On Point With: Cedric Antonio

This popular Easternbloc bartender happens to be a man of many talents, and his unique musical vehicle Captain Black + The Maiden (alongside best friend and bandmate Alssa Brianna) is making serious waves. With a gig coming up in Chelsea and future projects in the works, while in the meantime Easternbloc revamps into Club Cumming, now is a perfect time to get to know Baltimore son Cedric Antonio!


Thotyssey: Cedric, how’s it going?

Cedric Antonio: Hey, it’s going very well! The summer has been pretty fun and unpredictable, which is always much better than monotonous. Plus, rent is due, and we have just about a week left of Easternbloc.

Weird times! Are we allowed to talk about what your future is there when the bar is reopened and rebranded as Club Cumming after next month, or is it still a “wait and see” situation?

Well, we can talk about what I know! I will be part of the staff continuing on into Club Cumming. It’s a very ambitious undertaking for everyone involved, and at the end of the day everyone’s bringing the best of what they know to a space they already love.

Going forward, I’m excited to see more live music and cabaret-based programming, because that’s very East Village to me. It’s a part of the Village that can really make a night unforgettable, and I hope to be anywhere where that is an option.

As far as aesthetics, I’m imagining I’m in an episode of Trading Spaces… so we will “wait and see.”  I’m not fully sure, and things always change.

Well, I’m glad to hear you’ll still be on board after the change.  And so far in the past few months, in anticipation of the rebrand, there have been a lot of really interesting events there–from naked standup comedians, to recreations of Bette Midler’s bathhouse act. I’m curious to see what the future will hold.

But back to you! Where are you from, and what were you into growing up?

I’m originally from Baltimore, MD. Honestly, I was super weird… but everyone from Baltimore is a little off, and a lil’ bit extra.

I lived for a Spencer’s Gifts and a Hot Topic. I sang in the gospel choir at church, but loved rock music. I wanted to get my hands on everything. I played sports, painted, figure skated at one point, and eventually locked into classical theatre and went to theatre conservatory for high school.

Thinking back, my mom kept me busy because the city was/is pretty rough. Baltimore School for the Arts was the only way I was gonna fine tune all that QUEEN safely.

Did you ever run into John Waters there…  or Chaka Khanvict, for that matter?
Actually, John Waters had a series of lectures in high school he would speak to the entire school. I’d never heard an adult tell such filthy stories, that ended up being so much real life advice. He is amazing.

I’ve only met Chaka a handful of times here in New York, but if she’s from Baltimore we need to kiki again. It’s a very specific energy, talking to a Charm City Queen.

How did you meet your good friend and bandmate Alissa Brianna, who also turns it up in the nightlife universe here?

Well… Alissa and I met in College. Marymount’s Musical Theatre Program. I grew up in Baltimore, and she grew up in Niagara Falls. I was raised by just my mother, and my father’s last name is Todd. So until Marymount, I’d never met another Todd [before her], ever. We’re in the same year, same major, same class… when the professor called attendance, we both gagged.

As time went on, we realized our moms are the same two types of fierce Clair Huxtable. Also, we’re both into very similar music and hobbies… it’s just that our Hot Topics were 384 miles apart. It also helps when people try hitting on one or both of us. People always think we’re dating so .. yanno, Stay Schemin’.

So you might actually be two halves of the same person! 

Exactly!

And you both come to NYC at the same time?

Yes. Our 10 years in New York will be this August! That’s kind of terrifying.

What was your introduction to NYC nightlife?

Easternbloc was the first gay bar I’d ever gone to when I moved here. When we were freshman, we also had the last generation of 18+ clubs like RUSH and Splash. We also had some of our first nights out at Marquee with James Coppola’s list. I remember being ushered into the club unknown and underage.

On the working side of nightlife, most of my first gigs working were/are East Village.   Stephanie Stone, LadyFag and Darren Dryden are all my fam. I wouldn’t be working where I do without them.

And you’ve had a lot of roles at Easternbloc, over the years.

I started as a barback, and have been bartending for the last three years there. Since we have a small staff, there isn’t much room for slack. If you want a successful night, you end up programming, promoting, booking, and bartending, which is not easy–but it gives you access to hire your family and artists you love.

During [the weekly event there called] Bible Study I am bartending, but in such a small space the bartender is definitely hosting. It’s nice, because it never feels that stressful. I’ve known [show hostess] BibleGirl and [DJ] Cameron for awhile. We work well together, and look out for each other. Which makes it all not feel like work at all.

Tell me about Captain Black + the Maiden, the musical duo consisting of you and Alissa. When did this become a thing, and how would you describe your sound?

Captain Black + the Maiden started about 4+ years ago. After college, going through Broadway auditions was generally the same for both of us. We would be asked to scream at the top of our lungs, and do vocal gymnastics for spectacle. Even though we both were raised in gospel. It was never really what either wanted to be doing with our voices. Unfortunately, that’s all they really wanted.

Even in college, the same sort of attitude toward young black voices was the same: do vocal gymnastics, or really problematic stereotyped work, or don’t work. That isn’t a test of anything but your patience.

We had reconnected after college, and talked about making music outside of one genre and using our voices the way they never let us sing: mixing influences and storytelling. We say it’s like if Amy Winehouse and the Fugees had a baby.  If we were to call it anything, Folk Hop is the best way to describe the sound.

I love that! I see you two just performed at Daphne Sumtimez’s happy hour show at Easternbloc this past Friday, how did it go?

It was really fun. I must admit, it is weird going from serving drinks, to singing, back to serving drinks. But it was actually music I’m very proud of (which is a new feeling)! We also adore Daphne, and I love sharing the new music with her, too. It doesn’t hurt that guests are nicer and tip better after they hear us sing!

I’m listening to your tracks on SoundCloud now… I actually hear a little Morrissey in your voice, and maybe a little Sting

Oh sweet! That’s kind of surreal.

What instruments are you two playing, generally?

Alissa plays acoustic guitar, and we generally write these songs like stripped down folk songs. Mostly voice. Then we either produce the tracks ourselves, mixing in live vocal percussion and guitar with drum loops and sound effects, until it sounds right–or we at least don’t hate it.

We also have a friend, Cory Hall, who is a genius and produces some stellar tracks. He has the perfect way of merging our ideas into the proper sound. We are all very lucky.

Are these or any other tracks available for download, or any plans for that if not?

The SoundCloud stream is the only place at the moment. We plan on getting these tracks mastered and having a full EP, or maybe a double-disc of this music were creating together and separately. That is really part of the plan. Although we’ve been writing together for awhile, it’s all still just the beginning, and we wanted to put our music and voices into what we already have here in New York to share literally across the world.

Sounds like an exciting venture! In the meantime, you two will be performing Monday night for Amber Martin’s weekly show The Amber Zone at Sid Gold’s Request Room in Chelsea. I love Amber! 

Yes! I love Amber too! She is ridiculously talented, and so absolutely fucking funny!

Have you seen Sid Gold’s yet?

Yes, we went last week. The venue is quite a little sneak attack. It’s really intimate, well-decorated, the sound is spectacular, and the food is really solid. Also, after The Amber Zone shows, they have live piano karaoke with a 7-page dossier of songs. It’s kind of perfect.

Have a great show! Anything else to report?

Just one quick thing! August 6th will be the last day Easternbloc is open until the renovations are complete. So everyone should come say goodbye and raise hell if you’ve every enjoyed the space.

Also, Tuesday August 1st will be the Finale for “Prada Spring Summer Clutch” at Easternbloc. Tuesday has consistently been a sisterly vibe Industry Night. La’Fem Ladosha and Cory are Djing. Alissa Brianna and I will be bartending. It’s always worth it to see so many of my friends who are constantly stressed actually chilling, talking and belting out every word to  “Love Galore” together. So if you know the lyrics, come through with the harmonies!

Final question: what are your ultimate goals, personally/ musically/ artistically speaking?

Personally, I have gotten used to the juggling of NYC and the hustle it takes to maintain at sea level. I’ve had to be very honest with myself, because I was being spread thin. I work in fashion as a wardrobe stylist, I work in music, and I work in nightlife (ADD of the Arts). I think this year has pushed me closest to merging my three lives together.

Musically, I want to create as many different types of music I can. I will never stop writing. It keeps me genuinely happy and pleasant to be around. Artistically, I think ultimately Creative Director of my own Mixed Media Production Company would be a perfect foundation for the worlds I work in, and what makes me happy and pushes me.

Either way, I know I am surrounded and loved by some amazingly talented people, and I am doing my best to protect and preserve our safe spaces. So if they are happy, I’m Happy. We’re in it together.

You’re in a great place indeed! Thanks Cedric! 


Cedric Antonio will continue bartending several nights a week at Easternbloc until the bar closes for renovations on August 6th, and will return there when the venue reopens as Club Cumming. His band with Alissa Brianna, Captain Black + the Maiden, will perform at Sid Gold’s Request Room on Monday, July 31st (8pm). Follow Cedric on Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud.

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