Black Gold's Magic Night
By Meredith Zinn-Caraher
Edison bulbs and string lights illuminated Black Gold Records as The Great Dubini unfolded a small table in the corner of the shop. The magician reached into a dark sack on the floor behind him, adorning his set with gold fringe, the compulsory magic wand, and several aged cups, completing the neo-vaudevillian styling.
The decor of the hybrid coffee/record/antique shop lent itself to the evening's revelry, a dark and sultry space filled with the kinds of mysterious items you might hope to find at a Hudson Valley yard sale but never do. Carnival chalk, outsider art, high quality taxidermy and occult brotherhood paraphernalia fill the walls above the record bins, while the smell of fresh ground coffee emanates from the counter and fills the room with a welcoming allure.
The Great Dubini (Greg Dubin), was playing master of ceremonies for the parlor style variety show, which featured his own slight of hand as well as performances by accordionist Matt Dallow and Kirket the Belly Dancer.
Dubin has graced the stages of The Slipper Room, The House of Yes and Ripley's Believe it or Not Sideshow of Wonders to name a few. However, this was an evening designed for an intimate crowd.
During their after hours events, Black Gold can accommodate some three dozen patrons, splitting the difference between a full theater audience and the few passerby's who might chance upon a closeup street performance. This was a welcome change, Dubin said; it can be difficult to connect with a sea of dark faces from a platform. Not having a backstage, but still having a sizable crowd allows for a different kind of performance. Dubin's background in standup comedy is fully apparent as he presents himself with a charming air of sardonic wit.
He's was straight man in a comedic duo, and his partner was his quick fingers - the punchline being the materialization of limes during his scam-free three cup monte, or the regurgitation of a handful of needles swallowed separately but returned precisely threaded. An occasionally well-timed accordion accompaniment by Dallow punctuated Dubin's story telling and gave the whole affair the effect of stepping onto a steamy cobblestone alley late one evening in victorian Londontown.
During his own sets, however, Matt Dallow's numbers are anything but old fashioned. True, he sports a rather impressive throwback mustache/goatee combo modestly peeking out from behind a deep orange accordion, but his set was not to be of a traditional repertoire. As a subway performer, Dallow reaches the blunted New York City audiences by folding highly recognizable melodies like Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" into the thick bellowing chords associated with the instrument of yesteryear. At Black Gold, Dallow would be offering masterful renditions of "Why Don't You Do Right?" and Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," proving that a deep sexuality can be achieved with an apparatus often considered campy or kitschy.
While Dallow can be found enriching the subway systems, often alongside cellists, percussionists or acrobats, his main project is currently with self described neo-gypsy punk band Amour Obscur, a cross section of distinctly unique and unexpectedly blended instrumentals. For those of you interested in a retro-topical answer to the slog of contemporary pop music, Amour Obscur will be performing at Le Poison Rouge on April 23rd.
Belly dancer Kirket (Kerry Greene) rounded off the evening's performances, bringing together the sensuality of Dallow's set and physicality of Dubin's routines for a well crafted variety show. As her east coast debut, Kirket's arrival in New York inspired the event and was specifically built around her. Likewise, her routine found her gyrating through the tight crowd, working her way through a bottleneck of people with the chorus of hundreds of tiny bells chiming from her hand made costumes. While the tight space may have seemed less than ideal for belly dancing, (and certainly unfit for her dazzling fire dancing), she dismissed my concerns when explaining some of the origins of the art.
The earliest histories of belly dancing are largely unknown, but one story in particular conveys the idea of dancing as a means of therapy rather than entertainment. In her final dance of the evening, Kirket would lure various women from the audience to join her, referencing the nomadic communities in Eastern Europe where women would cathartically dance for each other in kitchens and back rooms as a way to escape the stress of daily life. This is a far cry from the cinematic representation of half-naked women undulating erotically in a smoky gentleman's club, and on a Friday evening in a cozy shop in Brooklyn, dancing away the chaos of the week is a welcome release. The upcoming Tribal Fest in Sebastopol, Cali. will see Kirket working her magic on the main stage.
While Black Gold has enjoyed a glittering reputation as a Brooklyn shopping destination (QuestLove named them as a favorite on his MYNY column for the Post), whispers from haters call them out for their philosophy of careful curation, considering them pretentious for representing themselves as such. However, when is a retail location not a purveyor of the owner's tastes? And is it pretentious to be highly considerate of your customers by providing them with the best, hand picked experiences?
My own experiences at the shop, and even more so at their events, have revealed a warm, welcoming community full of equally warm and welcoming people. The nouveau-vintage aesthetics tend to attract equally stylish denizens, which can be an intimidation factor at a distance, yet they are of the kindest and most accepting sort. According to regulars, it would seem that the charms of Black Gold extend beyond their wares and events to the enthusiastic reception and hospitality extended to everyone that walks through their door.
The cool and composed Great Dubini can tell you that appearances are not always as they seem. "Sometimes when you want to be charming you can come off as cocky. There's a fine line between confident and cocky."
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