Goodbye 2012

Tomorrow is the last Dirty Reggae Party of the year! I’ll be selecting tunes along with the Crazy Baldhead posse, and bands include the Soul Radics, The Xlerators, The Facts and Top Shotta with Screechy Dan.

Friday, December 28 – The Swamp – No Cover

On Saturday, I’ll be filling in for President Carter on Radio Lily with very special guest Victor Axelrod, a.k.a. Ticklah! Tune in at from 2:00 to 4:00 PM.

December Shows

This Saturday I’ll be at Skylark with DJs Grace of Spades and Rata for Soul Shakedown. Come one, come all:

Saturday, December 8 – Skylark – 477 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY – No Cover

At the end of the month, I’ll be selecting records for the Slackers Holiday Show once again, with opening sets by The Frightnrs, Sammy K, and Caz & The Day Laborers. I’ve also asked one of my favorite DJs, Small Change, to join me on the decks all night:

Saturday, December 22 – The Bell House – 149 7th Street, Brooklyn, NY – $15

Tea & Spliffs is here!

Five years in the making, today Ryan-O’Neil and I are proud to present our second LP, Tea & Spliffs.

Tea & Spliffs

We’ve just leaked a third tune called “Makin’ Moves,” and you can listen to the whole album and buy it here. The best way to order a physical copy is probably through Underground Hip Hop. You can also find us in the new music section on iTunes today:

Tea & Spliffs coming soon

It’s hard to believe it’s been half a decade since Ryan-O’Neil and I self-released our debut album, The Adventures of The One Hand Bandit and The Slum Computer Wizard. It’s equally hard to believe that we decided on such a long title for our first release. That album also clocked in at over an hour of music, a sprawling endeavor for a hip hop album without a ton of skits or bonus material.

This time, we wanted to keep everything short and sweet. On November 27th, we’re releasing our second collaborative effort, titled Tea & Spliffs.

Tea & Spliffs

The first single just dropped, and it’s called “Wait a Minute.” It’s a song about trends, and youth adhering to mob mentality instead of individuality. The video is being edited at the moment and likely will be ready for the album release date, but for now you can check the tune on DJ Booth and preorder Tea & Spliffs on iTunes.

This album is being released on HiPNOTT Records by Kevin Nottingham, and we hope to have a wider reach this time, with his assistance. We know that five years is a long gap, and if you’re still checking for us, we think you’re gonna like this one even better than the first. Thanks for your support!

Reggae in the Slope

This weekend, I’m back in Park Slope. On Friday we’re doing a proper show beneath the Tea Lounge at Port Royal on Union Street, with local favorites Dub Is A Weapon and The Brooklyn Attractors:

Friday, September 28 – Port Royal – 839 Union Street, Brooklyn, New York – $10

Port Royal, sometimes known as B Lounge, is a little known spot with checkerboard tiles beneath the Tea Lounge, and has been open and shut in random spurts since the 90s. Looks like we have the pleasure of putting the space to use again now. Let’s talk to Dave Hahn (Dub Is A Weapon) and Rich Graiko (The Brooklyn Attractors) about Jamaican music in our city.

100dBs: What do you like about this “new” venue?

Rich Graiko: This venue is ridiculous in mostly every way I can think of.  It’s a bit of a dream come true for me, I’ve always fantasized about being involved with a spot that has a legit performance space but is still comfortable for people.  This place is cozy, but big, literally underground, and it even has a pool table!  I still can’t believe it when I’m down there.

It was originally named “Port Royal” by Dave Dixon’s [the current owner’s] father years ago and was an active Brooklyn club up until the early 90s.  We were calling it “B Lounge” at first, but our first few trial parties were such a great hang without doing anything to the space that we decided to bring back the original name as a little tip of the hat to the originator.  It’s just seedy enough but really nice, down to earth, the perfect spot for some legit reggae alchemy to take place.  Well done, sir!

100dBs: For lack of a better word, do you think Jamaican music is currently undergoing another renaissance in Brooklyn? How do we bridge the gap between the “hip” crowd and the old guard? My favorite parties are the ones where I see young and old of all backgrounds mingling. This seems like a good space for that.

RG: For sure, I think we’d all like to see a little of that. As far as a renaissance, I don’t have the greatest frame of reference for that. I have only been living here for about three years, before that I was still on the road full-time and living in a tiny studio in Boston that I would camp at for a few days at a time in between tours. I’ve only been coming down here to play for about ten years or so and in my experience the NY scene has always been amazing.

As far as bridging the gap between young and old, and hipsters and heads, good question; this has been rolling around in my head for a while.

I think it all gets over-thought about when bands start to push their target mean audience ages lower and lower to make more money. The kids spend money on T-shirts and the heads spend it on beers. Bands can’t tour unless they have enough money to do so. I wish I had an answer for you. Lately my mission is just to play and record the music that me and my bandmates dig, to play stuff that I would want to listen to myself if I weren’t the one playing it, and to do my best to bring solid musicianship to the table… and of course to play and hang out with friends. I think of music as a facilitator of people coming together and sharing ideas and culture, and they give back how they can. Hopefully we hold up our end of the deal and people of any and every age, and genre persuasion, will want to come hang out with us.

Dave Hahn: I think that there’s just a constant evolution in the wider Jamaican music community in NYC. One the one hand, you have the local West Indian community for whom the music is their cultural roots. and on the other hand you have your “hipster” music lovers who just love the vibrations that the music produces. It actually shouldn’t be a surprise that these two communities might still feel a bit separate considering the very different rationales each has for approaching the music. And the fact that many of these so-called hipsters really focus in on Jamaican music from the 1960s and 1970s certainly doesn’t help – that’s ancient history when you really think about how quickly music evolves. But I do feel like all lovers of this music are beginning to interact in more meaningful ways, which is what a music that preaches about love and unity ought to be doing.

100dBs: Well said. Rich, you’ve been doing more gigs with the Attractors recently. What makes you guys unique in the sea of instrumental players of Jamaican music? Dave, Dub Is A Weapon has toured as Lee Perry’s backing band and played for thousands. Where do you go from here?

RG: The Attractors are my answer to all of the aforementioned years of touring and pushing of merchandise.  I would love to sell tons of records and merch and pay my band great, make lots of money and live happily ever after, but I’ve also been trying to accept and adapt to the current realities in the music industry.  I try to make money in as many diverse ways as possible these days so I can take the pressure off of my musical choices and, again, do what the group thinks is best.  We try to play with respect to the old school and have fun.  We also try to take the music seriously and incorporate what we see as some of the more desirable elements of American jazz.  I’m really lucky to have some ridiculously talented Jazz musicians in the group and I like to set em loose!  We’re 100% instrumental… but I don’t know if that sets us apart, just look at what Kevin Batchelor, Dub Is A Weapon, Dave Hillyard, Victor Rice, Mr. T-Bone, and the Drastics are doing.  There are some amazing players out there in the reggae/ska world!

DH: We’ll just keep doing exactly what we’ve always done: creating the best live dub experience we possibly can.  For me personally, I’ll be happy as long as I feel like my compositions are always pushing the envelope.  I really geeked-out on “Vaporized” with some polyrhythmic bass-lines and unorthodox song forms, so I’ll have my work cut out for me moving forward.  And while touring with Scratch and playing in fronts of lots of people is obviously great, I wouldn’t be happy if we were more concerned with notoriety than making incredible music.  The fact that we don’t employ a full-time vocalist as part of the line-up will probably guarantee that we’ll never achieve widespread “commercial” success, but I couldn’t care less.

100dBs: What about recording? I know both of you must be working on new material in the studio. Any light to shed there?

RG: Yeah!  The Attractors are currently in the studio tracking for our first official release.  I’m hoping to put it out late this year or early 2013.

DH: I’m really thinking about doing something totally different this time around.  Our last two records were recorded live, with the entire band in one room playing the tunes just like we would at a live show.  I really enjoyed that approach, but what it doesn’t really allow for is collaboration with other dub engineers who really just want “raw material’ that they can dub out as they please.  So don’t be surprised if I don’t add any dub effects myself for the next record.

Catch both of these guys playing live and me playing records between sets this Friday.

Glen Pine’s First Solo Release on Color Vinyl

Glen Pine (of The Slackers) and I have just finished pressing my new label’s first release, a psychedelic color 7″ by The Hall Trees for Pickle Don recordings. There are only 400 in existence, and each one is hand-stamped and numbered by us in a grueling two-man assembly line. Buy it online, or see me in Brooklyn or Pine on tour to save on shipping costs:

Last Coney Island Reggae of 2012

This Sunday, I will return to the boardwalk at West 19th Street in Brooklyn to help wrap up the summer season with the last Coney Island Reggae party of the year. To shed some more light on the other people supporting this great event, I asked Quoc Pham (Director of Sound Liberation Front) a few questions.

Coney Island Reggae 2012

Sunday, September 9 – Coney Island – Boardwalk at West 19th Street, Brooklyn, NY – No Cover

100dBs: Tell me a little bit about Sound Liberation Front, and how you got involved with Carter Van Pelt and Coney Island Reggae.

Quoc Pham: Sound Liberation Front is a music organization that I started about 4 years ago after relocating to Brooklyn. SLF was born out of a group of individuals with a passion for music and a deep interest in exposing diverse musical cultures to the community. What started as a small side project turned into a full fledged event production and marketing start up and we are quickly expanding into exciting new ventures.

I met Carter during the inaugural Coney Island reggae event. I had heard about it from seeing the flyer on Facebook but didn’t really know what to expect. When I got to the boardwalk, I was pretty much blown away by the concept of bringing Jamaican sound system culture to an iconic environment and the unique vibes that this created. Out of luck, I had brought my camera that day and ended up capturing the event. Carter ended up seeing the photos on Facebook shortly afterwards and ended up contacted me. I immediately saw the potential to connect the dots between his vision and our mission statement and that’s how the collaboration started. Over the past three seasons, we’ve been mostly taking on the marketing and content production side of the project and helping establish it among other popular summer events in NYC.

What drew me to this project was Carter’s integrity and focus in promoting the culture and a sense of community. I think very few people, even in reggae circles understand or appreciate the centrality of sound system culture in the development of Jamaican music. Nowadays, it feels like reggae is often relegated to being a soundtrack for second tier clubs so this was a great opportunity to present and expose the music in the format for which it was originally made and meant to be experienced.

100dBs: What’s your background? When did you move to Brooklyn, and what made you do it?

QP: I grew up in France but was originally born in Vietnam. I moved to Brooklyn 5 years ago after going to college in Seattle and moving around different cities in the US. When I first came here, I immediately felt a sense of home. I think that the people, overall energy and sense of community really appealed to me. Brooklyn is definitely home for me, at least for a while.

100dBs:  It seems like Coney Island Reggae gets bigger every year. What was your favorite moment so far, and why?

QP: That’s a tough question. There’s been so many memorable moments but I think the highlight for me was seeing Carlton Livingston performing “Hey mr DJ” in a rub a dub style during the second Coney Island session. Next to that would probably be the tune for tune segment between Son’s Junior and Sir Tommy’s earlier this year.

100dBs: I’ve been seeing pictures of the soundsystem you built. Give me some details about that, and tell me what the biggest challenges were.

QP: Ha… This has been a secret project in the making. As mentioned earlier, I have a fascination (turned obsession) for sound system culture so to me, building one was almost a necessary learning step. I found a very skilled builder in Brooklyn and we’ve been working on this system over the last 8 months. We spent a lot of times doing research to find the perfect combination of design and components. The rig has 12 boxes housing 24 elements powered by a total of 12,000W! I’m really happy about how the system turned out and from the few test we’ve done so far, I can honestly say that this is going to blow people away!

The biggest challenge was turning my apartment into a full on wood workshop and still being on good terms with my roommates and neighbors. We have a lot of exciting projects for the system which I can’t talk about yet but people will definitely be seeing it and hearing it soon!

100dBs: Got any surprises in store for this last one, or for next year?

QP: Wouldn’t be fun if I told you right? What I love about this event is its sense of unpredictability. You never know what’s coming and there will always be surprises, even for us.

Coney Island Reggae 2012 - Directions

Nice It Up Again with Glen Pine

Tomorrow, I return to The Monro Pub with my good friend Glen Pine of The Slackers. His debut on the wheels of steel will include a wide array of psych rock, garage, and other obscurities (from what I’ve been told). Come hang with us starting at 10:00 PM.

Nice It Up with Glen Pine

Saturday, July 28th – The Monro Pub – 481 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York – No Cover

Though I’m not spinning or performing tonight, I’ll be hanging out at Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook with another beloved Slacker. Dave Hillyard’s jazz trio (including Big Dan Jeselsohn and living legend Larry McDonald) will be playing. Pass through and enjoy the music.

Nice It Up at The Monro Pub

Nice It Up at The Monro Pub

Saturday, June 30 – The Monro Pub – 481 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York – No Cover

The Monro Pub

The Monro Pub's menu

I’m launching the first DJ night at the brand spankin’ new Monro, a British pub with great ales on tap and meat pies in the toaster oven. Located right at 5th Ave and 11th Street in Brooklyn, I think this is going to be one of the coolest little spots in the southern part of Park Slope.

Vinny, owner of The Monro Pub

Vinny, the owner, came to Brooklyn from Liverpool and wanted to bring a bit of his own flavor with him. I’ll be spinning there this Saturday from 10:00 PM onward with the inimitable Ticklah also joining me on the decks!

Earlier on Saturday, from 2:00 til 4:00 PM, I’ll be helping President Carter out with his show Antiques Roadblock at Miss Lily’s. Stop by to hang out and eat, or just tune in online at

In other news, the Frightnrs (formerly known as the Frighteners before threat of a lawsuit) have just digitally released their debut EP. Recorded at Ticklah’s studio and produced by Agent Jay, this release really displays how tight this young group is. They’re no longer a secret. Grab it here.

Deep Brooklyn: Sunset Park

At the far end of Sunset Park, almost to Bay Ridge, you’ll find Arish’s Barber Shop just past 5th Avenue on 61st Street. He’s from the Dominican Republic, and came to New York City in 1990. Mention any neighborhood in southern Brooklyn to him and he’ll tell you a story about it.

Arish Barber Shop

Arish’s place is a little gem in this neighborhood, where many barber shops are noisy, dirty, and unwelcoming to newcomers. The inside of his shop is filled with dark wood detailing and artifacts of Afro-Caribbean origin he’s picked up along his travels. He only works with one other barber and knows his clients well… and they come from all over Brooklyn to get their hair cut here. Sometimes I see entire families waiting on the bench, waiting for a turn to sit in the chair.

Arish in his barber shop

The cool thing about Arish is that he can make you feel comfortable by talking about pretty much anything. If you crack a joke in Spanish, he’ll respond in kind. If you bring up local news, you’re sure to get his opinion. Bring up reggae music and he’ll recommend some tunes… all while craftily handling the straight razor. Just don’t talk too much while he’s got it on your neck.

Arish Barber Shop

I love this spot because it’s affordable, unpretentious, and really chill. I usually call ahead, but if you drop by and don’t mind waiting a bit he will always find time for you. I lived in Sunset Park for years, and though I no longer reside there I make trips back every few weeks to see Arish. It’s always worth it.

Sunset Park

The neighborhood is a mix of Central Americans, Mexicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and an increasingly visible minority of young professionals looking for affordable housing. Many people consider it a far-flung neighborhood, but to be honest, the presence of the N and D express trains at 36th Street makes it about a 25 minute trip from lower Manhattan. Rents have been rising steadily. The neighborhood feels different than it did even seven years ago; things are changing fast. 5th Avenue is the main drag, filled with restaurants, shoe stores, 99 cent stores, and amazing cake shops.

Cake Shop

If you go to 51st Street and 5th Ave, you can eat the best tacos on the east coast at Ricos Tacos. Choose from carnitas, bistec, pollo, lengua, al pastor and more meats than I can remember at the moment.

Ricos Tacos

They serve the corn tortilla tacos with radish, cilantro and lime. The best part is that they’re open 24 hours a day – perfect after a long night. Grab a Sidral Mundet (Mexican apple soda) or horchata and sit outside. I have yet to find a better taco spot on this side of the country.

Ricos Tacos

You can’t miss this spot. Just look for the pig mural.

Ricos Tacos

Sunset Park is also home to Johnny’s Pizza, a holdover from a time when the neighborhood was more Italian. Many of these folks have moved on to Bay Ridge, just south of this corner at 58th Street and 5th Ave. Johnny’s has the best grandma slice in New York for my money. A few years ago Papa John’s opened a store next door, but Johnny’s is still going strong.

Johnny's Pizza

Dominican restaurants pepper the blocks throughout the hood. Most of them have counter seating and hot trays of specialties like carne guisado, platanos and oxtail.

Dominican Food

Another distinguishing characteristic of Sunset is the density of churches. I’m pretty sure it has more churches than any neighborhood in New York. The most famous one is the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at 59th Street and 5th Ave. This huge building is an architectural landmark, and was built around beginning of the 20th century on what was then known as Irish Hill. Like the Italians, most of the Irish residents of this neighborhood have long since left, though you can still see some hanging out at the Irish Haven on 58th Street and 4th Ave.

Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

These days, it’s not uncommon to see Puerto Rican flags alongside American flags draping out of apartment windows or on flagpoles outside restaurants. To me, it’s a perfect symbol of what Sunset Park really is: a neighborhood full of immigrants who are working hard to make it in America.

Puerto Rican flag