Singing to Coco: A Night Spent at Coney Island with Action Bronson
This past Sunday, typically a day of rest, me and the boys went on a visit to Coney Island to see an Action bronson concert.
This would be my third time seeing Action Bronson, the first time at B.B. King's and then Terminal 5 for Action's Mr. Wonderful release show (which by the way was incredible despite the fact that I lost my consciousness and one of my Patrick Ewing sneakers after passing out in a fit of being high out of my mind). Each of those two respective venues, although one would argue Terminal 5 is a large venue, I would say are intimate, especially B.B. King's, but I was intrigued to see how Action would envelop the wide stage of the Ford Amphitheatre by the Coney Island Boardwalk. On the same bill was supposed to be DJ Mustard and ASAP Ferg. This was going to be an interesting show no doubt.
The show starts letting people in at 7. Of course we show up at the boardwalk to my dismay by 8, and then to my concern as we light the first blunt nearing the show and the booming speakers inside. On the boardwalk are families and friends, none of which have any articles of towels or beach gear, but instead are walking along the endless boardwalk enjoying the last days of summer hand-in-hand with friends and families - enjoying whatever there is left to enjoy of it. As we're walking past the large needle, MCU park, and down the short walk that leads to the amphitheater I throw out my 40 into a garbage can - the only one I had. Maybe we'll smoke a blunt on the beach after the show, the view is fantastic.
We head into the gate after getting scanned by security in a party of 5. Two of my friends have tickets that lead closer to the stage while I'm included in the other group that would be in the section further from the stage. Swift action calls upon us to make a right with them towards the lower section, we're gonna do this now, and in following the lead of our two friends, we huddle closer behind them as they outstretch their papers, exchange head nods, smiles, and then finally step forward down into the pit. We follow suit and walk along with them, and then as the security guard calls down to our shimmying backs we turn around. My friend holds up and points to a piece of paper then throws a pardoning hand - nothing to worry about, we're all good, and we were. We had our tickets scanned on our phones at the gate, we were all good.
Its almost 8:30 now. If DJ Mustard were here he would probably be going on now; maybe he's coming on at 9. That would leave maybe an hour between Ferg and Dj Mustard before Action finally comes out and, without mercy, finishes the crowd. We settle down in a row. Surrounding us are seemingly frat boys of all shapes and sizes; basketball jerseys all around, which I must admit include myself - guilty of a Patrick Ewing jersey. The crowd:mostly white, some Spanish,some black, a decent mix; not surprising when you consider that Action is a white rapper who happens to rep queens wholeheartedly. In front of me is a white kid who has semi-long hair that has little bands tied across his cranium which create a collective crop of little pony tails that protrude from his head. The event was hosted by Sports Illustrated, so with hot girls all over the screens, frat boys flanking us on all sides and with 90’s hip hop standards being played over the speakers that everybody has heard far too many times – we camped out. Somebody has to be coming out soon. What is going on?
Finally, movement. Somebody in a baseball cap strapped on tight to his head takes the stage and gets behind the setup. He mans the laptop, and plays a Spanish hip hop dance banger, which breaks up the monotony that was established by the old hip hop standards from the 90s. It's the Alchemist, and he's on stage ALREADY! That could only mean one thing. Sure enough 15 minutes later he comes out with shaved head, beard orange ablaze all over his face, and clad in a white shirt and black shorts. Action Bronson. To the tune of something like "Let's fucking go" he walks out onto the stage. My friend turns to me in a hyped voice "Yo Action's got my shoes on right now." The first blunt for the show has now been lit and I suddenly feel compelled to ask him what shoes he has on, for the people in front of me are distorting my view. My friend is 6'6 and can see over all of them, and I don't want to ask my friend what shoes he has on as the show gets underway for the sake of not being lame. He passes me the blunt, the first of what would prove to be many, and then turn my head to Action who is getting the crowd pumped to "Acting Crazy." Suddenly, barely having even started the song, Action abruptly stops to cut the track and says something like - "Can I get a sound check, thats the craziest sound I've ever heard in my life". Immediately after, the Alchemist attempts to replay the track and in pressing the replay button on his laptop he accidentally does so twice. The song replays for half an awkward second until it starts over again. Everybody in the crowd is laughing. Clouds of smoke from the pit in front of us cloak the stage so much it's as if there were smoke machines on the side of the stage.
Action goes straight for the throat playing bangers. He brings out his side kick, hype man and fan favorite Big Body Bess for "The Rising". Once he comes out the crowd goes nuts, and so too does Body who is screaming in ways in which vocal cords don't usually constrict for grown men who sport loose throwback jerseys as much as he does - tonight's selection a black and red pinstripe Jordan jersey; tasteful, sporty. He screams well past the bars subscribed to him in the original song and the crowd is going nuts. As the song closes he walks off to the crowd chanting “Body," and then very shortly after walks back again to receive a curtain call as he stands arms folded on the side of the stage, to which action raises his fist in the air chanting "Body," and then retrieves him so he could receive his due diligence in the middle of the stage for all to see. Everybody now chanting “Bo-dy, Bo-dy," before again heading back towards the side of the stage to which he would on occasion chime in with a phrase throughout the rest of the show. The crowd loves it, Body.
Bronson then goes off into a sales pitch with the crowd speaking on all types of ventures he's gotten himself into since coming into the game as a rapper from Flushing: "Who watches that ancient alien shit?" "Who got the clam sandwich from the truck?" "Fuck that's delicious coming back." To cheers and applause before reiterating himself in what serves as a reminder but felt like a declaration from Action: "I'm still rapping that shit, I promise you". All five of us were clapping, and so too were the seats in the back. We were clapping with everybody.
Judging from the body movement from the pit ahead of us, and from our own static concert behavior, this is a stoner concert. Which proved to be a wild, unsteady, unpredictable, but all the while, incredibly fun and engrossing experience. For it wasn't long after the string of plugs out came Coco, a dog from the side of the stage that Bronson proceeded to sing “Terry” with, and then sing to, as he cradled the tiny white poodle in his arms, bringing his concert bravado down to an almost confession to Coco, he held her as she was sitting over his shoulder - "Billy Joel at the garden, should I get a sky box, or an 89 IROCK, its always popping at the ihop…"
It was enchanting, hilarious, and sincere – spitting about Queens wishful thinking about a better tomorrow, one he’s now seen. Before then going on to premiere the theme song for his ancient aliens show, Coco prances off the stage to chants of “Coco” from the crowd, this time no curtain call. Then after falling back into some Blue Chips 1 material, the man Action is feeling generous. He turns to the side of the stage and declares "BRING OUT THE KITCHEN APPLIANCES!!!".
Suddenly the crowd belonging to the pit is showered in high tech smart grills, blenders, micro waves, t- shirts and, perhaps, what I thought to be was a toaster oven. A Santana song is blaring in the background which Action, after throwing all of it, then gets hypnotized by and falls into a vicious mimicked drum solo. Then he's back.
The concert then takes a turn. Action, who had been performing without the assistance of the vocal track being played behind him, in other words singing live, goes Acapella - declaring "this some real man shit". By this part in the concert everything was now in full swing. My friends and I were now chopping wood at what was now the third of our five blunts we had in tow, swaying back and forth to the thunderous beats and high pitched voice of Action, which at times would crack, sounding horse. Action takes center stage and confronts the crowd with lines about being often lonely, being overtaken by dark thoughts and being his own man with his voice bouncing off of the open walls of the amphitheater. He turns around and the beat to “9-24-13” drops with its cracking vinyl in the background, soaring "Ooo's." Jokes about bribing Patrick Ewing to miss the game tying layup in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi finals against the Pacers situate and soothe the room with an air of gained clarity. He’s totally subdued the crowd. "Light that motherfuckin drug up", Action says.
The show is nearing an end. Clouds of smoke adorn the room. Everybody is stunned, stoned or both, including Action who himself lit up at the very least two blunts. The energy is going down, and then out comes Party Supplies to man the guitar. Action is not pleased with the welcoming he receives and demands him to "Go back there, take your shirt off, and come out like the rock star you are". So he does. Playing in his long hair and shorts raised above the knee, with his guitar over his shoulder he plays the melody to, and leads Action into, an ill inspired rendition of "Free Falling" by Tom Petty, which the crowd sings along with, before breaking into some more deliberation about which tunes to play as Party fiddles around feeling out a satisfactory melody for Action who is also prodding him about the distortion on the guitar until they finally settle on their Blue Chips 2 classic "Amadu Diablo" to which the whole crowd sings along "I nutted in like 3 strokes/now thats no way to rep the East Coast!". Party takes his bow, unmans his guitar and Action gives him his due diligence, but not before, he couldn't resist or something, he says "turn that shit off" reminding him about the guitar. The crowd laughs.
By way of an inspired performance by our star studded roster of smokers we have smoked all five of our blunts, and just in time. Action who was constantly looking over to the side of the stage asks ALL of them to come out, and they do, a crowd of probably 30 or more people come out and join him on stage for “Easy Rider” as he holds his fist up in an epicly attempted prompt to the crowd. He belts out that we "ride the harley into the sunset" with him, before ultimately dropping the mic and walking off through the crowd that has surrounded him on stage. Immediately, people are filing out of their rows and towards the exits. Having finished those five blunts I find myself partly, or rather largely, stupefied by the intensity of the show or then again, those five blunts. I hope both. I follow the bobbing heads going up the stairs. I look up at my friends as they're talking amongst each other. "He's gonna come out yo", I say to the one nearest to me. Sure enough to a crowd and a pit that had partially left and was trying to leave, Action bronson and Big Body Bess performed new music with a swaying beat and a boisterous hook by Body saying again and again "When I die spread my blood on the BMW!" With the beat still hanging in the air Action then dropped the mic and walked off stage, "Goodnight", then shortly coming back once again to say his thank you's to Sports Illustrated and those who came out tonight, before again saying his final "Goodnight."
I walked out of the theatre blown away. What had just happened? I'm not sure, but I had a dire case of cotton mouth and since we had nothing left to smoke we didn’t have a reason to go to the beach. We walked down the boardwalk, destination Nathan's, rather the little shack next to Nathan's that served hot dogs and a short menu of hot dishes that included fried calamari and funnel cakes. It was a subdued low-key spot, and with one of the new roller coasters that adorned Coney Island immediately next to us, we sat down. I had two corn dogs; I wasn't that hungry. I only needed the water. I went over to the cute Asian girl behind the counter and asked for another water. I went to sit back down and the coaster in front of me had me intimidated with its corkscrews and flips towering over us. Who could actually ride that thing? Now, sitting directly across from me was a family with children. The accusing glances of the mother made me feel guilty as she probably knew I was high out of my mind as I ate my corn dog as respectfully as one could try to eat a corn dog – she knew this story. Tomorrow was Monday, I would be going to school, Queens college, in Flushing, Queens, and Action Bronson probably played on the hand ball courts across the street from campus on Kissena back in the day. I was working the other day and I heard one of my boys telling me he used to sell weed right outside of the pizzeria, Napoli, in Electchester. I haven't had a slice from Napoli in a while. I should have played more handball this summer, and now its over. We walked away from the boardwalk towards MCU and the needle that dominated the landscape, then up two blocks where we parked and my boys dropped me off in Bayside. My boys went back to Fresh Meadows, each laying right next to Flushing, respectively. Tomorrow would be Monday, the first week of school. Labor Day would be this weekend, and possibly a last hurrah for all that I didn’t do and could have done. Well, at least I know there's going to be Action to watch on Thursdays. Thats good to know, and that much is true.