Steps from the Trinity Cemetery graves of Ed Koch and John James Audubon lies the crypt below Harlem's Church of the Intercession at West 155th Street and Broadway. Its Gothic columbarium usually hosts urns containing the remains of forgotten Somebodies, but last week it echoed with the sound of 100 sweaty New Yorkers dancing to a brassy rendition of "Crazy In Love."
The event was sponsored by the New York Obscura Society (an offshoot of Atlas Obscura) and saw plenty of guests dolled up in their Boardwalk Empire finest to sip Prohibition-era cocktails. But the crypt and its brilliant acoustics (not to mention its heavy, still air that is rarely breathed by the living these days) insured that this went beyond period fetishism.
These pictures are deceiving—the crypt is dark, and the vaudevillian notes from Jesse Gelber's baby grand made conversation feel at once more meaningful and transgressive. Loren Schoenberg, the artistic director for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem effusively introduced the Lucky Chops Brass Band, who proceeded to whip the crowd into a sacrilegious trance. There was stomping and screaming and whiskey sours spilled on ancient carpets and nothing exorcised but inhibitions. Well worth the $75 price of admission.
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Lucky Chops Brass Band Performs in a Crypt in Harlem from Gothamist on Vimeo.