Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is not like the rest of the country. The local Chinese restaurant opens at noon and closes at 6AM, for example. Union Pool, an old pool supply warehouse on Union Avenue, like Gaul, is divided into three parts, and fits right into the hipster scene.
Enter through the bar, a typical affair: beer, booze & booths. Pass an old-fashioned photo booth and walk into “the backyard,” to find a large, roofless patio, heated in winter and complete with a taco truck and extensive picnic-table dining. With dishes from $3-$5, the tiny designer tacos are the same price and vastly superior to the Mexican joint around the corner. The backyard used to have a fire pit until the FDNY shut it down, but the stones surrounding the pit are warmed in the winter and, according to one patron, “make you feel like you peed in your pants.” At midnight, on a Tuesday, the place was packed.
I went for the music. The artist Christopher “crash” Richard and his band were playing in the third space, a concert hall only marginally larger than my first studio apartment, though the following day they were scheduled to play The Late Show with David Letterman. Nine and sometimes ten musicians packed onto the stage, but only one truly held the spotlight: crash. A backup singer with Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, this New Orleans’ expatriate sings gospel, soul, country and funk as if each song were written for him. Sometimes verging on camp, with a faultless falsetto and androgynous moves—like Tiny Tim on steroids—crash has star quality and the vocal chops to back it up.
Six of the musicians came from Edward Sharpe, including standouts Stewart Cole on trumpet and guitarist Mark Noseworthy, who also produced crash’s new album, Hardly Criminal. The level of energy throughout matched crash’s, notably on the closer, “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” which got those last two holdouts in the back dancing—finally. The rich sound and variety of material brought The Band to mind more than once, specifically on “High Wall” and John Prine’s “That’s The Way the World Goes ‘Round,” which crash introduced by telling us the band couldn’t play this song. He’s wrong, they can. They can probably play anything.
– Suzanne Cadgène