Tommy Tavern’s is an anomaly in Greenpoint, a neighborhood gentrifying faster than you can say “is the G train running this weekend?” It’s more dive bar than you’ll find almost anywhere; the kind of place where your vodka tonic is a glass of rubbing alcohol topped with a splash of stale sugar water. Two dollar Schaffer’s are the house specialty and the only thing in the place that has been replaced or cleaned in the last decade is a shiny digital juke box, which spews Bon Jovi, Phil Collins, and if you’re lucky, Queen. At the back of the bar is a door that could lead to a closet but instead opens into a amorphous room painted in haphazard crimson. Inside is the bar’s bathroom, and a “stage”. When I entered, the lead guitarist of the night’s headliner, Pop. 1280, was collecting money at the door. The vibe in the room was pretension-free. Everyone was just waiting for the music, noticing little else.
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Before Danes Oh No Ono took the stage, the Mercury Lounge capacity crowd was treated to a sporadic set by Brooklyn locals ArpLine. Their electronica sound, regularly augmented by guitars and other live instruments, had the bouncy qualities of Javelin but lacked the complimentary zeal. They came out flat, unable to register a single melody in my head.
826NYC, otherwise known as the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co, is a non-profit center that encourages children to develop their creative writing skills. It is also a brainchild of Dave Eggers, acclaimed author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What, and, most recently, the screenplay and novelized versions of Where the Wild Things Are. As it happens, Eggers also happens to frequent a celebrity circle, which allows him to bring talented comedians (John Oliver, Eugene Mirman), musicians (David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens) or actors to 826 benefits as was the case of the present Ping-Pong charity event. SPiN New York, an extremely chic table tennis club in Manhattan was the latest benefit venue where Eggers, along with author Sarah Vowell, the Times crosswords editor Will Shortz and actors, David Schwimmer, Peter Sarsgaard, Catherine Keener, and Mike Meyers, played some ping pong. And I don’t want to forget New York Ranger Sean Avery or chef Mario Batali either. For those Regular Joes, you could raise money for a chance to play against a celebrity or make a smaller contribution to come in and watch.
In the backwoods of the imagination lies Mike “Yes Yes” Ersing, nestled somewhere between Daniel Johnston, Kimya Dawson, drug addled dreams, and a healthy portion of crooner meets beat poet. Perpetually shifting between wistful and angry freak folk with occasional country undertones, this Buffalo native played on Tuesday January 5th to an intimate crowd at Arlene’s Grocery.
Once Ella Fitzgerald immortalized the “A” train in that famous tune by Sir Duke, few could resist the idea of shuttling uptown to experience Harlem’s fervent jazz scene. “Take the A Train” is still a beguiling invitation, though heading downtown on the “A” train promises just as memorable a time these days, especially if you disembark at the West 4th street station, one block from The Blue Note.