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.