Kingston, how are you? Hope you’ve had a great week. I am sweating my butt off, chugging seltzer as usual and listening to the gnarly frog vocals of black metal’s Abbath as I wait for the evening to cool. I try to mix things up in this column and focus on different parts of Kingston every few weeks, since the bulk of my nightlife writing focuses on Uptown where most of the music, dining and booze action is clustered. This week, however, we are going to kick things off by celebrating six months of one of Midtown’s newer dining locations.
Eryn Stutts is co owner of Pakt at 608 Broadway. By hook and crook the Southern brunch location has dug in and gotten a name for themselves in town, and word obviously continues to spread.
“At the six-month mark we have been reflecting a lot,” Stutts tells me. “It has been tough for sure and we knew that going in, but even in this short amount of time, the area has grown so much. There are new businesses popping up like Black Creek Mercantile, Peace Nation Café and The Beverly.”
Stutts seems genuinely optimistic about Midtown as a viable place that can grow, which is refreshing. Attitude is half the battle.
“Everyone seems to be on the same page about keeping things productive and community oriented, which is great, and everyone has something unique to offer,” Stutts says. “At Pakt we do eclectic Southern brunch all day right now. Once we get the coveted upstate New York liquor license we will have some dope dinner services, and we are of course super-amped about the opening weekend of Smorgasburg. [Editor’s note: As far as we know, that’s still this Saturday, Aug. 6.] Until business in Midtown picks up we are excited to survive by our stellar catering events and are lucky to have space, time and free WiFi to host working writers and artists for the price of a cup of coffee until then!”
OK, on to some rock music. One of my favorite younger bands the last few years would be Islander, a bunch of dudes with great attitudes who are winning over naysayers one potential fan at a time. I say that because they play a hybrid of often detested Nu Metal blended with more edgy and dissonant post-hardcore that was more popular in the late ’90s than nowadays. Still, Islander has a very positive attitude and grew up with as much Zao as P.O.D., distinctly hybridizing the two for a sound that isn’t afraid to rap, rage, wail and croon in equal measure. The band now features guitarist J.R. Bareis, a brilliant guitarist disciple of Korn’s Brian “Head” Welch who also plays in Love and Death, as well as former Avenged Sevenfold drummer (for a hot minute) Arin Illjey. Personally, Islander is way better than A7X despite being a much smaller band, so Illjey is lucky.
The band have a new Victory Records release, Power Under Control, out this year and will be stealing the show from the overrated We Came As Romans at The Chance this Friday, Aug. 5. They even have a new single out that features a cameo from H.R. of punk legends Bad Brains.
Islander vocalist Mikey Carvajal explains the newest single “Think It Over” for us, describing it as “a rally cry anthem to encourage the youth of today to think about their lives and to make good decisions. We are all born with a type of youthful wildness that if we allow to be tamed, will flourish into harnessed power rather than wasted energy. The idea is to be like a saddled horse instead of a frustrated stallion. To have Power Under Control.”
In February, Islander “without question” partnered again with producer Cameron Webb (Motörhead, Alkaline Trio) at NRG Studios, and over the next eight weeks the newly ignited foursome got to work on what became Power Under Control, recording 12 original tracks that range from post-hardcore-leaning songs like “Bad Guy” and “Green Slime Man” to catchy rock anthems like “Think It Over” to a spaced out and vocally dexterous number like “Beelzebub.”
“We would not move on to the next song until we were finished with the song we were working on,” explains Carvajal of the album’s alignment. “This is an album which follows a character through a story. The songs stand on their own. If someone really wants to know the real meaning behind one of the songs, they have to listen to the song prior to the one they are listening to.”
If you get a chance, I certainly suggest seeing these guys live. Mikey spends half the time on top of the crowd and the band fire on all cylinders, making even people not usually into this style of rock nod their heads or pump fists in appreciation. Can’t we all use a bit of infectious unity like that these days? I think so.
If there is anything close to a theme this week, it certainly is harnessing your innate potential. Whether it be taming or focusing the combined adrenaline of a live crowd or injecting some “can do” back into part of our city that for too long has been stop-start in an uphill battle for rejuvenation, the key is uniting and not giving up. There will be mistakes along the way, but you’d be startled at how far love, elbow grease and shaking off negative thoughts can get you.