My social media feeds exploded with joy at the return of the L train Thursday afternoon. This lifeline to Brooklyn, which had been out of commission since Sandy sucker-punched Gotham, started running limited service in time for the Thursday night party cycle. When the trains aren’t running, people are just not going to party. At all. And there’s not a damn thing a promoter in the city can do about it. The return also allowed me to check out a DJ I’d been watching for about a year now, who was set to drop absurd beats at Brooklyn Bowl.
Brooklyn Bowl has carved out a nice little niche off of Bedford Avenue over the last several years. The combination bowling alley, bar, restaurant and open assembly stage has a lovely Thursday night party called Bowl Train curated by DJ ?uestlove (of The Roots), brings in consistently quality talent from out of town, and is also the world’s first LEED certified bowling alley. Because yes, in Brooklyn, even the bowling alleys are environmentally friendly. That means 100% wind power, a stage floor made of recycled goods, HVAC efficiency controls and locally sourced/brewed beers. The last point is super important. The best way to deflate the gigantic “eat locally” argument is when it is being delivered by someone who is drinking beer from Germany or whiskey from Scotland. “Drink Locally” is far more important than we give it credit, a thought I pondered as I picked up my glass of Brooklyn Weisse. The service was prompt and the dance floor was slowly coalescing. The crowd of flannel rockers, stoners, IDM geeks, ravers and the people that (somehow, you just knew, you didn’t know why but you did) only listened to dubstep all day, every day. Minnesota had taken the stage, and the bass was building.
The sound that Minnesota creates is one that requires the DJ to walk a very fine line. Few performers have really gotten this right in the past. EdiT, MC Front-a lot, MC Chris and YTCracker are a few of the handful of artists who are able to use hip hop lyrics, samples, beats, styles and atmosphere without coming off cheesy or as the sad little stereotype Fred Durst was. The ability to flow through the different sounds and keep the beat feeling vaguely menacing, while enticing at the same time is difficult to develop because if you fuck up, you look kind of like the biggest nerd ever. The thick rim glasses & t-shirt are a stark reminder that you’re listening to West Coast beats being performed by someone who’s name isn’t 50 Cent, or Tupac Shakur. It’s a bit like having your suspension of disbelief broken when you’re watching a movie. Interestingly, DJ Minnesota did not have any of these moments, something that made me so very happy, especially considering the gangsta-ness of his beats.
The transitions between dubstep basslines were enhanced with a significant number of Ludacris, Biggie Smalls & other lyrical samples. This in combination with some excellent track choices, and the correct decision of not playing too many of his own tracks, ensured that the crowd never got bored, and that there was enough of his own stuff to remember you were hearing him, not some resident bumping tunes. He had things well in hand and the dance floor was bumping and grinding as the kids are known to do these days, but still occasionally bursting into a moment of rocking out, so I sat down and ordered some food to finish the set with.
The wings were excellent & the mashed potatoes surprisingly good. While the occasional strike (of a bowling ball) marred the rest of DJ Minnesota’s set, he dropped all the beats and kept the energy going for his compatriot Zion I. The second act started dropping similar music, using two MPC-controllers and instead of mixing from remix to remix, just threw beats, samples, vocal work, FX and a whole lot of other good stuff together. There was a playfulness to the mix that was similar to the work of DJ Minnesota, but in a totally different style, that complimented the previous set, and was, in hindsight, an even better set up for DJ ?uestLove of The Roots, who would go on at 11. Of course this big ass dubstep party was just the warm up for Brooklyn Bowl’s Thursday night. There would be probably a few hundred more people through the door by the end of the night.
As the bass continued to collide with the crashing sounds of pins being demolished downlane, I cleared my tab, finished my beer and headed out to find a cab on Bedford Avenue. It was a long way back to Queens, and mother taught me better than to trust the L train after midnight on its first night running after a hurricane.
This is Terry Gotham, see you on the dance floor.
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