Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Life and Times

On any Monday night at Sidewalk it's quite likely to hear performers pouring out details of the minutiae of their lives - lost loves, work frustrations, etc. But it's rare that these diary-like songs have a relevance to the majority of the audience members. It's a fine line to hoe but the trick is to be personal and general at the same time.

I'm still absorbing the first segment of Life and Times, the epic opera that I saw last night at the Public Theatre. But here is a work of theatre that deals with the excruciating minutiae of a life but somehow succeeds in creating a canvas on which audience members can project and explore the related aspects of their own lives.

Among the performers in the company of Life and Times are Dan Gower and Julie Lamendola, the core members of Ching Chong Song, which I have always thought is one of the more brilliant groups on the Sidewalk scene. The text of Life and Times is a transcription of a long recorded phone conversation in which a woman describes her life starting at birth - and well, up to the end of last night's segment we're at around the third or fourth grade (I'm seeing the rest of the show over the next two night - it can also be seen in one long marathon).

The actors sing the text of the recording with all the ums, ahhs, hahahas, etc. in place. There's something about the staging - which kind of has a Merce Cunningham-like sense of disconnection from the text - that allows the language to stand out from the action. There are many strikingly visual and highly original aspects of the staging, though, that kept surprising the audience.

I've been hearing about this production for a while and I was eager to see it. I'm so glad that Julie and Dan's strong talents are standing out in this production (which I would highly recommend if you don't get the drift). The show is demanding on its cast and their commitment is impressive. There are still a few chances through the rest of the week to see individual segments and the whole marathon, although some shows are sold out.

I wonder what the rest of Life and Times has in store for me. Looking forward to the next 5 or 6 hours at the Public Theatre.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nick's Farewell

Nick Heller has been a friendly face at Sidewalk the last couple years. I'm not sure of his actual title,  but Nick has been involved in providing service at the restaurant (I think "counter guy" is how his job has been described).

This past Monday Nick stepped on stage and offered what turned out to be a surprising farewell to the restaurant. As his name was called I spotted Nick at the bar grabbing what certainly was not his first beer of the night.

He started his set by mentioning his inebriation and while I won't go into the specifics of the content of the act, suffice it to say that Nick took advantage of the opportunity to express frustration with the management of Sidewalk Cafe. In fact--in addition to lighting up a cigarette on stage--he revealed a couple bits of choice behind-the-scenes information which provided us all with some interesting perspective on how things go at Sidewalk. In all honesty, Nick didn't have a lot to say but seemed as if he really wanted to vent his feelings about the place. His finale was hurling the microphone against the back wall. I give Nick credit for letting loose. I'm not sure how his performance will contribute to his long term career prospects but in terms of witnessing raw humanity in action it was an intriguing spectacle. I've seen a few performances at Sidewalk over the years where people really let their id take charge. There are not too many opportunities in life to really let it all out like that and as long as its done with the safety of the audience in mind, I applaud the use of Sidewalk's Stage as a venue for working out the widest range of emotions.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Go Love

I stopped in to hear Go Love last night. The group connects me to the spirit of Sidewalk that I found so appealing in the first place. First of all, most of the members are folks who spent time on the scene developing their own work and gradually making social connections before joining together -- at the instigation of Ray Brown, I believe - to form a sort of musical collective. There's a strong sense of musicality to what they're doing, but also a parallel strain of unselfconscious goofiness, and enough rough edges to make things interesting. The opening song had some lovely overlapping vocals sung by Sarah Stanley and Morgan Herringer and it also featured interwoven guitar and ukelele playing. It was nice to hear the flute and glockinspiel used to good effect throughout the night. Percussion effects were played on Tupperware and typewriter. In addition to Ray, Sarah, and Morgan, the group last night included Charles Mansfield, Beau Alessi, and Sonya Gropman. Each performer (with maybe the exception of the typerwriterist Gropman) led the group on a song or two, but there was a lot of collaboration and supportiveness. Their next show, on November 9, is slated to be their last. I don't know about that. I think they better keep the love going. Check out: and

I caught parts of Sarah Turk's release show for her cd Saved by the Storm and Ben Pagano's set with his band. Nice work from each of them. I'm sorry that other commitments kept me from hearing the night's complete bill which was drawn from the heart of Sidewalk's artistic corps. The others featured were Kung Fu Crimewave, St. Lenox (Andrew Choi), Mal Blum, and Crazy and the Brains.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Update & Myron & Vera at the Fringe Festival

What's been going on in the world of Sidewalk lately? Well, I have to admit that I've been distracted a bit in the last several weeks...yet I did attend the fabulous all-day July 4 celebration at Goodbye Blue Monday. Thanks to Dan and Brian for all their hard work on that. Plus, there was the second reunion of the folks from Chameleon, the scene that preceded Sidewalk. I enjoyed the supergroup Go Love, one of the only bands currently on the scene with a member who plays typewriter. Typewriter accompaniment is becoming such a lost art. Aside from that, I will be at Julie Delano's Church show, next Saturday, July 28 at Culturefix. Featured are such folks as: Preston Spurlock, Christy Davis, Tom Bayne, Chris Anderson and....Myron the Magnificent and the Lovely Vera.  

Myron & Vera at The New York International Fringe Festival

In the meantime, Myron and Vera have a big show coming up at The New York City Fringe Festival starting August 11. Ever since they were kicked out of Vegas the duo has been quietly building their new act, using the Sidewalk stage as a place to experiment. Now they are ready to  move into the (relative) big time at the Fringe Festival. Myron and Vera perform some of the most head-spinning magic you can imagine - but I've noticed they also occasionally get caught up in their own squabbles. Those two should get it together. The expanded show includes musicians (Sidewalk's own Peter Dizozza is music director), scenery (designed by Ben Folstein/Level II) and lots of great magic.

The show will be presented at the Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street. 
Saturday, August 11, 7:45 p.m.; Sunday, August 12, 5 p.m.;
Wednesday, August 15, 9:30 p.m., Tuesday, August 21, 7 p.m.; Sunday, August 26, noon.

For tickets, go to From there choose "Shows" then "Search Shows" Go to the "M" listings, scroll down to Myronic! and then click the date you want and enter payment info.

Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door.

See you at the Sidewalk, the Fringe, Church, Goodbye Blue Monday or someplace soon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dashan (via Matt)

I've been thinking very much about Dashan and the recent tragic news about him. I wasn't as close to Dashan as many others on the scene, yet whenever I saw him he was welcoming and inclusive. Dashan was unique in many ways, one of which, it seemed to me, was that he had very low or even nonexistent barriers between himself and others. He seemed to really love engaging with people and drawing them into his realm. I always appreciated his receptivity. Aside from seeing Dashan at numerous parties and performances, we did have a couple prolonged, intense experiences together--a madcap subway ride home from Brooklyn, and a visit to buy his bass that turned into a 5 or 6 hour social event. I hope at some future point to be able to more fully process my thoughts and write more about Dashan here. I know I'll miss him, though.

In the meantime, Matt Roth has written a really good personal reminiscence about Dashan. I particularly like this line: "There are few people in this world who were as unapologetically good at being themselves as Dashan Coram."

I suspect if you've found your way here to Sidewalk's Sidewalk that OJ and Matt's blog are already on your radar screen. But if not, I hope you'll click here to read Matt's post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Radio Amateur

Hey--Nick Nace's Radio Amateur site is pretty cool. Check out the interviews with folks like Debe Dalton, Ray Brown, Major Matt, Mike Rechner and others. Nick also spins disks (is disk spinning still a relevant term) by a wide range of artists from the scene. Since Nick is a presence at Bowery Poetry club in addition to Sidewalk and also runs his own open stage, he draws from an interesting mix of artists. Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Matt and Nan say Goodbye, Wednesday, March 7 at Sidewalk

I started helping out with the OJ All Day Festivals during the second one. Those events were such a lovely coming together of a musical community, and I thought we'd all be working on them together into our dotage.

But things change. The other night a considerable number of friends of OJ came together at Sidewalk Cafe for what were basically farewell performances by Matt Roth and Nan Turner, who have decided to move to Kansas City, Matt's hometown, after years here in New York. The bill included performances by Bliss (Barry Bliss goes electric), Nan, Prewar Yardsale, Toby Goodshank, and Matt.

Considering the nature of the event, there was less sentimentality than you might have thought, although Matt did read a charming piece he'd written about his involvement in Sidewalk and how it affected his life.

It's worth reading by clicking: here, poem, here, Matt talks.

Over the years OJ has provided varying types of support to many artists from the Sidewalk scene. Even though I feel as if I personally connected with OJ somewhat late in the game or in a tangential way, or whatever, looking back there were numerous opportunities that I had because of my connection to them. Come to think of it, Matt helped me launch my photo career by using this photo on his site. Thanks for being my first customer, Matt! Many others have relied on them for distribution, recording etc. OJ is DIY out of a certain kind of necessity, but I think also it's an intentional aesthetic. Matt and Nan have shown how music can be created, recorded, and distributed in a personal, handcrafted kind of way.

Aside from that, how many nights have I spent literally jumping up and down, carried away to the beat of Schwervon!? There were a couple shows at Brooklyn Tea Party where I thought the floors might collapse from all the energetic dancing.

Maybe it just hasn't sunk in that Matt and Nan are leaving, but I have a feeling that somehow they will still be a presence on the scene. Anyway, I'll look forward to seeing their progress in this new phase. You've got to admire them for figuring out how to keep on playing. All the best guys.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wrapping up the Fest

I liked the shorter duration of the Fest--even shorter than last time. Made it feel more manageable.

Ben Folstein's late-night sing-a-long Sunday was a fun and somehow appropriate way to end the Fest. Those of us who made it to the conclusion of Blackout Night ended up chiming in on songs like John Jacob Jingleheimershmidt, This Land is Your Land, and Margaritaville. There was a core group of folks who were having a ball with this and I was afraid some of them weren't going to let Ben ever leave.

I haven't been to enough Blackout Nights, but they're great. Our lives are filled with so much technology these days that hearing people perform without any electronic interference feels like a relief--a sane few hours to escape the assault of all the media and information coming at us at other times. Breadfoot, Osei Essed, Larkin Grimm, Turner Cody, Master Lee and Mr. Patrick all performed compelling sets. I enjoyed Myron the Magnificent's set although as usual he seemed a little nervous. At one point he accidentally spilled hot wax from a melted candle all over his blue tuxedo jacket. Anders Griffin entertained with percussion interludes between sets and played with some of the acts. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make the early sets of the evening, but I'm sure they were great.

I missed out on Saturday altogether because of another commitment, but it sounded as if it was another packed night. Friday night was crazy, with several crowd-pulling acts on the bill. I particularly enjoyed hearing in succession Gina Mobilio, Kekye, and Emily Einhorn. Each of them had interesting quirky songs and strong performing style. Because Gina is known at Sidewalk mostly for her poetry, it was kind of a surprise to hear her set of strong songs. She wore an amazing black dress--a piece of architecture, really, that expanded out in the shape of a parachute. At one point Gina sank down into it toward the floor while singing about the Wicked Witch of the West, creating a visual reference to the melting Witch scene from the Wizard of Oz. A number of Gina's songs had to do with the draw of celebrity and fame, always an interesting topic.

These few highlights just scratch the surface of all the great stuff that was presented during the Fest (and by the way, J. J. Hayes has documented every one of the Fest's shows on his Antifolk Explicator site--thanks, J. J.). One of the benefits of the Fest is that it puts a frame around what is happening on the Sidewalk scene at a particular moment in time, providing a point of entry to discover acts that stand out. I know that I personally encountered some new performers that I very much enjoyed and otherwise wouldn't have known about. It was also nice to experience some of the surprising and transcendent moments of creative expression that I have always felt are what make Sidewalk so great in the first place.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Obama Sings the Blues

We have a President who can sing. Check out the footage of Obama singing a few lines of Sweet Home Chicago. The dude is so Antifolk. We should get him a gig.

Antifolk Festival Gets Underway

Hey-did I mention the Antifolk Festival is here? It kicked off last night, and while there were any number of bright spots during the evening, I thought Morgan Heringer very much stood out. Morgan's blurry, languid vocals force her listeners to focus intently, and the reward is a set of sophisticated, moving, clever lyrics wrapped around music that lies at the intersection of jazz, folk, and showtunes. In particular the few songs she performed at the piano last night had a kind of exquisite beauty.

I was very happy to hear Ching, Ching after a long while. They played a selection of their hits, which suited me fine. They did a classic rendition, for example, of Old Man, which I loved. Two very committed dancers dressed as The Internet, kept up a steady stream of interpretive movement throughout the set.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Krieger

Those of you who weren't on hand at Monday night's open mic missed a very special announcement. Sidewalk Cafe's Chef (yes, they have a chef--his name is Erik Rubin) announced the introduction of The Krieger burger, a new menu item available only in the back room. I don't think the fact that it is cheesy and cheap has anything to do with its namesake. The burger features cheese and bacon and goes for five bucks.

More significantly our fearless leader is also the subject of an in-depth Q & A at American Songwriter. Our resident gal reporter Gina Mobilio was the one who grilled Ben on his experiences running the music scene at Sidewalk. Check it out here: Ben Krieger Interview

Friday, January 13, 2012

360 Degrees of Sidewalk

Make sure to check this out. It's one of those 360 degree photographs showing Sidewalk's front dining room pre-renovation. How did this even happen? I really wish they'd given the back room this treatment. In any event, I hope this stays around for a long while as a reminder of the old days.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Milk Cup

A group called Milk Cup made a vivid debut at last night's open mic. A description by Ben, which I hope he doesn't mind me swiping from a Facebook post:

"So Ray Brown plays, then Charles Mansfield, Jonathan Berger, Matthew Silver, and then some act called MILK CUP drags drums and a bass amp on stage and goes into some sort of death metal frenzy complete with fishnet body stocking and table dancing, which inspires me to hit the gong repeatedly with my head. They scream long after the lights have been lowered to black and they get the gig, of course."

And my experience:
I was sitting in the front row and in the middle of the song the Milk Cup singer came over to the edge of the stage and repeatedly ordered me to give him my glasses. I'm not sure what he wanted to do with them, but I am thankful I had enough presence of mind to refuse.

Mr. Milk Cup started off fully dressed but stripped to his fish net suit somewhere during the course of their song. At one point, as Ben mentioned, he jumped up on a table, and then, if I remember correctly, he ran out into the audience where I think he took off his first piece of clothing. Mr Milk Cup was not exactly a slender guy, so the image of him in his fish net suit, accessorized nicely by blue boxer-briefs--was quite striking.

The singer was so dramatic that not much attention was paid to the drummer, although bits of drum stick were breaking off during the set and flying into the audience. The tip of one stick fell into my lap.

I wish I knew what they were singing about...there actually were some lyrics--they were just impossible to hear.

Milk Cup was by far the most dramatic of last night's acts, but there were some other good ones. Chink Floyd, for example was very solid as always--nice piano playing by T. Y. and some meaningful thoughts from Master Lee.

Oh yeah....the Canadian comic...what was her name...she was funnny--mostly because of her over the top energy--sort of the same type of intensity as Milk Cup but directed toward comedy. That's not usually the style of comic that turns up at Sidewalk, but it worked.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chameleon Reunion - 12/10-2011

Ray Brown organized a reunion show, held Saturday the 10th, of performers from the Chameleon days, the period from 1989 to 1991 when Lach oversaw an open mic that was a precursor to what emerged at Sidewalk a few years later. The Chameleon was located practically next door to Sidewalk, on Sixth Street, just East of Sidewalk.

It's clear from talking to Ray and also from listening to the performers the other night, that they all felt the time at Chameleon was vital and special, much the way many of us felt whenever we entered Sidewalk for the first time and thought we'd discovered a secret universe of musical joy.

It was nice to have a chance to connect with the specific vibe of the Chameleon through the folks who played the reunion. Remarkably they all seemed fit and good looking. I don't know if Ray decided to book based on who still looked good, but the Chameleon folks have held up well. As for the music, notes of Saturday's show are kind of a mish-mash, but one thing that stood out is the quirky humor that was threaded through each set. Dave Keener's song Moist, Tender, and Flaky for example, is a very funny comic anthem about what a guy expects from a relationship.

I don't know why this humorous strain in the songs would surprise me. In fact it kind of reminded me of the humor that I found at Sidewalk and identified with from the very beginning. It was interesting, though, in any event, to see this as an antecedent to what I found when I arrived years later.

Dave Keener reminded us that the Chameleon was not all about music but also showcased numerous standup comics. He read a series of jokes by Danny DeVito (not the actor, but the comic now known as Danny Vermont). Dave also brought on Tom Keener-who I assume is his brother-to perform Christmas in Brooklyn. And Dave also did a song with Dave Foster, who lots of folks know through Bubble, which I saw when they played the Beatles album Revolver live in its entirety.

Mark Humble read a note from Lach--or at least something he said came from Lach--it seemed very Lachesque anyway--a story about the legend of Kwanicamas--the all purpose holiday celebration. Mark played a long set with a mixture of touching and funny songs.

Something I noticed about both these guys and about James Graham whose set I only caught a bit of--is that they both are excellent guitarists. It's not that they were playing flashy solos or anything, but they used what seemed to me more interesting chord voicings than most of the Sidewalk regulars and played with taste and a nice touch.

Thank You Mary was Ray Brown's band with James Graham and Cybele Merrick. They played a very short set that included "I Want You to Drink Wine with Me"--actually that's not the title, but according to Ray it was a song he wrote in High School "You Can Rock Me' and a rendition of "Those Were the Days" (yes, the Those Were the Days we all know). There was a song in there that was kind of a punky patter song that I liked a lot--"Beg Me." And one about he wind blowing...."that's what it usually does." I wish Thank You Mary had played a little longer so I could have gotten more of the sense of where they were coming from, but I was still glad I got the chance to hear them.

Unfortunately I missed the early part of the show, which included sets by Ray and by James Graham. I'm sure that Ray was as brilliant as always. And I was intrigued by what I did hear of James at the tail end of his set and when he played with Thank You Mary.

When Ray first came back to "the scene" we talked a lot about the Chameleon Days. One of my questions was "whatever happened to these folks." At this point I wonder that too about some of the performers I've met who came through Sidewalk with burning energy but then eventually moved on. It seems as if many of the Chameleon folks have continued with their creative endeavors but in different contexts--I know some of these guys live out of town now. And I assume it's the same with others who have moved on from Sidewalk. In any event it was nice to connect with this encapsulated part of the scene's heritage.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Times Article on Jeffrey Lewis

I figured a major New York Times article on an artist with a deep Sidewalk connection was reason enough to bring this blog out of its slumber, at least temporarily. The Times has a big article on Jeffrey Lewis, who even years after having expanded his artistic horizons in many directions beyond 6th and A maintains his connections to the community there. The article touches on Jeff's history with Sidewalk, but also talks about how even though his career proceeds on a modest scale, through a disciplined and smart approach he manages to make a decent living.

Congrats Jeff. It's nice to see someone who is genuinely talented and who also seems basically grounded get some strong recognition. However, I'll be interested to hear if Jeff thinks the article is accurate. It seems to hit the main points that I know about, but I wonder how Jeff feels about being described as a "professional-grade neurotic." How are those grades determined exactly? Are there City inspectors for that sort of thing--the same guys who do the restaurants, maybe?

Enjoy the article.

Monday, October 10, 2011

New York Folk Festival Strikes Back

The article on the Antifolk Fest that ran in the New York Times's Arts Beat blog generated the following comment from Ted Geier:

Ted Geier
Queens, NY
September 29th, 2011
12:08 pm

I have seen the story about the New York Folk Festival rejecting these gentlemen repeated in various media by the founders of the Antifolk Festival. To set the record straight, I am confident they never approached our Festival, which I produced from its founding in 1981 to final season in 1987. The Festival was in part dedicated to expanding the definition of folk, and was similar in its programming to what these guys are doing, featuring street performer shows, blues, soul, punk, jazz, funk, singer-songwriters, and rock, as well as traditional and modern "folk musicians," in venues as diverse as Times Square, Prospect Park. I think we were gone before they started, and I don't think we were "folk music snobs." Finally, I don't believe there was ever a "New York CITY Folk Festival," but I could be wrong on that one. In sum and in my humble opinion, they are doing good stuff and have a good story that doesn't need a villain.

I wanted to air Ted Geier's comments further, especially since I was involved in getting the Times some of the background information for their story. The New York Folk Festival very well may have been as open, progressive, and varied as Mr. Geier reports. And he's right that no villain is needed in this story. I think his comments provide valuable perspective and I'm sure as the producer of the Festival, he is justifiably proud of what he accomplished with it.

However, for better or worse, it does seem from everything I've read, and heard from folks directly involved--that The New York Folk Festival, which was happening at the same time they etablished the first Antifolk Festival, represented to Lach, Kirk Kelly, etc. the more mainstream Folk establishment, which they were reacting against. It's not that they applied to The New York Festival and weren't accepted, but that they felt rejected from the folk scene as a whole [and the Times story is accurate in saying that none of the AF crew were invited to play the NY Fest]. In the end it seems as if the Antifolker preferred doing their own thing anyway.

So, as a matter of history, mentioning The New York Folk Festival is relevant. However, I think it is interesting to see this issue looked at from two sides. Ted Geier feels that he was presenting a diverse and inclusive Fest. The Antifolkers felt it was mainstream and closed. Probably both sides have some validity. And it definitely is worth being reminded that more often than not shades of grey are more prevalent than black and white in any two (or more) - sided issue.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Antifolk Festival Ends with Blackout Night, 9-25-2011

There are times when I can't explain even to myself what it is that draws me to focus so intently on Sidewalk Cafe. But there are other times when moments of such beauty, grace, and plain fun occur that I can't understand how the rest of the world lives without it.

The last night of the Antifolk Festival provided some of those more awe-inspiring moments. The atmosphere had something to do with it. Sunday was blackout night, which meant that everyone performed without amplification and the room was lit only with candles. Because the performances were unamplified, most of the audience was clustered up front, and it felt a bit like everyone was gathered around a campfire. I missed some of the early sets, but Ray Brown's show in particular provided numerous moments of soulful charm. Ray's songs are deeply emotional, often on unexpected--sometimes harsh-subject matter. His melodies and voice are rich and interesting. In particular I've grown fond recently of his song about an infatuation at Catweazle. On Sunday, Morgan Heringer, sang with Ray from her seat in the audience near the stage on a couple of songs, and something about the sound and vibe, especially the laid back, spontaneous feel of the whole experience was really transcendent. As a little zinger, Ray ended his set with a kind of medley of "I Don't Know How to Love Him," and "Oh Happy Day." 'That's it Ray--throw us off base.' After the frankness of some of his other songs, testaments to Jesus weren't exactly what I was expecting--but we all loved it anyway--and sang along.

There were many other nice moments last night. In particular Rachel Devlin brought us to some ecstatic high points on a couple songs with Dan, and they did a nice cover of Crazy and the Brains's 'Sexy Magazine.'Debe Dalton closed things off. Debe was back on banjo-- Never can get enough of her and it was a nice way to close out the Antifolk Festival. As Debe sang her last song Ben blew out all the candles on stage.

I felt a lot of community spirit throughout the week. For one, three or four of the nights were organized by individual folks from the scene. And then I saw lots of people who came out to shows on many or most of the nights. Congrats and thanks to Ben Krieger for organizing a great week--and for keeping our little world of creativity and fun on track.

By the way, it looks as if I never posted here the link to Myron the Magnificent's video guide to the Antifolk Festival:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Antifolk Festival

Yeah, I guess I've been ignoring this blog a bit.- But I've had lots of fun at the last few Monday nights, even stayed all the way through tea the other night, which may be only the third or possibly fourth time I've done that. Seen some fun and nutty things Chris Faroe's impromptu concerto with cell phones and voice mail messages. Anyway, there is lots going on, what with the upcoming Antifolk Festival and all. I think it's one of the better schedules in a long time, with a diverse range of artists from all eras of the Antifolk scene. Kirk Kelly, who was there at the beginning with Lach will play, then people from every period in between. There are many acts I'm looking forward to...Anyway, I helped write up a press release for the event, and also Gina Mobilio wrote a nice advance piece about the Fest for American Songwriter. Recognizing this is a bit of a cop out to defer to those pieces, but they do have all the info. If you go to the actual link for the American Songwriter article, you can see the conversation it has generated about Antifolk.

(I tried posting the text of the release and article in this blog post, but something went haywire with the formatting--I'll have to straighten it out later, but the links will take you to the referenced information.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday Night Open Mic, August 29, 2011

It was a good one. Hamster Rap (by Neesa Sunar) ruled.

Now available: chess boards in the back room.

Good to see all the folks, old-timers and new.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Opening Night, August 10. 2011

Dad's Rec Room.
Colorado Ski Lodge
Howard Johnson's Hotel Lobby, 1974
College Rathskellar, also 1974

These are a few of the ways the new interior of Sidewalk's backroom was described at its opening Wednesday. Yes, the music room does have quite a rustic feel to it now. The walls are lined with wide boards that evidently come from an old barn. And the rest of the decor has a rough hewn feel, almost like a self-conscious imitation of a country breakfast restaurant.

After all the anticipation the truth is, it really doesn't matter. The basic layout of the room is the same as it was. There are plenty of benches built in all around the walls, and tables in the center--just like the old days---plus a new stage that is bigger than the old one. As soon as the lights went down and Ben got up and started doing his schtick, it was just like Sidewalk as usual.

Although it felt like a regular open mic, it wasn't really because most of the acts in the early part of the evening had been selected by Ben to represent different eras of Sidewalk Cafe-dom. I don't know how I ended up first on the bill for the night except that I had a show scheduled for the next day--but I kicked things off with nervous renditions of a couple of my songs. There were too many others to go into lots of detail on them all, but the bill included folks like: Erin Regan, Howard Hughes, Phoebe Kreutz, Adam Green, Bible Gun, Debe Dalton, Steve Stavola, Brooke Pridmore, Sam Grossman, Prewar Yardsale, Bendix, Morgan Heringer, Dan Penta, Jon Berger, Dan and Rachel, Bernard King Presents, Elizabeth Devlin, Rav Shmuel, Charles Mansfield, Emily Hope Price, Albert Goold, Emily Einhorn, Rick Patrick, M. Lamar, Jim Flyn, JJ Hayes, Jen Kaplan. I left at 1 a.m., and I'm still trying to find out what Jason Trachtenberg did that got everyone so worked up at the end of the night (he arrived after I left).

I played a show on Thursday night and the best thing I can say about the sound system is that I didn't notice it. In other words of all the things I had to think about, whether I could hear myself on stage wasn't one of them. I think it will take some time to assess that new system but from what I can see so far, it's a big improvement over what was there previously. There's also a new lighting rig and all new lighting instruments. The thicket of random wires that used to snake around the ceiling is gone--as is the old disco light. The mirror ball remains. All the keys on the piano work and the music stand there is back.

The rest of the place has, of course, also been upgraded and although the main dining area wasn't yet open, the bar was going full tilt. I don't know how all the young, attractive folks hanging out there got the idea to come by on the first night, but the place was already busy.

I guess I'm kind of glad that the restaurant's decor--although definitely clean, modern and brushed up, features some odd and incongrous choices. It will carry on the tradition. After all, what the heck were those two large playing cards painted on the wall near the old entrance all about? And the random skeletons all over the place. Some day the new sliding barn door into the ladies room and the wine label wall paper in the bathrooms will stand out the same way.

All that said, Sidewalk's owners deserve credit for investing in their restaurant, including the back room. In general the spiffed up new joint is an improvement all around.

Congrats to Ben for keeping us all together over the last 5 months and for working on getting the back room up to speed. And to Brian for planning and installing the great new sound system. It was good to be back. It was good to see Ben behind the board and Debe in her rightful place. It was good to see Berger storming all over the stage and into the audience, and it was even good to face the wall while playing the piano. Our little clubhouse is up to speed again. See you there soon.

See you all at the Sidewalk.

Pictures to come....soon....