Cheers to Science, and Beer, and Using Science to Justify Your Beer-Drinking

I went to a cool event last night at the Bell House in Gowanus as part of the World Science Festival, and took away many lessons from it, only some of which involve science. The event was called Cheers to Science: A Drinkable Feast of Beer, Biotechnology, and Archaeology, and it was one of those zeitgeisty situations where everything that’s having a moment right now came together in one place, and there was beer. The event featured Sam Calagione, the weird-beer-loving founder of Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware, and biomolecular archeologist Patrick E. McGovern, a brainy science guy who helps Calagione recreate ancient beers like Dogfish Head Ta Henket, the beer the pyramid builders drank. I’ve already said enough, you can see that this collaboration is smart as hell. Not only do you get to drink beer while you learn about history and science, you have to drink beer to learn about history and science. Brilliant. But there’s more. 

Everything’s a TED Talk These Days

Calagione and McGovern stood on stage, pint glasses in hand, wireless microphones attached to their heads, discussing the smart things they do. Those things involve traveling the world looking for evidence of ancient drinking rituals, digging up old cups and jugs, and scraping them for whatever residue might be left to tell them about the booze (usually beer, or some beer/wine hybrid) that was in them. Then the two get together at Calagione’s brewery and do their very best to recreate those drinks. The ease of their rapport, the accessible-yet-high-minded topics they discussed, and their infectious enthusiasm reminded me of Steve Jobs on stage debuting the first iPhone, or A.J. Jacobs talking about what it really takes to be healthy in his TED Talk. You get smarter just being in the room, and you’re never bored. (Sample exchange–McGovern: "Which came first, bread or beer? If you had your choice, what would it be?" Calagione: "Not bread.") 

Science is Hot

 From Jesse screaming "Science!" in Breaking Bad to Reddit’s worship of Tesla and other bleeding-edge companies, it’s never been cooler to be into science. If you’re involved in science–in smashing through ignorance, following the scientific method, and advancing human knowlege–you’re somewhat of a hero, at least to those who don’t bang the drum for Intelligent Design and close their ears and go lalala whenver a coherent argument gets in the way of their belief system. And the pro-science camp is going to be running things for the foreseeable future, saving the world from global warming, eliminating malaria, and finally getting around to those flying cars, so I’m right there with ’em, as long as they don’t get insufferably cocky.

The Rock Star Brewmaster Has Arrived

 Sam Calagione is a smart guy. He’s also young, well-spoken, and handsome. While I truly believe he’s a beer-brewer at heart, he’s clearly made the decision to become the public face of his company, and, in many ways, the craft-brewing industry. I think he’s as good an ambassador as any. And there’s a precedent for him to follow. There were no celebrity chefs before Wolfgang Puck came along and fed the press those great Austrian-inflected soundbites, and later got on TV and virtually took viewers into his restaurants. Now every chef is a celebrity chef. It’s practically required. Next came celebrity bartenders and mixologists (whatever the distinction may be) like Dale DeGroff. Celebrity brewers are ready for their moment. While not all of them will want to leave their brewing kettles to do the speaking circuit, the ones who do–like the Brooklyn Brewery‘s Garrett Oliver, Sam Adams’ Jim Koch, and Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman–will find a receptive audience, especially if they’re willing to drop some real beer knowledge instead of just shilling their own brands. 

The Rock Star Professor Is Back

Remember when Indiana Jones came along, and being an archeology or history professor was cool for a while, until people realized that sifting through ancient burial chambers was hot and sweaty work that probably wouldn’t get you rich, or laid? Well it’s time for a new era of rock star professors. McGovern certainly looks the part (he’s on the left in the photo, as if that needs pointing out), with his big bushy beard and rumpled trousers. And he’s hitched his wagon to the right star, adding scientific gravitas to Calagione’s beery experiments. Having a professor involved means that I’m not sitting there guzzling beer until my eyes water, or at least not just that. It means that I’m so into the pursuit of knowledge that I have to actually ingest it into my body and transport myself back to ancient China, or Egypt, or Italy.

I Actually Did Learn Some Stuff

The audience at the Bell House was several hundred strong, and, glancing around the room, I saw what I perceived as a mix of beer enthusiasts (call them geeks if you like, but I saw no pocket protectors), science enthusiasts who happen to like beer, and history buffs. And yes, there were women among them. The event itself involved tasting four different Dogfish Head beers that McGovern had helped create, paired with a few chunks of cheese from Murray’s. I learned that hops are a somewhat recent addition to beer, that the reinheitsgebot is bullshit, and that almost every government was helpful in their beer research except for the Italian government, which thinks wine is the only historically important beverage. (Get with the times, Italy. Beer rulez.) 

I learned more than that, but there are some lessons that you can only absorb through your belly, so pick up some of Dogfish Head’s ancient ales and get yourself educated, cool, and a little bit lifted. Learning is fun. 

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listing for The Bell House; Old Beer: Dogfish Head Ta Henket is a Blast from 4,500 Years in the Past; Spiegelau Creates New IPA Glass, Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada Create New Beer to Fill It With; Rest in Peace, Brooklyn Monster Ale, and Cat; Today in Creative Beer Advertising: Heineken’s New TV Spot ‘The Voyage’; More by Victor Ozols; Follow Me on Twitter]

Eating and Drinking by the Reopened Smith-Ninth Street Station

The Smith-Ninth Street subway station is the tallest in the world, which should be cause for some civic pride. Unfortunately, tumbledown infrastructure and ratty innards have long kept riders from luxuriating in the skyline views. Two years and a cool $32 million later, the F and G have at last returned to this stretch of Brooklyn. The station’s new façade is unexpectedly space-age, putting aside eighty years of industrial cred for a look that’s more Funkadelic than Wilco. Although the Gowanus may not quite be ready for destination dining status, both sides of the canal have some great places for getting your eat and drink on, accessible once again by the grace of the MTA.

Buttermilk Channel takes its name from a nearby stretch of Brooklyn waterfront, although buttermilk fried chicken with cheddar waffles is what put it on the map. If you’re looking for a killer brunch and don’t mind a wait, this is your place. Just up Court you’ll find Prime Meats, where the two Frankies take their eyes off the boot for a look back at Germany and old New York. The biggest raves are for the burgers: hefty half-pounders of Creekstone Black Angus, tender and packed with flavor.

A couple of doors up is the Falcinelli and Castronovo original, Frankies 457 Spuntino, where the pork braciola marinara and housemade pappardelle are sublime, and everything else is merely mind-blowing. Nearby La Slowteria is a neighborhood newcomer with a line in Mexican slow food. Duck comes pulled and stuffed in a crispy potato taco, slow cooked in posole stew, or paired with black mole. If it’s barbecue you’re craving, Fletcher’s has the hookup, with a maple- and oak-fueled barbecue pit imported from Texas. That should hold you until the new Dinosaur Bar-B-Que comes online. Another GoWo player is Bar Tano, which compensates for a trafficky corner with a chill Euro interior. The kitchen turns out better than solid bruschette, americo burgers, and lightly charred pizzas.

On the boozy end of things, Abilene and Lowlands peeps bookend the Gowanus with a pair of low-key neighborhood drinkeries. A little closer to Smith-9th is Draft Barn, where 250 brews have been culled from every corner of the earth for your sampling pleasure. On an even bigger scale is The Bell House, an instant G-Slope classic with stellar booking. Tonight the concert hall turns into Wasablanca—a mashup of Casablanca inspirations and Wasabassco burlesque. Wait until tomorrow and can catch epic dance party The Rub. Dance party Mister Sunday is back for at least one more summer at neraby Gowanus Grove. This year’s sessions start on May 12th, with Brooklyn brews, dancing under the poplar grove, and huaraches from the Country Boys. There are worse places to contemplate the Smith-Ninth viaduct, and wonder why they built it so damn high. (Okay, it’s for the tall ships that once plied the pristine waters of the canal.)

Photo by City of Strangers/Flickr.

[For more great places to wine and dine, visit the BlackBook New York Guide; To keep up on the latest openings and events, subscribe to BlackBook Happenings; More by Ethan Wolff; Buy Ethan’s book; Follow him on Twitter

Do You Suffer From MGOOMFA This Oscar Season?

Does watching The Oscars in your living room sound a bit dull? Do you crave that surge of communal disappointment and celebration upon the announcement of the winners? Do you like chicken tenders? If you’ve said yes to any of these questions, chances are you have a case of the MGOOMFA: Must Get Out Of My F@#$ing Apartment syndrome commonly associated with freezing climates and 4+ hours browsing Hulu daily. And with The Oscars coming up this Sunday, the perfect opportunity is upon you to get out of your apartment, and communicate with fellow NYers at official Oscars viewing parties across the city. Here is where to go:

SideBAR: Upscale sportsbar. Optional two-hour Bud Light & well-cocktail open bar at 7pm. Oscars ballot competition with $50 gift certificate for the winner. Personal bucket of pigs-in-a-blanket and tater tots. $10 entry, $50 with open bar. Chicken tenders.

The Windsor: High-end sportsbar.Free house-made gourmet popcorn. Free first glass of bubbly. Truffle grilled cheese. Starts 5pm. No entry fee. No chicken tenders.

The Bell House: Brooklyn’s wackiest events venue. Hosted by (my favorite) comedian & (erotic short story) writer Dave Hill. Raunchy, thought-provoking  analysis during commercials. $8 cocktail specials. No food/chicken tenders.

Brooklyn Winery: The sophisticated celebration. Oscar-themed sparkling cocktails. Seth MacFarlane hosts. Oscar ballots. First come, first-served seating. Starts 7pm. Get gussied up. Obviously no chicken tenders.

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MONDAY FUNDAY: Tonight’s Top NYC Events

So it’s the first day of the work week and there are four more days to go. We get it. But why ruminate when you can start to make Mondays the best night of the week? This weekly column is devoted to finding the best events across NYC hosted by individuals and places that are doing amazing, crazy, wild, sexy things on Monday nights. And we’re here to honor them. Here are tonight’s top events.

Eat something fried & delicious:
Celebrate the third night of Hanukkah by honoring that beautiful fried potato pancake at the Fourth Annual Latke Festival at BAM. Chefs from favorite Brooklyn and New York restaurants – like Blue Ribbon, The Vanderbilt, Balaboosta, Veselka, and A Voce – will fry up and compete for the coveted top latke award. For a $55 ticket, you get to eat the winning latkes and jelly doughnuts from Dough, and drink beer, wine, coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Company, and kombucha from Kombucha Brooklyn.  It’s Brooklyn, b%#%@. 6:30pm, $55 at BAM. For tickets, call BAM at 718-636-4100.

Hear something deep & brooding:
Get existential and transported to communist Russia at East Village red-swathed literary den KGB, where their longtime poetry night debuts aspiring and surprisingly prolific and lauded authors. Tonight marks the season finale of readings by Mark Strand, former Poet Laureate of the US, and published author Malachi Black. Damn. Grab one of KGB’s famous $7, big bottles of Baltika beer – that beloved Eastern European brand that’s hard to find anywhere but in this second-floor, Russian dive – and get ready for some brooding and wordy seduction. Poetry night starts at 7pm, every Monday. All the details here.

Watch something disturbing and sexual:
We all love a good confession, especially when it involves a half-naked, excessively good-looking human being confessing from the get-go that he’s, since the age of six, “enjoyed a rather delightful sexual relationship” with his father. Which brings us to tonight’s event: an autobiographical play by Cuban writer-director-producer Michelangelo Alasa called Confessions of a Cuban Sex Addict. But since tickets are free – and this show is riddled with actors, smoke, smoking-hot actors, and incest – reservations are highly required and tickets are scarce. Show runs tonight and next Monday, 8pm, at the Duo Multicultural Arts Center. All the details here.

Be on the radio & meet sexpert Dr. Ruth:
NPR’S most puzzling show Ask Me Another” comes to Brooklyn’s beloved and intimate events space The Bell House, where the show will be live-taped – and you can be too. Get quizzed by the trivia-and-brainteasers-centric show’s host Ophira Eisenberg, meet tonight’s special guest & sexpert Dr. Ruth , and maybe even end up in the contestant’s chair, facing trivia games customized specifically for you. This show is so intimate, it’ll trick you into thinking you’re at a game night in your friend’s cramped and messy living room – until your buddy tells you the next day, “Hey! I heard you mess up on the radio!” Show starts at 7:30pm, $10, at The Bell House. All the details here.

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Drink Down The Election At These New York Establishments

It’s hard to believe the election is already upon us. Yes, today is the day we find out if President Barack Obama will be reelected, or if we will be stuck with a guy and his binder full of women. Eh, either way, drinking and feasting is in order and here is where to do it.

What better place to celebrate our democratic nation than in the historical building where Abraham Lincoln was photographed for the image you see on the five-dollar bill? That’s right, The Vault at Pfaff’s has organized an election viewing party from 6pm to 2am. Choose your party with the Red State or Blue State menu featuring fun cocktails, New England lobster rolls, mini Boston cream pies, and Chicago-style hot dogs.

If you bring your “I Voted” sticker to Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg, they will hand you a nice cold, “Yes We Can” can of beer. Plus, in case you don’t want to bite your nails watching the election coverage, they will be hosting a variety show at 8pm, followed by the band Luego at 9:30pm.

Also in Brooklyn, hit up The Bell House for their Raging Election: 2012 Election Viewing Party that features aptly named drinks like Coke & Rumney and the Bahamobama Mama. The South African restaurant Madiba in Fort Greene also has some fun cocktails like the Obama Mama, just make sure you are an Obama fan, they make no room for others.

At Brooklyn Winery, they don’t have wisecracking beverages, but starting at 7pm they are taking $10 off bottles and carafes of their house wines, plus a special election night menu. Mission Dolores too rocks election night with a sour beer tasting and benefit for Red Hook Initiative.

Hecho en Dumbo, which is actually in Manhattan, is screening the political action on their 12-foot screen and will have happy hour pricing all night. Aside from $7 margaritas and $5 draft beers, they will also offer small bites. Bonus,100 percent of sales tonight will be donated to the Brooklyn Recovery Fund,

Vegans too can get in on food, drink, and politics at the Super Vegan election party at Fontana’s in the Lower East Side, which includes sweets from Dun-Well Doughnuts and savory nibbles by Chickpea & Olive.

Finally, at 8pm The Westway hosts the Downtown 4 Democracy party with plenty of drink specials, a jumbo screen to watch CNN coverage, and a call center so that if you get drunk and angry enough, you can start ringing swing states. Fingers crossed it doesn’t come to that.

Limelight at Tribeca & Other Must-Attend Events

I’ve been busy as a B-list promoter these days. It’s Good Friday and I see no reason not to make it great. Tonight I should be cloned, as two “must attend” events are happening at the exact time. I will attend the Limelight film premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. I was interviewed about a year and change ago for the flick, and I hope I am portrayed correctly. I was assured that I am, but I have been divorced a couple of times, and my reliance on assurances have diminished.

It is absolutely a matter of truth or consequences, but again I am assured, and I’m feeling happy that I got involved in the Limelight story. Fools have been telling the story for far too long, and innuendo and rumor have passed as reality. I hope the record is set straight. I will attend with Amanda by my side to hold my hand through it all. I salute my dear friend Jen Gatien for her dedication to the cause. Peter Gatien, I am told, will not be allowed into the country to attend. He isn’t allowed here, and I’m not allowed in Canada. I win.

What I am missing, but you absolutely should not, is catching Los Vigilantes at the Cake Shop on Ludlow street tonight at 9. I caught them last night at the Bell House in Gowanus. They opened for the Flaming Groovies. The Groovies were cool, old-school rockster-y, and attracted a crowd that I mingled with 20 years ago at CBGB’s. Los Vigilantes are a powerful Puerto Rican punk act. The acts didn’t go well together. It was like having the Ramones open for Fleetwood Mac. The Cake Shop show will be a better fit. The Cake Shop has so few redeeming qualities that it’s almost perfect. The place is dirty, the stage is way too small and too low, and the sound is, at best, mixed—or maybe it wasn’t. The staff is particularly unfriendly and I want to wash off the bottom of my shoes when I get home. It is soooo much fun! I saw another Puerto Rican Punk act, Davila 666, there on Thursday and was blown away. Their en Espanol version of Blondie’s “Hanging On The Telephone” was irreverent and brilliant. It was déjà vu all over again as I felt like I was at a punk club in the East Village in 1981. People were pogo-ing themselves into a frenzy. Davila 666 is playing Knitting Factory out here in Brooklyn, and they are a sure thing. I will déjà vu all over again after I attend, again. Puerto Rican punk is my new favorite thing. The whole gang will be at Bruar Falls this Saturday night for the after party with DJ FFrenchy and DJ Spick Jagger of Davila 666. Yes, it’s like that.

I noticed that the Hubble telescope is turning 2, and therefore is legal to get into bars and clubs in NYC. That is when it’s done fooling around. I also noticed that Captain David Miller, the cop who basically closed down the West Chelsea club scene, is assigned to the Orchard/Ludlow/Rivington street area. I also noticed that every place I go to these days down there is ID’ing my ridiculously tired, obviously over 40/50 year-old ass. I fear the worst. Expect vacancies and loss of business as the city sanitizes nightlife like we’re bedbugs at Bloomberg’s mansion. If I’m right, the city will lose more jobs, and our culture will be less rich. Ironically, the Gallery Bar was closed down because a bouncer allegedly took a bribe to let an underage patron in. I read an article the same day that said cops, as unbelievable as this may sound, fixed parking tickets for VIP’s, including Yankee baseball executives. Shocking! Cops taking bribes? Why isn’t the stadium shuttered? Or the precincts, themselves? This isn’t a double standard: this is persecution.

Gig Guide 2/1 – 2/7: The Week’s Top Rock

Lia Ices makes an entrance, Rhett Miller and Prince return (again?), while the Hundred in the Hands, Woods, and The Suzan round out the week’s cant-miss shows.

Tuesday, February 1st

Who: Panic! at the Disco @: Bowery Ballroom, 7:30PM Tickets: $20 Who: Lia Ices @: Joe’s Pub, 9:30PM Tickets: $12 Details: The Brooklyn based beauty, Lia Ices, is prime for Cat Power stardom. She’s talented and beautiful, and has an inquisitive voice that envelops like a light spring rain. If you think my description is too flowery, see her live and tell me you don’t agree.

Wednesday, February 2nd

Who: Holy Ghost! @: Mercury Lounge, 6:30PM Tickets: $12

Who: The Radio Dept., Young Prisms @: Music Hall of Williamsburg, 8:00PM Tickets: $20 Details: I cannot think of a more perfect venue to enjoy The Radio Dept in the middle of a blizzard.

Who: Best Coast, Wavves, No Joy @: Webster Hall, 7:00PM Tickets: $20 Details: This might as well be an Urban Outfitters mix tape—so expect a similar crowd. You really cannot go wrong with this lineup, all have experienced recent success with a devoted following. They’ll also get together at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday (2/3) for the same price.

Thursday, February 3rd

Who: Joseph Arthur, Greg Laswell @: City Winery, 8:00PM Tickets: $15 Details: Joseph Arthur also plays with Jesse Malin at City Winery at 8:30 PM On Saturday (2/5). Who: White Ring, Blissed Out, Von Haze, Pictureplane (DJ Set) @: Santos Party House, 8:00PM Tickets: $10 Details: White Ring is a dark, trance-inspired duo, that’s just as blissful as it is creepy.

Who: Does It Offend You, Yeah?, Deluka, Infernal Devices @: The Bell House, 7:30PM Tickets: $15

Friday, February 4th

Who: Rhett Miller @: City Winery, 8:30PM Tickets: $18 Details: Rhett Miller, still a heartthrob; even better while gazing at him through the bottom of your wine glass. He’s got a new self-titled album, but will also be touring with the Old 97’s later this spring.

Who: Tapes ‘n Tapes, Oberhofer, Xylos @: Music Hall of Williamsburg, 8:30PM Tickets: $17 Details: Indie rockers Tapes ‘n Tapes just released their third album, Outside. Listen for the gem, “The Saddest of All Keys.”

Who: Woods, Ducktails, Metal Mountains @: Monster Island Basement, 8:00PM Tickets: Free? Details: Folk/Psych rockers Woods play the awesome gallery/music space on the Brooklyn waterfront.

Who: Chromeo, MNDR, The Suzan @: Terminal 5, 8:00PM Tickets: $25 Details: I cannot believe this show is only $25! MNDR and The Suzan are the most talked about artists of 2011, along with veterans, Chromeo.

Saturday February 5th

Who: Beach Fossils, Widowspeak, The Royal Chains @: Cameo Gallery, 8:00PM Details: The Cameo Gallery, a “live art space,” is a great place to host the lo-fi/surf rock/dreamy Beach Fossils. Check out their gorgeous sound once described in a Youtube comment “bleeding bbq sauce & rum.”

Who: The Vandelles, Mean Creek, The Party Faithful, Boom Chick @: Pianos, 8:00PM Tickets: $10 Details: The LAST FM bio reads: The Vandelles are rock n’ roll noir at its finest. Their songs are the perfect soundtrack to rain-slicked city streets at night, and the lust, betrayal and violence that filters through them. The band thrives on layers of fuzz and a wall of reverb-laden guitar noise, and they also harbor a penchant for 60s garage pop melody and surf rock riffs.

Who: Robyn @: Radio City Music Hall, 7:00PM Tickets: $39.50 Details: The woman that needs no introduction except for maybe “Show Me Love.”

Sunday, February 6th

Who: Neko Case, Lost in the Trees @: The Bell House, 8:00PM Tickets: $35 Details: Everyone’s crush plays at everyone’s favorite venue=a match made in heaven.

Monday February 7th

Who: Friendly Fires, Hundred In The Hands @: Bowery Ballroom, 8:00PM Tickets: $20 Details: Everyone has been digging Friendly Fires, but please give your attention to the talented electro-pop duo, The Hundred in the Hands, who released their first studio album on the label WARP (other artists include Vincent Gallo, Autecture, and Brian Eno). They are named after the phrase the Lakota Nation gave to the Fetterman Battle of 1866 in Wyoming (in which Crazy Horse led his warriors to a victory that resulted in the death of 100 enemies).

Who: Prince @: Madison Square Garden, 8:00PM Tickets: Check Here Details: The legend must be enjoying his time here, as he just played a couple of weeks ago.

Gig Guide: This Week’s Top Indie Rock Shows

The Decemberists play a couple of gigs to show off their shiny new album, White Lies performs at Highline Ballroom, Peter Bjorn and John throw a late-night throw-down at The Rock Shop, and Real Estate sidles up to Andy Rourke of The Smiths at Union Hall — my list this week’s not-to-be missed indie shows.

Tuesday, January 25

Who: The Decemberists, Wye Oak @: Beacon Theater, 8:00 PM Tickets: $39.50 Details: Touring with a spanking new album, The Decemberists will also play Beacon on Wednesday night.

Who: Suuns, Takka Takka, Milagres @:The Rock Shop, 8:00 PM Tickets: $10 Details: Secretly Canadian’s Suuns play electronica/shoegaze alongside Takka Takka’s gorgeous, melodic indie rock. Highly recommend the show—either band could be headlining, so don’t be late.

Wednesday, January 26th

Who: Yuck, Total Slacker, Fergus & Geronimo @: Glasslands, 8:00 PM Tickets: $10

Who: Liz Phair @: Music Hall of Williamsburg, 8:00 PM Tickets: $25

Thursday, January 27 Who: Cloud Runner (Comprised of Matisyahu and friends) @: Bowery Ballroom, 8:00 PM Tickets: $17 advance, $20 door

Who: White Lies, Asobi Seksu @: Highline Ballroom, 7:00 PM Tickets: $20 advance, $22 door Details: White Lies, an indie trio that sounds like Tears for Fears and Echo & the Bunnymen, has been making all sort of toplists in London since 2009. They’ll pair nicely with opener Asobi Seksu’s dream pop sound.

Friday, January 28

Who: Peter Bjorn and John @: The Rock Shop, 11:00 PM Tickets: $10

Saturday, January 29th

Who: Mission of Burma, Grandfather @: The Bell House, 8:00 PM Tickets: $20 Details: Can’t miss 80’s post punk rockers, Mission of Burma, take the stage at one of Brooklyn’s best venues.

Who: Beach Fossils, A Place to Bury Strangers, Caveman, Guards, ARMS, Dreamers of the Ghetto (I Guess I’m Floating 5-Year Party) @: Glasslands, 8:00 PM Tickets: $12 advance, $14 door

Who: Baby Dayliner, Five O’Clock Heroes @: Mercury Lounge, 10:00 PM Tickets: $10

Who: Iron and Wine, Edie Brickell @: Radio City Music Hall, 8:00 PM Tickets: $51.55

Who: Real Estate, Andy Rourke (The Smiths) @: Union Hall, 8:00 PM Tickets: $15

Sunday, January 30

Who: The Hold Steady, The Gay Blades @: Music Hall of Williamsburg” title=”Music Hall of Williamsburg”>Music Hall of Williamsburg, 8:00 PM Tickets: $25

Where Brooklyn At?

Brooklyn amazes me more and more everyday. It gives me strength when I’m not strong. It gives me hope to carry on. Someone said to me, “Sure, you move to Brooklyn and it’s all about Brooklyn! If you had moved to Queens, it would have been all about Queens!” I told him it’s been all about queens for 30 years. That went over his head. He still lives in Manhattan. I went to The Bell House to see a band in a place called Gowanus, which I misread as “cow-anus,” for which I was severely chastised by my clan, who wanted to show up on time for the gig. My Droid map searched for cow-anus, which was unsuccessful and time-consuming but fun. All I knew about Gowanus was that it’s home to a famously toxic canal and a bumper-to-bumper expressway I was always hearing about on cab radios. I had the impression that it would smell bad, but it really didn’t.

The band, O’Death, was related to my friend Julia Jackson via her boyfriend, David Rogers, the drummer. I read up on them to see what I was getting into. It seems they have a following and go on tours that take them far and wide. Not just far and wide in Brooklyn, but to places like Fargo, Chicago, Boise, San Francisco, LA, and all points in between. They had, like, 25 shows in 30 days. Their influences include, but are not limited to: Whiskey, old Civil War gospel, Appalachian Mountain music, and punk energy. They had a large and enthusiastic following that knew a great deal of the words. They had familiar and weird instruments like banjos, ukuleles, fiddles, a euphonium, and something called a whoop. It was fabulous in a “I have no idea what’s going on but this is really fun” sort of way. That also sort of describes my dating life—pre-Amanda, of course. The Bell House is a great venue with solid sound, professional lighting, and great sightlines. It’s a perfect place to see bands like O’Death—which seem to be a bass player with a decent shirt away from bigger things.

We left, as the joint is a “see the show, drop the beer bottle when it’s over” kind of place. We lingered in the attached lounges as coats and friends were gathered and then took to the street for a walk to see the hood. We stumbled across old friends at the door of Ultraviolet up the way and were invited in. It was some Caribbean-themed night, and a no-frills atmosphere of people having fun was in order. We vowed to come back, and surely will. As we continued our walk we passed warehouse after old factory after old garage, and many “for rent” or “sale” buildings. I realized that the future is, of course, in the real estate.

The long and short of it is that Manhattan has just run out of the stuff, and Brooklyn, and probably Queens (not to mention those other boroughs) have a lot of it. In the big city, neighbors complain, cops are pushed to keep them happy, and club operators spend half their time just trying to stay open. Rents, unfair fines, and legal fees eat up profits, and the only people around to pay the bills are patrons living in new construction high-rises. The types with steady incomes can get the loans needed to buy condos, while the artistic sorts live month-to-month. The hipsters and creatives move where they are wanted, and can afford, and can rent. For now, there are thousands of buildings available in Brooklyn that would make good restaurants, lounges, and noisy joints. Many are located in hoods with no neighbors, or neighbors that celebrate the noise and action. New business will provide work for many.

In Manhattan, the lofts and factory buildings brought certain types to Soho and Tribeca. Mostly artists and creative types. The real estate eventually became attractive to the swells who loved the high ceilings, light, and location these lofts provided. The East Village, on the other hand, was sprawling tenement slums, and has only recently been gentrified with new construction. With a new type of population in Manhattan, there has been extreme conflict between the forces of day and the forces of night. Day has clearly won. The abandoned buildings of Brooklyn will further speed the development of the borough — which started a decade ago — as the cultural hotbed of New York City. The gold rush of the last few years will seem like a trickle, as many more who seek what the night offers, reasonable rents, and prices at local stores find the outer boroughs not only acceptable, but the only place to be. Sure, Manhattan will always have its charms, but a new generation is rejecting the Bridge and Tunnel culture that not only pervades Manhattan nightlife, but now lives nearby.