By Chaz Bolte
New York City’s beauty is based in contrast. As you walk through it and look up your eyes are greeted with its skylines beautiful architecture, look down and the streets are filled with bags of garbage. Its music scene lies on parallel lines. On Friday, September 9th Secret Party Room went to review two polar opposite yet eerily similar acts, Tiny Victories and Christopher Paul Stelling. Both have risen in popularity over the past year becoming staples of their individual D.I.Y. scenes. Tonight both played stellar performances to eventually responsive crowds and began the next step in their ascent to the peak of Brooklyn’s thriving music scene.
Both Stelling and Tiny Victories began their sets by battling elements of the crowd in venues that were not ready for them. As Bowery Ballroom filled Stelling had to battle the casual chatter in the back of the room, something he usually doesn’t encounter in the smaller venues he’s used to where people can sit on the floor and listen with respectful silence, their heads on the shoulder of their date. He’s already packed those rooms. He’s sold that crowd. Now he is Bowery’s. The crowd directly in front of the stage stood in amazement, occasionally turning to who they were with to make sure they were seeing what they were. As “Flawless Executioner” progressed Stelling tip toed to the end of the stage and projected his voice to the balcony. “Hey ya’ll remember that time that we prayed hard for rain and the good lord he only sent clouds? So we gathered up our buckets and we spread them about just before the rain water came down and the next time the devil set fire to our fields we put em out ourselves, we put em out ourselves.”In that moment he owned the room. He stopped Bowery Ballroom in its steps and made them take note. He made his presence known and in that moment went from respected but still undiscovered indie folk act to the next big singer songwriter in New York.
In a scene that seemed worlds away Tiny Victories played Mr. Bones as balloons fell upon and canvassed their giant table of samplers and effect pedals. A rebellious Hasidic kid stood in the corner watching the crowd dance themselves free, his face constantly partially covered by his hat. Skipping the traditions of Shabbat he stood out but only barely because the scene was an eclectic mix of young professionals trying to get down after a week of grueling work. They moved here with plans of finding what they were looking for but never found in their hometowns. This young man grew up here but was similarly searching for something he could not find in his part of town. The lyrics of “When I saw you you were standing there on the sun / You were tired of feeling sorry for everyone / You said there was nothing left that you could do / Cuz everything is getting worse and we are too Yeah we are too” described the scene perfectly.
Leopold Stokowski once said, “A painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” Both Christopher Paul Stelling and Tiny Victories use the rhythm of silence as a backbeat to the overall vibe of the emotion they are trying to portray. Allowing the crowd to quiet in anticipation, they use the anxiety of the moment to assault the crowd with the beginning beats of their next lyrical journey. Stelling takes you on a ride through the swampy wet south filled with detailed description that makes you picture the landscapes of palmetto lined ocean views, watching the temporary tourist’s abuse all that he finds permanent and sacred. Tiny Victories takes you on a ride through a world of flashing lights, cool people dancing with childlike wonder and urban escapism with lyrics that make you realize that as you become an adult you can’t always escape the pressures of potential, no matter the environment you place yourself in.
They are two different bands in two different Brooklyn scenes, but they both share the potential and graciousness to make them the next big things in the New York music culture. They share the underdog mentality of old school Brooklyn, adding endearing shades of the hard work based morality into their lyrics. Compared to the glamorous parties of Manhattan a Tiny Victories party in Glasslands is ironically elegant and dark. However, it’s the exact correct amount of irony and darkness to make it real. Because New York City is painfully real. In one moment you are the next big thing and the next you are quickly just another face in the crowd frantically trying to navigate through Gotham. New York can drag you to new lows if you don’t let it be the escape from itself one needs by placing yourself in the correct situation.