CMJ 2009: Sunday 18 October

I awoke early on an inflatable bed at my parent’s cottage near Kinross. I’d been at a friend’s wedding the night before so I was feeling more than slightly worse for wear – something that would become a recurring theme for the next seven days. I was kindly driven to Edinburgh airport by my friend Andy where I met Kev and Ziggy in time to check in for our flight to Newark at 12.15 pm. When we left Scotland the weather was bright and unseasonably warm. It was a different story on our arrival to Newark Liberty International. As we shivered outside terminal C waiting for the bus to Manhattan I cursed myself for not packing a scarf.

I decided to listen to some Wu Tang on the short journey to Port Authority to try and acclimatise myself. We were all going to be staying in Brooklyn; Kev and I with a friend of a friend in Clinton Hill and Ziggy with his friend Monika in south Williamsburg. We took the A C E subway line and parted ways at Canal Street, where Ziggy left to get the J M Z. We carried on following the meticulous directions that our host, Dana, had given us and quickly found our way to her place. Once at Dana’s apartment she informed us that the MET Supermarket opposite her apartment was where Biggie had once worked packing bags, our first piece of bona-fide hip hop tourism. Dana was heading out to watch the baseball playoffs (her hometown team the LA Dodgers were playing the Phillies) so Kev and I went off in search of some food. Dana directed us to the appropriate subway a few blocks away. The streets round Clinton Hill totally reminded us of the Cosby Show, all brown stone tenements with stairs (stoops) outside the front doors.

Come Out To Play-ayIn the subway station, I managed to make an arse of using the turnstile so it took us ages to actually get down to the platform. They’ve changed the system recently: if you swipe your card and go through the barrier then you can’t swipe it in the same station again for another 20 minutes. This is meant to stop people with 7 day unlimited-use Metro cards from handing them back through the barriers to their friends. Somehow I managed to swipe my card and not make it all the way through the turnstile before it locked. I had to go speak to the warden in the 24 hour booth, who looked down on me as if I was sub human scum (or at least trying to scam him). Eventually he let me through. Whenever I’m on the subway in New York I think of The Warriors movie, especially at nighttime when there’s no one else around. It makes the journeys way more exciting and I constantly have the intro music running through my head but this time that hip radio DJ was announcing: ‘bad news boppers Tommy’s not made it through the turnstile, he’s gonna get wasted’ . . .

We’d made a loose plan with Ziggy to meet him at a bar called Union Pool in Williamsburg where Monika was playing with, Chica Vas!, one of the many bands she plays in. We rode the G train up to Metropolitan Avenue and had a rough idea of where we were supposed to be going. Neither of us had eaten for a long time and we spied a Peruvian place, Chimu, over the road which looked good. By coincidence it turned out to be right next door to Union Pool. We sat down and ate two variations on rice with seafood washed down with cold Mexican beer. Delicious.

Afterwards we ventured next door to try find Ziggy and Monika. We paid $8 into the back room where the live music was happening. The room is small, my guess is it has a capacity of around 100. It has Victorian style decor and the stage is framed with ornately carved wood. Onstage there was a battle of the bands taking place with two groups set up either side, taking it in turns to play a song. Stage right: an all girl three-piece from Brooklyn; guitar / vocals; drums / vocals and keyboards / percussion. Stage left: an all girl four-piece from Japan; vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Both bands gave really energetic, entertaining performances. Although musically neither of them really set me on fire, it was fun seeing them play turnabout like that.

Next up was Monika’s band Chica Vas! (Go Girl!) and you guessed it, they’re an all girl percussion group with a lead vocalist who is also a highly accomplished trapeze artiste who performed her finale swinging upside down whilst singing and playing the drums. If you don’t believe me, we have video evidence.

Kev and I stuck around for a few more drinks then decided to call it a night. I think I’d been up for at least 24 hours at this point. Ziggy stayed on and drank some more.

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