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 about...it 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.



  1. Brian was passed out having just returned from his trip to Egypt. He's back now!

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