Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Reign of Brooklyn

Again borrowing from Stereogum and again MTV profiles music: It's just about official now that Brooklyn not just dominates over Manhattan but exists as an independent, unjoined entity.

Brooklyn - and by Brooklyn this means only Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and now parts of Bushwick - is self-sustaining. Bands reside, record, and perform all in Brooklyn and now there are a host of different sized venues (from the holes-in-the-wall that Todd P cultivates to the Luna Lounge and Music Hall) for these bands to scale the ladder of.

This is all a bit confusing as it didn't seem that there would be any reason to disassociate Hipsterville East - Williamsburg - from Hipsterville West - The LES. One would truly have to be in the know, in the "scene" to distinguish a happening, creative flourish of activity in Brooklyn from one not happening in Manhattan. But in a way, it does make sense. The garage rock scene did die off - all the "the" bands seem to have disappeared, moved on, or changed their game. And while the Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge, Pianos, Cake Shop, and Arlene's Grocery all pack in a ton of excellent and creative acts - there is a sense of being stifled in the LES. If anything, it's a product of rent and migration. As more and more artists moved to Brooklyn as a means of survival, they turned Brooklyn into the self-sustaining city it is today. Why trek across the packed L train or pay expensive cab fares over the bridge when you can set up shop a few blocks away in a loft?

A few observations on the piece:
-The dismissal of not having Brooklyn roots was sort of obnoxious. It is doubtful that there is some backlash against these bands for not being made up of born-and-bred Brooklynites. Rock n' roll has never been organic to Brooklyn. It has been to Queens for some reason, but not Brooklyn. Brooklyn natives used to be pop singers and now they're mostly rappers. So relax. Fuggedaboutit!
-While Todd P is mostly correct in that none of these bands sound the same, most - at least those profiled on MTV - all seem to be inspired by the DIY-keep-it-dissonant ethic of the No Wave movement that were headlined once by Sonic Youth, again by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and will be headlined again by one of these bands. It all does sort of blend together after a bit.
-Kyp Malone may be seen all over Williamsburg but you know - you can see him all over Chelsea too. So there.

As all things of this nature go, there is always instant nostalgia for a few years before. All these come-and-gone live spaces longed for and remembered by a dwindling few as new blood comes to roost in the new hot spots. It's happened to Manhattan neighborhoods over and over and it will happen again in Brooklyn. As Zebulon has replaced Tonic, something in the next few years will probably replace Zebulon. And in 10-15 years, people in Sheepshead Bay, Canarsie, and Coney Island will talk about the old days of Yeasayer and MGMT at a Todd P party on Bushwick Ave (or something to that effect).
Of course by that time, Brooklyn may very well just be independent from Manhattan altogether (let's face it, it isn't just the hipsters that don't need Manhattan to survive...all the new immigrant communities all over the borough seem to be doing just fine) and we'll all be distracted by the Mayoral election contest between the incumbent old fogey Bruce Rattner and the insurgent relative youngster Elwood Pennypacker, whose coalition of Carribean, Russian, Chinese, and Hipsters, combined with a surprise endoresment from former President Bloomberg, could deliver City Hall at Erasmus to the upstart. Plus, the TV on the Radio reunion show at the Brooklyn Dodgers first game back home since '57 will be all the rage. You never know...

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