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!