New York City is one of the biggest musical hubs in the world where you’ll discover all kinds of music playing 24 hours a day, 365 days a year from dusk till dawn.
All eyes were recently on NYC as for the first time in 15 years the Grammy’s moved back from Los Angeles to have a homecoming at Madison Square Garden for its 60th awards ceremony.
The pre NYC Grammy’s excitement was hard to miss as it was everywhere in the city from the newspapers, to the news on TV, the radio and of course social media.
Kick starting the party was Delta who has been the Official Airline of the Grammys since 2007.
The airline hosted its annual pre- Grammy event at The Bowery Hotel, which is located in one of the City’s most vibrant boutique neighbourhoods.
It was a start-studded affair and was attended by the likes of Rita Ora, Vanessa Hudgens, Lea Michelle and Katie Holmes.
And as with every Delta pre-Grammys event, guests enjoyed a special performance by one of today’s new artists. On the bill for this year’s event was Julia Michaels who performed a string of her hits including ‘issues’.
The morning after is for Hip Hopping it up in the city!
After a night of pre-Grammy partying I had an energetic start to the day on the Birthplace of Hip Hop in Harlem and The Bronx tour with Hush Tours.
For over 16 years it has been the only Hip Hop tour in NYC and to date it has hosted over 1 million people on its infamous party bus.
Our excursion was guided by Reggie Rag, a Hip Hop pioneer from the Crash Crew and newcomer Rayza who has earned his stripes and became a honorary member of the band in 2017. The pair ensured the tour’s attendees, who were a mixture of Hip Hop novices and die-hard fans, were made to feel welcome.
During the three hour tour we explored the City’s Hip Hop musical landmarks in Brooklyn, Harlem, the Bronx and Manhattan. One highlight was the Frank E.Campbell funeral home where some of the scene’s biggest names have been prepped before being laid to rest.
Another iconic pit stop was Hip Hop Blvd, where the first Hip Hop party took place on August 11th 1973 and is the birthplace of some of New York’s biggest rap exports including Swizz Beats and ASAP Rocky. The tour is very interactive, you will sing and clap along to Hip Hop tracks, dance in the Museum of New York and be tested on what you’ve learnt.
Plus you’ll and have the opportunity to take pictures at some of the colourful Hip Hop murals in town including the Graffti Wall of Fame which first came into creation in 1986. It’s an absolute ‘FIYAH’ of an experience, as Rayza puts it, which you won’t want to miss during your travels to NYC.
A lunch date with Harlem’s Apollo Theatre
No musical journey in New York is complete without heading to Harlem, where the streets are alive with a fierce NYC energy and are full of a tight-knit community spirit.
I headed to the Apollo Theatre, which is one of Harlem’s, New York City’s and America’s most iconic and enduring music halls.
As the epicentre of American popular culture it has birthed so many music careers and has hosted many of the world’s greatest musicians and icons on its stage.
Over the course of James Brown’s career he performed at The Apollo 200 times. Meanwhile, Michael Jackson and his brothers took their first shot at fame at the venue’s ‘Amateur’s Night’, where they unleashed Jackson 5 to the masses.
It’s also the venue where the Notorious B.I.G introduced an unknown Brooklyn rapper at the time called Jay Z. Fast forward 20 years later he’s a global rap superstar married to another superstar called Beyonce.
In the lead up to the Grammy’s the venue hosted a Pre-Grammy Uptown luncheon, which happened to fall on the venue’s 84th birthday. Guests had the pleasure of enjoying the one-off experience of eating a soulful lunch menu of southern fried chicken, waffles and a hearty salad on the actual stage of The Apollo.
The Apollo hosts daily historic tours which connects the past, present and future through entertaining and inspiring storytelling of Billy “Mr Apollo” Mitchell. Guests will also gain behind-the-scenes access to this legendary venue.
Grammy’s 2018: The main event
The New York City Grammy hype was worth it as this year’s award show made some big statements about the world’s plights and NYC was the best place to deliver it.
Kendrick Lamar opened the show with a bang (literally) and presented an army of hooded soldiers marched in front of an American flag. Joining him for the intense opener was U2’s Bono who provided him with vocal support.
The 30-year-old rapper clearly set the tone for the night as it was an evening for passion meeting politics on the stage. From Janelle Monae’s defiant Time’s Up speech to Kesha’s heart wrenching ‘Praying’ performance this year’s show will go down in the history books for the right reasons.
Carnegie Hall – Visit New York’s hidden music gem
While New York is a city that likes to boast and showcase, some of its iconic venues are hidden away from the hustle and bustle of NYC life. For example tucked away in the corner of Manhattan’s West 57th street and Seventh Avenue is Carnegie Hall, which is one of the most prestigious venues in the world for both classical and popular musical.
The jaw-dropping venue opened in 1891, and was built by Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, who was inspired by his wife Louise to create a new home for music in New York City. Since the 1960’s the Carnegie Hall has been designated as a National Landmark and one only has to do a little google to find out why.
However, to find out more on its colourful history nothing beats booking a Carnegie Hall venue tour. If you’re lucky enough you’ll be guided by Gino Francesconi, Director of Carnegie Hall’s Archives and tours.
Not only is Gino an engaging storyteller, he has worked at Carnegie Hall since 1974 taking on numerous of roles including backstage attendant for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald. He has spent the last 25 years expertly piecing together Carnegie Hall’s amazing history which can be found in the Rose Museum.
Here, you’ll find a range of interesting artifacts found by Gino, including a ticket from the first concert on May 5, 1891. The highlight of the tour was exploring the Hall’s three stages – the renowned Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, the intimate Weill Recital Hall and the innovative Zankell Hall.
While each hall is uniquely distinct their walls share the silent echoes of music excellence and social commentary. Tchaikovsky, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Judy Garland and The Beatles are just a few of the names who have left their mark on Carnegie Hall.
School of Rock – Have an electrifying night of rock on Broadway
New York City is a place that embraces new talent and the bright lights of Broadway is where you’ll find them. NYC’s theatre land can leave you spoilt for choice with the endless amount of current shows available. Popular choices include Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Kinky Boots and a cartoon favourite SpongeBob Square Pants. Yes you read right.
If you’re into a bit of rock and romance, a step in the right direction is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical School of Rock at the Winter Garden Theatre. Led by a charming set of talented youngsters the play is a new heart-stirring hit.
Based on the hit film, School of Rock is the hilarious new musical and follows Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star who decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school.
There he turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. While teaching these pint-sized prodigies what it means to truly rock, Dewey falls for the school’s beautiful, but uptight headmistress, helping her rediscover the wild child within. This play will keep you highly entertained and wide awake if the jet lag tries to kick in.
Take a walk along New York City’s Museum Mile
A visit to New York’s Museum Mile will give you the opportunity to kill two musical birds with one stone. Most of the city’s museums and other fine arts institutions are conveniently located on this lovely stretch along 5th Avenue.
I started my museum day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is home to one of the world’s most diverse and important collections of musical instruments. The Met is currently revamping its gallery spaces in order to present a new display of over 600 instruments.
Leading the way for ‘The Art of Music’ theme is the newly opened FanFare series, which is the first of The Met’s four new Musical galleries. The fascinating exhibit invites you to explore the artistry of these eye-catching, powerful and lip vibrated instruments.
Be prepared to have an in-depth insight as the display contains 74 instruments spanning from the most simple conches and animal horns to the complicated design of modern trumpets.
After a morning of tooting horns I walked a ten minute walk up the block to the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, which is currently showcasing the ‘Hear, See, Play: Designing with Sound exhibition.
Interactivity was the name of the game as I became a sound designer for Trash Bot, a street cleaning machine. In the process lab I created my own mix of melody, ambient sounds and special effects to communicate my Trash Bot’s actions, personality and emotions.
The highlight of my visit was venturing to the Access + Ability exhibition, which delves into the technological advancements of design to help disabled people, in particular the visually and hearing impaired, access the world in ways previously unimaginable.
If music be the food of love, eat on in NYC
Shakespeare once wrote ‘If music be the food of love play on’ and New York City is one musical destination where you will eat to your heart’s content. Dining experiences in New York are adventurous, full of variety and contain enough music bite to satisfy your appetite.
Southern Hospitality BBQ
If you’re in the mood for some hearty Memphis-style food head to Justin Timberlake’s Southern Hospitality BBQ, which he set up with his two pals Eytan Sugarman and Trace Ayala in the Hell’s Kitchen district. With the menu offering mouth watering dishes such as Fried Avocado wedges and Finger Lickin’ chicken wings, JT is definitely bringing sexy back to NYC’s food scene.
Get Jazzy with Cecil’s Steakhouse
If you happen to be in Harlem on a Sunday afternoon make a jazz brunch date with Cecil’s Steakhouse.
Chilled out Sundays will take on a new meaning as you indulge on bottomless mimosas and chomp on juicy steaks while being serenaded by a live in-house jazz band.
After brunch take a peek at Minton’s Playhouse, which is adjacent to the venue, and the place where Bepob was born. It’s one of the prominent music clubs that kick started the Jazz revolution with the likes of Billie Holiday and Louie Armstrong.
Get in the loop with Opry City Stage New York
One of New York’s exciting dining establishments is the newly opened Opry City Stage. It’s the first “home away” of Country music’s most famous brand, the Grand Ole Opry.
The four-story mid-town venue has become NYC’s primetime place for country music and culture. With good food and good times rooted in the South being served up in Times Square Opry City Stage has a lot to boast about. Expect to enjoy the taste of Nashville’s Southern food while watching a live Country music performance.
The Grand Ole Opry stage’s hall of fame includes the likes of Dolly Parton, Alabama Shake, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. So it’s no surprise each floor offers some form of entertainment to guests such as outfits, archive memorabilia, autographs.
The Grand Tier Restaurant – Elegance and sophistication on a plate
If you’re a after an evening of fine dining look no further than The Grand Tier Restaurant. It is located in the Lincoln Center and perfectly situated near the Met Opera.
You have the opportunity to eat at the restaurant before or after a show and you can pre-order your food and drink during the intermission.
The menu includes dishes that have been perfectly crafted and curated to suit many taste buds. Make sure to have your camera ready as you will have the perfect insta food porn snapshot. For a starter opt for the Crab cakes it looks as good as it tastes.
If opera is not you thing you can head elsewhere in The Lincoln Centre and catch the American Songbook series, which showcases and celebrates America’s songwriters across a vast array of genres.
During my visit I caught Matt Ray performing in the venue’s Appel Room which truly was a magical experience. While enjoying this whimsical Jazz experience I had a clear view of Columbus circle and Central park, luckily all of the noise of the hustle and bustle was blocked out thanks to the venue’s sound proof windows.
Where to stay in NYC ? – Loews Regency Hotel
Loews Regency Hotel, is the landmark hotel in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, situated on the corner of Park Avenue and 61st Street. The hotel is conveniently located for business and leisure travellers alike, and just steps away from Central Park, Madison Avenue, and Museum Mile. Loews Regency’s sophisticated blend of modern design with classic style can be found throughout its 379 luxury guestrooms, including 58 suites, and four private meeting spaces.
Each of the stunning guestrooms and suites have been thoughtfully designed with the traveler’s needs top of mind. Amenities include Frette linens and bathrobes, state-of- the-art technology, including smart televisions with movies on demand, complimentary high-speed Internet access, personalized temperature control, built-in bedside and desk power outlets and electronic window shades. Individually designed with their own unique charm and character, the Terrace/Atrium Suites range from 950 square feet to 1,350 square feet, and are perfect for family.
The Regency Bar& Grill, Lowes Regency New York Hotel’s signature restaurant and home of the famed “Power Breakfast, offers approachable and ingredient-forward dishes, Capturing the classic style of a refined bar and grill, the team creates food of the highest quality, simply prepared and executed perfectly.
Meanwhile, if you want to get dolled up or red carpet ready for an event, head to the hotel’s Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa – a 10,000-square-foot flagship Beauty Destination offering the best hairdressing, aesthetics, massage therapy and fitness all under one glorious roof. Medically advised by the prominent dermatologist, Dr. Doris Day, the Julien Farel team of experts work to service all of your beauty and wellness needs to achieve age-defying skin, hair, face, body and mind.
How to get to NYC?
For my musical journey to New York I travelled with Delta which is the leading U.S airline serving London. Flying in Delta One business class cabin was a pleasurable experience as I had the comfort of relaxing on a fully flat-bed seats for the duration of the flight. I arrived to New York on a full stomach thanks to being fed a chef-curated menu which was served on Alessi serviceware.
While I was on the flight I was also able to keep up to date on my emails and social media networks due to Delta’s Wi-Fi connectivity. Travelling back from New York to London with Delta was equally as exciting as the airline provides the Porsche experience for its VIP and elite business travellers. The service involves a member of Delta’s airline team escorting you to the gate of your flight in one of their swanky Porsche cars. Talk about a stylish exit from NYC.
Fares from London to New York starts at £371 (+ taxes). Flights can be booked via delta.com, the call centre on 0207 660 0767 or via travel agents.
For further inspiration of things to see and do in New York City visit www.nycgo.com