It’s cold outside! Like, really fucking cold. So, not surprisingly, the latest installment of The Originals Series headed indoors: to a strange room at 22 Boerum Place described alternately as a mausoleum, Turkish bath, former bank, and cult meeting space (all descriptions c/o David Rees) in Brooklyn. And while the vibe was a little stuffy at first, probably because nobody quite knew what to do in said slightly-crumbling marble space, it loosened up right quick – and that is, I think, all thanks to the inimitable hosting powers of one David Rees.
David is, it must be said, the ideal host for these events. He brings a thoughtful weirdness to the table, pushing the conversation out of the traditional and into the truly, delightfully, unreplicatably wacky. I remember my first Originals Series, where they basically stopped the event to first replicate and then later watch a Stevie Nicks video – and that was the moment I was hooked. (ed. note – terrifically, there was a callback to that very event last night. You could hear people in the audience going ‘oh yeah, I remember that!’ as David brought it up. Talk about audience retention.) Point being, it was nice to have him back.
The guests this time, author Shelly Oria (whose New York 1, Tel Aviv 0 has a gorgeous cover and a terrific trailer – I’m so excited to read it) and Slothrust lead singer/lead guitarist Leah Wellbaum, were a delightfully matched pair. David’s opening salvo, asking Shelly the ‘standard book tour question’ of “what’s your book about”, got a response about the book containing the meaning of life and the secret to happiness. Leah’s response, when asked about the secret of life, was “I dunno, maybe” – which led to the discovery that they are both Sarah Lawrence grads (which turned into a running joke) while artisanal pencil sharpener/tv-show-host Rees is an Oberlin grad.
Conversation stayed on the “meaning of life” track for a while, with discussion of the afterlife (Oria said that she believes short story writers are guaranteed a ticket in) and some polling of the audience regarding their belief in such things.
And then things got really crazy. Polling continued, this time related to the question of remote viewing – something Rees is curious about after listening “The Unexplained” podcast. So using my Field Notes (I was sitting down front / had my notebook, which Rees quite rightly teased me about), Oria and Wellbaum did some remote viewing. A picture of Leah’s response is below – the whole thing is too difficult to explain but man it was hilarious and super weird.
After this, talk turned to music. There was the aforementioned Stevie Nicks callback, conversation about teens in Israel and the Israeli club scene – contrary to what we all heard at first, it’s not the Dixie Chicks who are big but rather the Pixies. So then we all danced (well, the panel danced and the audience did their best 8th-grade-dance avoiding of dancing; Brooklyn: too cool for dancing) to a Pixies song in “an Israeli nightclub pop-up shop” (another Rees-ism for the space). The conversation closed with Shelly life-coaching David on his procrastination, questions about what comes next and writing in Hebrew over English, and finally David’s pronouncement that “scrapbooking is collage.”
After a few minutes, Slothrust set up and launched through a few stripped down songs – the band playing two acoustic guitars while Wellbaum tore it up with her electric. The acoustics weren’t terrific in the space (very echo-y) but they overcame it through sheer brawn: these songs, even stripped down, were taut and fierce and fun. Wellbaum’s lyrics are funny and smart, her licks surprising and sharp, and three songs was not enough. I ended up listening to them all the way home via Spotify – and I’m planning to pick up their last record on Bandcamp (in prep for their new record, which they just finished recording in Texas, apparently).
The party carried on, as they are wont to do, for a while after that – mingling, more drinking, etc. The good Christopher Hermelin (my co-host on So Many Damn Books – subscribe on iTunes!) and I chatted with some folks before making good our exit into the absolutely frigid New York polar vortex evening. But we had bourbon and the delight of a perfect Originals Series warming our insides, so it was all alright. Keep your eyes peeled for the next one; they remain the best literary parties in town and you never know what to expect.
Except probably Stevie Nicks. You can probably expect Stevie Nicks.