By Sean Alday
The only way to make it through this weekend was with a flask and a water bottle. It began long before it officially began, but debauchery is not the point so let’s start at Shea Stadium.
It was a muggy Friday evening and two bands whom I really enjoy were playing along with another that a friend suggested. I showed up pretty late, enough time to catch the end of Backwords’ stoner-friendly set. Sweat beading on everyone while the lead guitarist lunged his way out of a sloppy guitar solo swamp of his own creation. The keyboardist was exchanging looks with everyone including the bouncy bass player as those notes became less and less streamlined and more out of tune. They concluded on two slash-and-burn guitar strokes.
Whiskey, Yuengling and cigarettes passed the time while the Starlight Girls were setting up. Once I came in from smoking I saw something close to my heart. A Danelectro Shorthorn guitar. I’d played one for the entirety of my electric guitar playing years.
This is a hard/fun guitar to play live. The light “e” string breaks with such frequency that you have to either play without it or learn how to quickly change strings on stage. Tweaking even the volume nob on this guitar can turn it into an oboe. The strangest part of this guitar is that the lipstick pick-up close to the neck is too thin and the lower one is usable but boorish. So the pickup switch is best used in the middle position and then you have to fix all four knobs based on intuition. For all of that work and patience, the guitarist earns one of the most satisfying surf-guitar tones found in a modern guitar.
The Starlight Girls began by playing songs that I hadn’t heard by them. To be fair, I’ve listened to their song “Flutterby” more than anything else that they’ve produced. Coming to this show was a leap of faith based on their studio work. For musicianship’s sake, it’s worth noting that the drummer harmonizes with the keyboardist/flute player and maintains rhythm with the bass player. The songs are sharp. The singers have this vocal chemistry that I’m the perfect sucker for, and they’re perfect combo to pull someone like me into that trance.
Next up were The Nuclears. A band I’d seen once at the Opera House for a record release party. This band makes you feel alive. The singer used the dance floor as his stage with a Punk-Rock-Van-Morrison-swagger. So check them out sometime to boogie.
I was rendered deaf for the rest of the night and most of the next day.
I awoke to have some coffee before leaving for Roberta’s Block Party extravaganza palooza. With that flask and water bottle in tow I set off. Before I had even gone one block I found a blocked street with Children’s Keytars hanging from the trees. Food was cooking and a church group was in front of their space singing into a microphone. Tambourines and maracas providing the backing music. I walked to them and began asking questions. Como se dice ‘song’? I wanted to know what was the name of the song where I could only make out the words “the spirit of god.”
A woman introduced herself as Pastor Melendez, “We’re a bi-lingual church. Who are you?”
“I’m just a writer.” I looked for the words to describe who I am, but there weren’t any in my mind, in my native tongue or Spanish. I suppose that I could have answered if asked in French with “Je suis perdu” a phrase gifted to me by a nurse, but only meaning that I am lost in my mind.
She told me that I was welcome to come back talking over the calls to “Open your heart to Jesus.”
I thanked her but did not tell her that Jesus makes me sad. Which is a hard thing to explain.
I pressed on to Moore Street. It was near one at this time and the line to get into the corridor of barricades was short. Crif Dogs gave out condoms which I took because I stupidly thought that they would look like hot dogs.
The block party was like logging into Facebook via dial up and waiting to press the “like” button on a few things. The firemen from Engine 237 were talkative and friendly while setting up a sprinkler cap. Bobby Buka M.D. offered to look at any warts I might have and no matter how many times they said that there was no more free pizza, a line kept forming outside the Tiki Bar. I’m thankful that I had that flask.
I walked into Ridgewood at some point because it’s more pleasant to smoke DMT there than in Bushwick. There were other blocks cordoned off with music spilling out of them.
While passing back into Bushwick the rain finally came and I ducked into Kave where a friendly piano player sold me a cup of hot coffee. At some point I found myself walking down Troutman Street at dusk and saw orange caution tape that led me into the backyard of Secret Project Robot and the exhibition: You Are Here.
A certain type of person coming to Bushwick for the first time hopes to find this kind of place.
I walked into the maze and spoke to people through the twine walls. “Maps” came on and I pretended to be a keyboard player miming the guitar parts with red and blue and green and yellow colors instead of notes. I walked home feeling great thanks to that installation.
The next morning I listened to Astral Weeks by Van Morrison for 8 hours and wrote this.