Tonight I ordered a slice of pizza from my favorite pie spot in the East Village. I had every intention of chowing down and catching the L Train back to Brooklyn for a good night's rest after a long work week. I looked at my iPhone to check the time: 8:30 p.m. The calendar icon displayed a big black 20. "Hmm," I thought to myself, "I swear I had something planned for the 20th."
"Vegan Picante!" shouted the friendly pizza guy. I grabbed my slice, thanked the man and walked over to Viva Herbal's humble fixins station. "The 20th," I thought again, "what was I gonna do on the 20th?" As I poured dried peppers over my slice, I realized that I'd need some water and then it hit me: H20! Tonight was H2O's 15th-anniversary show -- one of my favorite bands! I looked up the venue, Gramercy Theatre, and headed north on 3rd Avenue at a rapid pace -- well as rapid as I could muster with a slice of hot pizza in my hand.
I turned left on 23rd street and was greeted by a giant marquee reading: H20's 15th Anniversary... SOLD OUT. No sooner could the despair set in then I bumped -- literally -- into a scalper. "You need a ticket?"
When I entered the Gramercy -- fingers crossed that I'd bought a legit ticket -- Maximum Penalty was halfway through their set. (I kept an eye on the scalper until the door guy scanned my ticket and let me in.) With 23 years of New York Hardcore beneath their belts, Max Pen has it dialed. I admit I don't know the band's entire catalog, but I've always appreciated their mix of stompy Big Apple riffs with the sporadic Dr. Know-ish wails. When they wrapped up, I grabbed a spot in the movie-theater seating that lines the back of the Gramercy.
The lights dimmed. "We're Trapped Under Ice." I've heard Trapped Under Ice, but I haven't had a chance to see them live. I liked their music alright. I'm pleased to say that TUI is one of those bands whose sound really makes sense when you experience it live -- so much energy from these five Baltimore-ites.
The only way I can think to describe TUI's sound is by asking you to imagine your favorite New York Hardcore song. Got it? Now fast forward to the part where the breakdown's about to begin, you know, the part that makes you say, "OH SHIT!" Now take that section and loop it in your head for 30 minutes, over and over. That's something like a TUI set. Pure "OH SHIT" recklessness. Will be seeing this band again.
In New York City, it's hard to go a day without hearing Jay Z's "Empire State of Mind." It's that song with the Alicia Keys R&B hooks that wails, "New York,...concrete jungle where dreams are made of..." Radio stations practically play the thing on repeat. High School girls blast it through iPhone speakers on the subway. For some odd reason, cabbies love the track. You can't get the damn thing out of your head because you can't physically get ten feet away from it.
Anyway, after about 30 minutes of NYHC on the P.A., "Empire State of Mind" came on, and it came on loud. The lights dimmed. At the end of the hook, Frank Sinatra's voice crooned in, "It's up to you, New York." The opening octaves of H2O's "1995" rang out...
I could try to explain how epic H20's set was, but I wouldn't do it justice. Plus, poorly-recorded iPhone video footage is way more legit: