By Dan McQuade
By Brian McManus
By Hilary Hughes
By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
In the days before I moved to New York, I attended a holiday party where I ate nothing, drank everything, then fell and cracked the back of my head on a concrete patio. I stayed down there for a while, thinking mostly about how much that fucking hurt, but also about how this beloved season of celebration can land you (me) in rehab. So I'm a little wary of the December weeks of over-consumption. If I skipped your party, it isn't because I didn't think it sounded fun.
That said, on Tuesday night I saw the Walkmen at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, another of New York mag's "Secret Society" shindigs. I'd never been to a show there before and had heard wonderful things, about which I now reply, "Huh?" The atmosphere there is utterly blah, and that enormous and obnoxious Boost Mobile banner isn't even completely to blame. (If I must choose one of New York's high-school-gym-like venues, I'll take the Warsaw.) Not blah, though: the Walkmen. Those boys! Honestly! I'm not sure I've seen a better performance this year. When Hamilton Leithauser throws his head back, opens his throat, and wails for what seems like minutes on end, how can you not catch your breath?
The Dodos opened the show, announcing that it was the last night of their marathon tour. When this news received a strangely quiet reaction, singer Meric Long shyly added, "We're here to have a good time, is what we mean." Then came the Walkmen. What struck me is that the band's performance actually felt festive—and not just because they played "White Christmas" during the encore. There were all those fat, wet snowflakes outside, to which anyone who waited in line to get in can attest. Inside, onstage, those shiny-penny guys—any of whom I'm pretty sure my parents would welcome for the holidays, in their unmarried incarnations, of course—looked like there was nowhere else they'd rather be; the audience returned their smiles, as did the spot-on horn section backing up the band. When Leithauser rocked back on his heels, eyes closed, and sang, "I know that it's true/It's gonna be a good year," you had to agree, even if it meant ignoring the sadder parts of the song. It was joyful, truly.
And while that was my favorite night of the last couple weeks, there are certainly a few others worth mentioning. The Ralph Lauren store in Soho hosted a book signing for photographer Mark Seliger's new collection of pics taken during his 10 years (1992–2002) at Rolling Stone, including shots of the White Stripes, Nirvana, Willie Nelson, and, uh, Nelly; Yerba Buena's CuCu Diamantes sang. (Seliger currently has an exclusive contract with GQ and Vanity Fair, but mentioned that "maybe" he "might" one day work for the music mag again.) The pretty-people crowd there was mostly divided into two bunches: those waiting to chat with Seliger, and those itching instead to shake hands with whippet-thin dandy Tom Wolfe on co-hosting duties. (He wrote the book's foreword—a vast improvement over I Am Charlotte Simmons, which I returned to my local library with 50 pages unread after slogging through the first 700 or so.) I was in the third category, the one awestruck by handsome David Lauren's amazing tucked-in sweater.
Additionally, music blogger Jinners's birthday party at Enid's allowed for many frozen Harrisons, collective gaping at the incredible paper-snowflake cat in the front window, and a short walk home. (She's the manager for the soon-to-be-defunct Dirty on Purpose, who play their final show on New Year's Eve, breaking another little piece of my heart.) The Matador holiday celebration, held the next night, ended in karaoke. And a close friend blew an unexpected Christmas bonus on a small dinner party at Dressler that left me full for three days, God bless her. Best news: I didn't fall once.
You've probably already made your New Year's Eve plans, so I won't go into that, except to mention a reminder that the storied Knitting Factory hosts its farewell show in the current Leonard Street location with a lineup plucked straight from the forest: Deerhoof, Deer Tick, and Superfaun (as well as Akron/Family and Dirty Projectors). But here's another little something to look forward to in 2009: The weekend train service of the Atlantic City Express Service (ACES)—a direct drink-on-the-way ride between Penn Station and Atlantic City, with a short stop in Newark—officially launches on February 6. Expect all sorts of fun, starting with ACES' randy website, which promises, "I'll give you a ride you'll never forget," alongside all the get-lucky puns you can imagine.
ACES—what a great name!—has eight multilevel rail cars with fancy-pants leather seating, a private lounge, and both first- and coach-class travel options (first-class is on the upper deck, obviously); shuttle service is provided upon arrival to either Caesars, Harrah's, or the Borgata. If you've never been down to the boardwalk, I'd advise you not to believe the Las Vegas comparisons: Atlantic City isn't even one-tenth as glitzy as Sin City. Even the new casinos smell of stale smoke and have stained carpets, and scoring a seat at a $5 blackjack table isn't as easy as it should be. But here's the most important part to remember: Gambling is fun. Irresponsible in this economy, sure, but still, God, so much fun. Introductory ticket prices will start at $50 for a one-way coach seat and $75 for the upgrade. For schedules and purchase info, check acestrain.com. I may or may not already have it bookmarked.