define( 'AUTOSAVE_INTERVAL', 300 ); define( 'WP_POST_REVISIONS', 5 ); define( 'EMPTY_TRASH_DAYS', 7 ); define( 'WP_CRON_LOCK_TIMEOUT', 120 ); CMJ 2009: Saturday 24 October

CMJ 2009: Saturday 24 October

Cheese in Central Park
9 am. My mobile phone alarm goes off. Oh god. My head doesn’t belong to me today. What happened last night? Oh. Oh yeah. The copious amounts of alcohol. The cheap fiery tequila. Yuck. We’d arranged to meet Alan and Zig at Monika’s places at 10 am and then had to negotiate the Saturday morning subway to get to the bandshell at Central Park and East 72nd Street for a soundcheck at 11 am. This was going to be tough. These days I’m getting increasingly bad at functioning with a hangover and today we had to play a gig in Central Park at 2 pm for children. FOR CHILDREN. It felt really wrong. I felt wrong.

Kev and I did our best to get ourselves together and walked along to meet the others. I ducked into a Latin American greasy spoon to get us a couple of coffees and really struggled with the simple transaction. It took the poor woman about 10 attempts for me to understand she was asking if I wanted cream and sugar. I didn’t but I got it anyway. Oops. Kev can’t stand coffee with sugar so we went into McDonalds as I’d been told their coffee is good. It’s not. I got Kev to buy me a sausage McMuffin in a futile attempt to alleviate my throbbing head. What a crazy idea. I was clearly still drunk. The McMuffin set off a very strange reaction in my stomach.

We met Alan and Zig at the Marcy Avenue train stop and rode the train to Canal Street where we changed on the the 6 train and rode up to 77th Street. It was an ordeal. Our bags felt ten times heavier than they were. My mouth was so dry and I’m not going to lie, I was leaking toxic gusts from my rear. This was bad. I’m a borderline alcoholic and I stink. And we’re suppose to be children’s entertainers today. I broke into a clammy sweat.

DSCN1524
I forgot to mention that it was raining. After a week of glorious sunshine and temperatures that rival the best day of a Scottish summer New York had finally remembered what time of year it was and the weather seemed to suite our inebriated state. We trudged out of the damp subway station, through the streets towards Central Park and struggled to find the bandshell. When we got there we were all decidedly moist and my feet were soaking. I went to introduce myself to Beth who runs Kidrockers and had booked us to play. I did my best to appear sober and normal. I think I got away with it. We set up our gear on stage and the sound men gave us a quick check through the PA. It sounded great and for a brief moment I started to feel okay again.

It was coming up for 12 noon and we were to play a three song set sometime between 2 and 3 pm. There was a tent next to the stage with refreshments and Kev, Zig and I necked a few litres of those vitamin water things in a vague attempt to cleanse our pickled insides. Our gig was part of a day-long family fair called Pumpkin Fest which included all manner of attractions including a haunted house and various stalls selling seasonal goods. It was part harvest festival, part prelude to Halloween (which is a much bigger deal in the US than it is in the UK).

Halloween costumes in Central Park
There were various different performances taking place on the bandshell where we were playing, and the master of ceremonies was a man dressed as a werewolf whose booming voice echoed around the park. In the state I was in, it was all very surreal. We decided it would be wise to try and get a coffee and something to eat before we played so we plodded back out of the park in search of a cafe. There’s not much in this part of mid town and it took us ages to find sustenance. Eventually after what seemed like 10 blocks we found a small deli which sold toasted sandwiches and coffee. We dragged ourselves back to the park, sat on wet benches and struggled our way through our food.

We waited by the side of the stage. Before the Kidrockers bands, there was a performance from a local circus which included dazzling displays of juggling, hola hoops, unicycle riding and their grand finale: a dog show. Our support act in Central Park was a dog show. A poodle warmed up for us, and too be honest, he got a better response.

CentralParkPoodle
Then it was time to play. As promised Nassir had made it to see us, as had Tam, Elize and Shannon from KEXP. We’ve played some odd shows in our time, but this has to be up there. We’d watch the two bands who were on before us and they’d both been really good – although they’d received mixed reaction from the audience of young kids and their parents. The first guy didn’t really interact with the children and so he pretty much bombed. The second band were an electro pop group and their female singer asked the kids to take part in a dancing competition during one of their songs. This really worked and won the crowd over. Take note Ziggy I thought. In between sets the Kidrockers hosts (two cheery guys in their 20s) conducted Q&As with the band who had just played and asked the kids some Central Park and Halloween related trivia questions. So we began setting up while the band who’d just finished were grilled by the kids. It was all making me extremely nervous.

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But before I knew it we were beginning our set. We decided to play Amidar, Let Fidelity Break and You’re No Vincent Gallo. We’d been asked to make sure and play child-friendly songs so we’d had to ditch the ones with swearing. A lot of FOUND lyrics have fairly adult content but we were figuring that the kids wouldn’t understand Ziggy’s brogue so it’d be okay. We pelted through Amidar and it went surprisingly well. Then we got set to play Fidelities and Ziggy made a plea for some kids to come join us on stage and dance along which turned out to be a very good idea and really made the show. As the song progressed more and more kids climbed the steps and started dancing. It was one of the funniest 5 minutes of my life. I really enjoyed it. Adrenaline kicked in and my hangover abated for a few short moments.

In the end, the set went down really well and the Q&A even worked out (although Ziggy managed to divide the crowd with his answer to ‘What’s your favourite part of the US?’ – ‘Brooklyn’). We got some funny questions from the kids. One girl asked: ‘Do y’all rock n roll in Scotland?’. Was this some kind of hipster code? I hope not! Then a more innocent question from a cute black kid who’d been standing on the stage for the last half hour: ‘Does the Loch Ness Monster exist?’. ‘Of course!’ I shouted. And with that we were done.

We stood in the rain for a while and had our photos taken with MC Wolfman, then we made our way to Pianos one last time to attend the Brooklyn Vegan party. By chance I got there at exactly the same time as Dent May and his band so I managed to catch their entire set in the upstairs room. I was over-the-moon as I’ve been listening to his album an awful lot since we played a gig with them in Edinburgh earlier this year. They’re a great pop band and they’re music definitely eased my headache.

We hung out at Pianos for a while with Nassir and Shannon and caught a few great bands, including The Wheel from Denver who played alt.country in a Micah P Hinson vein.

From here we started to make our way back to Brooklyn for the final time. On route we made a forced stop in Nassir’s sister’s shop to shelter from the now torrential rain. The shop is a very classy designer boutique named after his sister Maryam Nassirzadeh on 123 Norfolk Street, and Nassir says we can play a show there next CMJ if we come back.

Drinking red wine and sheltering from the rain in Maryam Nassirzadeh's shop
Then we caught the J train back to Marcy Avenue. By this time the rain was falling in sheets and we ran to Monika’s place to dry off and plot our next moves. We needed to eat badly. Jonny was in and had cooked some fried mozzarella empanadas which he offered to us with hot sauce. I guzzled about four of them in quick succession but my stomach demanded a meal.

Jonny recommended a place further down Broadway called Moto and so we ventured out into the rain once more. It was a very good call and Moto was perhaps my favourite place of the entire trip. It’s a small Parisian style diner with charming, dilapidated decor. There was a queue for tables but the barman suggested that we could eat around the small semi-circular bar. I ordered a Schneider Weisse (one of my favourite German wheat beers) and Moto‘s take on classic mac n cheese which was delicious and exactly the kind of thing my stomach was craving.

Tommy, Kev and Ziggy at the bar in Cafe Moto
Not long after we sat down, a three piece jazz band set up by the door and serenaded the diners. They where singing some trad tunes in a New Orleans style on guitar, trumpet and tea chest bass. It was the first time I’d ever seen tea chest bass played live and I was in awe. It couldn’t get any better.

I texted Adam and he joined us for a drink and offered us a great plan for the end of the evening and the end of our experience – his friend was going to a club nearby where they were spinning exclusively soul 45s. It sounded like a perfect way to round off our trip to NYC. It was.

Dancers at the Soul 45s club

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