We [heart] New York... James Lohan: "It lives up to…
On-the-pulse online events calendar Flavorpill is a great site to browse if you’re looking for up-to-the-minute listings – from low-brow culture to high-brow classics, comedy to chamber music and everything in between – and it covers some of Mr & Mrs Smith’s favourite city destinations, including New York, Los Angeles, London and Miami. We talk to Flavorpill founder and cultural-highs hunter Sascha Lewis about hot tickets, treehouses and the Rumble in the Jungle…
I’m really looking forward to this Q&A, plus it’s a great way to kick off our vaguely events-flavoured blog theme this week. So tell us all about the Flavorpill gang: what’s the idea behind the site?
It started seven years ago, out of a love for NYC and city culture. Initially it was just for friends and family – about 300 people – who we sent a quick text-based email to about NY happenings. It was mainly music-focused; the feedback was good, and we realised that carefully filtered cultural stimulation was something people really wanted. From a labour of love done in our spare time, it took on a life of its own. We started to build up a team, and we secured our first advertiser about a year and a half into it. We always thought big – we wanted global brands rather than smaller local advertisers. The site now employs 20 full-timers and 30 freelancers all around the world, plus about 300 contributors who are donating their time to raise awareness of quality culture.
As the saying goes, mighty oaks from little acorns grow! So how do you go about picking which events you feature?
Flavorpill evolved around the idea of quality cultural events, and exposing people to a forward-thinking sensibility. We love featuring events that are contemporary, and might not find their way into larger publications, but that are worth making the time and effort to go to – things that are provocative and make people think differently, that challenge people to go out and explore and support quality culture.
It’s certainly true that a lot of people wish they were doing more exciting things but simply don’t know how to plan them – that was one of the premises behind our 2008 events guide, Smith 52. Having a site that pre-edits all the boring bits out for you certainly makes it easier to be brave about how the plans you make for an evening out or a weekend away.
Speaking of plans: what’s in store for Flavorpill’s future?
Evolving Flavorpill into the online popular culture destination – so we’re focusing on the development of our site. The email publications we’ve done over the past seven years have established the brand and given us an identity, and now we see the evolution of the brand into a place where people can manage their cultural lives. This means a much more dynamic and interactive relationship with our community – from setting up profiles and customising content based on preferences to allowing people to post comments, reviews, etc. Our soon-to-be-relaunched blog will also play a big part in our future: we want to create a daily tempo that is inline with what people expect from a premium online information source. Ultimately, we want people feel compelled to visit FP several times a day, as a source for popular cultural news, and also to connect with a like-minded community.
Coming back to the immediate future for a moment, what are your hot tips for upcoming events in NY that we should be trying to get tickets for now? Any must-sees in the city?
Every summer there are plenty of must-have tickets in New York – my favourite is the Warm Up Series at PS1 in Long Island City. They’re celebrating a ten-year anniversary this year and I think it’s the best party in NYC. The PS1 museum is a destination in itself – edgy, provocative and one of the more exciting places to see art in the world. Hang out in the courtyard outside – which is transformed into an urban beach – and listen to great DJs with a truly wonderful crowd that loves to dance. But here’s another quick 3 forthcoming events that are muy flavorful:
1. Aug 30th Sonic Youth @ McCarren Park Pool
2. Sep 7-17 Fall for Dance Festival
3. Oct 5-6th Open House New York
And, looking into the past, if you could time travel to any historical event, what would it be and why?
It would have to be the Rumble in the Jungle. The fight was a turning point in the careers of both Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, while also capturing the spirit of 70s with a concert that included performances from James Brown, Miriam Makeba, the Spinners and Bill Withers. Add to that the fact that it was Don King’s first ever promotion, the players, the outcome, its location in dictator-controlled Zaire… all combine to make this event incredible. I wish I could have seen it first-hand; it must have been out of this world…
I’m sensing a huge amount of wanderlust there! You must travel a lot – do you have a favourite hotel anywhere?
Actually this question has just made me realise that I need a vacation – I stay in hotels for work so often that I haven’t been anywhere for leisure for tooo long! If I had to pick one place, I would say the eco hotel on the Ecuadorian coast, called Andaluz – it’s $40 a night and you stay in a treehouse on the beach – simply divine!
Sounds perfect… In a perfect world, who would be your ideal travel companion?
Someone who never gets lost. Reading directions is not one of my strong points!
LOL, yes that’s not ideal if your idea of holiday perfection is a remote treehouse on a beach! Assuming you know your way around your home turf a little better, tell us a bit about about your stomping ground in NYC…
I lived in Manhattan for 38 years. The subway map ran through my veins. I love it because it is a destination for everything – New York is a part of who I am. NY is all about the people: it’s the people who live here that make our city the fascination of the world. It’s a melting pot that is created where people from all walks of life coexist and interact to create a wonderful energy that is truly unique.
Actually I just moved to Brooklyn, probably the most dynamic borough in NYC. It was a big deal for me. It’s awesome – a great place to live – it feels like Manhattan did 15 years ago, when there was more of a neighbourhood vibe. Now Manhattan is more gentrified and has a slightly more corporate feel – a sign of the times. Brooklyn is a haven, still very diverse both culturally and ethnically, and it has amazing happenings, gardens, parks, museums, concerts and events… you name it, Brooklyn’s got it going on.
Imagine I’ve just landed in Brooklyn; where’s the first place you’d take me?
Prospect Park in Brooklyn, a gorgeous park just two blocks from my house. It was created by the same designer who built Central Park – Frederick Law Olmsted and is arguably the best park in NYC. And it’s the only place in the five boroughs that still has a forest. There’s all sorts going on, from cricket matches and baseball to free concerts, plus there are walking paths and bike trails, and it’s surrounded by the Botanical Gardens, the Brooklyn Museum of Art , the public library and the zoo – there’s literally something for everyone.
Finally, just for fun: what do you never leave home without?
My laptop and my yoga mat – life is all about balance!
Maybe you should add a hand-held GPS to that list Sascha – less chance of getting lost! Thanks for chatting to us, let’s catch up again soon and look forward to hearing about Flavorpill’s new online exploits as and when they happen. We’re off to see if we can still get any tickets for Bestival…