I Am Drinking Again

Blogging has required an adjustment on my writing process. Before this I was and am a wannabe Literature/Fiction writer. We don’t get an immediate, if ever, audience. We don’t get instant gratification like those pansy-ass musicians and artists. The process is a practice in patience and dedication. Solitude. I cannot be under the influence of anything when I write. Not for the purity of the blah-blah-blah, but because a couple drinks in and all I want to do is hangout, make fun of my friends to their faces and make them laugh about it, too. A couple drinks in, to hell with solitude.

Diesel

the Mack Truck logo let’s you know it’s bad ass

I grew up with every piece of trash in the trailer park declaring that, “Budweiser is a man’s beer!” “Miller High Life is a real goddamn beer, by god!” And Coors, and Natty Lite. Corporate piss water. A can of that weak-ass shit has 5% alcohol. A glass of froo-froo wine is about 13%. I say that like I’m going somewhere with this. For all my cries of falsity, and redneck ignorance, what was I drinking? Zima. Jesus. My prom date and I got drunk on Aftershock, which is some cinnamon liquor that crystalizes in the bottle as you drink due to its insane amount of sugar. My white trash angel harangued me into procuring it for this magical reason. On my 21st did I go out on the town proper, from bar to bar? Nope. Planet Hollywood, where I could drink overpriced drinks named after popular movies. A place for tourists and other rubes. On the reservation in North Carolina, me and my Injun cousins would get someone with a car to carry us deep into the mountains where every underaged one of us drank Sysco wine, which I believe was even lower rung than Boone’s Farm or we’d get some Diesel 190 proof grain alcohol from the ABC store just off the rez. This was tougher stuff, sure, but even trashier than the trash I was trying to cultivate out of me. I didn’t know how to not be trailer park.

I was a pizza delivery boy for a bit. I worked for some real New York Italians who had transplanted to my hometown for some odd reason. I would deliver a pie to some rednecks here and there who would proposition me with an even better tip if I’d ferry them to the gas station for a case of Bud. I’d say, yes, every time; take ‘em to the store, take ‘em back home, take their money and sit and drink a can with them. There was a derelict hotel I’d deliver to. It was usually dudes at the middle or end of some awfulness in their lives. They never had tip money. They offered booze or drugs. I’d drink with them. I was never trying to be an alcoholic, and these excursions were not too regular a thing. We were all just so very bored. They, confined to their homes because they fucked around and lost their licenses, or holing themselves up in shitty hotel rooms because in a town where everybody knows everybody no one will take them in, and myself confined to my car having heard all I could stand of NPR’s sensible and enriching programming. I laughed with them. Every one of them told me that theirs was not a life a young man like me should want to have. It seems like anger and resentment are the only reasons I left my home in Georgia, but it was also out of respect.

Freddy's

Freddy’s

My barroom education came about when I moved to Atlanta, then New Orleans, then Athens. I learned that Bud and Miller were actually lagers. Shitty lagers. Sweetwater Brewery was just hitting the scene. I learned I really like IPAs. A chain restaurant that primarily exists in GA called Taco Mac featured 300 beers, and a little “Around the World” program that encouraged drinking the gamut of brews. I worked there, drank all the beer. My tastes improved. I never touched that swill stuff. Artisan crafted potables all the way. $8 a pint, and honestly believing whatever I was seeing at the bottom of the glass was better than those rednecks of my homeland. I moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to write my novel. I quit drinking for the most part, and quit smoking entirely. I learned to keep my head down in solitude.

High LifeI finished my manuscript and now I’m in Brooklyn. At first, money kept me from drinking at all. When things got a tiny bit better, I’d enjoy a drink now and then, making sure it was the most micro-brewed-crafted-as-all-hell as could be. I had finally cultivated an aversion to that piss water of old, wouldn’t even touch the hipster approved PBR. Then this blog. After dealing with long-form for so long I found it hard to be in the moment. I would habitually try to make long arcing storylines to be addressed in later posts. I was mentally cataloging everything I was seeing and hearing, and thus in danger of becoming an internet journalist. Can you imagine? I want to be excited, and surprised in this journey through BK Country. I want to be mouthy, and raucous in my telling of it. So, it behooves me to drown out that cultivated snob that I in too many unearned ways have become. Now all my 1st draft posts are done at Freddy’s Bar, a couple blocks up from Roots Café where I do the final drafts. At night, it’s High Lifes until I get that snob quieted down enough that I can have some fun, so I can laugh about these high times, piss and moan about the sorrows. Then, in the light of day with coffee and cheese grits, try to makes sense of the night before. I do it for you, dear reader.

Happy to be here.

Happy to be here.

 

Roots Family Pictorialathonarama!

A Night of Song and Feast and Miller High Lifes

Pics by badass rad assassin Andreea Radulescu

Join us, won't you?

Join us, won’t you?

Roots Family Reunion is a night of celebration for the tight knit community of South Slope (and beyond) musicians, artists and proprietors. These photos are from the 4th annual iteration, and The Road Southern was damn happy bear witness to it!

God and Country!

God and Country!

Even God made an appearance to show support! But, then got way too drunk, way too early. I mean, He was ok. He didn’t do anything terrible, per se. It was just weird, I guess. A little too rowdy for the room, maybe.

 

Bambarger, Hair products for your face!

Bambarger, Hair products for your face!

Bambarger‘s beard products looked so fine that despite having shaved that morning, I forced out a beard on the spot. Hurt like a son of a bitch, but thanks to them, I have the finest beard in Brooklyn. Go get your beard did!

 

That Moon

Moon Shine

That Moon in full shine.

 

 

Flirt Vendor

They have write ups in New York Mag, and Time Out New York and everything, y’all!

Flirt Boutique. I was hoping this was a kissing booth.

the Cornell BrosThe Cornell Bros.

Write your parents. They're worried. They only know Brooklyn from the movies.

Write your parents. They’re worried. They only know Brooklyn from the movies.

Ryan LammA little Ryan Hamm of the Barnyard Brothers, and Justin Kilburn surprising the hell out of me on steel guitar. (pictured right)

Gypsy George

Ladies and gents, Gypsy George!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Frye and Chris MurphyMatt Frye, whose music tickles my soul, and Chris Q Murphy who may become my Virgil through BK Country.

B&BBarefoot & Bankside. Jamey Hamm is the man who puts Roots Family Reunion together. Thank ‘im when you see ‘im.

Kinda feeling like I should be paying my photographer.

Kinda feeling like I should be paying my photographer.

And Miss Trisha Ivy. I swear, I never would have thought a voice could be caught on camera.

A Little Closer To Home

Inside it reads, "Helluva show! It was right dumb of you not to be here. Love, TRS"

Inside it reads, “Helluva show! It was right dumb of you not to be here. Love, TRS”

I enjoyed very much the Roots Family Reunion, and soon will be posting a pictorial w/ links and all the trimmings so you can have a sit down, sip your whiskey, and fall to pieces when you realize what a great show you missed.

Matt Frye 2While that’s in the works, I want to write about a very excellent find in the musical stylings of Matt Frye. He came on stage in sneakers, shorts, t-shirt and a raccoon hat. He looked like a dork, and the audience at large seemed to deem him off-putting, and it appeared as though they deemed him so throughout. I loved him. His music is better suited to venues like Goodbye Blue Monday (a refuge in my early, miserable Brooklyn days) than ones filled with more earnest country singers, bluegrass pickers, and southern rockers. Not to say that musically he had no place. I hear Hank in him, and Woody, and more personal to me, David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. There’s a seeming jackass on stage. Like early Ween, he gives the appearance that he doesn’t take any of this seriously when in fact his music is quite skillful, and his lyrics are more carefully worded and meted out than their humor and cheekiness let on.

He also achieves something that I hope these others in BK Country will see to follow suit. He allows Brooklyn to influence his roots music directly. There was nothing wrong with the rest of the lineup, but in this BK Country scene it is as though these musicians mean to steadfastly preserve the sound and conventions of their roots music. They give a spirited exhibition of proficiency and exactitude when some recklessness and  a sense of fuck-all could get the crowd closer to the stage. And I get it. It’s the sound and music of their home. It’s who they were growing up, and is engrained in their identity as well as who they see themselves to be. If this wannabe writer who cannot play any instrument or carry a tune in a bucket could impart some advice, it would be this. Brooklyn happened on your way to country greatness. Your lives here are made unique in regards to your stay-at-home counterparts. You have trains, taxis, and every walk of life at your door step. You gave up pick-up trucks and porch sittin’, and all those easy “simple times” to grind and hustle, to be met with every form of rejection both personal and professional in order to earn some hard won breath catching moments. Open up them big ol’ hearts to Brooklyn, she’ll only love you for it.

matt frye LIVE _ livin’ at joann’s from Hilo Media on Vimeo.

But, anyway.

Matt Frye’s music made me remember sitting in front of our tv as a kid, that big ol’ glass tube encased in finished wood. Cable finally became affordable to us trailer park dwellers. On MTV a man named Dr. Demento had a music video program that showcased all the smart asses and goofballs of the music world. Some novelties, like the Fish Heads song. Others were musical geniuses that the world was not then ready for and so relegated to the weirdo bin. I discovered Weird Al Yankovic, They Might Be Giants, The Dead Milkmen, Camper Van Beethoven, and mother fucking DEVO. I discovered that I was a weirdo, too. It was good to know we had anthems. It’s like Leonard Cohen sang, “Clenching your fist for the ones like us, who are oppressed by the figures of beauty. You fixed yourself, you said ‘Well, never mind. We are ugly, but we have the music.’” So, I’m glad Matt Frye is out there reminding us to fuck the norm.

And here’s a little bonus music.

Lightning Unbottled

Roots Family

The Road Southern's Intrepid Photographer

The Road Southern’s Intrepid Photographer

In an attempt to prime you for tonight’s Roots Family Reunion show, permit me to tell you about the last time I saw Barefoot & Bankside. It stormed and it thundered. These Brooklyn streets were rivers. I was pinned under a storefront awning waiting on an unceasing downpour, and so was everybody else. I braved the waters and met up with Andreea, official Road Southern photographer. She had forgotten her camera. We ate ramen noodles. That part’s a little lackluster, I know. Also, the rain let up and it was an easy walk to Union Hall, but the storm that had just passed was as nothing compared to the storm to come.

Sorry, just trying to set a tone.

We got to Union Hall a little late. We missed the first couple of bands. We did get there in time for Chris Q Murphy. He’s a song writer from Brooklyn. He’s definitely a student of Americana. At times he sounded country, at other times like those old bar bands in New Orleans I used to go see, a straight up rock and roll vibe as it was when electric guitar was just moving away from its R&B genesis. A supreme lyricist, his storytelling is complex and deep, yet easily accessible and understood.

B&B had been on hiatus performance-wise. Jamey Hamm had a newborn to see to. However, he and Amanda Neill had acquired an official backing band and sequestered themselves to a rehearsal space over the past few months. It paid off in spades.

Jamey normally did triple duty at a B&B show: lead singer, guitarist, and percussions. A veritable one-man band, this guy. He was impressive and great at simultaneous performance duties, and I am a huge fan of talented one-man bands such as Quintron, Owen Pallet, and Possessed By Paul James. Now he’s delegated those duties to exceedingly capable musicians. All of this has led to the blowing away of myself and the audience by Jamey’s full attention on vocals, and hollerin’, and stompin’. No one in the band was worried about timing, or remembering notes to songs they just learned. It was all muscle memory, which allowed them to open up, pour out their hearts and souls, and leave it all on the stage. Hearing Jamey’s vocals push up to and past what I’ve grown used to from Amanda was amazing, AND it caused Amanda to go even harder, which I thought could not be possible. B&B is a band busted out of its cocoon. It is no longer in its infancy and has become a thunderous force of nature.

Trisha Ivy followed. I was a bit anxious to see how this would go. B&B’s set was high energy and had everyone up and moving and cheering. At the first couple of songs the crowd had dissipated. This is not due to her actual performance. Those first songs were slower ones, the amped crowd was using the down pace as a moment to break. Trisha, a consummate performer, remedied this. She picked up the pace, she let loose her own voice. That there exists a monster in Trisha’s voice has always been hinted at in her shows despite how in control of it she can be. I was happy it was out that night, as I was happy Jamey’s own monster voice was out, and Amanda’s.

Roots Family 1In my notes that night I wrote down the best thing I’d written in a while, maybe ever. And near perfect, I think I’ve only touched it once or twice, so that its original form is 98% intact. Full of gratitude, wonder, and bourbon I wrote, “Tonight I am misty eyed at the quality of music put forth to me, and that by it I am filled with the ever elusive holiest of grails that is the present moment. I came to join and am enjoined by these talent filled, hope filled friends and strangers who connect me to my old world, and to this both fierce and gracious new one.” BK Country, y’all.

The Way Is Forward

B&B

Amanda & Jamey American Gothic Style

Jamey Hamm had a little baby girl. Amanda Neill bought Roots Café from him so that he could be a stay at home dad. This was back in February. There was little BK Country for me at that time, yet I still hatched the idea to begin a blog revolving around the southern/country scene of Brooklyn and NYC at large. I swear it’s that photo of Trisha Ivy that got me saying “BK Country.” Maybe something Jamey said or wrote…? “BK Country.” That sounds like a thing, doesn’t it? Feels like a thing, anyway. Thing enough for me to start this. Somewhere in that BK Country lull, I heard a song. It gave me the title of this blog, and once the blog had a name, lull or not, it was time to begin.

Right?

Right?

The first show I went to with notebook in hand was Trisha’s performance at Hometown BBQ. This was also my first trek into Red Hook. Geographically speaking, it’s close by, but no trains go there. Busses barely go there. However, my bicycle got me there in a flash. It’s odd when a city has remote areas within itself. This makes bicycle travel feel freeing. There were people I wanted to invite to the show, but they would not be able to make the journey without more planning. Not me. One pant leg hiked up to keep it out of the gears and with the wind in my hair, I got there faster than cars, even. Once inside Hometown, I said, hi, to Amanda and her husband, and took a spot at the bar. The interior of Hometown BBQ is that of a road house. Big open floors with old-wood tables. A couple of giant ‘Merican flags. They smoke their own meats in house. A ball field is next door, and a softball team was in line with me. There were families. There were fat old men and women. There was beer and whiskey. It felt like I was back home. Later, I would be surprised the owner, Billy Durney, is Brooklyn born and raised. A big fella, his attire struck me as “Walter” from The Big Lebowski. He traveled around the south, all of it. He said he liked what he saw, and liked what he ate.

Trisha IvyTrisha played. She had a guitarist, Mike Beck, that picked and strummed as country as any, but I found out he, too, is a Yankee, and a jazz trained one at that. Amanda got up on stage with her. They make a unique pair, Trisha and Amanda. Amanda who retains a Sunday modesty in her dress; very humble, but not at all shy. Trisha, with a measure of flare, asserts herself before her audience. Amanda, a raw and reactive nerve in regards to that voice of hers. Trisha exudes more control as she reigns in and unleashes accordingly. Jamey has this quality, as well. This is not to say Amanda is wild or impulsive. She simply gets lost in a song, and Trisha and Jamey are wise to let her.

There was a ton of food afterwards, and plenty more drinks. I got to meet everybody. Amanda’s husband, Christian, advised me to seek out The Lone Bellow who live in Brooklyn. Riding home on my bike drunk was its own liberation. Until I got to 4th Ave, it seemed like I was the only soul in Brooklyn. The air was chill, and at night even the Gowanus canal can appear charming. I thought about the idea of making The Lone Bellow a mission. I thought about Trisha helping to clean the restaurant after we ate, and Amanda’s new ownership of Roots Café. I thought of all the hours I’ve put into day jobs here. Work, toil, is not meaningless in this city. At least, not for those of us who came here with the wholly daunting and nigh-unreachable goal of becoming who we know we can be. A father. A successful business owner. A BK Country star. A real writer.

The song that brought me this blog’s name is not a country song, and not from the south. In fact, if someone had described it to me, I probably wouldn’t listen. It’s not necessarily my thing. But its post-industrial rhythms, its art-pop ambition, and its encouraging lyrics that never dip into platitudes give me a sense of trudging forward, maintaining vision, and keeping balance. It’s become my anthem.