October 31, 2002

End the Trend?

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Throughout this fall semester, the Fanclub Collective and J.A.M. have hosted a broad gamut of independent rock bands ranging from Calvin Johnson and The Microphones (originating in Olympia, Washington), to Explosions in the Sky (formed in Austin, Texas), to a significant number of New York City based groups, many of which have taken residence in a newly sprung, surprisingly artistic community … Brooklyn, that is. The proximity of the city to Ithaca renders it an apt location from which to bring plenty of musical talent, and amongst the artists emerging from New York, many have made the area centered around Williamsburg, Brooklyn their permanent residence. Three bands that have all played at Cornell this semester, specifically Oneida, known for their brand of psychedelic, experimental rock (i.e. Each One Teach One), Kilowatthours, characterized by dynamic soundscapes that shift from plodding to vibrant melodies, and Nakatomi Plaza, with fiery punk grooves to spare, all reside in Brooklyn. This sampling of skilled bands pales in comparison to the extent and prevalence of countless other groups in NYC’s trendiest borough. A closer look reveals a rapidly growing scene, comprised of many disparate bands similarly bursting with signs of musical revolution. It is a Brooklyn Renaissance: a bustling epoch of independent art and music.

The burgeoning promise of the Brooklyn scene, now over a year in the making, has begun to send subtle yet clearly defined ripples in all directions. The Village Voice ran an article in early November of last year titled, “Brooklyn A-Go-Go,” which detailed this mini diaspora from Downtown Manhattan — the East Village and SOHO area — across the East River to the largely ethnic neighborhoods, with noticeable Polish and Hispanic influences, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Rent prices, the constant bane of city life, had risen astronomically over the ’90s (uncharacteristically lofty prices for Village lofts), consequently driving many beginning artists to the lower rents of Brooklyn. Serving as a new refuge for the so-called “starving artists,” Brooklyn has become a hotbed of creativity, as its artists and venues will be featured in this weekend’s CMJ Music Marathon along with the established concert halls of Manhattan. The main concert sites in Brooklyn consist of Warsaw (the ballroom of the Polish National Home), Northsix (imagine an underground auditorium with risers on the side), the intentionally kitschy Luxx, Pete’s Candy Store, Brooklyn Lyceum, and Galapagos compared to the more well-known Downtown venues Irving Plaza, Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge, and the Knitting Factory. As much as Brooklyn’s venues are becoming nearly as hot as Manhattan’s, be assured Brooklyn’s plethora of bands holds much more for the music scene than its venues.

The occasional touring partners, Liars and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, both based in Brooklyn, have made the latest and largest splash for Brooklyn artists, each with their own blend of retro rock mixed with danceable punk. An emphasis on community and collaboration has been growing, with joint tours such as the one mentioned above; another example of such unity is the recent split EP between Oneida and Liars. All three of these bands connect to a larger movement of Brooklyn artists, who usually come from very different locales and musical perspectives but who all take part in a diverse yet somehow coherent scene. Other bands like Radio 4 (who played at Colgate two weekends ago), Les Savy Fav, The Seconds, Enon, Ex-Models, and The Secrets best represent the “indie scene” that has taken residence in or around Brooklyn. Just one look at the impressively prophetic, Brooklyn based Arena Rock Recording compilation of about 40 different bands, titled This is Next Year (2001), demonstrates the overwhelming talents of the many groups who either live in Brooklyn or have close ties with the scene. From the Walkmen (who also played at J.A.M. this semester) to Interpol to a good number of the previously mentioned artists, This is Next Year clearly foresaw the growing Brooklyn facet of the NYC scene and selected tracks from artists who are now beginning to gain much wider recognition.

This week the College Music Journal (CMJ) Music Marathon commences for yet another year of incredible concert bills and opportunities to see the artists who have played an integral role in stirring musical explosion of Brooklyn. Check out www.cmj.com for the low down, and if you look for the Brooklyn artists and venues, you’re bound to see some amazing shows.