03/22/2005: "microscenes and macroscenes."
Someone asked me what excited me about New York recently and I said it was the proliferation of musical microscenes -- each one of them healthy and thriving, but none of them whole or total enough to take over. Every fringe genre here (grime, microhouse, noise, drum'n'bass, etc) each has enough adherents to pack a 200-person venue on short notice. Floating between the different microscenes is a lot of fun. Sometimes--no, make that often--I find myself in despair with the microhouse (nanotrance? picotechno?) microscene, and think about how much better and how much more macro it is in Berlin. Huge dance music venues are opening there, not closing down! They're the rule, not the exception. They attract thousands of people on a weekly basis. In Germany, techno is a macroscene almost the way hip-hop is here; its reach is major. But Berlin doesn't have a lot of the other scenes New York has.
So instead of decrying New York for not being like Berlin, it's more productive to think of intriguing ways that these current New York microscenes could spread and interact with each other. Tonic's an illustration of how this could happen; on Friday night I saw techno/minimal house DJs downstairs, and then walked upstairs to see a kick-ass impromptu performance by local weirdsters Gang Gang Dance. A few of the same people were at both gigs. This in a nutshell is this new Animal Collective electronic side-project album coming out on Paw Tracks, called Jane. It basically sounds like what would happen if the fucked-up folkies who were watching Gang Gang Dance upstairs at Tonic and the German techno DJs downstairs at Tonic started talking to each other. It's not such a far-off idea, and it's pulled off well.
(Note I've been talking more in the downtown 'hipster' sense; if you want to see a burgeoning New York macroscene, head uptown or deep into a borough and check it out: reggaeton has taken over whole blocks, whole neighborhoods, whole regions of the city hook, line, and sinker. Folks in my old neighborhood in West Harlem, for instance, used to mostly blast hip-hop (I have fond memories of my entire bedroom shaking to Ludacris at 4 a.m.) and salsa. Reggaeton was around when I lived there, too, but now the entire neighborhood is the all-reggaeton, all-the-time channel!)