New York City block parties are a summer staple in the Big Apple. Every weekend from May through October streets are blocked off in neighborhoods all over the city. Vendors and food carts line the curbs and hawk their wares to people strolling down the avenues, music and laughter bounce off buildings, and the scent of grilling meat and roasting peanuts wafts through the thick, humid air. Many street fairs are charity fundraisers; some celebrate holidays; others tout ethnic or religious groups and cultural events. But despite their distinctions they all share the most common block party traits: good food, good music, and great times.
The annual Indian Larry Grease Monkey Block Party in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is its own distinct animal. In addition to the flood of sensations described above, this street fair has something none of the others can boast: bikers. Thousands and thousands of bikes and bikers. It’s a loud, raucous affair; a mini one-day bike rally in Brooklyn. Folks ride into NYC from all over the tri-state area to revel in the middle of Union Avenue and celebrate the life and legacy of one of the most famous motorcycle fabricators in history.
At the inaugural Grease Monkey Block Party in 2004, no one could have imagined it would be the only one Indian Larry himself would attend. Since his untimely passing later that year, his shop and legacy has been carried on by the husband-and-wife team of Elisa and Bobby Seeger Jr., who decided in true biker fashion to carry on with the street fair as Larry himself would have wanted. Eleven years later, the shop has moved down the street but the Indian Larry Grease Monkey Block Party is bigger and crazier than ever.
Sponsored by Samuel Adams, this year’s rendition drew bikers from places as far flung as Ohio, Maine, and North Carolina – and that’s just what I gathered from jacket and vest patches. Yes, leather-clad clubs were in abundance – even Hells Angels NYC had a booth – but the Grease Monkey Block party is a fun event, attended by friends and families and without much of the tougher-than-thou attitude bike rallies can sometimes boast. To that end, it was striking how many of the revelers knew and seemed genuinely happy to see one another; sweaty, back-slapping bro hugs were as ubiquitous as throttle brrraaaaaps.
The Meathead Factor is kept to a minimum at this mini-rally. The Indian Larry folks sold wristbands for entry into their warehouse, where a roast pig was splayed on a table and kegs of Sam Adams flowed freely among the bikes on lifts and shop tools that served mainly as end tables for red Solo cups. A tattoo artist inked for tips, and volunteers kept trash bags from overspilling. The weather outside was verging on fall-like, but under the fluorescent tubes of what’s normally a workspace the scene was cacophonic, sweaty, and extremely welcoming.
Outside the warehouse, the booths were a mix of established brands like Metzeler, Led Sled Customs and Biltwell to independent vendors selling products from RSC (Really Cool S#!t) and Hipster Killer. Renowned artist Darren McKeag was on hand to sell his paintings and do hand-lettering on bikes and helmets, and elsewhere patches were sewn on, subscriptions to biker mags were sold, and volunteers took turns sitting on the dunk tank – for charity, of course.
In addition to celebrating the man for which the street fair is named, an underlying theme of the Indian Larry Grease Monkey Block Party is charity. Much of the action here supports the Aidan Jack Seeger Foundation, which assists families with providing information and newborn screening for adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), an incurable disease that claimed the life of Elisa and Bobby’s own seven-year-old son in 2012. A West Coast Chopper was raffled off, as were helmets hand-lettered by McKeag and other artists, a silent auction took place, and all the proceeds went to benefit Aidan’s foundation. The feeling of charity surely contributes to the sense of family and community that pervades this event. If you can’t attend the Grease Monkey Block Party you can still help by visiting www.AidanHasAPosse.org.
As the day wore on, the bands kept the block rockin’, even as the roast pigs were devoured and multiple kegs were killed inside Indian Larry headquarters. Bands like Iron Horse and Big House Pete were among those who entertained the crowd outside, while most of the revelers’ adoration was reserved for Grease Monkey mainstays Judas Priestess. The stage closed with War Horse, whose faithful Ramones impression was eerily on point and hilariously appropriate. The strains of “Blitzkrieg Bop” bouncing off the surrounding buildings as the sunlight faded and the last of the bikes thundered away was a perfect way to cap off the block party.
But for those bikers who know, motorcycling in Brooklyn in late September is about way more than just the Indian Larry Block Party. The 6th Annual Brooklyn Invitational Custom Motorcycle Show drew hundreds to the Root gallery in Williamsburg on Saturday to view gorgeous works by the likes of Paul Cox, Jason Paul Michaels, and Roland Sands (who showed off a custom BMW as an attendee, not a competitor), just to name a few. And this week, the 2nd Annual Motorcycle Film Festival showcases the finest in moto-cinema at The Gutter, just up 14th St. from the Root.
The shadows may be growing longer and the days may be getting shorter but as fall creeps into the Northeast, prime motorcycle season opens in New York City.