By Vivi Hyacinthe
As a self-aware ‘mainstream’ music lover who is only vaguely aware of what terms like ‘dive bar’ and ‘health goth’ mean, I never thought I’d have found myself in a repurposed Chelsea art studio, jamming out to live performances from the comfort of a beanbag. I was a big fan of Columbia alumna Taylor Simone’s work when I first heard it last year, so the chance to see her perform for price of $5 immediately had me hooked. But when I saw the event on Facebook, titled ‘Slackgaze zine release party,’ my first thought was that someone had misspelled ‘zone.’ Even when I arrived at the venue on Friday night, it took me a good half an hour to figure out that it was pronounced ‘zeen’ as in magazine rather than ‘zine’ as in ‘Valentine.’ It took me another hour to realize that said zines were on sale by the door for another well-spent $5, and after a performance by one of the featured artists, OSHUN, I was thoroughly sold.
Nola, Darling is the Manhattan base of music and art curator Wimpy J Slacker. A treasure of a hole in the wall, the venue definitely defies your expectations in the best way possible from first glance. When I turned on West 22nd St, I thought that, like all of the other concerts I’ve been to, I would see a line of people at the door waiting to get in. Instead, the entrance was so inconspicuous that I walked past the door twice and had to employ some serious counting skills to get my bearings. On the inside, Nola, Darling exudes an apartment style vibe, with a uniquely-decorated foyer leading to a larger back room where the magic happens. Only a few homemade geometric decorations separated the crowd from the stage. Since we were some of the first people there, my friend Tyler and I staked out a couple of bean bags and watched the artists warm up and test mics. I was in awe. There was no annoying security procedures. No repulsive hot dog smell that bigger venues have, desperate for more money wherever they could get it. Even later in the night, when the crowd was at its most full, I had enough room to stand and dance freely rather than being crammed in between thousands of fellow Kanye-lovers. The open and welcoming space created a relaxed, friendly house party vibe without all of the strenuous pressure of trying to keep your balance among the crazed masses.
Enough of my complaining. Let’s get to the part where I tell you why this was probably my favorite concert experiences yet: every single one of the performers was a woman of color. Wimpy J had brought them together in conjunction with the most recent Slackgaze zine, which specifically focused on the topic of pain in art. In many ways, the concert was a celebration, but in many more ways it was a conversation. The talented women that took the stage that night rapped, danced, and sang authentically, unafraid to show us the humans that were perched behind every verse. They spoke of student debt and Ferguson and young love and fear and the real world, the one that we lived in. Before and after their sets, they joined us in the crowd, dancing to each other’s music and supporting each other. Perhaps it was their literal proximity to me, or it might have been their unmasked and unashamed approach to their art and style, or maybe it was even their relatable ages, ranging from 19-24 that made me feel more connected to them than any other music artists thus far. From its curated art to its easygoing vibe, my Slackgaze experience showed that sometimes going out of your comfort zone is just as easy as ending up right back in it.
Listen to Oshun's music here: https://soundcloud.com/oshunnyc
Listen to Taylor Simone's music here: https://soundcloud.com/taylorsimone
Like Slackgaze on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/slackgazezine?ref=br_tf