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Bondfire - The Final Flame for a New York Hip-Hop Staple
Monday, February 13, 2012

For nearly half a decade Bondfire has been providing unforgettable moments, and a great proving ground, for music fans and artists alike, every last Tuesday of the month at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC. The event, however, is going to end its four and a half year run on February 28th.

Much more than just another NYC open mic, Bondfire has been a unique artist-driven community, and its stage has witnessed the growth of many talented acts. Artists including Tah Phrum Duh Bush, iAreConscious, and PremRock went from rocking the Bondfire stage to touring overseas. Homeboy Sandman went from the Bondfire stage to signing a deal with Stones Throw Records. Countless other artists saw their YouTube views go from the hundreds to the thousands. There was the night the legendary Kool Herc came through to enjoy the show and give words of encouragement. The Bondfire community also came together when a non-regular swiped co-host Tasty Keish’s laptop, raising the money to get her a new one. This is why, even though it was billed as an open mic (or, in Bondfire terminology, a “mic open”) with main event acts, emcee Warren Britt, who has been a mainstay at the show, has another way to describe Bondfire - “it was family.”

For the majority of its run, the family of Bondfire has been led by The Bronx Uber Villain, one of the many alter egos of iAreConscious, co-host Tasty Keish, most notably of Rise Up Radio on WBAI 99.5FM-NY, and DJ Boosh Wheelz.

Emcee Top $ Raz explains what made the show “family” saying, “you know how every artist says things like ‘oh I’m not here to make friends, I’m here for my career?’ At the end of the day, these people ARE your friends. When you start pursuing music 24/7, like we were at Bondfire, you start to lose ties with the friends you used to have, and your world becomes that scene. At the end of the day it wasn’t our ‘careers’ bringing us back to Bondfire, it was that most of our friends were there. We actually BONDED at Bondfire.” Coole High adds the show was “like playtime for some of us artists.”

This was the biggest aspect of Bondfire that made it different from other open mics in the city. Tasty Keish notes “it’s not a dark room full of rappers shoving their CD in your face all night, or yelling at you from the stage,” adding “no one has to be scared to share. It’s not like some of these open mics that scare all the women away, or scare all the poets. Bondfire doesn’t try to keep anything insulated. If you have a problem, need advice on a song, want to know where to get a good photographer - you can find it all at Bondfire. We try our best to help outside of the show itself and that’s part of why people return.”

February 28th will be the last time artists and fans will be able to return to Bondfire, at least for a while. iAreConscious explains “both on and offline there’s a tremendous energy that goes into cultivating the environment we’ve created. Everyone involved has their own personal careers. In order for this MoreBondfire brand to grow, to fulfill its maximum potential, there’s much more work to be done.” He continued, adding “it’s hard to totally assess where you are and what you’ve accomplished while being in it.”

In other words it’s a situation where one has to take a step back to take a future step forward.

As an event, iAreConscious made sure that there was an ideology behind Bondfire - “it’s all love and no nonsense.” That ideology was appreciated by many artists, including Jesse Abraham, who notes “the vibe was family, the skill level was aggressive, and the essence was truth.” Homeboy Sandman adds iAreConscious “set a new atmosphere right off top with the ‘this show is gonna always start on time.’ So right off top the air of the whole thing was more distinguished, more professional, and Keish’s personality truly made for never a dull moment.”

Eliel Lucero, who has been the longtime bartender, and was the former booker, at the Bowery Poetry Club, has seen more than his fair share of open mics, and according to him “Bondfire was big because they challenged their open mic-ers with different rules and expectations. They really invited a plethora of different sounds and vibes to their stage. They also were very big in bringing in an international community, musically.” Tasty Keish notes these have always been goals of the show, saying “I always felt like Bondfire was a safe place for any type of artist. You can see that from the type of acts that we have had, to the people that join in on the open mic. I think it’s important to have such a people driven show. Even when the crowd is thin we have people cheering us on, watching us online (via a webstream of the show). It’s a real community.”

Part of the reason Bondfire became such a community was that the support didn’t end when the Bowery Poetry Club closed up for the night. “The party doesn’t begin and end with what happens at the venue,” explains iAreConscious. “We’re active online creating awareness for not only our featured concert acts, but for all of our regulars that participate onstage and within the audience. When members of our community have new music, videos, books, or anything important, we cover it and create awareness.” Warren Britt experienced all of this, and notes “these are people supporting an art form, or a specialty, they appreciate, with dignity and respect.”

That vibe is why many artists chose Bondfire as the place to debut new music. Jesse Abraham is one artist that debuted quite a few songs on the Bondfire stage. “If I had a new song coming out I HAD to rock it at Bondfire,” he explains. “It was almost like bringing a new idea to a focus group, or a marketing meeting. Personally, this song I put out in 2010 called ‘Yoga’ kind of found its legs at Bondfire. I had performed it once or twice before, (and) the crowd at Bondfire seemed to demand it month after month, which shocked me, and tuned me in to its catchy potential.”

Abraham isn’t the only one to have felt the strong influence of the Bondfire crowd. According to Warren Britt “you received honest criticism. You can feel it in the air when you know you did something extraordinary, or when you fumbled up somewhere along the line.”

iAreConscious is looking to bring that influence from the stage to the community, noting, “we started taking audience members (which includes artists) out of the venue, once our popularity grew, to do holiday missions to give back to the community in which we’ve been expressing our creativity over the years.” Up next, iAreConscious is working on creating BondfireU, which will involve “workshops and panels for artists in various areas to teach and also open up a dialog about issues within our artist community.”

The goal for iAreConscious has been the same since he took over the show just a few months into its run, “we want to see the folks in the community we’ve built take their art seriously and build them up so that the world outside of our circle will take them seriously.” To do this, however, he notes “there comes a time when you have to do more than just put on a great show.”

For Bondfire there’s one great show left, on February 28th, but even as the embers of that night flicker out into the daybreak, the fire of Bondfire will keep burning bright.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:29 AM  
  • At 11:10 AM, Blogger Admin said…

    this is awesome sorta thing might make a fella tear up. :)

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