While we pass the cheap bottle around the glass coffee table for the final time and pour the dark liquor into red cups, a toast is proposed. Unable to organize the drunken thoughts, we lift our drinks in silence and let the music in the background speak for us. Everyone seems to understand and we toss back the shots.
The whiskey, the music, and the hotel that we can’t afford have us feeling right. We can worry about how to pay for it and how to accommodate our four sleeping arrangements in the two-person Manhattan suite when we wake in the morning. At this pace, it won’t matter until then.
The music choice for the pregame is dictated by the forthcoming show. Ignorant lyrics and high-energy, bass-heavy production has been shaking the walls and windows for an hour or more. We’ve gotten several calls from the front desk.
Fuck ‘em. We’re in a suite.
One song in particular has been our anthem all night. Naturally, we return to it to build energy for the ceremonious one-more-song-before-we-go-somebody-order-a-cab banger.
The song eclipses its climax and on the comedown we find ourselves shuffling between the expected pre-departure positions: adjusting our linen in front of the mirror, tying our nylon and rolling our denim on the couch, stealing dying sips from the empty wine bottles in the kitchen, and sobering ourselves up in the bathroom.
We step into the brisk and windy night on our diminutive march from the spinning doors of The London to the yellow doors of our ride. The refreshing cold provides a taste of what our longer, post-taxi walk will bring.
Kith - TriBeCa
The request will place us where we saw the flyer. The flyer will lead us to the show.
Twenty minutes and an incalculable amount of unfamiliar city blocks later, we offer the driver a generous tip - the type of tip that four young men can only afford when booze has played a generous role in the night. We exit the cab, check the time, and discover a spare half hour before the show. Not many better places to be blessed with spare time and not many better amounts of spare time than thirty minutes. Enough to shop but not enough to get in trouble. We go inside.
Kith's music is twice as loud as what shook The London earlier in the night, but the labyrinth of racks and shelves remains steady. We instantly disperse upon entry, each of us drawn to a different corner. Like clockwork, we reconvene at checkout five minutes early. None of us want to be late and the odds are high that we get lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
Back out into the cold and this time we really feel it. Our collective BAC has been cut to the bone.
Oh well. Can't be too far to the venue where we can warm up with overpriced drinks.
We locate the same flyer on a lamppost that we luckily stumbled upon earlier in the day, vowing in the name of spontaneity to return at night. The late winter wind has ripped most of it away by now but the address is still legible. So are four letters clinging to its cuff.
Damn. This is no time to be sober.
We turn back around and inquire the security guard. Playing his role well, he wants nothing to do with us and simply nods in the direction of the unmistakable barred windows across the street. A quick nod back out of thanks as we turn to walk away signs off on our brief interaction.
Just as at Kith, we bleed to different edges of the small room. Our taste in fashion and in liquor would best be described as complimentary, but not adjacent.
We arrange a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, a fifth of New Amsterdam Gin, two bottles of orange juice, and a Mickey's on the counter. Like a scale model of the city itself, the bottles stand as portals representing a better time. The cashier wraps each bottle individually with a brown sac, excluding the orange juice, which unlike us has nothing to hide.
The environment outside remains still and quiet as before. We freely consume our beverages though opt to keep their obvious contents concealed. Plenty of booze to last the night. As the bottles exchange hands and begin to empty, the walk gets easier. We float the final blocks until we come to a short line weaving dwon a poor excuse for a sidewalk.
Five dollars each and five minutes later, we are standing in front of a retrofitted garage. The corrugated rolling door is at half-mast in an effort to retain some hint of secrecy. We duck under its low-hanging reach and are greeted by music twice as loud as inside Kith. The entirety of the structure and its entirety of remaining industrial contents tremble. The clatter of steel and concrete blends with the grimy production and multiplies the grungy ambiance. Thankfully, the man we came to see hasn't graced us yet with his presence. It's only a DJ, but a damn good one.
The music he's delivering is strictly lo-fi, strictly hip-hop, and strictly New York. Pride is serious business here. So is music and this selection is serving its purpose. The crowd is physical but too small to be angry. No more than 100 people are crammed into the space.
On stage, a crew is making final adjustments to the minimal equipment. This is no great display of showmanship where the roadies spend an hour setting up for the headliner. All that's needed is a microphone to blow the overdone, obnoxious productions out of the water.
The lights dim in synchronization to a particularly apt change of pace by the DJ. The vibe is still low-fi, still hip-hop, still New York, but now it boasts the Caribbean influence that has come to define a new, dark sub-genre prevalent from New York to Toronto. The crowd responds by shifting to a final gear.
It's too loud to communicate our excitement. Bowing our heads, cocking our necks, and eliciting eye contact with one another, each of us responds with a nod of confirmation. We made the right choice.
A scratchy voice powering through the speakers draws our attention back to the stage.
I ain't tryna be nobody's hero
In an act of poetic circularity, SAINt JHN blesses us with the anthem that has propelled the night from its humble beginnings. The streets of New York may be freezing tonight, but its 3 Below inside the dream venue.