By Katarina Hybenova
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Oliver Ralli likes to get his coffee at Wycoff Starr. He never sits inside; he prefers to occupy one of the chairs in front of the café, observing the autumn Bushwick when the color of things gets saturated and the air is crisp.
It’s year 2011, and a lot has changed in the life of the singer of a cult Bushwick band, Pass Kontrol, since he came to New York City in 1997. “I never got tired of the City,” he says. We met up in front of Wycoff Starr, naturally. Oliver finished his coffee while I locked my bike. Adam, Oliver’s year-long friend and Pass Kontrol’s co-founder, who was just working his shift at the coffee shop came out to say hi. “This is what I love about this place. All the people you meet here,” Oliver smiles.
“I got keys from The Bushwick Starr. Another favorite place of mine,” Oliver says joyfully. Pass Kontrol used to rehearse at Bushwick’s experimental theater located in a huge loft. Last year in February, the band presented an apocalyptic play titled New Hope City there, which was a huge success. The play was very loose, “ragtag,” as Oliver says.
Oliver and I bike down Flushing Ave; we’re passing the factories, trucks parked on the side of the road, and the rest of the industrial wasteland. Suddenly, a white farm with a huge green yard emerges on our right side. The fairy tale-like house hits us like a miracle. “ Onderdonk House,” another place favorite place of Oliver. Four dogs bark at us, pretending to be mad to fulfill their guardian duty. They turn into lovable puppies as soon as we’re let in. The atmosphere of the Victorian house is magical. Oliver greets everyone. Pass Kontrol rehearses in the attic of the house several times a week. “This is a very special place for me. Jessica and I got married here three years ago,” Oliver smiles about the unexpected discovery of romance in the industrial corner between Bushwick and Ridgewood.
Another favorite location Oliver wants to take me to is his home at Gates Avenue, Ridgewood. The basement of the house is also the home to a famous gallery, Famous Accountants. Ellen Letcher, one of the founders is Oliver’s neighbor and a friend. Oliver says that on the 11th of September 2011, he wanted to take a flight to his home Chicago from JFK airport. Due to the circumstances we all know, the flight was cancelled, and Oliver was forced to return to New York. “I just took random buses, because the subway was shut down too,” says Oliver. Somehow he made it to Ridgewood. That was his first time there. He remembers a strange, good feeling. A couple of years after, Oliver was living his life in Ridgewood. Good, rich life, full of love and good people.
Music in the narrated photo-essays: Pass Kontrol: Twins, I’m All Alone, New Hope City, Amigos