Thursday, December 25, 2008

Open Mic, Monday, December 22, 2008

The cold weather seemed to affect the turnout Monday. As Ben was getting the list together at the start of the night he seemed to indicate that it was a bit smaller than usual.

Crabs on Banjo-opened the show with "Kick Ass Awesome, Part II." The song ended up having a lot of references to "Part II" movie sequels.

Isaac Gillespie, Alex, P, Jordan Levinson and Debe Dalton did "Midnight Special. Isaac also did a solo tune with a kind of slow-ish droning guitar.

The Young Dads did "Telling on You." I really liked their song "I Could Never Eat That" which was sung from the perspective of two teenage girls. On one level it was kind of odd to hear these two guys singing a song that dealt with eating issues and other matters that fill the consciousness of high school girls, but on the other hand they did it so well that it seemed organic and logical. 

The Venn Diagrams. Jeffrey was playing the saw, and whistling....did a nice job on a tune that might have been called "Work Tonight." They then asked if we wanted to hear a darker Kurt Weill song or something more upbeat fun. Most folks voted for the fun. We got a rousing, theatrical version of "Downtown," and most of the audience did sing along quite enthusiastically. A nice set from the Venn Diagrams, who have been playing a residency at Sidewalk this month. 

Steve Stivola. Nice melodies and a nice voice. "Help me keep the demons at bay, help me find better angels to take me away." Steve also sang a song all about the open mic at the Baggot Inn (prior to the unfortunate closing of the Baggot Inn a while back).

Aaron Invisible-He is a high school student it seems....Did a song with Isaac and Alex P. Hard to explain the quality of Aaron's voice, but it is unique.

Becca Hasselbrook played-a song along the lines of "I'm not falling in love." Had the feel of an old show tune.

Jack and Alton (?), two 14 year-olds, played a couple songs, including one that seemed kind of Radiohead inspired. Are the 14 year-olds really that world weary already? Well, I was encouraged that their musical tastes were as sophisticated as they seem to be and also by the inventive electric guitar solo one of them played.  Their next song they said they wrote when they were "like 9" years old. This one had a kind of pop feel to it "Take my heart, take my hand, take me to another land." Another nice guitar solo. One of the best things about Sidewalk is that it's a place where age is for the most part irrelevant. It's the songs that count. It's great to see younger people coming in--who can influence those of us who have been around awhile and also soak up some of the other music that's going on. Jack and Alton seemed to be accompanied by a large bevy of parents and younger brothers and sisters.

Julie Hill - a song called Mt. Rushmore.    "Your lips kiss my cement face and I disintegrate." There was something cool about how she sang "cement face." Then she played "Slow like a snail." "I'm gonna nail you slow like a snail." It's taken me a little while to get a grasp of where Julie Hill is coming from. I may need to hear her more to fully catch on but there's definitely an interesting and personal dynamic there. Will be nice to see where it all goes.

Debe Dalton played "Ed's Song." 

Ben introduced a new feature, The Monday Night Bulletin, and I was glad to accompany him on piano.

I went home a little early in order to get ready to fly out of town on Tuesday. I'll still be away next Monday, so there will be no update this coming week.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Open Mic, Monday, December 15, 2008

Lach was back Monday, filling in for Ben. This is the first time he's hosted the Open Mic since stepping down in July. It was nice to be back in his familiar hands, but in general the evening proceeded without a lot of hub-ub about that. Lach seemed to pick up right where he left off without a hitch.

Lach-started off with a Christmas carol-Little Bummer Boy (?) I couldn't quite catch the lyric, but it was definitely based on Little Drummer Boy. He also played Former President Bush and was the target of a shoe thrown at him by Pablo Das.

I'm noticing that in lots of cases for performances during the two-song rounds I only remember or made notes about one of the two songs played. So, we'll have to assume that the full extent of each performance is remembered by the walls, time, and other folks there, and count the following as a general record for the future of what transpired.

Sam Barron-Little Sister and Chinatown Lights

Brook-played The Year I Got it Right

Hannah Fairchild-"You promised that you would be careful for both of us, that's why I like you." Hannah showed her circular circulars, and also played "Slow Burn."

Katey Gunn-a bouncy piano tune-I think she was singing "The people hate the people, Kill the people."

The Young Dads-"Bet you didn't know that I was hiding in your car" and "What's the point of having a threesome" They said they were playing the first song they'd ever written and the latest. "Hiding in your car" was the first. The second song had lots of techniques for lasting longer in the sack. Funny stuff.

Talk City, who is from Colorado, played some songs on the autoharp-For Free was the first one. It was kind of wacky somehow. He was wearing a black and red cowboy shirt with a khaki Communist kind of hat.

Dan (don't know his last name) played "Do I Still Have You," and a cover of "Girl from Ipanema," an interesting choice for a young guy like Dan. Most often I hear Girl from Ipanema covered in a jazz setting with a strong Bossa nova feel. But it is definitely a nice tune and it was nice to hear it.

Maggie Nuthall-Maggie was very excited about her upcoming full-length show on Sunday the 21st.

Smith Stevens from Scotland, sang "In My Room," a song about one night stands

Alex, from Yugoslavia via L. A. played.

Huggabroomstik, a slimmed down three-piece version of the group (Preston on Casio and Liv on bass were the other two beside Neil)--played a really cool song about a guy who gets in a suitcase to go to an island. Neil's much more complete description was better than my brief summary. Ask him about it sometime.

Elaine Romanelli played with accompaniment from Josh Fox and sang Naughty Lola. She has a really nice, strong voice.

Da Da Veda--an older bearded fellow dressed entirely in an orange robe with an orange turban was next. He spoke about how he had lived all around the world. He sang a song..."As the World Spins Around," "There's some people in this world withouth any voice, without any choice..."

Boy, I have to admit things get really vague here for the next few folks....Eon the Ace was a hip-hop dude who performed to a recorded track, The Fools played. They were lovely as usual. Brian Speaker did one of his songs of the day, a number called "Soda Pop," that had everyone singing along.

Eli James sang a song that he said was from a one man musical he was writing. It was a catchy tune about "Suzy."

Coo. I remember Coo from a long time ago when she performed this crazy song about discovering marijuana and about her pot dealer. It was sort of almost like a spoken narrative with some abstract piano behind it. Coo comes very sporadically these days, and she's played the same song, "If You See Something, Say Something," each time I've seen her recently. She gets up and introduces the song in a deep southern accent, which comes across as quite dissonant with her Asian appearance/heritage. At times she's worn this big cowboy hat, which adds to the whole surreal quality of her act. Her style is very funny, in a performance art kind of way. I like her a lot but I'd love to hear another song.

Oh yeah, at some point in there I played....Fishes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

I stopped by Sidewalk Friday to hear Liv Carrow, Nan Turner, Major Matt and Dan Fishback. Unfortunately, even though it was the night of his EP release I had to leave before Charles Latham played. I have enjoyed his songs very much before and regretted missing him the other night.

But I did quite enjoy the other acts I heard. There was some very good songwriting on display. 

I'm becoming familiar with some of Liv Carrow's songs, like Madame Rosie and Red Lentils, but there were some I didn't know the other night, including one in which she asks "will you still be around when my hair gets back to brown." You kind of have to hear it, but it asks whether the person to whom she is singing will stay around through all kinds of passages. She also sang "I'll be Your Canary," which includes a lot of whistling, and also sang an interesting song that was about, I think (I'm pretty sure) Albert Einstein's wife. She covered Barry Bliss's song about Joan of Ark and finished up with a cover of that song "Little Boxes" (all made of ticky tacky).

It was interesting to hear Nan Turner solo. I'm used to hearing her with Matt as part of Schwervon, but one of the things that stood out to me the other night was her strong sense of arranging, dynamics, and style. Nan played "Il Postino (inspired by the movie, I believe), a song "Lead Balls" at the piano, and a lovely duet with Dan Fishback in which he played drums and both sang. Nan also sang a rap song about Lee Iacocaa.

I've heard Major Matt play solo before, but each time I'm struck by how strong his songs are. They're very literate and melodic, even sung in Matt's kind of languorous slightly nasally style (I should say particularly because of that-it's a great sound). 

Matt talked about how when he was touring in Europe it was always mandatory that he explained the terminology in a song of his that referred to football. Over there they think of football only as soccer. It was interesting to learn that Matt had been a football player in earlier years, playing on the front line. The song, which I think he said is called Mr. Softy, had the line "every time I get to fourth down I punt," which was the main football reference.

Matt also played Tripping Myself, which is relentlessly catchy. I just looked it up on MySpace so I could listen more carefully to the words. I loved this part:

Every day you pull apart 
the macrame inside my heart 
and twirl it on a fork and spoon 
and serve it on a silver moon. 
Every time i hold your hand
the music of your favorite band 
begins to play inside your head 
and drowns out all the things i said

At another point in the show Matt listed all the types of milk available at the Fourth Street Coop, where he works as a member. After listing all the various rice, hemp, and soy milks available Matt pointed out that the list did not include "vitamin fortified chocolate soy milk," evidently because that would be just too much goodness for one food to contain.

Matt finished up with Rough, Rough, Rough. Which is about dogs and life.

Dan Fishback started off with, I'm pretty sure, a cover of the Pixies song Where is My Mind? As an aside, I can't believe I only just noticed the Pixies. Coincidentally they came up in a conversation with Matt and Nan the other day and I checked them out and they're great. Obviously a bridge between all the rock that came before and after the Nirvana/Pearl Jam thing. But that's another story.

A lot of Dan's songs are about his relationships, feelings for love interests, kind of combined with political or social views. One that stood out to me was "I'm going to make out with everyone who philosophically disgusts me," which actually was more about trying to work through personal issues about relating to people. He also has a song that has the line "Nan Turner gave me back my soul," which I found interesting, although I think most of the song is about Liz Phair. And he played "You found the only boy who needs less love than a machine."I was harboring hope that Dan would play his cover of Boy in the Bubble, which I really enjoyed the other night. No luck, but I'm sure there will be another time for that. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Open Mic, Monday, December 8, 2008

Hey. Some of the previous posts here had gotten really long. I thought I'd experiment with a new, punchier style!

A cold night in the East Village.

Krieger-finally learned what a "duvet" is.

Speaker-announced the celebration of his 100th song of the day--a performance this coming Thursday. Played "Layin Low with the Dirt Worms and "Telephone Switch Board Operator," Good stuff, Brian, particularly the first one. Speaker-later on played Scrabble with Lach.

Baglivi, w Ariel. the two of them together have a great sound. Some really good guitar playing and Mike's voice sounded so impressive the other night. A random guy in the front row with a drum started playing along and it really worked. Songs: "New York Afterparty," and part of "Mary Rose" cause they ran out of time and couldn't play the whole thing.

Simone-hmmm. Don't know what to make of her quite yet. She played in a percussive plucking style that might be kind of cool or maybe a little weird. A genuine effort at something interesting though. The folks jamming downstairs were really loud and kind of competed with her performance.

Young Dads. Man, these guys are great. Can't say enough about them. I remember feeling the same way when I heard Ching Chong Song the first time. It was something so original and striking. If you haven't seen them yet, the YDs are two guys, one who plays bass and the other a box drum that he sits on. Yet with just the two of them their sound is very full. They played "I Have Planned Stuff for Us," and "Who Invited This Guy," about assholes we all have met. I noticed that they have at least two songs that mention random lists. In other hands something like this might seem like trying too hard, but they keep it well within the range of tasteful. Looking forward to more.

Anis Hofmann (sp?)
Was wearing a newsboy type cap and a 70s nylon shirt with Wagon Wheels. One of his songs was Shipwrecks on the Shore.

For reasons not worth recounting I had to leave really early last night so that's all I got. 

Anything else fun happen, anyone?

till later,


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Casey's Birthday, December 5, 2008

Casey Holford put together a solid and interesting slate of performers for his birthday show. This will most likely be an abbreviated description, since I was a little zonked out by a long work week last night, but I did want to get a few things down. When I arrived Fruitfly was just finishing up. Although I didn't get to hear very much of them last night, I've always enjoyed them in the past. I saw them the first time out at Brooklyn Tea Party in a memorable show. Vin hasn't been around too much at Sidewalk lately, so it was nice to see him there. Dan Fishback came on stage with long brown locks flowing from under his orange knit cap It couldn't have been THAT long since I've seen him could it? Dan played several of his own songs, but also did two really impressive Paul Simon covers, The Boy in the Bubble, and You Can Call Me Al. He said he's working on learning all of Graceland. Preston Spurlock was rock solid Preston. He sat at one of his little keyboards and used the rhythm track to accompany his songs about Pacific Newts and his desire to be put in cryogenic freeze before dying among other things. There were lots of interesting covers performed Friday. Preston, Daoud, and Matt Holford did Joe Jackson's tune Steppin' Out. Preston closed with his song Pod Corn, which he says he's indifferent to but which other folks like a lot. It definitely is a catchy little song.

Erin Regan did a lovely set. She's another friend who hasn't been around as much lately and who I miss seeing at the old place. Schwervon did some of their new tunes, including at least one they said they were performing for the first time. They really have a great rock sound, and I'm always amazed it's just the two of them. Casey Holford's group the Outlines also rocked out. In addition to his brother Matt, the group featured Daoud Tyler-Ameen on drums, and a friend, Wes, on bass. I particularly liked the way Matt Holford's keyboards blended with the rest of the group. He seemed to use an electric piano sound most of the night, but also played some other whacked out synthesizer on a couple of songs. I loved the cover that they did of Regina Spektor's song Us. I really like that song anyway, but I think they did a real nice job with it.

Sidewalk was really crowded Friday. It was nice that a lot of folks came out for Casey's show, including various family and friends. Oh, and Brook Pridemore was on sound, starting off his new spot behind the board.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Open Mic, Monday, December 1, 2008

The room was full when I arrived Monday a little later than usual, around 8:15. But it soon thinned out and the crowd seemed a little sparse the rest of the night. Could be that the Thanksgiving holiday was a factor.  Yet, there were two transcendent moments the other night. The first was a set by a duo called The Young Dads, and the other was an amazing montage of sounds that came from an encounter between Julie Hill and her loop machine.

Although I missed Ben K's opening monologue, I did come in around the time he was commenting how his formative religious experience was so slight that although his dad and he would drive around looking for a place to go to services, they would eventually give up and go home to watch the Cleveland Browns. It was Isaac Gillespie, though who called Ben on the contradiction in his memory. Jewish religious services are on Saturday but pro football games are on Sunday. Ben moved on before straightening us out on that, so we're all still wondering!

Annie Crane sang beautifully on an a capella song, which she said was a traditional piece, and then played and sang on a song about Seneca Falls.

Touching You got up and started his set by criticizing the Mayor, as he usually does. Saying that he was inspired by Annie he explained that he would do an a capella song, although it was one that nobody liked but him. The song was something like "When toys disappear, it means lesbians are near," and consisted of a litany of rhymes about lesbians and various objects." Sophisticated stuff. Touching then proceeded to offend just about everyone in the room by singing a song about how only assholes ride the subway. Last week I was rather entertained by Chris's extremity, but this week I felt like he was just doing whatever he could to be provocative. That seems to be his approach to just about everything from what I can tell by reading news reports about his Mayoral campaign, arrests, and other political shenanigans.

Scott Alexander sang "Pennies are Annoying" and "You are Not a Market." Brian Bradley played a song at the piano that he said might be called "Eyes Open Wide. Casey Holford did an interesting song that had lines like "instead of hanging out, we play shows/we planted a garden of good art and our plans are to just let it grow." There was more to that thrust that I couldn't write down, but the song very much seemed to be from the perspective of someone whose life is formed around a creative community.

The Young Dads seemed quite inauspicious as they came onstage and set up, but I think just about everyone in the room found them to be surprisingly entertaining and original. One of the dads played bass and the other a box drum. They both sang and they harmonized in a high range. Their first song, "Forever Grateful for the Young Dads," they said, was about how their lives sucked before they formed their band. I can barely explain what it is that was so compelling about these guys, but for one they were just plain hilarious. Their second song was called "Four Item List" and was about lists of four items, things like "Books by Michael Crichton," and "The Hyundai Family of Automobiles." I'm not sure these songs were rife with deep meaning, but they were interesting, funny, musical and stylishly played. Ben offered them a show right away. I look forward to hearing them again.

Rafael peformed some interesting spoken word pieces., Lynn played two songs, Kaleidoscope and Double Down at the piano.

Julie Hill came onstage with her loop machine but soon realized that she couldn't use it with the xlr connectors on Sidewalk's microphones. She seemed intent on using the box though and decided to go home to get her microphone with the right input. Stay tuned for Julie, part II.

Lach was back at the Open Mic. Very good to see him. He played a song that I thought might have been new, since he was reading the lyrics, that was called "Lonesome For Ya," and another called "Comfort You."

Eileen, performed with her friend Britt, and a guy named Constantine who she and Britt met that night. They did "Bad Man" and "Let's Get Drunk." I must admit that I was transfixed by Eileen's midriff and, although was abstaining from my usual dose of Brooklyn lagers Monday, almost was convinced by Eileen's second song to pick up a pint.

Brook Pridemore played a new song on ukelele..."blood on my mouth, blood on my hands, getting too old to be an angry young man, made this bed and I intend to see the sun rise again." His second song was a new one too, about getting out there and getting it right.

I went out and schmoozed for a bit but came back in to hear Steve Stevola. This guy has a very lovely sound. I think the song was called "I Melt Away," but it had a gorgeous melody and was very nicely played and sung.

Frank Hoier played a laid back song with a soft guitar accompaniment. Nice to see Frank too. Frank was one of the regulars when I first started coming to Sidewalk, part of the group that would sit down front near the exit door. 

Isaac Gillespie brought Ariel Bitran, and Jordan Levinson on stage with them and explained that they were a group called Swamp Luck. It's interesting to see a bit of a contingency forming among these folks and a few others all interested in a kind of rootsy, bluesy sound. That's a bit of a different direction from some of the folks who have been identified with Sidewalk in the past who play with a little bit of distance from that style. They played a kind of ballad of a woman on a murder spree...shot down in the first degree.

Eileen, Britt, and Constantine were back. Britt did more of the singing this time. The song was about how he only laughs at the jokes of a girl he knows because of the way she looks. "I only laugh because you're hot. You think you're funny but you're not. I like to look at you, that's why I laugh like I do, because you're hot." Hmmmm. 

Candy Apples accompanied Andrew Duncan. They played "Part Time Woman." 

Soon Julie Hill was back, this time with a mic that she could plug into her loop machine. Julie covered Leonard Cohen's song Hallelujah, and by mistake, intention or most likely a mixture of each, it turned into a thick montage of overlapping voices and sounds. At first she created a percussion track by looping a ch-ch-ch-ch sound that she voiced. But she was having problems with the rhythm when she tried to come in with the vocal melody over that. She made a number of false starts but finally just decided to go for it no matter what happened. So what happened was that she layered all these loops of her singing, some of which included random crowd noise and other sounds, and the song kept getting denser and crazier. Finally after it built to a cresendo she sharply cut the looped sounds out and went back to singing a capella. She then gradually added in a few more vocal layers and ended beautifully and softly as Ben lowered the lights.

Dave Deporis was next. The guy has a nice style and a lovely voice. I'm starting to get familiar with this song he does (and did on Monday) that has a hook that goes "You're my baby, you're my baby." If you've heard it more than once, it will stick in your head.

Debe Dalton did a new song, which I think she said was called "Just Love." What can I say about Debe? She never fails to impress. The song was just so thoughtful and rich. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Theatrical Thoughts

I wrote the other day that I wondered why there isn't more theatricality in the presentations at Sidewalk, and Ben Krieger later sent an email to let me know about "A Night at the Opera," an evening of "rock opera/song cycles" by Phoebe Kreutz, Ben Krieger, Brian Speaker, Levell II, Aaron Jones, and Ariel Bitran. The bill is scheduled for January 28.

This evening points out that in fact a number of Sidewalk folks HAVE been working in a more theatrical vein. Is it a trend? Well, even though I didn't recognize it until now, it does seem that there are more folks these days creating work with a dramatic component.

Another type of theatricality, though, can show up in how people present themselves even when playing a set of individual, unrelated songs. I always loved how the Beatles, in their early years, had matching suits and would bow in unison at the end of a song, or James Brown's schtick when he would collapse on stage in a moment of overpowering emotion and then his aide-de-camp would come on and wrap him in a glittery cape and help him off stage. I don't think I've satisfied this yet in my own shows, but I've often wanted to try for something along those lines. If only I could find band members who would agree to wear coordinated outfits! 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

November 25, 2008-Liv Carrow, Cornhole Connection, Phoebe Kreutz's Gilgamesh

We had a nice Thanksgiving down here in Miami. But even with the parents (and me) falling asleep on the couch after the big meal, my thoughts still drift back to Sidewalk. Just a few words on Tuesday's show with Liv Carrow, Cornhole Connection, and Phoebe Kreutz's Gilgamesh musical.

Listening to Liv lately, I realized that her songs remind me of what I consider real "Antifolk" (although on the other hand I still deny that there is such a thing as Antifolk). But anyway, she seems to fit in with the Moldy Peaches-ish, Jeff Lewis-ish, style that is still associated with Sidewalk in many ways. There was one song in particular where she was repeating over and over "you'll keep it to yourself" that particularly made me think about this. She got in a good number of songs the other night...I particularly like one that she does about Red Lentils. She also did a cover of a Roy Orbison tune, which I think was "In Dreams."

Julie LaMendola and Nan Turner made a return engagement in their improvisatory extravaganza "Cornhole Connection." The gals started the show side by side at the piano. They soon launched into a long piece about Hemingway. They also covered Stairway to Heaven in a very free style, and I know that I remember seeing Nan on the floor again in one moment of passionate expression. Julie sang a long rendition with several false endings of a song that went "Let the sun shine in/face it with a grin/frowner's always lose and smilers always win/Let the sun shine in/face it with a grin/open up your heart and let the sun shine in." Julie also rocked out on a guitar solo at one point. The gal is multitalented for sure.

Interestingly improvised acts have shown themselves with a bit of frequency recently. I remember that Lach used to improvise songs at his late night sets at the end of the Antihoots, and Crabs on Banjo has been holding down the Wednesday nights for a while now. And Cornhole Connection seems to be mostly improvised. It takes some guts to put yourself out there like that, and I sometimes wonder myself how it would be to try something like that. But on the other hand my actual writing method is just the opposite--to labor and labor and rewrite and rewrite.

Phoebe Kreutz's musical Gligamesh tells the story of the Sumerian King who battles the feral Inky Do. Eventually the two team up and become friends, but Inky dies. Phoebe explained that she wrote most of the musical quickly, like in four days. I was impressed with Phoebe's songs, particularly her lyrics. For one thing, she has a very strong sense of rhyme, and manages to find ways to get to them without straining. Phoebe drew on a big group of friends to play the different parts in the musical (and some parts were played by multiple performers)...I probably won't remember them all, but Preston, Matt, Liv, Amos, and Nan appeared. I hope to hear the songs again sometime. A cast album maybe? (Thanks to Wikipedia I've just discovered that the character is named "Enkidu" not "Inky Do" so let me stand corrected.)

By the way, seeing Phoebe's musical reminded me that I've often wondered why there isn't more theatricality in the presentations at Sidewalk. Maybe it's just that my own tendency seems to be to gravitate toward spectacle whenever possible. I'm always imagining costumes, backup singers, and follow spots. I know it can be hard to pull this kind of thing off, but I think there could be more collaborations that head in this directions. For sure we need more choreography and a Sidewalk dance corps.

By the way Sidewalk's waitress Adi (sp?) told me the other night that she is moving back to Israel. That was a suprise. I'll miss her.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Open Mic, Monday November 24, 2008

Brian K. opened with a long intro. He kept trying to wind up his spiel in order to start the show, but would then get off on a tangent until Brian literally brought the lights down on him. It was pretty funny. I do remember that as part of his opening talk Ben relived the evidently traumatic moment when his dad explained to him "what gay was."

I'm so used to seeing Ariel Bitran in the many groups for which he accompanies on guitar, that I realized I wasn't all that familiar with his own solo stuff. He surprised me with a kind of Carl Perkins/Robert Goulet/Adam Green voice (Adam Green on his solo records, that is). He played a song called (maybe) "The Opportunity is Lost" and then one from his series based on the Legend of Zelda. You know I do my best to stay current, but I must admit that I haven't yet gotten too hooked on the video games that the kids seem to love. The Legend of Zelda definitely has passed me by, so I wasn't too able to identify with Ariel's song about that world. But I'm sure for those who are captivated by Zelda it was a rich experience. I did like the mouth clicking that Ariel did in the intro to the song.

Brook Pridemore played a song that made us all think he was in dire straights. It had lines like "I don't want to live in this world anymore." I was a bit concerned until he explained that he wrote it when he was 20 and that it represented an earlier, unhappier Brook. 

Phoebe did a song from her Gilgamesh musical, which is closing out her weekly Tuesday residency at Sidewalk. It's a song all about Inky Dinky. I'll admit that since I'm writing this up a couple days late, I already saw Phoebe's musical and the Inky song makes a bit more sense than it did the other night at the Open Mic, but it has some of Phoebe's usual clever, intricate word play in lines like "Inky Dinky do that thing you know you inky do." Phoebe also did a funny song that she said she wrote while leaving Pianos about being in a "Horrible Mood."

Benjamin from Denmark played acoustic guitar, accompanied by his friend on double bass. He explained that although they were from Denmark, his friend had just bought the bass in the U. S. They did some nice jazzy stuff with scat singing and everything. It was cool.

Liv Carrow played a song that had a line something like "How I longed for an itty bitty star all my own." I didn't catch all the imagery, but it was a cool song and I hope to hear it again soon. She also played her song about going to the psychic, Madam Rosa, which is another nice one.

Jon Berger set his laptop on the stool and pointed a microphone at it and everyone started murmuring that he was going to play some electronic Berger Beats to accompany his poems. But---psych--no he picked up the laptop and read from it. Jon talked about how he started a swear jar at work and then Brian Speaker kind of stepped on Berger's joke about it (which was to then read a poem filled with cursing). As far as I'm concerned swearing is a legitimate form of expression that all should employ when it can be effective, but evidently in Jon's workplace there's too much of it going on. Jon stepped into the audience to perform his final poem about Jesus and urged Susan Hwang to come on stage since she was next up. In what I thought was a lovely exchange, Susan began interpreting Jon's poem in a kind of pantomime. Then when it was her turn to play, Susan called Jon up to offer some of his dance moves as accompaniment to Susan's music. So it was sort of a mutual exchange of movement between Susan and Jon. 

Susan did two songs, including one of her zombie songs. I usually have to hear her things a few times until they sink in, but as I've said before I often am truly amazed by what she comes up with, both in terms of her melodies which are unusual and interesting, and her lyrics, some of which are mindblowing. Oh, the second song was one in which she said that Tom's sister had challenged her to write something positive. I think it was called "Be Yourself."

Waylon, played a catchy, rhythnic song that accelerated in tempo as he played it. 

Abba Confusion consisted of two English guys. I think these were the folks who said that they'd come to the U. S. with the intention of starting a band in two weeks. Evidently when they've announced this from the stage at various open mics, people have come up to sit in right then and there, but they seem less interested in that than in finding a group of people to form a real band with. The guy was kind of down on the whole idea of people sitting in, but folks did it anyway---including some guy who practically swiped a tambourine out of Brook Pridemore's hand, only to get on stage and prove himself the worst tambourine player ever to have hit the Sidewalk and possibly New York City and the world. Brian Speaker appropriately heckled him in multiple ways once the song ended.

Joanna Kelly played a song with Beau Johnson accompanying on electric. Brook took the tambourine this time and showed 'em how it's done. Joanna's song sounded kind of like an old countryish folk tune..."rock me momma like a wagon wheel, rock me momma any way you feel."

Faceometer consisted of one of the guys from Abba Confusion and he played a long song about the toilet where Thom Yorke evidently wrote Creep. The guy's song was kind of interesting, although maybe a bit too long, but even though he was English he sang it in this weird faux American accent. He even apologized for that at one point, but it was strange. I guess I wasn't really offended, but I think one could have been if one were the sensitive type.

Brief View of the Hudson did some nice gospel-y, southern-influenced stuff. I am more impressed by them the more I hear them. One of the songs they sang was "Stay Out of My Coal Mine."

Joff Wilson played with a friend who I think he introduced as Kenny K. Hurricane, on bass. Joff was wearing glasses and had more of a John Lennon, 1960s, hippy look about him than his usual 1970s Joey Ramone style. He sang a catchy song called "Color Me Rochester Grey," and then went back to "When the War is Over."

Jon Telethon was up (playing solo) with a relationship song....might have been a new one, since I don't remember hearing it before..."You been thinking lately that I'm losing my mind....I can't unhinge my love." He also sang his classic "Truck Drivin Man.

Debe sang "Normal." Gorgeous as usual. She also did "Pack Up Your Sorrows," one of her favorite covers, which I hadn't heard in a while. 

Jason Trachtenberg was back with "Everybody Loves the Clown." 

Although it was still early in the evening, I was offered a car ride home and decided to grab it, considering the rain and the cold. So, I'm sorry I wasn't able to catch more acts. It was a fun night up to the point that I left and I'm assuming that the spirit continued late into the night.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Open Mic, Monday, November 17, 2008

Brer Brian made a surprise return to the Open Mic on Monday. His days as a regular were before my time but I met him on a few occasions, including a journey with Jon Berger out to Bed-Stuy to the church where he plays in the band (see the Urban Folk article on the subject). With a tiny trumpet in hand and what is a new mountain man beard since the last time I saw him Brer sat in on quite a few folks' songs, including mine. Brer is a frequent provocateur over at the Olive Juice Music board but in person he couldn't be friendlier. Maybe he'll become a regular once again. 

Interestingly enough, Lach was there Monday, too, hanging around with Henry at the beginning of the evening. It was nice to see him too. Henry is quite cute and was taking tentative laps up and down the stairs while Lach sat schmoozing in the basement.

Ben K. kicked things off. I was a little fuzzy on the songs he did: one was from his Stingra opera, but the second was something that might have been new. It was an interesting song but I'm fuzzing out on the details. I remember liking it though.

Emily Moment was first up with two new songs, including one she played with Debe that had the line "he won't do anything he don't want to do, if he makes a move you can bet he wanted to to." The more I've been listening to Emily lately the more I've been noticing how nice a voice she has. She certainly was a key member of the Sidewalk Cafe Gospel Choir when we all sang "Tower Records is Gone" together.

Corby, sang a song called Warm Smile, played on piano. Brook Pridemore did a new song and kept saying that the bridge of it was terrible. I think he even dropped the lyrics (intentionally) when he got to that point. Brer played trumpet with him on a song.

Chris Brodeur/Touching You, provided what was probably the highlight in extremity last night. He called a volunteer up to the stage--Julie Hill I believe was the lucky participant--and serenaded her with the song that went something like "If your vagina was burning afire, I would still love you...." I really can't do justice to Chris's out there performance, but eventually Julie ran off stage after Touching You did a little too much touching. His second song was his classic Subjugate Your Tits. Chris came out into the audience for that one where he worked on building up a bit of hysteria. I noticed that Chris had the words Crush and Smash tatooed on his respective arms.

Mike Hatchet played two songs, including a bluesy number "Sunday in Savannah." Jen Abounader did the Calliope Waltz "nothing much to see, just me and my calliope." Holy Ghost Tent Revival was back with a song about a broken heart and one called "Love Emergency."

Isaac Gillespie played a couple songs, including one with Jordan Levinson and Alex P. A guy named Duck played at the piano. His first song was filled with sea metaphors "eyes like the sea," "I'm alone on a ship I don't own," "I'm here on the shore," and his second song was something like "Equanamous Fucks." Not sure if it was my hearing or the sound in the room or just the song, but I was losing the words on that one. It probably had something to do with the impossibly high falsetto in which he sang and then the key change that pushed him up into an even higher falsetto range.

Jordan did a new song with Isaac and Alex P, all about how she's going to become a rock star and change the world. 

I came back after a bit of schmoozing to catch Brer Brian sitting in with Joff Wilson, who said he decided he can play songs other than "When the War is Over," now that it seems as if we might be making some progress to bringing the troops home from Iraq. Hudson Kay, a gal from Tennessee played a song with some bluesy touches on piano. 

Dinosaur Feathers, a trio, performed Teenage Whore. Jon Telethon played I am Not the Expert, which, in a switch up, he did on piano rather than guitar.

Susan Hwang did another in what it seems will be a series of songs about Zombies. Eli did a clever song that was called something like "My bass player's a 17 year old prep school jerk."

I decided at the last minute to ask Brer Brian if he would sit in with me on "New York City Funk." Although he'd never heard the tune, I kind of vaguely went over it with him. This is the kind of spur of the moment performance I never would have considered doing a few years ago, but, thankfully I've gotten to the point where I can enjoy the spontaneity that can come from hanging out in the Sidewalk arena, and it was a lot of fun to do that song with Brer. I started off the set, though, with "Chopping Wood," which I also had fun playing.

I didn't hang out too much after playing my set, I'm sorry to say. I did catch Nick from Brief View of the Hudson, who said that Brian Speaker convinced him to write a positive song, and performed "It's a Brand New Day."


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Benefit for Threads that Teach, November 15, 2008

I think it's cool that Ben has decided to turn some Sidewalk nights into benefits for local organizations. It is very easy to be righteous about the importance of helping other people or creating change, but it is hard to actually do something about it. I was glad to have had the opportunity to help this group a little bit last night.

Emily Hope Price
I arrived at the end of Emily Hope Price's set. She uses one of those digital loop machines that let you record a little phrase of music and then instantly turn it into a loop. The loop becomes like an accompaniment to whatever you want to play on top of it. I've always been skeptical about the idea of using recorded music as a backing to live performance, but these machines do allow for some interesting possibilities, and it's a little different than using a straight backing track. I think, for example, it would be cool to build up layers and layers of percussion. So, getting back to Emily, she plays the cello and was able to loop a phrase that became like a bass line to her song. She also played a song on the accordion, which she said was the first time she'd played the accordion in a show. I'm sorry that I didn't get to hear more of Emily and that I was sort of settling in during what I did hear. She has a nice sound and has an interesting approach to the cello. More at a later time.

Jason Trachtenburg
Jason Trachtenburg came on stage with a scarf wrapped around his head, kind of like those bandages you see in old pictures after people left the dentist's office. Jason is very funny and usually spends a lot of time on stage setting up and joking around, which is really part of his act. Last night he said he was going to read some poems, which turned out to be a couple comedic bits, including one about trying to find his chapstick. The shows I've seen of Jason's lately have all featured this song "Everybody Loves the Clown." It's kind of a take off on "Make Them Laugh" from "Singing in the Rain." He'll usually perform it in English and then in some kind of awkwardly rendered translation in another language. After having heard this numerous times now I must say the whole thing is a bit surreal, which come to think of it, maybe is part of the point. Jason also played "All for the Sake of Art," and the ultra-catchy "I Don't Want to Tempt Time," plus a song he wrote with Julie LaMendola called "Giving Kisses." I like the idea of "giving kisses like it ain't nothing."

The Fools
I truly love The Fools, both as a group and as individuals. I must admit that when they first started hanging out at Sidewalk two or three years ago, my expectations of how they would sound, based on seeing them around, were totally off base. I think I expected some sort of raging punk act, but found instead a repertoire of delicate, beautiful, heartfelt songs. One of them, "Even Fools Know," which they played last night perfectly captures how I feel about many aspects of life today. There's a great line "you can't grow a tree by screaming at seeds." Their songs are short, but they say a lot. I also have always loved that they play a song in appreciation of mothers (and fathers too), another that they did last night. There is something very lovely about Jen's voice. It's a little husky and has a hint of a twang to it, but suits her songs just right. I think that Uchenna's bass lines mostly come from instinct and messing around, but whatever the case, what she's doing is very musical and melds really well with Jen's singing and playing. Last night The Fools tried a couple new songs, which they aborted mid-stream. I think the same thing happened when they launched into them the other night at the Open Mic. Looking forward to hearing those songs in their entirety soon. One of my earliest photo sessions was with The Fools, and I have always loved the pictures that came out of it. Plus we had a lot of fun that day. The one of them nested in the yin and yang pose is still a favorite of mine, but I also like the one of them with their dog. You can see them here: Foolish Photos.

The Venn Diagrams
I have enjoyed The Venn Diagrams on many levels when I've seen them previously. They perform a number of cover tunes, many of which are drawn from the musical theatre or related areas. The group usually comprises a duo, but last night it was just Jeffrey, who mostly accompanied himself on ukelele. Jeffrey is a very talented guy with a beautiful voice that can soar when he wants it to.  He played one of my favorite songs last night, "That Man That Got Away," a Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin song from the movie "A Star is Born." He also played some songs on piano, including one or two originals. A related story: when my twelve year old nephew visited me about a year ago, I took him straight to Sidewalk (literally it was our first stop from the airport). I'd been talking to him about the place a lot and he is into performing himself so wanted to see it. We came in during the middle of a Venn Diagrams set in which Jeffrey was wearing something like a man's shirt and tie, and a dress and women's high heels. My nephew took it very much in stride, I must say. Also playing that night was Dan Fishback among other acts. The next day, while touring around New York, we went to the Tenement Museum, and as we walked into the gift shop, the first person we saw was Jeffrey, who works there at the ticket counter. And (drum roll) that night we went to see Avenue Q and Dan Fishback was sitting two rows behind us with his parents.

Elastic No No Band
Next up last night Elastic No No Band, that is. I thought the set went pretty well. There was a lot of good energy and things held together decently. I thought my piano playing came together ok, even with Preston Spurlock's arm pit in my face for much of the show. One thing about Elastic No No that's been good for me is having the opportunity to learn how to be part of a rock band. I never was in bands when I was younger or had much instruction in this style of playing so I have to figure things out as I go. Part of it is just having the confidence to go for something without really knowing if it's "right" per se. We did a lot of the usual ENB tunes although Justin added a cover of Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy, which was a lot of fun to play. I have to give a lot of credit to our drummer Doug Johnson for helping to raise the energy. So far I don't think Justin has been reading these posts, but there's one thing I do have to discuss with him, which has to do with his song Manboobs. Somehow the guy has written like four or five verses on the subject. I do appreciate the depth of his interest in the topic, but that is just a little too much manboob for my taste. Justin I think it's time to cut one of those verses.

Holy Ghost Tent Revival
We were followed by The Holy Ghost Tent Revival, a group on tour from North Carolina. They featured a guitarist who played acoustic, a guy on banjo who seemed to take the lead on most of the vocals, a trombonist, a bass player and a drummer. There was a bit of a retro feel to their look and their music but not as much as you'd expect from their name. They played rock with a kind of frenetic energy that had people up and dancing at one point. But even with all the energy I had a bit of a hard time connecting to the heart of their songs (although that may take some further listening). The house at Sidewalk was pretty full last night and I get the sense that much of the audience was made up of their fans.

The Telethons
I am a big fan of  The Telethons. They have some superior songs, plus I am always impressed how well they work as a duo. Having played with John Telethon a bit I know that he has some of the most robust musical skills of anyone on the scene, and Mark is a solid and creative drummer. Of the songs they played last night, I really like "Chord Chord (or whatever that one is really called), "Never Satisfied," and the part of "I am not the Expert" where he's going over and over "it's getting to the point, where I can't tolerate myself." I'll have to write about The Telethons in a bit more depth some time, because I think there is a lot that's interesting about what they do, particularly their reflection (conscious or not) of a kind of nerd rock, punk, new wave thing. I must say that John knows how to build tension by letting his glasses slip perilously close to the end of his nose before pushing them back up. After several rounds of this last night he finally flung them off and they stayed on the stage where the next level of tension came from whether he would step on them or not (he eventually picked them up before any irreversible crunching occurred).

Jeffrey Lewis
It was nice to see Jeffrey Lewis as the "special guest" who closed last night's show. Jeff played some newer songs and also performed three of his large comic book movie things. He said that from the songs he'd planned on playing that people were going to think he was more depressed than he really was. One of them was about eating alone in a restaurant and another about what happens after you die. His comic movies were his biography of Barack Obama, a film noir detective movie, and a very interesting history of Korea. I was impressed with the detail in that last one, and I also learned a lot from it. It only goes up to 1949 although Jeff indicated he still wanted to develop it further. Of the handful of folks who started at Sidewalk and ultimately developed successful careers in music Jeff is the only one who still comes back to play and hang out regularly. I wasn't around during the heyday of Jeff's time at Sidewalk so I've been absorbing his stuff more recently, but it's easy to see how he's developed a following. I've also been enjoying the pieces on songwriting that he's been writing for the New York Times blog Measure for Measure.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thefts at Sidewalk

I wish I could remember at which show it was....but not too long ago at a night when everyone was dancing at Sidewalk and the room was filled with people I knew, I got careless and left my bag sitting unattended on a chair. I came back at some point and found it on the floor a few feet away, which I thought was weird, but picked it up and didn't think too much of it, until I was halfway to the subway and realized I didn't have my cell phone. 

The back room at Sidewalk is, unfortunately, a target for thieves. There was a recent thread over at the Olive Juice Board in which several folks mentioned they'd had items stolen, ranging from a wallet to a camera, to a guitar. When you think about it, considering the room is pretty open to anyone, yet folks leave their stuff all around, it's not that surprising that thefts take place there. Unless you come across someone going through your own bag, you really have know way of knowing if someone is handling their own stuff or someone elses.

It sucks that we have to be on guard in a place where we should be able to feel at home. It's a real pain, but I have been carrying my bag around with me everywhere, even when I go out front to hang out. I wish there was something that Sidewalk could do to make the place a little more secure, but definitely we in the community should make sure to let other folks know to be careful.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday Open Mic, November 10, 2008

Last night was the first time I stayed until the end of the Open Mic in a long time, and the first time since I started writing this blog. Lach and then Ben have always promised that those who make it to the end sit around and have tea and talk about what happened during the night (Lach used to say that the they would "dis" everyone who played while Ben has a more diplomatic way of putting it). However, for whatever reasons, the tea drinking sessions have never happened on the few nights that I've stuck it out. Debe Dalton now says that it's the sheer fact that I'm there that sabotages the whole thing. 

It was a full house last night. When I arrived, a little later than usual, the line was halfway out the door. However, it was maybe a less electrifying evening than some I've had at Sidewalk. Looking back there wasn't a new voice that really stood out.

Things kicked off with the Beards, an interesting mellow act with two guys who evidently share one guitar. Domino played a song called "Eating in the Rain," which has the classic line "probably he got wet-I know he did." I can't say enough how much I enjoy Domino's stuff. She's definitely different than the average Sidewalk performer, but it's amazing to witness a soul reveal itself through song. I did several long interviews with Domino for an article that was to run in Urban Folk before it folded and I owe it to her to get that written and published somewhere. It will happen.

Debbie Miller returned to Sidewalk after a long absence. She played a slow sad song--a nice gentle tune--and then a song at the piano...something about a "staring problem" which I thought was kind of interesting. I've missed seeing Debbie and it was nice to have her back.

A comic named Chris performed. Unfortunately I didn't get his last name, but he seems to have started getting to know folks on the scene from what I noticed later. He kind of went on a rampage about religion (particularly Mormonism), gay marriage, etc. There were parts of his act that were genuinely funny and had me laughing out loud. I mention this because it's rare at Sidewalk. Standup is hard as hell anyway and usually the comics at Sidewalk are just starting out and getting their stuff together. But this guy Chris has some potential. I one time tried a five-minute standup slot at a comedy open mic in Florida and it was an utter disaster. Not one laugh. I have a video of it which I have not been able to watch in the 20 years since.

Eli Maniscalco played Professor and Waldorf Salad (upon request). The Fools did the one that starts "you've gone...too far," and another that I think was called "Lost and Found." Alex P. played a slow country rock song as I remember it and a new song.

I'm looking back at the notes I took from last night and I'm realizing that it's really hard to document every act I saw because sometimes what I wrote down is rather cryptic. I'll still try to touch on as many acts as possible, but I guess this is just to say that detailed descriptions of any act will most likely only emerge after I've gotten to see them at least a few times. 

So, the next act was a group called Candy Apples, which featured (at least) a cello player, acoustic guitar, and snare drummer. Steve, the drummer, has his snare attached by a strap around his waist and plays standing up. In addition to playing his own stuff he's been accompanying numerous acts over the last few weeks.

Dave Deporis is a name I've heard a lot in connection to the Sidewalk scene, but I don't think I've ever heard him play or maybe just didn't know it, if I have. Anyway, he did some very impressive high-pitched crooning. Really nice vocal work. I look forward to hearing him again.

Mike Baglivi performed Mary Rose, a song which I am fairly sure is about his lovely mom, and he also played Life Within a Frame.

Jason Trachtenburg played All for the Sake of Art and his biggest charting single (as he explains it) Mountain Trip to Japan. I remember Mountain Trip from a performance by Jason at Joe's Pub sometime before I started coming to Sidewalk. I'd read about the Slideshow Players in various publications and decided to check them out at some sort of free gig at Joe's. Unfortunately Rachel was not playing that day (she was in Seattle "on business" Jason explained-she being about 9 years old at the time) but I really enjoyed seeing that song with the whole slide presentation. 

Toby Goodshank sang a song that mentioned explicit acts performed with Senators Obama and Biden. Kenny Cambre played. It was nice to see him back too at Sidewalk. Don Cameron performed Jaded Twilight. Susan Hwang did a song about zombies and explained that she's been doing a lot of research about them by watching a lot of zombie movies. She said that the song is based on the character Mr. Cooper from Night of the Living Dead. Susan is really a fabulous songwriter and her songs are always surprising and idiosynchratic. Some of her songs have moments that I find astounding, really, in how she expresses basic anxiety in a way that is very personal yet also universal.

Amos started off with a brief imitation of Brian Speaker (where was Brian last night?). Then he sang a song by Aaron Wilkinson. I didn't know Aaron but have come to learn he was an active member of the community who died in 2003. Aaron had a circle of close friends at Sidewalk who often remember and pay tribute to him. Amos played a song called Haystack. Amos is a fabulous singer...a great voice and a great interpreter, and he did a lovely rendition of the tune.

So, finally I was there to hear Monica from Norway again. It's very difficult to explain what this woman does. You almost can't even say that she's playing songs. It sort of seems as if she's making up her performance on the spot, but sort of not. She starts singing and the song goes in all these winding directions. She started singing about apples and polar bears again last night. She was chanting "apples and polar bears, polar bears and apples" and then asked "get it?" Which I thought was hilarious because no, I don't think anyone really got it. 

I missed the name of the guy from North Carolina who sang a blues tune called Mustang. He really looked like a blues dude though with a perfect blues hat. Josh Fox sang with his friend (Emily? Ellen?) They did some nice harmonizing. 

Ok, I did a bit of wandering and schmoozing. Made it back in to hear Seth from Dufus. He gave a powerful and skilled performance. I can't exactly tell you what the song was was filled with words and had some fast moving almost rap-like sections. But it was a standout nonetheless. The refrain of the song was something like "Can't stop the train from running." I've heard a lot about Dufus over the years and have heard some of their recordings, which I've really liked. Will have to check them out a bit more seriously.

Nathania (?) from Holland sang a couple songs, including one in Dutch about a princess. Sam Barron played "Forget about Me" and "Blind as a Bat." Rebecca from L. A. played The Daughter of Thebes (Thieves?). Jordan Levinson played with Isaac Gillespie and Steve the drum guy, and then did a solo tune about "the artist and the modern man."

Brook Pridemore played a tune at the piano...about a black spot on the pavement. Debe Dalton did "Wait and See," which was beautiful as usual....I was unfortunately interrupted by a mix-up in the Sidewalk Cafe billing department and couldn't really catch Debe's next song.

Emily Moment sang a song about her feelings about what she wants from the guy she's singing to in the song....I'm not really doing it justice here but it was a lovely song about a relationship. 

Well, unfortunately I don't have much detail on performances that came next by Isaac G., and Mikhail. Waylon Daniel played a rousing number that had a line about being "kicked in the head by the lord." Will sang something about the devil fucking the giraffe...I know that's way off, but there was something about a giraffe for sure. I hadn't seen Joff Wilson play in a while but he was back and did his big hit "When the War is Over." It really is a very catchy and rousing tune 

I must admit that by 2 a.m. I was less focused on my reporting than I wish. Liv Carrow, Steven Stivola, Bad Town Redemption (?) and Constantine all played, as did Gene, who was cheered on by his son, and played an instrumental tune on acoustic guitar. Joe Crow Ryan sang (I think) Autumn Leaves--played on a banjo that he said was tuned like a ukelele and Scott closed things down with a tune played on a banjo, which he said that he made. Scott remarked about how he'd thought that he would be so unique by playing banjo and then both time he's played at Sidewalk he followed someone else who also was playing the same instrument.

Ben Krieger did a set to finish the night off. He explained that after writing for 10 years he finally created his opera about a jellyfish, a work that he felt was the first that reflected his true self. But he had all these other songs he'd written previously that his family liked even though he didn't identify with them so much. So Ben dug into some of that early repertoire. Although he kind of downplayed these early songs, I thought some of them were really nice....particularly the first one he played, the name of which I can't remember. He also did a tune at the piano, "Little Moon Bug," I think, and then delved into some of his "Stingra" material before winding up with what he said was the first song he ever wrote, one about an old girlfriend.

It was close to 4 by the time things ended, and as I said before, yet again I was cheated out of tea and the associated talking down of the night. Oh well, there's always next Veteran's Day.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008, Sidewalk Cafe

Last night's bill was organized by Sean Maguire, who was celebrating his birthday. Sean is the brother of Thomas Patrick Maguire, who has been an active member of the Sidewalk world for quite a while.

When I arrived a little after 8, Paul Alexander was playing, backed up by an electric bass player, and a pianist who also played sax on several songs. Paul's sound ranged from a kind of California rock feel into some jazz territory and a funky jam band style. On some of the rock tunes I thought it would have been great for the group to have a drummer and in my head I kept filling in a snare hit on 2 and 4. There was some nice musicianship displayed. The bass player took an interesting long solo on one of the tunes where he kept a droning bass part going while also playing some higher guitar-like chords at the same time.

Justin did a solo Elastic No-No show. It was interesting for me to hear the tunes from the audience, since I'm often playing with him on piano. A lot of Justin's songs are influenced by country, rock-a-billy, early rock and roll, and the type of later rock, by artists like Elvis Costello, that is also heavily shaped by the same influences. He played his song "Exception to the Rule" which he introduced as a country waltz, which indeed it is (And by the way, at least three of last night's performers did country or country-inspired tunes). He also did an a cappella version of an Elvis Costello song "Battered Old Bird." Justin is a prolific writer and there were a few songs I'd never heard before, plus many of the ENB standards.

It's interesting to me to see that many of the performers who originally launched the Antifolk scene are still writing and playing. At the Antifolk First Class show that I wrote about previously, one noticeable absence was Kirk Kelly, who was part of the group who with Lach and Cindy Lee Berryhill first got the whole Antifolk thing going. It was a bit of a surprise to me that Kirk was on the bill last night, but nice to hear him nonetheless. Even though Antifolk developed in counter-opposition to the mainstream folk thread of the mid-1980s, people like Kirk, Brenda Kahn, and even, occasionally, Lach, to me sound much in the same vein as performers like Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and others who were classified as "folk" in an earlier era. A good number of Kirk's songs were political/cause-related songs like one about a picket line that asked "which side are you on" or another he sang about Eugene Debs, Phil Ochs, and Joe Hill, asking "who will be the heroes of today." He also did what he called an Antifolk version of "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night."

I have a feeling that although looking at it now these performers remind me of folksingers from an earlier time, in the context of the 1980s their more raucous rock-influenced style must have seemed harsh against what people were then calling "folk." If people were comparing Kirk, Lach and friends to the James Taylor, Carly Simon, Nicolette Larson, Linda Ronstadt, style of stuff, than yes, they would have stood out against that. At some point I hope to have a chance to have a conversation with Kirk, Lach, Roger Manning and others to ask them more specifically about what was going on at that time and how things developed. One interesting point is that they all identify with the "Antifolk" label. Although I can see how a group of like-minded people might come together to create a mutual support system for writing and performing, I wonder how they all agreed to classify themselves under this new heading. 

Joe Crow Ryan started off with One Note Samba, then did I'll Go to Kentucky (his country tune of the night), something called Pink Poison, and his guttural version of Tomorrow. He also did one of his pieces where he sits at the piano playing avant-gardish chords and runs and talking or relating some sort of story. Last night he spoke about an angry guy who confronted him while busking in the subway station. Then Joe called up JJ Hayes and the two of them engaged in a wacked out dialogue of sorts while Joe continued playing the piano. Joe is one of the Sidewalk performers who, digs into an earlier era of songwriting, often covering tunes by Kurt Weill, and the early Broadway greats (he said he'd be doing Cole Porter's "Night and Day" the other night, but I don't believe he got to it). Joe was wearing a shirt and tie and a Pashmina shawl with shorts (and brown socks).

I haven't seen much of Thomas Patrick Maguire at Sidewalk lately, although he was one of the folks I got to know in my earliest days there. Many of his songs are based on riffs or cycles of chords, including the one he started off with, Corporation Town. He also played Female Kamikaze Red Zone, "Christian Love," and "Cannot Escape." He plays in a low-key, almost melancholy style. I'll have to admit that by this point (after midnight) I was fading into tiredness. I will have to check out Thomas's MySpace page and refamiliarize myself with his work, something I think I'll do right now.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cool Link

Jon Berger mentioned this link to performances from the Open Stage at the Raven, which was run by Joie DBG. Check it out. There are tons of mp3s from folks who have been and many who still are active in our scene.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night, Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I was really glad to spend election night at Sidewalk Cafe. Much of the night's schedule of performances was organized in conjunction with Boog City and the evening featured a poetry reading component as well as a set from Phoebe Kreutz, a performance of the songs from R.E.M's album Green, and a performance by Peter Dizozza. 

More about that in a minute, but first, the election. Sidewalk was projecting CNN's election coverage on a screen in the back room, so most of the audience was following the results, while the performers played. Some of the performers were interested in the results too and asked for updates as they appeared. The screen was hung in the back of the room above the rail of the stairs that lead down to the basement.

By the time the election was called for Obama, most everyone had gathered out by the bar, watching at the TV over the front glass window. As soon as the polls closed on the west coast, CNN announced that Obama had won, and there was lots of yelling, hugging and jumping around in exultation. Some of the folks I remember who were there were: Andrew Hoepfner, Casey Holford, Neil Kelly, Phoebe, Daoud, Liv Carrow, Jon Berger, Pablo Das, Deenah, Angela, Dan Fishback, Peter Dizozza, Ben Krieger. We moved back and forth from  watching the news reports to the street where the joyful whooping and yelling continued and strangers were exchanging high fives. We all went inside to hear John McCain's concession speech, and, of course Obama's victory speech. 

Someone there said something to me like "this is as good as it's going to get for a long time." And that's absolutely right. While Obama imight be more conservative on issues here and there than some of us would like, it's hard to imagine getting a better, more talented, more committed, more sympathetic Democrat anytime soon.

Anyway, I was very inspired by Obama's speech and feel he has the potential to be a great President. I will probably write a bit more about this when I have some more time, but wanted to get some initial thoughts up.

From Sidewalk I walked over to Union Square where thousands of people were out to cheer, bang pots, climb on lamp poles, and commune with one another. I saw the comedian Fred Armisen there, which was cool, but mostly I was enjoying the hordes of others who all came together in a happy moment to celebrate our new President. It was a good feeling.

The Show at Sidewalk on Tuesday
The show was kind of an unusual mix. As I mentioned, much of it was coordinated by Boog City, and the evening started off with readings of poetry. Elliot Katz and Nathaniel Siegal kicked things off by each reading political material that reminded me very much of angry protests I was involved with myself during the 1980s and early 1990s. Nathaniel Siegal in particular went back in time, talking about how Ronald Reagan avoided any mention of AIDS for 7 years after the disease was identified. Reagan's behavior was indeed outrageous. There was so much blatant prejudice in that time against a group that was deeply suffering, and Reagan's inaction very well may have cost lives. I understand the anger over what happened back then, but the flashback to that period, although interesting was a bit out of left field, especially considering how much of the behavior of our current leaders should provoke an equal amount of outrage. 

Phoebe Kreutz was the first musical act of the evening. I've really gotten to like Phoebe's song about the Carnival Man. It's not funny like most of her other material, but it has very strong imagery and is still catchy musically. I also like the sweet-hearted song I've heard her play a couple of times recently about her walk home with a guy she likes. Throughout her set Phoebe kept asking for the election results, and at one point turned her song "All Summer Long" into an Obama tribute by asking the audience to insert Obama's name in the song and sing along. Phoebe also played with a friend of hers from the BMI Musical Theatre program who accompanied for a couple songs on violin. I'm intrigued to know Phoebe's part of that BMI program as it's something that I've always wanted to find out more about.

After a couple more poets, the evening turned to R. E. M's album Green. This part of the night was organized by Casey Holford. I can't say that I am greatly familiar with that record, but , the run down (I'm pretty sure) was as follows. 

Pop Song 89, Dan Fishback
Get Up, Ben Krieger
You Are the Everything, Ben Krieger
Stand, Peter Dizozza
World Leader Pretend, Phoebe
The Wrong Child, Phoebe
Orange Crush, Liv Carrow
Turn You Inside Out, Liv
Hairshirt, Casey
I Remember California, Casey
Untitled, Casey

Peter Dizozza's set coincided with the announcement of Obama's win, so I'm sorry to say that I was involved watching the returns while he was playing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

This coming Monday, November 3

I will not be able to attend the Open Mic. If any correspondents wish to contribute, please let me know.

I ♥ Boo, Friday, October 31, 2008

Lots of folks were excited about the I ♥ Boo show (although every time I said "I ♥ Boo"  it made me think of kindergarten for some reason). I was very much looking forward to singing the song by Ching Chong Song that I chose. Lots of people seemed a little nervous too, about getting the songs right, whether or not to use lyric sheets, etc.  Not sure if I know the actual names of all the songs, but here's a rundown of the show:

Ben Krieger, The Bird, by Brian Speaker, dressed in a big black afro with a  gold medallion

Elisa Flynn, In the Graveyard, by Nina Nastasha (?), dressed in cat ears

Elastic No-No Band, a medley of several songs, including New York City Girls, Lesbian Prom Night, I've Been Listening to Some Bad Bad Music, Podcorn, and I Want to Live in the Hills, dressed as a green alien

Liv Carrow, a song by Barry Bliss, dressed as a bee

Ariel Bitran, Egg by Lach, dressed as three eras of Lach

Peter Dizozza, You're the One Who's Made for Me and I was Made for You, by the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, dressed as Don Quixote (?)

Eli Manescalco, Heath Ledger Found Dead in Brooklyn by Dan Costello, dressed as Eli Manescalco

Herb Scher, Old Man by Ching Chong Song, dressed as Brian Speaker

Brian Speaker, I'll be Here All Night, by Brook Pridemore, dressed as Herb Scher

Domino, Come and Let Your Feelings Show, by Somer, dressed in a Halloween get-up with a pointy Halloween hat

Amos, You're a Legend in Your Own Mind by Ish Marquez, dressed as ??

Debe Dalton, Teenage Alcoholic by Lach, dressed as Debe Dalton

Vin, a musicalized poem by Bernard King, dressed as Vin

Eric Wolfson, a song by Elizabeth Devlin, dressed as Eric Wolfson

Torn Curtain, Cemetery Song by David Greenberg, dressed as Adam Green (?)

Becca Hasselbrook, Try Try Try Anyway by Andrew Duncan, Dressed as (can't remember-I think as herself)

Nick, Your Sweet Love is Gonna be the Best of Me (who was this by?), dressed as Nick

Stacy Rock, Death is the Charm of Your Love (?) by Dan Penta

Mike Baglivi, Bob Dylan's an Asshole, by Crabs on Banjo, dressed as Ben Krieger (Brian Speaker jumped on stage in impromptu fashion to contribute some of his original part to Mike's rendition).

Elizabeth Devlin

Isaac Gillespie, Bootsy Billade, by Ben Shepherd, dressed as Justin Timberwolf

Crabs on Banjo, You Look Good to Me by Frank Hoier

The night also included difficult horror-related trivia questions posed by Ben Krieger.

The I Boo show was followed by sets from The Everybody Knows (Dan Penta, Erin Regan, Vin Cacchione, et al), Jason Trachtenburg, and Stacy Rock.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Open Mic, Monday, October 27, 2008

There were a couple of things that stood out about last night's Open Mic. First, there were two songs about werewolves. One was a werewolf rap tune by Aaron Jones (with a jazzy interlude on a flute-like thing) and the other was by Isto and featured a good deal of real foaming at the mouth.

The other thing I noticed is that the night was filled with all kinds of spur-of-the-moment groups and configurations. It seemed as if just about every other performance featured a band of recently-recruited members who emerged from the basement with guitars, maracas, tambourines and whatever in hand.

Also, it was good to see a solid core of the Brooklyn Tea Party folks in tow. Dan C., Brook, and Michael David Campbell were there, plus Elizabeth Devlin, and Annie Crane and Eric Wolfson. It was also nice to see Emily Moment, who hadn't been around in a while, and Somer, and Frank Hoier.

Ben K. kicked things off with a song about sleeping caterpillars and monkeys (and babies). Aaron Jones has blonde dreadlocks and often plays with bells around his ankle. He sang a song that went "I was made to love you with my hand, you were made to love me with your hands," and then he did the werewolf rap tune, using a beat box that had all the music programmed in. Josh Fox did a couple cool tunes, including one called Stone Cold, that had a nice riff to it.

Stacy Rock played one of the only songs I've ever heard at Sidewalk based on a Eugene O'Neill play (Long Day's Journey Into Night) and Caspar Kay from Denmark played a kind of low key song called...I think..."Take a Step." Liv Carrow did one about red lentils and another that I'm pretty sure was about road kill.

Dibs. Dibs is a really cool songwriter and his songs grow on you the more you listen. They're kind of off-kilter, a little herky-jerky, but inevitably perceptive. He did one last night that I've always liked about money. It has a line in it to the effect of "it's what I use to buy my [something, something,] and toys, and it's causing me more stresses than it is joys." Sorry for the inaccurate transcription but it's a good point. He also did this song "I'm Getting So Old." Everyone thinks that they are, don't they, even when you're in your twenties?

Calli (Kali?) Did a long poem. Melissa Lusk sang a song I've heard her do before called Mack Truck. It has a nice rhythm and melody and is very catchy. She also got me and just about every other guy in the place all hot and bothered with her song "The Gift." Ask someone who was there. I've checked out some of Melissa's stuff on Myspace. There's some really good piano playing there. She definitely reflects a real jazz influence, which is pretty rare at Sidewalk (a bit surprisingly so to me).

I no longer can keep track of Dan Costello's beard status. I could have sworn that he was clean shaven about a week ago, but he appeared last night in full beard, with hat, and Richard Manuel shirt and played Tape Recorder. He started off by himself but then Brook Pridemore ambled up on stage to play along on the piano and Mike Baglivi got up and sat on a stool and displayed his own tape recorder, providing a visual illustration to the performance.

Chris and Isaac Gillespie did, "Love and War" and "Virginia" with Alex P and with Jordan Levinson. Jason Trachtenburg played...hmmm.. I think a song about how every day is somebody's birthday and then sang what he says is going to be his big hit, "I Don't Want to Tempt Time." Jason explained that since it's going to be a hit "I want to get used to playing it every night of the week for the rest of my life." I'll say one thing, it IS a damn catchy number.

Elizabeth Devlin's music seems as if it come from another era. I don't know why I say this, but it has a kind of renaissance era feel to it. One of her songs had the line "not knowing what you will do, I offer up my breast to you."

A. Fermata sang two songs on piano. Very talented dude that A. One of them was "He Takes it Out on Me."

I can't honestly say I remember too much about Stone White (my apologies Stone--too many groups and too much beer) but he played a song called "Hit the Fan."

Isaac Gillespie talked about how he came across a big black SUV and finally figured out that the celebrity it contained was ARETHA (somehow it seems appropriate to capitalize her name). In honor of her he sang 'Chain of Fools," accompanied by Alex P on guitar, Arial on banjo, Jordan Levinson, and, if I remember correctly , Isaac's brother Chris, and someone I didn't know on piano (Mike Hatchet maybe?).

Somer rocked it out. Sounded great. "Hey kid go, you're filling up the hole, all the little children love rock and roll."

Julie Hill played a sky blue ukelele..."Black and white cookie crumbling down my throat."

Maya--a first timer, played a big, shiny red electric...kind of reminded me of the guitar version of a '57 Chevy.

Isto is one of the more interesting guitar players on the scene. He played a long guitar intro to his werewolf song.

Waylon D played "I'm not gonna sleep anymore."

Speaking of not sleeping, I missed Eric Wolfson's performance, and possibly some others when I stepped out of the room for a bit.

Came back in to find Domino covering "Dock of the Bay." It was a very Dominoesque version. She also did one of her own tunes.

Joe Crow did an amazing rendition of "Tomorrow" from Annie. I am not probably alone among the Sidewalk folks in my underappreciation of that song, but Joe did an interpretation for the ages. Rather than perform the original lyrics he performed it with a sort of guttural scat singing. By the end everyone in the audience was gutturally singing along. He did sing some of the lyrics at the end, which was a nice way to wrap up his version. Speaking of covers, Joe then did an Elastic No No tune. He did an amazing job with Klaus Kinski, which is one of Justin's songs that seems to have captured people's interest.

Brook Pridemore played with Dan C and Michael David Campbell...a song about a "blue collar Indiana town"...I recall it stemmed from Brook's extended travels. Then he did King Kong (?) which got the house on its feet. Justin did Emotional Tourism and Nobody's Wife (as a duet with himself).

Going along with the theme of pulling together spur of the moment groups, I decided to do "Tower Records is Gone" with several members of the Sidewalk Cafe Gospel Choir who were in the house. Debe, Emily, Mike Baglivi, Isaac Gillespie, Joe Crow, and maybe one or two others came on stage and did an amazing job harmonizing. I must say that for a moment there the group kind of took the song in its own direction and it went a bit off the rails....all of a sudden I hear this thundering drum playing along and turned around to see Ben Krieger wacking the tom-tom. Then Mike Baglivi chimed in with a gospel chant of his own devising that he'd wanted to do the last time we did the song together. It was all in good fun, but I had to reel the song in a little bit. Anyway, it sounded great with the choir and people in the audience really seemed to like the song. I followed it up with "Do the Berger" and again, things got a bit crazy. Ben K, Joe Crow, and Isaac all helped out by coming on stage to "Do the Berger" and ended up in various stages of shirtlessness. It's frustrating in situations like this that as a piano player at Sidewalk you can't see what's happening on stage behind you while you're playing. You can only steal a quick glance or rely on what you hear happening. Even though things were on the edge of going out of control, I had a great time performing last night.

Debe sang "Dry" which she said she renamed to herself "Dry in D Minor" to help her remember how to play it. She also did one of her more beautiful songs, "Close the Door."

Back to the groups, Torn Curtain played with Arial, Jordan, Alex, Ben K on tom tom, another drummer I didn't know who had a snare, another guy, and Isaac.

Emily Moment sang a lovely song about hanging out on her neighbor's balcony. Nice to have Emily back on stage at Sidewalk.

Mike Baglivi did Debe Dalton's song Normal with backing vocals from Ariel East. Mike does a great job with this song. It's kind of amazing how he can take a Debe Dalton song and make it sound exactly like a Mike Baglivi song. Anyway, it works, and it sounded really nice with the arrangement that Mike and Ariel came up with. Ariel kind of stationed herself behind Mike and to the left (from the audience view) and it worked visually too, to have her as a background singer. On the other side of the stage Mike was able to do some of his Bagliviesque leg kicks.

Then Ariel, in her own slot, sang an a cappella song about Abilene, Texas.

Sometime around that point I headed home. It was a late one for me, so I grabbed a cab rather than do my usual bus to the train thing.

Very much a fun night. It was a bit wacky with all these groups assembling and rearranging themselves throughout the night, but that's part of the joy of Sidewalk, the chance to make music with friends. On nights like these it is the warmest and loveliest of places.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Antifolk First Class, October 23, 2008

I was intrigued when I learned about the "Antifolk First Class" show, which featured Brenda Kahn, Billy Nova, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Lach, and Zane Campbell (plus some interludes by folks from the current scene). I'd read or heard about each of these folks as among the group that joined together to create the whole Antifolk thing or were some of its earliest participants in the mid 80s, but I never thought I'd get a chance to hear them play. I also hoped that there would be a chance to fill in some of the history of the scene. I did learn more about how things developed...for example, I never knew that Sophie's bar, the site of an earlier Antifolk open mic, was located in the same spot as Sidewalk's bar (at some point the scene moved to another Sophie's located elsewhere nearby).There was also a description of Lach's setup at the first "Fort" in a storefront on Rivington where Lach lived and where he took his mattress off the bed in order to form a platform for the performers. Yet, the show stretched out quite late, and I was unable to stick around to the end when there might have been a chance to talk to some of these folks. 

I'm a little bit of an anamoly in that I came to the Sidewalk scene at a later age than many folks do. In looking back at the history of things I've often wondered what became of the folks from the earlier versions of the scene who started at this in their twenties. If back then was anything like now, there must have been plenty of folks who poured themselves into music but eventually went on to other things.

Well, the other night gave the answer to that to some extent. Brenda Kahn has obviously taken up some of her time raising kids. Her two young boys were in evidence at the show, climbing all over the stage, sitting at the drum set and talking into the mic, during set up and even during her show. Some people were annoyed, but I was more amused, since that's exactly the type of thing I did as a kid. I was always transfixed by microphones in particular and never passed up a chance to talk into one. See where it led me. Brenda's songs were pretty folky, I thought, rather than Antifolky. She had a song about her husband, a cute one for her kids about a rocket to the moon, and 0ne that said "if we put our hearts and minds together, we can change the weather."

I have to admit I had a hard time getting a fix on Billy Nova, even though there was something intriguing about his songs and he had a sweet voice.  He had one song about Wyoming and a pretty one called, I think, Delivery. He spent some time calling out the names of people from the old Antifolk scene and others in the audience started yelling out the names of people they remembered. Billy says he's now an organic farmer in suburban California. As I understand it, it was Billy who organized this reunion night. Thanks Billy for pulling it together. Some of the folks travelled quite far to be there, including Cindy Lee Berryhill, who flew in from California. Billy says there will be more such Antifolk First Class nights, which is good to hear.

Cindy Lee Berryhill came on stage in a cowboy hat and had a drummer with her and also the guitarist Lenny Kaye. I saw Lenny play with Patti Smith once at Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center, and I remember it as one of the better concerts I've attended. He is a terrific, soulful guitarist and I was looking forward to hearing him play with Cindy. However, for the first three or so songs he just sat on stage with them by the piano, not playing, which was kind of funny in a way but also frustrating. Cindy made a crack about how they invited a rock god to just sit on stage.

Her songs are very strong musically. They definitely have a feel of country music to them, so the cowboy hat wasn't really out of line. I don't know all that many country acts, but she reminded me some of Iris Dement, a singer who I really do like. She and Lenny had some very lovely moments together, once he did start playing. One of these exchanges was on "When Did Jesus Become a Republican," a song that is a bit too topical for my taste but where Cindy and Lenny shined together. 

At one point Cindy asked if anyone had any questions about the old Antifolk scene and someone asked who coined the name "Antifolk." Evidently there is some disagreement between Lach and Cindy over this, although Cindy explained that she came up with the name. Evidently Cindy, Lach, and Kirk Kelly met outside Folk City in the 80s (which evidently was not the original 1960s version of Folk City) and at some point had a meeting where they forged this new thing whatever it was...and Cindy says she suggested they call it Antifolk. I read Lach's version of the story in some interview somewhere where he says he came up with the name, so who knows? It's not really that important anyway. I'm more intrigued by the details of how these folks bonded and came up with their own little roving music scene and who was involved.

Lach played after Cindy and he stuck pretty much to the music (rather than a lot of stage talk). It was a tight Lach set. I liked this song of his, Parade, that I wasn't too familiar with. Over the years I've gotten to know Lach's material well and he played a lot of the favorites: "This Ain't a Song" "Egg," "Antenna," etc. He also did the Spiderman theme and a quick wacky version of "Why Don't We Do It in the Road." He called Amos on stage to sing "Ain't it the Most."

Between each of the Antifolk First Class acts Ben K programmed folks from the current scene including Ben himself, Lisa Liza, David Greenberg and Emily Hope Price.

As I said earlier, I had to leave before Zane Campbell played, which was too bad for me.

Overall a nice night. I know that it had a lot of personal resonance for the different performers. 

Urban Barnyard, 10-21-2008

As far as I'm concerned Urban Barnyard is pure rock goodness. They are one of the few groups on the scene that seems to be a true collaboration among all the members, rather than musicians supporting the songs of one artist. I've enjoyed the work of all the Urban Barnyard members individually, but the way they fit together as a group brings out a sound that to me seems more than the sum of its parts. I had a great time at their show Tuesday. It was what I would call a classic Urban Barnyard set, with most of the songs I really love, including Gay Penguins, Virile Cricket's a Sex Machine, About Wolves, etc. There's so much going on in their songs that it's a bit hard to break it down without seeming overly analytical. First off, they just play great rock and roll. A lot of the songs are based in specific early rock styles, but it's fun to see them twist those sounds around the concept of the group and their own songwriting ideas. In particular Virile Cricket is a great spin-off from James Brown's style (Phoebe does an inspired job with the vocals on that song.) Each of the members, though, is great at what they do...Dibs played a couple of really interesting, unusual guitar solos the other night and provides solid guitar work on all their songs, Casey's bass playing is perfect...he knows exactly when to be melodic or just rhythmic and he captures the style of rock playing that is perfect for each song. Daoud is a really good drummer and is an amazing singer, and of course Phoebe has this powerful rock and roll voice (which is suprisingly different from how she performs her own material). But the best of what they do seems to come out from the interacting and overlapping among the members. They have a great sense of vocal arranging and I love how they sometimes trade off lead vocals in the middle of a song and also how sometimes what you might consider the background vocals come forward and become the predominant part of the song. They did some nice harmonies the other night on Hot Dog, and there's this dramatic part in Seeing Eye Dog with a kind of this beautiful wailing going on that I seem to remember is mainly led by Daoud. Plus, the way they trade off instruments all the time confuses the normal idea of who holds what role in the band, making it more of a collective. And they're still rough around the edges enough that they don't seem overly slick. Ok, so I guess you get the point that I really like Urban Barnyard.