It was an ordinary Thursday afternoon, when I got a text from my friend Keke, inviting me to a soirée that evening (she didn’t actually use the word “soirée, I just really like French shit if you haven’t noticed by now). Aside from the gym, my evening was pretty clear, so I obliged – At that point I had no idea what I was getting into, I just knew that I was linking with a friend later on. Cool.
So I’m making my way to the venue on 35 Orchard Street, and I’m in a really good mood, because I’m right around one of my favorite areas in Chinatown, where the neighborhood slowly bleeds into the LES. Along the way, I’m seeing people drinking and hanging out, & I just feel like it’s going to be a good time.
As I turn down Orchard Street, I find the side of the block that’s in odd numbers, so that I can casually run into building 35. About a block away, I see a crowd literally, spilled out onto the sidewalk, as if the event is now taking place outside; my heart speeds up a bit, eager with anticipation – This looks like it is going to be good. As I get closer, I see a conglomerate of people who look like me: young, wavey, & creative … My kind of crowd.
I head down the narrow stairway, into a dingy basement, where I find an emcee with a hypeman, both of whom are enclosed by a crowd of onlooking party goers. The first thing I think to myself is, “Wow this venue is so fucking dirty – I love it.”
The emcee captivating the crowd was Dear Derrick, the self-proclaimed, “1st Art Curator/Rapper” of NYC. I liked Derricks energy a lot, and I also remember noting that him and his hypeman, had a great on stage chemistry. As I zoned out to take in what was going on around me, I couldn’t help but feel a warm fuzziness in the pit of my stomach: I was in my element, and this was hip-hop.
Derrick closed his set as swiftly as he began it, and the following emcee took the stage. The next spitter was skinny, adorned with a Brooklyn Nets fitted, donning an over-sized pair of shades, and had an array of gold chains: his name was Raw Blue. I remember being a bit skeptical as he took the stage, but that quickly faded as his energy filled the room. Not only was Blue good at penning songs, but he also was a good performer (like really good). I instantly got the sense that he performed A LOT, and that this was not his first rodeo.
After Blues set, I bounced outside to grab some fresh air, and to finally link with Keke (I was a little over an hour late, and we still hadn’t connected). I found Keke in Cheeky’s Sandwiches, nestled against a comptoir, charging her depleted phone. After exchanging greetings & catching up, a brief photo shoot in the sandwich shop, and flirting with a girl nearby who was reviewing notes from her Japanese language course, Keke & I headed outside, so we could make our way back downstairs.
Outside, Keke talked with artist Raw Blue for a bit. (Keke used to run a weekly radio show which featured musical acts in & around the city, and Raw Blue was one of the acts that she had previously featured. As it turns out, he was the one that invited her, and she in turn invited me. Thanks Blue).
I gave them some space to talk, and I decided to go into mingle mode. As I walked around, I introduced myself, I took random photos of people, and I just linked. In doing so, I stumbled upon Michael Della Polla, the Photo Editor of ESC Magazine. Mike’s an easy going guy with a very pleasant demeanor (very laid back, and very likable). I shot him a barrage of questions, and he answered each one, as if he’d been prepping for an interview hours before.
At this point, my curiosity was at an all time high: “Who, or what, had conspired to make this amazing event happen?” As it turns out, I was at the launch party of a New York City based magazine, whose sole purpose is to spotlight the vast talents of emerging artists in this Metropolitan Oasis. This was ESC Magazine, and this was a reception, for the release of their very first issue.
Michael told me that the magazine was pioneered in the spirit of Fader, and that it came about from a passion of the culture. He also told me that the Chief of Operations (Sumeet Khusa), was downstairs.
I found Sumeet behind the bar, mixing drinks, and selling issues of the magazine. I was beaming with joy, as I expressed how happy I was to be in attendance. We exchanged info, and then quickly parted as the next artist took the stage.
K!NG Z3US was next up and he stepped to the mic poised, as he told us he was fresh off a show at Santos, from the night before. As his set went on, I quickly realized that Z3US was the breakout star of the show. He had the whole crowd involved; he told us about his story, about how his song had just hit 100k listens on Soundcloud, and he told us how he couldn’t have done it without our support. Z3US proceeded to serenade us over trippy beats, as he made everyone sing the hooks to his most popular tunes.
The night continued on with more performances, but everything was so good up until that point, that Keke & I decided to leave on a high note. As we exited the spot, I couldn’t help but feel like, what happened in that little basement, situated in that enclave under the sandwich shop, right on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side of New York, on Thursday August 27th, 2015, was the start of something really big.
If you were there, you got to experience it. If you weren’t, then you missed it. But don’t worry, I have a feeling that this is only the beginning for the NYC based publication, who not only features up & coming artists, but who also puts together amazing events.