NY Conversation April 2012

Back in the early 2000s, there was a track called “One Night in New York City” by a producer called The Horrorist. The song catalogued a young ingenue coming into NYC from New Jersey to hit the town for the night, falling in with the wrong crowd, and ending up having rampaging drug-fuelled sex with a really cute guy from NYU.

Occasionally, a night comes along that makes you feel like a character in said song — not, we hasten to add, because it ends in an ecstasy-driven sex romp (more’s the pity), but because there are insanely strange nights that really don’t seem to happen anywhere else, for better or worse. Like last Friday night, for instance.

It starts at the sort of free party that only happens in NYC: a thoroughly absurd launch do for some sort of social network — because, clearly, the world needs another social network. The party is in some giant Soho loft space that apparently doubles as the office for said network and would be a perfect set if anyone ever made a film about the excesses of the dot.com era —  there are beanbags, two table tennis tables, much Apple hardware and a silly man printing t-shirts. We’re not sure what VC firm is funding this lunacy, but the party apparently cost $1m to stage — we’d believe it, considering that the number of catering staff outweighs the number of attendees, Tanlines are DJing and the amount of free booze isn’t so much generous as vaguely intimidating. Everything’s great, except: there’s no-one here.

The whole thing is too Nathan Barley for words.We last about an hour, most of which is spent speaking to Tanlines (both of whom are lovely) and giggling at the fact that the 50 or so people who have showed are all queuing to speak to two masked people whose “performance art thing” is to tell you what their first impression of you is. Um.

From there it’s off to see Grimes, who despite her status as the most buzzworthy of buzzbands is pretty much the least interesting aspect of the evening. It’s not that she’s bad, it’s more that she’s sick and only plays for 40 minutes, breaking out precisely seven songs and then disappearing with no encore. The whole thing leaves , and so we decide to head for our final destination, which again you couldn’t really make up if you tried: it’s Liturgy playing in some sort of abandoned building in Brooklyn. The exact location will be revealed later (via Twitter, naturally), but for now there’s only this vaguely disconcerting advice: “Enter at own risk. Bring own flashlight.”

We hop on the L train and get off at Bedford Ave, the global epicentre of hipsterdom. Only, something’s wrong. As we get off the train, there are cops everywhere, herding everyone toward the eastern end of the platform. There are exits at both ends, and most of the crowd wants to go west toward Bedford Ave, but the cops aren’t letting anyone pass. And they look really, really freaked out. Which means that whatever’s happened, it’s bad. One cop catches NY Conversation’s eye, and steps in front of us. “Man, you don’t want to look.”

We piece together the story from several white-faced witnesses. Two people started fighting on the platform — some people say that one tried to steal the other’s phone — and somehow, both fell onto the tracks. One guy made it back up. The other guy didn’t. And the train came. And now he’s there, wedged into the two-inch gap between train and platform. Virtually cut in half. Dying.

Up on the street, there are people everywhere, along with fire engines, helicopters, police cars and pretty much every other sort of official vehicle. The whole thing makes everything that’s gone before seem both frivolous and futile, but still, we check Twitter for the location of the disused building. It turns out to be the remains of defunct venue Monster Island Basement. It’s a terrible idea, and by the time arrive, the cops have already shut the whole thing down. But the checking-Twitter idea also reveals what the city thinks of the situation at Bedford Ave, and it’s a pretty depressing picture. “Fuck you L train.” “Two idiots in a fight.” “No L train FML.”

Three hours later, we hear the guy has died. The next morning, photofit posters go up all along the L train. The other participant in the fight is wanted for murder. As far as we know, he hasn’t been caught.

It’s just one night in New York City.


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