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 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.

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