Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New York City

I just got back from a weekend in New York City. I went down to visit a friend of mine, Polly, who works in Research at Mount Sinai. I had been asking her questions a few weeks ago about a club called Pacha, and she suggested that I come down and see it myself. We figured that the 27th/28th would be the best weekend for me to visit, and ironically, it turned out that Gabriel & Dresden were playing at Pacha on Friday night. Small world.

I got to the airport on Friday afternoon, and since Polly was at work until 5pm, I just hung out in the airport for a few hours, listening to music and doing some work. That's when the next coincidence happened - I ran into Gabriel & Dresden at Laguardia. I talked to them for a few minutes, then headed downtown shortly afterwards.

I met up with Polly and the first thing we did was to get some alcohol for the weekend. After that, we ordered sushi for dinner, then went out to a pizza place to meet up with one of her friends. Later that evening, we eventually we made our way to Pacha. Pacha was a decent sized club - it had four levels, and I would say that it probably held about 800 people, as a guess. I'm not sure, but I think that the cover charge for regular guests off the street was $30. Drinks were $9 for bar shots like rum, and $7 for beer, so it was quite a bit more expensive than most Canadian bars, but not out of line for a big club like that. The lineup at the coat check was huge, which I laughed at because I didn't bring a coat. Of course, being a bar manager myself, I spent quite a bit of time looking at the logistics and operations of the club. I was pretty surprised to see that they had (I think) six bartenders working at each of the two main bars. My place would have two bartenders, or sometimes three, for the same volume of alcohol that was being served at each bar. But at least those bartenders looked a lot more relaxed that we are when we're serving.

Needless to say, the lighting systems were incredible, and the sound was decent throughout the entire club, not just on the dance floor. Gabriel & Dresden played from about midnight to 5am (I think the bars stop serving alcohol at 4am, but then they can start again at 8am). I was talking to Josh for a bit up in the DJ booth during his set, and they looked like they were really having fun playing that night. Their set was quite a bit different than when they had played in Boston - to me, both nights sounded great, but this set sounded more tailored to a dance club crowd, with more vocal tracks and mainstream tracks, whereas at Rise it had seemed more like a set for an afterhours club crowd (not surprisingly).

On Saturday afternoon, Polly took me for a partial tour, including Ground Zero, the ferry to Staten Island, Wall Street, and around other parts of Manhatten. Later in the evening, we went to a place called Crocodile NYC. This bar was insane. It had a crowd about the same size as my bar on a Saturday night (250 people), but it was less than a third the size. It was absolutely impossible to move around, or to get drinks quickly. To make things even more interesting, they gave out a free pizza with every beer, so for $20, we eventually got four large glasses of beer (two Stella & two Guiness, I think) plus three 12-inch cheese pizzas. It was a minor fight for me to finish the two beer and two pizzas, but I managed eventually, and was hungry for more. The bar was ridiculously warm, probably partly due to the crowds and partly due to the 700-degree pizza ovens in the back of the bar. Anyway, it was a pretty neat place, and obviously a lot of other people thought the same thing, considering the crowds.

After Crocodile, we went to a venue called Shelter, which was more of an after-hours type of club than Pacha had been, although they did serve alcohol. Cover was $25, bar shots were $8, and beer was $6. There were a whole bunch of good DJ's and producers performing that night, including D:Fuse, D-Formation (I used a couple of his tracks on my last mix), and Tone Depth (from Montreal). There was also another DJ who I had never heard of before, Chloe Harris. I was quite impressed by her set, so it was good to learn about her. The lighting system upstairs at Shelter was pretty impressive too. I wish that I'd been able to get some decent photos, but it wasn't possible with my camera.

On Sunday, we went for Chinese food in the afternoon, then did some more touring after dinner. We met a couple of my old friends from university in front of Virgin Records in Times Square, and we went up to the Marriot Marquis for drinks with them. After that, Polly took me to a fantastic Mexican restaurant for dinner. I've eaten Mexican food in a lot of places (including Mexico), but this was definitely some of the best that I've had. Of course, I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but I'm not going to forget the food.

I have photos from the trip on this page:

The only sad part about the weekend was that there was so much more to see that I didn't have time for, so I'll have to go back as soon as I get a chance ...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tour-Tech Trade Show 2007

I was at the Tour-Tech show this weekend in Halifax. The show itself was ok. I didn't see as many revolutionary computer products as I did last year, but then again, I concentrated on the conventional audio seminars all day, rather than going to any of the video seminars, which is a field that is arguably advancing much more quickly right now. For instance, I went to seminars on topics such as microphone placement, PSM's (personal in-ear studio monitors), designing sound systems for churches, etc. Nothing really that exciting, but useful sessions.

Here are a few photos from the show:

Anyway, even though the trade show itself was fairly uneventful, we had an interesting time the night before. We went out to visit a few bars and have a few drinks. The bar that I work at is being rebuilt in 18 months, so I was asked to take some photos of other venues, to help come up with some design ideas. One of the guys I was with (Darren Wheaton) runs a couple of the other bars in my hometown, so he was equally curious to go on tour.

We walked past a bar downtown called the Seahorse Tavern. Several people had mentioned this place to me before, but I could never think of where it was. When I saw it, I figured it would be a good place to visit, so we went inside. I was pretty surprised to realize that I had actually been in it before, many times: it was the first bar that I was ever in, many years ago, although it was operating under a different name at the time. In fact, I have many funny stories from that very bar. For instance, one night, a few of us got more intoxicated than usual, and I woke up the next morning sleeping on the Bluenose II, in the Halifax Harbour. I have no idea why I was there - maybe an RCN press gang? Luckily, it was still tied to the dock.

Anyway, the bar wasn't exactly hopping that night, but there was a blues band playing, so we stayed for a while. The band itself wasn't bad, although I have no idea who they were. The lead guitarist looked like Wolfman Jack, and played pretty tightly. The drummer was consistent, and made funny faces throughout the show. The bass player looked sort of like Mr. Clean, and he was pretty quiet and unobtrusive in the background, but he was very, very tight in his timing, so I was pretty impressed. He also played on a fretless bass. The rhythm guitarist, however, was the really interesting character. During his first few songs, he didn't seem that notable. His timing was so-so, but he looked a bit nervous, and played some fairly uninspired solos when given the chance. However, after four or five songs, he suddenly warmed up and honestly ended up stealing the show.

What really got me laughing was the fact that he had a wireless pickup, so he was able to walk around the crowd while he was playing. He also had so many effects on his guitar that he didn't really have to strum the strings while he was soloing - he could just push the strings up against anything, such as a nearby table, and get decent sound. As he wandered around, he came up to this "crusty old seadog" - an aging weather-beaten sailor with a greyish-blond beard and a cap slung down low - who was pretty much passed out with his head on the bar. Anyway, the guitarist started playing by wildly rubbing his guitar against the crusty old seadog's head, while the guy was still passed out! The crowd went wild. It was definitely the funniest thing I've seen in quite a while ...