What I saw at Hart Stop

And what may be left to us

Hiiiiii,

It’s been a while. Do you guys remember when quarantine was sad but cute? It might be hard to recall now, but there was definitely a point last March or so where we were being fed the idea that there was a twee quaintness to our predicament, that we could take comfort in watching celebrities fumble with streaming technologies, and in the promise that we were “all in this together.”

Well, that turned out to be a huge fucking lie. We’re not all in this together, especially not here in this wretched conglomerate of violences and thefts we randomly like to call a “country.“ The solemn gestures have faded, and Anthony Fauci has predicted that life “getting back to a degree of normality” probably will not happen in the US until “well into 2021, towards the end of 2021.” Bill De Blasio, an impossibly long time ago, included concerts in a list of events he expects to be “one of the last things we bring back.” Shows, parties, and everything of the sort continue to be far off beyond the horizon. So, me branding myself as a “nightlife writer” in March 2020 is looking stupider by the day.

But what was nightlife, really? Venue after venue has collapsed from economic despair, inspiring a cultural rally so intense that it became enshrined in legislation as exaltations of nightlife’s importance even united Democrats and Republicans in Congress around the “Save Our Stages Act”. Concurrently, the same pause that’s pushed beloved bars and concert halls to and past the brink of ruin has made room for revelations that many spaces that sold themselves as wonderfully weird or artistically maverick transmuted the same cachet that so tempts us to romanticize them into opportunities to exploit that sense of belonging in the members of their communities who needed it most.

So, as often as I look dreamily into the nightlife that was and, with any luck, will be, my nostalgia is often interrupted by a squirming stomach that reminds me of the reality the absence of nightlife has laid bare, of the absurd precarity upon which my entire conception of a night out rested.

So, save our stages? In their letter announcing the venue’s closure, the Union Square Hospitality Group’s Jazz Standard signed off as “your family at the Jazz Standard.” My family? Mine? Nightlife is powered by this kind of dubious sentimentality. That’s the moneymaker, because at the core of our romanticizing of these spaces is our own self-conception through them. Whether it’s a cocktail delivered to your seat at a venue owned by a prestigious restaurant group or a PBR in a basement where you can only pay in cash so there’s no paper trail, we’ll pay good money for that kind of flattery, as anyone who’s tended bar can attest. And though it’s not clear what exactly corporate-owned venues that charge $15 for well drinks are actually doing to make audiences feel like family, they don’t really have to do anything–we’re chomping at the bit to self-identify as such, and to flood our souls with that narcotic sense of belonging.

And if anyone knows about dubious sentimentality, it’s this guy. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m trying to throw cold water on everyone’s daydreaming about post-pandemic raving. I’m daydreaming right alongside you, and I’ve even started making the playlists. But nightlife fascinates me to the point of starting a blog about it precisely because it’s mostly not real; it’s comprised primarily of our fantasies of the future and our fantasies of the past. And when there are people who feel like they can only tell the truth about what they experienced when now, when the venues are all closed, I worry that it’s precisely those fantasies that allowed reality to get so fucked up.

So, while we continue to be stuck in this quagmire, I figured I should at least acknowledge some of these cold hard truths, that nightlife was not just the world of sexy dance-floor eye contact with hot people we’d all like to remember it as. In fact, I think it rarely ever was.

This is perhaps most evident in the fact that nightlife, uh, didn’t actually stop. Not really. In mansions, on yachts and in Florida, nightlife has hobbled forward all this time, an industry caught in a grisly vice of non-existent governance, financial urgency, unbearable loneliness and frigid apathy.

And anyway, If I’m really gonna give this “cultural criticism” thing a go, it feels like the least I can do to to at least try to resist my tendency to romanticize, and to see myself trying not to see things. But as I’ve been thinking a lot about what nightlife will, or could look like, “after,” I keep coming back to a night in October 2019 at a show thrown by the booking collective Hart Stop. Here’s my song for the winter.

What I saw at Hart Stop

Lily Rothman, Paris Andersen and New York Nick. Photo courtesy of Michelle Lobianco.

As Hart Stop, Paris Andersen and Lily Rothman are creating a platform for musicians to support each other. 

The booking collective has thrown dance parties in the palatial discotech of Bushwick’s Venus in Furs, showcases at Rubulad, a glittery, historic enclave wedged between warehouses in East Williamsburg, talent shows at Hart Bar, and, of course, “house shows” in their apartment. At their events I’ve heard trance from Matt Sebastian, punk from No Ice, and indecipherable goth noise from Holy Wisdom. At Rubulad last October, Lily Rothman lists off names of other venues that have hosted Hart Stop events: “Threes Brewing, we had a monthly show there for awhile. Ivy House, [too].” 

In an interview, Andersen and Rothman describe how the collective came together. “We met very randomly.” Andersen said. The two ended up roommates after being connected by friends when Andersen moved from Austin, Texas. “I used to work for a music blog, organizing their events and booking shows,” Rothman, who is also a member of indie rock group Sloppy Jane said. “We had the space for it and it just made sense, and some friends wanted to play a show so we just said let’s just throw a show! We had the equipment, a drum kit and speakers, because our roommate, [New York] Nick, DJs.”

Hart Stop’s very first show was in May of 2019, and was held in Andersen and Rothman’s shared apartment, naturally. “Since then, we’ve been doing them pretty much monthly there,” Rothman said. 

“Only a couple years. I grew up here and I would go see live music all the time growing up but I didn’t start performing in bands until a couple years ago.” 

At both Rubulad shows I’ve been to, there has been catering by friends of Hart Stop; Brooklyn Kitchen Beast served southern American comfort food like macaroni and cheese and cornbread.


In DIY–”Do-It-Yourself”– scenes, it’s typical to expect that people are drawn together by genre, whether it’s hardcore, emo, or hip hop. If you go to a few Hart Stop events in succession, though, you’ll notice quickly that there isn’t a ton of aesthetic/genre cohesion to what Hart Stop does -- genre borders evaporate, leaving behind only an ethos.

On a below-freezing December (2019!) night at Rubulad, burgers are being grilled. “Everyone’s been so supportive. If you ever need anything, there’s somebody there who’s willing to help you” Andersen says. “They’ll go out of their way to help,” Lily adds. “Everyone’s been really supportive.” “So supportive! If you ever need anything, there’s somebody there willing to help you, go out of their way, to lend you something. It’s a really beautiful thing to be a part of, bringing different groups of people together who are all interested in the same thing: playing music.”

Photo courtesy of Hart Stop.

“People who performed in our shows, we ask them to come to the show as vendors, we also hire a lot of artists to work doors, work sound. If they have side projects or something they’re working on, we give them a space to show them off.”

I asked what advice, if any, they had for anyone who would like to start throwing their own house shows. “Keep the windows closed, be kind to the neighbors,” Andersen said Be very kind the neighbors. Get them presents. Don’t turn people away, be very inclusive. ”

Between rising living costs in New York and industry-wide austerity, being a musician in New York might be more difficult than it has ever been. Across the city, musicians are rejecting the cutthroat atmosphere of an industry that demands artists fight each other for its scraps. They’re choosing instead to create opportunities for each other, platforms for each others’ success. 

Brooklyn Kitchen Beast. Photo courtesy of Hart Stop.

The question of what will come after this, of what will be left when all this is over (not to go jinxing anything), is devastatingly and thrillingly unsettled. The costs might have been too great. All the promises embedded in phrases like “underground” and “independent music” now sound empty and dumb, malevolent even. 

And anyway, find the term “underground” unbearably corny. I’m not quite sure what it means–how can something be underground and also on Instagram?–and it makes me feel like I’m being advertised to. But the term still serves its purpose; it’s one of the few ways we know to describe a structure where that doesn’t center the extraction of profit from artists and their communities. 

As remote as the ideas Hart Stop is founded on–tightly packed dancefloors, ad-hoc catering, tattoos between sets–feel right now, what I saw there has stuck with me, even now that nightlife is dead. Paris Andersen called Hart Stop “a really beautiful thing to be a part of.” I like to imagine there will be even more beautiful things, and more things to be a part of.

Other Stuff

  • Here’s a bunch of shit I did since I last posted on this blog:

  • For Bandcamp Daily, I spoke to some musicians about their short-scale instruments and accessibility. You can read that here.

  • For OkayAfrica, I wrote about five of my favorite songs from the period of reggae-disco crossover from 1978-1983. You can read that here.

  • For an as-told-to piece for Tidal Magazine, I spoke to the singer A.J. Haynes of Seratones about the song “Be Real Black for Me” by Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack. You can read that here.

  • Also for Tidal Magazine, I interviewed the jazz experimenter Duval Timothy. You can read that here.

  • Rest in peace to one of the best to ever do it:

  • I do just have to keep saying this: the best thing you can do for this newsletter is tell people about it. It’s simply the case that having a high number of “subscribers” is probably beneficial to my ability to do “music writing” a career, so if you care about that, please share this newsletter with someone you think would like it. :-)

That’s it! Can you believe I do this for free? Me neither—pay me to write by clicking here. As always, the Instagram for this project is @CriticalPartyStudies and you can e-mail me at criticalpartystudies@gmail.com if you want to talk. Subscribe and tell your friends if you think it’s good!

🤔,

Adlan

EWR x WFMU // ENDING WORLD _RADIO_ // This SUNDAY! // 5-6pm EST

Twiddle those dials in NYC & Rockland County or stream it LIVE ONLINE

For one time only, I’ll be bringing ENDING WORLD RADIO to WFMU 91.9FM in New York, Jersey City and Rockland County.

Tune in at WFMU.org! I’ll almost certainly be doing a simultaneous stream with cursing and the usual carrying on at mixlr.com/endingworld as well. Thanks to Olivia from WFMU for including me!

See you then,

Adlan

Guitar, Webcam, Microphone (now for Hyperallergic)

Youtube has shaped performance for a decade and a half. What do we have to show for it?

Heyyy,

In case you’re wondering what happened to my last blog post, it got picked up! You can read (a more developed version of) it now at Hyperallergic.

Other Stuff

  • I’ll repost the important shout-outs from the previous post!

  • I spent a very special first week of July attending the O’Neill Center’s National Critics Institute; this essay was one of my assignments. Reader, I had a ball. Follow my fellow fellows:

  • Oh, and shout out to Ben Ratliff for writing my rec!

  • For Brooklyn Rail, I reviewed Bon Iver’s collaboration with Minnesota’s Tu Dance troupe. You can read that here.

  • I can’t stress enough that if you like this blog, the best thing you can do for it is to send it to others and encourage them to subscribe!

That’s it! Can you believe I do this for free? Me neither—pay me to write by clicking here. As always, the Instagram for this project is @CriticalPartyStudies and you can e-mail me at criticalpartystudies@gmail.com if you want to talk. Subscribe and tell your friends if you think it’s good!

🤔,

Adlan

Just a song that rules

+ some stuff my friends are doing

Look, so,

I made a big deal about “relaunching” this blog as a newsletter that comes out semiweekly, but, well, I’m kind of at a loss re: what to do with a blog about nightlife at a time when nightlife doesn’t exist. Last week, I tried something, a reported essay with shoehorned-in nightlife “themes”, and I think it was pretty good, but there’s really no sense in pretending that I’m going to be able to write regularly about nightlife any time soon.

I have a couple more ideas like that, but really, chances are, if you’re reading this blog at this point, you’re someone who “knows me in real life,” (there are a few of you who don’t, and first of all hi, and second of all I worry a dumb amount about not causing you to unsubscribe, but if you do that’s ultimately fine). And as much as I want to “expand my audience” and “monetize” and “professionalize,” those things probably won’t happen for awhile. So, for now, I’m just going to revert to standard “blog” fare, and just write about a song that I really like and think you should listen to, if that’s okay.

This. This shit. This cover of Venezuelan pop artist Danny Ocean’s “Me Rehúso” by Mexican psychedelic boleristas Daniel, Me Estás Matando. I promise I’m trying to use words like “transcendent” “sublime” and “ecstatic” less often and more precisely (most of the time what I really mean when I use those words is “it’s really fucking good”), but the absolutely massive 2016 original by Ocean, is the kind of song that has its own legend. That is, when Ocean was on the cusp of moving to Miami to pursue his music career, he wrote the song, which would later be his breakout hit, to his girlfriend as a pledge that the distance wouldn’t kill their relationship (the chorus, translated, goes: “Baby, no. I refuse to give you one last kiss.”). And so, I’m really going to use the word “sublime” to describe “Me Rehúso,” the lead single from Danny Ocean’s debut album 54+1, because when that album came out I bought it on CD, the first time I’d bought an album on CD since I was a teenager, because it’s perfect pop music.

Even though I don’t even have a car, I bought this CD in preparation for the day that I do. When I have a car, my copy of 54+1 is going to live in the console until the day I die, because having the hard copy of this album at hand is soothing in a way little else is. Its bliss is unstoppable. It’s what I want when the radio isn’t picking up and the bluetooth dongle won’t work unless you hold it in a weird way.

And then, last week, Daniel, Me Estás Matando, Daniel Zepeda and Iván de la Rioja, “nuevo bolero” artists and two studio nerds of the type who release a piano tutorial the week after they put out a new song, covered “Me Rehúso.” They took the absolutely pristine pop song and reimagined it as a bleary-eyed, tentative daydream, layering in glockenspiel and three-part harmonies. I mean, come on.


Speaking of standard blog fare, I’m just going to shout out some cool shit my friends are doing:

  • If you like this blog, you should subscribe to the new poetry-focused newsletter by friend-of-the-blog and poet Susannah Sharpless, which you can read here.

  • Another friend-of-the-blog and fellow music writer Urvija Banerji is doing a weekly radio show, which you can listen to here.

  • Speaking of radio shows, I’ll probably do another one Friday night, but I’ll post an update here before either way, probably.

  • I wanted to humblebrag that I first heard “Me Rehúso” at La Movida in Cartagena but didn’t find a good place for it, so here’s that. They do a really cool thing where they DJ and do a live instrument at the same time, and they played the main synth part on sax.

I just don’t know. If you know, feel free to e-mail me at criticalpartystudies@gmail.com, or follow @CriticalPartyStudies on Instagram.

Fandoms, Communities, Networks: how do you know what's what?

Out in New York (eventually...?), navigating a lattice of etiquettes.

Welcome back to this experimental, relaunched and, uh, regular edition of Critical Party Studies, reflections on the art of, uh, going out. I’m Adlan Jackson, a “nightlife writer.”

In this edition, a reported essay about parasociality, which has made a big comeback for me as we social distance.

Fandoms, Communities, Networks: how do you know what's what?

In college, I joined an “eating club,” which is something not unlike a frat. As a member of the only club that booked live music, I took a weird pride in approaching musicians after their sets. The line between performer and audience is rarely as blurred as it was at Terrace Club; bohemian and subcultural as the members of Terrace liked to consider ourselves, this was simply another manifestation of the absurd privilege doled out to students at Princeton: Heems, Mayhem Lauren, DIIV, all in our shared living room.

Having grown up with next-to-no access to live music before going to college in the U.S., I was eager to stride confidently right over that border, four-beers-in and hand outstretched. No one was ever less than kind or cordial, and these gestures led, a handful of times, to memorable interactions.

That was a minority of the times, though. With time and (some) emotional maturity, I gradually realized that, musicians were typically, after playing for drunk college kids most of whom were barely paying attention, just trying to pack up their shit and get some sleep. Sometimes they wanted to party, and that was cool, but I settled into the reality that most of the time, the coolest things you could offer a musician after their set were a merch purchase and the grace to let them get out of the weird living room they’re in without insisting on a frivolous interaction.

So, by the time this article in NYLON Magazine about how certain behaviours encouraged by concert etiquette folklore (“want to meet the band? Wait around outside the tour bus!”) can at best, frustrate performers–particularly women–who are trying to enjoy the end of their workday, and at worst, jeopardize their safety, I didn’t feel indicted by it, at first. I remembered looking on, cringing, when a fan got on stage and kissed Remo Drive’s frontman Erik Paulson at The Bowery Ballroom, prompting a necessary but utterly vibe-killing mini-lecture from the band’s bassist, Stephen Paulson, who’s also Erik’s brother. That NYLON article wasn’t about me, it was about that kid.

But then I thought, well, what if you expanded the scope of piece’s argument from musicians to other public figures? That made me feel a little uneasy, a little indicted. I’ve DMed fellow writers, I’ve cold e-mailed fellow writers asking to get coffee. One time I introduced myself to J**** W****** at a Makaya McKraven show. By virtue of the rules I’ve made for myself, I probably wouldn’t have gone up to McKraven if I saw him around, but I eagerly went up and disrupted W******’s night, and afterwards DMed her “was great meeting you last night!” That’s not good! To answer your question, she did not respond, nor view.

The line between stage and audience floor makes our respective roles clear: down here are us fans, and up there are the performers.

But the domains of writers and all media workers have expanded to include a 24-hour self-marketing practice on the same platforms we use to talk to our friends and families. Writers, as Allegra Hobbs wrote for The Guardian, are influencers. Because really, everyone is an influencer. Whether you have one million followers or one hundred, social media is a part of your job; you’re a 360-degree brand that includes writing, or singing, or whatever you do, or at least you should be if you want people that could hire you to notice you.

So, between listening to episodes of a writer’s podcast, we see what they’re cooking for dinner. We hear about their mental health, their families and their pets, and if you live in a place in New York, you might even see them around.

To me, it feels like this brings a couple of conventional wisdoms into conflict. These are people with whom I share an industry, people with whom I may even write for the same publications. We’re… colleagues, right? And colleagues network with each other and build relationships, or so I’ve heard. But at the same time, I’m also their fan. I enjoy their work, but know that it’s work, and that when they’re not working, they’re entitled to be left alone. But then, I’m also a member of their audience, and know from experience that “engaging” with them on social media, liking a picture of their dog and commenting say it’s cute, actually helps their career, for some reason.

All of those relationships come with their own etiquettes, their own placements of “the line.”

"Journalism and academia are aligned fields that have had to contend with celebrity in ways they didn’t previously when we had just print culture,” Rea McNamara tells me over e-mail. To ensure that the train of thought that inspired this blog post wasn’t just a manifestation of neuroticism or self-consciousness, I reached out to fellow members of the writers’ guild Study Hall. McNamara, who writes about niches and subcultures both on-and-offline, continued: “[Previously,] everything stayed within the white ivory tower, or your only perception of that writer or intellectual you respected came through their bylines and credits or encountering them at a book reading.”

“With the advent of Twitter and [Instagram], and different celebrities joining I feel like it's become a rat race to accessibility,” says Lauren Busser, another Study Haller who writes about television and fandoms. McNamara agreed: “Twitter, etc. brings a visibility, but also a transparency to the influence and networks people have. It’s easier to be connected, but it’s also more challenging because you start to really map out and understand your proximities to a certain big name. This is probably where the parasocial comes in.”

We know how parasocial relationships develop between fans and the subjects of their fandoms. But when we’re all influencers, we’re all also each others fans. I don’t feel like I’m more of a fan of a musician that I like than I am of a person I’ve never met but follow and Twitter because they’re funny or smart.

A few months ago, drinks with friends segued into a party at someone’s apartment. The person whose apartment we ended up in went to college with all of us, but is an acquaintance-at-best of mine, and has since become, uh, famous, in a way. The person I met a couple times in college, and the person whose work I follow on social media suddenly became a single person, and I didn’t know which to address.

On the walk back, a friend noted that someone else at the party had actually been a Twitter user we all knew by screen-name. We talked about how weird it felt to know things about someone before meeting them, and not knowing what to say, how much to let on. It’s disorienting, alienating, to be confronted all at once with the extent to which you’ve surveilled the life of a person you don’t really know. I’m glad I didn’t recognize him.

The “media industry,” like music industry, is one that rewards its workers for exposing their lives and their feelings to the anonymous void of the internet. We’re simultaneously the audience and the performers in this peep show, hobbling together social and professional lives out of vague and baffling gestures like “likes” and “DMs”, validating and violating micro-etiquettes, and squirming restlessly across the line that divides persona and self, and back again.

Other Stuff

  • That kind of felt weird to write; half the time I was wondering if I was just writing about a weird insecurity that I have and not actually Doing Cultural Criticism, so if this resonates with you please validate me via e-mail.

  • I’m going to do more “radio” tonight with friend-of-the-blog Stephen Wood, at 8PM EST. Call in, hang out, chat, play a song: mixlr.com/endingworld Don’t be shy, I just admitted to you in a blog how weird I am.

  • I chopped and screwed a song I like:

  • For TIDAL, I took in a year of posthumous releases and tributes to Nipsey Hussle. Read that here.

  • For Pitchfork, I reviewed the latest album from Montreal indie rock band TOPS. Read that here.

  • For Paper Magazine, I reported on DJs experiencing copyright takedowns as they try to live-stream their sets. Read that here.

  • I’m thinking about how to write about death. A lot of the time that I read writing about death I find it thirsty, self-serving and unseemly. I’ve been overusing the word “frivolous,” but it’s the word that keeps bouncing around in my head when confronting how small writing about music, or really anything, feels against the enormity of this catastrophe. But here’s a very recent John Prine song, a collaboration with Swamp Dogg on Swamp Dogg’s new album. “Memories" is something very special. Swamp Dogg's radicalness seems refined, not discarded. As John Prine sings the chorus, which repurposes "Memories Don't Leave Like People Do," Swamp Dogg is mostly reduced to a wet delay signal, a palimpsest and a fine representation of multiplicitous, inescapable, ever-disappointing memory.

    In a more hopeful time, I can see an argument coalescing around something like “contributing to a collective memory,” but in the midst of all this it just feels futile at best and cynical at worst. Writing is never not going to be self-indulgent, and that’s arguably fine, but maybe there’s a way writing can be a service? IDK.

That’s it! Can you believe I do this for free? Me neither—pay me to write by clicking here. As always, the Instagram for this project is @CriticalPartyStudies and you can e-mail me at criticalpartystudies@gmail.com if you want to talk. Subscribe and tell your friends if you think it’s good!

🤔,

Adlan

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