Play, Prose, and Music at ApartmentPARTY
It’s that wonderful time of year when spring gives way to summer. The sun shines in the brilliance of the open sky, a constant pollen plagued draft brushes by, and heavy showers can crash down like a hail storm at any moment. Luckily the skies stayed clear into the evening as I made my commute to Bushwick. While I typically boast about my proximity to New York, the weekend transit schedule bared me down to an hour-long commute; fortunately, this gave me time to catch up on some neglected reading. Besides, I would be arriving to an event on time for once.
Standing on a landing I rang the doorbell to an inconspicuous Brooklyn apartment. I was greeted by Miller Pyke with an enthusiasm and courtesy I honestly wasn’t prepared for. Gregarious and wearing a warm smile, she led me into her event space. Hanging on the kitchen wall, above an upright piano accessorized with a rather large incandescent bulb protruding from its frame, a grid of what I believed to be 4x4 photographs were on display. The photos were taken by Tucker Mitchell during his time as a photographer for Secret Loft, a Manhattan venue that specializes in stand-up comedy, circus shows, burlesque, and other events. With a focus on comic performers and party goers, his work brought the neon vibrance and spectacle of his employment into an intimate apartment space. Given that the photos were used as promotional material, meaning they never existed in a form outside the confines of a web page or social media, seeing such a mass of content printed and presented in a physical setting gave volume to his effort as a photographer; capturing a massive quantity of joy filled glimpses into the lives of patrons and artists alike.
Conversation floated through the apartment: banter on the L train’s service here, advice on Banjo play styles there. Eventually, Miller focused everyone’s attention to the living room. The room was prepared to accommodate a modest audience with an arrangement of chairs, a projector, and a stage light aimed up at the wall. The ensuing performances were introduced as a part of the ApartmentPARTY’s tenth installment. The collection’s format was “salon styled” and is intended to encourage the lax and diverse presentation of local performers, writers, and musicians; most of whom are within their own network of contemporaries, but the series’ future hopes to entertain a larger audience.
The projector was turned on, casting a logo high onto the wall, consisting of a symbol that could be taken as a euphemistic pair of lenses; easily mistakable for a minimalist set of breasts (maybe that’s just me). Beneath the graphic was the word splice “Conspira-guise”, set in a font that seemed similar to the one used by the show “American Horror Story”. Under the projection, Brandon Bogenschutz, Evan Crommett, and Miller Pyke situated themselves around a table with a prop microphone standing in its center. They faced the crowd, and after an introduction given by playwright Anya Kopischke, the set of conspiracy theory podcast “Conspira-guise” came to life. Based in New York and having experience with playwrighting, theater production, and media art, tonight Anya was testing the latest incarnation of her current project. Brandon and Evan introduce their fictitious show with the quick paced chemistry typical of two eccentric podcast hosts. Their comical performances were made especially absurd given the meme-centric content of their dialogue; fitting for the parodic podcast, their rhetoric echoed several 2016-era alt-right affiliate memes and buzz-phrases. Beef-heads with inflated egos, the two go on to muck about a need to expose the “truth” and hold left-wing media accountable for its dishonesty. Of course, their own idea of the “truth” is absurd, since it’s all based off what’s considered conservative conspiracy and propaganda. Some comedic irony shines through as Miller’s character, a professional brought onto the program for scientific credibility, is unreceptive to her host’s prompt to read off their program’s sponsor; disappointed by her poor timing, they lament having to edit the program; the question of whether editing or omitting information from their own podcast, and its impact on relaying the “truth”, is obviously glanced over. The duo continues to ramble on outlandish hot-takes on the coming apocalypse as Miller emotes with bemusement. Her character is courteously ignored by her hosts, undermined by their incessant dialogue. After about five minutes of what was starting to sound like an excerpt from a real pulp-podcast, Miller has a crisis and her character storms off the set. Arya’s narration returns, depicting the coming apocalypse accompanied by a projected video.
After a brief intermission, John Tipton set himself before the audience with a case of harmonicas, a neck holder, and a Martin acoustic guitar. I’ve never been much of a folkie, but the sincerity and affability of his presence had me enthralled. Opening with a Bob Dylan cover, John thumped his foot and shuffled his strumming hand in a steady rhythm that hooked the crowd; his entire body was an instrument for music. A gentle Texan cadence passed through his throat and fluttered across the living room. His material was a mix of original tracks (mostly love songs) and covers. I noticed a subtle break in pigment between his neck and collar bone; I mistook this for a farmer’s tan, but I was later told it was a scar remnant from a childhood burn. The tone of each performance was relaxed; John shared how he flew in from Dallas to perform and even told a joke. For the set’s tail end, he was accompanied by Robert Cody Maxwell, another Dallas native who played a banjo that had ben pre-set in the corner of the room. The two belted out a comedic cover of a song that, to my embarrassment, I can’t remember the name of. Their send off was strong, and people stomped along to their heartfelt rendition. John said his thanks and stepped away as Cody (his preferred alias) shifted gears for the audience, performing with a more comical manner. Each song saw him shuffling across the floor to the strumming of his banjo, emoting with every verse. He immersed the crowd with is energy, even managing to get everyone to thump along to a brief rendition of “Old Time Religion”.
Regrettably, my account of the next two acts will be brief; at this point in the evening my phone was low on battery and it had to be set down to charge, so what proceeds is based off memory (I use my phone for taking notes). Whitney Davis took the floor and read an excerpt from her current project: a young adult novel. Fascinated with the versatility of the way teens talk, the excerpt she read detailed the concerns of an adolescent girl as she prepares to study abroad in France. The narrative was delivered with the vivacity and authority of someone accustomed to reading YA literature aloud; her voice’s pitch shifted accordingly with every character, giving each a distinct personality. The character’s themselves were relatable as teenagers; they faced issues such as worrying about building up their college resume, fitting in with different social circles, and letting go of stagnant friendships. I’m sure the stories accessibility will resonate with plenty of readers, young and old.
Next were Kerry Blu on vocals and Malcolm Noll on guitar. Malcolm provided rhythm accompaniment to support Kerry’s Pop-R&B inspired vocal delivery. With a voice both gentle and course, his soulful crooning graced my ears like the smoothest grade of sandpaper (Believe me, I mean this as a compliment). With a few bars intermixed, his songs focused on the pains and passions experienced throughout his personal life. The track that left an impression on me was composed between him and Malcolm during their time as councilors for a children’s summer camp. Slightly straining his voice to mimic the curious gaiety of a child, the song was prescribed as a warning for kids to the dangers of excessive partying; I think the hook was “This is life in the fast lane kids”. Kerry’s energy was mellow and fitting to close the evening with; I’m pretty sure the audience sang along with one of his refrains.
The night ended with a group photo of all the performers/featured artists. People stuck around and went over to a neighboring bar, but I had my commute to look forward to. While I love New Jersey, something about New York’s density seems to attract people with a more amiable and open nature. Each artist was honest and receptive to feedback of their performance, and not a single person wasn’t smiling through the entire night. Who knows, maybe tonight’s crowd just happened to be exceptional.