Monday, November 26, 2007

New York Rock and Roll

Robert Earl Keen, Florent nightclub in New York, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe star in American Gangster.

There’s nothing like good old time rock 'n' roll/funky country.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Fillmore East New York on Irving Plaza at 10:00pm on a Saturday to see Robert Earl Keen. As you know if you read this blog, Keen is one of my favorite artists and also one of my favorite people. He played two dates in New York, both of which were sold out. Keen also dropped by the agency on Friday for a catch up and did a couple of things for us.

The Fillmore East is the offshoot of the famed Fillmore West in San Francisco. During the summer of love, the Fillmore West was the place to be. The Grateful Dead were virtually in residence there, and Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Byrds, Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company were all regular fixtures.

If you want real old time rock 'n' roll, the place to go is the Fillmore East. It’s just a great big hall, standing only, with bars wherever you look and so called VIP sections on the balcony. I needed to show ID before I could buy beer - how rock 'n' roll is that (not). Having satisfied that law, they served beer in long-necked glass bottles which I thought stopped a decade ago. At Robert’s concerts there is no violence, just great times and massive sing-a-longs. Everybody in the audience seems to know the words to every song, and at one stage, Keen just said “It’s great to be amongst so many great singers”. I had more fun watching a couple of the die-hards in the audience than watching the show. The highlight for me was an incredible version of Bob Dylan’s 'Tangled Up in Blue', with Robert and the band belting it out during the on chorus. This was the only song that caught the fans napping. Only a few Dylan die-hards knew the words to that one.

Backstage after the show for a couple of beers (they actually served Becks as well as domestics, which is new age roll 'n' roll) and then off to Florent. Florent is an institution in the Meatpacking District on Gansevoort Street. I used to go there 15 years ago when it was the only place I knew that was opened 24 hours. I’ve had one or two 6:00am breakfasts there, along with bottles of cheap red wine and eggs and bacon. Nothing has changed at Florent, but everything has changed around it. All the transsexual hookers have disappeared and have been replaced by Soho House, Gansevoort Hotel, Pastis, Lotus, Stella McCartney, Jeffrey and other objects of gentrification. Through all this, Florent has stayed the same - a diner with a liquor license that’s open 24/7, serves breakfast from 2:30am and brunch/lunch/dinner throughout the day, and has an eclectic crowd whatever time you go in. Only in New York.

I went to see another piece of retro rock 'n' roll on Sunday afternoon in the form of the Ridley Scott movie, American Gangster. Oscar winning performance from Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas, with a strong performance from Russell Crowe. Denzel filled the screen in this true story of Harlem drug crimes during the 60’s. Brilliantly shot, it is a telling indictment of the US Military being used as drug carriers out of Vietnam and the corruption within the NYPD. 75% of the NYPD’s Drug Enforcement Agency were convicted of corruption. That’s right, 75%. Contrasting this scene with a post Giuliani New York really does reflect well on the current Republican front-runner. The film is perhaps 30 minutes too long and there’s needless attention paid to Russell Crowe’s character’s marital woes. However, the rest of the movie is first class.

All in all, a pretty good retro rock 'n' roll New York Winter weekend.