The music scene in New York has been in poor shape for some time now.
The Williamsburg Music Scene - The Labels, the Venues, the Artists
* * * *
Is this statement a surprise? It should be because supposedly we are living
in the cultural Mecca of the world. What strange times we live in when the
music of the burbs (from which most of us "escaped") is surpassing
our own in originality and in sheer vitality, for that matter. Where is
our Velvet Underground? What happened to Public Enemy? Where is our New
The bottom line is there is no music scene in New York used-to-be-Fucking
Want to see music, go to Chicago, DC, or get out of the country. There
is little to be found here.
But thankfully things are not as grim as they seem. In our lovely little
neighborhood overflowing with artists, little breaths of originality have
finally begun to emerge. Thanks in part to local venues such as Pete's
Candy Store (who recently hosted Will Oldham), Sin-e,
Galapagos Art Space,
Rubulad, and even the Charleston, Williamsburg is slowly giving
birth to a rising music scene.
Additionally, Williamsburg is home to various music labels including LuLu
Records and Baraka. The growth
of these labels has strengthened the local music scene with their symbiotic
relationship to local artists.
If you have been a good consumer lately in local establishments such
as The Read or Earwax, you probably have seen the most recent
release put out by Lulu, Women of Williamsburg. This 20 track disk
will be a delight to fans of folk and alternative and best of all, as
the title suggests, only local artists are featured. From the alt-folk
of local favorite Lizzie West, to the indie rock opener "Not
My Valentine" by Suziblade, WOW has a vitality that
will be encouraging to local musicians.
Most importantly, all proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. This
alone makes the disk worth buying.
And don't miss Rockets Hip by Chris Stewart, Lulu Record's premiere
release. Chris, formerly of Ministry and Alternatives has
created a disk filled with offbeat melodies and strong songwriting that
will not disappoint. This melodic and mellow disk is a huge departure
from Chris' days with Ministry demonstrating his wide range as a musician.
Lulu Records is located on 67 South 3rd Street, Suite 4.
Baraka Foundation, whose East Coast
office can be found on 255 North 8th Street, is another important label
coming out of Williamsburg. Their recent compilation disk The Observation
of Ruins showcases an eclectic blend of dub, drum and bass, techno,
acid jazz, and Hip Hop.
I picked it up at Earwax for 3 bucks and, though disjointed, I was impressed
with the quality of music on this record. Skip the fratboy, Chemical Brothers-influenced
opener by Mark Astel and open your ears to a pretty solid compilation.
Baraka Foundation, like Lulu Records, has a conscious and values that
transcend the dollar sign as is obvious in their stated mission:
Baraka strives to bridge the artificial, man-made gaps between artist
and label, music and visuals, linear and non-local, science and magick.
In Kabbalistic terms, "a balanced tree".
Observation of Ruins
Maybe too blunted or mystical for your average, jaded New Yorker, but
refreshing when one considers Big Business competitor Columbia Records
whose mission statement should be "pumping out homogenized garbage
for mass distribution to the nondiscriminating public."
Regardless, with artists such as Dr. Israel, Headquarter, and Jean-Pierre
Sullys, The Observation of Ruins is not to be missed.
Most notably, Williamsburg has seen the rise of a music scene influenced
by Old time, Hillbilly, Bluegrass, Vintage Country, and Swing. Most notably,
The Howard Fishman Quartet
has developed quite a following as of late coming off the release of their
haunting new CD I Like you a Lot. Blending the old time sound of
vintage country and blues with the improvisation of jazz, HFQ has seamlessly
created something vital and new.
If you have not experienced this band live, don't miss the upcoming anniversary
show at Pete's Candy Store. They play there every Thursday night at 10pm
and were the first band to ever take stage at this beloved Williamsburg
venue that is celebrating its one-year birthday. This event will take
place Thursday, April 5th at 10pm. For the full HFQ schedule, click
Other notable local bands include the Goats
in Trees with their eclectic melodies that some have compared to Yo
La Tengo, the vibrant sounds of Mahogany featured here
in Free Williamsburg, and of course the the Reverend
Vince Anderson and his Love Choir who sound like the Make-up, born again.
And the list gos on with the countless bands we have surely overlooked.
Reverend with an Elder
So maybe Williamsburg, or New York for that matter, is not currently revolutionizing
music, but there are some hopeful signs that the energy levels are building
as the crest of a New Wave becomes visible on the horizon.
Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry
Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
| April 2001 | Issue 13