Sin-e - New York, NY
by Mike D'Ariano
"Hey man, you gotta come see my band!"
For some reason, I get that a lot. Almost always, my internal reaction is, "Oh Christ, what now?"
It almost always sucks when you have to sit through a performance by a friend. They're never that good, and you always have to act like they're the best band in the whole fucking world. Your idiot friend stumbles through some awful cover of Jumpin' Jack Flash and then you have to go "You guys are awesome! The Rolling who?"
That said, a few weeks ago when my pal Zandy told me that his band had a gig in Manhattan at a club called Sin-e, I was less than thrilled. I know, I'm a dick. The good news was that Zandy had given me a CD of his band Ruben a few weeks prior, and it really was good stuff. The bad news was that the gig was with his new band, Balthus, which he described as "similar to the stuff I gave you without the awesome lead guitar player." Brilliant, just brilliant.
That night, January 29th, I headed towards the gig at around 9:00. The club is on Attorney Street, and even though I'm a fairly savvy New Yorker, I had no idea where that was. I looked it up online, and of course the map wouldn't load. It was the perfect start to what I thought would be a dismal night. With a smirk on my face, I jumped in a cab, and the night started to turn around.
On the floor in the back of the cab, there was a solitary twenty dollar bill. I snagged it quickly, and fifteen minutes later when the cab driver pulled up to Attorney Street on the wrong end of a one way street, I handed the bill to him and happily accepted the change. After a brief detour inside Sin-e Bar, which is next door and apparently not the same as Sin-e, I found the unmarked, unattended entrance to the right place and headed inside. The name Balthus was not on the schedule of bands that were playing that night. When asked which guest list I was on, I noticed that the band listed as playing during Zandy's spot was called Zander. I took a shot at coincidence and said I was on Zander's guest-list. Lo and behold, there I was. I found out later, that when the band ceased being Ruben, they were Zander for a few days before becoming Balthus . . . I guess no one told the club. Anyway, I got my hand stamped and headed inside.
It only took about a minute for me to realize that I was the only person in the room whose hair was genuinely fucked up and not elaborately styled to look fucked up. I was the only person in the room, male or female that weighed in at over 180 pounds. I was the only person in the room wearing a jacket. I was wondering if all these heroin sheik assholes were immune to the freezing temperatures outside, or if they just thought the snowstorm that was on its way would know better than to fuck with them during a Saturday night on the town.
It occurred to me that Zandy was in good shape, because this was the right audience to try to break through with. These were the hip New Yorkers that set the trends. These were the cool people, with the hip jobs and a full mastery of their wardrobe and hair care products. This was the land of trust fund bohemia, and I was smack in the middle of it. I needed a drink.
I went to the bar right up front by the stage and ordered a Pabst. I figured fuck em, I'm going for a steel worker's beer, none of this modern era yuppie metrosexual shit. The bartender handed me a pint of Bass ale. I sighed. He sensed my dismay, and despite my saying I'd just pay for the drink, he said it was on the house. Score one for the pretty people, I didn't see courtesy coming. So far with a cab ride, admission to the club, and a beer in the books, I was still up eight bucks. Score one for me.
At five minutes to show time while the band before them was packing up (a fairly interesting Patti Smith-style female-fronted rock band), Balthus/ Zander walked in the club. They were looking decidedly more 'rock star' than my usual school teacher by day, cover band guitar player by night friends when they arrived at a gig. I was cautiously optimistic about what was coming.
Zandy made his way over to me and said hey. I asked how long his set was, and he said "Don't know, it depends how long the psychedelic jam goes on for." He smiled slyly and said, "usually about thirty-five minutes." Knowing my solitary (read: antisocial) style, he gave me a smile and a nod and left me and my Bass sitting by the bar. The band took the stage a few minutes later, and after standing there for a while, as the sound guy popped outside the small underground rock & roll nightclub because smoking wasn't allowed (such a New York moment), the show started.
I have no idea what they played. They don't have a real CD to consult - the burned disc that I have has no song titles on it, and to the best of my recollection, the band never mentioned the name of the tunes as they went. On the plus side, my not knowing the songs that they played means that what they didn't play was a version of Sympathy For the Devil, complete with the guitar player's girlfriend and cousin doing the constantly repeated hoo-hoo's for ten minutes.
The set, as far as I could tell, consisted entirely of original songs, most likely written under the old Ruben moniker. The crowd, yours truly included, seemed to really get off on what they did, which was a Pavement, Television, Richard Hell, Gang of Four kind of punkish indie rock thing, with the aforementioned psychedelic jam (five or six minutes worth) as the finale. Bullshit politics of friendship aside, the band rocked. I wouldn't say they made anyone forget about the Stones (or whoever you personally put at the top of the rock n roll pantheon) but I did hear one audience member shout out "Ruben who!?"
After the set, I told Zandy what I thought, and showed him a few of the photos I took of the band. He was excited that I thought they were good, and I was excited that I really meant it when I told him so. We shook hands and said see you later. I headed outside to go to another event I wasn't terribly enthusiastic about. As I walked up a deserted Attorney Street to hail a cab on Houston, it started snowing. I thought of the audience in the club, put my hands in my coat pockets and smiled.
Photos by Mike D'Ariano