I couldn’t find my journal with notes on our New York trip when I was writing the last blog post and I wondered what I was forgetting to put in my account. How about the fact that we opened for the world’s greatest Serbian brass band? Funny I would forget to mention that. Joro-Boro was kind enough to think of us when he got the gig to DJ the after-party for the Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar at Drom, and he invited us to DJ the proceedings as well. The initial plan was that the Orkestar would play from 9pm-11pm, and then we three would take turns DJing for the rest of the night. We were eating at Kenka on St. Mark’s Place before the gig when Joro informed us that the Orkestar was held up in Toronto where they had played a gig, and that we should arrive at Drom at 8:30pm to play until the Orkestar would arrive, which they were hoping would be around 10:30pm.
Great news! I was paranoid about playing for a hardcore Balkan crowd, which I don’t have a lot of experience with, and despite my numerous Balkan and gypsy albums, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to give them exactly what they wanted. I don’t have turbo-folk, or chalga, or other hard to find Balkan musics, and I didn’t want to piss the crowd off. Since we were scheduled to play AFTER the Orkestar, I was afraid I would not be able to entice the crowd into staying after the headliner was done, and I figured the club would be none too pleased with that, and I was trying to make a good impression, as Drom seemed like a good place for Anjali and I to play in NYC in the future. Now that we had to OPEN instead of play the after-party I was greatly relieved, as I figured: a) There wouldn’t be that many people early on, so I probably wouldn’t have to play to a dance floor, or a large demanding crowd. b) I wouldn’t have to worry about clearing the crowd, because no one was going to leave as they waited for the Orkestar.
When we got to the club, I volunteered to play the first set after Joro had warmed up the system with a few tracks, including a Funk Carioca remix of a Balkan Beat Box track. Since the night was a Balkan one, and the club is Turkish, I planned to stick to those themes almost entirely, although I made sure to play a few appropriate Telugu soundtrack songs that are really floating my boat these days. There was hardly anyone there the whole time I played, which was just fine with me. No pressure and no stress. Just call me the performer who doesn’t like to perform.
Anjali and I agreed that Joro-Boro should play the best slot to the most people, since it was his gig that he was kind enough to have us join him for, and no one is better equipped to deal with a hardcore Balkan crowd than Joro. While Anjali played her second song, “Reggada” by Outlandish, a waitress came up and told her that the crowd was asking for gypsy brass music. This really frustrated her, as she felt like she was going to leave those sounds for the expert, and she was going to do something different for her set. There was hardly anyone at the club, and it was a lounge-y and not dance-y vibe, and she felt free to do her own thing regardless, which ended up being a mostly Panjabi set.
I learned from Joro that most of the 160 ticket holders to the event were asking for refunds of the $25 fee, since they didn’t want to wait around for the Orkestar to finally arrive. I also learned that it was a torrential downpour outside the club, and that wasn’t exactly encouraging any patrons either. Joro went on after Anjali, and he played a brilliant set, despite having to deal with numrous requests to play Boban Markovic songs, which he explained to the clueless requesters he would not do, as the Orkestar themselves would shortly be arriving to play those songs. Later he said he felt pressured by the crowd to play it straight, as they only wanted gypsy brass music, but I felt like his set was typically inspired. I only recognized a few tracks, and he played songs that sounded like Balkan reggaeton, and Balkan drum’n’bass that had me highly curious.
The Orkestar didn’t arrive at the club until after midnight, and didn’t go on until around 12:45am. A far cry from the scheduled 9pm start time, but a miracle nonetheless, as we feared they would get held up in customs and immigration. The Orkestar was ten strong, eight brass players, a drummer, and a percussionist. They had an incredibly loud sound. As I listened to their CDs getting ready for the gig, I knew their live energy would put their recordinss to shame, but I couldn’t imagine the order of magnitude of difference. They were electric. They performed by far the best version of Hava Nagila I have ever heard, with an insanely fast and funky rhythm change-up. Boban dropped the horn after a few numbers, and mainly sang, in an incredibly full and powerful voice, for the rest of the night. Despite how many people had asked for refunds, there were still enough people at Drom to mostly fill the dance floor, and with all the singing and dancing and yelling and carrying-on, a great time was had by all. I was incredibly impressed, and glad that we did not have to go on after them, because they are not an act to follow. Highly recommended.
Many thanks to Joro-Boro for inviting us to be a part of this incredible evening of music.