Sunday, May 3, 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009

I was at Sidewalk for a very solid Friday evening bill.

Aaron Invisible kicked things off. Some interesting songs. He seems inspired by a Dylan folk-vibe kind of thing and in fact covered a Dylan tune. He has an unusual singing voice, very different than what you would expect from talking to him and hard to describe, a little whispery, a littly reedy, a little high-pitched.

Jon Berger performed with Sanjay, his guitar playing sidekick. I really admire Jon for moving into the singing realm, even though his tonality is sometimes, shall we say, approximate. It's interesting because, although I guess you could call what he's performing songs, they're really more like sung poems. Jon also read some poems on an unaccompanied basis between his singing forays.

The Venn Diagrams. It seems as if the Venn Diagrams and The Young Dads have formed some kind of alliance because The Young Dads came up to introduce The Venn Diagrams. I love the material that The Venn Diagrams choose. They opened with "Take a Walk on the Wild Side," and had the audience singing along with the doot doot doots. They also had an audience member come up and blow soap bubbles. Then they sang a Kurt Weill song in a mix of German and English, and I think another song entirely in German. They gave a lesson in high-fiving (aim for the elbows) and performed a cover of 9 to 5. They also spoke about their mutual affection for Bea Arthur and did the theme song to The Golden Girls. It seems they have developed a specialty number for tip jar time...."We're in the Money." They closed with Dream a Little Dream. These guys are immensely talented. Jeffrey has a sublime voice and Rick provides very tasteful and tasty accompaniment. Their means of interpreting the songs they cover is usually to smooth them out and calm them down. Maybe what I mean by that is that they add a simple elegance. Anyway they stick pretty close to the original melody, but there definitely is a Venn Diagrams style to the tunes they interpret. Jeffery and Rick are both very funny, but they may lean a little too heavily on the in-between song schtick, especially since the dry humor of including songs like 9 to 5 and The Golden Girls stands so well on its own. In any event, I love what they do and always enjoy their shows.

The Young Dads. Holy moley. The young dads wore business suits and had an elaborate Powerpoint presentation to accompany their songs. What can I say? These guys are brilliantly funny. Their set was basically a take-off on corporate America with mock business graphs charting aspects of their songs and their performance. Between numbers they would pretend to take cell phone calls about business matters. One of the lines that kind of cracked me up was when one of the Dads said "excuse me, I've got to take this," in a very officious, businessman kind of way. There was one "cell phone conversation" in which the same Dad (I think) got into this chant of "yes, buy, no, sell, buy." He kept chanting that over and over like some sort of mantra. I've written about most of The Young Dads songs before and they did many of the favorites we know and love I've Planned Stuff for Us, What's the Use of Having a Threesome, Get the Most of My Membership, and the one from the perspective of two 9th grade girls, which is amaving, really, as a study in character.

I'll say it again, not only are they reliably funny, but The Young Dads are extremely musical. I'm always impressed by their harmonies and that they create a very full sound with just a bass and whatever you call the drum thing that the one Dad sits on. They're also in an interesting realm mixing comedy with songwriting. A lot of comic songwriting is very heavy-handed. I think the Young Dads have carved out a new kind of space for well-crafted comic songs. And yet another thing...I really liked the theatricality of their performance. I've said before that not enough performers at Sidewalk pay attention to the holistic aspects of their shows. Even if it's just how the band is dressed or how the stage is arranged, I think there's something to be said for thinking through the style of your presentation. Yes, maybe corporate America is an easy target. Not everything about that world is so black and white. But the Young Dads certainly drew from the images and stereotypes of that environment to create a truly original show at Sidewalk.

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