Sound of the Sandy City


Upon hitting land, Hurricane Sandy disrupted the lives of everyone on the Eastern Seaboard and destroyed not only houses and roads but also entire sections of cities. Even when it remained in the Atlantic, the storm was already disrupting New York’s massive concert industry: Shows by British soft-goth trio the xx and local pop-punk superstars fun. were postponed, while acts like Ghostface Killah and Journey—the latter making their presumably anticipated Barclays Center debut—told fans to return to their point of purchase and collect full refunds.

On Sunday night, not the greatest for concerts even in the middle of summer, the best action I could find was on the website, where users can set up public or private chat rooms and where strangers or friends rotate as DJs. After creating an account, I entered a room that was a mixture of both.

Accurately titled an all-caps “HURRICANE JAMMIN’,” it was created by pals, some of whom have written for the Voice, who did the same thing last year when it was Irene keeping the city inside. But it was frequented by strangers intrigued by the title and hooked by the eclectic combination of ’80s new jack swing, dance and club music, and otherwise long-forgotten novelty tracks. I have no doubt that I enjoyed sitting before my computer and discovering that Khia did a New Jersey Nets playoff remix of her 2002 ladies-first sex anthem “My Neck, My Back” more than anything four out of five rock bands would have played had their gigs not been canceled. Accordingly, I clicked the button marked “awesome,” and my chat room avatar began nodding his oversize head in approval.

By Monday, no music could compete with the sounds coming from outside, and soon, once the storm knocked out Internet, even these small pleasures were taken away. While my roommate spent the afternoon discovering that Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s latest post-rock opus Allelujah! Don’t Blend! Ascend! makes for, if nothing else, a good compliment to pouring rain and howling wind, I went to a pair of bodegas in search of some supplies I should have bought the night before. Although I entered hoping to hear something with a little more life than Godspeed’s slow drone, even these neighborhood institutions, usually broadcasting Hot 97 or Mega 97.9 deep into the night, had turned off the music, opting instead for televised news updates.

Later, as Sandy receded and cabin fever began to set in, Bed-Stuy residents descended upon Myrtle Avenue’s Project Parlor for some much needed relief, using those concert refunds to purchase $3 PBRs and discounted-shelf liquor. On Mondays, the bar usually turns to Pandora for music, but with the Internet still down, they hooked up a ’90s Walkman and requested that patrons bring their personal mixtapes and cassettes.

One Facebook commenter requested that someone bring a copy of Raekwon’s legendary Only Built 4 Cuban Linx purple tape, but it seemed that no collectors were willing to bring an item so rare out into weather that remained strong enough to knock down branches or soak through a pair of Rae-approved gray-and-black Bo Jackson sneakers.

The next morning, the storm was gone, but its footprint remained visible from every window on every street. Without whistling wind, pounding rain, cars driving by, and, in some cases, power, the neighborhood awoke to a new sound: quiet.