06/15/14 11:56am


It was a bummer when rain came and washed away Friday night’s much anticipated Northside show featuring War on Drugs, Woods, and Julianna Barwick. It was crushing, even. But now here we are two days later, and it feels very much like it was a blessing in disguise. The show has been moved to tonight, effectively making today a strong contender for Best Day Ever, as you now have the chance to spend the first half of it at McCarren Park for the free CHVRCHES show before heading over to 50 Kent for a fitting, glorious end to the weekend. Set times are the same as they were for Friday, but the gates will now open at 6pm instead of 5pm. Tickets are available here.

Set times:

The War on Drugs 8:30pm
Woods 7:30pm
Julianna Barwick 6:45pm
Gates at 6pm

05/07/14 4:00am

Dirck the Norseman
7 N. 15th Street, Greenpoint

Ed Raven, owner of renowned Greenpoint beer bar and bottle shop Brouwerij Lane, named his latest venture after a 17th-century Scandinavian shipbuilder who settled on 300 acres in what’s now Brooklyn. Dirck’s inspiration, though, seems more German than Norwegian. There are plenty of reasons to start throwing around the term biergarten: the abundance of classic Bavarian beers on offer, the long rows of communal tables that take up the whole back, and the open-air vibe provided by the huge garage doors that allow patrons to look out onto the street. But that would obscure the place’s most notable aspect: Dirck the Norseman is Brooklyn’s first combination bar, restaurant and brewery.

Behind a glass partition near the back of the room, you’ll see staring out at you some very shiny, very intimidating brewing equipment—giant tanks and fermenters and lots of other things you probably won’t be able to identify—used to produce primarily traditional European styles of beer: Wallabout Wit is a standard Belgian witbier heavy on cloves and spice and brewed with malts from Massachusetts; Helles Gate is an unfiltered German rauchbier with a pronounced smokey flavor brightened up by a hint of honey; and Das Schwarze Meer is a delicious and easy-drinking cross between a crisp, fruity kolsch and a chocolate-forward black lager known as a schwarzbier. One standout was Ash Street IPA, a 7.9 percent ABV hop bomb that serves as a clear reminder you’re still firmly planted here in the US. Another was Fisticuffs, an English-style mild ale that packs a crazy amount of flavor into an astoundingly low 2.9 percent ABV; it tastes of coffee and brown sugar and paired brilliantly with the pancakes on their brunch menu. Good news for those interested in sampling as many beers as possible: they’re all available in multiple sizes, including a half-pint for a perfectly reasonable $3.

So Dirck’s worth visiting for the beer program alone, but you might want to be careful about when you show up. At 3pm on a recent Saturday afternoon, the bar was pleasantly half-full. There were small groups talking quietly—two men with two small children, twentysomethings stopping in for a quick drink after going for a run along the nearby waterfront. By 5pm, though, it was uncomfortably packed, and the small, friendly staff seemed overwhelmed. This should come as no surprise: long gone are the days when you could open a unique and welcoming place in this neighborhood and expect it to go unnoticed. Meet some friends there for after-work drinks on a weeknight, or get there as early as you possibly can on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and commit to a long day of drinking. In that case, just remember to go with the Fisticuffs.

01/29/14 4:00am

113 Franklin Street, Greenpoint

With Brouwerij Lane, Tørst, Keg & Lantern and The Bodega, Greenpoint has no shortage of bars focused on beer. It makes sense, considering the way the neighborhood has managed to maintain its working-class appearance, if not the working-class rents to go along with it—an irony mirrored in the way many of the neighborhood’s beer bars focus on high-end craft offerings rather than the cheaper blue-collar stuff. With Ramona’s recent arrival to the remarkably quaint Franklin Street, drinkers looking for high-end cocktails now also have a place to visit. 

Co-owned by brothers Scott and Jay Schneider and Jay’s wife Natalka Burian, Ramona is the sister bar of Elsa in the East Village. “Sister bar,” mind you, is something of an understatement—they’re practically twins. Both spaces were designed by Evan and Oliver Haslegrave of the ubiquitous Brooklyn design company hOmE, and they share the firm’s hallmarks: reclaimed wood offset by pristine white walls and unexpected architectural touches, providing an elegance that can be almost intimidating. 

The bars also share a menu, which feels not lazy, exactly, but… well, ok, it feels a little lazy. Even in 2014, you’d like to think North Brooklyn and the East Village are different enough to warrant variation. Still, it’s hard to get too worked up about it given the breadth of drinks they offer, from the small but well-chosen beer and wine selections to the extensive cocktail list that is very much the star of the bar.

It includes a variety of whiskey drinks. Death of a Ladies Man was my favorite, a mixture of rye, honey, Laphroig 10-Year Scotch, lemon and tobacco bitters—a perfect balance of spice, smoke and a nice, round sweetness. The Black Book combines bourbon with jalapeño, honey, lemon, and warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg that help tone down the pepper’s more aggressive heat. Unsurprisingly, the Old Fashioned is also perfect. Should your tastebuds favor something other than whiskey, you could certainly do worse than the Self Portrait, a delicious blend of cilantro-infused tequila, habañero, agave and lemon. Sadly unavailable on the night I visited was the Barrel-Aged Perfect Manhattan, the first batch of which they’d run through faster than expected. Also missing were the small plates they’ll offer soon: house-roasted mixed nuts and assorted charcuterie. I’ll definitely be back to sample both. 

01/27/14 2:26pm


No one who watched the Grammys last night could have woken up this morning feeling very good about the current state of rock and roll. The award for Best Rock Album went to Led Zeppelin for some stupid live recording of a show from 2007, and Best Alternative Album (oh god) went to Vampire Weekend, who were probably embarrassed to have even been nominated—but that shit wasn’t even televised. Imagine Dragons, who you’ve probably never bothered to listen to, performed with Kendrick Lamar and may as well have been hired actors or… Coldplay. Ringo did some insanely awful song, then he joined Paul for some other insanely awful song, and we were supposed to act like it was some big fucking deal even though it was just really embarrassing. Metallica played “One” with accompaniment from Chinese pianist Lang Lang, and it was notable only because it taught us that James Hetfield has recently become even worse at singing, now relying even more heavily on cartoonish voices and silly growls. There was that whole thing at the end of the show, too, when Trent Reznor, Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, and Lindsey Buckingham formed the most buffoonish supergroup ever (sorry, Linds) and then got cut off when it became clear nothing of any note was going to happen during their performance. It was so sad, the whole thing.


But then this morning there was a hint of promise! We learned of a new song by Cloud Nothings, whose last record, Attack on Memory, is one of the more respected rock albums in recent years, at least on the indie side of things. I always liked it ok, but I also grew bothered by what seemed like a forced raspiness in singer Dylan Baldi’s voice. The follow-up, Here and Nowhere Else, is out on 4/1, and the first single, “I’m Not Part of Me,” premiered on Sirius XMU this morning. It’s good: propulsive, guitar-driven and exactly as anthemic as you’d hope, with almost none of that annoying throatiness that drove me so crazy. The sound is also a little different this time out. Albini produced Attack on Memory, and his fingerprints were all over it, but now there’s something a bit more polished to the proceedings. It’s tasteful, though—more reminiscent of 70s power pop than whatever Josh Homme and those other dudes do. The “I’m not telling you all I’m going through” refrain induces some eye-rolling at first—it’s a childish, manipulative thing to say, obviously—but it also creates a context in which something great could happen. Whether it’s the tension that arises from maintaining restraint or the catharsis that comes from spilling it, well, it’ll be something. It may not be enough to undo all that was on display last night, but it will be a start. Listen:

01/15/14 4:00am

Photographs by Eric Ryan Anderson

Hospitality had already been kicking around New York City for a couple years when they signed a deal with legendary indie label Merge Records (home of Arcade Fire, of course), so by the time their self-titled debut was released in 2012, we were already familiar and fully in love with their upbeat, hook-filled indie-pop. Hearing their second full-length, Trouble, for the first time, though, is a very different experience: there’s nothing that could possibly be described as twee, and even calling it indie-pop doesn’t feel quite right. Trouble sounds big and serious—an unmistakable rock record by a band that still believes in the power of rock but manages never to give in to the many clichés that in recent years have called its relevance into question. We spoke to them about the change in direction, among other things.

01/15/14 4:00am

The Great Georgiana
248 Dekalb Avenue, Fort Greene

The Great Georgiana has been a long time coming. Owners Dominic Tracy, James Gragg and Chris Connor set their sights on the space back in late 2011 when word got out that the previous occupant, the beloved coffee shop Tillie’s, would close. After some construction-related obstacles, typical pushback from kill-joy community board members, and a brief setback when they were denied a liquor license because the piece of paper stating that they’d requested one wasn’t hung in a prominent-enough place, they’re finally open. 

Despite the tumult of the past two years, the new bar is most notable for how peaceful it is. The lighting is warm and inviting; the music, though deeply uncool by any measure, is a relaxing and strangely enjoyable mix of new jazz and soul. The wood, from the single six-seat high-top to the bar stools and the long row of small tables lining the wall, is dark and unadorned. The patrons who braved the 8-degree temperatures on the night I visited sat in small groups and talked quietly. There’s even a gorgeous old card catalog inthe back. 

It’s an exceedingly pleasant place, though it seems somewhat unsure of exactly what kind of place it wants to be. I suppose it’s a bar, first and foremost, but there’s something about the layout (and the unexpected table service) that says restaurant. The food menu boasts a mixture of small plates and entrée like Beef in a Mother’s Milk stout with caramelized onions and mashed potatoes ($18) and Braised Pork Shoulder with Grilled Tomatillos ($15). We stuck with the small stuff like a cheese and meat plate ($12) with slightly bland prosciutto, a Danish blue cheese, and Delice de Bourgogne, a delicious and creamy French cheese that’s so rich it’s almost indistinguishable from butter. We also had wings ($12), but not your standard variety: they’re baked and marinated in greek yogurt with jalapeño, cilantro and Middle Eastern spices. 

As for the drinks, there’s a solid selection of wines by the bottle or glass, the latter ranging from $7 to $10. The cocktail list is small but well-considered. I had an outstanding bourbon drink called The Hightower ($12), made with Buffalo Trace, fresh lemon and Giffard ginger. The beer list is decent if not terribly exciting. Draft options skew local (or at least regional), with common offerings from Kelso, Captain Lawrence, Empire, and the like. It’s hard to imagine going too far out of your way to visit the Great Georgiana, but the same could be said of 95 percent of the bars in Brooklyn. This is another fine local spot that does many things very well, even if it could stand to do most of them a little better.

12/09/13 10:14am

It was 3am and I was sitting in the last stall—farthest from the door—in a communal summer camp bathroom. I was practicing a deep yogic breathing exercise and praying to god that this time I would be able to take a shit. I was 29 years old, and it had been exactly twenty four-hours since I’d last unloaded. I had a deep knot of dread that I wouldn’t be able to poop for the rest of this vacation (really a long weekend revolving around a wedding). I made a promise to myself then and there that if I ever got married, I would demand that the first thing on my registry be a colon cleanse. I was a bridesmaid in my best friend Margot’s wedding. For the ceremony and reception, Margot and her lovely fiancé, Andrew, had rented an entire summer camp in northern Michigan for three days.

It was a beautiful wedding. I was constipated for the whole thing.


You see, I am literally anal retentive. But I don’t posses any of the qualities that a figuratively anal retentive person has: I’m not high strung or inflexible or worried about perfection. My roommate, back in New York, is a figuratively anal person, and even keeps an Excel spreadsheet of her grooming habits so she knows exactly when to freshen her roots and get her chin hairs threaded. I can barely figure out our TiVo. When it comes down to it, I’m a pretty laid-back gal who thrives on chaos and spontaneity. A few gray hairs and a bit of beard doesn’t bother me—I think it’s an endearing look.

Except I have one embarrassingly neurotic habit: I can only poop in my own bathroom.

I don’t know where this habit came from, and I don’t even remember when it began. Over the years, however, I’ve pieced together that it probably has something to do with moving all the time with my Foreign Service parents, and also having gone to boarding school. There’s no privacy at boarding school, and at that tender teenage time, the communal shitting situation most likely amped up my already formed poop phobia. You would think that knowing that everyone has to go would make me more comfortable. I mean, even the school prefect, Debbie, had to take a dump every now and then. But no, I never relaxed. I was constantly monitoring when people were at a rehearsal, or in a study session, or at the cafeteria, so I could finally have some “me” time. Alone at last in the communal bathroom, I could let one rip in peace.

Ten years later and nothing had changed. Back in my stall in the woods, I was living my teenage nightmare all over again, as my exposed ass was getting eaten alive by the vicious Michigan mosquitos. I had moved positions from sitting to squatting on the toilet seat because I had read somewhere this helps dislodge things. It wasn’t working, so I closed my eyes and tried to do my visualization exercise.

There had been a three hour-drive from the airport to the camp and I was put in a car with another bridesmaid whom I hadn’t met before. Her name was Daniele and she was studying to be an art therapist. Daniele had an open, caring, nonjudgmental face, and we became fast friends, gossiping about which groomsman we found the hottest. Eventually, due to the confession-like atmosphere of being stuck in a car with someone for three hours, things got real. She started crying, and in between sobs and blowing her nose, she told me about her lying, cheating, bastard of a boyfriend. At this point, I thought it only fair to come clean about my defecation problem. I reasoned that she was a therapist and had probably heard worse, and in comparison to her situation, my story might even make her feel better. “Her boyfriend might be an asshole, but at least she can use a public restroom,” I thought. Really though, I was just desperate for advice on how to make it through the weekend when I knew there would be no private toilets. She got pensive for a moment, and then told me to envision a crowd of loved ones, standing all around me, clapping and cheering me on. She said, “Close your eyes, and think about an audience of people, everyone you care about giving you a standing ovation for doing number two.”

This sounded creepy and vaguely infantile, like when you’re potty training a baby and giving them a piece of candy every time they make it to the toilet, but like I said, I was desperate. So that night in the stall, I closed my eyes like she told me and tried to bring up an image of a crowd of comforting people. But just like when someone tells you to visualize everyone naked in the audience and then all you can do is imagine the one girl you know who has a perfect body (the kind of body that looks exactly the same when she’s sitting down as when she’s standing up) all I could do was imagine Brad. Brad was the bad-boy groomsman who had ridden his motorcycle all the way from Alberta to Grand Rapids. He showed up to the wedding with a black eye and very tight pants. The last thing on earth I would ever want would be for Brad to witness me squatting on a toilet seat at 3am, hoping that everyone was asleep so I could fart in private. I didn’t even want him to know that I farted in the first place.

Twenty minutes later nothing had happened. I gave up and walked back to the cafeteria where I pulled out the kale that was going to be used for the salad the next day. “Good roughage,” I thought. I wished I had remembered my Smooth Move tea, but I hadn’t remembered because I’m not figuratively anal retentive. In fact, I’m a flake and all I had packed for this very outdoorsy wedding was a curling iron, a pair of high heels, a tooth brush, my bridesmaid’s dress and a pack of condoms. Well, I could forget about needing those. Clearly I was in no condition for sex. Which was a shame, because as the “sex columnist from NY,” my reputation was at stake.

The next day, the wedding took place and all the bridesmaids gathered in the one cabin that had a mirror. I gotta say, for having slept on the ground, we all looked great. Even I wasn’t feeling too terrible. I’d been drinking champagne to try to take the edge off and it was working. I had almost forgotten about the dull cramping in my lower abdomen. Then we noticed that one of the bridesmaids, Erin, was missing in action. But before anyone could start bitching about what a disaster she was, Erin burst in with armloads of McDonalds. “Happy fucking wedding!” she screamed. Erin took the cake as the crazy one. (This is a role I normally play, but my bowel issues were forcing me to be more composed than usual.) All the ladies put beach towels over their dresses and dug into the hamburgers, french fries and milkshakes. It smelled delicious, but I knew if I ate any of it, this wedding would be the most painful and gassy experience of my life.

“Lacy, you aren’t going to have even one tiny bite?” Erin asked me.

“No, thanks. I don’t really eat things like that,” I said.

“You know, you could stop being such a stick in the mud,” she hissed in my ear.

I thought about saying, “Yeah, well imagine pulling that stick out of the mud and shoving it up my ass, because that’s about how I feel right now.” But instead, I just angrily applied more lipstick. Then we all walked down the aisle.

For a couple of blissful hours my need to poop became a secondary concern. I was too wrapped up in the wedding, in all the tears, and all the love—though I did pass on the beer-soaked beans that were served with dinner. Then there were the toasts, and the pictures, and more love and more tears, and finally, the best part: good old wedding-disco-dancing. The whole wedding party moved rhythmlessly from the Hokey-Pokey, to the Electric Slide, to the Macarena. And as I watched David, the guidance counselor from Ottawa, attempt the Tootsie Roll, I thought, “We are the whitest bunch of people I have ever seen.”

Finally, it was time to prepare the wedding tent for the bride and groom. I had been given this special task along with the maid of honor, Amy. Amy was a beautiful blonde goddess that spent half her year traipsing around the world working for different aid organizations. If it ever came down to me or her, she was definitely getting into heaven first. It didn’t hurt that she also had the physique of a yoga instructor, and Children-of-the-Corn-yellow hair down to her ass. Standing next to her, I looked like Danny DeVito.

We packed up all the special bedding needed for the bride and groom and drunkenly walked the half mile through the woods to the new couple’s wedding chamber: an army surplus tent we had put up hours ago in the daylight. Once there, we lit candles, covered the blow up mattress in rose petals, and even hung a Chinese lantern inside. We stepped back to admire our work.

Then Amy let out the longest, loudest fart I have ever heard.

“Oh my god, I am so sorry!” She squealed in horror. “It’s that goddamn McDonalds we ate earlier. I have been so farty, and I couldn’t let anything out when we were on the dance floor.”

“Please don’t apologize,” I said. Then I grasped her hands, “In fact, I’m having a similar problem. I can not…” I took a deep breath. “I can’t go,” I finally whispered. I looked in her eyes, and hoped she could read my furrowed brow and infer my meaning.

It took her a moment to register what I meant, but then she nodded. “Ohhhhh. Yes, communal bathrooms are difficult. But, you know cabin 18 has a private bathroom. Just go now. If anyone asks I’ll make something up about you looking at the stars or something.”

I have never been more grateful to a person. (Amy if you ever read this, you are welcome to my first born.)
I ran to cabin 18. Finally, alone without any pressure and with a door that went all the way to floor, I released.
When I got back to the party, Erin ran up and grabbed my arm, “Where were you? Were you with Brad? You were! My God, you’re practically glowing.” I didn’t dissuade her. After all, I had my reputation to keep.
The night was almost over, the bride and groom had left for their love tent, the parents had retired hours before and only the true partiers were still drinking from the open bar. I got on the microphone and announced, “Guys, skinny dipping in the lake in ten minutes!” The crowd went wild.

Down at the lake, clothes were discarded and left by the bonfire. We ran fast and wild to the dock and jumped off in all our youthful splendor. With night sky above us, we floated on our backs and formed a circle, holding hands and touching feet. We were drunk on the love we had witnessed, and also, we were just drunk. I squeezed Brad’s hand lightly. With my bowels empty, I was free.

11/06/13 4:00am

Glorietta Baldy
502 Franklin Avenue, Bed-Stuy
4 L’s

Anyone who’s spent time drinking at Bar Great Harry, Mission Dolores, or The Owl Farm—all owned by brothers Ben, Seth and Mike Wiley—can guess what they’re getting into at Glorietta Baldy, the newest addition to the Wileys’s ever-expanding Brooklyn beer empire. It’s the team’s first venture outside the Carroll Gardens and Park Slope neighborhoods on which they’ve already made their mark—neighborhoods, mind you, that are practically synonymous with the bearded, beer-loving thirtysomethings who’ve served so long as their easy-target audience. The formula they’ve developed should translate to Bed-Stuy nicely, though, allowing them to attract the younger, ostensibly hipper clientele they’re likely to encounter there.

Named after a hiking trail in New Mexico, Glorietta Baldy is nondescript in much the same way its predecessors are. Upon entering, there’s a standard bar area to your right and a long row of two-seater wooden tables down the left side. There’re a couple of pinball machines in the back, some Christmas lights, and a few scattered pieces of punk rock ephemera—a quick scan of the place will reveal a 7 Seconds album cover propped up on some overhead pipes near the back corner and a Bad Brains sticker placed inconspicuously on a wall. The music when I visited (early in the evening on a quiet weeknight) veered toward far-out jazz, but it’s easy to imagine it getting a bit rowdier on the weekends.

The bar is about as unpretentious as it gets, really, even for these guys, and the beer selection is the same. There are 12 draft lines, featuring an assortment of craft beers that, for now anyway, puts a premium on approachability rather than the omigod I can’t believe they have that factor some places go for. The highlights when I visited were Barrier Brewing’s delicious and unbelievably creamy Moochelle milk stout, the most recent version of Stone’s Enjoy By series of IPAs, and Brooklyn’s own Grimm Artisanal Ales’ From the Hip, a Belgian pale ale flavored with rose hips. You could argue that the lineup doesn’t offer enough variation, with a predominance of lighter offerings like Naragansett Lager, Evil Twin Low Life Pilsner, and Stillwater’s Classique, which the bar’s own menu described as a better version of a “classic American hi-lifey beer.” 

As for cocktails, the bar offers a standard selection of essentials. I ordered an Old-Fashioned that was almost everything I require an Old-Fashioned to be: a perfect combination of sweet citrus and spicy rye. The orange slice and cherries were muddled, though, and when it come to Old-Fashioneds I’m proudly anti-muddling. These are small gripes, of course. Glorietta Baldy is a perfectly worthy addition to the burgeoning Bed-Stuy bar scene—as well as the Wiley
brothers’ resumé. 

09/24/13 9:00am


Last Friday, just as people were starting to turn their attention toward the weekend, the internet gave us a parting message of sorts, something that felt like homework, even: video of a Louis C.K. appearance on Late Night With Conan O’Brien during which the comedian shared his reasons for not allowing his daughters to have cell phones. First, he says, cell phones preclude us, and especially children, from feeling empathy—it’s easy to say hurtful things via text message because you’re spared the awkwardness of having to see the other person’s reaction, thus making it easier to just go on saying even more hurtful things to even more people. Simple enough. It was the next part, though, that really got everyone clicking the share button.


You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty-forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and that you’re alone. It’s down there.

And sometimes when things clear away, you’re not watching anything, you’re in your car, and you start going, ‘Oh no, here it comes, that I’m alone.’ It’s starts to visit on you. Just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it…

That’s why we text and drive. I look around, pretty much 100 percent of the people driving are texting. And they’re killing, everybody’s murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second because it’s so hard.

On one hand, it’s not surprising that the clip made its way around the internet like wild fire. Most sensible people have probably felt at least a little bit conflicted over the myriad ways in which their phones serve as their lifeline. But on the other hand, there was something old-fashioned about it, the sort of thing we’ve been conditioned to roll our eyes at: an extremely wealthy middle-aged white man talking to another extremely wealthy middle-aged white man about how he sometimes feels sad.

Silly as it may sound, the very notion of sadness has fallen out of favor over the past few years. Navel-gazing indie rock has become a punchline in music critic circles, of course, replaced by glossy, carefree pop (or pop-leaning indie) as the preferred mode; and there was a real final-straw kind of vibe when Keith Gessen published his debut novel All the Sad Young Literary Men back in 2008. All across popular culture, the rap on sadness came to be that, for certain groups of people anyway, it is merely a result of unattractive self-absorption, a luxury only afforded to people of at least moderate privilege.

There is some truth to this, certainly, but we over-corrected the way we always do, and we wound up in a situation where, to drive home the point that we’re not beholden to ostensibly outdated ideas about art and culture and the conditions under which they thrive, we’ve sought out the kind of art that flies in the face of the sad-sack stuff so many of us grew up with, and in the process we’ve conflated defiantly happy with stupidly happy. Our signals have become badly crossed. We now bristle at the urge to wallow, even though wallowing often leads to self-reflection, which often leads to us learning more about ourselves and the people around us, and then—and this is what Louis C.K. was probably getting at—to making art that’s informed by the whole process. Great art, even. It’s not the only way to make great art, but it’s sure as hell one of them.

This week we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s third and final album, In Utero. It’s getting the deluxe reissue treatment—a 3CD set featuring b-sides, live performances, demos and lots of other stuff of varying import, including a remastered version of the album itself. I spent some time with it this weekend, and I was surprised to find that the album isn’t quite what I remembered.

Considering what happened to Kurt Cobain not long after In Utero was released, it’s tempting to think of the album as an all-out mope-fest. And in some ways, of course, it is, but it’s less driven by feelings of sadness than it is about the effects, positive and negative, sadness has on us. I remember smiling the first time I heard its opening line, “Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old,” from “Serve the Servants.” It’s as good an album-opening line as there is, and I remember being proud of myself for recognizing it as a joke—a response to the rampant simplistic readings of Nevermind and the movement it helped establish. But hearing it now, it doesn’t really sound like a joke. It sounds genuinely mournful. I continued listening: “Scentless Apprentice” is still totally fucking brutal. “Heart Shaped Box,” even 20 years later, continues to feel overplayed and fails to register with me in any real way. Same for “Rape Me,” actually.

But during “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle,” it’s right out there on the table, a chorus consisting of just one line: I miss the comfort in being sad. Sung over and over and with as palpable sense of yearning as there is on the whole record, it sounds like the truest line he ever sang. The comfort that had escaped him was ultimately too big a loss to overcome—ironic, of course, given the amount of people for whom Cobain provided exactly what he needed most.


Another artist who clearly understands the power of sadness has an album in stores this week as well. Drake’s highly anticipated third full-length Nothing Was the Same finally comes out today, and as Pitchfork’s Jayson Greene put it in his review of the album, “As Drake albums go, this is the Drakiest.” I can never quite figure out how I feel about Drake. I find half of the songs he’s released excruciatingly boring and stupid, and I find the other half unbelievably thrilling and stupid. Or, if not stupid, exactly, then maybe just Machiavellian. I’ve never seen another artist more adeptly use his own sadness to win over an audience. He’s made an entire career out of it: First he had nothing, which made him really sad. Then he got rich, which made him happy, but then also sad. He has lots of sex with lots of women, which makes him sad because he knows deep down that he should be treating them better. So then he gets drunk, which makes him sad because it leads to him having sex with more women and thus becoming even sadder.

I wouldn’t question anyone who wants to call bullshit on the whole thing—he really does come across as the world’s most irritating humble-bragger, or, worse, like one of the faux-sensitive indie-rock/bookish dudes (think Nathaniel P., for instance) that have become the scourge of the dating world. But it’s also not difficult to see Drake as embodiment of that “empty-forever” feeling Louis C.K. was talking about, as a person who’s learning that true fulfillment doesn’t necessarily come from the things you spent your whole life thinking it would.

This is why Drake in particular seems like such a perfect artist for the age we’re currently living in, and why sadness in general seems like a perfectly reasonable emotion for artists of a certain age to be exploring. Much has been written about the plight of the millennial, about how they’ve been left with a world that is so drastically different than the world any previous generation had been left with that there was nothing anyone, themselves included, could do to prepare for the lives they’d be forced to live in their 20s. They have unspeakable amounts of student loan debt and no reason to believe the degrees they earned will help them get jobs that will pay enough for them to do anything other than make their loan payments. Not to mention, they live in a country that’s been at war for about half their lives.

This is extremely stressful stuff. It’s stressful enough that you almost can’t blame them for just trying to avoid the whole thing, for diving headfirst into a seemingly endless pit of 90s nostalgia, spending an inordinate amount of time fondly recalling and ascribing hugely inflated value to the meaningless trappings of their youth. It’s an extremely effective coping mechanism, helping to take the focus off what is often a very glum present. One has to wonder, though, what would happen if they just gave themselves over to the sadness they’re feeling right below the surface. It would probably really difficult. But then it might be something else.

09/11/13 12:00pm

c/o Gorky Park website.

  • c/o Gorky Park website.

If there were any indication that some people might take Brooklyn a little too seriously, it would be this: Moscow-based burger-makers Ferma & Williamsburg—wait for it—are set to make their Brooklyn debut at Smorgasburg this Saturday.

Chefs Tadatyan and Livsi joined forces to start the company “amid a wave of Brooklyn lovers and copycats,” Eater reports, and started as a “catering company that featured bearded, flannel-clad waitstaff serving food cooked on a grill and plated on distressed wooden planks.” This turned into a burger stand in Moscow’s Gorky Park, where the two sling burgers and other Brooklyn (or just American?) fare.


Ferma & Williamsburg also operate a “back alley social club” that serves “Brooklyn-esque” food like “burgers and Cafe Habana-inspired grilled corn.” Both restaurants are decorated with objects found at, yes, the Brooklyn Flea. The two also told Eater that they’re modifying their name to simply “Ferma Corporation” because, well, they’ll be in Brooklyn.

I should remind you that Cafe Habana’s corn is not specific to them. It is—gasp—home style Mexican food. Anyway, I don’t mean to talk shit on appropriating food per se, I’m just a little concerned about the levels of remove happening here. In one light, this is another example of how New Brooklyn’s effects continue to spiral further and further into the Ironic Galaxy. I can’t keep track.

But in another light, Ferma & Williamsburg is another sign of the commodified neighborhood aesthetic. We all love Brooklyn, and we are very proud to live here, but it’s starting to feel less like a neighborhood and more like a badge, a brooch on your lapel. Since when did beards and flannel become a Brooklyn thing? I hear it’s been a pretty common sight in, uh, you know, the Midwest. You want to use Williamsburg’s name as a brand, fine, but don’t pretend it’s any different from another chef out in the world making elderflower lemonade just because you know what 11211 means. I was about to type something snarkier like, “rosemary aioli isn’t anything new,” but I stopped myself because I’d have fallen into that trap of “Brooklyn” thinking. Namely, that sentence would have suggested that Brooklyn food means a) innovation or b) new takes on classics, but “newness” is not the issue here. It’s that we—and now people everywhere else—have become accustomed to thinking that Brooklyn is something beyond itself, something that can be bundled, transported, and sold.

You travel so you can visit another culture and world, but you actually have to leave your home to get that experience. Otherwise, it’s all lost in translation.