Thursday, May 03, 2007

Really Uptown Girls

Last year my college friends Anna and Jason moved uptown---way uptown, like almost in Westchester uptown---to 189th Street. While I certainly have nothing against Manhattan’s upper tip (besides those fond memories of crying through my visit to the Cloisters in second grade)---it always seemed kind of far away and, more importantly, there were no concerts to draw my downtown ass uptown on a weekday night. But, now that above 125th St. is the New below 14th St., almost every single week there seems to be a new reason to ride the A towards its final destination. So, on Monday, I made dinner with my friends at Anna and Jason’s apartment and then walked a few blocks south to the New York’s newest hipster paradise, the United Palace Theater. Now, don’t worry Mom and Dad. The United Palace Theater is actually sooo far uptown it is actually past the “sketchy” part of uptown and in relatively quiet, residential community populated mostly by Hassidic Jews, Spanish Families, and post-college explorers looking to plant a flag in the name of Brooklyn.

I noticed a bunch of cool buildings as I bounced from 189th St to 174 St, most of which are built alongside the cliffs overlooking the George Washington Bridge. Over the past 25 years, I’ve breezed past the GW literally thousands of time, but never seen the bridge from that angle, which touched me in that deeper than it sounds, 2 AM, post-Garden State kind of way.

For those of you who haven’t been, the United Palace Theater is a beautiful 3,500-person theater that, as my cubicle mate Aaron aptly describes, doubles as a “praise the lord Jesus” church on weekend. But, except for the one excited hipster I saw waltzing out of his gentrified apartment across the street and into the theater (I wonder how many times he has said “I told you so since the United Palace opened) the audience was mostly made up of below 125 Street dwellers: a mutt like mix 16 year old suburbanites, retired jamband kids and hipsters still confused there are 161 blocks north of 14th St.

The show wasn’t sold-out which came as a surprise to most of my friends. Believe it or not, jambands still outdraw most pop acts, especially pop acts whose target demographic is high-schools on a weeknight. As far as I can tell, this is mostly because your average pop-music fan will usually catch a band only once in a lifetime and almost always only catch a band once a tour. While standing between the bathroom and the bar I did meet an affable high-school student sporting a Skidmore College t-shirt. We got to talking and it turns out he is going to be a freshman at my alma matter next fall (,man). Like many incoming Skidmore students he plans to double major in music and business and, judging by the wave in his hair and glaze in his eyes, mirror in drug dealing and local concert promotion. He reads Relix too and even thumbed through my recent Phish interview while “in the shitter!” Cool!

After the show, we followed the masses to the nearest A Train entrance and spent the next hour on the subway trying to figure out how it can take sixty minutes to move three miles underground in a city where everything seems to move a mile a minute aboveground. Oh, and a word of advice: for those of you venturing uptown for Bjork or Arcade Fire this week walk two blocks north (towards Westchester) and head west (towards Jersey) to 177th Street after the show to avoid some serious Coventry-style congestion.

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