Thursday, December 24, 2009

Kirk Kelly, Go Man Go Antifest, December 19, The Studio at Webster Hall


I suppose I was seeking the holy grail of Antifolk the other night at Kirk Kelly's show recognizing the 20th anniversary of his record Go Man Go. The show on December 19 at Webster Hall's studio space, featured short sets from an extensive assortment of songwriters, including Kirk, Roger Manning, and Lach, who were among the crew of rejects from Folk City who in the mid 1980s came together around what they dubbed Antifolk.

However, it seems you can't go back in time. When I started coming around in 2004 and first became aware of the term Antifolk, to me it was connected to artists like The Moldy Peaches, Jeffrey Lewis, Major Matt, Nellie McKay, and Regina Spektor, where the seriousness of their songwriting was often balanced by a screwy, sideways perspective.

I always thought there was a straight line from those artists back to the early days of Lach, Kirk, Roger et al, but maybe that path wasn't as direct as I imagined. Much of what I heard the other night -- particularly from Kirk in the various configurations in which he played -- seemed tied more to traditional folk than to what I had associated with "Antifolk." Kirk's songs range over a variety of styles but two areas around which they tend to focus are labor and traditional Irish music. He expresses his political views fairly directly and I see connections to Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and others who were at the root of the "folk" genre. In fact Kirk covered a tune by another beloved "folk" stalwart, Phil Ochs.

One of the problems is that from the vantage point of today some of the distinctions in styles that were evident in the 1980s have blurred. Whatever was considered "folk" then very well must have clashed with the more strident, rebellious style of Kirk, Lach et al. But what happened after these antifolkers came together? Things centered around Lach's loft, then a variety of outposts such as Sophie's and the Chameleon. Then Lach went away for a year or something.

I have no way of really validating this but it is my sense that it was when he came back and established things at Sidewalk that a newer wave of songwriters associated with the later "Antifolkers" started forming. Now's the moment for that nagging "What is Antifolk?' question. It's really impossible to define what it was about that late 90s period that stands out so much and I hate lumping people together in categories. But without a doubt there was some kind of common sensibility running through the place that drew like-minded songwriters.

The differentiation was illustrated the other night when Jeff Lewis took the stage. For example, he played Will Oldham Horror one of his long, wordy patter-type songs, which mixes his ruminations about a life as an artist with a scene of being assaulted and raped by Will Oldham. What the fuck. To me this is a quite different angle than the kind of protest songs I heard from Kirk and the more straightforward styles of some of the other artists on the bill.

So, I'm suggesting there was a break in continuity between two periods, but in fact that's not entirely true, because, of course, the thread through it all was Lach. Lach created the atmosphere for all of this and with his personality and his own songwriting drew the people who came to play. So ultimately there IS a lineage to which we are all connected, one that continues today under the stewardship of Bee K. I still think it's a great scene and I'm glad to be part of the stream that runs from the 80s to now.

All that said, a bit more about what actually happened at the show the other night:

First off, I arrived early when some sort of filming of postmodern circus-y vaudeville performers was going on. All these slightly surreal yet spangly circus outfits clashed quite strongly with the rumpled Antifolk performers who were getting set up.

I quite enjoyed hearing Lach and Kirk play together (photo at right). They didn't quite announce themselves as The Folk Brothers, but I understand that's how they used to bill themselves. They gave a zesty performance with songs like Cigarettes and Whisky and a cool interpreation of the Velvet Underground's Femme Fatale.

There was a very solid sort of house band made up of John Kruth on mandolin and guitar, Dave Dreiwitz on bass, and Billy Figg on drums. They accompanied John S. Hall in what was essentially a cool country set, with songs like I'm Busted and Wallflower. I asked Lach if John had always been a country act and he sort of chuckled and explained that what he'd done with King Missile was more like spoken word over heavy metal. They also played with Lach and with Kirk and (I think) others throughout the night.

Erin Regan and Debe Dalton both played beautiful sets. Debe played a new song that she'd written during her time out of NYC. I have to hear it again to get the full gist--it has to do with missing her friends here in the City--and it seems as exquisite as anything else the young lass has written.

I really liked Kirk's song Go Man Go. He performs it with a ton of energy and chants out "Go Man Gooooouugghh" in this dramatic way. I will have to track down a copy of the disc.

Jeff Lewis did a couple of his illustrated movies--one about the Cuban Missle Crisis and another about the voyage of the Mayflower. He also played his "I Love Antifolk" song, sung to the tune of "I Love Rock n' Roll." I have to track down the lyrics to that. It was during Jeff's set that sloppy drunk girls started drifting in from Webseter Hall's upstairs rooms and disrupting things. Thankfully they soon moved on.

Kruth et al also played a set of their own which was pretty funky. Shows what you can do with a mandolin if you set your mind to it.

The complete bill--in the order they played as best as I recorded it, comprised: Roger Manning, Joe Hurley, Lach and Kirk, John S. Hall, Erin Regan, Kirk (solo), Debe Dalton, Lach (solo), Mike Rimbaud, Jeffrey Lewis, John Kruth, and Kirk again (with Paddy on the Railway[?]).

By the way, it was lightly snowing when we entered Webster Hall's studio around 7 p.m. There was a blizzard under way when we left well after midnight. A bunch of us ended up at a sports bar hunkering down with some fried food and beer.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best ofs for Sidewalk Alums?

My survey is anything but comprehensive, but so far the only Sidewalk alum I've seen appear in a major best of list is Nellie McKay, whose album Normal as Blueberry Pie was chosen by Ben Ratliff in the Times.

Any others?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stolen from Lastup Larry @ OJ Board - Monday Night Open Mic, December 14, 2009

I couldn't make it to Sidewalk last Monday. Lastup Larry wrote a report over at the OJ Board. Sounds like I should've been there....

LastUpLarry's Report

Monday, December 14, 2009

Kirk Kelly's Big Show at Webster Hall- Go Man Go 20th Anniversary

If you're interested in the heritage of our little community of songwriters, you can't do better than the event upcoming this Saturday at Webster Hall, which celebrates the 20th Anniversary of Kirk Kelly's record Go Man Go. The extensive bill includes performances by Kirk, Lach, and Roger Manning, three of the folks who launched the Antifolk movement in the early/mid-1980s. Also performing are our friends Jeff Lewis, Debe Dalton, and Erin Regan--as well as John S. Hall--a figure whose name I've often seen referenced but have never had a chance to hear perform. Others on the bill are Joe Hurley, John Kruth, and Mike Rimbaud, and I've heard mumbled gossip that other folks have been invited to play. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. The event benefits the Artist Worker Action League. It starts at 6:30 or 7 p.m., depending on which part of Webster Hall's web site you believe. For more info:

http://websterhall.com/events/show_event_sub.php?id=793&size=small&cdate=2009-12-19

Monday Night Open Mic, December 7, 2009

Can you tell me why people from Holland are referred to as Dutch? Shouldn't they be Hollanders or something (see below).

Ben Krieger brought in a theremin and kicked things off by using it on a couple of his standard tunes..There's a Squid on My Head and Mom and Dad play Rock and Roll.

Brian Speaker played a cool song that was called something like "And God Said," which I think he might have writen for the Bushwick Book Club's Bible Evening.

Ariel Bitran asked Ben to join him and accompany him on theremin. They played Deep Blue Lake, one of Ariel's songs based on Zelda and another called (maybe) You're Mr. Right. Anyway--I think it was on the first song Ben played an awesome theremin solo and the theremin throughout the song was cool.

A group I'd never heard called Historic District Commission consisted of a lead singer with two acoustic guitarists backing him up. They were pretty good--nice work from the guy who mostly played lead guitar and a nice sound from the vocalist.

Jason Trachtenberg played--and spoke about his group called The Pendulum Swings--his new big band.

Domino--I loved her song about Mo Pitkins closing-- ah hah, ah hah, ah hah, ah hah, ah hah...

I performed in here somewhere--not sure of the order. It had been a while since I'd played on a Monday and I wanted to get out there a bit. On the spur of the moment I decided to use the theremin, which I worked into my song "Fishes." Although it might have gone better if rehearsed, I'm kind of glad to reach the point where I don't mind experimenting on stage. It's a long distance from where I started when I first played Sidewalk.

GI Dave-was back-hadn't seen him in a long while.

I still haven't been able to catch their names, but for the second time I noticed two sisters, who sing primarily in spanish--they started with a song called Baile (dance) in which one of the sisters accompanied the other on guitar-- and then the one who handled vocals on the first song played John Lennon's Imagine by herself on the piano.

Master Lee appeared with his backup group--comprised of Ariel Bitran and Touching You--who were introduced as "Chink Floyd." Many cracks from the audience followed, including something like Dark Side of the Sun Yung Moon, and playing the Great Wall.

For the next set an acoustic guitar sat on stage in a spotlight while Lach vocalized what the guitar might be thinking while waiting to be played--a fun anthropomorphic moment...Lach then appeared on stage and played This Ain't a Song and Men Don't Come Back.

Josh the magician--I was glad to hear there was a magician on the list. Josh was kind of goofy, reading this comedy stuff he'd written which featured a lot of words written backward. He did a trick with a dollar bill in which he transformed a normal bill into one which looked like it had been cut into quarters and reassembled with the sections scrambled. He then magically transformed it back to a regular dollar. Later Josh entertained with some trick at the bar and he and I got into a long conversation about magic. Glad to know there are still some magic, nerds, um afficionadoes, out there in the world. (www.joshrand.com)

Two performers from Amsterdam, were, I think, possibly, the standouts of the night.

Lena--played a jazzy song about why she hates weddings. Nice jazzy guitar work and vocals. A light swing feel. There's not all that much of that around Sidewalk so it was good to hear.

The she was followed by Suzanne who played a song called "85" about being that many years old. Accompanied by a friend on trumpet. Really stellar stuff with an ethereal feel... especially on the trumpet parts.

Jon Berger entertained with some of his classier works, like Gussie Got Fucked and The Magical Negro

That's about the point I wrapped it up--or at least the point I went to hang out in the bar.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jugglers, Clowns, Debutantes, Antifolk and Me

Somehow, unexpectedly, my weekend became filled with performances by clowns, jugglers, magicians and performers from the extended Sidewalk scene.

John Lennon Tribute at Symphony Space
First off, on Friday at the last minute I decided to go to a John Lennon tribute at Symphony Space. It was one of those evenings with lots of different performers singing one or two songs. I'm a huge John Lennon fan, of course but the bill also had a number of interesting acts, including David Bromberg, who I love. The discovery to me was Sonya Kitchell who sang This Boy. A very soulful, moody interpretation with a great, lurching kind of guitar solo by ...I'll have to fill in his name later. There were other very talented people on the bill. Betty LaVette stood out, as did Joan Osborne who sang I Am the Walrus.

However, most relevant to this blog was the appearance of Nicole Atkins who sang "Woman is the Nigger of the World." Nicole was very active at Sidewalk when I started hanging out there in 2004 and I remember seeing her at the open mic. I think the only time I saw her solo might have been the evening she arrived 45 minutes late to her show and ended up playing only a couple of songs. Anyway I always enjoyed Nicole's performances at Sidewalk and thought/think she has a great voice, but I have been intrigued that of all the people from around that time, she emerged with a record contract on Columbia (and a resultant American Express TV ad).

I find it so curious how it happens that some performers on the scene cross into a position of recognition/celebrity. And it's also interesting to look at where the dividing line is between average Joe performer and star. Some of my friends have started to get some decent press but don't really earn much money from what they're doing. Are the people I hang out with celebrities because they get written up in Time Out New York or New York Press? I'd love to have a conversation with Regina Spektor sometime to see how she has dealt with all the issues that come with the type of accomplishment she's achieved. But maybe in some ways it's better to be a Jeff Lewis type artist. It seems that Jeff gets to play as much as he wants, has a certain amount of positive attention, but also can go to the grocery store and the bank without being hassled. (Mind you I don't know if this is how Jeff feels about it--just my interpretation.) In any event, I am glad for Nicole's success. She is talented, but I wonder about all the other talented people I see all the time and why some emerge and others don't.

In the meantime, Friday's show also featured juggler Chris Bliss, who was a sensation on YouTube with his juggling interpretation of part of Abby Road's side 2. It is a spectacular performance and it was thrilling to see (although he did drop a few times--while recovering nicely).

Chris was the first of the juggler/variety artists I saw over the weekend.

Debutante Hour's Variety Show
The next night was the Debutante Hour's Variety Show at the Ukranian National Home. The evening was a five or six hour extravaganza of acts, all playing as part of a benefit to raise money for The Debutante Hour's next recording. Among the artists on the bill were musical groups and solo artists like Kung Fu Crimewave, Old Hat, The Wowz, Phoebe Kreutz, Corn Mo, opera singers, Annie from Opera on Tap and Marti Newland (who sang a great gospel piece as well as a Mozart aria); and comedians Victor Varnado and Rachel Feinstein. Jonathan Vincent did a great job as m.c. with his somewhat bizarre intros and commentary, and he also performed a solo set as the last act of the evening. Oh yeah the bill also included a mini reprise of the Susan and Herb Show performed by me and Susan Hwang. We worked in a version of "Let it Snow," which featured a dancing chorus line of the gals from the Debutante Hour and also played a cover of Prince's Darling Nikki. And of course we featured a magic trick, which involved pulling ropes through a volunteer from the audience. Throughout the evening Mike Richter performed various circus skills, including plate spinning and unicycle riding. Mike and I also whipped together a brief little juggling act which we performed at one point.

The Debutantes seemed to have a good turnout. The performers alone helped fill up the house but there also seemed to be a solid contingency of regular audience. There was also a silent auction with bidding slips positioned on tables with old Eastern European telephones that Maria Sonevytsky had collected. It was a fun night all around, well organized and executed by the Debutante Hour.

Finally, on Sunday, my place of employment (a well-known source of knowledge at 42nd & 5th) had a big open house that featured a wide range of performers, including more magicians and clowns (athough I didn't see any jugglers). And, I ran into Anna Leuchtenberger, a performer who is involved in the scene...if a bit peripherally....but it least it gives symmetry to my weekend to point out she was there.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tonight and Saturday


I am on the bill on two interesting shows this week.

The first is the Bushwick Book Club's year-end show, tonight at Goodbye Blue Monday.

As you undoubtedly know, each month the Bushwick Book Club shows are focused on songs inspired by a particular book. Tonight's show draws highlights from the whole year of performances.

I think I'm like most of the participants in the project who appreciate having an imposed deadline for writing a song. Sometimes you feel blocked or uninspired, but when that deadline rolls around somehow you manage to pull out some stuff. I know that I've always been surprised and pleased by what has emerged in response to the books I've read. I give Susan Hwang a lot of credit for starting and running the Book Club. A lot of cool things have come out of it, including many interesting songs.

Goodbye Blue Monday
1087 Broadway (JMZ to Myrtle or J to Kosciusko)
www.myspace.com/goodbyebluemondayinc
http://www.bushwickbookclub.com/images/BBC_fuckshow_final.jpg

On the bill tonight are:
Ben Krieger, Dave Novak, Dibs, Jonathan Vincent, Toby Goodshank, Phoebe Kreutz, Dan Costello, Laura Brenneman, Rachel Devlin, Joe Crow Ryan, Herb Scher, Susan Hwang, Corn Mo, Maria Sonevytsky, Natti Vogel and Sweet Soubrette

Then, on Saturday, I'll be playing The Debutante Hour's Variety Show Telethon Bash

I am really looking forward to this evening, which is is a fundraising event to support The Debutante Hour's next recording. Susan Hwang and I are performing a mini-reprise of The Susan and Herb Show and there will be many other great acts on the bill, performing everything from accordions to comedy to bluegrass to juggling to opera to unicycling to ukulele-ing to magic.

UKRAINIAN NATIONAL HOME
Saturday, December 5, 7 p.m.
140 2nd Ave. (at 9th St.)
$!0 at the door
The performers: Corn Mo, The Wowz, Phoebe Kreutz, Sweet Soubrette, Rachel Feinstein, Herb Scher, Michael Richter, Victor Varnado, Annie from Opera on Tap, The Orange Teardrops (Amy Kohn and Finni Galdialo), Marti Newland, Kung Fu Crimewave, Old Hat, Grits and Harmony, Jonathan Vincent

Monday Night Open Mic, November 30, 2009

I will have to admit that I was a prettty unfocused in my attention to the music last night. I did keep poking my head in the back room and caught bits of performances by Ben K, Jordan Levinson, Brian Speaker, Charles Mansfield, Aaron Invisible, and some guy named Lach, However, I was mostly roaming and chatting with folks before taking off kind of early.

I hung out a bit with Lach and Brian as they got into their Scrabble game out front. Folks like Pablo Das and Jim Flynn gathered round as did Rebecca Seatle and Jon Berger. Just as I was heading out I got into an interesting conversation downstairs with Jason Trachtenberg. At last Monday's Open Mic Jason was playing some tricked-out piano parts and he mentioned something from the stage about how he felt he was channeling Peter Dizozza. I really enjoyed the Dizozza reference, especially since I figured there were only a few people around who would get it considering Peter hasn't been hanging out on the scene much lately. In any event, when I mentioned this to Jason we got into an interesting conversation about playing piano and about exactly how Jason got involved with and learned music as a kid.

Thinking about Peter Dizozza also got me nostalgic for the old "What the Fuck" game show segments that Lach used to do (which I mentioned to Lach last night). That used to be one of my favorite parts of the evening and I loved it when Peter would co-host at the piano. I took the trivia questions seriously and always tried hard to get to be one of the contestants. I think I only won a prize once though, which was a bag of drum tools and parts. Later on, when Peter wasn't around, Lach would ask me to co-host, but I was never as good as Peter and also I always kind of wished that I could still be trying to answer the questions.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, November 22, 2009


Brian Speaker hosted last night. I got there late, so unfortunately I didn't get to see Brian's monologue/intro, although I heard he was talking a lot about his kid at home (regardless of the fact he doesn't have one).

Some nights are a random experience in time travel....it was nice to see Patsy Grace and Timothy Dark at the open mic last night. Patsy was a little before my time--it was great to get a sense of her performing style--loved her voice. I got to know Timothy Dark a while back when we did a long photo session in Central Park, resulting in one of my favorite shots. He worked Patsy into his song "Who Am I? which sounded great.

More about last night later.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Papacookie, November 12, and Brooklyn Tea Party, November 21

Over the last couple weeks I attended two shows held in people's homes. One was at Papacookie, Jonathan Vincent's amazing place on the Upper West Side, and the other was last night at Brooklyn Tea Party. The concept of home shows was somewhat new to me until relatively recently, but I find the blending of a performance with the hospitality of a party to be enormously satisfying. There's something so intimate and human-scaled about these experiences, and it is always nice to be in a situation where friends are performing for friends.

Papacookie, November 12, 2009

Have you ever unexpectedly had the experience of entering an unusual world of someone else's creation? For example, one time I met the owner of a huge magic/costume/novelty/party shop in Champaign, Illinois, who took me through every nook and cranny of his sprawling store, showing off all the crazy merchandise he had as well as decor items like a 15-foot King-King that moved and roared and a life-sized character from the Alien movie. For that time I was transported into a universe created by the sheer idiosyncrasy of this proprietor.

Similarly transporting was the experience I had November 12 at Jonathan Vincent's massive apartment, where Jonathan's grandparents had lived since the 1950s. The apartment seems to have been left exactly as it was when they were there, with all the dense layers of a lifetime in evidence. There are walls of books, art works by friends and family, a peg board of old kitchen utensils, furniture, knick-knacks, papers, plus, believe it or not, a pet turtle that the family has had for about 50 years. On top of that, Jonathan's grandfather, Theodor Upmann, was an opera star, and the apartment was filled with memorabilia from his career.

The performances started with a set by The Debutante Hour, who comprise Susan Hwang, Mia Pixley, and Maria Sonevytsky. They mostly play original songs by Susan and Maria, with a cover or two thrown in. Susan and Maria also alternate on accordion, while Mia plays cello. The Debutante Hour grow more polished with each show and I love their energy, their songwriting, and particularly their harmonizing. Next up was Jonathan who played a number of songs at the piano, which he said were inspired by or had to do with the apartment we were in. Jonathan writes some intense, complex music, some of which is pretty amazing. He’s much more of a real composer than many of the folks on the scene. His stuff is highly original and you might enjoy checking out his myspace page. Valerie Kuehn played two tunes, accompanying herself on cello. They were sort of abstract in nature, one of which she mentioned she’d finished writing earlier in the day. Sean McArdle finished up. Sean was on tour from San Francisco and played some folky tunes with a mellow vibe, accompanying himself on guitar.

I’m looking forward to more adventures at the Papacookie Pad. It is a cool place.

Brooklyn Tea Party, November 21, 2009

Emily Einhorn is the type of songwriter and performer whose stuff grows on you the more you listen. For example, I love this song of hers called The Office, but I only realized for the first time last night that she is singing from the perspective of a guy. At first it seems as if her songs are in her own voice, but many if not all of them are really written for very specific characters. The songs are unusual and have a dark edge to them. I was impressed again by her use of dynamics. She often starts quietly and builds the songs to dramatic moments. You should definitely check Emily out. She is one of the more original songwriters on the scene at the moment.

Nathan Moomaw was coming through on tour, although evidently he had been around on the scene some years ago. Nathan played solo, laying down percussion tracks with a loop machine and using other effects to get a kind of spacey feel to his songs.

Seems as if Dan Costello has written quite a number of new songs since I saw him last. He has also been working on a play and read a scene from it about an interaction between a character based on Dan and an alluring fan he meets on the road. He followed that up with a song based on a similar concept of temptations on the road. Dan and Rachel Devlin played a couple lovely songs together, both of which I remember as having a kind of theatre-y feel to them. Dan also did his Pot Song and told a story of how a random character in a Swiss bar ended up contributing the perfect line to a spoken break in the song. Dan ended up by rocking out with his band on a couple tunes including Tape Recorder.

Last night Ching Chong Song seemed to focus more on a range of slower songs, some of which included quite lovely instrumental passages. There was also some interesting dancing at hand from two cross-dressed members of their troupe who interpreted the music with a range of intimate maneuvers at the foot of the stage.

Crazy and the Brains finished off the night (wrapping things up around 2 a.m.). Crazy and the Brains, kind of snuck up around me as they have become more of a factor on the current scene. Chris (?), who almost always wears what I think of as a Russian Commisar hat, plays acoustic guitar and sings, and his partner, whose name I don't know, plays xylophone and also sings. The songs have more than a little influence of English punk groups like the Sex Pistols.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sidewalk Cafe, Saturday, November 7


It was a fun night all around last night. Maybe I am just projecting the good time I had with our set onto everyone else, but it seemed as if all the performers were really enjoying themselves.

Hard for me to believe, but I think this is the first show I've performed since August. This is the type of show I've been wanting to do for a long time. Susan and I played a mix of standards like All of Me and Honeysuckle Rose with relatively more recent songs like Darling Nikki by Prince and Don't Forget Me, a song I love by Harry Nilsson. Aside from the song selection there was also a kind of throwback to variety shows and male/female duos like Sonny and Cher and Steve and Edye. We also worked out this goofy magic trick which we performed in the middle of the show. I got to play the piano a lot, which was great for me, but I definitely was moving into some new territory there so it left me a bit wobbly occasionally. However that will get better with time, and in general I was very happy with the way The Susan and Herb Show turned out.

I was really glad to see Dave Cuomo who performs with his (I think) girlfriend Emma Berkey as Chicken Little. I didn't realize they'd moved to Nashville a year ago or something like that. They're on tour now and made a triumphal homecoming to Sidewalk. Dave plays acoustic and Emma plays accordion and they both sing. Their songs have a rootsy/folky/old timey feel and in particular they are very solid on the harmonizing. I liked the set a lot.

Jon Berger performed with his guitarist Sanjay. He mostly sang his material, and while I wouldn't call Jon's voice exactly mellifluous, he is unrestrained and commmitted and I enjoyed his set. Jon did some of his classics like "27 times I asked you to go out with me" and the one about "Wendy" or is it about Wendys? Sanjay sang some too.

Betsy Cohen kept asking the audience for input on a script she's writing in which a woman is invited to join a couple that makes their own videos of a certain explicit nature. So throughout the set people were throwing out various ideas of activities in which the three could participate. Betsy looked lovely in an outfit which I think featured a long red cape, or something to that effect.

Phoebe Kreutz was looking to delve into some of her less frequently played material because so many of the folks there were friends who had heard her play frequently. Anyway, I was reminded how much I like that song of hers about the Carnival Man. She had Casey on stage for a cover of a song by Chris Maher, and other special guests joined her as well, including Susan Hwang on accordion and Matt, playing trumpet on a couple songs, including the one about Gary the new guy at Taco Bell.

Old Hat finished off the night. I walked back into the room as they had just got underway with the set and they were leading some strange calisthenics in which almost everyone in the audience participated. They played songs like "Spoiler Alert" and "I didn't hear anything after the fucking morphine." Also they had a new one about Running Man or something like that. Old Hat is one of the more interesting and original groups on the scene and I would like to hear them more often. Preston Spurlock, Dibs, Deenah Vollmer, and a drummer I didn't know, made up the group last night.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Susan and Herb Show, November 7, 9 p.m.


Susan Hwang and I are hard at work on The Susan and Herb Show, which we're performing Saturday, November 7 at Sidewalk at 9 p.m. I am so glad that I'm getting to do this show. It is the kind of thing I've been wanting to do for a long time. Susan and I first played together on a duet at the Bushwick Book Club, her literary songwriting society and then she made some guest appearances at shows I did at Sidewalk and the OJ All Day Festival. We discovered that we like lots of the same kinds of music and so an act was born. We're thick in the middle of our rehearsals now. Hope you'll come out for what is sure to be a magical evening of songs, daredevilry, and surprises.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, October 19, 2009

OK--I'm finally getting around to posting something from last week. I stopped by the Open Mic just briefly. I was already running somewhat late from the Apple Store where I am taking this cool, free class using Aperture, their souped-up software for photographers. Now I know the information about where I was before the Open Mic is not too relevant, except to say that it kept me running late to get to Sidewalk.

When I arrived, a Japanese fellow named So (?) came on and played a song called "Incantation for Nature Progress" I'm not sure if I got the title exactly right, but the song was definitely an incantation for nature.

Jenna Friedman performed some comedy. I've seen her at Sidewalk a few times and she has some fairly funny stuff, although I wonder in general why the comics at Sidewalk always seem kind of all over the place. Maybe it's just that in general comedy is really hard. The couple times I've tried it the stuff that I thought was uproarious went over like lead. But anyway, I did like Jenna's joke about why the Germans don't get Seinfeld.

Pete Scalzetti pulled out some of his piano pyrotechnics. He played standing up, which he said was inspried by seeing Jason Trachtenberg.

"Rob" played. Rob are you really Rob? Rob is a guy I've chatted with but never got to see play until the other night. Nice song, hope to hear more.

Kid Lucky did some cool beat boxing--the first song was a piece that had the lyrics "Hippy Girl Come Fly with Me.' Then he did some freestyle stuff. Kid Lucky blends beat boxing with singing/rapping. I am always a little dubious about beat boxers, but I got to admit Kid L. has some skills.

Terran (?) got on stage and did some loop machine singing. She seemed a little thrown off/discombobulated, but had a good attitude, saying she was going to keep coming back and putting her stuff out there. I think that's about the right way to think of it. To not be so sensitive about how stuff goes over, but just to keep doing it and get better all the time and use it as a platform for whatever you're doing/working on.

Oh, yeah. Slithor, the puppet reptile, kept things interesting between sets.

I chatted a bit with Maya Caballero and Bernard and then took off kind of early.

I know this report is ultra brief.. but hey it's a little taste of what happened. More next time.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sidewalk Cafe, Saturday, October 17

A nice night organized by Barry Bliss, which included performances by Barry, Major Matt USA, Toby Goodshank and Bryan Copeland, who had all just returned from touring together, plus Purple Organ and Joe Crow Ryan.

Bryan Copeland played acoustic bass throughout the night including in the evening's opening set which featured his band Bryan and the Aardvarks. The group featured, in addition to Bryan, drums, vibraphone, and keyboard. It was a kind of keyboard oriented jazz set, with Bryan as leader.

Matt, Barry, Toby, and Brian in various combinations accompanied each other during their individual sets throughout the evening. It was cool to see that while on tour they'd melded into, if not an official "group" at least a comfortable corps of collaborators.

For example, I've heard Matt play Tripping Yourself many times, but it was cool to end it with a bass solo. Sounded really great.

I always love hearing Purple Organ. Doug's set was different in tone than the ones I'd heard in the past. Much less or almost none of the surface-level sexuality that has characterized the sets I've seen of his. Nan commented that the set was "romantic" which I think it was. He called up Toby, Angel, and Daoud to sing this song that had the beautiful and catchy refrain: "no stick, no cage, no electric sock can stop love. Doug's voice is beautiful and his whole one-man band type set up deal is amazing. I still don't understand how he plays all that stuff at once.

Toby Goodshank peformed with a She-Devil poster hung on the curtain behind him. He also had Bryan, Barry and Matt guest on a couple songs. Bryan used his bow on this plaintive song "It's Amazing, It's Amazing--I have you now." It turned out beautifully.

Barry did a great set, switching off from piano to guitar. There were some emotional high points where I thought he was totally consumed by the music and expressing it straight from his soul. There was one spot where he did a bit of whistling too, something I've been wanting to integrate into my performances. Barry also made an announcement about certain very personal nocturnal occurrences that afflicted him while on tour. Thanks for sharing Barry.

By the time Barry played it was quite late and I was already drooping before Joe Crow came on and I still had the long schlep home ahead of me. I always seem to miss out on Joe Crow's sets. Hope he plays an earlier slot next time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gosh

I keep having to miss Monday nights. Maybe it's not bad to take a break for a while, but I still miss hanging out. Anyone got any wonderful stories of what's been going on at the Open Mic the last few weeks? Free free to post comments or contact me directly if you want to post something here.

Herb

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009, Bushwick Book Club

Last night the Bushwick Book Club performed songs inspired by the novel Confederacy of Dunces. I loved the book which is a hilarious and rich tale set in New Orleans. The main character, Ignatius Reilly, is one of the more unusual and extreme characters I've encountered in a novel.

Anyway, I have a mild infatuation with New Orleans and was excited about writing a song based on the book. The thing about these Book Club assignments is that the deadline definitely pushes you to get the song done. Yet sometimes you also wish you had a bit more time to refine what you've written and also to practice. I liked the direction of my song yet felt it had further to go. Ignatius is basically a misanthrope, yet my song focused on how there are qualities of him in just about everyone and how he should be celebrated rather than hated.

Other performers on the bill included Preston Spurlock, Maria Sonevytsky, and our hostess, Susan Hwang (of course) who wrote a musical theatre number about the strip club act that is a scene in the book. Also: Matthew Varvil, Laura Brenneman, Ben Berlin, and Isaac Gillespie who performed remotely by telephone.

As I suggested in regard to my own song, some of the pieces last night seemed as if they still were in a stage of development, yet it was interesting to hear all the different takes on the book.

The Tuesday Teacup open mic followed, as it does each Tuesday, hosted by Joe Crow Ryan. For a low-key open mic experience, the Tuesday Teacup is someplace to think about. Plus, they have a piano!

Next month is The Origin of the Species.

Monday, September 28, 2009




Up until now I haven't run any photos in this blog, which may seem strange, considering that photography is one of my main pastimes. However I always thought of this as a kind of quick and dirty scratchboard to get down initial impressions of performances so there is a record for the future of what's going on in the Sidewalk Community. However, recently I've become even more interested in photography and so thought this blog could evolve some, and in part be a showcase for some of the pictures I've taken. So, I'll probably rely more on images, at least in cases where they relate to the general topic of the blog. I also might write more about photographic topics in general, but again I'll try to make sure that at least in some sense they relate to the Sidewalk-ish community.

So, here are a few more photos from the Library event that I wrote about in a previous post. They feature the Debutante Hour, Corn Mo, and Preston Spurlock. Unfortunately, even though Phoebe Kreutz also performed in that show, my camera was acting wacky and I didn't get any decent pictures of her. (I see I'm going to have to fool around with how you get a reasonable layout using photos--but for now they seem to be clumped up in the first paragraph.)

By the way, about the Debutatne Hour, I headed out to hear them last night down at Banjo Jim's. Despite the sort of low-key energy in the audience, I thought they sounded great. They are very polished on their harmonies which sound gawgeous, particularly when all three members are singing. The addition of Mia on cello really helps round out the sound. And their songs are really good. Susan Hwang and Maria Sonevytsky are the other two members. Ben Krieger made a random appearance at Banjo Jims, popping in while on the way to another show. I also stopped by Sidewalk for a minute to get just a whiff of Purple Organ (that is not meant as some sort of weird innuendo). I'm a big fan. I wish I could have stayed....

Won't be able to make it to the Open Mic tonight. Some sort of atonement is going on today among members of my faith. Will see you next time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, September 21, 2009


Hello,

I was away from the Open Mic last week because I had my own thing going on at The New York Public Library where I am gainfully employed. Our pals from The Bushwick Book Club appeared at the Mid-Manhattan Library for the kick-off of new expanded library hours. I was quite happy to merge my library and songwriting worlds and to have some of my music friends around while I was on the clock! Susan Hwang, as you probably know, is the proprietoress of the Bushwick Book Club and she appeared with her group the Debutante Hour (which sounds great with three gals together harmonizing, playing cello, accordion, drums, etc. Also they wore bathing suits). The pic at right shows two of the three members of the Debutante Hour Phoebe Kreutz, Preston Spurlock, and Corn Mo also appeared and each gave touching performances. It was fun. If you are a library user, take note that the Mid-Manhattan Library is now open till 11 pm. on certain nights and many other libraries have also expanded their hours.

Ok, on to this past Monday. I was feeling a bit disconnected for some reason. Most of my long time friends from Sidewalk are not there that often any more. It's understood that Sidewalk has always been and always will be an ever-changing scene--and even Monday I met and had nice conversations with several folks who seemed like they were in the process of becoming regulars. But it's weird to look out over a room I've been in so often where so few faces are familiar. In the back of my mind I'm thinking it might be time to take a little break from Ye Olde Song Shoppe. Knowing me, I probably won't, at least not entirely, but it's on my mind. A little space might do me good.

Yikes, ok...the open mic...

The guy that really stood out for me was Albert Goold a talented pianist who played a couple weird but entrancing songs. Looking forward to hearing more of his stuff.

Jim Flynn, who I'm fairly sure was on the scene for a while considerably before my time, popped up after having been pretty sparse lately. He did a rappin song about the Lower East Side with a guy making random trumpet noises and also a song where he traded off with Jon Berger on spoken word (which worked pretty well).

A guy who performed as Clem's Pajamas said that he wasn't a very good guitar player and asked to keep the guitar low, but he proved himself wrong. He sang "I have 23 dollars and 42 cents and I plan on spending every cent on you." It was a lovely song (and he played guitar damn well).

The Fools--I love the line: "even fools know, in spite of trying you can't grow a tree by screaming at seeds." The Fools are serene. Go see them.

The Brothes Frank--only one brother was on hand. He played an electric through a small miked amp which sounded kind of cool. I hadn't heard of the sun test before--I guess this is a new feature of the Open Mic where acts get to prove their toughness by staring into the sunny lights. Not sure I get the overall entertainment value, but hey, it's all in good fun, right?

Crazy and the Brains played a new song. Dan Mo had some nice gentle numbers. Rick Sorkin of the Venn Diagrams played solo. Jordan Levinson sang about "The Artist and the Modern Man," and Prewar Yardsale sang a vibey song with a Lou Reed kind of drone that drew on imagery from 9-11 (Mike played without Dina, his usual partner on bucket drums).

Lach was on hand wih Everyone's Therapist and I Love America, which turned into a robust sing along (I keep trying to practice harmony vocals during these sing a longs and Lach gave me a little bit of a perplexed look as I belted along at one point). Emily Einhorn sang an interesting song by her brother, and one of her own called For Erin. Jason Trachenberg played a song he said he wrote in the era of "alt-country" called (I think) "You're a Real Fast Talker" and his daughter Rachel played a new song (I think) inspired by candy. She has a new band name--something like Pinky Swear...hey what happened to the Oh My God Girls?

That was it for me......till next time. Oh Yeah. Check out the Bushwick Book Club on October 6. We are playing songs inspired by Confederacy of Dunces which I have loved reading. Should be a great night.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, September 7, 2009

Turned around and saw a familiar face behind the sound board. It was ole Lach himself for a moment or two during Ben K's first song. Good to see him there, if only for a minute. Caught Lach later in an intense Scrabble game with Joe Crow.

Ben started off with Sting-Ra and Birdies and Cars (which featured a musical quote from London Bridge).

Big Hat was a group that included Alex P along with some friends of his I didn't know. I liked their country/folk feel, which was strongest on the first song. During the second--which featured a different singer (and Alex P on slide guitar)--the electricity went out and the group carried on acoustically till the lights came back. Alex P's electric guitar wasn't of much use through that but otherwise they kept playing. I'm always impressed by Alex, though, at least when there's electricity at hand. Really nice guitar work.

Ryan Phillips, was a first timer who played.

A guy named Beau played a somewhat gruesome song about the jungle and running from men in dashikis.

Peru Peru was a five-person group from France---bass, vocal/casio, percussion, keyboard, female vocalist. I couldn't really get the gist of what they were trying to do. There was a kind of chanting thing going on in the second song..."doesn't matter-what's the matter." It was all a bit overly loose and didn't quite gel for me.

Morgan made a request for the disco lights, which Ben turned on, even though they aren't exactly right for her sensitive, quiet songs. Morgan's stuff is gorgeous--skillfully written and beautifully played (uke is her main instrument). Sometimes I wish she'd throw in a rocker though....

Crazy and the Brains usually seem to reflect a strong Sex Pistols influence although Monday it seemed like Mick Jagger was coming to the fore. It was just one member of the group....

Lach played Stunned and an interesting song about gangsters in the family.

Joe Bendik was up with a rock version of Beethoven and Malltown.

The Fools played to promote their residency this month. I love everything about the Fools. I think their songs are great and I love Jen's guitar work and singing. However, sometimes what stands out most of all is the beautiful tone of Uchenna's bass and her tasteful playing.

Julia and Ben from Olympia, Washington played...nice harmonies.

Being that it was Labor Day and I hadn't been at work, I showed up in casual duds as opposed to my usual suit and tie. Contrary to popular belief I don't actually sleep in a suit or wear one on the weekends or when hanging around the house. During those times you just might find me in a t-shirt and jeans.

I texted Debe D. during the night to give her the Monday update. But then I left fairly early again. I'm sure there was wonderful music as the night went on

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, August 31, 2009

My return--after a couple weeks away. It seemed like a long time somehow. I often feel that I'm going to come back after being away for a while and everything will be different. All of a sudden the Open Mic will be hosted by somebody I've never met and all the faces will be different...kind of like an alternative world Sidewalk Open Mic.

But no, there were familiar faces all over the place and it was good to see everyone, even though things seemed a bit off kilter without Debe D.

I didn't get to stay around that late, but here is what I did see:

It seemed like kind of a quiet night when I arrived. A line did quickly build up but still with Labor Day upon us and people not quite back to school, etc. I think it was a little less crowded than usual.

Ben K. kicked things off with Sting Ra and a song called Hey Mr. Hitman, which he said he hadn't played in 10 years.

Jordan Levinson was up with a new song that she said came to her in a dream...."My heart is in the city but my love is country bound," sung with Jordan's lovely country-styled vocals.

A piano playing guy from a band called Wiley Toms played a song inspired by a New Orleans funeral march (although the song didn't sound like a New Orleans funeral march.

The New Students sang a song with nice vocal harmonies that was maybe called "My Caroline." A little James Taylor-esque. Their second song they said was a response to hearing a Pete Seeger show and had more of a real folky feel.

Kyle Maler went on stage and played while wearing his bike helmet. Guess we all need whatever protection we can find. The song had something about counting calories in it.

The Fools were up and played a couple songs to promote their residency this month, including their song "Open Door." I do love the Fools.

I ran into "Rob" who has started coming back to the Open Mic after a hiatus of 25 years or something like that. "Rob" hung out in one of Lach's clubs that was a predecessor to Sidewalk. I'm sorry I wasn't there last week when he played the first time and that I couldn't hang out Monday to hear him. But I know I will soon.

That's it for now. Easing my way back in. More next time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Antifolk Fest, Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hey-Even though I got way behind in writing up the Antifolk Fest, I still plan on catching up as much as possible. I also was out of town for a while and missed a couple of Open Mic nights, but I'll be back in the swing of things soon.

Lots of good stuff Saturday, 8/15, but the revelation to me was Emily Einhorn. Somehow I never connected with her material during the time she was a Sidewalk regular--maybe a year or more ago. But this time I noticed the many interesting and affecting components to her songs. More about Emily when we get there. Saturday wrapped up the Festival for me as I had to leave town early the next morning. I kind of paced myself better this time and didn’t force myself to make every show if something else came up. I’m sure I missed some good stuff but also felt less burnt out by the end of it all.

I came in at the tale end of Carl Creighton’s set but really only got to hear him do his big number, Minnesota, which I’ve always liked.

Brian Speaker did a nice set mixing some of his latest stand alone songs with a couple tunes from his space opera and a cover of a Barry Bliss tune. Rachel Devlin sang with Brian on the song about how “if you really want to taste wine, you got to taste it from someone else’s lips.” I’ve heard the song several times, but this was a particularly beautiful rendering of it. Brian and Rachel melded really nicely. Brian mentioned how he’d wished he’d done a better job on the Barry Bliss tune that he’d covered at Wednesday’s Barry Bliss tribute. Brian seemed genuinely down on his previous performance, but I thought it had gone just fine and enjoyed the song. Brian played one of his most charming songs, the one about looking for a partner--who must be beautiful and talented and sing alto harmony and soprano leads--and be awkward and reliable just like..... He also sang another one about being like a Saturday morning cartoon. Lots of good ideas in Brian’s songs. He finished up with The Bird--which Amos requested and so Brian called Amos up to sing it with him.

Emily Einhorn’s songs seem mostly to be written from the points of view of a variety of different characters. For example, she said at one point something along the lines of: “when I was drinking a lot of whiskey I had an alter ego in a relationship with Tom Waits and this is a song she wrote.” Earlier in the evening she played one called The Office, all about the torment of The Office, and The Boss, juxtaposed with the singing of a little love song when the character in the song goes home. The songs have interesting melodies and although at first they seemed a little unstructured, gradually the form would emerge as Emily worked her way through them. Some of them had an edge of darkness to them, focussing on people who are dissatisfied or struggling. Emily made good use of dynamics and her vocals had interesting inflections. It will take some more listening to fully absorb these pieces, but they are rich and interesting and I’m looking forward to exploring them.

Erin Regan is a fabulous songwriter and performer. Her songs are mellow in style but deeply moving. The other night, among many others, she played her beautiful but mysterious song Building Jumper, and Iodine, in which she observes the ball of sweart rolling down the cheek of her bedmate and then sings “we are just balls of sweat, increasing and decreasing speed.” I’ve come to love Erin’s song and her voice over the years and continually wonder why she isn’t super famous.

Jaymay--who was a Sidewalk regular a number of years ago, was back for the Antifolk Fest and with a band including a stand up bass and another guitar player (who also played piano on one or two songs). I originally saw Jaymay at Sidewalk around the time I first started hanging out there in 2004. She’s not been around all that much since then as she’s built a following and a career, but I was glad to see her back recently and especially for the Antifolk fest. She played a couple of very catchy songs that have been rumbling through my brain ever since hearing them the other night. One is this love song called One May Die So Lonely, and the other, in which she lists all kinds of items that she sees in front of her, has the same sort of propulsive rhythmic feel. She also played a beautiful but sad song called Song for Paul, as well as some older love songs like Sea Green See Blue, and Gray or Blue. Jaymay’s strength is in the intersection of her performance and songwriting. It’s hard to pinpoint but there is something about the mixture of her words, music, voice, and playing that really makes her stand out. Sometimes I wonder if she edges a bit too close to catchy accessibility but in the end I think she usually rides that border nicely, veering back to more angular and interesting territory before things get too sweet. Jaymay was talking about how she has no money and was considering moving to New Orleans (not a bad place to go in my book). But she brought a nice crowd to Sidewalk. The room was filled with her fans during her set.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Antifolk Fest, Thursday, August 13,2009

Barry Bliss, Diane Cluck, Anders Griffen, Peter Dizozza, Regina Spektor, Dufus, Bernard King, Jon Berger, MIke Rechner, Dina Levy, Matt Roth etc.....it seemed like old school Sidewalk last night, circa 2002/2003 or something, with all those folks hanging around and/or performing.

It's interesting that if you spend enough time on the scene your connections and interactions can swell into all kinds of interesting parts of the Sidewalk stream. After a long time of hearing about Anders Griffen, I not only performed with him but heard him play several sets throughout the week on drums, trumpet, and bass, and as a reader in Bernard King's set. Plus, Barry Bliss has been hanging out at Sidewalk again on a regular basis. I hadn't had much exposure to his songs previously but last night's set was a really good way to be introduced to them.

Jon Berger kicked things off with a set of new material. Lots of good stuff there. Jon mostly stayed put center stage despite his seeming desire to careen through the house while drawing on older memorized material. But I think it was a good thing he focused on his newer stuff. I particularly liked this one called The Girl Who 2 where he is conjecturing about the possible interest of a lady friend, especially when she invites him to see what is, after all, the most romantic of the Star Trek movies--well, you have to hear Jon do it.

Bernard King Presents featured readings of Bernard's poems by a range of Antifolk friends. One is always a bit nervous when friends want to read you their poetry. But Bernard's stuff is excellent. The Definition of Summer, which was read by Julie Hill really stood out. Beautiful imagery and language. But they all were good. Here's, I think, the complete list: Matt Roth (Men of Words), Toby Goodshank (Lost Girl), Julie HIll (The Definition of Summer), JJ Hayes (John Houx's Wine (?)), Diane Cluck (The Spaghetti Poodle), Liv Carrow (Cool Facts for Dogs--or something like that), Anders Griffen (Summer Storm). Ben Krieger (The Dog Star).

I'd heard about Barry Bliss regularly over the years but somehow missed connecting with him or his work until he came back to New York recently. I remember in particular that Dave Cuomo was a big fan and featured Barry in the program to the 2006 Antifolk Fest. I'll have to admit that the few songs I'd heard on MySpace or wherever didn't really help me understand what it was about him that appealed to folks so much. Well, last night's set of his songs performed by other artists from the Sidewalk scene gave me a much more direct understanding of how compelling his plainspoken and intense songs are, many of which are about his efforts to figure out how to be, how to do, how to move on. I think it's the case where the songs require a certain type of introduction or hearing in the right setting maybe--or possibly repeated listenings.

In any event the performances were uniformly interesting. Ben Krieger's version of the song about lovers who are not sexually attracted, was one that really stood out to me. Ben played it on the bass with this kind of heavy plucking of intervals, and then about three-quarters of the way through the song he dropped the bass on the floor where it kept droning while Ben finished the song on the piano. I thought it was great. But there were so many other good performances. Matt Mason on a song about the narrator's anorexia. Liv Carrow singing about Joan of Arc, Crazy and the Brains (All I want is to be left alone), Debe Dalton (In my dream I was a murderer), Jon Berger (Brand New Day), Brian Speaker (Do Not Call Upon Jesus), JJ Hayes, Brook Pridemore, Toby Goodshank, Peter D, and possibly others I'm missing. I'm looking forward to hearing Barry play these songs himself once he feels his voice is back up to par.

Rav Shmuel played a range of songs on the ukulele including love songs, to dislike songs, and one focused on racism to Jews called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He also played his song the Bodega Song, about the place the Yeshiva students used to buy their pot!?

I got more into The Woog Riot's set as it went along, but I found the electronic accompaniment not my cup of tea exactly. They were unable to use their keyboard because of problems with the equipment so I should give them some benefit of the doubt in that respect. There was something endearing about the way they had choreographed gestures to some of their songs and I liked Backstage Lemonade along with a couple others. The band was touring from Germany. I got the impression they had connected with some of the Sidewalk crew that had come through Europe.

Peter Dizozza's set was filled with all kinds of interesting moments. His band featured a bass player/vocalist, a drummer, sitar player, and Peter. Special guest included Tony Saro, who kind of looked like the archetypal grandpa figure, and sang what Peter referred to as The Wizard Song. Peter and his sitar player are featured on a really beautiful number called Out of My Mind (?) which includes some gorgeous melodic exchanges between sitar and piano. His sitar player said that Peter convinced her to sing despite her trepidation about it although she seemed quite proficient to me.

Dufus (or does he go by Seth of Dufus?) appeared on stage with two-year old daughter Anouk, who he encouraged to participate by singing into a live mic and banging on various percussion instruments. It was an interesting idea to feature his daughter so fully in the set, but I also kept wondering if it wasn't past her bed time. Dufus's set was more gentle and lyrical than the stuff I'd seen in the past. Much less antic and it did feature a lot of his interaction with Anouk, who is quite the gorgeous child by the way. Oh yeah, Anders Griffen and another musician I didn't know arose out of the audience playing trumpets and proceeded on stage to accompany Seth. That was a cool moment.

I've heard Prewar Yardsale a number of times now and finally am realizing how radical they are. Their songs can go on for a very long time in almost a chanting fashion with just a few chords and very few lyrics. For example, in Elevated Platform Stand Mike sings "Step Up, Step Down," over and over and over. I really like their stuff though. You can kind of let yourself get lost in it and somehow it doesn't lose its interest. I liked the song "I am the life of my party" which was a request and mentioned how "all my friends had to go, they did not stick around." I'd thought for sure that Dina and Mike and I would continue our adventures in cab sharing after some previous exciting times on the road to the Upper West Side, but to no avail.

By the time Soft Black came around I was zonked. Man these shows go late.

I keep trying to keep these writeups general and short but I get carried away trying to document everything. Does anyone read this stuff? Well, one thing is I hope that this serves future readers who come to the scene and want to know what happened way back when, just as I did when I arrived.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Antifolk Fest, Saturday, August 8,2009

I arrived during Adam Finchler's set. I'm not really too familiar with Adam and so was just hearing some of his songs for the first time. He comes from a whimsical point of view. Songs include Everybody Does Drugs, President Coolidge and Elvis Thermometer. He had a big number about the Big Bad Dinosaur and his big bad dinosaur friends who went to the forrest and ruined everybody else's day.

David Greenburg was in town to play the fest, this time with a band, featuring drums guitar, a backup vocalist, stand up bass, and David on vocals and guitar. David is from the school of Antifolkers whose glasses constantly slip down their nose while they're playing, almost to the point of falling off before being pushed up just in the nick of time. He and John Telethon should tour together maybe. Anyway, I like some of David's songs. They're kind of awkward and charming, like the one that goes "every word that I say comes out so dumb and so weird and so sad (?) and so dumb. His big hit is The Cemetary Song. He also played one about sleeping under the stars and another about Hererochromia, the condition where someone has two different colored eyes. David played uke and kazoo on that one.

Julie Hill leaned heavily on her looping machine during her set. She can create some absolutely stunning and beautiful effects with that device and did the other night, particularly on her rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat. She also improvised a song based on words thrown out from the audience, which ended up having to do with Muscular Teeth in January. (I've been seeing quite a bit of improvised songwriting lately between Julie, the Young Dads, and Crabs on Banjo.) Julie is a really talented gal and also played a couple songs without the looping device on the piano. Actually the first song she did "I'm Just Me" if I remember correctly, used the looper to set a rhythm but then featured her on piano and vocals. Row Row Row Your Boat was a cappella with a dense collage of looped singing.

Aaron Invisible played with a group he called the Fuckstaches. One gets the sense maybe his group names are only momentary.... The group included Morgan, Isaac Gillespie, Alex P (on bass) and Aaron on bouzouki. I like Aaron's whole vibe. He's definitely unique, with a voice that is impossible to describe. His songs are folky, Dylan-y. I'm still kind of catching on to what they're about. They come from the impressionistic/abstract school of songwriting. But there's definitely something there to pay attention to. He played a song about Noah, and his songs "The Discoverers," "Yesterday I was a Sailor," and more.

Eric Wolfson played a solo acoustic set. For some reason I feel like I've been hearing him most recently in a full group set up. Eric is going to law school in the fall so says this is his last show for a while. Eric was part of the tight group of folks that hung out at Sidewalk for around a year or so when I was really just getting involved and getting to know lots of people so I'm always happy to see him there. He played a lot of his familiar songs: North Country Girl, Buddy Hackett's Niece, Ann Rutledge Blues, Sleeping is a Sucker's Game. A nice, tight set. Good luck in law school Eric. Don't disappear on us. I can never forget the day that Eric and I did a photo shoot outside on what must have been the coldest day of the year. Eric was so good natured about it but his fingers were practically frozen solid as I forced him to pose with his guitar down by Wall Street.

Brook Pridemore had people up and dancing on a couple of songs, which was really cool. In fact the stage was rushed and Ben K. stood behind Brook undulating his arms, making Brook look like a Hindu God. I liked Brook's song on piano about how "everyone should always get exactly what they need." He also played Zero Potential, Damage Control, and Marlon Brando (not sure if I got all those titles right).

The Oh My God Girls were charming with their ukuleles and hula hoops. There had been three Oh My God Girls at Monday's Open Mic, but Saturday the group comprised teenage sensations Rachel Trachtenburg and Julia Cumming. They played Happy Together (the Turtles' hit), a catchy original called Haunted Hostel, Brand New Key (cover of a tune sung by Melanie), Rachel's original tune Pigeons, the Beatles' Something, an original about Horse Drawn Carriages, and the Hula Hooping classic that goes "hula, hula, hula, hula, hula, hula hoop."

Rachel's dad Jason Trachtenburg and Julia's dad (I believe) Alex Cumming, then took the stage for a short set by Jason. He covered I Want to Hold Your Hand in unique style, and played Fast Talker, I Don't Want to Tempt Time, Beautiful Dandelion, and Don't You Know What I Mean. All catchy stuff. Really liked Beautiful Dandelion.

The only problem with Debe Dalton's set is that it wasn't longer. Afterward some of us were lamenting the songs that we didn't get to hear. You probably know that this was Debe's last show before leaving town for a while. So there was a nice crowd of folks there to send her off. Debe told a story of a child she'd taught in nursery school who once the school year ended would call Debe at 4 in the morning. In that spirit Debe gave out her phone number several times during her set, one assumes with the hope that her friends and fans will stay in touch. I've written so often about how much I like Debe's songs and her performances and this was no exception. I love the song she sang about "quietly playing banjo in the park," and the proselytizer she encounters. She also played "End of the Day," which she said she was playing "for all the sad boys." Debe also did a wonderful cover of Liv Carrow's song Madam Rosie. It's amazing when Debe covers songs from the Antifolk scene how she truly can make them her own. She played her stunning song "Close the Door" and a duet with Rachel Devlin ("who do you think you're talking to?"). Ed's Song and the one about Little Red Riding Hood were also on the bill. I will miss Debe a lot. I know that things will continue along just fine while she's away but it won't seem the same without her. Debe's presence at Sidewalk is always somehow reassuring to me. She keeps it on an even keel. I'm sure she'll be back for visits and will be with us again in full form before we even know it. Good luck upstate Debe.

Antifolk Fest, Friday, August 7,2009

Well, the Antifolk Festival is here. I always look forward to this time of year with excitement and dread. There's something very compelling about the rich concentration of performers all playing in this condensed time frame. But since I am so compulsively drawn to attend as much as possible, I know that I'm going to be spending hours and hours hanging in the back room and eating a lot of veggie penne.

I arrived Friday at the very end of Domino's set, which was unfortunate, because I love her shows. She finished up with a song that was requested called Sack of Potatoes. I heard later from other folks that her set was great.

Amos Torres, one of Sidewalk's sound men, played a nice set sitting centerstage with an acoustic guitar. He kicked off with a song about how the only things that will kill him are "mean women, whisky, and cocaine." Well, those'll do it, I suppose. He also played a song in Spanish which he explained had words by his father. Amos has an amazing voice. I wonder if he's ever thought about fronting a band.

Max Miller--am I imagining this or did Max quote a song by the Wowz? I'm not sure, but I think he was singing the lyrics "I'm not depressed, I'm just unimpressed." Anyway, Max did a raucous set with electric guitar and his rock backing tracks. He played a song called August that had the line "I got nothing to lose but my pants and shoes."

The Telethons played in duo configuration. That was how the Telethons played when they originally arrived on the scene--with Jon Telethon on guitar and vocals and Mark Telethon on drums. Now Doug Johnson has taken over the drum role, but it is still fun to see them in this two-piece configuration, which kind of brings back the old days. Maybe it was meant to just be a sound check song, but they started off with C is for Cookie-rock and roll version. Truck Driving Man, I've Had Too Much to Drink and other Telethon hits were in the mix.

Doug stayed on to play with Preston Spurlock, the first time Preston has had a semblance of a band as far as I can remember--at least since the days of playing with his cousin years ago. I gathered that Preston and Doug had decided to play without practicing together and Preston would sort of bark out a rhythm that he wanted like "give me a waltz." And Doug would come back with just the right beat. They kicked off with Put Me Into Cryogenic Freeze and also played Sit and Stew, Pacific Newts (or whatever it's called) Podcorn, etc.

After Preston's set, he and Justin Remer screened videos they'd made. Preston's animated video for Jessica Delfino's song Sudden Change was amazing. You really should watch it here. Justin screened his video for Thomas Patrick Maguire's song "Evening News," and for Brook Pridemore's song "Just Like Nathan Hale, p 2," which features appearances by Thunderbolt Krieger and other Antifolk stars. You can see that one here. Preston also showed a video documenting a luau at Johnny and Julie's house.

Then Elastic No-No Band played. The show seemed to fly by pretty quickly. But it was a fun one. I think we have been playing together long enough now that we're comfortable with the songs, and it's nice to loosen up a bit. We started with You Never Swim, and played ENB hits like You Think It's Wrong to Sing Along, Woody Allen Surrogate, Turn Out Right, etc.

I wasn't familiar with BJ Snowden but had been hearing a lot about her from Ben Krieger. BJ plays standing behind a Yamaha keyboard and uses a lot of its rhythms and beats. She opened up with Mumbo Jumbo, which was an instrumental and showed off her strong piano skills. BJ is an amazingly enthusiastic performer. After practically every song she would throw her arms up in the air and radiate a beaming smile. Although she's from Boston, BJ seems to have kind of an infatuation with Canada, and a number of her songs focused on aspects of that country. She sang "In Canada," "Ontario," "New Brunswick," and "St. Peter's Bay." "In Canada" for example, has the lyrics "In Canada, folks treat you like a queen, In Canada, they never will be mean, In Canada, they treat you like a king, you feel welcome, it makes you want to sing." It was charming that BJ's 80-something year old mother participated in her act. At first BJ's mom stepped in front of the stage and threw out handfuls of candy to the audience. Then later she came on stage for a couple of songs, including "Disaster and Tragedy," and "In Canada." BJ also played a song about being a schoolteacher, one about divorce called "From the Chapel to the Courtroom," another instrumental called "Witch's Prelude," and a tribute to Pete's Candy Store, which she had to be egged on to play because she was worried it might be a conflict of interest with Sidewalk. See my tirade below for a little more about BJ.

I've written so much about the Young Dads previously that it almost feels redundant to gush about them further. I have to admit I was a little worried when I saw them come on stage in costumes. Micah was dressed in a baby outfit with bonnet and everything, and Jesse was wearing what looked like a Geisha robe. But their show was as musical and hysterically funny as ever. Like at the last Antifolk Fest, they had a power point presentation that went along with their act which kind of mocked typical business presentations but also had a lot of funny jokes. One of their songs recounted actual conversations about accounting and auditing that were overheard in one of the Young Dad's work place. They also did some improvisatory beat box type stuff. Micah would beat box while Jesse would vocalize in specific styles such as a bird, a "grossed out pop vocal" and "Bill Cosby imitating Richard Nixon." He also did his father after a "failed home repair experiment," which was truly hilarious. You had to be there. Also Micah did some improvised free style rap based on suggestions from the audience, and that was pretty amazing too. I repeat that their song from the perspective of two ninth-grade girsl is a brilliant piece of songwriting. I was sorry that the third Young Dad was not there to perform the a cappella version of their song Existential Crisis, but it was nice to hear it all the same.

I am truly a fan of the Venn Diagrams, but I was exhausted and had to check out by the time they played.

Time Out New York ran a nice item about the Fest and listed it as among the top music events of the week. Within the piece though they referred to the Antifolk scene as a place to hear "outcasts, miscreants and....local nuts." I wondered why that bothered me, and realized it's not for the reason you might think. I am proud to be affiliated with a place that welcomes and fosters individualism and idiosynchrasy. The diversity of the Antifolk world and its open nature is exactly why I spend time in it. It's just that I think it is too simplistic to label the scene in that way. The people who may be considered "outcasts" in one sense are "incasts" in my book. I feel there's too much labeling going on that doesn't really reflect the complexities of individual personalities or performance styles. The challenge for anyone who writes about music or any art form is to describe something for what it is rather than give it an easy label. BJ Snowden, who performed Friday was evidently included in a book about "outsider" music. But what the hell does that mean? If you label someone as "outsider," you are automatically casting them into some sort of ghetto that sets them apart and discounts what they have to offer. At Sidewalk everyone is on the same playing field and people really appreciate performers for their true individuality. That's one part of its greatness.

See you there sometime soon!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, August 3, 2009

Hello-

Rachel Trachtenburg played with her group the Oh My God Girls the other night and Mom and Dad Trachtenburg were in the audience. I was thinking later on about the interesting cycle that represents. Jason T. started playing in Sidewalk's precursor, the Chameleon, something like 25 or 30 years ago, and now his daughter is an active part of the scene. One of the cool things about Sidewalk is that it is so open to everyone, including people of a wide range of ages. Usually I barely notice how old people are there. Maybe it's the dim light or just that everyone is there because of their love of songwriting. But it's always great to see folks blending together and to notice friendships and collaborations forming because of mutual interest rather than less relevant criteria.

It was nice to see Max Miller again, who had been a regular on the scene for a while, I think when he was in high school. He's a college dude now and was back to rock out with his electric guitar. Max brings fully produced backing tracks that he plays along with. He said he was recording a bunch of songs named after the month in which they were recorded, and the one he played the other night was called "March."

Amos Torres sang a song by Aaron Wilkinson. I never knew Aaraon, but from what I gather he was a good friend to many on the scene who passed away around 2003, maybe.

Max Vernon sang a song which had folks singing along on the line "you're not all I need." I'm not sure how he felt about Ravi the puppet singing along also.

Debe Dalton sang the one about "quietly playing banjo in the park." And another one that is called, I think, Dry. Beautiful stuff as always from Debe. Looking forward to her show on the 8th, which will be a send off for her as she gets ready to leave New York for a while.

Lady Blanche sang "Mr. Passerby." Nice harmonies with Veronica. She also did "I Want to be aTrophy Wife."

Matt Jaffe, a songwriter from California played. Although I said earlier that I tend not to notice how old people, are I might as well say that Matt looked to be impossibly young. He played "You Can't Walk in a Straight Line." There's some stuff on the web about him, including a long video with an interview and performance at MySpace. It is tempting to want to be a little skeptical of someone so young out there doing this stuff (he must be around 14), but from listening to him talk about what he's doing, it seems obvious he's pursuing this from his own enthusiasm. I've got to be at least somewhat supportive of anyone who claims David Byrne as a major influence.

Lach was back to entertain us with "Another Night Without You" and then, on piano, "Ain't it the Most". Always nice to have Lach back, who also kicked ass on Scrabble later in the night.

Emma Englesein was in from Australia and played with accompaniment from a friend on cello.

Aaron Invisible opened with his band, The Opaques, featuring Isaac G, Alex P, and a couple of other folks on drums and piano who I either didn't know or couldn't see from where I was sitting. They played "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright." Then Aaron did a solo song.

The Oh My God Girls, featuring Rachel Trachtenburg, played Haunted Hostel, and a Hula Hooping song, which featured the lyrics Hula, Hula, Hula, Hula, Hula, Hula, Hula, Hoop. The Oh My God Girls, if you haven't seen them are a Hula Hooping, Ukulele playing sensation.

Issac Gillespie unveiled his new electric guitar, which he calls the White Devil. He played a cool new song about trust/relationships etc.

Others who performerd Monday while I was there included Maggie Nutthall, Pete Scalzetti, Tracy Hope, Steve Stavola, Adam Finchler, Mike Baglivi (who played with Ariel Bitran), Awesome Witch of Rad, Charles Mansfield, Crazy and the Brains, Kid Lucky, and the Telethons.

The Antifolk Festival is starting this week. I'll be there for as much of it as I can. Check back for updates.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, July 27, 2009

Ben K. kicked things off with a cool, funny song about singing along...well you couldn't really sing along to it. Ok, you'll have to hear him do it for this to make sense but it was a really good song. Ariel Bitran played on it too.

Joe Crow addressed the piano and also played Over the Rainbow

Nan Turner sang a song about "how high your ceiling can go," which ended up in an impossibly high falsetto. She also did a rap while using a chair and music stand as a makeshift drum set.

It was nice to see M. Lamar back at Sidewalk. Did you see the nice item about him in The New Yorker, with a big blue drawing of him?

Alex P. covered Aaraon Invisible's song "If I was a tailor.." that was cool.

Jon Berger said that he thinks The Who is pompous and bloated. First of all, look who's talking. Secondly, yes, but they're awesome.

Kid Lucky was a beat boxer who sang/rapped and did beat box sounds at the same time. One of the songs he did was about waiting for the subway.

Ben Sadock played I Don't Live in Portland Anymore. Very catchy. The audience was singing along.

I played "I've Looked for Love" but I was really interested in trying to get more comfortable talking on stage, so I told a story about the time my parents and I ran into Daniel Bernstein in Times Square and my mom got into a long conversation with him. There was something that struck me as funny about that, although I don't know how much sense it made if you don't know my mother and Dan. I ran into a few Sidewalk folks over the last few days...Isaac Gillespie in midtown and Brian Speaker on the L. Brian was saying how he'd run into people all over the place recently too, so I guess it's in the air. For me I know it's always nice to connect with people from the comfort zone of Sidewalk in other parts of my day-to-day existence.

Susan Hwang played a song she'd written inspired by James and the Giant Peach. I think it was called "Changed by Fruit." Susan also played with Debe on Close the Door.

Lots of other folks played. JT Hathaway, Brian Speaker, Dan G. Connor, Aaron Invisible, Steven Cappazolli, Anat, Awesome Witch of Rad, Maggie Nuthall, Nick Nace (with Jordan and Isaac), Charles Mansfield and Richard Ringer to name a few.

Ravi the puppet was also on hand to tell some corny jokes and spice things up between acts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, July 20, 2009

It was a really fun night Monday, filled with all kinds of inspiring and unexpected stuff.

The standout performance of the night was by The Young Dads. With the addition of a third Young Dad they sang an a cappella doo wop song about existential crisis. I can't do it justice here except to say that the vocals were incredibly tight and the song incredibly funny in the way it juxtaposed its style with its topic.

Another group that stood out in a different way was "Why Bother and the Beard of Defiance." They were a rag tag bunch of kids--the transient dreadlocked urchin types you see hanging on the sidewalk in the East Village. I wasn't expecting too much when this mass of folks ambled on stage, knocking stuff over with their belongings, especially when they said they'd just met 8 hours earlier in Tompkins Square Park. But I guess they'd been doing some practicing. I'm not going to say their performance was exactly polished, but it had a lot of good energy and they were together on what they were doing. Most of them sat on the stage...a saxophone player, a skinny guy on banjo with thin braids dyed red, a guy playing drum sticks on the floor, a gal playing washboard, and the guy who seemed like the leader of the group, who had a bandana and long blonde dreads and played guitar (he stood and sang into the mic). One of their songs was "I Don't Know Where I'm Going," kind of reflecting the nature of the gang. One of the interesting sub-cultures at Sidewalk is The Travelers, comprising the types who exist by moving from couch to couch, place to place. It's not something that I can identify with particularly but it does seem to appeal to a certain group of folks, certainly this band we saw the other night. They had a positive attitude and I was glad they played.

Ben K. kicked things off with a charming song he wrote for his daughter, Birdies and Cars.

Dorit joined me in the fish song club.

Jaymay was back. I'd seen her once at Sidewalk when I first started coming but not much since. I can't really explain what it is that I like about her so much but she gave a really good performance...a song she wrote in London and one listing stuff in her room. The songs were good but there's something about her voice and her energy. Anyway, she's someone to check out if you haven't already seen her.

Debe was mesmerizing as usual. The End of the Day, and Normal. Debe says she's leaving town soon to go work upstate. Hard to imagine her not being a fixture at Sidewalk on a Monday night. For me, she is kind of the anchor of the place and seeing her there always adds a degree of comfort.

Waylon played two really nice songs, one that was, I think, about a grandma (maybe his), and another called Ginger Rogers. Anyway they both had a little bit of a jazzy lilt to them. Waylon, it turns out, is not only a really good songwriter but an amazing drummer too. Hadn't seen him in a little while.

Isaac Gillespie introduced his new band with Ben Sadock playing bass, Morgan on vocals, Alex P on guitar, and someone I didn't know on piano--plus Isaac on vocals and guitar of course. It was a really nice sound--a good blend of folks.

Good to see Ben Sadock after a long while. I liked his song about lunch! "The perfect way to spend the perfect day is to spread some PB & J."

Jon Berger brough it on with three poems about Jesus. Nice set, Jon.

I enjoyed Morgan's performance for the second week in a row. She sang about Chicago. She has such a nice, gentle feel to what she's doing.

Richard Ringer. I have not yet had a chance to totally connect with what Richard is up to--but I liked the song he played the other night, Alley Oop, Turtle Soup.

Brian Speaker and Madison Cano collaborated on a really nice song about birthdays...sort of. It kind of had to do with feelings around birthdays and obligations about birthdays, in particular as connected to certain relationships. Madison also sang her love song to Tommy Lee.

Brian Speaker also did two songs from his Mars Chronicles opera. With Amos and Melissa.

Other folks who performed the other night included Don Cameron, Joe Crow, Kronos Effect (two shaved headed and heavily tattooed guys), Constantine, Brook, Duck, Dibs, Domino, and Charlie Crockett, a guy from South Texas.

As I said, there was a lot of good energy and interesting stuff going on. I stayed later than I'd expected, which is a good sign.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Joe Crow Ryan CD Release Party, Friday, July 17, 2009

Just a word about Joe Crow Ryan's CD release show. Joe has just put out his new album "This Machine Kills Purists," on Justin Remer's Weemayk Music label. I, unfortunately, arrived later than I wanted to because of hang-ups at work, but I was glad to see a very good turnout for Joe's show. He performed a characteristically charming set with lots of guest performances, including a standout collaboration with JJ Hayes.Elastic No No Band followed. I think all of us in the band felt it was a fun set with a good feel. Mike Baglivi's group Heroes of the Open End played the late set and rocked out. There was some sort of terrible collision involving Ben Krieger and possibly Lach. That's what rock and roll can do to you, folks.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, July 13, 2009

I was away last week at an intense jazz workshop. Still trying to reconcile a lot of the concepts and approaches of jazz with the type of songwriting I've been doing. It's a whole subject for another post or a conversation on the corner, but I've been thinking a lot about how to integrate all the different musical styles I'm interested in. The jazz workshop was in Louisville and I made a spur of the moment detour to Nashville where I saw the Grand Ole Opry, and also popped in briefly to the Bluebird Cafe which is their local songwriter haunt. They have a setup with four songwriters in the round trading off and accompanying each other. I wasn't so sure about the couple songs I heard but liked the intimate setting a lot.

Well, it was nice to be back at Sidewalk, especially since things launched with the surprise appearance of Joie Blaney, in town briefly from L. A. Joie was a longtime fixture on the scene before moving out there. Along with Joie there seemed to be a handful of other folks from earlier days hanging out. Nan Turner, Dibs, Daoud, etc. Nice to see everyone.

I really enjoyed Morgan, who it seems is a roommate of Isaac Gillespie and played a couple songs on which he played guitar accompaniment. The first also featured Aaron Invisible. Morgan said she usually writes songs about places and she started off with one about Brooklyn. She has a very low key style and the song was charming, featuring the refrain..."I want you to stay here in Brooklyn." Her second song was about Connecticut!

Others who played while I was around: Don McCloskey, Brook P, and Joe Crow Ryan, who did an effusive spiel about his album and upcoming cd release show this Friday. He also played a request, "Till the Real Thing Comes Along." Isaac G. played a new song that name checks Debe D., Crabs on Banjo was back and played their theme as well as "Someone's been drinking in Rhode Island." Ghostown Jenny was new to me. Madison Cano is back in town for a bit and played with Josh Fox. Ariel Bitran played Deep Blue Light from his Zelda series. Did he say that was the last song? Nice to see the Fools on stage again. It's been a while...at least since I've seen them there.

Till next time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Brooklyn Tea Party, July 4, 2009

It was a full day of performances at Brooklyn Tea Party on the Fourth of July. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you were there. The blowout marked the departure of Dan Costello, Rachel Devlin, and Michael David Campbell and the start of a new era under Brook Pridemore’s continuing stewardship with the addition of Brian Speaker.

The vibe of the event was really nice, with shows going on in the apartment on the third floor and on the roof where a sound system was set up. Lots of folks were just hanging out on the roof chatting and catching up and enjoying the nice weather. The sunset that eventually fell over the city skyline was quite dramatic. With the skyline practically like a painted backdrop and the rooftops of the buildings stretching out in all directions, I felt like I could have been in the set of a musical and almost expected a corps of dancing chimney sweeps to appear at any second. Sometime after it got dark the big fireworks show on the Hudson stated, which we could see across the other side of Manhattan.

A couple sets stood out. Old Hat. I really like these guys. They sang a song about how it had been a weird week that I really liked. Although I later found that they hadn’t written it specifically for this weird week (which was capped by the bizarre resignation from office of Sarah Palin) it still encapsulated the oddity of the last week or so which started with Michael Jackson’s death and ended with the Palin situation. Ching Chong Song did a piece that had a long instrumental section with piano, saw, and bass that was gorgeous and captivating. People were having tons of fun hopping and bopping to Schwervon and to Urban Barnyard. With everyone jumping up and down I was a little worried as to whether the floor would hold. I could feel the boards bending...but I was right in there dancing along to two of my favorite bands.

I had to leave before the very, very end, but I’m sure the rest of the night was as fun as the parts I enjoyed. A significant part of what has made Brooklyn Tea Party so much fun is the hospitality of its hosts. In particular Rachel Devlin was working very hard yesterday to serve food, spread cheer (and collect tips). She also had great Fourth of July style. I hope someone got a good picture of her in her vintage dress and apron. The other BTP hosts were keeping busy too with a wide range of duties. Thanks guys for the nice day yesterday, the many fun shows before that and the always welcoming atmosphere.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Links and Things

Lach has sort of sent Antifolk.net into hiatus or something like that which is too bad since there is plenty of info there that is relevant even if Lach isn't active on the Antifolk front these days. So, since some of the links are still active I've posted a couple of them to the right, namely the Artists page and the News page. It's revealing to look at the list of artists who have been connected to the Antifolk scene over the years and look at what they were thinking about at the time they wrote up their little blurbs. The news section starts in June 2003 and continues to January 2009 and provides an interesting chronology of the scene during that span. It helped me try to narrow down the exact date I first played Sidewalk (which must have been the 22nd or 29th of August, 2004, for those of you interested). When I have some more time I'll try to link to the page he had with photos and some other articles and things.

I've also put a few other new links up, including photos of OJ All Day by me and by Yoko, and another Voice article with some relevant history.