Location: 107 Himrod St. Owners: Gladys and Julio Franco-Colon Special guests: Robby Franco-Colon and extended family
In a place like Bushwick, with its industrial landscape and lack of greenery, a little cheery lighting and merry spirit can go a long way. Gladys and Julio Franco-Colon of 107 Himrod St. have maintained this outlook for the 13 years they’ve lived here. Their son Robby, dressed year-round as an angel, only makes the process more enjoyable for them, they tell me.
We briefly discussed the family’s early years of Bushwick living. Those early years were tough, Gladys told me. This, of course, comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the neighborhood’s history of violence and drugs. The house is one of several on the block that has a lawn, an atypical addition around here, and is still equipped with a heavy fence that needs to be locked from the inside and outside. Trick-or-treating, treated today as an activity to be carried out with extreme caution (or not at all) by overbearing parents everywhere, was considered truly unwise in Bushwick over a decade ago. Gladys is happy that things have since changed for the better.
But we didn’t dwell on the past so much. We quickly moved on to other more current, lighthearted topics – decoration placement, photography, and Robby’s singing abilities.
Check out the slideshow below. (You’ll wonder how I kept from pinching Robby’s cheeks off.)
John, Frank and Gilian around the table at Good Bye Blue Monday. Individually, they are shiny pieces, together photon dynamo. (Photo by Katarina Hybenova)
This is the story of a baby monster’s love for a human girl. This little girl had super speed vision. She could see individual photons in real time as they were propelled from the sun into the Earth’s atmosphere.
It is not clear whether the little girl ever reciprocated the baby monster’s love. Their relationship was dynamic, the legend says, but little is known of its foundation.
We are gathered around a table in Goodbye Blue Monday’s recently renovated backyard in Bushwick. Night has fallen and the air begins to cool quickly. Gillian can’t decide if she is cold or not. I watch her remove and replace her hat for the fifth time.
It’s a curious picture: three cosmically charged pieces at a round table, workshopping each other’s raw material. They feed off each other’s energy, but rather than being destructive, they grow stronger as a unit. The results can be found in their third album, At The Fort Brooklyn, launched just last week in collaboration with Skips Records.
Frank has a theory. “Individually, we are all shiny pieces,” he says, nodding at Gillian and John. “When we combine our powers, we come together. We become Photon Dynamo.”
There is a hum of silence as the group takes this in. This sounds plausible. They nod in agreement.
Each of the shiny pieces can act as a one-man band. “We’re all songwriters. We all put our two cents in,” says Gillian.
While John sticks to drums, Gillian to bass and Frank to guitar, they can all play one another’s instruments and sing. This is uncommon in most bands, they tell me. This way they are less selfish in their songwriting.
A solo artist has just themselves and their guitar to accommodate. A band is comprised of two or more units that must work as one brain. This can become problematic when parts of the band are not considerate of the others.
“I do my best to half-write songs,” says Frank. I don’t question his choice not to one-third-write his songs. A degree of overlap appears necessary, as well as some indulgence.
John tries his best to put every song on the chopping block. He describes himself as a minimalist, which is reflected in his introspective presence at the table.
“I always need to make songs shorter,” he says. “I’m always cutting parts out.”
Gillian pouts. Her songs are usually the longest.
“I bring in a song and he cuts a whole part out,” she laments. “And I’m like, ‘But that’s the part that ties it all together!’”
Although there is occasional head butting, John tells me that the word ‘no’ is a rare utterance at rehearsals. There is no tension between the band mates and they laugh easily at each other and themselves.
“There’s not a lot of ego involved,” Frank says about their process.
I extrapolated the data and made a couple of “scientific” guesses. Perhaps the little girl reciprocated the baby monster’s love. But as luck would have it, such a union was never meant to be. When their dynamic love reached its peak, it exploded into trillions of tiny little light particles. Some became stars. Most blew away. Three little shiny particles, by fate or coincidence, landed in New York City.
The speculation ends there. You know the rest of the story.
Join Photon Dynamo and the Shiny Pieces at Lone Wolf on Friday, Oct. 14 at 9PM. Cover charge: $0.00.
The Raincoats, a post-punk 70s fem band kicked off their North American tour at Warsaw, Greenpoint’s combination rock club-Polish National House, on Saturday. It is the first of six rare shows scheduled to promote the reissue of their sophomore album Odyshape, originally released in 1981.
One-lady act No Bra and three-piece girl band Grass Widow appear earlier on this estrogen-powered bill, with all-girl DJ set Tobi Vail (Bikini Kill) & Amy Yao (Emily’s Sassy Lime) arranged to conclude the night.
Anticipation is running high on the queue outside Warsaw, as the bands spend an extra hour setting up. Emma Casey, 20, is near the front of the line hoping that the doors will open soon.
“There’s nothing like them,” she says about the headlining band. “Their sound is organic. The sound they make on stage is the same as the one they record in the studio.” She finds that this is a rarity among new bands.
Warsaw finally opens its doors once the line reaches the end of the street. A steady stream of people slowly fills the hall. Some head for the bar while others make a beeline for the refreshments room to grab a plate of pierogies before the start of the show.
Sound check begins just as the crowd starts to thicken. A lot of older fans can be seen milling around.
Mark Bourdeau, a college teacher, is so delighted that he nearly hops up and down. He enjoys listening to “thinking person’s music.” This stuff is genuinely quirky, simple and ironic in a way that is not mean, he says.
The Raincoats are a special group to Mark. “They are not a female version of anything,” he says. Other female rock icons of the same era were often compared to other men, like Joan Jett, who was sometimes credited as the female Chuck Berry.
When the ladies hit the stage their energy sends the crowd into motion. A lot has changed since this band’s official start in 1977, but their enthusiasm has certainly not diminished.
“More bass!” someone calls from the crowd after the first song. The Raincoats quickly oblige. They are not hesitant to interact with their fans. As Anne Woods tears into her violin as though it were a guitar, Gina Birch fans the flames in the crowd.
“You ask me if I’m angry? I say, why the hell would I not be?” she cries out. Her question meets an eruption of cheers.
While some of music’s more academic critics worry about equating types of music with sexuality, The Raincoats have an unmistakable female sound. Songs like “In Love” and “No Looking,” Emma says, have ways of reassuring young female fans that other punk sounds do not.
“Yeah that’s what is feels like,” Emma says, referring to the two songs as a set. “Being elated – in love.”
Female fans aren’t the only ones to feel rewarded tonight. As the front of the crowd works itself into a frenzy, one particularly affected young man finds his way onto the stage. The show can be considered a hit at this point.
“You ask me if I’m happy,” Gina sings softly. “I say, why the hell would I not be?”