Tuesday, September 9, 2014
NYST - Roots
I want to talk about an album that is near and dear to the ol’ vascular muscle. You’ve never heard of it. Not in the hipster parlance, but unless you lived in the small urban haven college town of Lafayette, IN from 2007 - 09 or so, you missed it. I’m talking about a little anomaly of a band called New York St. (NYST is the most common way of writing it).
New York St. is a real street four blocks from Lafayette’s burgeoning downtown area. It wasn’t just a place to live for cheap. It was a way of life. Part South Side Chicago, part Haight-Ashbury, it was funky. On the flipside, there were plenty of venues and musicians to play them just a short stroll down the street. I like to say that you could always find weed on New York St., just not always a bag. It was that kind of place. The block had it’s own hustle of an economy. It’s a shady street in more than one way. It’s one of my favorite spots on this planet.
Somehow, these guys got it together. Whether it was borrowing a guitar or bailing someone out, it was really more like a gang. Scratch that, a tribe. Each tribe has it’s own groove and these guys really embodied what a group of poor-ass young adults and teenagers who had to scrape together rent were feeling. All of it. They put it into song. There wasn’t an open mic safe from their crowd or the band members themselves. You should have locked up your daughters. If you heard of NYST from them, it was already too late. One night, at the hookah bar I somehow hustled myself into opening (told you it was about the hustle) the bass player was arrested...on stage. It was a tiny miracle every time they played a show with all of their members showing up and making it the distance. Fist fights weren’t uncommon. Everything is a struggle. It made it’s way into the music. That’s passion.
So, as far as these recordings go, they are more like demos. Recording studios or equipment is expensive. This recording is all about the soul. It was a tight knit community trying to express themselves. They did it. It’s here for you to listen to.
Live on stage, on the other hand, was a completely different monster than their studio work. Mixing hip hop, reggae, latin rhythms, and rock into a groovy melting pot topped off with some rather clever and smart lyrical stylings, NYST would have you convicted about a social issue, questioning your spirituality, and dancing all at the same time. Imagine your whole neighborhood singing your songs back at you louder than your pawn store amps could be. It was kind of like magic when it happened. That’s what happened often.
The last show they played (a reunion show to help out a member of the band whose business was robbed), they flew in the singer from California (people from Lafayette love this band, I’m telling you). When he showed up...at sound check...he just appeared on stage out of nowhere. He quickly exclaimed, “this is not going to be enough room”. I informed him that it was pretty much the biggest stage for 60 miles. If confidence and attitude count for something, NYST had reserves.
For me, it’s pretty sentimental. I was there and it was one of those time and place kind of things. I remember when Marque (the aforementioned singer) waltzed into my work and we talked about writing a song acapella in a parking garage. That song became “The Watcher”. Imagine that when you listen to it. It’s modern soul music. There are more stories than can be told in one night about this band's exploits, but you can listen to their 6 song EP to catch some of them. It’s all true and it’s all there. For the first time, they have made these recordings available for the people that followed the band. I think there are a bunch more people who will dig it. I bet you do.
- The Grime