Thursday, December 12, 2013

12 Things Tiny Unsigned Indie Bands Love About NYC

Not to be a Negative Nancy, I wanted to write a follow up to the 12 things tiny unsigned NYC indie bands hate list that I published over the summer. Anyway, it's taken me for-F'ing-ever to get it together because of various life distractions: lack of discipline, sickness, health... activities both curricular and extracurricular... It's not a point for point counter argument to the original list, but it touches on a lot of similar themes. I guess it goes to show that a lot of the unique aspects of this crazy complicated dirt hole/fantasy land of a city can be seen as either positive or negative, depending on mere circumstance. OK, here goes....

GHOSTESS rocks a Brooklyn backyard. They play our holiday party on 12/20

In no particular order, 12 things that tiny unsigned indie bands love about NYC:

 #1. Public Transportation/Cabs. Though it can be a rough time lugging gear on public transportation, if you plan ahead and minimize what you need to bring, you can usually get away with bringing a gig bag and maybe a backpack. At the end of the night, hop on the train or hail a cab (fairly cheap if you're only going a couple of miles). You don't need a designated driver, everyone can drink and act like rockstars. Now, if a bandmate has a car, you'll probably end up having to pile in and drag stuff back to the practice space, just because you don't want to be the jerk who took off without carrying an amp. Of course, you didn't really need to bring that amp because....

 #2. Backline. Yes, some of it is terrible. Beat to shit drum kits, static-y lifeless solid-state guitar combos, "fart-y"bass rigs (you know the sound)... but it's something that we take for granted. Few musicians here own cars, and even fewer own cars that could transport a full kit and amps. Because of that, it's understood that there will be house equipment to use, and goddamn, it makes everything so much easier on everyone. Other places don't do this. The drummer has to actually carry their WHOLE KIT, to their gig. Oh, the humanity.

 #3. Everything is nearby. The bodega is nearby. The next bar is nearby. You know what else is nearby? Philly, Boston, and like 100 smaller cities and college towns. Yes, most musicians don't have cars, gas is expensive, and the traffic leaving NYC can be atrocious, BUT, there's so many places to play, so many weekend tours to be had, more or less right outside the city limits. Fifty million people live between Boston and D.C. and New York is right in middle of that.

 #4. Food is always available. Almost anywhere you are in NYC, there's a cheap bite to be had within a 10 minute walk from wherever the hell you currently are. Look, you load in, you wait to play, you have some drinks... it always takes longer than you think. The next thing you know, it's late, the show is over, and you realize you haven't eaten anything in 6+ hours. NO PROBLEM... and man, did those cheese fries soak the poison right out of your system or what? Almost every other town closes down. NYC does not.

 #5. This is Never-Never Land. Another thing that NYC doesn't seem to do is age. Not that you should ever give a fuck what square society thinks of your life, but it's nice to be around so many people from 20 to "whatever who is even keeping count it's dark and we're drunk anyway," who all love rock music and hang out on school nights and have opinions on art.

 #6. A good practice space is like owning another property. You work on Wall Street make a trillion dollars and have a giant apartment. I work retail, drink Carnaby's Gin, shop at nowhere, and don't have a savings account... BUT I have two properties! It's nice to practice in your house, but honestly, I kinda like having a dedicated music room that I share with a bunch of other musicians. It puts me in a more professional mindset, and also, since I'm paying extra for something, I tend to make better use of it. In addition to that, I always have a space where I can pee, warm up, drop off a bag I don't want to carry, etc. (with the amount of walking I do around the city, this is no small thing).

 #7. Diversity. There is so much going on here, it can be overwhelming. That being said, you'll never hear a musician or artist, or writer, complain about NYC's diversity. Diversity is the lifeblood of creativity. Wherever you are, you're a stones throw from an entirely different culture. Just to get to work today, I walked five blocks through a 75% Latino neighborhood, waited for the train with a dozen Hasids, and took said train to my destination in Chinatown. That doesn't happen anywhere else.

 #8. Venues GALORE. It seems like every week here, there's another joint opening up. Throw in D.I.Y. lofts for small acts and bigger shows in parks during the summer, and you end up with so many possibilities. I bet you could play a show in this city every night for a year, and never play the same place twice. I've done the band thing in a small college town. There are a handful of venues, and once you shit the bed in them a couple of times, there's nowhere else to play. At that point you have to start a new band. I know people bemoan the fact that there isn't one single place that is a goto spot for "the scene," (like Max's Kansas City or CBGB's back in the day) but c'mon people, there's a little home for everyone here. If you don't like a spot, you never have to play there again, and it won't hurt your career or exposure, or anything.

 #9. D.I.Y. spaces are off the hook here. Maybe call this #8 (b) but I think it merits a paragraph to itself. In 2007 I moved into an old factory in Greenpoint. We built it out. We had a couple shows. Some big, other's small, each one a different experience. Though I live in a real apartment now (and am thankful I do), I look around at all the live/work/venue/practice space/business/permanent-party situations, and I totally understand the allure. I don't know why, (because so much shit in this city seems impossibly hard to accomplish) but it really feels like renting a loft with a couple of friends, scraping together a serviceable P.A. and starting what is basically an illegal club, is totally doable for like, anyone. Now, props to the people who have kept it going, because that takes skill (and luck), but any dedicated person can at least get something started and live the life for a little while. This is one respect in which NYC is still a city of opportunity.

#10. NYC is the media capital of the world. Yes, I totally understand that the internet means we all live in the same world-wide small town... But whatever. There are movie stars, and musicians, and there's rich ass important people and literally every cultural institution has some sort of foothold here. And y'know what? You're here too. So stand on the banks of the East River and claim your kingdom, because you belong among those people, you deserve that attention, you cram into that train with the with the most well connected people in the world. What happens on your block can impact the entire globe. Though it doesn't mean that you're a billion times more likely to become a rockstar (like it kinda used to), it does mean that there's a certain excitement around every corner. There's an energy that exists only here. There are a lot of places in this world that I love, and even more places that I haven't experienced, and I mean no disrespect when I say this, but from a certain angle, this is Capital City, and everything else is Springfield.

#11. Other NYC bands. There is so much talent here. It might work against like, ever really breaking out, but what the F ever. If you were scared of shit like that, you probably wouldn't be here in the first place. There's probably 200 bands here that are legit. I admit that I have pretty forgiving taste in music, but seriously, there are probably more good bands playing here this weekend than the average person will see in their lifetime. And you know what? They are mostly always friendly and chill, and willing to drink a beer and shoot the shit with you, even if they are "bigger" or "blowing up" or whatever. Why? Because deep down, we're all Brownie Scouts in the same crazy city-wilderness.

#12. This place makes you better. It just does. If you have what it takes to be an active musician here for a couple of years, you become a professional, even if you've never taken a lesson in your life, or earned anything more than a free beer. Young bands make mistakes, but they grow up fast. Experience comes at you like a boot in the face, lessons are hard, and learned quick. If you live here and you can make yourself be a sponge, you can be all at once an apprentice of everything.

WE HAVE A HOLIDAY PARTY!!! Before I forget, 12/20 at Pet Rescue. Not that many people will be in town, but the ones that are will huddle up and listen to some good bands.

RSVP ---> here.

Like HBR on Facebook ---> here.

Hate my list? Leave a comment, wise guy.


  1. "So stand on the banks of the East River and claim your kingdom"
    You glorious, poetic bastard.

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