Ben kicked things off Monday with a song from Sting-ra. He played a cool recorded intro and also promised that at Wednesday's show he would have a stage full of synthesizers to provide us with the full Sting-ra experience. Actually that's tonight, when Ben and several others will be performing their rock operas and concept pieces at Sidewalk. Most everyone on the bill played Monday to plug their slot and give us a taste of what was in store tonight.
It was nice to see Eric Wolfson at Sidewalk. It feels as if it's been a while. He played Buddy Hackett's Niece and Sleeping is a Sucker's Game. Is it just me or did Eric sound even more Dylan-influenced than usual? Maybe it's sort of like when people from the South say that their accent comes out when they go home to visit their families for the holidays. Maybe coming home to Sidewalk has brought out Eric's inner Dylan. Anyway, I enjoyed his set and it made me remember many good times of hanging out with him and the very energetic crew of folks who were part of the core group at that time.
Level II--songs from his musical....first he played "The Social"...yikes it brought back every frightening moment of 7th grade dances. Next up was "It's Chlymidia." That also brought back the 7th grade.
Joe Bendik did his foot stomping rendition of "There's No Place Like Home."
Casey Holford mentioned that his residency was going to finish up on Tuesday. One of his songs was this one I like a lot called "Home Song."
Andy Junk sang a song and read a funny story called "Debbie Sheehan." In the story the main character has the Heimlich maneuver performed on him by Debbie Sheehan and as a result ends up spurting a big glob of food on his mortal enemy. It's sometimes hard to listen to stories when they're read, but everyone seemed to enjoy this one.
Josh Fox did "Walking With Strangers." Very nice.
Roland Beto played....some nice work with the Ukelele....sorry I can't remember the names of the songs, Roland.
Ariel did some of his Zelda-related material, which will also be on the bill at tonight's show.
Domino played her song about the tip jar and also Fuck the Mice. I don't know if she based that on Ben K's catch phrase, "Fuck the Mice," but I liked the song.
Brian Speaker and Amos performed Brian's song from HIS musical. The song was called...I think..."I'll be Landing Soon." Man, that dude Amos can sing. Then Brian did everyone's favorite sing-a-long tune, The Bird. Nice Burl Ives cap, Brian.
Ben Sadock sang a cool new song....it was something about a "hard landing." Looking forward to hearing that one again sometime soon.
About this time was when I was called on double deck and started getting antsy about my slot. Monday was the second presentation of The Sidewalk Talk Show and I started trying to make sure at this point that everyone was set and we knew how we were getting things and people on stage.
In the meantime Susan Hwang performed. She played Shaz Butter, which is a song inspired by Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions." I can't believe I've never read that novel, but evidently Shaz Butter features in it and Susan's song is kind of like a jingle for it. She also played "Devil Song," which is one of my favorites of hers.
Next up was Christine (?). By that point my mind was totally focused on what the heck I was going to do no stage in a few minutes, so I only tangentially absorbed Christine's performance, BUT...she did seem to have a lovely voice and I could tell there was something interesting going on with her songs, so I look forward to hearing her again soon.
OK, so we kicked off the Talk Show with a bit of fumbling around with chairs and microphones. That transition is something worth smoothing out in the future. I did some schtick about a bunch of ties that I inherited from the dead grandfather of someone in my office and then introduced and interviewed Schwervon!. Leading a conversation while on stage is taking more practice than I thought it would, but it's a lot of fun working on making these discussions better each time. I think there can be a kind of artistry to conversation, and I want these to be real interactions, not pre-planned. There are a lot of factors working against that, namely nerves, the short time frame, and the fact that fifty people are watching. But I think it is entirely possible to get to a point where the conversations rise to a level of discovery and creation of their own. Schwervon! and I spoke a bit about their era at Sidewalk and their style of performance. After the interview the played Balloon, off their new album.
Mike Baglivi and Ariel played.
Lola sang with Seth Shapiro
Three G Crewl played....huh? I think they were being satirical...not sure.
Brook played Black Spot on the Pavement.
Andrew Duncan did a song with background harmonies from Ben Sadock and Josh Fox. Josh ripped off a real nice acoustic guitar solo.
Learn Burn Build played and then Lisa from Argentina did a lovely song in Spanish.
And then it was time for me to say Hasta Luego, myself.
Till next time.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Hey-The second episode of the Sidewalk Talk Show is set for this coming Monday, January 26 with Schwervon! I'm looking forward to interviewing them and expect that they will also perform a song from their new CD, Low Blow. We should be on around 10 p.m.
Next up is Ching Chong Song on February 2 and then Lach on February 9.
I am so glad I'll have the chance to talk to these folks and hear them play, and I hope you will be there too.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Hmmm. It seems as if it's taking me a while to get back into the flow of all the blog writing and reporting after the holidays and a couple other obligations kept me from fully focusing on all things Sidewalk recently. Even this past Monday I was a bit all over the place...but here is a cross section of impressions from the night.
Well, first off---Monday was the last day of Bush, and of course the transition to President Obama was in the air and on most folks' minds. Ben spent some of his opening monologue ruminating about this.
Ben then kicked things off with two songs from his Sting Ra opera. He also mentioned the "Night at the Opera" evening which is coming up on January 28. A slate of Sidewalk folks are playing selections from various theatrical, operatic, and concept endeavors of their creation. Should be fun (and I plan on being there).
Next up was Torn Curtain. Tom sang a song about Paul Revere and one called Ashes ("let the ashes speckle my work clothes")
Duck was next with Acronymous Fucks--I'm still not entirely sure I have the name of that song right... Duck mentioned that he is performing an upcoming show with his group Dinosaur Feathers.
Next up was Soce, who I haven't seen around at Sidewalk in a while. He was there to promote Borscht, an evening of vaudeville in which he is appearing this Friday. I remember Soce vividly from the first time I ever visited Sidewalk. He announced himself as a gay, Jewish rapper, and there definitely was something interesting and humorous in the tension between his hip-hop style and his good-Jewish-boy vibe. Soce's set on Monday was performed from the piano where he played an intro that seemed as if it was based on classical counterpoint. This meshed nicely with the rap feel of the main part of the tune, but again it presented a unique blend of styles. Soce got the crowd going with a call and response element to his song, which was a lot of fun. His second number was about Milli Vanilli and included Soce's imitation of a skipping record. Unfortunately a heckler decided to chime in.....
Although I'd seen Chloe Philip around quite a bit in Sidewalk's various schmoozing areas, I guess I'd never seen her perform. She did a very solid comedy set. She started off saying she'd just lost her job, so she's averaging about a wheel of Camembert a day...well, maybe this stuff doesn't translate so well in writing, but she was really funny (and the Scottish accent helps). Unfortunately the heckler dude started up again. Chloe handled it extremely well and the guy was ejected, but it was too bad. What's with people?
A group called The Relatives played. Lovely harmonies and arrangements. Very gentle, impressionistic.
Brook played Pocahantas, which he said was his favorite song of all time. (I'm pretty sure that's what the song was...the Neil Young tune).
After a bit of mosying around I came back in to hear Joe Crow Ryan finishing up "How High the Moon." He also played "If I was a Pirate," and although he accompanied himself on Banjo, he used it strictly like a drum.
Sometime soon thereafter I played a couple songs ("Electronic Devices" and "Gwen Stefani").
Lach read some entries from his blog...and also did what he said would be the last ever performance of "Former President Bush."
Don Cameron sang Nothing.
I was involved with a meeting downstairs about photography and visual matters during part of the evening. Ben K will soon announce what's happening with that, although I was glad to be part of the discussion. However I missed several performers during that time. I did rush upstairs when I heard the lovely vocalizing of Chilmark Valley a duo of two gals that I noticed for the first time. I was really impressed by the very precise a cappella harmonizing. I look forward to hearing them some more soon.
A bit later I heard Domino singing a song about "Barack Barack Obama" and then her tune Temperamental Cat. That concluded the evening for me.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Some quick notes from Saturday night....Sidewalk was jam packed for the debut of Swampluck the group featuring Jordan Levinson, Isaac Gillespie, Ariel Bitran, and Alex P. Swampluck has a kind of loose, rootsy sound and they played a very enjoyable set. It was so crowded last night that I was perched on a corner of the divan behind the sound booth and couldn't really see everything, but it seemed as if Jordan, Isaac, and Ariel were concentrating on guitar, switching off on bass depending on the song, and Alex P. focused mostly on piano--although Alex did at one point pull out a steel guitar. Isaac's brother Chris also joined the group for a song on banjo, as a ceremonial send off before leaving for China. Swampluck was followed by Lach who also played an enjoyable set, featuring a lot of his newer songs. He did work in some of his older tunes, including Former President Bush, which I've heard on numerous occasions, but I don't think it's ever had the same cathartic effect as it did last night, at least for me. I heard a bit of the group "Otis" which followed Lach. From what I remember they featured two guitarists, bass, a drummer and a percussionist. They seemed to be playing some pretty groovy funk/rock type stuff. Last night's was the last of a series of shows they played at Sidewalk.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
After a couple weeks away from the thick of the open mic, I finally got back into it for the most part Monday. It was really crowded with a good mix of familiar faces and new folks.
I must say that I was excited by the launch of the Sidewalk Talk Show, my new project which debuted last night. It was very gracious of Jeff Lewis to agree to participate considering that he and I barely had met before, although I've often enjoyed his work. I'm anticipating that the talk show will be a semi-regular feature that allows me to have conversations with some of the intriguing folks on the scene. I'm very interested in the history of the whole Sidewalk community over the years, so I was glad to be able to start with Jeff, who first started attending the open mic in 1996. He talked a little about what the scene was like in those days and also about what it's like to make his living as a performer, among other topics. I really enjoyed the conversation, but given the time restraints in a situation like this the challenge will be finding a balance between talking about one thing in some depth versus my tendency to want to cover a lot of topics. If there was any problem last night it was that I had so much I wanted to ask that I kind of threw a lot of questions at Jeff at once and basically asked him to sort it out. I'm sure things will get refined as we move along, and I'm looking forward to working at it. It looks as if the next guests will be Schwervon on January 26 and then Ching Chong Song on February 2. Somehow, with the help of Isaac Gillespie, we managed to get a video crew together and taped the show. Thanks, Isaac to you and your video dudes.
Coo was the first performer and sang a song about getting the "fudge" kissed out of her. At some point she said something like "who's gonna get the fudge kissed out of them tonight? --that's a new goal for 2009."
I was running around a bit at the beginning of the evening so didn't get to see everyone who played, but I did notice that Casey, Dan Fishback, M. Lamar, and Phoebe (she played Horrible Mood) were among those who had slots. It's nice to see Dan Asselin back on the scene after a long while. He covered a Fiona Apple tune (and also played one of his own). Waylon did a cool thing where he played against a backing track he brought in. Roland Beto (sp?), John Murdoch, and Becca Hasselbrook were among the performers on the early side of the night.
A guy named Roland Ramos, who was very proud of his Hoboken heritage, did a kind of Reggae styled rap. I thought it was quite good. It seemed as if he was improvising much of it and I got the impression he was performing with a guitarist he'd just met that night (not entirely sure about that). But I like Roland's energy.
Nick Mace. The song might have been called "When Time Stands Still."
The Telethons. John played Bird Watching and "I've Had Too Much to Drink" at the piano. No Mark on the scene, and in fact John had Waylon playing drums with him on a song.
Debe Dalton played an instrumental tune with a fiddle player name Emily, and they did a lovely job. Then Debe did Normal.
Then Jordan Levinson played a tune with Isaac Gillespie and with fiddler Emily. Jordan has a real nice voice and made me think of this singer Iris Dement. I came across Iris Dement because I really loved this song of hers, "Our Town" that was used in the final episode of Northern Exposure. I'm not really a big follower of country singers, but she has a kind of traditional style and sings beautifully.
That's the report as I have it for January 12. Back for more next week.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
On Monday I'll be launching my new talk show, The Sidewalk Talk Show, on the stage at Sidewalk during the open mic. First guest is Jeffrey Lewis.
Hope to see you there.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Ben kicked off Monday's Open Mic by bringing up Ameeda Chowdhury, the proprietor/creator of Snazl, the web interface that lots of folks have started using. As Ameeda talked about Snazl. Ben would follow with an improvised musical interpretations of her comments. I was helping out with the Snazl sign-up that was going on so didn't get to watch too many acts Monday. But I'll aim to be back in reporter mode this coming week. Thanks for tuning in, as always.