Anglophile in New York #2: It’s all in New York, Alexa Chung included

Drowners frontman Matthew Hitt performs at Berlin at the East Village in Manhattan.

Anglophile in New YorkThe date is March 9th and I had a really hard choice to make. I had to choose between seeing Hinds at Bowery Ballroom, or Drowners at Berlin, a bar in the East Village. Since I saw the former at the Palisades in January, I decided to skip them this time around. I haven’t seen Drowners in quite some time and I just had to hear their new music. The weather was unusually nice tonight; it was 76F and I just rode my bike there. This was a good idea.

I got to Berlin at 9:30pm and managed to get front and center just for the band. I looked at the set list and realized they were only going to do two songs from their self-titled album. However, I am in New York. I mean, why not see the band live while they give a few people a free preview of their second album? I knew this was going to be fun.

The set list for Drowners' gig at Berlin offered a sneak peek at their upcoming record.
The set list for Drowners’ gig at Berlin offered a sneak peek at their upcoming record.

They went on at 10pm. I was too busy dancing my arse off and taking it all in. A lot of their new stuff sounds very similar to their first album. The second album is coming out in June and I will be deffo buying it on vinyl.

Their set was about thirty minutes flat, and the place was super crowded. This was my first time to Berlin and it was fucking packed. The place was absolutely East Village, reminiscent of the old Coney Island High on St. Marks from my single-digit youth. I wonder if Jesse Malin had something to do with this place.

All the fun stuff happened after Drowners left the stage. I noticed that Max from the band Public Access TV was DJing. I haven’t seen him in ages and it was lovely to see him. He told me that the rest of the guys were coming tonight and it totally gave me incentive to stick around. I haven’t seen the Public Access TV guys since I taped some television specials at MNN with them last year! It was John’s (Eatherly’s) Birthday too!

I saw Ben, their manager along with John, Xan, and Pete. I spent half night hanging out with Pete and his girlfriend Jamie. Pete even bought me a Jameson on the rocks, which is turning into my drink of choice. I even got to meet Donald Cumming from the Virgins. I really loved the Virgins a few years back. Lovely band.

When I went to the back of Berlin, I saw Alexa Chung. I didn’t quite know what to do, or what to say. Here’s a bit of background. When I was in college, I was obsessed with Popworld. I loved Miquita Oliver and Simon Amstell, and I also loved Alexa Chung and Alex Zane. I followed Alex Zane and started to listen to him on the XFM breakfast show. Out of sheer dumb luck, I managed to get work experience with him at XFM after I had the balls to speak to him at the Brixton Academy and tell him about myself, where I worked – I worked with CBS Radio at the time – and how much I loved his show. He just offered and I said yes.

From that point on, Alex was like a tangible person. Alexa? Since Popworld. Alexa rose up to the quintessential style icon of all it girls. I’ve even seen her at New York Fashion Week and just couldn’t talk to her. I dunno. She’s just too cool. Her sheer presence in the front row just seemed intimidating. Or that’s what I always thought. After my head was spinning for a good minute, I just had to say something. This wasn’t NYFW. I was in a bar in NYC. My turf.

So, I did it. I talked to Alexa. I originally asked her for a photo, and she politely declined, but I told her that she and Alex Zane were really influential in getting me to try some TV presenting on MNN. I even told her I interviewed Public Access TV (the band) on MNN; she thought that was really cool. I mean, she was surrounded by a posse, so it’s not like I could say much. She was really gracious and nice, and I hope she didn’t think I was lame.

Then I had to go to the loo. The line was so long that I was hearing “all the girls standing in line for the bathroom” in the style of Girl Talk in my head. There I chatted up this guy, in my Chelsea London accent: Johnny from this Australian band called the DMA’s. I’m not really up with the new music these days so I had no idea who the DMA’s were. I’m listening to them now and they are really good. It’s the type of music I honestly love. Wow.

Johnny offered to buy me a drink, but I was already loopy from my Jameson on the rocks and I had to bike home. But I spoke with him some more and he was telling me about Sydney. I left with his email address and the promise that I’d email him in the morning. I think I’ll go to their gig at Rough Trade at the end of the month.

As I was biking home, I realized that I had this entire experience in the East Village, two and a half miles from my home. Not too long ago, I thought something like this could only happen at The 12 Bar or 93 Feet East in London. This was real. It happened at Berlin, in NYC. I finally realized that I’m content with living and staying in New York. It just makes sense. It’s all here anyway. [JL]

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