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. 


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  2. I'm excited about the current tendency toward more roots and folk based music - Andrew Duncan, Jordan Levinson, John Houx and a lot of others come to mind. Although my music is definitely a mix of styles, I do consider myself part of the folk tradition.

    When I first came to Sidewalk three years ago, true folk music was almost taboo (or maybe I didn't know who to look for). I'm glad to see it change. Could this be the end of "Antifolk" as we know it? Or maybe we're just seeing a new high point in an ever-changing scene.