Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mobbing the Midnight Hour: A Couch Surfer's Reflection upon June and Otherwise

A better version of this post can be found @:

New York is

"Because the night belongs to lovers. Because the night belongs to us." Patti Smith's classic song rang throughout Whitaker Street's Hangfire, as DJ Brian Lackey spun an exuberant crowd into last call. Such was the auspicious climate of Friday, June 18th - the night of Outlet Magazine's Summer 2010 release party.

The fun began at The Co-Laboratory, where attendees were treated to live music and copies of the publication we were all out to toast. Thrill seekers then spilled over to Hangfire, where the PBR flowed like water, and Savannah proved that it deserves the title of "Dance Party Capital of the East Coast."

Last week's Outlet party was the culmination of an adventurous month, which began, not only with New York is Boring's 3 day launch party, but with the symphonic invasion of Athens-based troupe Venice is Sinking onto our turf in the Low Country.

Athens, GA is no menial point of origin for a band. The city has, in the past, given us The B-52s, R.E.M. and Of Montreal. Venice is Sinking released their latest album, Sand and Lines, on June 15th. A quietly experimental live piece, it possesses a gentle, yet profound sense of melody and composition. With a creation such as this under their belt, Venice is Sinking might just be the next essential puzzle piece to emerge from that prolific locale.

Until recently, it seemed that Savannah was a forgotten city on tour routes. The times, it seems, have changed. Venues such as The Jinx, The Wormhole and The Co-Laboratory create raw, honest experiences for audiences. Things are happening here in Georgia, and other locations on the East Coast could learn from its example.

The music circuit in my hometown of New York was once filled with a sense of grassroots dynamics. Much of the spark that had resided there is now absent, and the current conducted energy level is often equal to that of staring at the walls of a bank interior.

Now, I would like to provide a little back story. I grew up in Merrick, Long Island, and went to high school in the mid-late 1990s, an era which many consider to be the "glory years" of the Long Island music scene. My early experiences range from sitting in on countless basement band practices, to getting kicked in the face in a mosh pit at The PWAC.

At 13, I caught a Foo Fighters show at NYC's Tramps - 3 months before the release of their 1st album. When I was 15, my buddies and I danced on the stage during a performance by San Francisco punk outfit Tilt. That same year, I also stepped in a pool of vomit at a Bouncing Souls show. I just thought you'd like to know that.

Those last 2 episodes took place at Coney Island High on St. Mark's Place, which, to me, is STILL the coolest place to have ever existed. The above accounts are, obviously, remembrances of things past, and I regret to inform you that all of the aforementioned venues had shut their doors by the early 2000s.

Today's fledgling Long Island bands often have to take it to backyards to showcase their stuff. While up there earlier this month, I attended one such exploit. The event was to promote local band Midnight Mob's debut as headliners at NYC's Webster Hall on Sunday, June 27th.

Opening acts Vision Through Sound and Harold's Trousers kicked off the evening, which reached its climax when Midnight Mob took to the arena with its self-described brand of "Psychedelic Sex Rock." Their strong class rock influence, and electric live energy, conveyed that they are certainly worthy of tearing up the main stage at Webster Hall.

Produced by Chris Russell, Midnight Mob includes Lauren "Blackey" Palazzo (vocals), Mickey "Squeez" Occhino (lead guitar), Carly Quinn (bass), Michael James "Mikey Catastrophe" Sarna (drums) and Sal "Spydyr" Manteria (rhythm guitar).

They originally united as a cover band in 2008, but quickly abandoned that route in favor of creating original music. They've spent the past year competing in a contest sponsored by Emergenza, winning 1st place in both initial rounds. The show at Webster Hall is the final round of U.S. competition, and if they win, Midnight Mob will head off to perform in Germany.

Their ability to work as a team has greatly expanded their fan base, and Sarna feels that, with the addition of Spydyr this past spring, things have "finally come together." "This is just the beginning. It's scary and exciting," stated vocalist Blackey Palazzo. "Life has been so small. I don't think anyone grasps that it could be you."

At just 21-years-old, Blackey has already shown the verve necessary for success in the music industry. Highly influenced by Southern gospel and blues, while still a teenager, she traveled to Mississippi to aid in the post-Katrina clean-up. Blackey's sense of altruism and gratitude rang out during Mob's set that night, when they presented a wild rendition of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."

To this band, it's about more than just tours and screaming fans - it's about the soul of the music itself; one that is derived, not just from a Southern blues tradition, but from the roots of their own backyards. Guitarist Squeez is of the belief that the scene on LI currently fails to cater to original music, and that Midnight Mob can play a significant role in "bringing back" the vitality of previous generations.

The day after that backyard show, I got into my rental car to trek back to Georgia, stopping to spend a few hours in Athens with the members of Venice is Sinking. Bands such as Venice and Mob make me optimistic about the future of music, in that both are fueled by a passion stronger than the superficiality that exists in much of today's market.

When I 1st dropped into Savannah 5 years ago, I was a prematurely jaded stranger on a "blues tour" of the American South. Equipped with a spiral notebook and a video camera, I sought to answer a somewhat rhetorical question: "Is the spirit of Rock 'n' Roll alive in the land of its birth?".

While painting the town on 1 of those 1st nights, I was full of whiskey and a crisp 23-year-old attitude. At some point, I bolted across Congress St, over to The Jinx, hit the "record" button on my camera, and voiced my question to the crowd of partygoers. With just a few words, a man summed up what it has since taken me 5 years, and countless travels, to distinguish: "The spirit IS alive. The spirit is alive - HERE - in Savannah." If that same fire can be further fanned up in New York, it's possible that, one day, that place can again become, well, just a little less boring.

All photographs share a copyright with New York is

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