It’s hard getting to the beginning of anything, but with Troost (1011 Manhattan Ave) in Greenpoint, it might help to keep in mind a street sign in Kansas City: Troost Ave. “I just liked the way it looked,” the owner, John Ortiz says, one evening during a sit down at Goldie’s, on what we both agree is the “other side” of Greenpoint. Troost opened its doors in 2011. It started as a café, beer and wine bar. But it’s grown since then to include a full bar and live music. But John is specific. It is “not a music venue. It’s a bar that has music.” It having music occupies a lot of the conversation.
“It’s interesting,” he says, “to see artists respond when you put limitations on them.” The limitations are familiar to anyone who attends shows or is a musician in New York. They come down to two things: noise and space. “It’s almost always worked out. One or two cases, maybe.” One aspect that keeps things going is a good relationship with the neighbors. “They all have my number. They’re great. Sometimes I get a text saying, ‘hey, last night was a little loud,’ but for the most part, the relationship is really good.” Another is just figuring out who could and should play. Who does the approaching? “It’s pretty much word of mouth, musicians putting me in touch with other musicians,” he says. Continue reading →
The past week has been musically great, with reformed acts playing sold out shows around town. Texas-based punk rockers The Marked Men bashed their way through back-to-back gigs, first Thursday at St. Vitus (1120 Manhattan Ave.) then onto their initially announced Brooklyn Bazaar (150 Greenpoint Ave.) show on Friday. The band’s old-school punk riffing and ear for hooks has endeared them a strong following even if they haven’t released an album since 09’s Ghosts. The venue was packed with a sea of black leather and safety pinned battle jackets, with the crowd singing or shouting in response to the band throughout their set.
In a world full of bullshit and bullshitters, Danny Brown is as clean as a whistle. In fact, his authenticity is perhaps as pure as a baby bull’s shit. No matter how it’s put, Danny Brown is a true artist, and there’s a new documentary out tonight that will school you on the matter.
Directed by Andrew Cohn (of Medora fame), Danny Brown: Live at the Majestic captures raw moments with the indie rapper as he prepares for a homecoming show at The Majestic Theatre in Detroit. With 21 cameras, Cohn’s crew captured full coverage of the live show, but the documentary also includes intimate footage with Danny in his own hometown.
Andrew Cohn, whose career initially started with screenwriting in Los Angeles, but who is now based in Brooklyn, enjoyed much success with his first documentary, Medora. The heart-wrenching doc follows a seemingly hopeless small-town high school basketball team through their losing streak in Medora, Indiana. The film premiered at SXSW, and it won an Emmy last year.
Danny Brown: Live at the Majestic is one of Cohn’s newest documentaries (he also just finished Night School). This time, as with Medora, he seems to have been born to make this film. As a Michiganian, Cohn was a fan of Danny Brown before the rapper’s fame hit global proportions — before XXX or Old hit the charts — back when Brown was just a drug dealer in Detroit trying to make it as a rapper. Cohn says he remembers when it was a big deal whenever Danny was featured on the cover of “Metro Times” in Detroit. As a fellow Midwestern artist, he’s enjoyed seeing Brown’s fame rise as his own filmmaking success has evolved.
I had the chance to catch up with Cohn about the documentary — how it came about and what it was like working with the creative force that is Danny Brown.
Greenpointers: What made you decide to make a doc on Danny Brown?
Andrew Cohn: It kinda came about as a side project because I was in the middle of making Night School, which I was in Indianapolis for. I had been in touch with his manager about doing a doc… and had lots of ideas that just fizzled and nothing came of [them]. But when I was making Night School… his manager approached me and said, ‘Danny is doing this show…it’s his first time doing a solo show in Detroit in a long time and we wanna film it, and want to talk to you to see if there’s something bigger you want to build around it.’ And immediately I was like ‘That sounds great, I’m close, I already have a crew and a ton of resources in Detroit and Michigan since that’s where I’m from’…So, first thing we wanted to do was shoot the fuck out of the live show…we wanted to just totally blow it out… And then I went back [to Indianapolis] to finish [Night School]. And, obviously, I spent about three days interviewing Danny while I was in Detroit… then had the idea to follow some fans who were at the show, and spent a few days with them, and slowly, slowly it started coming together… It was about a sixteen-month process from the first day of shooting.
GP: How did you find the fans who were featured in the film?
AC: Danny put out a Facebook post asking for fans who were going to be at the show who might be willing to be filmed…and we found some really great characters, you know, his fan base is super, super interesting… I think for Danny, he has a lot of fans who aren’t hip hop fans, a lot of them are punk rock fans. You’ll see a lot of mosh pits at his show. But I think that’s what’s great about Danny — he brings that vulnerability to his song writing. It’s not all braggadocious. He has that street credit, but he also has a punk rock mentality. Like, he refused to sign to a major label, he has this independent streak in him where he just does things his way, and I think the audience really reacts to that. He just has a really wide audience…like a lot of kids that come to his shows, I don’t think they’re gonna see a Drake show. He speaks to people that feel maybe disenfranchised, or people that are attracted to that kind of honesty.
GP: I was really impressed with how open and honest he was [in the film]. Was it easy to get him to open up like that in the conversations you had with him?
AC: Surprisingly so. I’ve done some profiles on some bigger artists and there’s always this kind of wall. They give you the PR spin of, like, an athlete after a basketball game, ‘Both teams played hard’ — this kind of sound byte stuff. But as soon as I met him — and I’m a huge Danny Brown fan — I totally understood why people love him so much. He’s so open and so honest and so vulnerable and raw. There’s none of that fake bullshit.
The first day I met him, we were filming late at night at the EL-P show, and they were all going to go back to Danny’s house and hang out after, and I [asked to come and film] and he was like, ‘Yeah of course!’ But I didn’t have car. I was trying to figure out how I would get back to the hotel…and he was like, ‘Oh, you can spend the night at my house! It’s fine.’ It was the first day I met this guy and he was inviting me to crash on his couch. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal, but now, looking back, I’m like, ‘Damn, that’s crazy. That’s crazy.’
GP: So, why did you approach his manager initially? Was it just because you’re a big fan?
AC: Yeah, I mean I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. I remember Danny Brown before he was big at all…he was just another rapper from Detroit. He just opened for people – he was just one of the dozens of rappers in Detroit doing their thing…To see him transcend that and be really big was really really fun to watch. And so when I approached Dart, his manager, I showed him Medora, and he and his wife really loved the film, and knew that they would be in good hands. And I just started this relationship that ended up taking a long time to come to fruition, but I think in the end there was a trust there — like we’re from the same place, we have the same point of view, you know. So that’s what was cool about doing the doc…I didn’t have to sit down and Google ‘Danny Brown’ and do research on who he is…I already knew his full story, so it made it easy when we were interviewing or talking, because I understood where he was coming from.
GP: What made you decide to have the world premiere through Rooftop Films?
AC:Just because I know Dan [Nuxoll, Program Director], and I know that they put on amazing screenings. The screening they did with Medora was unbelievable…so I knew I would be in good hands. They said that they had requests for 2,100 tickets in like three hours, or something like that, so I knew they would be able to handle the volume and accommodate Danny’s fans. I think that was really important to us — to have something where Danny’s fans have access…[something that] was going to be free, was going to be open to the public…all ages, 18 and over. So that was important to us. And you know, New York is a big market for him, so it made sense.
GP: Most of your work seems to revolve around people in low-income situations. What draws you to that landscape?
AC: I think that I love stories of underdogs. I’m not exactly sure why. I enjoy giving a voice to people who might not be given that platform. I think that there’s a lot of people out there in that part of the country who are really overcoming a lot of odds that don’t really get credit for it. So to be able to shine a light on people who wouldn’t have their stories told is really important to me. I think everyone is attracted to different types of material, and I like just making movies about real people who are trying to live in the real world, you know, and I think there are really courageous stories in that space. And I’m from the Midwest and obviously I love the Midwest — there’s just the frankness of the people — they’re very forthcoming and honest — and so I like telling stories about that part of the country — that part of the world.
GP: What are you working on now?
AC: I just finished my other film, so [I’m] figuring out the rollout with that. I’m doing something for MTV, Vice, ESPN, doing some television stuff, then basically taking a break. This will be my fourth feature film in three years. I’ve been going pretty hard for the past two years, so I’m going to take a break and see what’s next.
GP: Do you have an idea of what you would want to work on next?
AC:Yeah, I want to take a stab at doing a narrative film. Get back to screenwriting and hopefully direct something narrative. I have a couple ideas for docs. There are plenty of opportunities coming my way and it’s hard to say no, but I need to do laundry, and just get my life back on track.
GP: Get back to the basics.
AC: Yeah, exactly.
GP: I mean, that’s a good problem to have as a filmmaker.
AC: Yeah, I’m super grateful. Especially for the opportunity to make a film about your favorite rapper…it seems so surreal. I’m just grateful to have the relationship with him. He’s just a great guy, you know.
Yeah! I know.
Attendance for tonight’s show is on a first come, first serve basis, and doors open at 7. Screening starts at 8:30, followed by a Q&A with Danny Brown and Andrew Cohn. Danny performs at 10PM. House of Vans is located at 25 Franklin Street in Greenpoint.
“This neighborhood is becoming a vinyl mecca,” says Robert Piskorski, owner of Dream Fishing Tackle (673 Manhattan Ave). His store, which opened 17 years ago, was known for selling fishing gear until a year and a half ago, when his daughter convinced him to start stocking antiques and quirky artifacts in a portion of the store, while still allocating much of the space for “hardcore saltwater and hardcore freshwater” fishermen’s supplies. Then about six months ago, Piskorski began carrying vintage vinyl alongside the fishing tackle and antiques. Perhaps this motley selection was brought about by his own personal disdain for big retailers like Walmart or “boring boutiques in Manhattan. They all look the same.” He feels that an optimal shopping experience brings “a sense of adventure and discovery.” Dream Fishing Tackle certainly promotes that ideology, and it’s unique to Greenpoint.
No, the headline to this post does not mean we went around having sex with people then interviewed them afterwards. We’ll do that post a different day.
Cigarettes After Sex is a Brooklyn-based ambient pop band that headlined at Baby’s All Right recently in a sold out show. They have had tremendous success, with their song Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Babygarnering over 6 million plays. Libsyd Read was the opening act at 8 pm.
I had the chance to engage in some online banter with Greg Gonzalez, who writes and performs the band’s tunes. We talked about growing up in West Texas, coming up with band names, and how YouTube offers some really weird suggested videos sometimes. Continue reading →
When “I can’t feel my face,” refers to the walk from the subway instead of Drake’s oeuvre, you know the deep freeze of mid-January has descended. It’s hard to find entertainment that justifies donning a puffy coat and wrapping up like a woolen burrito. But no one can Netflix and chill forever. If you’re like me and you’ve logged at least ten hours of couch time binging “Making a Murderer” this month, it’s time to get out of the house.
Luckily, a group of nightlife veterans are eliminating the guesswork and serving up the perfect night out, right here in Greenpoint. “Nightcap Riot: Mombucha” is one part concert, one part immersive theater, one part kombucha brewing tutorial, with a dash of comedy, and plenty of kombucha-infused cocktails. The resulting two and a half hours go down smoothly. It’s fresh, different and way more interesting than spending winter downing pints at the same old bar.Continue reading →
Before, it served two purposes. You came to Sunshine Laundromat and Pinball because you either wanted to do your laundry, or you wanted to play a machine from the incredible collection of pinball. Or, of course, you wanted to hang out with the owner Peter and his awesome lab Choco.
Now, you’ll have so many more reasons. Sunshine, in case you haven’t noticed while walking past on your bleary-eyed morning stumble to Upright, has got a brand new bag. Continue reading →
We here at the GP like to tell you about local bands we recently saw live, because they play in a lot of local places and you should know what to expect if you go.
Dru Cutler played at the Living Room recently and the audience was having a great time, so here is why I think that happened.
First off, the guy cares a lot about his band being in tune and tight to the rhythm. That’s important when you have an audience like this one, which looked like it was composed of a lot of earnest nice folks out on a first or second date. Cutler’s primary goal, it appeared, was to endear himself to them and show he’s a good guy with relatable stories. This was not a punk show where everyone there was only looking to GET LAID or GET PAID, including the band. Continue reading →
Day to day life and love in New York as standalone themes are trite but not when they are expressed in the form of Indie Rock, down-to-earth lyrics, and versatile tempos. In Dru Cutler’s latest single “Familiar” these come together in one beautifully composed piano ballad.
“Familiar” now has an accompanying music video and will be debuting this Saturday, July 25, 2015 at The Living Room (134 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn NY) at 11:00PM. Continue reading →