News and opinions from Broklyn Beats Records and Applecore Mailorder.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Boriken beats

Only months into this blog and I already find myself writing the dreaded vacation entry. Doily convinced me 6 months ago that we needed a break in the sun. In a rush I forgot the laptop's power adapter and was happily computerless for 12 sweet days. I was harbored among beach life, Cormac McCarthy's "Suttree" and family dice games(?!) drinking Medalla lights, full bellies of rice and beans and red snapper.

We were greeted in San Juan on a Friday night by Critical Mass bikers blocking the bridge to old San Juan. Time in San Juan was a macrocosm of our Williamsburg barrio with a lot more tourism. Considering it's 85 degrees everyday, I can see why. My personal aim was to sniff out the reggaeton scene and see how it was poppin'. Judging by rolling systems on the strip in Condado, we were stoked for the nightlife. Condado is like Miami Beach and there's a few dance clubs and casinos which didn't promise much. In Old San Juan we found an old disco, Club Lazer, which had a reggaeton night and The Noise, a converted apartment which, judging by the name, promised more. Trouble was trying to ever find a good party at these places on a Saturday night when tourist dollar is precious (The Noise was $22 that night yet free on Sun.) We opted for Lazer which had a ladies free with metal detector door. We got a few chuckles, but that usually implies there's no other gringos (gallitos) there...

Reggaeton really hit its stride in 2005 and has quickly established a large and limited Latino market. The DJ played a solid thump, dropping a couple interesting new things, but pretty much running through a large majority of the genre's tracks within a couple hours, giving us staples like "Gasolina" and "Contacto." The bar was cheap and strong and the scene was young, guys all Don Omar, Daddy Yankee, white-on-white Yankees caps, sunglasses hanging off chin, doo-rag strings drooping, girls snapping gum drinking Alize specials with requisite nail jobs. The dancefloor in this old Spanish building had an old wooden disco feel to it, but had to compete with 8 TVs above the bar showing both a boxing match and a panned view of a girl in a bikini, occasionally zooming in on body parts...

Stumbling back down the blue-glazed cobblestones, I later found a nice little salsa place called Nuyorican Bar. This is where the hipster gallitos perch! Nonetheless, between the Spanish architecture, the weather and this raw squatter-esque bar, I started to really feel like I was in Barcelona. There was even the trip to the obligatory weekend disco... and it wasn't that bad!

The majority of our trip was chillin' on the beach in Vieques, a smaller island saved from the U.S. Navy's bombing exercises by a fleet of endangered egg-laying sea turtles. Tourism is slowly creeping in (note my white ass burning on the beach!) but the incessant rooster crowing and night-shift sound of the tree frog's "Coqui!" will keep any neurotic light-sleepers from vacationing here.

Back in San Juan for the last couple of days, we took in the old Spanish fort (see photo,) some wicked Puerto Rican food and I finally found a record store. Actually it was a junk store, but after 20 minutes of perusing I realized that the entire back of the store was formally a record store with all records ending at a 2002 date. Somewhere around that time, the music transformed itself from new to junk with carved wooden sailors and antique spoons nudging Silk the Shocker and Biggie to the back room... I also finally found a shop that sold mixtapes. It was a hip hop clothing spot with "50% off all camouflage gear" and a rack of CDs on the counter. I asked the woman if they had any reggaeton mixes and she scoffed no, telling me the artists only make LPs and not mixes. I said this is strange because in New York there's a ton of reggaeton mixtapes. At this point she lost interest, implying that reggaeton wasn't her bag, most likely due to its bawdy club nature. They were playing Mobb Deep at the time and it seemed weird to me to embrace one and not the other, especially considering the wealth of local talent. Maybe the backpackers are just jealous of the youngsters' success, rapping over the same incessant rhythm, pelvises thrusting, accessories drooping...

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