Saturday, June 20, 2009

OJ All Day, Friday, June 19

Last night was the kick-off of the OJ All Day Festival at Brooklyn Lyceum. It was a ton o' fun, but in some ways maybe just a warm up to what's coming today.

The Key Lime Pie Revue was on the bill and this was a great opportunity for us to play our first show away from Avenue A. I arrived on the early side of things with Doug Johnson so that we could unload my keyboard and his drumset. Matt and Nan, Christy Davis, Julie Delano, Preston Spurlock, and others were busy getting set up for everything. It seemed as if quickly it got to be 7 pm and the show kicked off with Kansas State Flower on the Main Stage downstairs.

Friday was our "Formal" night and I was glad to have the opportunity to wear this blue tuxedo jacket I'd picked up at a thrift store at some point. I did spend quite a bit of time struggling in front of the bathroom mirror trying to tie the bow tie that Doug loaned me until I finally had to get him do it. There were a few other folks who got into the whole formal thing. Luke Kelly was decked out in a tuxedo with a pink vest, Christy Davis had on a long cream/tan gown, Preston had a blue/aqua jacket with an iridescent lime tie. But I was surprised folks didn't get into it more heavily. I thought we'd see a lot more in the way of vintage gowns, sequins, etc. Oh yeah, there WAS a guy there with a grey top hat.

I didn't know what to expect from the Brooklyn Lyceum, and I didn't have as much time to explore it as I'd hoped, but it's a fascinating place. Historically the building was a community bathhouse but since 2001 it's been open as a kind of arts and community center. One thing I liked about it is that even though it's been adapted for a new kind of use, it hasn't been extensively renovated, and so you can see many of the layers and remnants of its history. I'm sure that a lot more work has gone into the place than is evident, but I guess what I'm saying is that instead of it seeming like some hip, slickly renovated "performance space," it has the run-down and slightly decrepit feel of a place that has functioned in a continuum of time. The main stage is situated downstairs in this enormous room with something like forty-foot ceilings. The second stage is upstairs in another huge room that's been sectioned off and set up with tables to feel more intimate.

Everything went so fast last night, including my own show, that it's kind of a blur. I was impressed by what I saw of Kansas State Flower and have to check them out some more. Brook Pridemore and Dan Costello did nice sets upstairs before it was time for us to get set up.

It's always slightly discombobulating to play in a new setting. I don't usually play shows on my digital keyboard and so there were things that threw me off a little, like how to get situated properly in front of the keyboard, etc. I also didn't have the right kind of chair so in the middle of the show had to ask for some sort of booster seat (Susan Hwang graciously went and found some thick books for me to sit on). Also, it was hard for me to hear the piano on stage. But, generally things went well. There were the normal little hiccups and things but we always managed to get back on track. It's interesting, when I first started doing this stuff I just wanted to get to a point where the songs were rehearsed enough that we could play them solidly. Now I think we need to reach another level where instead of just feeling secure and well-practiced on stage that we are totally in the moment of musical creation while performing. There are times when that comes out--when you create something new and unexpected right then and there on stage, and those are the most exciting moments of all. I really have to thank Doug, Trudy Williams, and Ariel Bitran, my very talented band mates. Each of them was totally engaged in the process and their contributions were crucial. Also thanks to Preston and Susan H. who each performed a song with me. Songs we played were: NYC Funk, Fishes, Chop Wood, Professor Longhair/Do it in the Road cover, I've Looked for Love, an instrumental tune, New Beatles, Makin' Whoopee, Tower Records, Do the Berger.

Other stuff: I was really impressed by this band Bugs in the Dark that I'd never heard before. It was a trio, with, I believe, two guitars and drums. It was raucous rock and roll stuff, but really well done with lots of energy. Doug/Purple Organ impresses me every time I see him. I didn't catch his whole set this time, but what I did was beautiful. Shilpa Ray has gotten much rockier. Her set was a high-energy rock show. It was totally engaging, but different than I remember. Somehow I missed Julie from Ching Chong Song smearing red lipstick all over her face--I don't know how exactly unless I was distracted by the Merch table at the moment or something. It seems like it must have been one of those great Ching Chong Song moments. I did see her walking around though, later with a big red circle on her face.

I have to give Matt Roth a lot of credit for pulling this festival together. It's a ton of work--and I'm sure he's not exactly making the big bucks off this. One of the things that I love about OJ All Day is that it encompasses a community of people who are all connected through music. It's been nice to get to know some of these folks a little more this time from being involved. There's something great about combining music with connections among friends. It's also great to get to hear new groups too, so I was glad to learn about Bugs in the Dark and am looking forward today to this group Peggy Sue, among others.

Wow, it's going to be a long day. I don't know why I am up doing this so early. Maybe I can take a nap before heading back out to Brooklyn. More later.

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