Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wrapping up

Thoughts about the Fest. I didn't make it every night but showed up for the majority of them. Were there highlights? Well, of the acts I saw, I definitely loved Mike Baglivi's set with his group the Open End. It was exciting in and of itself but also, having been friends with Mike for a while it was great to see him take a step forward so successfully. All of the acts this last Thursday were excellent as you can read-I especially liked Dinosaur Feathers. And really, Ching Chong Song is a sublime group that keeps getting better.  

There were also times during the Fest when I was bored or sleepy or wondering what the hell I was doing there late on a weeknight. I'm not sure I can totally explain why I was drawn to be there so much, to be truthful. I think what I find so compelling about Sidewalk is that it's an incubator of ideas, a blank slate for people with a need to create, and a town square for a community of friends. There aren't that many places where people have the freedom to express exactly what they want without any kind of outside pressure. Another thing about Sidewalk is that you can use it for your own process. Putting together my own show for the Fest was one of the best experiences I've had artistically in a long while. Over the years I've been hanging out there, the place has given me the chance to develop in many ways, and I'm sure there will be more to come.  So the Festival for me, I guess, is an intensified version of what Sidewalk offers all the time. It's a compressed and heightened showcase where it's possible that anything can happen.

Lach deserves unlimited credit for all the opportunity he has provided people over the years with these events. And Ben Krieger has done a great job carrying things forward. And Pini should get some recognition too. Congrats and thanks to you folks for this.

Antifolk Fest, Friday, 2-27-2009

The last night of the Fest.

I'm finding that writing these things up is maybe as epic as the Festival itself....The Fools. I love the Fools. The room was sparsely populated when they started and it felt like a private show. As I've said before, Jen's singing is really soulful and while you maybe don't think of her primarily for her guitar playing, she has just the right touch for supporting her songs. I particularly like the song she and Uchenna played last night that is a tribute to their Moms....and fathers too (the room filled up by the end of their set). The Young Dads are interesting in that their songs stem from comic instincts--and they are hilariously funny--but there is a lot of excellent musical talent there. They harmonize in falsetto, they sing whole verses in fake languages, one guy plays a mean bass and the other is an excellent box drummer. My latest favorite of theirs is the song about going to the JCC. It reminds me of the times my dad would take me into the locker room of some club or something somewhere and you'd see all these old guys wandering around in their prominent nudity--sometimes not a serene sight for a kid. I think Bendik left some holes in the stage with his boots and the stomping that came with some of his songs. He played interpretations of some classical pieces in Bendik style as well as originals like "I'm Here to Sell Beer," and "Malltown." Joe mentioned that he played his first Antifolk Fest in 1986. Charles Latham brought a string tie and some interesting Antifolk songs from Philadelphia, including a song about how he's "not going to be down today." I liked Steve Espinola's whole set, but there was this one song he played with a long-necked two-stringed instrument that he'd made where he sang "it terrifies me that my not so great body has peaked and is decaying." I find myself thinking about songs along those lines these days. Whoever expected to get old? Erin Regan was exquisite. She played one of the most beautiful sets of hers I can remember. I don't understand why she's not on the cover of every music magazine published. Lach played a song that he dedicated for Ami and although I'd never heard it before, I think it could be one of my favorite songs of his. It was along the lines of "I want to spend a day without me....leave myself for dead." There's something interesting about wanting to get away from take a vacation from who you are and all that comes with that. Steve Espinola jumped on stage at one point and sat in with Lach on Spiderman and one or two other songs, which was cool too. I always like how Simon and Sam of The Wowz face each other on stage. It kind of reminds me of acts from the 60s for some reason. There is something charming about their whole vibe. They're kind of ramshackle and tight at the same time. I like it when Johnny stands up to sing like when he does "They say I'm no good but I say I'm just misunderstood (sexually depressed about the lack of Jameses)." 

Ching Chong Song was amazing. My tendency is to focus in on lyrics and I think that's what drew me to them originally. But last night there were some moments of intense musical beauty. I wish I could have captured it. It's been interesting to see how Susan Hwang has worked into the group. They are doing a lot with integrated vocal parts. At one point Susan switched from accordion to this exotic looking double drum. At the end of the set they did a spur of the moment medley of Old Man, a song about the McDonald's menu, and Pussy/Dick Diet. It was like watching some sort of sport to see the whole thing made up on the spot, especially since they kept coming back to Old Man and weaving the songs together in unexpected ways. I think I'm going to start following Ching Chong Song wherever they go. I'll be the first Chonghead. I'll sell musical saw kits in the parking lots of all their venues to make a living. 

I should mention that Lumberrob took the stage for the first minutes of Ching Chong Song's set and did this cool rapid-fire vocalizing thing with the loop machine. He kept crawling down to the floor and hitting the box intensely to trigger the loops.

Wow. Master Lee finished up this very late night of the set. The other night at the Open Mic I heard him do one of his pieces and I was amazed to recognize all these perspectives that I'd been thinking about independently. He was talking about how people tend to separate from themselves and spend their lives trying to become whole again. Last night's stories covered some of that same territory and also expanded into related areas, like fear and hating. He also talked about growing up a block away from Sidewalk during the 1980s. I don't think I can necessarily convey the sense of his ideas very strongly in my retelling of them, but I find that there are revelatory moments in Master Lee's pieces. Plus they're really funny and entertaining. And I like how he starts each piece with this meditative breath and upstretched arm movement.

Antifolk Fest, Thursday, 2-26-2009

Thursday night was excellent all around.

Kenny Cambre started things off with some sad songs. I'm wondering if Kenny is really that sad. First he sang a song called My Face, and I'm afraid Kenny has some concerns about his face ("no photograph has ever done me justice"). He also sang a song called Stupid Stories. In the middle of it he told a story about a hungry dog that he rescued while living in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi. He also had one called "Nice to Everybody" which had a line like "I'm so nice to everybody, why you puttin me down?" On some of his songs Kenny played with friends on accordion and violin. I really don't think Kenny is that sad. I think he just needs to get stuff off his chest and he does it in his songs.  I really like Kenny's whole vibe and it was a nice set.

Ben Sadock was next up. Ben had his cute baby Max along with him and Max, who is just getting used to walking, kept heading toward the stage and acting like he was going to climb up while his dad was playing, but every time his mom would grab him just in the nick of time. Ben started off with one of the most optimistic songs I've heard in a long while "Today the news is good news" was the gist of it. He also played a bouncy new song that he had written earlier in the day. "You and Me and Mr. T" and "Bye Bye Baby" were also included (I think that last one he said was inspired by something Max had said). The more I listen to Ben's stuff, the more I appreciate his lyrics. They can be very intricate and clever but don't feel at all forced. This was a solid, entertaining set from Ben.

Although I had no idea what to expect, Dinousaur Feathers really impressed me. The group consisted of Tom of Torn Curtain on bass, Duck on keyboard, Hannah Fairchild on vocals for some songs, and someone I didn't know who was at the center of things on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. The songs were built with all these interesting layers and textures. Each song had a cool, very specific underlying rhythm track played back on a drum machine (that was kept in a suitcase). Duck would punctuate things with these piano stabs or lines. Sometimes the songs would build up to these big moments, with the dynamics stemming mostly from the layering in of more interlocking vocals. All the group members had really nice voices, particularly Mr. Centerstage. I'll have to check them out again to get a better idea of the individual songs, but it was all very original and entertaining, and inspiring, frankly.

Susan Hwang is an amazing force of nature. Some of her songs have these moments of dramatic vocalizing that are hard to believe. Susan played a solo show, and accompanied herself on accordion. She did most if not all of her zombie songs last night as well as "Parking" and what she usually says is her one optimistic song, "Be Yourself." Some of Susan's songs seem at first as if they are about one thing and then surprise you by swinging over or weaving in some other concept that is related but that you don't expect. Like in one of the zombie songs she starts talking about zombies but then the song ends up addressing general existential dread. Well, I guess on one hand you could say that's the point of a good zombie song anyway.

Jeffrey Marsh of the Venn Diagrams played a solo set because Rick, the guy who forms the other part of the duo was ill. Jeffrey can hold the stage on his own without any problem. Jeffrey, who accompanied himself largely on ukelele, has a beautiful voice that can soar to great heights. Considering his skill he could allow himself to overdo it, but he manages to keep things in control. Although he plays a range of songs, I appreciate Jeffrey's selections in the show-tune-y area He sang The Man That Got Away Thursday which is a wonderful Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin song and he also did Secret Love, which Google tells me was a Doris Day hit from the film Calamity Jane. Among others he sang a song that I think was inspired by his love for Scott Bakula.

For some reason I never connected with Ben Sheperd during his original time on the scene whenever that was, maybe a year ago or longer. But at some point I came across this song of his called Bootsy Billade on MySpace and was captivated by it. It's a terrifying song in a way, but the line "you never really know about the people you know," is very true. Ben's songs sometimes deal with characters who have darker sides to them or find themselves in difficult situations. But it's rich stuff. People were very much drawn in last night. I'm glad he's on the scene again.

Mr. Patrick started with a funny story about Frito Lay. He passed around a bag of his favorite Frito Lay chips and read a letter the company had sent him after he contacted them in concern about the problems he was having locating the product. He also told a story set at the Indianapolis 500 in which Rick and a cheerleader friend from college stayed in a hotel room that had been bugged by the FBI. Neither Mr. Patrick or his cheerleader friend knew that the FBI had listened in on their exploits until they noticed the winks and nods from the agents when they saw them the next day. In the end the story also had a lot to do with Mr. Patrick's relationship with his father, but you'll have to hear the story yourself sometime to get to that point. There also were tales of drinking bouts with Russian friends and meeting the Dali Lama. Rick has a compelling voice and an easy style that draws in the audience. His stories are always interesting.

Schwervon is a great rock band. They played several selections off their latest album Low Blow. At one point Matt broke a string and Nan took over with a cool song about "an elephant in the room." Matt also took a moment to tell a funny story about a recent prostate exam given by a sensitive doctor. It was a great Schwervon set, and I danced a little.

Fortified Winter Antifolk Fest Continues, Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Even by Tuesday I was starting to experience Antifolk Fest Fatigue. I caught Jon Berger's and Liv Carrow's sets but I am sure I missed some good stuff after that.

Jon was performing again with his friend Sanjay on guitar and Jon on yes.....vocals. It was a singing and pacing Jon Berger again. He recited some too. Among the pieces performed were "27 times I've asked you to go out with me....27 times you had to say no," and one called The Deli in which Jon says something like "where you were the hotdog and I was the fry." He also did "My Name is Jon Berger ("and I think I can dance," and "I don't live with my mother," etc.). I do remember Jon singing "no one's special, no one gets a free hat." Then Jon talked about having a cock in his mouth ("ever had one of those cravings") and also got into a funny riff where even though he'd stumbled his way to the end of the last song he kept talking, explaining that he was continuing because he just didn't want to get off the stage. It was just a brief moment but really like seeing Jon indulge himself in the joy of hogging the stage.

Liv Carrow sang her song Madame Rosie (about a psychic) and then later also talked about about her interest in astrology and such saying that while she only had a dilettante's knowledge in some areas, if she read your tarot cards, she'd know everything about you. Anyway, I like that Madame Rosie song, but it's interesting to see how people find themselves involved in these arts of extra-perception. I'm pretty skeptical myself, but hey, maybe I should get Liv to read my cards I could use some insight....Liv also sang a new song which said "the wind has blown me up here, over and over years after year," and she had one full of winter and storm imagery . She sang Red Lentils, which is one of my favorite's of hers and another song that had a line "I wish I was a bird, but not so I could fly, but because birds don't pull over and cry when humans die." 

Monday Night Open Mic, February 23, 2009

Lach was back filling in as host. He sang "I'm Lonesome for You" and also a song that he explained came to him in a dream, even though in the dream it was sung by Roger Manning. 

Joe Bendik kicked things off with his interpretation of a piece by Robert Schumann. I guess it was a punk version of a lieder song (which Joe sang in Geman). He also did his version of Home (Home, no place like home).

Ben Sadock did Bye Bye Baby and You and Me and Mr. T.
Casey Holford played a new song that asked "how do we not burn out, how do we not get stale."
Susan Hwang sang "Parking" and "Zombies are Zen" and also made the claim that she only writes songs so she can talk about her mom.
Crabs on Banjo did "How Could I Forget," (I may actually be forgetting myself if that was right or not) Brian on maracas, Ben on bass, Ariel on guitar, Brook on drums. Crabs on Banjo also said that their set at the Fest would be their last show EVER (I'm betting on some reunions now and then, myself).
The Venn Diagrams announced that their song was in Eb for those who wanted to follow along. Rick told a story about his job as a teenager which involved restocking the gay porn section at a video store and how he had to break up a fight among two guys who each wanted to volunteer their services to help with that task in order to get first dibs on the returned gay porn. Jeffrey and Rick sang "For the Rest of My Days" and a cool cover of "9 to 5."

I had to miss a few people while I went on a hunt of the neighborhood shops for a mini dv tape (I knew they'd be expensive at those little delis, but the place next door really had them jacked up, so if looking for mini dv tapes, you might want to try other options).

Andy Junk was on when I came back. He sang his song about Dr. Mario, the video game character
Josh Fox sang - "What is true? Everything is just the way it is."
Jen's Revenge - I got the impression that Jen's Revenge was an act that had been a regular at the Open Mic and was making her first return appearance in a while. She sang two funny songs, one about her period and one dedicated to her husband in which she explained that the things that get her horny are him doing the laundry and otherwise doing helpful things around the house.
The Telethons have been Mark Deocampo and John Mulcahey (who everyone calls John Telethon) on drums and guitar respectively, but it seems as if things are going to be shaken up there. On Monday a gal named Amy was playing drums and Isaac Gillespie was playing tambourine (and maybe singing too). I must admit that I'm pulling this from some rather sketchy notes, but I think the first song they played was Two Trains. Then John invited anyone and everyone on stage and a bunch of folks got up and did "I've Had Too Much to Drink."
A guy Lach knows named Eric Frandsen played a couple of tunes, and it turned out he was a really good guitarist who played from a jazzy point of view. I was a bit distracted by other stuff going on but I'd really like to check him out further.
Megan played some cool bluesy songs, including one that was called, I think, A Good Word. She has a nice voice and was offered a show.

I think it was at that point that I came on with The Sidewalk Talk show. My guest was Steve Espinola. I've always liked Steve as a pianist and songwriter and also as an interesting guy to talk to. The most interesting part of our discussion was undoubtedly his demonstration of the recordings that he makes on plastic plates. Steve brought in an old wind-up Victrola record player and played some music he'd recorded by Grey Revell. It was cool and afterward people seemed really interested. We also talked briefly about Steve's musical influences and about Jorge Regula. Steve played a song called Runaway With Me, which had a really nice piano solo at the end.

It was great to see Mike Boner back at the Sidewalk. He seems to disappear for long stretches and then make surprise appearances. He came onstage in tight red snakeskin pants and sang a song that was about the Zoo. "I am a juicy blue kangaroo...I don't have a clue why I live in a zooooo." Mike defies description. See him if you get the chance.

M. Lamar sang a song about lynching (hang me from the tree...string me from the tree).

The Fest continues....

Friday, February 27, 2009

Antifolk Fest, Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nate Awesome performed in front of a big homemade banner that said Awesome across the top and had pictures of penises and stuff. He performed a fun set of straight-guy songs, including ones about Last Call Girls and another that called the bar his home and the church his vacation. At one point Nate yanked off his fly-away trousers and ended up on stage in his boxers. He played a nice love song and finished up with a couple rap numbers. Deborah T did a set of all new songs including one that she said was about how not to fall in love with a Republican. It had the lines "you can't dance with someone who does not dance." John Telethon was on bass and Deborah's friend Deenah helped out on percussion, and another friend, Lizzie sang. Deborah also had a song in which she said "I'm a puddle on the floor," and another she's been singing recently letting us know that all the people that she loves "are bad people." David Greenberg came in from Oberlin, Ohio to play the fest. He sang "The Cemetary Song," which had a lovely refrain that went "your eyes were like stars that night" although the lyrics changed next time around and went "the stars were like eyes that night." He also had a number about hetereochromia, in which he expressed love for someone with two different colored eyes. David finished up with a song in which he played both ukulele and toy piano. It was a nice moment in which he would hit the piano with the neck of the uke. The song was called Tell Me What I Can Do...(so I can be a friend to you). Jordan Levinson played sitting with a black electric guitar. She sang this tune "Make Your Peace" which has a nice melody and ruminated that "you never spoke well but I always had a lot to depend on...calloused hands and everything I wanted to be." Jordan also sang Big Ole Star, her song about aspirations to fame (I noticed for the first time the line about shopping at the same place as Dee Snider) and Lost Soul, among others. Very nice country-inflected singing from Jordan. 

It looks as if Mike Baglivi finally got the epic rock band/orchestra he always dreamed of. Well, maybe orchestra is an overstatement, but with Waylon on drums, Ariel on electric guitar, Mike on guitar and vocals, and a new member playing a variety of synthesizers, it seems as if Mike has made a lot of progress toward getting a full sound. The main thing is that the band is tight as hell and played one of the rockingest sets I can remember seeing at Sidewalk in a long time. Many members of the audience were soon up on their feet dancing. I've heard Mike playing his songs acoustically for a long time and it's amazing to hear the same tunes with this full band treatment. Mike kept running into the crowd with his guitar. He later explained that he'd bought a 50 foot cord just for that purpose. At the end he pulled off his shirt to reveal a Rush t-shirt underneath and the band played a Rush cover. Everyone in the group sounded great but I was really impressed by Waylon's drumming. That was kind of a surprise since I've thought of him as more of a singer-songwriter dude. But he wailed. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fortified Winter Antifolk Fest Continues, Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Women Wizards of Rock had booked the 7 to 10 p.m. part of the evening. I arrived just after their show ended but there were still a lot of women wizards floating around and selling women wizard merchandise and stuff. When I made it to the back room and settled in to a seat near the right benches, one of the women wizards came back to gather up the stuff she'd left there and asked if I would mind passing her her wand.

Preston Spurlock was the first act of the night who was really part of the Antifolk Fest. I've always been a big fan of Preston and I enjoyed his set. He played standing behind his little Yamaha keyboard with a guitar strapped on at the same time. Almost all of his songs are accompanied by the Casio-like rhythmic sounds from the keyboard. I noticed in particular the richness of the language in many of his songs.  Preston and I both grew up in Florida and so I identify very much with a song he played about how the state basically has been turned over to real estate developers and considering how much it's been ruined maybe the best option would be to cut it away. He also did his song saying that before he dies he'd like to be put into cryogenic freeze (everybody sing: "Put--me into cryogenic freeze, put--me into cryogenic freeze). A lot of Preston's songs are about life span, and concerns about growing old. He also played his song "Live Long Die Out," which if I'm getting this right--he once explained is about living a long life and then dying without reproduction so the species eventually ends. Preston was wearing his red and blue wool pullover hat the whole time he played and also has this way of letting his hair fall so that his face is covered when he performs.  After his last song, he knocked over the music stand and chairs and stuff in a moment of Preston slapstick.

Next up were The Relatives, who seemed to be performing with their extended family on Saturday. In addition to the trio that I've seen play the Open Mic recently, the group was supplemented by additional members on drums, violin, clarinet, and acoustic  bass. The Relatives play a gentle, old-timey, kind of repertoire with nice vocal harmonies. You kind of imagine them sitting around on a porch on a Saturday night singing for the fun of it. They played original songs, traditional pieces like "In the Pines," and covers like "Strangers" by the Kinks. I'm curious to find out more about how this group of younger folks came together with a mutual interest in this style of music. They've obviously worked hard at what they're doing and have crafted a very nice sound. Katie Vogel, Ian McLellan Davis, and Gabriel Gall are the three main members of the group.

Phoebe Kreutz kept saying that she was suffering from a soar throat, but while maybe there was a tad less vocal energy than usual--even that was hard to tell and she put on a great set. She played "I'm sorry I called you a dumbass," about her dumb but good-looking boyfriend, and the song about her love for Gary the new guy at Taco Bell, as well as one about Tijuana. The first few songs were accompanied by a friend on guitar and Gary Adler on piano. Phoebe's songs are very funny and sharply written. I'm always impressed in particular by her ability with rhyming. Phoebe also demonstrated a song from a musical she is writing with Gary about the first Thanksgiving (the show  is called Thanks!). She and Gary played "How," a fun comic love number between a Pilgrim girl and an Indian (Native American) guy who can communicate their feelings with basically only one word (that word being "How"). I'd love to hear more songs from the show. She also played a song about her pledge to no longer drunk dial, one about feeling depressed in Paris, and a recent song about being in a Horrible Mood. She and Matt (last name?) played a duet on kazoos.

Finally there was Huggabroomstik. I'm used to Huggabroomstik being an army of members but Saturday they played with just Dibs on guitar, Liv on bass, Preston on keyboard, and Neil on guitar and most of the vocals. I also seem to remember the group as pretty noise oriented, but Saturday they focused on a group of more crafted songs. I particularly like the one about riding in a suitcase to a deserted island. "Certain creatures serve you, other ones enslave you and make you do their bidding." Ok, some of the repertoire toward the end got a bit scatological but in general there were some nice songs. And Neil did not disappoint us. He removed his pants as he often does. I liked Dibs's comment at the beginning of the set that "we always look to see how many people are here when we start because at the end there are usually none." Well, that wasn't true the other night. Despite the late hour Huggabroomstik had a group of fans who stuck it out to the end.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Night, 2-22-2009

Mike Baglivi and his tight ass group tore the roof off of Sidewalk Cafe on Sunday night. That was great.

More to come....

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Festival So Far

I'm having a bit of a problem with covering the Fest because for the most part I've found myself enjoying the shows rather than keeping track of everything the way I might in order to write it up later. So, some of these entries might be pretty brief....but for the record...

Let's see..Tuesday. Hmm. I really was not keeping track of things at all. I caught Aaron Invisible's set. Nice songs, and a very good stage presence for a young dude. He brought folks up to play on Goodnight Irene. Isto. Lots of acoustic guitar pyrotechnics and some jazzy sounding voicings on occasion. He had a couple of collaborators including a women with whom he did a kind of gibberish vocal duet. He sang a song he'd written that day and also explained that he had sworn off of memorization. Dibs and Daoud collaborated as a drums and guitar duo called Wet Bandits/Sticky Bandits. (here's a link with a better description (Matt's blog).  I had to leave, unfortunately, before hearing the rest of the evening's bill which featured Brook Pridemore, The Everybody Knows (Dan Penta), and Clinical Trials (which I understand was a solo show by Somer).

I caught Domino's set on Tuesday. Among the songs she played were Fuck the Mice, Bathroom People, and Part of My Salary Comes from the Tip Jar. Touching You's set included The Olympics are Retarded (he made a convincing case, actually, about that point), Fucking is a Family Value, Love Can't Cure Cancer, and the song he seems to love playing so much If You're Vagina Was Burned In a Fire (which he sung to Domino). Touching played most of his set standing in the middle of the room, rather than the stage, which worked pretty well. He also had a goofy friend who got up and danced to a couple of Touching's songs (which he sings to pre-recorded tracks). Peter Dizozza played a set that he called "20th Century Sidewalk Traveler." The songs had to do with the trajectory of a life from the Lower East Side to the cemetary (with stops at Cape Cod and an enchanted forest along the way. Nice songs from Peter.  Mike Hill on bass and Neil Kelly on drums. Rachel Trachtenburg performed some original songs and a couple of Pink Floyd covers. Her Mom, Tina, was on stage with her illustrating the songs with figures on a feltboard. The board was inside the lid of a weathered suitcase and Rachel explained that all the figures were homemade. I like the Trachtenburg's retro/vintage visual style. Rachel was wearing this 1960s-ish looking aqua sleeveless dress with a bright pink square pocket on the front (complemented by pink tights), and Tina had a vintage pink sweater and polka dot dress. With the battered suitcase, felt illustrations, and what looked like a pink ukelele that Rachel was playing, it made for an interesting visual picture. Rachel had songs about pigeons and about horse drawn carriages and also sang Pink Floyd's song Bike. Jason Trachtenburg was next and I enjoyed his set very much. I've heard many of the songs before, but he really was clicking Thursday. He was playing with a bassist, Alec Cumming, so maybe that added a bit more dimension. Some of Jason's songs are relentlessly catchy...I Don't Want to Tempt Time, All for the Sake of Art, Anybody Can Tell. I realized that there is a definite pop sensibility to what he's doing. Jason plays on the stereotypes of show business in his stage patter but like anyone who satirizes anything he seems to both identify with and want to keep some distance from his subject. He also played a song he wrote with Julie LaMendola and a line from it has been going through my head the last few kisses like it ain't nothing.. Dan Fishback started off with a new song "you make me rethink everything...the world looks better with you in it." He sang another new one in which he had this interesting way of articulating the word flex-i-ble. He was singing "I've gotten real flex-i-ble and now I'm on a bender." Dan finished up with Rue McClanahan Hands, a sweet song in which he catalogs the characteristics of someone (a love interest perhaps) through the qualities of various celebrities, like...Rue McClanahan. In some ways Creaky Boards played a pretty straightforward set. Andrew was pretty low key with his in between song patter and didn't move around as much as he has at times when I've seen him take over the stage movement/dance-wise. But the group has really worked hard at arranging their songs and particularly on developing rich vocal harmonies. Almost all of the songs had very specific harmony parts sung by all four band members. Andrew was playing bass, Darwin on electric guitar, Dan Costello on piano and keyboard, Michael David Campbell on drums. The songs they played included Guilty Heart, what seemed to me like a new version of their song Kiss You at Every Red Light, Secret Man, The Songs I Didn't Write, Now I'm in the City, with Brooklyn as a finale. I'm a big fan of Andrew's songwriting and enjoyed the set.

Last night (Friday that is) the bill was jammed with 8 acts, but a fine bill it was. The evening started with Bernard King's poetry reading extravaganza. Joe Crow was the m. c. and the readers included J. J. Hayes, Debe Dalton, Jenn Lindsay, Mike Baglivi, myself Frank Hoier, Dave Deporis, and several others. Bernard gave me a poem of his to read called "How Poems are Written in Train Stations." It was a cool piece about, well, about how poems are written in train stations and about channeling love through an absorption in what book someone is reading. Diane Cluck was the last reader and she die "The Wind Comes A-Howlin, with a minimalist musical accompaniment from Dan Costello on piano and Doug Principato playing stringed instrument that I can't identify. Something homemade, maybe. Anyway that was a cool moment at the end of Bernard's set. Dan Costello played a fine (mostly) solo set, starting off with a sing-a-long on the lines "if I was alright, I would tell myself it was all ok, but it's not ok, what would I write my songs about." I like sing a longs, but for me it works better if the refrain is about three words long. More than that my mushy memory cannot handle.....Dan played a song by John Houx and also had Brook Pridemore sing a piece, which Brook did in part standing atop a stool. Dan also warned us about checking your guitar when traveling by plane--not a good idea based on his recent experience, and he also took several minutes to describe a crazy dream. He finished up his set with the M & M song and Tape Recorder, which featured a big group of pals. Next up was Eric Wolfson, who played with Dan C on piano, Frank Hoier on electric guitar, Gan Matthews on bass, Brook on drums and Eric on acoustic. The band sounded great and they did an upbeat set featuring Buddy Hackett's Niece, I'll Cross the River, and North Counry girl among others, finishing up with Sleeping is a Sucker's Game. I have to admit that for part of Eric's set I was downstairs getting prepared for my own set (Herb Scher and the Key Lime Pie Revue, that is) I was very much looking forward to playing and happy about the way our rehearsals had gone, so I was feeling pretty comfortable about the show. Some of the songs finally reached the point I'd been trying to get them in terms of arrangement, style etc. over a long time. Without getting into a long treatise about it, the experience of playing at Sidewalk over time has enabled me to figure out how to be a much better band leader. Anyway, we started off with New York City Funk and the band kicked off a vamp which went on for a bit while Nick introduced the group and I came on and introduced the band. We then launched into the song and it felt great. The band had exactly the right sense of the rhythmic feel and I thought that we did a good job of conveying the funky vibe. Ariel did a great guitar solo...just the tone I've wanted in that spot all along. We also played Gwen Stefani, Have You Met Miss Jones, Tower Records is Gone, Fishes, and Do the Berger. Have You Met Miss Jones was a jazz standard that went well in rehearsal but seemed to be the wobbliest part of our show last night. We had a lot of fun in practice coming up with an arrangement. Maybe we'll tackle it again sometime. I ended up putting Fishes in on the spur of the moment as a solo number because we ended up with more time than I thought. I had the best time playing Do the Berger, though. I looked out a couple times and it felt like the whole audience was up and dancing. I don't know if that was really the case, but it sure felt great anyway. Debe Dalton was next. It seemed to me that Debe played a lot of songs I didn't recognize, which surprised me since I thought I'd heard most of her stuff. She started off with a great new song she's been playing recently about love. Debe is great no matter what and even though I didn't keep track of her entire set, it was a nice one. Diane Cluck followed. Diane is an incredibly soulful and understated performer. It was so crowded last night and I was still riding high on the adrenaline of my own show that I didn't track Diane's set closely either last night. But people were talking about how flawless she is as a performer. There is definitely something ethereal and mysterious about her. I have a suspicion that a large part of the crowd last night was there specifically to see Diane. Frank Hoier was next and his set included Lovers and Dollars, Black Dress Blues, and My Baby. I was glad also to have a chance again to hear the song that Frank wrote based on Raymond Carver's story "What we talk about when we talk about love." It's a lovely song. I wasn't able to stay to hear Don McCloskey finish up the night but he definitely seemed to have the audience's attention for the bit of his set I did see. Rock it with the glockenspiel, Don.

Sidewalk was packed last night. It was hard to find a seat for a lot of the evening. That was good to see. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Correspondents Needed

Anyone out there want to help write up the Festival shows? The write-ups need not be extensive. You won't get paid and uh, there really aren't any fringe benefits, but you'll be helping to preserve performances for the annals of history. Leave a comment or send me an email if you're interested. 

Open Mic, Monday, February 16, 2009

Lots of folks were promoting their festival gigs.

Crabs on Banjo kicked things off with the COB theme. Ben announced that they would be performing their farewell show at the upcoming Antifolk Festival and that they'd be releasing a three-cd recording. For their second song COB took suggestions from the audience, members of which yelled out "Flunkies" and "ugly green sweater," so the fine folks from COB took it, improvisationally from there.

I had to step out for a second, but when I returned, Ariel was singing "Within range of the ruby." He'd gotten to the point of an audience sing-a-long on that line and the song built up to a dramatic ending.

Mr. Patrick told a compelling story about a friend of his, an older woman he helped out recently as she became ill and eventually died. Sounds as if the woman was quite a beloved character and among the accomplishments of her life, according to Rick, was inspiring Charles Addams's character of Morticia. 

Frank Hoeir played a song he said was influenced by music of the 1950s, "When You're With the One You Love," and another one "Black Dress Blues," that he explained was inspired by his girlfriend and by Hound Dog Taylor.

Jon Berger-performed some poems for you. The Show, Toboggan, and Pigs were among them.

Creaky Boards--It was nice to see Andrew back in town after a tour of Europe. I don't know the title of the first song he played, but it started of with the line "Beth and Oliver are doomed." He also played "The Songs I Didn't Write," which, I've got to admit, is about the catchiest song I've heard coming out of our scene in a while. Check out the whole YouTube deal on that song if you don't already know about it (but you probably do). Andrew played both songs at the piano. Nice stuff.

Aaron Invisible played a couple of songs. One of them was about "The Discoverers." Aaron is a young guy with some interesting songs and an unusual voice. It will be interesting to see where he goes with all that. Oh, and he was playing the bouzouki or mandolin or something like that. With accompaniment from Isaac G.

Joe Crow Ryan talked about getting kissed by a woman he met while playing in the subway. He played Dancing in the Dark for her (and for us) and also "After all how little we know." Good going Joe (with the kissing, as well as the music).

I played "Tower Records is Gone," and "Do the Berger," the latter of which was performed with accompanying dance moves by Jon Berger. I'm always facing away from the stage playing the piano when Jon and I do this little act together. Some time I'd love to see what he's actually doing. I think he's stealing the show. 

The Relatives. A charming threesome. They played "and it dawned on me today all we know will fade," a song about eventually fading away, and they also played a song that incited soldiers to "desert before you get hurt." The Relatives remind me of an old school folk group. Acoustic guitar, harmony singing, etc. It's nice laid back material and works well in contrast to the harder tone of a lot of the other material we hear on a Monday night.

The Zombie Nationalists played, mentioning that they'd recently been married. One of their songs had the line about a house on fire "As the house caved in we thought everyone around us was so content. What a surprise." By the way, there were at least three strong boy-girl duos last night, the Zombie Nationalists being one of them.

Debe Dalton did Camptown Races and a new song, "Thanks."

Josh Fox played his black Stratocaster. "Soon enough I'll eat your bluff and then I'll eat your heart." Another song about True Love asked "What is True? Everything is just the way it is."

Isaac kicked off the one song wonder round. He explained that he had conflicted feelings about a conversation with his Mom in which she said that she'd been crying after listening to one of his songs. Isaac explained that he was glad the song caused an emotional reaction but not glad to make his mother cry. I think the song he played last night, The Undertaker, was the one his mom reacted to.

Touching You was next. He did his thing of calling a woman on stage to participate in his act only to then embarrass her by singing a silly song about parts of her body. Touching You is obnoxious and way less clever than he thinks.

The Telethons. I always like Jon's stuff a lot. I don't think I'd heard this song before but it might have been called "A Temporary Lapse." It was in his trademarked rapid-paced guitar chord, new wave-ish, punkish, rock style. He wasn't wearing his glasses last night so there were none to absent-mindedly fling off onto the floor.

Brian Speaker sang a lovely duet with Julie Hill. I've heard him play this song a couple times lately "If you really want to taste wine, you got to taste it off someone's lips. " The two of them should do more singing together. Sounded great. (The evening's second boy-girl group).

Mike B. did Kerosene Park, with Ariel on guitar and Waylon on bass. Nice rock energy from Mike, with one or two high jumps included.

I'm afraid I didn't catch the name of their group, but the third male/female duet came from two first-timers on a song called Hymn and Him.

Julie Hill used her loop machine and performed a really nice version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." As she sang the song she let pieces of it build up in layers so that she created an accompaniment from her own singing that got thicker and thicker as she went on. It was quite effective. It's interesting that Julie said she's obsessed with Judy Garland. She's the second person in our little community I've heard say they are huge fans of hers in the last few weeks. Judy Garland was big in my family and I've always loved her soulfullness, particularly on tunes by Harold Arlen (which includes the Wizard of Oz songs) but it's interesting to see that younger folks are finding her even today.

Deborah T. sang "A man I used to love walks into a bar. No this isn't a joke." And she sang again the song that has the line "All the people that I love are bad people" which eventually gets to the point of saying "I want to be a singer." A couple new tunes from Deboarah, it seems.

I think it was then that I hit the road.

Oh, Ben is organizing a photo display in which various photographers are contributing pictures of people who are performing during the festival. Although the full exhibit wasn't up last night, we did display a stunning pinup shot of Jon Berger that I took several months ago. I'm looking forward to the rest of the show which will also have photos by Ben Krieger, Isaac Gillespie, Chloe Philip, and Peter Dizozza and possibly others.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fortified Winter Antifolk Fest

Hey. Whaddaya know? The Antifolk Fest is almost upon us. That's the Fortified Winter Antifolk Festival 2009 folks and don't you forget it. The Fest is an intense and highly concentrated week of the performers representing the state of the scene. As usual every night seems to be one that can't be missed. I count something like 84 or 85 acts scheduled during the run of the Fest.

Highlights? Seriously it's a great bill all around, but here are some shows I'm looking forward to.

First off, Diane Cluck is playing on February 20, directly following Debe Dalton. Diane's appearances in New York have been rare lately. She was on the scene before my time and I have only seen her play once or twice but she is an original, softly-spoken, emotionally rich performer. In a 1-2 combo with Debe Dalton, it should be a nice night (coincidentally it's the same evening I am playing-so come early!).

Another name from the past who I've never seen perform is Grey Revell. I've heard some of his songs on MySpace and am looking forward to his show also on the 25th. He plays the same evening as Shilpa Ray, who should not be missed.

Geez-there's so much good stuff here. Steve Espinola is a personal favorite of mine on a bill packed with great folks the final night. 

In general, I am looking forward to seeing a lot of my friends who haven't been around in a while. You might want to check out the Creaky Boards, Soft Black combo on the 19th, for example.

If you are planning on making a marathon of the Fest and coming to all or many of the nights, here are some tips for making it through the long evenings and the long week.

1) Bring a bottle of water and maybe a power bar or something like that.
2) Bring singles. You will undoubtedly want to tip and why worry about getting change?
3) Bring something to sit on. Those benches and seats can get hard, man. Don't they make official Fortified Winter Antifolk Fest pillows.
4) Cheap stuff on the menu: Eggs! And I think the falafel appetizer is $5 (comes with bread and tahini). But prices have crept up recently, haven't they?

I'll see you there.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Open Mic, Monday, February 9, 2009

I arrived late....came in and Brian Speaker was playing a cool song about cell phones. 

Becka Hasselbrok played a couple jazzy tunes, including one about not falling in love (and then falling in love). 

A guy named Chris played a couple bossa tunes including a cover of One Note Samba, with a real nice guitar solo.

John Telethan played a couple tunes at the piano including "All Hail..." and "Drivin Around."

Andy Junk told some stories. Well first, he read a really funny letter to the fake Andy Junk, a guy who got the Andy Junk name on MySpace. Then he read a story about a cute little dog that eats fingers.

Rebecca Seatle was back, with a Cuban guitar and a couple nice songs, including a new one in which she says she wants to live in a red brick house.

Mr. Patrick told a story about a friend of his he helps care for. Brook started his song standing on a chair and played without amplification (I wish there was more of that at Sidewalk). Jon Berger performed and seemed to have an emotional run-in with a mic stand.

Around that time I started getting ready for the Sidewalk Talk show with Lach. I never come out of these things feeling totally satisfied, but I thought the conversation went pretty well. As someone said to me, it really helps to have people in these things who actually like to talk. I thought the conversation was interesting and I wish we'd had more time. We were just getting into talking about Lach's album The Calm Before and his songwriting in general when we had to finish up. We did talk a fair amount about the early days of antifolk. I also asked Lach why he thought the music he and his friends were playing in those days needed a name, and I got quite an earful from him about that. An interesting topic, I think.

.....more to come....

I caught the tail end of Lola...well the tail end of her performance--of song accompanied by Isaac. STill haven't quite caught a complete set of hers.

Tracey Shapiro sang the bartender song, a funny, kind of satirical number about life as a bartender. (Emily Moment has a songs with somewhat similar themes although a different tone).

It was nice to see Deborah T. on stage again. She sang "all the people I love are bad people." Deborah T. has been low on the radar screen lately, but I think she is one of Sidewalk's underrated songwriters.

Learn Burn and Build was up, then Colin with "Stains Mercurochrome."

Sister Monk comprised a guy on acoustic guitar, a woman who sang and played percussion (djembe and some sort of shaker thing on her foot), and a guy on bass. They had a nice, funky kind of sound that really gelled at times (even though the song was a little long). They'd definitely worked out some very specific arrangements of the tune. The song had a refrain that went something like "can you touch a human life without causing strife." It will be interesting to see if these folks keep coming back and what the rest of their repertoire is like.

Francois sang Where Does the Circle End.

I think I got this right: One of the members of the group The Relatives, Katie Vogel, sang a cover of "All of Me." Check out The Relatives MySpace. Some cool old timey stuff.

MIke Connelly sang two bluesy tunes.

Next up was 3 G Crew who did a long rap tune. Maybe this is showing my own ignorance, but I can't figure out if these guys are serious about what they're doing or if their performance is all some sort of super satiric joke. A bit mistifying.

Adam Young sang Undertow, a song for a friend who had died.

Master Lee did a great piece about finding yourself. It looked at how people separate from themselves and then slowly, slowly come to an understanding of who they really are. He had something in there about how American culture is set up to keep people from becoming whole. I agree. Much of our commercialized society keeps people from unifying their personalities. Oh, you know, I don't want to use this site to rant about things like this, but it was nice to hear Master Lee talk about some stuff that I identified with and a good way to end the night.

See you next Monday.

Bushwick Book Club (2/3), Schwervon! CD Release (2/6)


I wanted to briefly mention a couple shows that I attended in the last week. On Tuesday the 3rd Goodbye Blue Monday presented the Bushwick Book Club in which a bunch of songwriters interpreted Raymond Carver's story " What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." Susan Hwang organized the evening and the participants were Susan, Ben Krieger, Babs, Frank Hoier, me, Jeffrey Lewis, Julie LaMendola, and Toby Goodshank. The story basically represents a conversation among two couples, mostly talking about love, but it very skillfully lays out the tensions and contradictions that seem to characterize many relationships. It inspired some cool songs from the participants--a kind of rollicking examination of love from Susan, Ben Kreiger's thought that you'll know who loves you when you see them crying at your funeral, two minimal songs from Babs, a tune about love from Frank Hoier (who played piano) performed with his girlfriend Moselle and with Peter Nevins (visiting from Montreal), my own schmaltzy-bitter love duet (sung with Susan), Jeff Lewis's question "what do we sing about when we sing about what we talk about when we talk about love, a song from Julie LaMendola that included a story about Carver and Bukowski, and Toby Goodshank's fantastic imagining of a more pornographic version of one of the Carver stories. 

This shorthanded version of the evening doesn't do it much justice. Everyone's songs were strong plus there was a nice spirit of camaraderie among the many friends on stage and in the audience that night. Susan did a great job of organizing the evening and m.c. ing. A video of the whole deal is available here: The series continues next month on March 3, with "Flatland."

Friday night was Schwervon!'s cd release show at Cakeshop. with Purple Organ, The Leader, Ching Chong Song, and Schwervon. Dave End was m.c. Again, great stuff from everyone who played. Schwervon!, of course, rocked it out of the park. Their new album, Low Blow is great. I also was really was impressed seeing Doug Johnson/Purple Organ again. The guy has a sort of Rube Goldberg, type set up that allows him to play guitar/snare/cymbal at the same time, along with some other processed effects that I don't understand. But despite the novelty aspect of that, he has some really good songs. A number of them deal with kind of oversexualized or explicit topics ("I Shit My Pants in the Garden of the Luxemburg" for example), but there are moments of real beauty and creativity in the stuff he creates. I've been listening a lot to a copy of one of his CDs that I bought Friday.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sidewalk Talk Show, Monday, February 9


This Monday the 9th, my special guest on the Sidewalk Talk Show is none other than....

The founder of the scene, the writer of the songs, the one-named man, the father of Henry.

You better know who it is by now. 

See you there.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Open Mic, Monday, February 2, 2009

I arrived early and stumbled into a memorial for Ami, the former Manager at Sidewalk who died in Israel recently. I hadn't known Ami well, although did interact with him some around the time of my photo show at Sidewalk in 2006. At first I thought Ami was going to be this strict restaurant manager kind of guy, but it turned out he was really cool about what I was doing. After my show he put up his own exhibit of photos and art works. Anyway, the part of the memorial that I saw conveyed nice memories of Ami. I was intrigued also to learn that Adam, the current Sidewalk manager is an awesome singer. He performed a song from Rent, which it seems was Ami's favorite musical.

Speaking of photos, Ben Krieger encouraged people to post pictures downstairs on the long wall in the basement--the same place where Ami had previously put up a huge collage of snapshots of people who'd played or hung out at Sidewalk over the years. It will be interesting to see what people put up there in this current incarnation.

Swamp Luck kicked things off with "I'm Gonna Be a Big Ole Star" (don't know if that's the real name)--which I believe was most likely written by Jordan Levinson, who sang it. The song seems to be getting tighter as Swamp Luck plays it more. Alex P. on slide guitar. Isaac on Banjo, Ariel on bass. 

Leif Osborn, played a couple songs, including "Objects in the Mirror."

Waylan Daniel performed with Carrie (?) Terry (?) on violin. They had a nice full sound together. 

The Young Dads did "I Planned Stuff for Us" and a new tune, "Get the Most Out of My Membership." Very fun stuff. I like the idea of a song that has to do with old guys hanging out at the JCC. I seem to recall that both songs also had to do with dating. It seems as if The Young Dads go on a lot of dates. Or did, before they became dads.

Eli Maniscalco played a song that had to do with the cliff divers of Acapulco. I may be mistaken, but it seemed as if he was playing with a kind of Latin rhythm.

"Guitar Music" performed...The songs were "Michael" and "Oceans."

Constantin played with Sue Yung (?) on piano. He played Desert Love Song and Hollywood. 

A couple guys from this band The Press played last night (individually). I'm not sure of the name of the song exactly, but Alex Picca performed what might have been called "How Did Summer Come So Fast?" Nice stuff. 

Enid Ellen. It's taken seeing a few sets at the Open Mic to totally get into what Enid does, but I was very entertained by last night's performance. Enid said the song was called "In and Out" but it also had a line "I can talk to the animals." Anyway, Enid has an amazing vocal style which would be hard to describe. You just have to see it. It's a very stylized, dramatic kind of thing but quite compelling. Enid also has a unique fashion sense. Enid used two drum sticks on a second song, which was called "Lady Moon Mother Mother" (I think).

I'm not sure if it was right after Enid, but it was sometime right around then that I went on with the Sidewalk Talk Show. I had prepared some comic schtick to do at the beginning but on the way over to Sidewalk read that Bob Dylan had done a Pepsi commercial that aired at the Superbowl. I find this kind of amazing, really. I mean who am I to judge what a guy does...but I am judging. Without going into a long tirade, it just seems strange and wrong. How much money does the guy actually need? I hope he can buy that new Lexus he's always been wanting now. Anyway, that was about the size of my little monologue before I introduced Ching Chong Song. 

I kind of knew that interviewing Ching Chong Song might not be the most straightforward experience. Julie immediately diffused the question of the controversy over the group's name by bringing it up in an offhand way. I did want to talk about it somehow and, so, at least she got the question on the table, although I decided to come back to it later. We did talk about some interesting things, I thought, including the group's popularity in Germany and the idea of "obstructions" which they use as a way of refreshing or reinvigorating the performance of songs they've played many times. But they deflected several of my questions with jokey kinds of answers. It was fine, and I think entertaining. At least, I had fun. Pretty much you just have to go with the flow with these things. I'm looking forward to next week's show, with.....the man who started this whole deal in the first place.

More to come.....

Ok--just a quick rundown of who played during the rest of the time I was there....I caught snippets of David LK Murphy, Ben Sadock, and Alex Junk, who read story about a paleontologist, an astronaut and a detective. I also heard strains of Debe Dalton playing Pack Up Your Sorrows, and Isaac doing a couple new songs, including one about his father who watches too much television. 

And then Jesse came up with two drums and slammed out "I Just Want to Fuck" and another rap like tune. Cool and raucous. Jesse used to perform with Preston in a group called Don't Enroll in Public School and they were amazing together. Wish we could see more of that.