Monday, June 29, 2009

Friday, June 26, Debe Dalton Recording at Brooklyn Tea Party

This was a fun night and Debe sounded great. I can't wait to hear the album that was recorded. I hope that it doesn't reflect the sound of the brief coughing spell I had. There was a good crowd, but it wasn't overcrowded. A couple people who played did Michael Jackson songs in tribute. Brer Brian played one on trumpet and another on guitar and Dan Costello and Elizabeth Devlin did a charming duet.....Also, afterward on the roof, Brer Brian played a bunch of songs that were written to impersonate people on the scene--they are referring to people who go back a ways, but they were hilarious and totally accurate.

Monday Night Open Mic, June 22, 2009

It's a week later and I'm just getting around to putting something up about last Monday. One thing that stands out is that I finally saw the puppet stage in action. A mandolin made into a puppet appeared between sets offering goofy commentary on a variety of things. Does the puppeteer want to remain anonymous? I'll have to determine that before revealing who it was, even though everyone who was there already knows.... It will be interesting to see where things go with Sidewalk's new venture into this territory. It was a little odd, actually, to me, to see the puppets sharing the stage with the musicians, but, like many other things, I'll probably get used to it and after a while wonder how we ever lived without it.

In the meantime, back to the music. The Young Dads played a song that the said was in the style of Nickelback, something about the prettiest princess you will ever see...and then they played one about circumcision. Probably one of the few songs, maybe the only one, written on that topic, actually.

Don McCloskey was on hand. I can't remember seeing him at the Open Mic in quite a long time. Don is almost always on the bill of the Antifolk Fest, but I must have not been around at the time he was a regular. Anyway, it was good to see him. He played a song called, I think, Cold World.

Mike Baglivi and Ariel performed....songs from their band The Open End.

Chloe did some standup/storytelling, whatever you might call her work. Chloe's stuff is genuinely funny. At one point she did a bit about how Mike Baglivi offered to let her live in his parents' basement in case she needed a place to stay while working out any you know, residency matters. Chloe threw in some impersonations of Mike, and it was interesting to hear what Mike Baglivi might sound like with a Scottish accent.

Our good friend Lach appeared and played. Nice to see him as well. Hesitant was one of the songs. I hope to get in on the Scrabble game one of these days...

Julie Everyone--something like "Where Did My Burrito Go?"

Rachel Trachtenburg and her hula-hooping posse appeared again playing covers of Something and "Death of a Clown," by the Kinks.

Daniel Bernstein-Don't Treat Me Bad

Jordan Levinson played what she said was one of her older songs which I think was something like "I Have Never Seen Such Loveless Eyes.

Sheesh-this is a pretty sketchy write-up--but sometimes that's the way it flows I suppose....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

OJ All Day, Saturday, June 22, 2009

Let's see. OJ All Day, day 2. There was so much going on...haircuts, massages, tattoos, crafts, clothes and, oh yeah, music.

It's all a bit of a blur a this point, I must admit. Because I was so focused on my own show I didn't take any photos on Friday, but Saturday I brought out the camera and thought I would do my best to document all the acts. I did get shots of everyone while they were playing, with the exception of Thomas Patrick Maguire, who played while I was getting a massage...(but I did get a nice shot of TPM out front to make up for that).

I said to a few folks that the OJ Fest is sort of like a biosphere of creativity. Maybe I thought of that because of all those plants that were for sale over in the corner. But anyway, it was great to spend a weekend in a place where art and ideas were overflowing everywhere. By the way, did anyone stop to talk to the Communist lady who had a table? Also, I kind of felt bad for the bookselling people because they seemed lonely off in their corner.

There were some new groups I heard who were really good. I mentioned Bugs in the Dark in my other post. I'd never heard New York Howl play before and they were pretty cool too. Tons of energy and good playing all around. The moment of the day that stood out, though, was when the head honcho of the Brooklyn Lyceum tried to get New York Howl's bass player, T-Bone, to turn down. At first he just spoke to her directly but then she threatened to leave the stage, and so NY Howl's leader guy intervened, and Brooklyn Lyceum guy started explaining through the microphone, to everyone in the audience, that he needed her to turn down and that he was the guy running the place. Somehow NY Howl guy managed to smooth things over or it seemed that way, but I think T-Bone and BL guy just receded into their individual corners. NY Howl guy said something like "If you ever have problems with loudness talk to me about it, not to T-Bone. Cause she'll let her rattlesnakes out on you."

The only problem with OJ is that you can't see it all! Because of the overlapping schedule, there was lots of running up and down stairs and inevitably you felt like you were missing something great on the other stage (but I guess that's not the worst problem to have).

OJ All Day is a great example of how people can make their own entertainment, plus it's one of the more positive and fun events of the year. Thanks again Matt and Nan and everyone else who helped out.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Regina Spektor - NY Times

From a profile of Regina Spektor in Sunday's Times:

"After graduating from college in 2001, she fell in with the punk-inspired anti-folk scene in the East Village, which also helped lift the careers of Beck, Nellie McKay and the Moldy Peaches. (Ms. Spektor said she recently returned to the Sidewalk Cafe, the anti-folk headquarters, for the first time in years, to see a friend perform.)"

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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More about Monday - Puppets

Wouldn't you just know that the night I decide to bag out on the Open Mic, all kinds of crazy puppet work takes place. Yes, puppets. Here's a note that Ben Krieger posted today on the Olive Juice board.

"So Level II was gracious enough to leave his puppet stage at the Sidewalk. On Monday we set it up in the corner and he was a puppet sidekick. Richard Ringer made a puppet and helped out as well. It was kind of like Antifolk Sesame Street. The puppets were joking about Puerto Rican Day parade, goggling at the elaborate loop station setups...I think the puppets even hit on a few performers. "

Monday, June 15, 2009

Virgin Records is Gone

Hey-I popped by the Open Mic tonight but only stayed for a minute. Actually, I wish I could have hung around. When I walked up a bunch of friendly folks were hanging around out front. Chloe, Rebecca Seattle, Ariel, Ben K. etc. Chloe Philip said something about the closing of Virgin Records. Yes, another one down. I never was a real fan of Virgin, much more of a Tower man, myself. But once Tower closed, I started shopping at the Times Square Virgin and got kind of used to it. They did have a pretty deep collection there. Lots of people I know were down on corporate record stores, but I always thought that Tower was a cool place and ultimately thought that Virgin was ok too. At least at Tower I felt that somewhere underneath all the corporate trappings the place had a music lover's heart.

I was in New Orleans recently and spent some time at the Louisiana Music Factory which is a great old fashioned music store just like they used to make them. It reminded me of what I loved so much about record stores in the first place. In this case they focus exclusively in music from Louisiana artists, but it's the type of place where you stumble on and discover new things just by strolling around. They have tons of listening stations there too and you can listen to practically everything in the store. Plus, on Saturday afternoons they have really good free performances.

OK, so if you're ever in New Orleans you should stop by. I must admit that here in NY I'm not that up on too many great record stores. Other Music is decent but seems to have something of a limited stock. Any other good recommendations?

The OJ All Day Festival is coming up and I am getting excited. I am playing on Friday with the Key Lime Pie Revue (Ariel Bitran on guitar, Doug Johnson on drums, Trudy Williams on bass). Here's what it says about the Fest in the Critic's Pick column that just came out in Time Out: "Oddball local favorites come out of the woodwork for a quirky two-day festival." Ok, yes, we are oddballs. I can live with that.
Well, hope to see you there. Check out Also don't forget the cool video that Justin Remer made (I know I plugged it once before, but what the heck.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, June 8, and Tuesday, June 9

Open Mic, Monday, June 8
Evidently I missed Julie Hill doing an operatic rendition of the words off a condom wrapper. From what I understand she asked for a random object from the audience. Seems as if that could have been the highlight Monday. Damn. It's easy to miss cool stuff if you wander out of that back room.

What did I see that stood out? Rachel Trachtenburg and a friend covered two Beatles tunes (Something and All Together Now) while hula hooping the entire time. Steve Stivola sang an a cappella tune: "I Got a Black Woman in Me," The Scamps played with guitar and bongo-a nice rock feel-the bongo player took an unexpected solo when the guitarist's strap fell off, Kristin from Bellingham, Washington played a couple sweet songs and got a gig. Dan Costello in a moment of beardlessness played a new song, Hard Times. I also played, for once, in order to promote my show the next night. I sang..hmm. what did I sing...I know I did "Do the Berger." Jon normally interprets it with wild, all out Jon Berger dance moves, but this time showed his age and exhaustion in a more subtle, less energetic dance performance. I think I also played my song about Chopping Wood.

Tuesday, June 9, Sidewalk Cafe
The next night, Bob Carlton, Susan Hwang, myself, and Will Lopez played. My appearance had to do with Elastic No No Band's month long residency. As a member of the band, I was asked to do a show. And given the opportunity to invite someone else to play the earlier slot, I asked Susan. She and I have one duet song, Makin' Whoopee worked up that I really like playing and which we did the other night. Preston Spurlock also joined me for a song "New Beatles." Otherwise I mostly played with Trudy Williams who is the bassist for my group, the Key Lime Pie Revue. She and I tried out a new instrumental tune. It needs some polishing, to say the least, but I'm looking forward to developing it and playing it at the OJ All Day Fest on the 19th. Susan did a nice set of her great songs, and it was interesting to hear Will Lopez, who is new to me and seems to have a bit of a jam band-y kind of feel. He played with Alex P. on at least one song, who was doing some wailing guitar work.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, June 1 & Tuesday, June 2, featuring Awareness

Monday Open Mic, June 1, 2009

I was out of town for the Memorial day weekend, but somehow it felt as if I'd been gone longer than that. I was glad to be back but the crowd seemed kind of oddly unfamiliar to me at the start of the night. Most of my usual pals weren't around, and once sign-up was over it felt a little empty. Level II kicked things off with a fun number where he lip synched to a video he'd made and that was projected on a screen in the back. The video was cool and used little puppet figures to depict a scene in a restaurant. The song had a kind of tag line, "excellent choice" that the waiter repeated after each menu selection. Level II also played Bona Sera. I'm not sure if that was an original or a cover, but it felt like a cover. As the night went on things kind of picked up, however, I was in a weird mood with lots of day job stuff floating around my head and was just kind of tired, so even though I'd signed up and gotten a relatively low number I took off kind of early.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009, Awareness et al

Octavio and Joe Crow played a set together as Hospital, with Joe Crow on drums, doing mostly Octavio's songs. It was a fuzzed out kind of set that got into some avant-gardey style stuff. Then a set by Elastic No No Band (with me on piano).

But I was also glad to be around for the first Awareness full set. Awareness, you might remember, is the guy who wears a white mask when he performs, not to mention when he's just sitting around hanging out. Awareness turned up at the open mic a few weeks ago and Ben offered him a set right away. When he was on stage Tuesday, Awareness said that at the point he accepted the gig he only had those two songs, so he wrote ten more in three weeks.

Awareness delivers his songs with a deadpan almost wooden feel, and although he accompanies himself on guitar the songs are performed in something between a speaking and singing voice--more like a chant, maybe. The songs lyrics are self-consciously direct. For example, in one song he repeats several times "I wanna be dumb, I wanna have fun," and in another that he said is about being proud of yourself, he sang "I made a bookshelf, I made a bookshelf, I did it by myself."

But even though on one hand Awareness's whole shtick is kind of gimmicky, I ended up really liking his songs and his set. There was one song in which he said that "existential despair is a waste of time," and then went on to sing/talk about how you should just be out living your life, rather than worrying about what it all means. This seems to be the motto of the Sidewalk Cafe, or at least how I've interpreted it--'just get out there and sing your fucking songs.' So, it was cool to hear that from someone else. I also liked the idea of the song about the bookshelf, because there have been many times where I've completed some task, like recently assembling a complicated toy for my nephew, where I'm thinking 'hey look, I actually managed to follow these instructions, even though they were written by an idiot, and get this damn thing together." So, I understand Awareness's pride in successfully making a bookshelf. He also had songs saying "it's ok to be gay," and "unconditional love is a wonderful thing to have."

Oh, and he had a song about himself "I am anonymous/I have a mask on/who is Awareness?/I prefer to be a secret identity/I am a celebrity/Who is Awareness?" It really is rather interesting to think about identity as it relates to performing. Maybe another time I can get into questions about the idea of celebrity, which is something I find interesting. Masking your identity is one way to prevent a kind of specific identification/celebrity---although of course the mystique of it and the oddity of it ends up creating its own kind of interest.

By the way, even though Awareness was anonymous to the regular Sidewalk crew who were around that night, he seemed to have attracted a number of friends, who I imagine he reached out to with information about his gig and who must know who he is. A couple friends ended up performing a song with him on stage--and in that moment wore masks of their own.

And, the show had a surprise ending. As his finale Awareness brought out a fairly polished baritone voice to sing a song that he said was from Les Mis.