Toxic Gowanus, Brooklyn neighb of new music lofts

Gowanus, a Brooklyn neighborhood so unlovely it’s been named an EPA superfund site, 03gowanus_CA0-articleLarge.jpgis Ground Zero now for music lofts, as reported in my new City Arts-New York column. In a half dozen or so artist-run spaces — including IBeam, Douglas Street Collective, Littlefield, the Brooklyn Lyceum and Issue Project Room — available for presentation and rehearsal of hard-core experimental sounds, dance, video and performance art, the programming is typically spiky, ambitious and unsentimental.

That description certainly fits the great and under-acknowledged guitarist-inventor-composer-bluesman Elliott Sharp, who celebrates his 60th birthday with a solo guitar performance, collaborations with actor Steve Buscemi and filmmaker Jo Andres, sci-fi author Jack Womack and poet Tracie Morris, and premieres of a string quartet and double string quartet on March 4 at Issue Project Room. The entire concert isESHARPFORWEB.jpg a benefit to help IPR leave Gowanus for not-far-away Downtown Brooklyn (which is little more scenic, but targeted as a culture hub by Brooklyn’s borough president Marty Markowitz, who’s directed funds into IPR’s relocation and renovation). 

What I don’t get into in my article (due to old fashioned print publication space limitations) is Share, the weekly wide-open music-video jam session I attended at IPR on a Sunday night a couple weeks ago, which was more fun with electronics than I’d had in quite a while — so cool I plan to do it again. A dozen people fooling around unself-consciously, without plan or leadership, using contact mikes on garbage can lids, deconstructed and prepared electric guitars, laptop sound constructions, a Korg Monotron, conventional flute and musical cell phone apps, all pumped through fine, loud speakers, with simultaneous live video mixes . . . I twiddled knobs, drank a glass of wine and felt like I was in the midst of Morton Subotnicks’ Silver Apples of the Moon. Big fun. 
To think: Douglas Street, Littlefield, IBeam, the Lyceum and also Park Slope’s jazz spots Tea Lounge, Barbes and Puppets are just a short walk away. All this activity almost makes Brooklyn seem and sound like the East Village used to. Which much mean there are a lot of restless, quirky, ambitious and underemployed artists around, looking for places they can get together to spread out, gather friends, stay up late, make a lot of noise. Warning: Damn little boutique shopping or fine dining nearby. Mostly  warehouses abutting a stinking canal, the roaring Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and some of the grittiest truck routes from Flatbush to Red Hook.
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  1. Jim EIgo says

    Read the opening chapter of Henry Miller’s Black Spring for best description of the Gowanus Canal.
    Back in the mid 60’s I worked at the Brooklyn Parcel Post station 2nd Ave and 9th St on the midnight shift right at the foot of the canal.
    Charles Bukowski move over I’ve got some stories to tell.