Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Open Mic, September 22, 2008

Lach said in a New York Times interview once that certain themes and styles can take over at Sidewalk at any one time depending on what's in the air at the moment. I guess after the Moldy Peaches became popular, for example, a lot of performers were writing and playing the kind of child-like sing-songy stuff that might seem to characterize the Peaches. For the first time tonight I noticed that a full-out roots revival seems to have taken hold at the Open Mic. There were heavy duty blues jams, some funky rock, real folk (as opposed to anti) and lots of other stuff that in this context seemed to tie into the sphere of American music traditions.

Ben Krieger kicked things off by explaining that he thought he'd be on hiatus this week, but he and his wife are still waiting for their baby to come and are getting eager for things to happen already in that department. After Ben played a couple tunes, Peter Dizozza started off the regular list. Peter mentioned "Paradise Found" which I gather from the flyer he passed out later is a theatrical staging he's involved in of works based on Paradise Lost. However with that introduction he led into a song that he then said was by Yeats. It was lovely, actually, but I couldn't quite follow if there was supposed to be a connection between Yeats and Milton. Peter is performing a "Vs." show against Preston Spurlock, this coming Sunday.

Isaac Gillespie was one of the early performers to play--and is one of the guys I notice who is really tied into that whole roots thing I mentioned. I know that he's really into the Dead and The Band among others and it shows in his songs. Another early performer was Jonathan Roberts, a first-timer who showed some strong piano skills. A fellow named Benito performed and displayed his powerful, booming voice, and it was Sam Barron who played the funky rock stuff.

Debe Dalton performed her Big Bad Wolf song and the tune that has the line"The Struggle to Be a Better Human Being." These songs are so achingly beautiful it's almost hard to believe. I'm so glad that after a long while I've gotten to know Debe somewhat, but I'm still amazed when I hear her perform. She is unique.

Jon Berger did some poems sitting in a chair, which was unusual for him. He was followed by Maggie, who told the story of the elephant that was kept in the country's "worst zoo" in her home town of Scranton. Brian Speaker is on a quest to write a song every day for 365 days, and he played numbers 14 and 16 tonight. Both of the songs were nicely done, especially considering that he wrote them as a sort of an exercise. One was called, I think, "Hope," and the other was titled "Generic." Brian asked us all to make insect noises (lots of buzzing etc.) at certain points of the second song.

Alex P. sang Drown in My Own Tears with Julie Hill and then moved into a straight ahead blues tune with Ariel Bitran. He and Ariel each played really strong electric guitar solos. They were a little bit testosterone infused, but I think that's ok with this type of thing. It was actually nice to see some solid guitar flair demonstrated. Mike Baglivi came on next and Ariel, who plays in Mike's band The Open End, stayed on stage and played two songs with Mike. It was a nice combination and Ariel helps emphasize the rock and roll dimension to Mike's songs. It was Andrew Duncan who sang "Been Down So Long Looks Like Up to Me," which was in the vein of traditional tunes he frequently chooses. Brief View of the Hudson was also on hand and played, although I must admit I stepped out of the room for a few moments there and didn't catch their whole set.

I came back in as a guy calling himself Tony Wiseguy (?) was singing a comic send-up of a classsic rock tune (the name of which is escaping me now) but his rendition seemed to revolve around corny lesbian jokes. I think it was supposed to be intentionally over the top but.... Chewing Gum spoke and sang almost entirely in Italian (that was Italian right?) although I had the sneaking suspicion that rather than visitors from abroad they were really NYU undergraduates from Scarsdale acting up (not really, I think they actually were from Italy). In any event they were funny and entertaining, even with the difference in language.

Around this time I noticed a little clump of folks in the back half of the room who were chattering away. It took a few rounds of chiding over the PA from Ben and Brian to finally get them to quiet down. One of the things I've always loved about Sidewalk is that people actually listen to the artists on stage. There is a relatively low amount of chatting that goes on and whenever people do talk they usually manage to do it in an under-the-breath manner that isn't too disturbing to the performers or audience. I hope tonight's crowd wasn't an indication of where things are going in that respect. 

I did a little bit of schmoozing out in the bar area, so I guess I missed some acts and then I had to leave by about 11:30 anyway. I realized that many of these write-ups are going to be circumscribed, since I almost always have to leave by a somewhat reasonable hour in order to function decently at work the next day. I do wish I could stay later as that's often when amazing things happen at Sidewalk. Of course, anyone who wants to fill in more details is welcome to help by sending something that continues from where I left off or overlaps or whatever. Also, knowing me I'll probably be waging an internal debate whether it even makes sense to do this. Maybe it's better to just let these nights happen and live on in memory rather than freeze them in writing. Well, I'll carry on for now and see what happens.



  1. keep on posting. I just found your blog, but I'll keep reading. Thanks for the shoutout. I found it the same way you found yourself in my writing. by googling myself. oh man. I need to find something less self-centered to do with my time.

  2. Hey Ariel,

    I think Googling yourself is considered legal in 50 states now. Glad you found the blog. Herb