Saturday, May 10, 2008

tour part 3

picking up from chapel hill.... we headed over to the nightlight, a bookstore by day, called the skylight i believe... the ceilings hung low, stained ceiling tiles all messed about, stained brown from a/c leaks, leading down to bookself walls, overstuffed with all varieties of amazing used books, mostly sold back from UNC students heading home for the semester. i spent a good ten minutes or so poking around the cookbook section and salivating over photos of glazed lasagna.

when we arrived there was a UNC graduation party in full effect, nicely dressed recent college grads bumping and grinding to prince and michael jackson and eating celery sticks and assorted party munches. as i loaded in the bass amp, some blonde girl in a short skirt started dirty dancing with the cabinet. i responded likewise.

so we set up amidst piles of old books and magazines and leif garrett vinyl records, and played a "scorching" set. we borrowed a projector and showed the super8 shorts I'd stitched together. saw old friends daniel and john and grabbed numerous beers from the bartender... he enjoyed the set and told me numerous times. always nice to hear.

band after us was originally called "ted dancin" but changed their name and can't recall rightly the newer "nom." they played a completely improvised set and there were some amazing moments.

after we gladly took another 6pack of pbr from the bartender and headed off to daniel's house in the big north carolina trees, the bu hanan house, where we slept outdoors. well, most of us slept outdoors... i passed out on the floor, fully clothed and woke in a sweat with a tick crawling across my face. next day, several other folks found ticks crawling about their neither regions and this caused some concern and a 10 minute discussion about lyme's disease. we could only conclude that we knew nothing about lyme's disease except it comes from ticks and paralyzes people.

so we hit the road and did it fast, me hitting the 80mph mark whenever possible... we'd heard the drive from chapel hill into manhattan would take a good 10 hours and we left by 7:30 that morning, shortly after hopping into daniel's shower, borrowing some bath water and dandruff control shampoo. spent the morning looking for a roadside starbucks ( lame, but a necessary evil on interstate highways) but instead stopped in at a gas station with several speakers outside cranking 80's dance classics. we danced our asses off to the shock and amusement of some fellow interstate 95 travellers (we had pushed into virginia by then) and some other folks ate some fresh sausage biscuits from the adjacent restaurant. i've always been fundamentally opposed to gas station restaurants, well not always, just ever since a particularly bad episode from a west virginian branch of subway where two dread-locked females made me a 6-inch sandwich that tasted OK but felt like doom a few minutes later. so we danced and hopped back in the van and pushed forward, through virginia, through DC, on through maryland, stopped for an ethiopian coffee in some strange maryland mini-mall community, pushed further and onto the high-priced new jersey turnpike. pressed on and hit the lincoln tunnel traffic jam at 5:00 on the dot.

sat in line for an hour, laughing and pointing at all the strangely dressed drivers trapped along with us in the traffic jam, people putting on makeup in their rearviews, yelling into cellphones, generally angry / obsessive behavior that seemed strange for somebody sitting completely still. the lanes into the lincoln tunnel gradually just disappear, giving a very raw and bitter taste of NYC driving... people pushing each other about and using bumpers just like how they were named... we must've touched chrome to chrome several times and nearly got crushed between two very large buses. but we made our way into the tunnel and discussed for awhile that stallone movie where we saves thousands (hundreds?) of people from a broken tunnel. i think my favorite tunnel scenes are from George Lucas' THX1138, which is all the more remarkable if you rent the DVD and watch the amazing THX1138 student film George Lucas made... the tunnel scenes were filmed in San Francisco and the music and everything is perfect. especially amazing if you consider the star wars "prequels" and all the messing about with the original films. once upon a time, george lucas had his "finger on the button," was directly on-point and a potential master of his art.

on the other side of the lincoln tunnel, we heard a scraping behind the van and noticed the rusted iron trailer hitch dragging behind us... we stopped and tied it back onto the bumper with some string found on the street.

then headed over to tribeca, to jackie gendel's opening called "does she know?" and found some parking right out front. michael got a ticket for drinking beer in the street, but who could resist: the block of the motti hasson gallery was filled with amazingly dressed art folks, all the more amazing considering our previous 5 or so days camping in the appalaichains. so many beautiful people, nice hair, sunglasses completely not needed, swaggering, smiling, enjoying this huge art street party. across the street, john k stood a few feet from chuck close and i think poked his arm.

inside the opening, jackie's paintings stunned and stood above the socializing. strange distortions of facial form and vivid colors and a strange primitivism that cut through the noise of the crowd. i took some photos with my 35mm and imagined her painting this incredible body of work. keith, jackie's cousin from l.a., arrived with his wife liz and we had a nice surpise reunion and greg's brother jason arrived too and we had a regular bro-down, drank some grolsch beer and talked about old times and all the good things to come.

took photos on the street of us camping boy scouts lost in an art-world paradise street party with cops on the prowl... michael's got the $25 dollar citation to prove it.

headed to the after-party, me driving 20 minutes to find manhattan parking, all my parking luck used up at the gallery apparently. dropped the van in front of some bustling housing projects and just enjoyed all the music and people socializing in the street. ate some nyc pizza... there's nothing like cornmeal pizza crust.

stopped by after party, congratulations to jackie and then on to the lower east side. i consigned some albums at the cake shop and headed to arlene's grocery. the place was packed and jumping, but everybody seemed to have a soul-patch, women included, and it didn't feel like the right vibe. so hung on the street, digging the insane street energy of the lower-east side on a friday night: low hum of the city, cabs honking far-away, traffic sounds dim and drowned out by the street energy, the people walking all about stanton, cars an unwelcome nuisance here, beautiful women in fashionable clothes strutting and us sneaking sips of whiskey whenever possible.

by this point, i'd drunk 5 or so cups of coffee and had 2 red bulls, and then bought the new super-extra-large-size red bull to keep pushing through til the finish line. my hands had begun to tremble and it felt like my innards were tied to a ringing buzzer.

with this feeling stringing through my drained body, we loaded in the equipment into a room quickly emptying, the soul-patch crowd making their exodus while we set up vintage keyboards and reverbs. i suspected the sound man might actually be peaking on acid right at that moment... he asked me to describe the sound of our group... when i hesitated, he asked me if we sounded like pink floyd. to which i said, yeah sure. pink floyd, hmm. hopefully "meddle" - era pink floyd.

played the show, tore right through the set, house mostly empty, but those in attendance seeming to really dig it. finished the set, talked with people with foreign accents, obviously in lower east side for the day, had some photos taken by Gabi and she wrote a nice review:

photos and review.

afterwards, loaded up and avoided the trembling sound guy... he apparently recorded the show but wouldn't hand off the c.d. to me because he started loudly cursing c.d. technology and i walked away, pretty quickly. i think somebody else ended up with the disc and said it wasn't half-bad.

headed over to tyler's place, right under the brooklyn bridge, directly across from the former fulton street market... the streets an empty joy... well lit and completely empty... with only a block away some horribly misguided city government attempt at "revitalization" which in this case means replacing old fish warehouses with The Gap and planet hollywood.

but we didn't venture over there, we stayed in our isolated spot, walked along the east river, smoked spliff and talked with tyler about gentirying forces at work in modern new york. i suppose as long as the city remains alive and vibrant, it will withstand the forces of lameness, but seems to me lameness chips away at the beautiful heart of nyc. the poetry of the place still smacks you in the face, but now there's disturbing interludes of asking yourself and your companions, "what the hell is happening to this city?" economic forces, pushing out artists and poets and musicians, pushing them further and further back... when we they be pushed outside city limits? never, i hope... the city still holds its charms for me, no doubt no doubt.

woke the next morning to coffee brought by my bro michael and bad news that pitchforkmedia had again panned a musical project of my involvement. the review even managed to state how much it liked the pitchfork video i made, which felt to me like disarming the criticism that they are "out to get me." no no, i don't think they're out to get me, by any means, but i do think some people there don't think my work should be seriously considered. it makes no difference, ultimately, and i will keep doing whatever it is i do. if i'm willing to take the good reviews to heart, then i must do the same for the bad. or just ignore them altogether. that said, didn't seem like the reviewer really likes spacey droning music, which is sort of the whole point of the disc... musical thoughts lingering and moving slowly in and out of the foreground, messing with time, stretching small notes into minutes. so perhaps a mismatch there between reviewer and subject.

the review encouraged me to move on, and the next disc, called "the glowing city," has been sent to press. it's 79 minutes 57 seconds long. so maybe the bad review will end up a good thing? moving on always seems like a good idea to me. something i'd momentarily forgotten.

but the heaping of bad vibes from the review sent me off to david and boris' russian and turkish baths, the last of the old time bathhouse, in a brownstone on 10th between 1st and A.


sam sanford said...

good stuff! thank you Bill

ballulah said...

hey bill, the trembling sound guy is actually very very nice...and a better than decent sound guy. his nerves are probably shot since he's been at arlene's grocery since it was a good venue (probably more than 10 years ago)!

you guys sounded great, not always the case in the grab bag of NYC venues.

Bill Baird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Baird said...

he was nice, actually... my writing might have flippantly suggested he wasn't... he was complimentary after the set and we really liked arlene's, honestly... especially the energy on the street in that part of town.

ballulah said...

the sound at arlene's is disproportianately good. it's a nice warm room with a good feeling to it...i just wish they still had a consistent booking policy.

Dash said...

I wish I had known you existed when you came to Chapel Hill. I live like 3 blocks away from Nightlight.