24 March 2007

Welcome To The Bronx

So declaimed Grath McGrath, lead singer and guitarist for the Steinways, midway through their set at the Bruckner Bar and Grill, tucked away under the Willis Avenue Bridge in an obscure (well, to me, anyway, and to most of the people with me) corner of the Bronx.

I didn't get the impression - though I could be wrong; it has been known to happen - that Grath himself was a habitué of the Bronx, so I'm assuming his "Welcome to the Bronx" crack as meant to be ironic, spoken as it was to an almost entirely white and middle-class crowd of pop-punkers. But then it's always dangerous to assume, so I'll just say, "Thanks, Grath, it's good to be here in the Bronx tonight," even though it's now a few hours later and I'm not anymore.

The show was put on by one Dan Crafty, of Crafty Records, himself a Bronx boy, though of the City Island variety, i.e., not the Bronx of incinerated housing projects and feral crack gangs, if indeed that Bronx exists anymore. I wouldn't know; I'm a bit ashamed to admit that my entire experience in the Bronx, apart from driving through it once on my way down from New England, has consisted of one flying visit almost 40 years ago, where I got off the subway at the Grand Concourse station, jumping back on the train before the doors closed, just so that I'd be able to say that I'd set foot in all five boroughs.

Taking advantage of our ignorance, Crafty Dan put out what could be construed as a slightly misleading flyer, claiming that the Bruckner Bar and Grill, a lone outpost of gentrification in a neighborhood that could probably do with a fair bit more gentrification before anyone noticed it had happened, was practically within sight of the "first subway stop in the Bronx." In other words, it was hardly like going to the Bronx at all, more like a neat little corner of Manhattan North that had by some accident of geography been left on the wrong side of the Bronx divide.

Well, Mr. Crafty was indeed being economical with the truth; the bar was nowhere in sight from the subway, and we (I started out alone, but accumulated Bill Moon and Jim Jersey Beat at various points on the 6 train; nothing to make a guy feel at home in the big city like friends randomly getting on the same train he's on) wandered the streets in a befuddled fog, at one point soliciting directions from a genial policemen, and when even that didn't deliver results, from a local girl who gave us the once-over and said, "Oh, you looking for the bar?" as though there were nowhere else in the neighborhood that a pack of clueless-looking gringos would be going.

So it turned out to be more like five blocks than one from the subway; as Crafty Man freely admitted afterward, nobody would have come if he'd put the actual directions. Never mind; we were there now, and got to watch Project 27's Weaselcore, the Steinways' punk rock classics in the making, Phrank Martian's Nancy, down from Binghamton (I always want to remind him that Binghamton is the place where our van broke down on the way to Woodstock in 1969, but that veers rather precipitously into old codger territory, nay, old hippie codger territory, which is far worse), and finally, playing their second show of the evening, the Unlovables, who were celebrating the release of their new album and who were in top form.

The night was supposed to be a battle between New York and New Jersey bands to mark the release on Crafty Records of a new CD based on that theme, but none of the Jersey bands showed up (unless you count Mikey Erg as a one-man band, which probably wouldn't be inaccurate, but tonight he was playing for the New York-based Unlovables and not the mighty Ergs, the other two of whom, I understand, were off bowling or something. On one level it was nothing out of the ordinary, just a good, all-round pop-punk show, but on the other hand, it was interesting and gratifying to see how many more people were turning out than would have for a similar show a year or two ago, even though it took place slightly outside the bounds and comfort zone of the usual pop-punk scene.

I remember haranguing Jonnie Whoa Oh a few years back about how the then-dire state of the New York scene was entirely down to him: if he and a couple of his friends didn't take things in hand and make them happen, it would just shrivel up and disappear. Not to take a thing away from Mr. Whoa Oh; he's done a great deal first to keep things alive and later to keep them growing, but it was significant in a way that Jonnie wasn't even there tonight - due to illness, apparently - and the show was still a whopping success. There was a time, not so long ago, when if Jonnie Whoa Oh wasn't there, not only would the party be missing much of its life, it would also be missing about 10% of its audience.

Things have changed, if not enormously, at least significantly for the better. Now for the first time since the glory days of the late 70s, people are starting to look at New York as the place where great punk rock and pop-punk comes from. People are even moving here to be near and/or part of the scene. I remember being amazed when kids started showing up in Berkeley back in the late 80s, attracted by the whole Gilman thing, and now I get the feeling it's happening here. Tonight the pop-punk revolution raised its flag, however tentatively, over one small corner of the Bronx; a rush and a push into Staten Island and it will be proudly unfurled over all the five boroughs, and once that's happened, what distant outposts will be left to conquer? On to Yonkers and Poughkeepsie!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The "pop-punk revolution," my friend, is not at hand. New York 2007 is not Berkeley 1987. Not by a long shot. Just like London 1997 wasn't either.

New York may indeed have another artistic and cultural day in the sun, but to suggest that that event will occur in the context of a pop-punk revival is very delusional, Larry!

Can you say "false alarm?"

Larry Livermore said...

::New York 2007 is not Berkeley 1987::

Do you think?

Justin said...

I always love how those who bark the loudest, are the ones who often use "Anonymous". As if either they are scared of putting their shit out there, and being wrong or right and being called on it. Or they just like to jump in a situation.. act like an idiot, then jump out. Hahaha.

Anonymous said...

Justin,

What's more important, the content and relative merits of the comments being made, or the identity of those making them?

Anyway. I don't recommend anyone investing themselves emotionally and spiritually in a New York 2007 "pop-punk revolution." It's not even a house of cards. It's less than that. It's a deck that's not even stacked up, and isn't even complete (and never will be.)

But, hey, who am I to say anything? After all, until you see my driver's license and social security number, or I give myself a deeply revealing screen name like "Bob in Nevada" or "Justin," my opinion is worthless.

Justin said...

Point made mr. ghostman. :)

kristina said...

dramaaa! this is good.

Chris A. said...

I'm more curious what makes "Anonymous" such an expert on the New York pop-punk scene.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering the same thing, Chris. Unless it's somebody who has experienced both Berkeley 1987 AND NYC 2007 (like Larry has), he doesn't really have any grounds to make that statement. Just like I don't have any grounds to make that statement. All I know is that from the late 90's up until now, NYC has been an excellent, excellent place to be if you're a fan of pop punk or underground punk rock in general. So many great bands, so many great people, such a great scene. I feel blessed to be a part of it. This is Chadd Derkins, who didn't remember his log-in information, signing off.

Anonymous said...

''''I'm more curious what makes "Anonymous" such an expert on the New York pop-punk scene. ''''

Actually, you may be shocked to discover that I am in fact not an "expert" on the New York pop-punk scene of 2007. Moreover, I'm not an expert on the Kabul, Bratislava, Lhasa, or Ulaanbaatar pop-punk scenes either.

But, come on. Is your view seriously that one needs to be an "expert" to know that the "pop-punk revolution" of any of these places is not at hand?

On the other hand, if I had a nickel for every time a scene that was not in fact revolutionary but had prematurely been declared "revolutionary," in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, I'd be rich enough to discover Ulaanbaatar first hand.

erika said...

"Where's Larry?"

Psmith said...

::Actually, you may be shocked to discover that I am in fact not an "expert" on the New York pop-punk scene of 2007. Moreover, I'm not an expert on the Kabul, Bratislava, Lhasa, or Ulaanbaatar pop-punk scenes either.::

Don't keep us waiting. What are your thoughts on those scenes?

PS: Chadd, click on "Other" and then you can enter any name you want rather than posting anonymously as well