McCarren Phospohorescent(1)

I woke up on Sunday to obnoxiously bright sunlight and a pounding skull, which alluded to a successful previous day/night. It was Father’s Day and I knew this prodigal daughter would need to call dad but first I would need coffee, grease, and to check my Facebook and phone for errant drunk messages.

The previous day was spent at Northside Festival: a weeklong festival of music, film and the new NExT conference featuring panels, presentations and discussions from some of the most creative and innovative entrepreneurs.  It takes place on the north side of Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn (which is now the “Upper East Side” of Brooklyn). In a desolate stretch of concrete they somehow term part of McCarren “park”, a grand stage is set up for bands plus food and drink stands to keep the masses satiated and buzzed.

It started as any other Saturday: grabbing my coffee from Black Brick (in my “grittier” south side of Williamsburg) and texting my friend to plan our day.  We grabbed brunch at Crown Victoria and then walked back over to Bedford.  We saw they had closed down Bedford Ave (the main drag if you’re not from the ‘hood) and people freely walked in the street, which was a relief from the tourist and Manhattanite congested sidewalks that had started to plague Brooklyn weekends.

In front of Bedford Cheese Shop there were pallets of grass laid out into a plush carpet where people lounged and picnicked with their pups.  Vitamin Water had a setup nearby and another stage was being built outside of Kings Pharmacy.

Bedford Grass Setup

We finally made our way up to Berry Park where I spotted the guy I had made out following the Iron & Air magazine party a few weeks before.  I safely avoided him and we made our way up to the rooftop bar where The Walkmen concert pre-party was taking place. There was an open bar for 2 hours that included all draft beers.  We happily ordered a few Twisted Thistle IPAs and Radenbergers and tried to find a patch of shade to shelter us from the summer sun.

After successfully bloating ourselves with beers, we left Berry Park and walked over to McCarren.  At the entrance was a very short, well-oiled machine of a line.  A couple minutes later, we were in the concrete park and Phospherescent started to play.  The event was sponsored by Heineken meaning the only choices for beers were just that, plus the light version and Strongbow. Not a fan of those choices, but a fan of beer in general, I drank a couple lights while the band wailed.  I admit my love for Phospherescent and was really there to see them play.  “Song for Zula” was great but “Los Angeles” really blew me away.  As much as I enjoy their tunes, I really think this kind of outdoor venue needed something a little more upbeat.

The Walkmen came on and maybe I was in a weird mood, but I started to get bored.  “The Rat” woke me up for a moment but it just felt like something was awry.  Maybe it was the hot concrete instead of grass or perhaps I was just cranky, but there was something missing I can’t put my finger on.  It was missing that certain je ne se quoi that takes a concert from good to great.  No judgments, but I’m not sure I will remember that concert when I’m 80 like I will remember Ben Harper in Atlanta or Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Coachella.

The next stop on our Saturday Northside journey was Bar Matchless for a Jameson-sponsored showcase including the band, Highly Suspect.  We had a little time before they went on and decided it was time for some munchies to soak up the beer.  A Bushwick and Williamsburg girl in Greenpoint was a little disastrous.  Basically, the further we get from the L or the J trains, the more lost we get. We finally settled on Enid’s, which is across the street from Matchless for burgers, more beer, and my attempt at creating my first Vine video.

Much-needed sustenance and one shitty Vine video later, we headed into the delicious divey-ness of Matchless, a bar I’d been to once for a friend’s experimental DJ something-or-other gig, which I had been too drunk to remember.

After a few minutes of setting up, the boys of Highly Suspect took the stage.  Johnny Stevens (lead), Rich Meyer (bass), and Ryan Meyer (drums) make up the band and as soon as they arrive on stage they start banging out some strong riffs that are actually hard to compartmentalize with any other band.  These three tatted up dudes can crank out some serious sound. Johnny is often shirtless and all three guys are easy on the eye making their show girl-friendly while the guys will dig the gritty rock sound they produce.  Perfect date!  (Unless your girl ditches you for one of these guys.) I saw several girls shimmying around and ogling the man-meat on stage, which made me very self-conscious to not look like a groupie.  That might be one of the most dirty words you could ever call me: stupid, elitist, and groupie.  Those cut deep.  So, I honestly tried not to dance but it happened anyway.

Highly Suspect at Matchless

When I ask the guys who they think their sound is similar to, they reference early Kings of Leon and Band of Skulls.  I feel there might be something a little more “So-Cal punk” as well lying underneath Johnny’s bluesy vocals.

“I was impressed with the vibe in the stage room at Matchless,” said Rich, “It was perfect for a rock band. Great sound.” Then he added, “It was just awesome that Jameson threw a party every night during the festival. Ryan and I were double fisting Jameson, no shame.”  That’s the band’s attitude in a nutshell: we’re here for a good time!

The guys have been playing together since twin brothers Rich and Ryan started the band with Johnny in 2009.  They play pretty often, such as a recent residency on Wednesday nights at Trash Bar in Brooklyn.  Coming up they will be opening a couple dates for 2013 Grammy-Winners, Halestorm in August. You can follow them on Facebook here. and check out their music video for “Bath Salts” at

Highly Suspect

After the show and friendly chat time was over, my friend and I headed to her neighborhood as my peace offering for always asking her to come to my ‘hood.  We walked into a bar called Tradesman off the Montrose stop where guys in suits were dancing.  That’s when I saw a girl in a wedding dress walk past.  I said congrats and wondered where the hell we had ended up.  Apparently they do weddings in Tradesman’s backyard area and we had wandered into the reception.  We happily helped ourselves to some mini-cheesecakes and decided it was a good idea to take some tequila shots to toast the happy couple. Wedding crashing and binge drinking: we always keep it classy.

Mini cheesecake

We retreated to the empty back yard with some guy my friend had met on Tinder.  He rolled up a joint and passed it around to cap off the night. (I don’t believe this is legal at Tradesman. Do not do as I do…ever.)  At this point, my thirty years were starting to hit me so I knew I had to make my way home if I had any hope of making it on my own 2 legs.

Overall the experience at Northside was easy, and drama-free. I think it’s a great thing they are doing to showcase local bands, film, and support entrepreneurship. I’ll gladly take part again next year.  Also, the tickets to the concert were free and this cheapskate loves freebies.



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4 Responses

  1. M

    Don’t ever let your fear of being a groupie keep you from dancing! You’re only a groupie if you’re in their apartment the next morning and they don’t know your name… Trust me enjoying the show, by no means puts you on that dreaded level of Groupie.


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