A beautiful light fills the room - Luna in New York and Brooklyn, part one: Wednesday
I wasn't supposed to tell anyone, especially not Dean. But I did. I did anyway. I told him that we had visited and taken pictures outside 248 Front Street the other day, where he used to live, and where Galaxie 500 held their first concert in an apartment!
I didn't know how he was going to react, Ulrika always suspected that he'd think we are utter lunatics (pardon the pun) for following them around like we do. First, five concerts in Spain, then five more in the UK and now again. And to tell Dean that we went to visit his New York apartment was going to underline that suspicion. Dean smiled, or even laughed a little when I told him. He even got an inch excited and started telling me his other New York addresses, that we just had to go to as well. "Then you also need to go to 33 Bleecker Street. And then you need to go to 110 East First Street too!" And so we did. As the lunatics we are. It felt good.
A beautiful light fills the room. Our last stop on our last day in New York is at Milano's Bar, just a short walk away from Bleecker Street. Milano's Bar could be the place where it started. At least Dean and Terry met here and had tequila and beer for lunch, before Terry signed Luna their first record deal at Elektra. It's on Houston Street, close to his apartment nearby, and it's close to Bowery Ballroom. Milano's Bar is supposed to be "the mother of dive bars". I've heard people say these places are for people with no ambitions in life. I'm writing this at a dive bar, or a shabby bar that we call it, around the corner from where I live. I feel at home here, relaxed, I like the mix of people going here. I'm glad places like Milano's Bar still exist, it probably won't for very long, Houston Street is becoming fancy, but I hope it will.
We're at the bar Sunday at noon, they've just opened the doors, we're the only customers but one, actually a guy called Terry also. He is over by the door, talking about a fish his friend caught and cooked a couple of days ago, and he asks around if people want to have some. It's a nice light this, hitting the bar desk and continues into the small room in the back, just a few tables, the walls are completely covered with photos and old memorabilia. There's a smell of chlorine, which means it's clean.
We got here on Wednesday, the day after Bob Dylan played in Stockholm, both Monday and Tuesday. He is doing six or seven covers each concert nowadays, singing Frank Sinatra songs, and believe it or not, he is singing better than ever, smooth and sweet, relaxed and strong, no signs of barking, just heartfelt crooning. Dylan is not like others. And he's not necessarily touring just because he has released an album. He has been on a constant tour since 1988 sometimes he doesn't even play a single song from his latest albums.
Now he is only playing two or three songs from the 1960's and we love that, that he's doing exactly what he feels like, it is what has made his incomparable body of work. But we had to see Luna at the Bowery Ballroom, had to go. Checked in at our hotel in Chinatown, a bit of a scramble but it turned out to be a nice hotel, albeit under Manhattan Bridge, but we didn't mind, we don't mind a little occasional low pitched noise. Got out for a walk, got a little lost but found a small restaurant called Xi'an Famous Foods, I had a plate of big sticky flat noodles with lamb meat cooked in cumin and chili. It was delicious. We had crisp vegetables on the side. There are hundreds of places in Chinatown selling vegetables, it all looks so good. I wonder if Dean ever did any of his shopping in Chinatown, buying pak choi and purple egg plants. I wonder.
We stood outside the venue, taking pictures. The Bowery Ballroom. Thought it would never happen. We've walked and driven by several times on our previous trips to New York in the last years, and gazed up it, almost with a tear in our eyes. Shaking our heads. Just observing, stating the facts, it was where it happened and it is no more. Now we where back, and it was for real, the front doors where opened, and we stepped in. We stood outside and then went in. Feeling nervous, especially Ulrika, she's the nervous type.
We had a drink in the bar downstairs and waited for the doors to the venue to open. At first we where pretty much alone, just a few people doing small talk in the bar. Ulrika was so nervous I couldn't help myself from laughing a little, why are you laughing, she almost screamed with her big eyes wide open. I smiled and had a sip.
We met our old friends Audrey and James. James is originally from York in England. Audrey is French-American and met Ulrika about 20 years ago when they went to school together in Weatherford, Texas. It was probably around that time Luna was introduced into Ulrika's life. Audrey isn't the kind of person I would hire as my personal banker, but it's fun being around her.
James and I get along well, even if we have radically different backgrounds and occupations. He wears a well pressed shirt while I don't, I try to get shirts that don't need to be pressed. I think I wore my hippie flower shirt this day, it wouldn't benefit from being pressed. I once had all my shirts washed when I was on a business trip to Bangkok, I got them all back sharply creased along the sleeves.
The doors opened.
It is a classic old looking concert venue with an upper floor where people can sit around tables. We prefer standing in the front on the main floor, a little to the left. People have asked me why, why a little to the left. And I've replied it's not up to me. If the guitar players are right handed, I prefer standing on the left. The sound might not be very good, especially the vocals are a little bit resessed in the front, but we can hear the bass- and guitar amps and the drums very well. We don't get all the words as clear as the audience in the back, it's a trade off and we do the trade.
The place is practically empty for half an hour, but then it quickly fills up. The opening act is entertaining and time passes quickly. This time around, Luna has staff to set up their equipment. They didn't in either Spain or UK which felt a bit weird for us. But it was nice saying hello to them before the show started, having said hello you can concentrate on the music. Dean was going to use his green guitar, it was set up next to Britta's red bass.
They all got on stage. Britta wearing a black loose top and velour tights. It's probably not velour at all, sorry for that. But it looks nice. And she's drinking red wine, like usual when she's in that mood. I've never seen her drinking white wine. Dean wears dark pants and a dark striped short sleeved polo shirt, he probably has many of those. Sean's cool too like always. I can hardly see Lee behind his drums. But I can definitely hear him and that's what counts most.
To be honest, the sound was not perfect, the opening act had better sound, at least where we where standing. But it was more than nice to be right in the spot where we were. "Look at these two, they came from Sweden", Dean says from stage and looks at us. It's like going home. And that was the second song of the night. "The Chrysler building was talking to the Empire State. The Twin Towers were talking to each other." The Chrysler building is one of my favourites in the city, it looks so scary, I almost don't want to go near it.
We couldn't make it to Atlanta where they played all of the Penthouse songs, but now we where treated with Double Feature. Dean's green guitar is sounding a bit thinner and the tone is not quite as rich as what he gets from the white Les Paul. But "it's a cool looking guitar", I said to Ulrika. "Is it?", she replied. "I think it is", I said. She smiled. She's always smiling when she's at that spot.
The night is biased towards mellower songs during the first half of the concert, and the sound is different. Malibu Love Nest too. I couldn't stop wondering why he did this, have Iberia lost their instruments again. Don't think so. But the tone of his guitar stretches out longer now and Lee's drums make up more than well for it, I always want to dance hearing Malibu Love Nest and this is not an exception. I danced. I danced with Britta Phillips too but more on that another time.
Dean pulls out the Champagne cork from his pockets and tell stories about when they where celebrating after their last gig at Bowery. Is that something to celebrate I wondered. In the end it probably was a good thing after all. It couldn't keep on. The band was imploding, they where running out of air I guess. It was a different time, long time ago, this is something else. And Dean's guitar sound is something else, it goes off in unpredicted directions, I'm starting to like it more and more as the show continues. It's more electric sounding than what I've heard from him before, like when you stick your fingers in the plug-sockets. I've never done that but I imagine it sounds like Dean's guitar this night. Pretty cool I have to admit. It's the fuzz pedal causing it mostly, not the guitar.
Sean has more control, like always he's got that beautiful shimmering tone, clean and distinct too. Things starts to stir at the end, Friendly Advice, you can never get enough of Friendly Advice, especially when they're as good as this. If I had looked at Ulrika at this point I would have seen shaking hair, and me I've put my fuzzy hair in a unfashionable man bun to not make enemies behind me at concerts. "Don't put any drugs in there", the security staff told me at the airport laughing. Funny. I will not.
Fuzzy Wuzzy, I told Ulrika later, how could he write those lyrics? Don't know what to think really. But it sounds so good. This night is becoming one of those weird nights. It's that plug-sockets sound again, it's like a creature of its own, a fifth member this night. Lee's drums kick in, then you're up for a ride, a roller coaster ride. For you and me. The guitars steers in all directions, just like they should, my big brother who is a huge Toto fan and adores Steve Lukather would probably not agree but this is how I like it best. And that dancing bass, just keeps going, like the drums, keeps going.
A second encore this night, I like second encores, the band can play anything, doesn't have to be uplifting or energetic, doesn't have to beparticularly good, just relaxing and nice. They came back and played Blue Thunder for us and Dean's got the high pitch notes pretty much perfectly.
We headed out the doors, and I lost them all, Ulrika, James and Audrey. I found them in the bar next door. Ulrika and Audrey where talking to a Luna fan that got them beers, we've never got this many drinks for free on a trip before. But it's hard to get the chance to repay since it's all a haze of people crossing by, the americans we've met are all very generous and nice to us. Or they don't want something back.
I heard the band was going to a late dinner party in a restaurant after the show, two blocks away, James started talking with a guy outside about it, of course we didn't want to go there, I once asked Sean if they where going somewhere after a show and he said "not that I know of". I will never ask a question like that again. We where having a great time at the bar next door and where so relieved and glad the night turned out so nice, that we had made it, to New York, to Bowery Ballroom. Such a perfect night.
AHFoW: Stay tuned for parts two and three of Joakim's fantastic NY odyssey. If you want to write up your Luna experience for AHFoW please get in touch.