Saturday, March 12, 2011

Not While Walking Is Still Honest

Asbury Park is quickly becoming an unattainable adventure. Not for the first time, I could not be bothered dealing with the weather for the sake of being stuck out in for hours on end. It's a box that'll remain unticked until I'm next down here, and by then, the sun should be shining bright enough to help me cast a shadow on the missed opportunities.
It wasn't all disappointment though. Amongst the spitting rain and huge crowd gathered for a college sports game at Madison Square Garden I met up with Matt and Olivia for a post-Bright Eyes feed in Chelsea. It wasn't a fancy restaurant, but it wasn't $1 slices of pizza either. With that in mind, I did not expect my Earl Grey tea to come with two serves of gypsy woman asking for change, but that's what happened, and since I've gone all 21st century and only use card, they were out of luck.

The rain continued to pour, and despite our best efforts exploring thrift stores and Macy's, could we find a pair of shorts for Miami that weren't more appropriate on the leg's of some 40-year-old Dad type. Either that, or the homeboys that roam Harlem at night. Unrelenting, the rain forced us into a cinema to seek a reprieve for a few hours courtesy of Rango before finally going our own ways. It was no Asbury Park, NJ (which I've heard is terrible), but it wasn't wasted time either.

The next day the sun would occasionally show itself from behind the grey blanket it had been hiding under.The night before some idiot in my dorm was turning on the light and talking loudly on his phone at weird hours with no regard for anyone else. When getting ready the next day I kept this in mind, and stealth-like and in the dark I did my best to get ready. When rearranging my locker my computer slipped out from about 4ft up and hit the ground. It made a slight thud, but it didn't seem like enough to worry so I went on my way to Chinatown.

I had previously walked across the Williamsburg and Brooklyn bridges, and inbetween the two lay the unaccomplished Manhattan Bridge. With Brooklyn Bridge currently wrapping itself in a cloak of scaffold, Manhattan Bridge is the prettiest of the three. 

Before embarking on the path that leads straight into downtown Brooklyn I got to take advantage of the ever-expanding Chinatown and all of the oddities that people to seem to buy. I've been to a few Chinatowns around the world, and even if they're all coloured by the city they inhabit, the one thing they share is the smell-fish, spices and the sweat of thousands of short people fighting for the freshest piece of ginseng root.

I was chased out by the waft of fish-sauce (it's like boiled shit) only to discover a random fruit market at the base of the bridge. I may be 25 in a matter of months, but I regretted not buying a $1.50 bag of mandarins to throw at trains as they rode past me on the bridge, but such is the lessons learned in life.

Those same trains that deserved an old fashioned citrusing caused the bridge to vibrate and rattle as they rolled past in both directions. It's amazing feeling on an object you believe to be so structurally sound due to its size, and while it is disconcerting to a point, it's enlivening for the same reasons. The trains make some racket, and I remember sitting in a Dumbo park with Michael in August while his verbal diarrhea tried to cut through the noise of metal on metal. As they blitzed by I was reminded how quickly the time here as done the same thing.

The view of the city from the bridge is spectacular, but the bridge itself, adorned in graffiti has it's own urban beauty. I spent half of my time stopping to admire the view and the rest trying to figure out how people climb it. It might only be a bridge, and they are there to be crossed, but there was a nice feeling when I crossed the final one of Manhattan's big three. For so long in my life they'd been props in popular culture, but now they're landmarks I've seen and experienced for myself.

The sun really came out in Brooklyn and from one side of the bridge to the other felt like a new world. The buildings aren't as tall, the streets aren't as crowded and the place is more relaxed for it. Sure, it's gentrified and world's apart from Jay Z's songs, but it's a nice break from the tourists of Manhattan.

I walked past the brownstones of Brooklyn's prettier parts and made it to the promenade. The views are of lower Manhattan, and fittingly they've placed their own September 11 memorials around the walk. I don't recall the time of day I was there, but not being a pram pushing new parent, I was remarkably out of place.
Broken wharf.

The sun began to set, and I headed back to Harlem to avoid any possible gun-crimes. Being a white-boy I stopped by Starbucks for a cup of tea only to have my $2.50 transaction embarrassingly declined. I've had money problems here before, and with little to no contingency (because I'm punk!) I went back to try to figure out the problem. I opened the lid of my laptop and was met with this.

first world crisis.
I yelled "fuck" loud enough for someone to come out from their room to see what was wrong. It was an emotional response I'm more than a little disappointed in myself for producing, but the reality was I was looking at a few hundred dollars to fix it, with seemingly no way of paying. I was generously offered another computer by someone to check my money and when all was well I had to move onto fixing the problem that lay cracked in front of me. I called some shops in the city, the minimum repair was 1 week and $300.

I couldn't bare to deal with the problem at the time, and luckily had prepurchased a ticket to go see Against Me! and the Dropkick Murphys play in midtown. I walked up 8th avenue, and on the corner of 48th street was a firestation with its doors open. On the wall was the portraits of 10 of their fellow workers who had perished on September 11. The doors weren't open for public view, and the portraits aren't exactly there to stared at, but seeing them provided a nice perspective on how important a bit of extra debt and cracked plastic really is.

The line for the concert snaked around the whole block, going from the middle of 52nd street to the middle of 53rd. The venue had been on fire a few days earlier, and with the best efforts of those aforementioned firefighters the concert continued...though everyone from the two levels was now onto one.

Being a Dropkick Murphys show everyone in the crowd was that brand of fake Irish I've come to dismiss. The bands were the same, with the opening folk band, The Parkington Sisters, offering their old sailor and folk covers. They covered Dirty Old Town by The Pogues, and Ken from the Dropkicks came out and joined them as the small crowd sang along.

Off With The Head followed them and were angry man music.

I used to really love Against Me!, seeing them in Paris was an amazingly fun show and moment of my life and even when their fans accused them of selling out I still remained partially attached. Their last album, though still good, is an about turn from their earlier stuff. I understand why bands want to evolve, and why they want to put food on the table for their families, but they were onto such a good thing before I questioned why they changed.

The band, complete with new drummer (Max Weinberg's son!) immediately burst into 'Walking Is Still Honest', a song from their earlier days that seemed to startled most of the audience. The energy and enthusiasm of old is still there, but the context of a support band on a big stage meant there was a gap between where they want to be, and where they should be.

It could have been the pressure of the shorter set, or it could be that they're still just a basement punk band at heart (they left their keyboard player behind, phew) but they wasted no time between songs. Better yet, they focused on their earlier songs first.

It was an unrelenting approach and for that my respect for them came crawling back. For the first time I heard them play 'Miami' live and 'Reinventing Axl Rose' was performed with such vigor I wondered if they were singing it in support or disdain for themselves.

Now, I won't deny I'm not the biggest fan of the direction on and off recording tape they've taken, but I will say they are still worth seeing live. The old songs are still great and their new tightness and professionalism means they play them brilliantly.

I was finally convinced they still have something to offer when they closed their set with 'Bamboo Bones', 'Pints of Guiness Make You Strong' and 'Thrash Unreal'. They're three of my favourite songs by them, and when the last chords rang out I would have been more than happy to put up with them playing their new album from start to finish just to have them remain on stage.

They proved me wrong on the live front at least, and history still says their back catalogue is's just  that overproduced sing along stuff of White Crosses was a bit hard to deal with from a band that was originally an acoustic guitar, drums and a tape recorder.

Not to worry, if I was after the lo-fi punk I got in when Billy Bragg played out over the P.A. while the Dropkick Murphys set up their big band. By the time the curtains came out and revealed their massive live up the drunks in the crowd were sweating and thrashing about all over the place.

The Dropkick Murphys aren't exactly renowned for having a diverse musical style. In fact, it felt like one long sea-shanty stretched over two hours. That's not to say it wasn't fun or good, because it was, it's just that I got what I expected.

I was impressed when the band's bagpipe player came out, and despite them being the missing link between noise and music I absolutely love them. They haven't sounded the same to me since my Gran's funeral when the lone piper played outside as we all left the service - and tonight was no different. I thought the band was infinitely better when that guy was on stage blowing his lungs out.

The band are quite good to their fans, and gave a shout out to a family they had invited to the show as their husband, brother and son was a massive fan and passed away while serving the in the military. They even had another guy from the crowd crawl past security and sing an entire song with them before revealing that he does that everytime they go to New York.
fucktonne of people on stage. Also, angry thrashing bald man.

To close out the night they invited a whole heap of the crowd onstage with them. It was absolute bedlam, and there must have been easily over 100 people encouraged to go mad out there. It was a perfect way for them to end the night, as I don't think they had any other chance of getting rid of them. One guy, in a kilt showed the whole crowd quite explicitly that he was not wearing anything under there. That was time to go right there, the late night walk to Harlem was waiting for me.

Oh yeah, today I spent $300 on a new computer, such is my blogging addiction. It'll mean Spring Break will be a bit more reserved than I wanted, I'm just looking forward to swimming in the ocean.

City and Colour - The Girl
I'm ashamed to admit I listen to and like this song, but kudos to him for spelling colour correctly.

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