Station to Station

IMG_4250

.. Is the title not only of one of my favourite Bowie albums, but also a Nomadic Art Happening taking place across the United States this month — kicking off in Brooklyn last night.

Multimedia artist, Doug Aitken somehow convinced Amtrak to loan him a train that, adorned with multi-coloured LED panels and loaded with artists, will travel cross-country. From Pittsburgh tomorrow night and on to Chicago, Minneapolis, Santa Fe, Winslow, Barstow, Los Angeles, and finishing up in Oakland on September 28th.

At each stop along the way, an event is hosted inside old train stations, and a in a vintage drive-in movie theatre in Barstow. The multi disciplinary events will feature performances from the likes of Patti Smith, Thurston Moore, Beck, Cat Power, Savages and Eleanor Friedberger, as well as art by Kenneth Anger, Urs Fischer, Ernesto Neto, and Carsten Höller.

Last night’s event at the Riverfront Studios in Williamsburg began with multi-coloured smoke bombs bursting from an  Olaf Breuning installation and then a drum line and a popping of pink and grey pom-poms and silver sequins: The Kansas City Marching Cobras.

Olaf Bruening, Station to Station
Olaf Bruening. Photo by author.

While guests (the show was sold out but not crowded) explored the installations, including a yellow Ernesto Neto yurt, and Liz Glynn explained the theory of relativity in her black yurt; No Age, Free-Kitten member, Yoshimio, Hisham Akira Bharoocha and Ryan Sawyer; and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti played on the stage in front of a bold film backdrop running shorts from the likes of Yayoi Kusama and Nicolas Provost, whose spliced up film of endless cinematic kisses was my favourite.

The night ended loudly: Suicide. A band that, given the singer, Alan Vega, is 75 years old, I never thought I’d see live. Vega stumbled on, cane in one hand, drink in the other and screamed into the mic; Martin Rev, in shiny vinyl trousers, palmed and hammered the synth. Pretty damn delightful.

Suicide. Photo by author.
Suicide. Photo by author.
Suicide. Photo by author.
Suicide. Photo by author.

Here’s an interesting comment from Aitken to the Washington Post:

“The train system runs across the American landscape like untapped arteries,” Aitken wrote in an email. “Much of our journeys have been replaced by interstates and highways. I was interested in using the train to become a nomadic broadcast tower, broadcasting new and experimental culture while tapping into unknown and amazing creators from the locations in which the train stops.”

Photos From Two Months in New York

Already two months have passed since I moved here. I love my new home. Here are a few images from June and July.

Ft. Washington Park
Ft. Washington Park
Ft. Washington Bridge.
Ft. Washington Bridge.
Little Red Lighthouse
Little Red Lighthouse
4th of July Fireworks
4th of July Fireworks
14th St. Station
14th St. Station
Street Coffee.
Street Coffee.
NYC Pride
NYC Pride
NYC Pride
NYC Pride
Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach
Coney Island.
Coney Island.
Cyclone
Cyclone
The Daily Show.
The Daily Show.
Bushwick Pride.
Bushwick Pride.

A Brief Trip to the Electric Room

Remember when MTV used to play music? I do. Maybe I am a lot older than you.

I never had MTV, growing up, we couldn’t afford it, so I used to get my penpal in Berkshire to mail me videotapes of my favourite music promos and shows. The newest clips from the Breeders; recordings of Hole guest-hosting a show I’ve long forgotten the name of … I’ll never forget PJ Harvey’s video for Down by the Water. I’d watch it, rewind the tape, watch it again, sick on lipgloss and fake eyelashes, and sinking deeper into the dark thoughts that bloomed around the ages of 15, 16 … but I digress.

The internet and music video channel, VEVO has recently entered into a partnership with Dream Downtown to bring its 24-hour music channel to the hotel’s guestrooms. They had a launch party earlier this week and I was lucky enough to be invited: very lucky because it’s usually a serious mission to get into Dream Downtown’s velvet-roped-off Electric Room basement club. Sceney, obviously, but it was fun; here’s some pictures.

Dream Downtown exterior
Dream Downtown exterior
Passage leading to Electric Room
Passage leading to Electric Room
IMG_2686
Electric Room art
Electric Room art
Electric Room art
They had a DJ while playing music videos ...
They had a DJ while playing music videos …
The scene.
The scene.

The Little Red Lighthouse

IMG_2462

“Fat and red and jolly” is how Hildegard Swift described Jeffrey’s Hook Light in her beloved tale The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Although the red lighthouse has not shone its light in years, it is, like in the book, still proud to have a job to do: pleasing children and tourists.

The book, which was published in 1942, tells the story of the lighthouse’s fear that it no longer is of any use when a great grey bridge is built next to it, with its own flashing light, making it feel small and unimportant. One night during a storm, however, the bridge calls to the lighthouse reassuring it that it still has work to do: “each to his own place,” it says, and so the lighthouse proudly gets back to work.

It was this story that saved the lighthouse in 1951 when it was threatened with being torn down. Fans of Swift’s book campaigned for it to stay, and so it sits there today, under George Washington Bridge in northwestern Manhattan. As the book says, you should “see for yourself.”

 

 

New York City in Pictures

Subway. Photo by author.

The first time I ever went to New York, I travelled with my friend Jane and a torn out map of Sex in the City locations. In my early twenties, finishing up college in the early years of the millennium, I thought that a designer shopping, martini sipping lifestyle was what I was supposed to be moving towards because that was the message I was reading via the fashion magazines I used to buy.

The first time I went to New York City alone, a train conductor spied me puzzling over a map and slyly asked if I was running away from home.

I usually try to return to NYC every year, but vapid thoughts of SATC stay where they belong: the early 2000s. I don’t visit to run away anymore, although I often visit alone. Strangely I find a closeness in the big city; that there’s a space for me among the differences I see between everyone. Now that I live in a city where I have to drive everywhere, riding the subway gives me a feeling of connection that is missing in my current (temporary) hometown.

My relationship with the city has changed in the ten years since my first visit. NYC isn’t something to be feared or conquered; I don’t approach it as if attending a job interview anymore.

The Jane Hotel. Photo by author.

I stayed at the Jane Hotel in the West Village. The red-brick building used to house sailors and was occupied by Titanic survivors in 1912. Staff are dressed in red old-timey bellhop uniforms — the lady that checked me in owned hers; complementing it with huge red-framed oval glasses. The rooms are tiny, befitting the nautical theme that runs throughout, and country accents, such as a stuffed peacock and antlers in the lobby, lend a bohemian air.

The Jane Hotel. Photo by author.

During the day I took the subway to and from Brooklyn.

Skyline from Subway. Photo by author.

Walked through Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park.

Brooklyn Cherry Blossom. Photo by author.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by author.
Crabapple. Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by author.

I walked along the High Line.

High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.
High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.
Bird feeders along High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.

…And through the streets of Manhattan.

Manhattan sky. Photo by author.
NYC. Photo by author.

I saw Pulp at Radio City Music Hall.

Pulp at Radio City Music Hall. Photo by author.

I went to the Weegee exhibit at the International Center of Photography, and the Diego Rivera and Cindy Sherman exhibitions at the MOMA.

Cindy Sherman at the MOMA. Photo by author.

I ate pho at Saigon Shack, cupcakes at Molly’s, breakfast at the Breslin, drank coffee at Stumptown and a Dark and Stormy at Commonwealth.

Dark n’ Stormy. Photo by author.

I drank a cocktail called Paris is Burning with Strippertweets, Maura and Melissa at the NoMad Hotel,’s Library Bar, a spicy hot chocolate at the Chocolate Bar and ate two Crack Pies from Momofuku Milk Bar.

Crack Pie. Photo by author.

Pulp at Radio City Music Hall

Radio City. All photographs by author.

As much as I loved them, I never got the chance to see Pulp during their early-mid-nineties heyday. Even when they announced they would be reforming to play a few dates last year, it seemed like it was just not meant to be — the first summer in three years that I didn’t spend time in Sweden, and they played there, at the Way Out West festival.

I might have missed out again if my friend Strippertweets hadn’t posted a link to their website announcement that they would play San Francisco and New York City. I agonised over whether to see them in SF or NY; furiously battled Ticketmaster’s website to get a ticket for a show that sold out within one minute, booked a flight and ultimately spent way too much money to see one band. It was worth it. I was not going to miss Pulp again.

While the all-seated space of Radio City doesn’t much lend itself to crowd participation, it was a treat to be inside of the venue. I was standing in the line for a glass of champagne (socialism?) when green letters began flashing across the stage: “You’re looking good.” “Shall we do it?” A couple of lines from Mis-Shapes spoken in a mechanical voice, then the those spacey, synth-y first bars of Do You Remember the First Time? (my first favourite Pulp track) struck up and hung in the air for a minute. Then there was Jarvis: stalking sleazily across the stage; bouncing and kicking as the song built — the whole crowd seemed to leap at that part near the end that goes “oh yeah, you wanna go home; you wanna go home. Hey!”

Between songs Jarvis regaled his audience with stories, musings, “interesting facts,” the riff from Louie Louie and London Soho/Charing Cross geography. “you haven’t come here for a night of spoken word have you? Sorry.’

During This is Hardcore he fell to his back and scissored his legs in the air; in F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E he dashed and posed his way up the sides of the hall, followed by a spotlight.

Even songs that might have sat awkwardly out of their mid-nineties home sounded just about as relevant as they were then. Sorted for E’s and Whizz, a song I haven’t listened to for probably 10 years but still know all the words to, sounded great accompanied by green lasers swooping across the crowd; and I sang along to the chorus of Disco 2000 (“Let’s all meet up in the year 2000”) with neither shame nor regard for the passage of time.

The first encore ended, inevitably, with Common People, and the night finished with Mis-Shapes — a song I don’t care much for, but danced and sang along to regardless. Post-match analysis, however, centered on the unexpected inclusion of Bad Cover Version, from 2002’s much-maligned We Love Life.

In the end, I only missed Lipgloss, but I didn’t even notice it was missing until a few hours later, so… This was everything I wanted from a Pulp show and more. And I don’t mean just for a reunion tour; Pulp could have been proud of this show in 1995.

Setlist via Brooklyn Vegan:

Pulp @ Radio City Music Hall, NYC 4/11/12 – SETLIST
Do you remember the the first time?
Monday Morning
Razzamatazzz
Pencil skirt
Something Changed
Disco 2000
Sorted For E’s and Wizz
F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.
Feeling Called Love
I Spy
Babies
Underwear
This is Hardcore
Sunrise
Bar Italia
Common People
//
Like a Friend
Bad Cover Version
Misshapes

Related: apparently the mid-nineties Hole line-up was back on stage last weekend. Reunion tour please?