Friday. The 26th of April, 2013. The place: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. New York. My cousin George M. called me earlier in the day and asked if I wanted to go out for a few drinks with him in Bay Ridge. Of course I agreed because every time I’ve gone out with George, it was never a bad time and I knew this particular Friday would be no different. George = a good time always and you know what? He once again delivered. So there we are in his whip on our merry way for what was sure to be a night of complete decadence and debauchery driving PASSED Bay Ridge. “Uuuh George”, I ask, “where are we headed?” “Oh yeah, I thought we’d go to Williamsburg tonight.” I’ve been out to Williamsburg before, but I’ve never been out in Williamsburg before. That sounds confusing I know, but it’s really not. I just mean to say that I’ve never had a night experience in The ‘Burg before. And oh what an experience it was. Read on…
The first bar we stop in is called Midway. It was exactly what you’d expect. Hipsters crowd around other hipsters drinking their reasonably priced PBR, wearing lensless eyeglasses, and can someone clue me into when it became the “It” thing to carry messenger bags everywhere? It’s fucking 10:43PM! What? Are you going to drink your Labatt Blue and recite some thought provoking nothing out of your marble composition notebook to some lass in the hopes that she’ll allow you to nail her? Dude you’re 98 pounds soaking wet and you look like every other shmoe in there—of course she’ll let you fuck her. Needless to say, it was time to move on to the next bar…Trash Bar that is.
My mind immediately goes to barely dressed hipster girls shaking it for dollar bills
The atmosphere in Trash Bar is more our speed. Upon entering the bar, I half expect it to be more of the same. George suggests we make our way to the back. I follow. We come upon a guy behind a kiosk. George gives him twenty dollars for the both of us. My mind immediately goes to barely dressed hipster girls shaking it for dollar bills, and I ask George if this is indeed the case. He tells me no. Through the curtain there’s 30 some odd people all staring at a stage as a band starts to set up. Whatever could this be? And me without my recorder. There are 3 people in the band: a bearded white boy setting himself up behind the skins, another white boy sporting a pompadour and tuning his bass guitar, and a Kal Penn Indian fellow who’s got an electric guitar hanging about his person. I don’t recall if they mention their band’s name, but, the drummer/lead singer, Mark, counts the boys off and ZANG! We have blast off. Ladies and gentlemen, turns out I’m at a punk rock show. It’s one hell of a ride. The band played for 30 minutes and played what felt like 20 songs. They, my fellow kilSters are awesome!
The band played for 30 minutes and played what felt like 20 songs.
In between songs, the band banters among themselves and they’re funny. A well-oiled punk extravaganza. I ask a few of the kids in the audience who these cats on the stage are. “Oh man!” one kid exclaims, “they’re called Lugosi and they perform sporadically, but they’re the fucking balls!” I agree. I did not expect that i’d find a diamond in the hipster rough when George and I ventured into The ‘Burg, but how wrong I was. Lugosi played a blistering set, and from what I picked up from the crowd chatter, Lugosi’s band members switch up instruments so you really don’t know who’s playing what instrument on any given performance. That’s awesome! That was it. I was not going to leave Trash Bar without getting this band’s information. I was baring witness to the unsung heroes of the New York punk scene (which, if you had any doubt fellow kilSters, it is alive and well in New York.)
I was baring witness to the unsung heroes of the New York punk scene
We are now in the bar directly across the street from Trash Bar. Oh my God! There’s a stage and people appear to be setting up for what appears to be another punk act (the fact that these guys were still setting up and had not yet played a note is not what gave up the fact that they were another punk act, what did give it away were the mohawks and liberty spikes in the crowd. Clearly, this is what the clichéd face of punk was. Hairstyles and spiked collars. How sad.) Since George and I had to wait for the band to start, we plied ourselves with drinks. And then she walked in. Demurely dressed with eye make up that resembled Greta Garbo from yesteryear. A real beauty to behold. She ordered her drink and proceeded to make her way into a dark corner of the bar. Drinking alone. She seemed completely out of place in this club. A lone white dove amongst the throng…”That’s a man”, George says, knocking me awake from my daydream. “What?! Bro, that is not a man!” “That’s a man I tell you, check out HIS Adam’s Apple!” Oh my God, she…er..he had an Adam’s Apple. More prominent than mine it would seem. Damn. Oh well, the band, Mott, had just started their introductions with the lead singer/rhythm guitarist strumming a twangy guitar riff. It was a punk rockabilly hoe down!
The singer from Mott sounded a little like Wayne Kramer of MC5 fame but he looked more like the guitarist for SoCal punk band, Bad Religion and the head honcho of Epitaph Records, Mr. Brett Gurewitz. It was a grand ol’ rockabilly good time. George and I only left early because it seemed like every couple of songs, the singer would stop playing just so he can try hocking the band’s merchandise to the audience. That got more than a bit annoying. Back to Midway we go!
A lone white dove amongst the throng…”That’s a man”, George says, knocking me awake from my daydream. “What?! Bro, that is not a man!”…”That’s a man I tell you, Check out his Adam’s Apple!”
So here we are again. Drinking. The atmosphere is pretty much the same as when we last left it. The crowd is different from before, but still, the same, ya know? The deejay is doing a less than stellar job trying to mix in The Real McCoy‘s “Runaway” with Madonna’s “Material Girl” and then, he played yet another Madonna song, and yet another, and then anoth–he had ceased deejaying. He felt it better to let the whole of Madonna’s greatest hits, The Immaculate Collection play on. Nothing against Madonna. She was part of my growing up after all, but at some point, you just have to let go. I have. This deejay apparently has not. Time for a cigarette! George and I make our exit.
It’s now 2AM. George and I are in front of Midway’s enjoying our cigarettes. I was right in the middle of filling George in on the fact someone completely missed the toilet bowl and instead sprayed the walls of the bathroom inside of Midway, when out of nowhere, this obviously drunk or high on Ecstasy fella starts speaking to George and I. It seems my toilet talk intrigued this young hipster. “Oh you like to do that too?”, the young hipster asked. “Like to do what?”, I ask. “Watching people piss and shit on other people.” My fellow kilSters, I was floored right there. Floored but amused. Clearly, this well dressed stranger heard what he wanted and followed through in that vein. After filling him in on what it was that I actually said, he tells us, “I’m a scat man.” My cousin upon hearing this comes in with a “Ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop”, (Coooome on. You remember, don’t you? It’s from that mid-90’s dance track “I’m A Scat Man” by Scatman John, not to be confused with Scatman Crothers from the 1980 movie, “The Shining“)… Anyway, George was toying with this kid. He clued me in after the fact that he knew what “scatting” was. I was the one completely lost. And if you care to know, scatting is the act of urinating and defecating on willing participants, and I think the favor is returned in kind. That was our cue. It was time to retire for the evening.
“Oh you like to do that too?”, the young hipster asked. “Like to do what?”, I ask. “Watching people piss and shit on other people.”
One night in Williamsburg felt good. It was comfortable. It brought me back to New York circa the 1990’s-early 2000’s when New York was still cool. Where Times Square in the city was still just 42nd street and there were whores offering themselves up for 10 minutes of paradise, but ultimately, you knew you were going to be left with a lifetime of disease. There were bums sleeping everywhere (and there still are). For 25 cents you could stare at bare chested women through a plate glass window. Williamsburg, circa now is far more tame than all of that, but when the thrills are ever dwindling, you try to grasp on to what little is out there. Williamsburg will always pale in comparison to what New York as a whole used to be, but, that’s no reason to slag it off. At least it’s trying. Have you seen the dissolution of Times Square in the last 15 years? It looks like Mickey Mouse threw up everywhere. Say what you will, but the broken crack pipes, whores game for the back door, the lowlifes and last remnants of punk and disco excess said something about our city. It was our identity staring back at us and it was a beautiful, truthful sight to behold. The city is nothing now but a tourist trap. Williamsburg in Brooklyn is keeping that old glory alive and well. It’s a reflection of the degeneration and it feels oh good to be able to experience once again.