Monday, September 28, 2009

Up until now I haven't run any photos in this blog, which may seem strange, considering that photography is one of my main pastimes. However I always thought of this as a kind of quick and dirty scratchboard to get down initial impressions of performances so there is a record for the future of what's going on in the Sidewalk Community. However, recently I've become even more interested in photography and so thought this blog could evolve some, and in part be a showcase for some of the pictures I've taken. So, I'll probably rely more on images, at least in cases where they relate to the general topic of the blog. I also might write more about photographic topics in general, but again I'll try to make sure that at least in some sense they relate to the Sidewalk-ish community.

So, here are a few more photos from the Library event that I wrote about in a previous post. They feature the Debutante Hour, Corn Mo, and Preston Spurlock. Unfortunately, even though Phoebe Kreutz also performed in that show, my camera was acting wacky and I didn't get any decent pictures of her. (I see I'm going to have to fool around with how you get a reasonable layout using photos--but for now they seem to be clumped up in the first paragraph.)

By the way, about the Debutatne Hour, I headed out to hear them last night down at Banjo Jim's. Despite the sort of low-key energy in the audience, I thought they sounded great. They are very polished on their harmonies which sound gawgeous, particularly when all three members are singing. The addition of Mia on cello really helps round out the sound. And their songs are really good. Susan Hwang and Maria Sonevytsky are the other two members. Ben Krieger made a random appearance at Banjo Jims, popping in while on the way to another show. I also stopped by Sidewalk for a minute to get just a whiff of Purple Organ (that is not meant as some sort of weird innuendo). I'm a big fan. I wish I could have stayed....

Won't be able to make it to the Open Mic tonight. Some sort of atonement is going on today among members of my faith. Will see you next time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, September 21, 2009


I was away from the Open Mic last week because I had my own thing going on at The New York Public Library where I am gainfully employed. Our pals from The Bushwick Book Club appeared at the Mid-Manhattan Library for the kick-off of new expanded library hours. I was quite happy to merge my library and songwriting worlds and to have some of my music friends around while I was on the clock! Susan Hwang, as you probably know, is the proprietoress of the Bushwick Book Club and she appeared with her group the Debutante Hour (which sounds great with three gals together harmonizing, playing cello, accordion, drums, etc. Also they wore bathing suits). The pic at right shows two of the three members of the Debutante Hour Phoebe Kreutz, Preston Spurlock, and Corn Mo also appeared and each gave touching performances. It was fun. If you are a library user, take note that the Mid-Manhattan Library is now open till 11 pm. on certain nights and many other libraries have also expanded their hours.

Ok, on to this past Monday. I was feeling a bit disconnected for some reason. Most of my long time friends from Sidewalk are not there that often any more. It's understood that Sidewalk has always been and always will be an ever-changing scene--and even Monday I met and had nice conversations with several folks who seemed like they were in the process of becoming regulars. But it's weird to look out over a room I've been in so often where so few faces are familiar. In the back of my mind I'm thinking it might be time to take a little break from Ye Olde Song Shoppe. Knowing me, I probably won't, at least not entirely, but it's on my mind. A little space might do me good.

Yikes, ok...the open mic...

The guy that really stood out for me was Albert Goold a talented pianist who played a couple weird but entrancing songs. Looking forward to hearing more of his stuff.

Jim Flynn, who I'm fairly sure was on the scene for a while considerably before my time, popped up after having been pretty sparse lately. He did a rappin song about the Lower East Side with a guy making random trumpet noises and also a song where he traded off with Jon Berger on spoken word (which worked pretty well).

A guy who performed as Clem's Pajamas said that he wasn't a very good guitar player and asked to keep the guitar low, but he proved himself wrong. He sang "I have 23 dollars and 42 cents and I plan on spending every cent on you." It was a lovely song (and he played guitar damn well).

The Fools--I love the line: "even fools know, in spite of trying you can't grow a tree by screaming at seeds." The Fools are serene. Go see them.

The Brothes Frank--only one brother was on hand. He played an electric through a small miked amp which sounded kind of cool. I hadn't heard of the sun test before--I guess this is a new feature of the Open Mic where acts get to prove their toughness by staring into the sunny lights. Not sure I get the overall entertainment value, but hey, it's all in good fun, right?

Crazy and the Brains played a new song. Dan Mo had some nice gentle numbers. Rick Sorkin of the Venn Diagrams played solo. Jordan Levinson sang about "The Artist and the Modern Man," and Prewar Yardsale sang a vibey song with a Lou Reed kind of drone that drew on imagery from 9-11 (Mike played without Dina, his usual partner on bucket drums).

Lach was on hand wih Everyone's Therapist and I Love America, which turned into a robust sing along (I keep trying to practice harmony vocals during these sing a longs and Lach gave me a little bit of a perplexed look as I belted along at one point). Emily Einhorn sang an interesting song by her brother, and one of her own called For Erin. Jason Trachenberg played a song he said he wrote in the era of "alt-country" called (I think) "You're a Real Fast Talker" and his daughter Rachel played a new song (I think) inspired by candy. She has a new band name--something like Pinky Swear...hey what happened to the Oh My God Girls?

That was it for me......till next time. Oh Yeah. Check out the Bushwick Book Club on October 6. We are playing songs inspired by Confederacy of Dunces which I have loved reading. Should be a great night.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, September 7, 2009

Turned around and saw a familiar face behind the sound board. It was ole Lach himself for a moment or two during Ben K's first song. Good to see him there, if only for a minute. Caught Lach later in an intense Scrabble game with Joe Crow.

Ben started off with Sting-Ra and Birdies and Cars (which featured a musical quote from London Bridge).

Big Hat was a group that included Alex P along with some friends of his I didn't know. I liked their country/folk feel, which was strongest on the first song. During the second--which featured a different singer (and Alex P on slide guitar)--the electricity went out and the group carried on acoustically till the lights came back. Alex P's electric guitar wasn't of much use through that but otherwise they kept playing. I'm always impressed by Alex, though, at least when there's electricity at hand. Really nice guitar work.

Ryan Phillips, was a first timer who played.

A guy named Beau played a somewhat gruesome song about the jungle and running from men in dashikis.

Peru Peru was a five-person group from France---bass, vocal/casio, percussion, keyboard, female vocalist. I couldn't really get the gist of what they were trying to do. There was a kind of chanting thing going on in the second song..."doesn't matter-what's the matter." It was all a bit overly loose and didn't quite gel for me.

Morgan made a request for the disco lights, which Ben turned on, even though they aren't exactly right for her sensitive, quiet songs. Morgan's stuff is gorgeous--skillfully written and beautifully played (uke is her main instrument). Sometimes I wish she'd throw in a rocker though....

Crazy and the Brains usually seem to reflect a strong Sex Pistols influence although Monday it seemed like Mick Jagger was coming to the fore. It was just one member of the group....

Lach played Stunned and an interesting song about gangsters in the family.

Joe Bendik was up with a rock version of Beethoven and Malltown.

The Fools played to promote their residency this month. I love everything about the Fools. I think their songs are great and I love Jen's guitar work and singing. However, sometimes what stands out most of all is the beautiful tone of Uchenna's bass and her tasteful playing.

Julia and Ben from Olympia, Washington played...nice harmonies.

Being that it was Labor Day and I hadn't been at work, I showed up in casual duds as opposed to my usual suit and tie. Contrary to popular belief I don't actually sleep in a suit or wear one on the weekends or when hanging around the house. During those times you just might find me in a t-shirt and jeans.

I texted Debe D. during the night to give her the Monday update. But then I left fairly early again. I'm sure there was wonderful music as the night went on

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Monday Night Open Mic, August 31, 2009

My return--after a couple weeks away. It seemed like a long time somehow. I often feel that I'm going to come back after being away for a while and everything will be different. All of a sudden the Open Mic will be hosted by somebody I've never met and all the faces will be different...kind of like an alternative world Sidewalk Open Mic.

But no, there were familiar faces all over the place and it was good to see everyone, even though things seemed a bit off kilter without Debe D.

I didn't get to stay around that late, but here is what I did see:

It seemed like kind of a quiet night when I arrived. A line did quickly build up but still with Labor Day upon us and people not quite back to school, etc. I think it was a little less crowded than usual.

Ben K. kicked things off with Sting Ra and a song called Hey Mr. Hitman, which he said he hadn't played in 10 years.

Jordan Levinson was up with a new song that she said came to her in a dream...."My heart is in the city but my love is country bound," sung with Jordan's lovely country-styled vocals.

A piano playing guy from a band called Wiley Toms played a song inspired by a New Orleans funeral march (although the song didn't sound like a New Orleans funeral march.

The New Students sang a song with nice vocal harmonies that was maybe called "My Caroline." A little James Taylor-esque. Their second song they said was a response to hearing a Pete Seeger show and had more of a real folky feel.

Kyle Maler went on stage and played while wearing his bike helmet. Guess we all need whatever protection we can find. The song had something about counting calories in it.

The Fools were up and played a couple songs to promote their residency this month, including their song "Open Door." I do love the Fools.

I ran into "Rob" who has started coming back to the Open Mic after a hiatus of 25 years or something like that. "Rob" hung out in one of Lach's clubs that was a predecessor to Sidewalk. I'm sorry I wasn't there last week when he played the first time and that I couldn't hang out Monday to hear him. But I know I will soon.

That's it for now. Easing my way back in. More next time.