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Moby and Tea

March 2, 2014

Yesterday, I finally made it to Teany, a tea shop opened by Moby in 2002 in the Lower East Side. A cozy, chic place, I was most impressed by their tea options, with a whopping seventy-eight varieties in total. When I told the waitress I wanted the almond black tea, she replied by asking for the item number (forty-six). The tea had a delicious flavor and was without the excessive sweetness of some of the almond milk tea I’ve had from Asian bubble tea places in the past.

Teany

You would never have guessed that this tea shop had anything to do with Moby – quite unlike concert halls or jazz clubs that show portraits of the famous musicians that have graced their venues. Having been a longtime fan of Moby, I had meant to go to this tea shop long ago, well before I finally saw Moby last year. My fortunate encounter with Moby was enabled by having created an account on songkick.com, a site that lets you know when artists you wish to follow are going to perform near you. I received a notification on the last Tuesday of last October, which listed a sizable group of artists performing at some “unknown venue” in Brooklyn on the coming Saturday. The only name on that list that I cared for was the one that appeared first. I immediately purchased a ticket knowing that wherever this concert would take place in Brooklyn, I would find a way to get there no matter the circumstances. After purchasing my ticket, I learned that the location of concert would be disclosed only on the day of the concert.

When it comes to electronic artists, Moby possesses a unique richness and diversity to his output that is unlike any other I have heard. He incorporates vocals, acoustic music, and hip-hop among other elements, and his music style ranges from energetic dancing to introspective soul-searching. I appreciate the full spectrum of his work  – just listening through any one of his albums like Play or Destroyed takes me on a marvelous journey. His uplifting music conveys an earthly vitality common to pop or folk music while his more solitary, ambient tracks sing to the song of some lost existential hymn. Being who I am, I’ve been more drawn to this latter genre of Moby’s. Pieces like The Sky is Broken, which I’ve listened to on loop in previous times, I have a hard time finding anything else that can quite mimic it. During graduate school, the last half of the second CD of Hotel, beginning with the hauntingly beautiful Not Sensitive, would often accompany my long periods of concentration on mathematics. It seems that there are neuroscience studies on the effect of classical music on the brain, but I wonder about the effects of electronic music.

When Saturday’s concert day came around, it was past 4pm when I checked my email on my phone while walking casually around in my neighborhood. It was the email disclosing the secret location and I couldn’t believe it: that place is just a block away from me! Also surprisingly, the location was on a road that I felt to be occupied only by abandoned warehouses. I immediately walked by the location and could find no indication that a concert was conspiring to take place. It was the usual way it was every time I walked or jogged by it in the past: an empty street with nameless, graffitied buildings and bolted garage doors. Sure enough however, when evening descended, a file of people lined outside the warehouse door, with a few bouncers and an array of portable stanchions to reveal that an event was taking place on the otherwise dim, lifeless street. Apparently, lots of things can be happening in a warehouse behind closed garage doors during the day.

Warehouse

As to be expected, there were several artists in the lineup before Moby’s arrival. The most interesting among them had a display that was a novel audial-visual synchronization: it paired human voices with animated faces that were lit upon pods mounted above tall electrical tentacles. Each time there was a vocal, a corresponding mouth of one of these avatars would open, inducing a kind of futuristic choir involving simulated faces detached from bodies. Apparently, the technology goes by the name of The Lumiphonic Creature Choir, and it can be programmed in many more ways than what I saw in concert.

It wasn’t until close to 1am that Moby finally made his appearance. His arrival was prefaced by the artist on stage asking the audience, with eager anticipation, if they were ready for Moby. The cheers were loud, the audience was jubilant, and an immediate transition in music and lighting signaled Moby taking over the DJ table.

Moby

Moby brought the energy level and excitement well beyond the previous artists. Even though this was Moby just DJing instead of giving a full-on performance, my enjoyment of his compositions transmuted into an immediate fervor over his choice of sounds to spin. As with other DJ jam sessions I’ve been to, there would be perpetual rounds of climaxes, where the music ascends in pitch, the base disappears, and the anticipation builds up as the DJ raises his hands and claps, inducing a forceful, synchronized clapping from the audience. Finally, a thunderous cadence falls and hypnotic beats return to rumble the dance floor. Simply rapturous. Moby looked like a man from another world. A pale and bald skinny guy bobbing up and down as he was spinning the disks – he was some kind of albino music alien.

After Moby’s phenomenal performance, I felt thoroughly satisfied, the kind of feeling you get after the high of a run and the relief of a shower. I left about an hour later (i.e. walked around the corner and back to my apartment). The concert would continue to go late into the night, lasting until 6am according to the organizers. Before going to bed, I looked out my window through the curtain and could see blue and red lights pulsating from the topmost window of the warehouse at which I had just spent the last few hours. To be so close to it all – what rare privilege and proximity. I slept well. Definitely my cup of tea.

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From → Excursions

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