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New York Cool - Music

Alaska In Winter
Monkeytown / Williamsburg
February 3, 2009

Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by
Che Stipanovich

Opposite Photo:
Brandon Bethancourt


While Williamsburg’s Monkeytown may have a name that connotes wild partying and off-the-wall shenanigans, the reality was anything but for Alaska in Winter’s February 3rd show. On an out-of-the-way block slightly removed from the neighborhood’s hip center, the front was obscured by a construction scaffold and easy to miss. Stepping through the door revealed a chic, sparsely populated , dimly lit interior, tables flickering with candlelight, and one hardly knew what to expect walking down the garish, bright, deceptively short hallway to the rear music space. Once through that door, what must be one of New York’s most personal music venues was revealed.

Alaska in Winter’s synth boards, audio mixer and laptop were set up in the center of the living room sized area, and an odd video was being projected onto all four walls. About fifty people – mostly Williamsburg locals by the look – lined the sides of the room (seemingly the room’s full capacity) lounging in couches and chairs, sipping drinks and having a bit of dinner. It felt like family night at the hippest house on the block.

 

Brandon Bethancourt Brandon Bethancourt

Brandon Bethancourt stepped to the center of the room to a smattering of cheers as the lights dimmed and his slick beats began to pour from the speakers. While real-life Bethancourt was armed with only computer and microphone (and occasionally keytar), video doubles of himself soon joined him on the video screens playing (or pretending to play) along to the pre-recorded drums, guitars, horns, violin, etc. With his “robot band” in tow, Bethancourt glided through several well produced, well mixed tracks. His multi-layered, good-hearted electro-pop was well-executed (save for some unfortunate but quickly remedied computer trouble) and well-received, though in such tight quarters seemed odd.


Brandon Bethancourt

All of his crafty grooves, clever videos, and self deprecating jokes couldn’t change the fact that several dozen people were seated in a dark room surrounding one guy singing along with his laptop. If there was space for the bobbing heads and tapping feet to fully take advantage of the peppy rhythms – or even if Bethancourt himself had more room to move around – the dynamic may have been different, but as the night wore on the vibe grew stronger of sitting on the couch at home listening to iTunes.

Musically the show was quite entertaining, but felt mismatched with the venue. Such an intimate space screams for more intimate music while Alaska in Winter needs a place that is a touch less sedate.



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