Wednesday, February 5, 2014

CBGB Festival @ Times Square - New York NY 10/12/13 (Grizzly Bear & My Morning Jacket Part 1 of 3)

I really had no intention of going to this festival.  Just like the critics, I felt as though the Festival did not encompass the scene the CBGB's helped create in the 70's.  It wasn't even the same owners.  It is now a corporation and seemed to be opposite of what CBGB's was.  My opinion would change.

It started with a Facebook contest.  Scrawl the Wall.  It was a reference to the legendary bathroom and how unbelievably horrible it was.

The contest was if the bathroom still existed today and if you could write anything on the wall what would it be?  My entry was short and sweet.

"I came, I saw, I even used the bathroom!"

Of course, I had never been to CBGB's.  I regret that.  I had opportunities and never went.  I have a friend that had done sound there and heard wonderful stories.  But I missed a crucial part of punk.  The music I love.

I forgot about the contest.  I actually forgot about it right after I entered.  So when I got a call on my cell phone from Los Angeles during work hours I assumed it was a telemarketer.  I was shocked when I listened to the voice mail and learned that it was in reference to the concert.  I was one of the finalist and they wanted to make sure that I qualified, (ie: I lived close enough and was 21 years old).  After the qualification questions I was expecting to be told I would hear back if I won but instead I was told right then and there that I won.  YES!!!

I had won two Platinum VIP passes which gave me access to every event that the festival had to offer over the 5 days in October.  It gave me access to the VIP tent, which had private bathrooms and free food.  I also would receive a festival shirt and poster.  This was going to be great.

Over 5 days the festival was a celebration of everything music.  There were movies, panel discussions, and concerts.  The problem was seeing everything that you wanted to see.  Some things were at the same time and you had to make the hard choice.  Because of my work schedule I would only be able to make Saturday, which is the main day.  Even that was difficult.  Both of my boys had soccer tournaments over that Columbus day weekend and I coach one of the teams.  I was coaching a game that morning and then rushing against time to get the train to Penn Station.  I only had until 2:00 to get my tickets or I was out of luck.  The race was on.

I did some leg work before hand to figure out what I wanted to see.  There were some tough choices.  I would not get to see the premier of The Descendants documentary Filmage but my day would be packed.  I was going to catch the main late shows in Time Square featuring Grizzly Bear and My Morning Jacket.

I would not make the early shows featuring Lisa Loeb and The Wallflowers.  From there I would catch a subway to see Killswitch Engage at a small venue owned by Andrew W.K. and then a mile walk up the Bowery to see Ice-T in yet another small venue.  Timing was critical as I would have to leave each show at a certain time to get to the next but I was up for the challenge.  The Festival promoters had created an iPhone app with schedule, times, and GPS directions so I was armed and ready to go.  I also printed out Google directions to make sure to know which subway to take and so forth.  I had not had much experience with NYC so this was going to be an experience.

After the early morning soccer game I hopped in the car and raced to the train station.  I changed in the car on the way.  I missed an early train that I was hoping to catch.  It pulled away as I was purchasing my ticket.  The next one would be in 5 minutes and would get me there at 1:00.  After I arrived it gave me an hour to walk about 10 blocks and get my tickets.

I made it to the hotel and, after asking for directions and following the labyrinth I found the room where I could pick up my tickets.  I was in time.  The woman who handed my my tickets didn't even check my name against a list.  I guess if you found the room you must have won

I was in possession of two winning prize packs.  The funny thing is that this was all so last minute that I could not get anyone to go with me.  The price bags included a tour shirt, tour poster, Platinum VIP Lanyard and a CD.  One had Taylor Swift and one had Rascal Flatts.  WTF?

I was finally relaxed an now I could enjoy myself.  I walked outside and was right at the VIP entrance.  I wondered in to grab some lunch.

Pulled pork sandwiches, beef brisket, chicken tenders and hand made potato chips.  All of which were really good.  I felt like Napoleon Dynamite as I was stuffing potato chips in my pockets for later.  I grabbed a seat near the main stage to enjoy my lunch.

I still had some time before the show so I started to wonder through the tents that were set up.  There were some really cool tents including the New York Roller Derby team.  To my surprise at the end of the tents there was another stage.  What?!?

This threw a wrench in my plans.  It seems that to keep the show rolling there were two stages six blocks apart.  As one band finished on one stage the next band would start on the other.  There were three bands this set.  James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem doing a DJ set, Grizzly Bear, and then My Morning Jacket.  James Murphy would be on the first stage so I decided to set up camp at this one being that I was standing at center stage.  I had a little bit of a wait but I was in for it.  I could watch James Murphy from the big screen above the stage.  Not what I came here for but it would work.  I knew I would have to leave before Grizzley Bear's set was over to get to the other stage for a good spot for My Morning Jacket.  I was ready.

This stage was set up right outside of the David Letterman Studio.

While I was waiting we were treated to Grizzly Bear doing their own sound check.

Grizzly Bear was going to play a ten song set.  I am a casual listener but I was hoping to hear 'Two Weeks'.

When they came on the mood was right.  There was a cool breeze.  The weather had been perfect.  And they started with 'Speak in Rounds'.

The ambiance they were setting was superb.  They were transforming Times Square into a small venue.


As they got about 7 songs into their set I knew I need to be on my way to get a decent spot for the next band.  I made my was back to the VIP tent for some grub and headed back to the other stage.

I am always awestruck by the scenery whenever I go to NYC.  I have more or an appreciation every time I go.  As soon as I got over to the other stage I got to witness an older woman who was drunk harassing two of New York's finest.  They handled it with class.  I grabbed a good spot and got there right as 'Two Weeks' was coming on the big screen...sigh.


Finally, it was time for My Morning Jacket.  I like bits and pieces of this band.  Their albums always seem to be a hard listening experience for me.  They are so good at so many genres that they can't seem to pick one.  Their albums can be multiple genres ranging from Really Good to Not so Good.  What they did for their set was pick the best of the best...and it was AWESOME!

The crowd was excited!!!  What a great place to see a great show.  I huge highlight for me was 'I'm Amazed'.

The band sounded great and they were rocking.

They followed 'I'm Amazed' with 'Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am' which is a Fela Kuti cover from Red Hot + Fela.

On the record the back up vocals were done by Brittany Howard from the Alabama Shakes and Merrill Garbus from the Tune-Yards.  As a surprise they both joined them onstage.

It was a great groove to see live and a great cover to boot.  The piece de resistance though was 'Victory Dance'. 

They had the crowd in the palm of their hands.  Unfortunately, I knew if I wanted to see Killswitch Engage I need to get on my way.  I made my way through the crowd and headed for the subway.

To Be Continued...


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