The New York Observer, May 2014

The Nets: The Game Changers

It can be hard to separate the Brooklyn Nets, the basketball team that went on a tremendous 2014 run culminating in what will at least be an appearance in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, from the circumstances that brought them to Brooklyn and the clownish brand-humping of their executives. But if you do, what you’re left with is not only a professional major sports franchise with “Brooklyn” on its jerseys, but also the first major American professional sports franchise to sign an openly gay player in Jason Collins. Nets jerseys and hats can be seen everywhere in the borough, thanks in no small part to the fact that they read “Brooklyn” and not “Nets,” but they’ve made enough of an impact that Brooklyn will be getting a second team fleeing from “tristate area” status to bona fide city team status when the New York Islanders set up shop at the Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season.

The So So Glows: The Scene Makers

While Bushwick would obviously physically still exist without Shea Stadium, which scrappy punkers the So So Glos opened in 2009, it probably wouldn’t make real estate brokers convulse with joy. Since its founding, the all-ages venue has drawn the best of Brooklyn’s underground to an otherwise abandoned-looking strip along Meadow Street. Beyond helping to solidify Bushwick’s D.I.Y. scene, Shea has made a name for itself by putting together an archive of free recordings of shows played on its stage. Go to a show any night and you might find Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles working the door or the bar, or turn around and see eminently crushable Fucked Up bassist Sandy Miranda just hanging out.

Billy Jones and Zachary Mexico: The Bookers

It’s easy to declare Williamsburg creatively over, but you’d be only partly right. Messrs. Jones and Mexico, the owners and bookers at new Williamsburg venue Baby’s All Right, aren’t giving up. They host famous weirdos, like Macaulay Culkin’s pizza-themed Velvet Underground tribute band Pizza Underground, alongside locally heralded acts like Prince Rama and Woods. If the former bookers at Pianos are still willing to bet on Williamsburg, maybe we should, too.

Horrorchata: The Royal She

Any day now, Bushwick’s “next Williamsburg” designation is going to finally overrun all the weirdos and art kids who live there. Until then, let’s enjoy people like drag performer Horrorchata, née Matt Mendoza. His drag party Bushwig has gotten national press after just two years of existence and drew more than 70 drag queens to last year’s festival. In a neighborhood that’s caught flack in the past for not having enough openly queer-friendly events or bars, Bushwig is a big gay reminder that Brooklyn’s nightlife doesn’t have to run along a straight path.

Angel Haze: The Truth Teller

Macklemore and Drake are helping hip-hop get in touch with its feelings, but we’ll gladly trade them in for Brooklynite Ms. Haze, a self-described pansexual and the only woman on XXL’s Freshman Class 2013 cover. Worthy of all the attention, Ms. Haze is equally at home on boastful numbers, emotionally charged ones and attention-grabbing diss tracks.