Week 23: Governors Balls and Gourmet Brunches

This past weekend, the multi-genre, multi-day, multi-drug-infused music festival Governors Ball took place on Manhattan’s Randall’s Island. For those of you unfamiliar with said island, it is located east of Harlem and south of the Bronx, just over the 103rd Street Footbridge. Prior to being one of the city’s most cherished parks, it was home to a number of mental asylums and graveyards. Seeing as though most of the world’s favorite musicians are either mentally unstable or dead, it seems the logical progression to host a music festival on this island.

Getting there involves either a ferry (if you planned ahead and have money), a bus (if you’re patient and willing to spend some money), or a twenty-five minute walk over the footbridge in the relentless summer sun (if you’re me). Starting Friday and ending Sunday, the performances take place across five separate stages, strategically positioned throughout the .81 square mile island, so that somehow, the sound never overlaps. This feat was less impressive with some of the mellower bands, but extremely impressive when you consider some of the harder rocking ensembles. Once upon a time, I thought only squares could deem a concert as “too loud,” but, standing a quarter mile away from where the Strokes were playing, I turned to my friend and said. “You’re going to call me a giant lame ass, but if we don’t move move back like three hundred feet right now, my eardrums are going to rupture.”

That’s not to knock the music; this may have been the best music festival I have ever attended. The diversity, quality, and sheer gnarliness of the acts were unrivaled by any such festival I had attended in the past. Rock, hip hop, and electronic music were all well-represented, each featuring a range within their own genre. While the Strokes fit into more of a “post-punk revival” category (thank you Wikipedia), Jack White played with a fusion of bluesy, folksy, and alternative rocky sounds. Both were solid, but the indie band Spoon got my vote for best in show. They were slightly more intimate and engaging with the audience, and their trippy-ass light sequences made it seem as if they were a fissuring acid rainbow. If you haven’t heard of them, their songs “The Underdog” and “I Turn My Camera On” are sure to get you down to grooving. 

For hip hop, the up-and-coming Chance the Rapper and his band The Social Experiment garnered a sizable crowd. His performance was palpable; he murdered song after song after song with an unrivaled flow.“Chain Smoker” and “Prom Night” are among two of my favorites of this introspective beast.

For electronic, Skrillex was underwhelming, although the giant video screen behind him would have made, without question, the greatest (and headiest) screen saver of all time. The superior EDM was spun by Glitch Mob, whose transcendent tunes elevated all those around to a higher plane.

But while I loved the crowds, the production value, and the tacos (there was an abundance of grub to be consumed), the moment that I cherish most in my mind from the day was laying down under a tree as the sun set off in the distance while a swirl of music radiating around me. While in that blissful existence, my friend turned to me and said “I can’t believe we’re still in New York” and I nodded. Randall’s Island was North Carolina, Vermont, San Francisco, but it was impossible we were but three miles from my office in Midtown. I couldn’t believe such things, that this city could be so diverse and magical.

If I had to pick a second favorite moment, it was when we realized the nice but somewhat strange people we had met in line were actually swingers who were trying to get us to engage in group sex.

As always, this city is full of surprises.

Sandwich 23: Westville East  

A character on The Simpsons once described brunch with the following phrase: “it’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.” I’ve always gone with this as my brunch explanation, the reason being that brunch is still a concept I grapple with. Like, I totally get the idea of brunch, but like, I don’t get it at all. You know what I mean?

Perhaps some further brunch analysis is required…

What I totally get:                         

It’s Saturday/Sunday morning, so let’s get wasted.

What I don’t get at all:

It’s Saturday/Sunday morning, so let’s get wasted off spicy Bloody Maries and mimosas, because it’d be wrong to drink anything else.

What I totally get:

It’s breakfast, so let’s have some combination of eggs, bacon and toast.

What I don’t get at all:

But it’s brunch, so, next to your eggs, there’s gonna be a salad. And noodles. But not a lot of either of them. Or of anything.

What I totally get:

Meeting together with good people on the weekend, partaking of good grub and drink.

What I don’t get at all:

I got cheesy eggs over toast and a Bloody Mary and it cost me $40. I’m not drunk and still hungry.

As you can see, brunch is a bit of a conundrum for yours truly. That being said, the brunch sandwich I discovered following Governor’s Ball was one of the single best breakfast sandwiches I’ve had in my life. It was an honest sandwich, satiating, not overly-priced, and it came with a crack side of potato hash. The venue was Westville East.

Located in the East Village, it is the perfect mix of down-home and classy. The venue is tiny, with table seating both indoor and al fresco, but we opted to sit at the bar, because it was 10 AM and no matter where you sit, it’s going to be cramped. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed Westville East so much: it’s unpretentious. It also features sake Bloody Mary’s, so what more could you ask for?

Chock this one up to my sloppiness recovering from Governors Ball, but I don’t remember the name of the sandwich I consumed. Nor do I have a picture. But the taste still haunts me. 

Fat, organic eggs. Turkey bacon grilled to perfection. Just the right amount of gooey Swiss atop. Spicy mayo. Fresh baked bread. All that alone would be enough for me to be satisfied, but then they threw grilled pineapple into the mix and my brain melted a little bit. I couldn’t shove it down quickly enough. Not to mention, the potato hash on the side was peppery, rich, and tantalizing without being overpowering. The perfect side.

Sit at the bar, suck in the ambiance, and enjoy a laid-back East Village brunch, my friends. Check out Westville East.