Burning Down the House

CBGBNO Covers!

That was Hilly Kristal’s primary rule for CBGB’s on Bowery and Bleeker in New York City. Replacing Hilly’s on the Bowery, CBGB & OMFUG (Country, Bluegrass, and Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers) stood at 315 Bowery from its opening in December 1973 until it was closed on October 15, 2006. It was built as a venue for new and upcoming bands to the new york music scene, and ended up becoming the birth of American punk rock scene and was a jump off point for the careers of some of music history’s greatest bands and singers: Patti Smith Group, The Stillettoes (featuring Blondie’s Debbie Harrry), Blondie (under their original name of Angels & the Snakes) The Ramones, Mink DeVille, Talking Heads, Tuff Darts, The Shirts, The Heartbreakers, The Fleshtones and even the Police played here.

The Gorilla Biscuits, the Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Sick of it All, Reagan Youth, Warzone, and Youth of Today were all part of New York’s underground hardcore scene started at CBGB’s and kept the bar a float through the 80’s. In 2005, however, the Bowery Resident’s Committee had enough of Hilly and the CB’s crowd and worked to get them removed from the property without compromise. Succeeding in closing the venue for good on October 15, 2006.

I moved to NYC in 05, and never got a chance to experience a show in CBGB’s but I did participate in the ralleys and free shows in Washington Sq to help spread awareness and get support for keeping the venue open. I went last week to the Tribeca Film Festival and watched the only movie of the fest (for me): a documentary called ‘Burning Down the House” The Story of CBGB‘. The show was April 30th, and I had the opportunity after the show to hear a Q&A hosted by Matt Pinfield, with the director (Mandy Stein), Chris Frantz of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, Jesse Malin of Heart Attack and DGeneration, and Tommy Ramone of well… The Ramones.

Mandy Stein is the daughter of eymour Stein, president and co-founder of Sire Records, who launched the recording careers of the Ramones, Talking Heads, and The Pretenders, among many others so it made sense she get access to all the people featured in the making of this film.

I sat solo in the theater surrounded by guests, friends and participants of many of the two dimensional people portrayed or interviewed in the film. It was a good film, not great, by film standards, however, the heart of watching the progression of CBGBs from hole in the wall nothing to, punk glory, to hole in the wall franchise and finally demise was a roller coaster of intense laughs and tears from an audience that was there and lived again vicariously through the digital frames.

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The Ramones – Teenage Lobotomy

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Sick Of It All – “Take The Night Off”


Top Club in America is in Denver?

Is it the banging sound of tracks not to be released for weeks even months on the best sound systems, the continuous crowds contributing to a positive vibe weekend after weekends, the sunshine terraces with hot sweaty dancers, clubland holds the night owl draw for many of us. It’s

DJ Mag produced on March 25th, their “definitive” list of Top Clubs of the World for 2009, but I just saw this about a month ago and wanted to comment. There’s not much listed as to how this list is compiled except that it’s voted on by readers of the magazine. I’ve always questioned these voter polls legitimacy, because there’s no criteria except for attendee (or listener, in the case of DJ polls) preference and rightly so at times.

No surprise that clubbing meccas Ibiza, Berlin and London are at the top and I’ve had the pleasure to experience at least 4 of them (bold):

01. Berghain – Berlin
02. Fabric – London
03. Space – Ibiza
04. Womb – Tokyo
05. Amnesia – Ibiza
06. Ministry Of Sound – London
07. Pacha – Ibiza
08. Watergate – Berlin
09. D-Edge – Sao Paolo
10. The End – London

Unfortunately as of press time, The End has reached its end so 11 moving up would be: Cocoon – Frankfurt, Germany.

Of the 100 list, the following are the top American clubs:

23: Beta – Denver, Colorado
25: Ruby Skye – San Francisco, California
28: Space – Miami, Florida
30: Pacha – New York, NY
34: Cielo – New York, NY
40: Avalon – Los Angeles, California
53: Vanguard – Los Angeles, California
60: Mansion – Miami, Florida
65: Vinyl – Denver, Colorado
83: 1015 – San Francisco, CA

There’s some interesting tells of this top US clubs list from the global Mag offering. First, Denver is the top US Club? What? I didn’t see that coming. Not NY, LA, Miami or even Chicago… but Denver. I’m still curious to know what’s the voting criteria here. I understand the DJs and mag subs voted on this but really, what are the standards? Club layout? Sound? Crowd? Lighting? Set up? Back stage perks?

I’m ecstatic to see my home hood of SF represented here, and somewhat malcontent that Ruby Skye is the top club still of the city. I would have thought someone else would have stepped up in the scene and created a contender.

The usual suspects from LA, SF, NY and Miami are represented, I’ve been to all of them except those in Denver, and they all seem to have a repeatable formula in layout, sound and dance music styles that don’t venture too far clubbing mainstream. Space for it’s terrace and Cielo for it’s sound and minimalism are unique in separating from the formula. Conspicuously missing are any venues from Chicago or Las Vegas (the self proclaimed mega club venue of the US).

One thing is clear, America’s club scene is well behind that of the global community according to DJ Mag with Germany, UK, Spain, Brazil, Canada, Singapore, Holland, and Argentina all topping the list; most with multiple clubs representing. These are all countries where electronic, dance and house music are just as popular as other genres and even more so in some areas as you hear it saturated in every aspect of life: stores, radio, internet and even elevator musak. At least we still have an auto industry and their commercials to help support the scene…


Failure to Launch in Trump’s World

Privé literally translated to English from French is “Private” but for me the association of Privé has always been with the Opium Group, and their first (?) club in south beach by that name. I went nearly when it first opened in late 2002, and several times since, the last being in 2006. The club was hot, music bumping the underground and always a line even up till it’s closure just recently. The OG crew have gone on to create some of the best high end clubs in America with Mansion Miami and Privé Las Vegas.

Recently I received and invite to a “Launch Party” for Privé NYC:

Accompanying the invite was the pitch, this was “at the Trump Towers” and “will be posh and selective meaning, a strict door policy with New York’s upper echolon in attendance” (misspelling intact). Further, instructions were included on proper dress attire, as typically the “upper echolon” have trouble deciding on wardrobe. Videographers, ballet dancers, tabla men, and musicians in sync were all to be included (although I didn’t see em). DJ’s were to play a mix of contemporary electro/house, which aside from the “contemporary” part appealed to me, and that I was invited by a good friend. If the RSVP invite description sounds more of the antithesis of “contemporary” then you’re not alone.

The World Bar opened 2001, in the Trump Towers residential building across from the UN near the East River in Midtown (owned by Mark C. Grossich who coincidentally also owns one of my favorite business cocktail lounges The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal). The World made news when it was featured in Forbes as one of the spots bankers go to blow their bonus (on the World Cocktail for $50 a glass), which everyone in New York, knows is shit; bankers blow their bonuses on escorts and yeyo. Even on paper this doesn’t sound original, let alone chic.

I with two ladies arrived early at 10:30 and was expecting free for the ladies and myself on the discounted list, which neither were offered we rolled through. Being a promoter before I understand there’s a few glitches, so I asked to negotiate with Sanjay regarding our earlier arrangement and with reluctance agreed to my compromise for the ladies free if I paid. My first impressions were, “What the Fuck is that huge pillar doing in the middle of the room” and “are the speakers big enough for this room?”

After checking my coat with the DJ (apparently coat check guy was on a break), I got a $12 jack n coke and settled in the corner to take in the crowd….Nice! I’ll give the crew this much: It was all women. However, unfortunately the women didn’t find it that appealing as the vibe felt more like an Indian or High School dance than a party – cliques of girls grouped in corners, at tables and guys looking around nervously wondering which women they should attempt to talk to.

My last and biggest pain being a DJ was the sound was shit…. I spoke with Francis and he too admitted it If you’re going to promote and dj a gig like this, you need to be on top of your game and the sound for both the DJ and the audience needs to be right…. having garage speakers with shitty acoustics turned up loud to compensate for the bad mids is just a horrible decision. Please, Please, Please, go buy or rent some Mackies next time!

It’s a first party so I’ll give them a hall pass. The space size was appropriate, all be it not conducive to dancing, and they had the hot crowd down (my single friends would have been shootin fish in a barrel) but if they are going to play in the exclusive party game, this needs to come together in the details better.


A-trak at Studio B in Brooklyn: Whoa!

Yesterday it was a birthday party for a few friends, originally planned for the roof top at Delancey. Unfortunately the fire marshal had other plans and shut down the roof for good until they install another fire escape (it’s been open for years without this requirement). The Delancey, however, hooked us up and bussed the party to Brooklyn’s Studio B for free and extended the free well happy hour to 2 hours.

This deal would have been sweet enough since Studio just re-opened their roof top again and the happy hour but Sat was the opening night of A-Trak‘s Infinity +1 tour – his mix goes live for purchase March 31st. Sweet!

The bar was well received saving me easily $100+ on booze for me and the lady. We were warmed up for the show and headed down for the set with DJ Mehdi and A-trak rocking the decks at the same time. Hard crunk electric beats had the crowd going nuts most of the time.

Sebastien Tellier – Kilometer (A-Trak Extended Dub)

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MSTRKRFT – Bounce feat. NORE (A-Trak Remix)

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A-Trak – Say Whoa (Boys Noize remix)

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Good times!


Thievery Corporation Show at Terminal 5, NYC 2009

Only a group that brings such a DJ mentality to their music and live shows could garner so much enthusiasm from myself. I’ve been a fan of Thievery for many years, but when you hear their albums, “down tempo”, “reggae” or ” dub” are often genres that describe various melodies and styles of their music, however, on the stage, the sound and bass liven the arena and energize the crowd to a fenzey of head bobin to booty shaken no unusual to the funkiest club scenes.

This show fucking rocked as we got there slightly early to catch the dub reggae styling of the dj to the full blown mix of Thievery’s full cast of singers, drummers, guitar/sitarists playing reggae variations, roots style to spacey dub, Afrobeat, Brazilian bosa nova, to up tempo club deep house mix of rhythms and dance beats. The live show included a high-tech video installation and a parade of singers, male and female, from places including Argentina, Brazil, Guyana, Iran and Jamaica. The lyrics were in English, French, Jamaican patois, Spanish and Portuguese, along with a chorus of “Hare Krishna.” The party continued well past the long awaited encore where ushers needed to push the crowd out. This show rocked from minute 1 till the bar was well past last call.

I hadn’t been to the former Club Exit space, and the venue really didn’t fit the vibe of the show, however, the crowd and company made this a well worthwhile show that I’ll recommend to anyone else into any near genre of styles mentioned above.

Photo credit to mis0vibes115 as all mine came out like shite


Is New York lossing it’s Exclusivity because of the…

Velvet Rope by longhairbroadExclusivity is an interesting adjective to describe a portion of the New York night life. Some definitions range from “admitting only members of a socially restricted or very carefully selected group” to “fashionable; stylish” to “catering to a wealthy clientèle”.

Exclusive clubs are not a new thing but they tend to thrive in certain areas, New York, LA, Miami and Las Vegas for the most part. Being from the norther California area and a former promoter, exclusivity was never part of the region or my personal business model as the crowd usually dictated the market for clubs with a priority on 1) hearing/dancing to great music 2) and enjoying like minded crowds. Money, scene and even hotness didn’t factor into it as much.

This last Saturday I had an evening of passing through some exclusive venues and wondered how the economy is effecting the exclusivity in this city. I’m not a regular, trust fund baby or a VIP for that matter and so I usually have to work at access via gaming the bouncers, bsing the list I’m on, who I know or chat up a few hot girls to walk me in to these high end spots (1Oak, Rose, The Eldridge, Beatrice are some of the more exclusive spots in NYC). All this translates to too much work for pretense, lame DJs/music, exorbitant prices on cocktails (made poorly many times), and people that are more happy they are in than really contributing to a good scene once they have made it past the rope.

I started my “exclusive” evening with a private dinner party at a friends house. It was very exclusive, limited to 7 close friends where we all contributed top notch cuisine to the evenings feast. The focus is that our host figured out how to turn on the oven, and with some direction from sis, tossed in a roast. There were wines of the world, side dishes recipes from various top chefs, decadent deserts and a few store bought sausage rolls to round out the dishes.

Dinner was excellent and thanks to all who came out and contributed. In todays economics a private party dinner with close friends saves cash and creates a more relaxed atmosphere as we can all be more or less obnoxious and vibrant than those public eateries. After a few games of chance with people’s fortunes the party split and we moved on out for the evening.

 ny.niche's photoOur next stop was Soho House NYC in the MPD. Our host was just accepted as a member of this “exclusive” international club. Soho House is an international brand pioneered by Nick Jones, that offers membership by application, and yearly fee to participate in using its facilities of the lounge, hotel, restaurant, pool and private party space for events, film screenings and mingling with other like minded “exclusive” patrons. Once accepted you have access to all the NY facilities and to invite your guests to join other members in the pay to play scene.

Our host had been accepted into the fold via a local “neighborhood” membership which allows local residents access to the club. This is a new membership which I believe is at a discount to the full house membership, and eliminates some of the criteria for access as the priority for access is being a good neighbor. This is a change in the club’s policy to expand it’s membership to locals that would utilize the club more for their “regular” spot than as a status destination, thus increasing the number of patrons and potential revenue for the club.

Access on Saturday was actually very lax as we showed our IDs and entered into the reception area of the club floor. Like most lounges of this nature, a newly group, is instantly sized up upon entrance. We were a pack of 4 guys, dressed in varying degrees of flare from a more causal dinner party, and too scanning the couches for the glitterati that care. You enter the club via the registration desk after the elevator. Coat and bathroom check and then have the option to join the game room for a smoke with a foose or round of pool to the left, the restaurant area centered or bar lounge to the right. The decor is dark with low set brown chaise lounge couches, high back bar chairs, and small tables dotted with champagne bottles and the fat cats that are puring them. The room is brightened by the custom blown glass lighting chandeliers reflected off hardwood floors and silver metal horseshoe bar.

The crowd this evening is stylishly dressed for the most part. Most of the men in European suits, with a few exceptions being the boisterous bathrobe or guayabera wearing barons you’d see in Miami rather than NY. The ladies range from sophisticated youthful dresses to jeans and a blouse with excessive jewelry. The snobbery was thick from many responding with an air of indifference and arrogance that seems to be traditional for member only locals. Several more casual guests were probably just that, guests and ones we approached to get to know.

The wait staff seemed slow, casual, and unrefined in the apprenticeship of bartending for such a place. Drinks were poured with a slight impudence attitude and when I asked for an Oban scotch, I was delivered a full glass of ice with the pour. Champagne, wine and house cocktails seemed to be the libations of choice.

Our host had spied a casually dressed man chatting up a woman and sized him up to be gay. Being the only straight guy in the group, I was asked for the first time I can remember to play the wingman for a gay to distract the other woman. With a receptive opener, I sat down across from the couple and quickly learned she was from CA and in fact I had commuted from Santa Monica to her home town for work some time ago. The boy turned out to be South African, not gay and I needed to wrap up my survey so as to not cockblock his set any longer.

The most annoying aspect of the club became apparent with this encounter and others, that typical introduction includes the inquiring of membership, and term there of. It seems that your categorized as guests or members from the onset and there’s a certain level of presumption to you if you’re a member as I heard “oh that membership is quite exclusive and hard to grant access” when in reality the I found it quite easy as long as there’s money to pay it. I have a feeling as members become more aware of the relaxed policies, weaker door access and more guests of guests in the mix, the draw of the jet set crowd to hang at the Soho club will dwindle.

I left my digs late, and $60 short from the purchase of a round of 4 drinks at the club and headed over to Pop burger for some onion rings and a Tecate. There I had no issues getting in to their lounge stuffing fried food into my face swilling a cheap Mexican import beer. So much for the door policy at Pop late night. The place was trashed worse than a McDonalds on half price dollar days.

I opted to walk off my buzz through the village but as I found quickly I needed a piss break. Being the village, I prefer to actually urinate in a facility than on someone’s million dollar brownstone, so I followed two ladies down into a club on W 12th. The spot was fairly packed but there were groups of people waiting to get into the bathroom as if the social scene was better in the toilets. I quickly left, not wanting to wait cross-legged for however long it takes the party to finish, and realized I had just ducked into Beatrice Inn, Paul Sevigny’s (Chloë’s brother; member of A.R.E. Weapons) speakeasy exclusive hotspot in the village for models, actors and the hipsters that follow them. I certainly wasn’t scrutinized getting in, however, I admit I might have ducked past the bouncer to expedite my trip to the bathroom. I guess it takes more than glamor to get into a hotspot, it takes a drive more core to human nature, the call of the wild to relieve bladder pains!

I hopped across the street into the next spot and waited in line with three ladies, all who were using either the womens or men’s bathroom. No mind, I’m used to that action in SF until it dawned on me like Jason Lee in Chasing Amy realizing he’s in a lesbian bar (I was in the Cubbyhole to do my business). Obviously there’s no hesitation to let the straights in, and I’m not saying Cubby is as exclusive as Soho House or Beatrice but it was with the same singular focus as I entered Beatrice that I missed the whole scene here and walked right through the crowd to get my business done.

So the description of my night brings me to my point, of why were I and friends, non-VIP zillionaires able to so easily crack the exclusive club lounges of NYC? Were they sleeping at the door when we walked up, were we really worthy of the crowd status at first look, or are the door policies in NY sliding? Milk and Honey the ultra exclusive cocktail lounge with a private number has just opened up their offering by revealing publicly their reservation line. Are they hurting for clients willing to pay 16 for some fresh juice and gin mixed expertly?

 by montanagirliesurfergirlThere’s no denying that the conspicuous consumption economy is floundering in these times as bankers are not getting their bonuses, and more people are cautious of frivolous spending. Clubs themselves have fewer queues but it may have more to do with the musical talent than the host or the economy, but certainly bottle service is hurting at many establishments. These exclusive clubs are already starting to fade or owe huge sums of money to people (The Box, Merkato 55, Bijoux, Cain Luxe, Tenjune) as nightlife goers really start to consider not so much how much they are spending, but what they are getting for their money and time at these places. This I hope only revitalizes the nightlife scene as promoters realize nightlife needs more from what they are paying and they try to get more creative with the venue, take risks and take a hard look at the crap music being played so as to bring back some substance and soul to a club or lounge.


Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor

This has been a huge problem of club land in the last 20 years, until the club came up with the exclusivity clause to limit the number of dicks on the dance floor. That didn’t last long as this created an influx of paying off the bouncer, so the dicks who had money still were able to penetrate the club. In the singles scene this is still a huge problem at your local watering hole, dive bar or lounge where dicks are always trying to improve their odds. What I’ve found that works more than hoping spot to spot, is indifference. Stop caring about who’s in the room and have a good time with the people you came with. You’d be surprised how much that will rub off on the room and the ladies will notice.

Speaking of the video, I need to get some of those disco units!


Bloody Hot Dog wars in NYC

I’ve been asked many times by tourists and friends from California about the Hot Dogs in NY and which is the best. I’ll tell them first, the worst dogs to try are the dirty water dogs from any street vendor cart in the city. These are the ones that made the NY hot dog famous but they could be soaking in rat urine for weeks for all I know. If a vendor is not grilling the scum off them, they aren’t for me.

My favorite late night dogs in New York, because the only time I actually eat hot dogs are at someone’s bbq or when I’ve had a few pints in me, are the Crif Dogs on St. Marks between 1st and A. These guys are a late night establishment, more so since the LES Dash Dogs went down. They’re famous in my mind for wrapping their dogs in bacon and adding some great tasting toppings (eggs, salsa, avacado, sour cream, cole slaw, chili, Fritos etc.) Recently they’ve lost their liquor license so you can’t get PBRs with your “meal, but they will allow BYOB (liquor store is around the corner on A!). All I have to say is Good Morning and the Chihuahua with salsa baby!

So the NY classic street food wars are usually reserved for halal carts, taco stands, juice joints, and even Belgian waffles. NY’s hot dog history started with Nathan’s famous (Guidespot has a good review of many of the spots) but for my generation the dog wars started with the Papaya theme dog joints, and which spot is the best has been an on going debate for years.

There’s Papaya King (the original), Gray’s Papaya, Papaya Dog, and Chelsea Papaya (which apparently just shuttered with one of the King’s spots). I’ve later found out that all the joints (including Katz which has good dogs too) receive the same Sabrett dogs so it’s really comes down to how they cook it, the bun and toppings. I’ll say the King has the better papaya drink but Gray’s still takes the dog (and corn dogs!) of the four. Other than the Crif, I’ll take a Gray’s Papaya but I’m not one to go out of my way for hot dogs so I’m usually settling for a Papaya Dog, my 4th choice because of the stumbling convenience to my apt. Also Gray’s on 6th and W4th is stumbling blocks from my apt so it’s an apt spot to get off the A/C/C for a quick bite before turning in.

The filler above is lead-in for a story I wrote close to one year ago today but never posted it. Rather then back date this one, I thought it’d make for a good read:

It’s around 3:30 am. I know this because I got a missed text from a friend just 10 minutes earlier when checking to see if I was still in the bar. I’m a habitual Irish Goodbye type of person, so these are common late night.

I’m standing restless in a ridiculous line of hamburger fiends at my local hot dog stand, Papaya Dog. It’s inevitable some the line fills with drunks, and tonight’s no exception as two drunk goofs sashay in behind me.

I’m fiendishly waiting to yell out my order of recession special with onions as these two scoff at the bars they went to and excuse their own failures with women they can’t hook up with as “too many skanks” or “dumb bitches”. They wonder aloud, as I do in my head, when this line is going to move forward, faster…

Half way to the counter a black woman walks past us in a bright red leather Michael Jackson jacket from bad gear. She’s got a shaved head except for a black dyed mohawk, and it fans the grill chef as she spins her head around to make sure her order of more mustard for the dogs she bought earlier is all her friends need.

These two duchebags start making comments about monkeys and how a woman like that scored some kind of upgrade from the jungle attire she’s accustom too.

At first, I’m complacent with my silence. I just want to get my meat in tubes and bounce home.

In between their own complaints of not having a good bagels and cream cheese spot local, I start to notice the nuances of these two Jewish fuck’s comments about the locals around me. Their obviously not from the city limits but somewhere out on the Island.

One is obviously hammered by the sight of him, but his words seal that visual as each bitter jab come slurring out with spit, tongue and accent. The normally private conversation between the two, is obviously loud enough to be heard by the punk mustard chick, but I’m surprised she’s not reacting to the continued slurs of negra, monkey and hefty (like the trash bag).

I’m sick, not from the alcohol I’ve ingested all evening but now from these two fucks that think no one is obvious to them, yet they may be, it’s not like we are all sober and coherent here.

As we inch closer to the counter, my annoyance grows with my dog anticipation to the point I can’t take it any more and SNAP!!

“Oh fuck!”

“What the fuck!”


And they both run out with the yelling of “Fuck you!”…

I’m not sure if it was intentional or involuntary, but I had spun around quickly to tell these fucks to STFU when my elbow met one of them face high. Apparently at the same time I decided to spin, the drunker one was bending over to tie a shoe or eat some crumbs of the floor when the kinked point of my elbow smacked him full on in the face. Hard enough to to knock him back on his ass.

Now, it’s been over 10 years since I’ve been in a fight but and I’ve been much closer to fists than this, but my guard is up now. I did say anything except my exclamation but both somehow knew why I was reacting. It was like they were blabbing on, waiting for such a response but didn’t know what to do now that they got more than expected.

Apparently I popped this one’s nose and blood started gushing everywhere. On his shirt, shoes, the tile, his friends pants and hands… every where but on me. The more sober of the two started yelling and picked his friend up and kept walking out the door.

What a fucker… He deserved more but pussed out. I was prepared with shots of whiskey and pints of Stella to deal with his friend. As these two painted the floor red on the way out, I wanted to yell back, but just didn’t feel the need to rub it into their retreat.

I fucking hate racist assholes, especially those that feel they are entitled to their stature because of money, birth right or name…

Now. Where’s my Recession Special with onions!


Way out East

Last night I met up with friends to catch some Bosa Nova jazz at Zinc and then we hit Sulli Room again. This time our friends Sleepy and Boo were putting on a gig with Jody Wisternoff spinning. Jody is half the famed duo Way out West.

The crowd filled the room this evening, as compared to last nights, however, there still was an intensity missing. Jody’s deck skills are much more on point, however, I still prefer Nick Warren’s (the other half) style much better.

I got a chance to chat with Jody for a bit, and he seemed like a cocky brit but I’m sure he’s used to much larger, sold out shows than this cave. The Gift was one of the first “progressive” tracks that got me into buying this style in 95 – early 96. It’s too bad he didn’t play up some more funk, still it was worth our admission price.