Sipping Martinis With Sultry Singer Neon Hitch

Even in the darkened confines of The Vinatta Project, an elegant bespoke cocktail bar in New York’s Meatpacking District, there’s no missing Neon Hitch. The 25-year-old British singer’s bright red hair frames her delicate face. Her fingerless lace gloves accentuate her jet-black nails. She wears a tasseled crop-top. The product of a wildly eclectic and electric upbringing, Hitch’s father was a lighting technician (Neon is her real name), but after the family house burned down, Hitch toured Britain in a traveling circus caravan with her mom. Now, she is a bona fide pop star, with her debut album Beg, Borrow, and Steal, due out late this summer on Warner Bros., and a raunchy new single, Fuck U Betta, already 
on its way to becoming a strip-club anthem. Obviously, she’s a good woman with whom to drink.

Hitch and I are at 
Vinatta to experience 
variations on the 
martini—a cocktail so 
iconic its very silhouette 
suggests a party. Jasper
 Soffer, a bartender with 
a gift for creating sublime, perfectly balanced cocktails out
 of disparate ingredients, offers us a produce-aisle worth of mixers: ginger, honey, pineapple, and cucumber. Neon Hitch and I say yes to all of the above.

There’s so much going on in your life these days.
Always, there’s always a lot going on. There’s never a boring day in my life.

What do you tap into when you write club bangers that also have an emotional component to them?
I’m a Gemini, so there’s two sides to me, and I can be a bit of an emotional wreck. I have been through some seriously tough times, so that emotion comes out at the appropriate times, in songs. “Poisoned With Love”—yeah, I can cry my heart out to that one, but other times you just want to have fun, so I’m like, “Fuck U Betta.” It depends on where I am, but I can get a little dark.

Fuck U Betta” is quite a track. I’m thinking it’s going to be the strip club anthem of 2012.
I’ve actually heard it in a strip club!

Were you thinking strip club when you wrote it, like it could be between “Don’t Cha” and “Girls Girls Girls”?
I wasn’t, no, but it’s kind of perfect now. Let’s see where the night takes us. We might end up in a strip club, dancing to “Fuck U Betta.” It’s going to be number one on the playlist of strip clubs.

When’s your album coming out?
I think late summer is what we’re shooting for. Maybe put another single out after “Fuck U Betta” and then the album.

You’re going to the NBA All-Star Game?
Yeah, it’s fantastic. I really know nothing about sports, it’s all kind of new to me doing the sport thing. It’s a lot of fun. I did the Super Bowl as well. That was crazy, very intense.

Did you get to hang out with Nicki Minaj and Madonna?
No, I never met them. It’s a shame, I would love to.

They’ll open for you some day.
No, we need to form something together, come together with girl power.

How long have you lived in New York?
I’ve lived here for a few years now, on and off, but I decided to really settle here a year or two ago. I love it here. It feels like home. I’ve never really had a home, I lived in a bunk my whole life, so my home is where I lay my hat, or headdress, or whatever you want to call it.

So how exaggerated is the Wikipedia entry on you? Such an eclectic background.
Not exaggerated at all. I wish I was lying but I’m not.

With a background like that, you’d have to wind up either doing something amazingly creative or be totally repressed.
I don’t know what else I would do. I tried to have a waitressing job once, and it lasted one day. They fired me. They were like Get out of here, this ain’t a catwalk. I was like ah shit, I guess I have to do something creative.

You were first signed by Mike Skinner?
I was. I was signed to 679, which was the same label as Mike Skinner, and then he put me onto The Beats, which was his label. And that was great, we all toured together: me, him, Professor Green, Example, and they’re all blowing up now, which is fantastic. Here come the cocktails!

Bartender Jasper Soffer: So here we have your first two, your classics. This is your very simple gin martini. Three ounces of gin. I suggest a good London dry. What I used in this one that I think is very nice is Beefeater 24, got some nice grapefruit and citrus notes. Then I put in three-quarters of an ounce of dry vermouth. That’s the vodka one.

[Neon Hitch has the vodka martini] Cheers. This is very refreshing.

JS: That’s a classic New York vodka martini. Which is basically vodka, three ounces, shaken the shit out of. They say that when you put in vermouth it bruises it, so I rinsed the glass, so the vermouth still stays intact. And I went with a nice lemon twist instead of an olive because that’s the more classic.

[Neon Hitch tastes my gin martini] This reminds me of licking an old man’s body. I’m serious, and I don’t dislike that. Mine is very refreshing. It’s clean, it’s not X-rated. I actually prefer yours.

You prefer gin? You like the old man?
It’s sexy, I like the old man. Vodka is too innocent. I need to try the old man again. Wow. Honestly, I definitely taste wrinkles. I’m not saying, like, real flavors, but it really tastes like first base with an old man.

So what do you think of the vodka martini?
Very fresh, very innocent, tastes like summer. I would drink this in the park with the sun shining. It’s a very daytime drink.

JS: So here we’ve got the Vesper, which is a modern classic. It was created in the James Bond movie Casino Royale.Gin, vodka, a splash of Lillet.

So this is the ultimate James Bond cocktail? I’m going to turn into a sexy man.

JS: It would be nice to have Stoli in this, it’s typically made with a Russian vodka, but Belvedere is equally good. For gin I used Bombay Sapphire. What’s nice about this is the ounce of vodka that goes in there for people who don’t like gin such as yourself. It evens it out a bit, kind of the best of both worlds.

It smells good. It’s got a serious kick, but Bond’s a strong man, it’s what he’d like. It would go well with something very manly. Definitely driving a swanky car. I’d be pullin’ bitches. Tastes like it’s going to put hairs on my chest for sure. Too much of a kick for me. It smells great though.

Which is funny because you like the straight gin one. It’s the Lillet I think. So when are you going to Orlando?
I leave Saturday. I’m doing the pregame show. I’m doing “Ass Back Home” with Gym Class Heroes.

What do you drink when you’re on your own?
Generally whiskey, straight or on the rocks. Scotch. It’s very warming. I love whiskey. I keep trying to drink other things but I keep falling back to whiskey.

Have you been gigging a lot lately?
I’ve been doing a lot of one-offs. The Super Bowl. Jingle Balls.

JS: We’re a bespoke cocktail bar, and this is our play on a dirty martini. It’s vodka with three muddled olives, some muddled red bell pepper, a little bit of thyme and rosemary, and a little bit of Lillet because it’s sweet, to round it all out. We call this the Oh No You Don’t, because when you’re about to order a dirty martini, we’re like, Oh No You Don’t. You can do better than that, be more creative. It’s for your dirty martini liker.

Ooh, it smells very peppery. Wow. It’s kind of like a martini version of a bloody mary. It’s more refreshing than a bloody mary. It’s amazing. I feel like this would cure a hangover. This is my thing, but still the old man is my favorite. I want to lick that sweaty body.

So you don’t like it too sweet?
I don’t like it too sweet, I don’t like it too feminine. It’s got to be a bit ballsy. I find the sweet ones give you a headache. So what’s this?

JS: We’re going back to the old school stuff. This could be the original martini. Two parts sweet vermouth, one part gin, and a dash of bitters and some maraschino. This is the Martinez, which could be the first martini, could be the original. And this could be its son or grandson, which is 50/50 gin and vermouth with 2 dashes orange bitters.

Let’s do the Martinez. I love the smell. Oh wow. So beautiful.

JS: That’s more or less a manhattan. It’s got bitters, it’s got sweet vermouth, it’s very Manhattan.

It’s quite syrupy.

JS: That’s the sweet vermouth. We use a rich sweet vermouth called Carpana Antica.

Kind of has a little tiny coffee taste. That is rich like Richard Branson. That’s amazing. Taste a little coffee essence in there. Richard Branson drinks this on a yacht. It’s a dusk drink, a little dusky. He’s got some chest hair out.

JS: Next one, this is a Prohibition-style drink. It’s half-and-half, with a couple of dashes of orange bitters. In the vesper family, not too potent, light and gentle. Like a martini, but you’d say I’d like a martini but I want it 50/50. It’s gin and vermouth.

It’s fresh but it’s very sharp. It wakes you up. This one you’re chillin’ on a yacht, enjoying life, that one is like Hello taste buds! There’s no lie, no hiding it. It’s like I am really drinking alcohol. I guess it’s the safest drink to go with. In the other ones the flavor is disguising how much alcohol is in it. But I’m getting there, I’m crossing into the world of martinis.

JS: Is that your round, that’s six.

Neon Hitch: Let’s have one more. Give me your sexiest cocktail.

JS: Do you want the passion fruit in there?

Yeah, let’s do that. I usually have a bottle of Jameson in my dressing room. It’s on my rider. I love to make hot toddies. Whiskey, hot water, honey, lemon. The rich like Richard Branson drink is dirty and full flavored. It tastes like dirt, but good dirt. Very relaxing.

JS: This is your passion fruit, Thai chili, tequila, little bit of nice pear brandy.

Neon Hitch: It smells so good. It’s tart. Here we go. This is definitely the "Fuck You Betta" drink. This is sexual, just like I asked for. It’s tangy. This is definitely a party girl drink. It’s sophisticated but sexual. Sophisticated people do have sex. It’s more feminine than the others. I would probably end up giving someone a lap dance at the end of the night if I carried on with that one. I love that one.

Where do you like to hang out in New York? What bars?
I love to go to Le Bain. I love having a nice view while I’m having a drink. I love Cabin Down Below. It’s such a cool space. And I love dive bars. I live on Mott and Bleecker. There’s a bar on Houston and Mott—great bar, great energy, I always have fun there. I love dive bars, and I love this place. I think I’ll be coming back here.

What’s it like being on the verge of superstardom? Do you feel the tension, that sense of in-betweenness?
If you’re in it, you don’t see the change. I’m in my life every day. It’s been very gradual. I’ve worked very hard. I don’t go Oh my god my life is so crazy. I get up early, I work out, I do a lot of phone calls. I like to keep busy. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Is it surreal to be at the Super Bowl? Do you ever have those moments where you’re like How did I get here?
I have recently been having some of those moments. I do meditate before every show. I can take myself out of my body and see myself from an outside perspective. I was raised Buddhist. I’m not religious. But then I’m like, Wow, I’ve come so far. I used to be homeless. If I had those kinds of realizations every day I’d be crazy. You should never take anything for granted. It’s important to be thankful. It’s friction. A few martinis would help that. I like living in a local community lifestyle. That’s the way I was raised, all of us in our caravans. We’d have breakfast together. In Soho you kind of can do that. You’ve got your Tiki place. Artistic life. New York is good for that.  It’s great. I get to see these people every day. My coffee man every day is like, “Morning, Neon, same again?” I go to my laundromat, you know they’re going to see your knickers. I’m like, how do you fold this?

When’s the last time you were on a trapeze? 
When I performed at the Rolling Stone party at the Super Bowl. Fox News was doing an interview with somebody and I saw the trapeze and I pushed people out of the way. It’s how I grew up. My mom was dating someone, a guy in the freak show. He was just a handsome dude who kind of ran the show. Freakishly handsome. There were these dwarfs on site, a woman with a beard, and the meat man. My mom would get a hundred pounds a minute to be chased by the meat man with a chainsaw. I was four years old and started swinging clubs, and eventually I got into swinging fire, and then I got into trapeze and stilt walking. It was just me and my mom for a while. We toured in the circus in the freak show. I’ve always been a performer. I’m a showgirl.

Do you incorporate that into your live act?
I have, in my last tour. I would love to do fire on stage, but I’m not allowed. I’d love to breathe fire. I actually tried to breathe fire in the “Fuck U Betta” video but the label wouldn’t let me. Thank you, Warner Bros! Boring! You guys are boring! I will breathe fire soon, in public. Watch this space. I go all out for my performances. I will do anything. If it hurts, that’s fine, I’ll take the pain.

What’s the origin of “Fuck U Betta”?
I wrote that song in bed, where I write most of my best songs. It was about an ex-boyfriend who was dating models and stuff. And I was like, well, that’s great, she’s obviously prettier than I’ll ever be, but at the end of the day, can she love you like I can? Not really. Does she have a butt like mine? I don’t think so. The message of the song is that it’s not really about looks. If you’ve got chemistry—whether it be emotional, sexual, or spiritual—that’s all that matters. That’s what the song is about.

I assume you’ve gotten over this guy?
Oh I’m totally over him. Now he comes back trying to call me. It’s over. But I can fuck him better. Now I’m really happy being single. Being single is fantastic. I’m spending a lot of time with my sisters now. They live in England but I’m being a good big sister and flying them out here.

I can’t stay late because I’ve got to go get my kids.
You’ve got kids? What are their names?

I have two boys. Zachary is five and the baby is Sebastian.
You have names like I’m going to call my children. Here are my future children’s names. I’ve got my whole life planned out. My boy is called Ziggy, and my girl is called Cleopatra. If I have another boy, he’s King. King, Ziggy, and Cleopatra. King Hitch. Holla! I’m going to get married, but I’m going to keep my name.


Classic Gin Martini
Combine 3 oz Beefeater 24 London Dry Gin and 3/4 oz Dry Vermouth in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Lemon Twist.
Modern Day Vodka Martini
Pour 3 oz Belvedere Vodka into an ice-filled shaker. Rinse cocktail glass with vermouth and discard. Shake vigorously and strain into glass. Garnish with a Lemon Twist.
Combine 3 oz Beefeater Gin, 1 oz Stoli Vodka, and 1/4 oz Lillet Blanc in an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Lemon Twist.
Oh No You Don’t!
Muddle 1 olive, 3 slices red bell pepper, and 1 sprig fresh thyme in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, 2 oz Grey Goose Vodka, and 1/4 oz Lillet Blanc. Shake and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an Olive. 
Combine 2 oz Carpana Antica Sweet Vermouth, 1 oz Beefeater London Dry Gin, 1 dash Angostura Bitters, and 1 barspoon Maraschino Liqueur in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Lemon Twist.
Fifty-Fifty Martini
Combine 1 1/2 oz Tanqueray London Dry Gin, 1 1/2 oz Dry Vermouth, and 2 dashes Orange Bitters in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Lemon Twist.
Neon Hitch’s Fuck You Betta Martini
Combine 2 oz Tequila, 1 oz Passion Fruit Liqueur, 1 ounce Pear Brandy in an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Thai Chili. 
[Photo: Sheryl Nields]

The Lonely Island Talks ‘SNL’ After-Parties

On “After Party,” an adrenaline-fueled, Santigold-assisted club burner from The Lonely Island’s sophomore album, Turtleneck & Chain, a mock-serious Andy Samberg raps, “After the club it’s the after-party/ And after the party it’s the hotel lobby.” As far as boasts go, R. Kelly got there first. But since this is the Lonely Island, this also happens: “And after that I have a full relapse/ And lose my hand in a game of craps.” As SNL regulars, Samberg and his partners in rhyme, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, know how fast an after-party can get messy.

“I don’t think I remember where a single one of them was,” says Samberg of the sketch comedy institution’s legendary post-show celebrations, which typically begin at a restaurant near its Rockefeller Center headquarters. A timeline, according to Schaffer: “The main after is at a restaurant, then there’s an after-after at, say, The Cabin Down Below, and occasionally there’s a kind of sad, after-after-after.” Sad, maybe, but each of them has made it to the bitter end a few times. “I’ve been to probably three or four this year,” says Samberg. “It’s bad news. You wake up at sundown on Sunday, then sleep for six more hours, and get up and go to work.” Then, in his best bro impersonation, Samberg says, “I guess you can say it’s, like, a rock-star lifestyle!”

The Ultimate CMJ Neighborhood Guide: Our Top Recommendations

Mapping out a schedule for the CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival is an overwhelming logistical nightmare. Over five days, bands and DJs all over Manhattan and Brooklyn perform for 20 to 60 minutes a pop, and the marathon keeps going. Un, deux, trois, bang, bang, bang. So if you are at a loss for where to begin, here’s a proverbial play-list that includes recommendations on what to see, and where to unwind, wind-up, and grab a bite between sets. We had to restrain ourselves a little, so check under Williamsburg, the East Village, and the Lower East Side for the best this weekend has to offer (starting tonight).

Lower East Side

Acts to Catch: Thursday: Sun Airway, 10:45 PM at Piano’s Light Pollution, 9:00 PM at Cake Shop The Feens, 10:00 PM at Crash Mansion Friday: K Flay, 9:00PM at Fat Baby Saturday: Neon Indian, 8:00 PM at Bowery Ballroom Miracles of Modern Science, 11:00 PM at Fat Baby BRAHMS, 12:00 AM at Piano’s

Where to Hide Between Sets: The Back Room Gallery Bar Painkiller

Where to Find Nourishment: Antibes Bistro Freeman’s Frankie’s Sputino Les Enfants Terribles Schiller’s Georgia’s East Side BBQ

If You Need to Trash a Hotel Room: The Hotel On Rivington Thompson LES


Tune-Age: Thursday: Two Door Cinema Club, 9:00 PM at Webster Hall Caveman, 10:15 PM at Lit Lounge Lawrence Arabia, 10:50 PM at Bowery Electric Friday: Hall of Justus, Kosha Dillz, Rebelmatics + special guests, 12:00 AM–3:00 AM at Bowery Poetry Club Designer Drugs, 1:30 AM at Webster Hall Saturday: Care Bears on Fire, 7PM at Bowery Poetry Club

Where to Sip: Heathers The Cabin Down Below Holiday Cocktail Lounge Where to Fill-Up: Artichoke Basille Pizza & Brewery The Bourgeois Pig Crif Dogs Hummus Place Whitmans Veselka

Where to Crash: Cooper Square Hotel


The Music: Thursday: Soft Black, 10:00 PM at Union Pool The Blow, 10:30 PM at Music Hall of Williamsburg Friday: Priestess, 10:30 PM at Union Pool Kids of 88, 11:00 PM at Trash Bar Everything Everything, 11:30PM at the Music Hall of Williamsburg Saturday: The Class Machine, 11:45 at Trash Bar

Grub: El Diablo Taco Truck Zenkichi Walter Foods Kenny’s Trattoria

A (Maybe) Low Key Drink: Hotel Delmano Royal Oak Fresh Kills Clem’s

Sleep it Off: Hotel Le Jolie

Nocturnal Confessions: Go East, Young Man!

I promised myself I wouldn’t get wrapped up in fashion week this year. But I am a goddam liar, so this weekend found me scrambling around lower Manhattan, looking for the best of this and the most fun that. Highlights for me included Jeremy Laing, Band of Outsiders, Victor Glemaud and Camila Staerk.

With the exception of Charlotte Ronson’s shindig at Avenue, the party highlights were found closer to Brooklyn than the Boom Boom Room, like Prabal Gurung’s fete at the newly christened Kenmare. After the snowy Sabbath that was Monday, I was looking for something a little different, and made my way down to the financial district to check out the party for Clandestine, Pete Wentz’s line for DKNY.

I have to admit I was confused by the amalgam of fashion, rock and Wentz that was happening at Andaz. I was told to put away my camera on arrival, a strange request, considering the giant chamber was sparsely populated, and mostly by guys who fit in somewhere between my dentist and an MBA. As I beat a hasty retreat, I noticed a side-chamber, velvetly roped off. In a week that centers on exclusivity, it is probably odd that this was the first official VIP room I’ve seen, and doubly odd that it would be at a party that was more FUBAR than rocking. I’ve only heard Pete Wentz’s band on soundtracks to the teen schlock I am embarrassingly addicted to, like Stick It and One Tree Hill, and I only really know of him from the tabloids (to me, he is the John and Kate of music), but judging from the amount of sponsors installed behind the posing “famous” faces , there’s a lot of folks who want to be in the Pete Wentz business. I’ll leave it at this: beware of the party with more sponsors than attendees.

The perfect antidote to this downtown shit show was the intimate and dimly-lit affair that was the Rodarte party at The Cabin Down Below. Nestled underneath the oyster-and-cheeseburger paradise that is Black Market, the movie stars mixed with us normals and danced with their pals. There were Olsens and a smiling Kirsten Dunst in the cabin, while the Rodarte girls held court in a banquet up top. It had a feeling of privacy, without being unwelcoming, or too-cool for school. Really everything a fashion week party should be (for several seasons in a row, the best fashion week jams I’ve attended have been held in the seriously unpretentious East Village). As more and more shows move from the $50,000 per booking Bryant Park tents to the more reasonable and accessible Milk Studios, we can only hope the parties will follow a similar, though more easterly trajectory.

image Backstage at Jeremy Laing.   image Looks from Jeremy Laing Fall 2010.   image A young man being escorted from the Clandestine party, and by far the most interesting thing that happened there.   image An assclown.  At Clandestine.   image Above Cabin at Black Market…   image and Down Below where you could fine models…   image ….hipsters   image ….people sitting and laughing   image …more models   image …fashion bigwigs   image …even Archie and the gang.

New York: Top 10 Places to Spot Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson was here in New York for a while, where, like a mirage of tousled sex, he dodged fans while flitting from hotel to bar to hotel. If the young gentleman can ever again summon the courage to return to Manhattan — and its chorus of “OHMYGAWD ITSEDWARDILOVEEDWARD ICOULDJUSTDIEEEEEEEE” — here is a list of his favorite places to hide. Stalk away!

Pearl Street Diner (West Village) – According to this man’s Twitter account and this blogger’s mobile photos, the no-fuss West Village eatery was closed on July 15 when it became a filming location for Pattinson’s new movie. When asked for comment, Pearl’s cooks said, “We’ll never wash our hands again.”

Gemma (East Village) – Late last month, Pattinson was spotted dining at the Bowery Hotel restaurant with his blonde Remember Me co-star Emilie de Ravin — which makes sense, because the place is dark, sexy, and features “Late Night Bites.” ● B Bar & Grill (East Village) – Pattinson was once spotted exiting the East Village eatery and mega-patio at 1:30 in the morning after a night of pizza and Peroni with a crew of friends that included Calvin Klein firebrand Eva Mendes. ● The Cabin Down Below (East Village) – In celebration of a friend’s birthday, Pattinson reportedly spent a night holed up in this small model-and-rock star hang in the East Village. At the very least, even if he’s not here, you’re guaranteed to lock eyes with a Stroke or Agyness Deyn. ● Don Hill’s (Soho) – This one doesn’t exactly count, because the 23-year-old actor was on site filming a scene with Remember Me co-star Tate Ellington. Still, in its sweaty Squeezebox heyday — and its subsequent rebirth as the home of the MisShapes’ weekly debacle — this would have been a can’t-miss for Pattinson. ● Il Cantinori (Greenwich Village) – Pattinson was seen noshing on a Caprese salad and veal entrée in this dimly lit Greenwich Village hotspot. (His merry band of masticators added a modest $50 tip to their $350 bill.) ● Black & White (East Village) – Pattinson was instantly noticed by an anonymous fan when he walked into this oft-packed East Village bar. Allegedly, after three beers, he was overheard saying, “I need to stay away from women born after 1988 … ” ● Lure Fishbar (SoHo) – Not surprisingly, this SoHo seafood abattoir is an underground affair, and rumored to have hosted Pattinson during his New York retreat. ● The Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – For its “A Night Out With …” column, The New York Times brought director Catherine Hardwicke and her vegetarian cash cow to this tri-level Lower East Side restaurant, where the group sampled Chef Chris Santos’ macaroni-and-cheese and fish tacos. Later, they headed over to the nearby Death & Co, of which BlackBook said, mistakenly, it’s “vampire-free, at least as far as we can tell — it’s dark in here.” ● Cafe Gitane (Nolita) – The breakfast offerings here are unparalleled, the people-watching perches impressive and close friends say they saw Pattinson here. But they also swear that I look cool in hats.

School of Seven Bells’ Ethereal Chimes

School of Seven Bells’ performance at the Bowery Ballroom on Friday night struck gold. I knew it’d be awesome, yet the band took their music to another plateau of sonic appreciation. The powerful threesome — Ben Curtis, Claudia Deheza, and her twin sister Alejandra Deheza — just finished up a monthlong US tour stretching far across to California. The Bowery show was a “coming home” of sorts for the New York-based band.

Ben, prior to taking the stage said, “Jessica! How are you! I’m running around, but you have to come to the Bowery Hotel with us after the show.” Claudia, whom I saw after their performance, said the same thing, “Come to the Bowery.” (So yeah, I guess I was going to Bowery.) My stop through the hotel lobby lasted ‘bout 15 minutes due from a text from Ben, “In the bar under the pizza place by Niagara. Come over. We’re here now.” Of course I knew he was speaking of one of my favorite bars, the Cabin.

Upon arrival, I found Ben, Claudia, and Alejandra holding court in the tucked-away back room, talking with friends including their manager Ryan Gentles and doing the usual catch-ups. The buzz among everyone at the Cabin was the band’s amazing performance. Everyone couldn’t stop chattering, especially Brandon Curtis — Ben’s brother from his former band Secret Machines. “I’m so glad I was able to make it tonight. So so so good.” (Now that’s coming from one of the most opinionated men in music. No family free passes from that one.)

While chatting with Alejandra, she surprised me by shifting the conversation and giving me an accolade. “The fact that you actually cared about our music when no one paid attention, years ago, in the beginning, even with On!Air!Library!, and are still here means so much. You’d always check in with us and see our progression.” I thought I was the one who was supposed to be the critic? The most critical thing I will say however is that this band isn’t going anywhere, so watch out Roseland and Hammerstein ballrooms — they’re coming soon.

Ladies Night: Catherine Pierce & Tamaryn Reign

Women in music reigned last night in New York City. To begin with, Catherine Pierce, from the songstress-sister-duo The Pierces had an art opening at Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn. Catherine invited me to check out her latest paintings on display, so naturally I said yes to the lovely lady and friend. Nadia Koch, a huge music fan and partner in Home Sweet Home, tagged along with me for the evening. We arrived at Cameo — which sits behind The Lovin’ Cup Café — to a sea of Catherine’s friends and family, including her younger sister Louisa, plus Paige Wood, who also had artwork on display. Alison Pierce, Catherine’s better half from The Pierces was of course there as well to support. And oh! I can’t forget this bit — the girls introduced to me to their mother! After our introduction, I knew why her daughters are so sweet.

I asked Catherine what she’s been up to. “Allison and I just returned from France. We had a performance at the Nouveau Casino in Paris! It was sooo nice!” I wish I could’ve snuck inside Catherine’s suitcase and joined along for the ride. Next time perhaps.

Nadia and I quickly said our goodbyes due to the need to catch a show at Annex back in Manhattan. Tamaryn, a young and up-and-coming singer on the rise, was scheduled to perform. Think dark, think Siouxsie and the Banshees, think, gypsy — that’s Tamaryn’s look. (Surprise, surprise, her music falls within the same vein.) We walked inside to a packed house just in time to catch her set. Quite good I must say. Each time I see one of her performances, she gets better and better. Rest assured, Tamaryn is one to watch.

After the show, Nadia and I snuck off to the Cabin for a nightcap; it’s a watering hole for a slew of notable musicians in New York City. I wasn’t surprised to see Kirsten Dunst and Fab from The Strokes upon entry. Nadia and I didn’t stay too long, but rest assured, fun was had. Sans-boys nights are indeed a necessity for us ladies and should happen more often.

Industry Insiders: Johnny T, Cabin Fever

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in New York, you’ve walked into one of Johnny T’s East Village hangs. A staple in the NYC music and nightlife scenes, Johnny recently opened Cabin Down Below, an insta-speakeasy sensation. We sat down for an afternoon cocktail in the basement of his bar Niagara, source of many rock n’ roll memories.

What bars do you claim as your own these days? Black & White, Niagara, Bowery Electric, Cabin Down Below, and Pizza Shop.

How’d you become the East Village guru? I started hanging in the East Village when I was 16, working for artist Mark Kastabi. My first bartending job was at Ludlow Street Café, an after-hours café. I went to work at 2 a.m. and left by 8 in the morning. It was my first introduction to bartending and New York nightlife. I had my first bar upstairs at 2A, a local hangout on 2nd Street and Avenue A. By this time, I knew I wanted to start up another bar too. Along with Michael Sweer, who owns Bowery Presents, and Laura Fluto, we found a tiny place called Walley’s, which eventually became Niagara & Tikki Bar. I also became involved in the Motherfucker events, another collaborative party project that I participated in for years, throwing massive downtown events with Michael T, Justine Delaney, the booker at Le Poisson Rouge, and George Seville, a partner at the Delancey. I opened up Black & White in 2000 with my brother Chris Yerington. After that, Bowery Electric in 2008 with Jesse Malin and Mike Studo. My newest projects are Pizza Shop located next to Niagara and Cabin Down Below, which is my new underground speakeasy-style bar, opened in January with Matt Romano.

You’ve been a staple of this neighborhood forever — what’s your secret? My secret is perseverance and the people that are always around me. Whether they are the employees or the people that hang in my bars, I always try to focus on a great crowd. I want people that wanna have fun and come together for a good time. I found a way to do what I love and make a living. I’ve been playing drums since I was 15 and bartending since I was 18. Having a bar where bands can play, and where local and touring musicians can come and hang was the dream. Being a touring musician for many years too, I met all these people all over the world. I wanted to set up a real rock n’ roll bar. My secret weapon is the music. Rock n’ roll DJs and music are at all my places seven days a week. It’s all about the rock n’ roll lifestyle: making music, getting messy, and getting laid.

Any side hustles? I’ve been a drummer forever. I used to play in a band called Clowns of Progress … we all lived in the “Big Clown House” on Avenue B. I also played with Ryan Adams for a couple years, recording and touring with him. Now I’m in a band called Pop Girls Etc., one of the best projects I’ve been involved in. We’re all music geeks trying to cram a lot of influences into one. We‘re in the studio now and about to release a single in the UK, which Jesse Malin is producing.

What are your favorite hangs? It’s very rare that I’m not in one of my own bars. The drinks are free.

Anyone in the industry that you look up to? I have a great deal of respect for anyone that takes on this industry. I mean it’s fun, but it’s hard work to make something last. Anyone with a enough money and a publicist can have a bunch of celebrities parade around and open a venue for a year or two, but it will always be a flash in the pan. It’s the exact opposite of what I’ve done: start from the ground up, grassroots style. Know your neighborhood and the locals. I have a lot respect for my peers, but I pretty much just jumped into this … so to be standing here now, I feel grateful to still be carrying the torch.

What people have come into your bars? Of course I’ve had a lot of great people in my bars, but I hate to drop names. The reason I still have high-profile patrons is because we have a no rope policy, no bottle service, and we don’t tell magazines what celebrities have come through our doors.

What’s on the agenda for 2009? We’ve renovated Tikki Room downstairs at Niagara, and the gallery upstairs. We’ve also expanded Bowery Electric and opened the downstairs there.

What’s your favorite destination? Hawaii.

What are you doing tonight? Going to Bowery Electric.

Guiltiest pleasure? Late-night food runs to Blue Ribbon. What’s your dream spot for a project? I kinda have my dream spots already … this was an accidental occupation. I never wanted to open bars; it was a means to an end. It was so I could go out and drink, play drums, and make money.