm feeling like I may live up to that some days.

This comes as I'm right on the edge of really starting to market my voice over career (waiting on that shining new website and all the fancy integration of my entire web presence that is coming soon, complete with a new blog containing audio and software tutorials and product reviews). And, in addition, I'm finally getting closer to making the live electronic music project a reality. By closer I mean that I'm getting to a point where I've defined in which direction(s) I'm going to go with it, how the new stuff is going to sound/be performed and what I'm going to do with the old stuff. So, I decided to release three of my best out of the old songs under the title "Disrupt," an album title I've thrown around for years and under my own name as opposed to any of the silly monikers I had similarly thrown around during those early years. The tracks are Pastel, Daresay and Windy April, all written from about 2002 to 2004. The album is now available on Indabamusic.com and will be soon on iTunes. I'm embedding the store everywhere I can, including here:

Also, it's on Myspace and as soon as I figure out how to do it, it will be on Facebook. It's of course, eventually going to go on my main webpage as soon as that's up as well.

That having been said, I got really psyched about the live project (which it will be hereafter referred to as) last night as I was in Greenpoint at a club called Europa watching a trio of bands that I had only recently heard of. My friend Stephanie told me about two of them and invited me along to catch the show. Deerhoof was the headliner and opening were two groups: Buke and Gass (pronounced Byook and Gase) and Ben Butler and Mousepad. Buke and Gass was a duo that had modified instruments, one a guitar that had been turned part bass guitar and the other a baritone ukulele that had been turned into a guitar. Their style was therefore already pretty unique for that. I enjoyed their music the most, I think; it was both melodic and gritty and the singer's voice and vocal melodies were hauntingly beautiful. But I was surprised at how much I liked Deerhoof. Listening to their music on Grooveshark didn't excite me nearly as much as their live show which was high energy. A quartet of two guitarists, a drummer and a very short Japanese woman singing and playing bass, they commanded the stage for almost two hours. Ben Butler and Mousepad was a duo of drummer and keyboardist (the guy had a Korg sequencer keyboard that I've only seen one other time when I was graduate school at UNCG, hooked into a Mac laptop and was playing loops and wailing on the synth simultaneously). The laptop guy was Scottish and the drummer German, and both were charismatic and funny. Their performance was pretty awesome and quite high energy for two skinny guys from Europe. I haven't had as much fun in quite a while seeing a show and the whole experience got me psyched again even more for getting out and playing again. Here are some pics from the evening:

Deerhoof in Greenpoint

I apologize in advance for the suckiness of my phone camera.

Monday, February 7, 2011

2 years gone...

I've been in NYC for 2 years exactly today. The time really feels like it flew by when I look back and it also sort of snuck up on me, too, this date. But I don't want to spend too much time thinking on it. I've got a lot to think about as far as what's coming up this next year and I think I'll spend a good bit of time tonight on my next steps. Once Collapsing Elbows' score is really finished, instructions for electronics and improvisational sections included, it's time to start rehearsing with Tania. Soon I'll have that laptop and I'll start working on new electronic music incorporating the guitar and the ideas should flow like wine. Soon the website will be up and I'll feel like I can really start to push the voice over thing. But before any of this can happen, I feel like I need to sleep for 10 hours and have a real day off before I burn out.

Incidentally, speaking of voice over, I did my first reading test at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic last Wednesday and tomorrow I should have some idea of how I did. I'm going in for another volunteer session at 3:30pm, something I'm going to be doing every Wednesday from now on. When I can. In two Wednesdays, Lacy is coming up and we're going to jam on some of her songs and bounce ideas off each other for live performance. So that'll be fun.

On another unrelated note, I do still remember to take pictures of my experiences up here, just so you know. The problem is remembering to post them. That and they're almost exclusively taken with my phone. But here are a few from the past month:

Misc. Jan-Feb

I was thinking about it and it might just be that I'm not a tourist so much anymore. Or I could be just so pressed for time these days that stopping to take pictures of beautiful and interesting things is not always the first thing on my agenda. When I first moved here and I had buckets of free time, it was no problem to just hop the train up to Prospect Park or some Manhattan neighborhood I hadn't yet visited on my day off and take the camera with me. But now, not so much. Also, factor in that the camera I own now is a bit bulkier than a point-and-shoot, albeit much nicer. It became a hassle to remember to bring it with me on my every day trips into the city.

Either way, as you'll see from this album, and though I may have expressed sentiments to the contrary, snowfall still warrants pictures due to the lingering novelty of it all. I think I'm ready for spring however. We're about to hit a record amount of snowfall for a winter season here in the city and it's all banking on how much the next one drops on us.

Right now it's raining and the piles of muddy crusty slimy snow and ice are slowly shrinking and dark brown mud is covering everything. Also, bits of flotsam and jetsam are slowly being revealed as the ice disappears. On my walk to the subway to head home in the mornings, there is a car that has been parked on 15th Street halfway between 8th and 9th Avenues on the north side of the street for several months now. It was never dug out which leads me to believe it was abandoned. There's also the fact that it's full to the brim with newspapers and trash and covered in graffiti. I'm not sure why this car is so intriguing to me but seeing it get completely buried and then slowly emerging again like all the other trash in the city just gives a measure to the scope of how dirty this city can get. Maybe it could serve as some kind of extended metaphor for our own personal problems and how hard it is to truly bury them. The ice will always melt and reveal what it was hiding underneath.

So, I'm not really sure where I'm going with that but it does lead me to something I've been thinking of lately. How sometimes you just have to let go of things from your past, old behaviors and things you clung to, even old relationships that no longer function or have run their course. Maybe in order to make room for new things or to get out of old patterns. But ultimately, they'll keep coming back to stare you in the face unless you sincerely do let go...as opposed to just burying them under the ice.

That's enough profundity for this morning. I should get back to work. I promise to reveal my new website soon...and even sooner you may all be able to buy some of my music. More on that later. Goodbye for now.