2012’s Hottest Parties, From San Francisco to Brooklyn to Beirut

Over the summer, BlackBook sent seven photographers into the night to capture the energy of their home cities. Now that we’re in the throws of the bitter cold, what better time to look back at the hottest parties of the year? 

9:37pm, August 11th: Non Stop Bhangra

Public Works,
 San Francisco, California

As a professional photographer, I go to many parties here in San Francisco. Not many are memorable, but I remember the first time I happened upon Non Stop Bhangra. I was passing by a club called Public Works on Erie Street when I heard the instantly recognizable beat of bhangra music spilling from the door. I followed the sound into a room full of women wearing saris and men wearing turbans. Everyone was waving their arms in the air with broad smiles. This is Non Stop Bhangra, a party started in 2004. It happens the second Saturday of every month and I never miss it.—Hanna Quevedo

2:30am, August 3rd: Happy Hour Hammer Time

Mojo Crew Club, Beirut, Lebanon

Happy Hour Hammer Time carries on the party spirit in Beirut during the holy month of Ramadan, usually a quiet month on the party circuit. The party is thusly named because “you’ll have fun and you’ll probably get hammered,” according to one of its beer-loving founders. It’s the longest-running happy hour in the city, and for only 20,000 Lebanese lira ($15) offers an open tap, cheap drinks, and endless beer pong. Filling the beer pong cups are two local beers, 961 and LB, which are part of the emerging microbrew scene in Lebanon.—Eric Hinojosa

3:32am, July 28th: Squat House Party

La Plage De L’Elephant, Ibiza, Spain

Wild nights are the status quo here in Ibiza. But what I like about Squat House Party, a concept imported from Buenos Aires, is that it’s a clash of cultures. Though they first started in abandoned houses in Argentina, now Squat House is a global movement with events in hotspots like Barcelona, Punta del Este, and Sao Paolo. This mix of underground music in a high socioeconomic environment is called “under-chic,” and the parties rarely end before dawn.—Ezequiel Salvatierra

12:52am, August 3rd: Astro Nautico

Free Candy, Brooklyn, New York

It’s the first Friday of the month and, on this sweltering night in an old parking garage in Flatbush, a mass of people are shaking their hips and stomping their feet to the thumping bass provided by the Brooklyn collective Astro Nautico. The crowd of twentysomethings is entranced as they watch VHS clips the resident artist Paul Jones projects to accompany the music. The booze flows freely like the sweat pouring down the small of everyone’s backs, but no one cares. This is a dance party.—Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez

10:32pm, August 1st: Diarrhea Planet Concert

Mercy Lounge,
 Nashville, Tennessee

In the best of times, partying in Nashville means seeing bands like Diarrhea Planet. Armed with four guitar players, a $150 noise citation, and a song called “Ghost with a Boner,” DP has developed a reputation in the local punk scene as Music City’s most entertainingly ostentatious party-punk sextet. Tonight, a sea of straight-edges at the foot of the stage will dance themselves into a frenzied mosh pit, screaming every lyric to every song and crowd surfing for at least a quarter of the show. At least one person will wind up bleeding.—Lance Conzett

11:37pm, August 11th: Beat Players

East Village Club, London, England

London DJ Stuart Patterson opened East Village in 2008. Tonight, Beat Players, a group of DJs who focus on the soulful side of house music and cater to a slightly older crowd, celebrates the Olympics with a “Best of the British” night. London’s Phil Asher spins disco in the upstairs lounge, while rising Welsh star Sean McCabe plays soulful house in the booming basement.—Annalisa Bruno

10:45pm, August 15th: Low End Theory

The Airliner, Los Angeles, California

Low End Theory is a mix of hip-hop and bass heavy experimental beats. As I reach the 2nd floor I feel like I’ve stepped into a sauna. The girl next to me complains to her friend that it smells like “sweaty feet on the dance floor”. Honestly it did, but nobody seemed to care. The energy of the front stage had the party pumping and the crowd was feeding off the beats. Low End Theory has some of the most legendary resident DJs and MCs in L.A., and it’s good to see that hip-hop is alive and well in L.A.—Nanette Gonzales

Eating Beirut: Q&A With Author Salma Abdelnour

When writer Salma Abdelnour left Beirut in 1981 at the age of 9, she did so kicking and screaming. Her family resettled in Houston, and though they took many trips back to Lebanon, Abdelnour always felt something was missing from her life. In a way, this homesickness brought her back to her motherland for a year, and in her first book Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut, she delves into how she reconnected with her country and the food. I caught up with her at Grey Dog in Soho to chat about her latest scribbles, the rise of Lebanese food in the city, and where you can get it.

In the book you said you felt like an outsider growing up here. Do you think in a way that strife in Beirut in the 1980s made you closer to the country?
I think, in my case, it’s more that my formative years were there. From age 2 to 9, all my experiences, attachments, and everything I knew were there. To pick up and have to start over in an American school, it felt like I was an alien who had just dropped down from Mars. Plus, I had a really thick accent. Though my classmates were really sweet, I carried around this feeling that I was the strange person and not like anyone else.

How did you get over that feeling of strangeness?
That feeling eventually subsided after I continued living out my life. And New York, I really love living in New York. There is a part of me in a parallel life that is playing out who I would be if I were still there. Would I have been free of disorientation and anxiety? Or, is it just a human feeling that we all feel no matter where we grew up. I just needed to sort that out. Do I really belong there and is that where I am truly at home—or, is my life in New York? So, I went back to investigate that.

Did you come to a conclusion?
I came to, I would say, if not a conclusion, but a resolution of this angle that has been in my head and in my life since I was a child. I found a way to make peace with that.

Have you found any solace in Lebanese food in New York?
It’s funny, I have been doing more of that since I came back to New York. I have always wished there was more and better Lebanese food here, and I still do. For instant in London, Paris or Montréal, I have found a lot of really great Lebanese restaurants on all levels. In New York I have always felt that there are not enough Lebanese restaurants I feel excited about. There are a few that I can say are very good and do things well.

What are some of your favorite places?
The place I have always told people to go is Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. There is a place called Karam, which is just very tiny and they do incredible home-style Lebanese dishes. It’s not much to look at and it’s counter service. But they do a dish of the day like stuffed zucchini with garlicky sauce or a lamb kefta, which is a grilled lamb. It’s very fresh and very good.There is also a place called Man’ouChe that does one of my favorite dishes, man’ouche, which I talk a lot about in the book. It’s just flat bread with za’atar [an herb blend with sumac, salt and sesame] and olive oil. Cedars Pastry has Middle Eastern ice cream, which has this stretchy quality to it. There is an ingredient in it called salep that’s derived from the orchid plant. It’s mixed into ice creams in Turkey and in Arab countries and makes a unique texture that is incredibly good. Growing up, that’s the way I always thought ice cream was.

How about restaurants in Manhattan?
I really like going to the take-out version of Naya. You walk in and you feel like you are in this space age tunnel. It’s white and gleaming with shiny surfaces. That atmosphere isn’t quite the ambiance I am used to, but the food is actually excellent. Also, Ilili opened maybe five years ago now and I am happy it seems to be doing well. It’s more of a modernized and imaginative take on Lebanese dishes. The chef will put a spin on things like a duck shawarma with a fig puree and in Lebanon, you won’t really find duck on any menu. He does dishes that don’t have the equivalent in Lebanon. It’s nice to see a Lebanese restaurant succeed on that level. Though, I would like to see more of the cozy vibe. In London and Paris, you get that and I always wonder why New York doesn’t have that type of Lebanese place.

Speaking of London, I remember having a something like a pizza with lamb on it that gets rolled up and is nice and crispy…
Actually, the next place I was going to mention is Bread and Olive, it has a couple tables and is set up mainly for take-out. They get lines out the door every day for lunch. The food is really good and really fresh. Another thing I do sometimes is go to Kalustyan’s. There, in the refrigerators, they have packages of lahmacun. I just keep them in my freezer and if I had a snack craving or want a simple dinner or lunch, I stick them in the toaster oven and they get that crispy crust.

I feel like there has been an influx of Lebanese places opening up, have you noticed anything?
Now that I rattled all those off, it seems that it’s not too bad in the terms of the number of places that do really good Lebanese food. I am not as on top on recent openings since I have been traveling a lot for the book.

Do you think Lebanese food has been gaining popularity?
I think it has in the last, let’s say five years when Naya opened, I think there has been a steady increase. In a way, I would say yes, I think the food has been popular for a long time. Whenever I said I am from Lebanon people always say they love Lebanese food or that they heard it’s so great and want recommendations. It used to be harder to answer because there weren’t many that were great. But more and more places are opening and they are doing a good job.

Beirut’s ‘The Rip Tide’ Video: All Aboard The Feelings Boat

Beirut, the baroque-pop outfit of Zach Condon and company, released their third studio album, The Rip Tide, nearly a year ago. Today, the band released a music video for the title track, but it was worth the yearlong wait. 

At first, it seems like the run-of-the-mill depiction of a sailboat adrift at sea, with a bevy of seagulls bringing up the rear. But then, the 2:46 mark hits, the imagination of director Houmam Abdallah (in his music video directorial debut) kicks in and the scenery changes to a stunning display of ink, color and texture, a ship alongside a technicolor sky and a beautiful sight. It’s like a postcard, in music video form. 

As Beirut’s Zach Condon says of the video:

"I always felt that "The Rip Tide" wasn’t fully able to project its own ambitions in song form.. no matter how it was performed or recorded, it felt contained by sound alone… I wanted more, as I often do with my music, and this is not a bad thing. Growing to accept a song’s limits is part of the process of creating and loving them. Which was why I was so excited to see what Houmam had dug into when he picked "The Rip Tide" out of all others for a video. The concept fit, and the product brought the song somewhere that I had only been able to describe to myself, now available for others to see and feel it much more as I had in the process of writing it."

Have a look at the video to see what he means. 

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September Music Reviews: Laura Marling, Beirut, Grace Jones

Laura Marling, A Creature I Don’t Know (Ribbon) After being showered with praise from The New York Times and Spin for her debut and sophomore albums, each of which was nominated for a Mercury Prize, expectations couldn’t be higher for Laura Marling’s latest elease, A Creature I Don’t Know. Fortunately for the 21-year-old British singer-songwriter—who already snagged the Best Female Solo Artist prize at the 2011 Brit Awards—the record is a triumph. Building on the strength of her previous two efforts, Creature boasts a folksy, wistful feel, but it’s her voice—at times light and subtle, at others bold and deep—that makes her music so unforgettable. —Sharon Wu

Tinariwen, Tassili (Anti-) Tinariwen, a revolving band of Touareg (nomads from northern Mali) musicians, recorded the songs that appear on their fifth album, Tassili, under the stars of the southeastern Algerian desert. They collaborated with TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone on reticence-free rhapsodies against the glow of nightly campfires, and the result is as back-to-basics as their open-air recording studio. Tinariwen’s signature assouf guitar style (which some suggest is a distant relative of blues music) goes acoustic with subdued percussion and handclaps so hypnotic they almost make translation—the group sings in Tamashek—unnecessary, even though their lyrics tell impassioned tales about a group of wanderers struggling for survival. “Tenéré Taqqim Tossam” is an ode to the Saharan spirit: “Oh jealous desert, why can’t you see you are a treasure?” —Tricia Taormina

The Kooks, Junk of the Heart (Astralwerks) After leaving no stone unturned on their multi-continental Konk tour, the Kooks are back with their signature, seemingly indefatigable enthusiasm—and matching guitar rhythms—but this time with the confidence to experiment with a sadder sound. Junk of the Heart, their third record, was recorded in the English countryside beginning in 2009. As infectious as their debut, Inside In/Inside Out, it delivers the Kooks’ classic pop-rock sound and impassioned lyrics, which are reminiscent of a road trip with the windows rolled down. More sedate tracks (“Taking Pictures of You”) may come as a bit of a surprise, but fear not, Kook-heads: singer Luke Pritchard follows through on his proclamation, “If it doesn’t make you feel good, what’s the point?” Point taken. —Rosa Heyman

CSS, La Liberación (V2/Cooperative Music USA/Downtown) Nothing gets the party started quite like São Paulo–based, adolescent-giddy pop-rock crew CSS (an abbreviation of Cansei de Ser Sexy, Portuguese for “tired of being sexy”), and their fourth album La Liberación is no exception. It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the group, who released their raucous self-titled breakthrough in 2006, and it was worth the wait. Jam-packed with one dance-floor anthem after the next, La Liberación delivers tracks like “City Girl,” a surefire rump-shaker punctuated with refreshingly petulant lyrics like “Nothing hurts in the big city.” (If only that were the case.) “Hits Me Like a Rock,” the album’s first single, is about listening to your favorite jam over and over, and it’ll have you doing just that. —Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez

Beirut, The Rip Tide (Pompeii) Whereas The Flying Club Cup, Beirut’s second album, sounded like a zeppelin tour of the world, the Zach Condon–helmed music collective’s third full-length, The Rip Tide, looks for exoticism in the personal. There’s still an instrumental and stylistic fluency on the record, represented by exotic strings, last-call accordions, and a horn section that feels equal parts mariachi and polka, but the overall effect is sparer than Beirut’s previous efforts. Recorded in upstate New York, Brooklyn, and New Mexico, Rip Tide’s tracks began as melodies teased out on Condon’s ukulele or piano before his band would layer in ornate studio accompaniments, only to be distilled and refined again by Condon. Pompeii Records is owned and controlled by the indie darling himself, but that doesn’t stop standout track “Santa Fe” from sounding a bit like a pop song. —Megan Conway

A.A. Bondy, Believers (Fat Possum) A. A. Bondy, the founding member of Verbena, a ’90s rock outfit from Alabama, struck out on his own with two albums that garnered praise from the likes of Conor Oberst and Bon Iver. Now comes Believers, which was produced by Los Angeles–based impresario Rob Schnapf (Elliot Smith, Beck). Deviating from Verbena’s harder sound, Bondy’s individual style is melancholy and deeply soulful. Like many of the languid rhythms for which he’s become known, the quirky instrumentals and rock-rooted melodies on Believers are spartan, simple, and sincere. —Sharon Wu

Grace Jones, Hurricane (Pias) Forget what you know about Grace Jones. No, actually don’t. After nearly two decades out of the limelight, the music and fashion icon has blown into town with her fifth studio album, Hurricane, proving she’s just as bizarre—and genius—as ever. Making full use of her growly pipes, Jones steps away from the Studio 54 beats of her past and veers into a synthesis of nü-metal, dub, and dancehall—which makes sense, given that she collaborated with everyone from Brian Eno and Tricky to reggae producers Sly and Robbie. Jones’ eclectic team gives her music depth, but while it bursts out of the gate at super-speed (“This is Life”), the record loses steam midway through (“Well Well Well”), sputtering to an abrupt halt (“Devil in My Life”) instead of accelerating across the finish line. —Hillary Weston