The idea of hitting the road in a souped up muscle car and driving along the highway blasting my favorite tunes as the landscape rushes past in a blur is one of my all time favorite escape fantasies. Driving into unknown territory, alone in a car with nothing but the music, always has a cleansing effect on my head, and fills me with inspiration of all kinds. I have my own long list of music that is strictly relegated as “driving music”; pretty much the entire live album, “Hell Freezes Over” from The Eagles, Prince’s “Purple Rain” soundtrack, Robbie Robertson’s “Storyville” is a staple, anything from Bob Marley or Jimmy Cliff. Philip Glass’ “Koyaanisqatsi” soundtrack is particularly good for rolling along the road at night. I have a particularly outstanding and almost surreal memory of driving South on 95, heading back from Foxwood’s Casino, with the full moon straight ahead of me, as Glass’ “The Grid” blared in the car. The entire setting was primed for top 10 memorable driving experiences.
My dream car of choice, whenever I allow my mind to indulge in making plans for the ultimate mythic road trip, is always a ’68 Ford Mustang GT, just like the one Steve McQueen used to drive the hit men off the road in the film “Bullitt”, made the same year as that model. I could spend pages elaborating on what it is about that car’s mystique and its ownership of the quality of “cool”, but that is for another article. Suffice to say, when you combine Mustang and music, the cool factor, in my humble opinion, is off the charts. The Ford Motor Company is keenly cognizant of this phenomenon, and they have joined forces with the Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos to devise a road map of music venues that pinpoint culturally significant musical destinations, from New York to Florida.
Hard Rock helped Ford create a cultural road map and driving route along the Eastern region of the country featuring must-see destinations that are helping to shape what is next in the music scene. In Brooklyn, the six venues selected include the Brooklyn Bowl, Saint Vitus, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Glasslands, Baby’s All Right and Captured Tracks Shop. The map heads South, with stops in Washington, D.C., Asheville, N.C., Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans and Miami, with emphasis on the Ultra Music Festival that takes place there in March.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mustang and its influence on pop culture, Ford and Hard Rock have teamed up through the ICON50 program to name 10 up-and-coming artists who are breaking new ground and setting the stage for the future in the music industry. The ICON50 artists include ASTR, Betty Who, Cathedrals, Elle King, Joywave, MisterWives, Sheppard, Smallpools, Young Rising Sons and Young & Sick. Matt Wells, director of music and marketing for Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos said “the artists who we’ve identified are each carving their own path, and have pushed musical and cultural barriers to reach a broader audience. They not only represent what’s great and exciting about music right now, we feel they’ll inspire and move people in the future as well.”
Picked by TIME as one of 14 Musical Acts To Watch in 2014, Betty Who (Jessica Newham), performed at the pop-up Mustang Roadhouse on Monday, October 20th, and her band’s set demonstrated the notion of breaking boundaries perfectly. The two musicians with her, aside from the drummer, who was male, were both young, African-American women who played their instruments with a level of expertise usually reserved for more seasoned pros. Who’s stage persona is a combination of retro/schoolgirl vibe, with a platinum mohawk a la Annabella Lwin of the Malcolm McLaren 80s darlings, the Bow Wow Wows, and her audience was present in force to show her their love. The young Australian native is charismatic, with powerful pop vocals and a stage presence that already says “big star”.
NYC band, MisterWives, followed Who, and here is an important thing to know about this band, the lead vocals are provided by a petite beauty named Mandy Lee, and her voice and energy are anything but small. It is jarring, at first, to hear such a sound emanate from the vocal chords of a slender young woman who looks like she just emerged from a Rossetti painting. Her performance was all running, leaping, jumping while belting the songs with a range and power that seem to come from someone 5 times her size. The crowd was wild with appreciation and awe, and her energy kept the venue ignited for the entire set.
Ford had a 2015 Mustang parked right in the center of the venue on West 26th Street, and guests shot selfies with the car throughout the night. There was an open bar and DJ sets from Franco V and one of the ICON50 artists, ASTR. The venue’s staff had quite the time getting people to leave at the end of the night, no one wanted to budge as the lights went up, and suited bouncers had to respectfully inform everyone that it was time to move on to the next party.