Friday, December 31, 2010

Landlords!??

I just received a promotional email from a Sidewalk friend that includes a blatantly anti-semitic statement. Maybe you got the email too. The comment was about Chasidic Jews in Brooklyn who my friend says he refers to generically as "Landlords." My friend says how glad he is to see these folks struggling in the snow and that the blizzard was meant by God to smite these landlords, which is signified by it falling on Christmas.

This friend--whose work I admire--is one who likes to be outlandish and provocative. And there's part of me that wants to let this slide based on my friendship with him and my knowledge that maybe he's just trying to be silly or get a response. But I really can't let this one go because I do think from what he wrote that he was at least to some degree serious. And no matter what, it's dangerous (not to mention offensive) to make statements like these that lump together Jews or people from any religion or ethnic group, as having one generalized trait or quality.

First off, just to state the obvious--categorizing all Chasidic Jews as landlords is inherently prejudiced and bigoted. My main encounters with observant Jews come mostly at B and H Photo, where many of them are photographers who moonlight selling cameras. But suffice to say, Chasidic Jews have many different professions. Further, landlords come in all variety of religions, starting with Donald Trump on down (Donald Trump is Catholic). Does my friend think God is dreaming up schemes to smite all landlords or just the Chasidic ones in Brooklyn? (Not to mention the tenants and everyone else who had to deal with the snow).

Fairly recently I heard another Sidewalk performer-whose work I greatly like-say onstage that the downfall of our economy is essentially attributable to the Jews who were running Lehman Brothers. I asked this performer afterward if he had some sort of statistics as to the number of Jews working at Lehman Brothers or some other evidence that a preponderance of Jews were behind the breakdown in our economy. I would think that the blame for the downfall in the economy, if you were looking for someone to blame, would more logically go to the elected officials who eviscerated most of the oversight of the financial industry--and encouraged the broadening of subprime loans.

I find it striking that at a point when we have seen the pernicious effects of prejudice through history that people still have the need to cast certain groups in the role of "other." It seems to me that people are trying to relieve the anxiety of their own day-to-day lives by finding a structural repository for blame. On one hand the Jews are cast in the role of controlling the money. On the other hand waves of new immigrants, including some who are undoubtedly here illegally, threaten the stability of people who have been here longer.

In Nazi Germany the antisemetism that lead to the Holocaust came from blame ascribed to Jews for the extreme inflation and other economic difficulties in Germany at the time. It really doesn't take too much of a leap to see parallels in my friend's enjoyment in seeing the Chasidic "Landlords" struggling with the snow in Brooklyn that he believes was sent by God to smite them.

One of the things that's perplexing about all of this is how to deal with these types of comments from people you basically like and have spent pleasant times with. It's quite discordant to hear stuff like this coming from your friends and acquaintances. In these two cases I have relayed my dismay directly to each person. I suppose this post will serve to amplify my thoughts.

While these kinds of statements stand out most personally to me when they relate to Jews, I find it just as reprehensible when similar generalizations are made about other ethnic groups, religions, races, or people of specific sexual preference. I think it's dangerous to our society to limit our conception of people based on broad labels. For one, most obviously, it constrains the opportunities of those who are discriminated against--and we've seen such prejudice in the extreme lead to violence or death. Aside from that, it narrows the texture of our society. Think about the white-bread culture that was pervasive in the 1950s. That's what we get when we limit our perceptions of people based on anything other than their real skill and ability. Honestly at this stage of the game I shouldn't have to enumerate the hazards of discrimination and prejudice, but based on the comments I've outlined above, it seems as if unfortunately these explanations are still necessary.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hello

In a comment attached to my last post--someone asked where I've been these days (thanks very much for inquiring, by the way). Well, I guess the short answer is that I've been here but haven't really been getting out so much recently. I think this is a temporary situation, maybe a break from the nights out and the long travels to far flung venues. Also, I have been focused these days on trying to create a place in a new freelance profession and that is taking a lot of my mental energy. And I guess there seems to come a time for most folks who pass through the Sidewalk force field when the excitement of all that expressive energy settles down a little. I don't see a time in the near future when that world is not a significant focus for me, and I'm definitely not giving up on keeping the thread of this blog going. But yes, after six or seven years of deep immersion, other things have captured my attention too--spending more time on photography and trying to get inside the head of that crafty conjuror, Myron the Magnificent.

I always hoped that from time to time other folks would contribute here too. This board is definitely open to any kind of reporting, profiles, reviews, short comments, rants, or musing that anyone wants to send in, provided there is at least some connection to the scene surrounding or emanating from or once related to Sidewalk. If you go to a show and have a few thoughts about it, feel free to share them here. (I guess just sending me what you want to put up is the best way to go about it).

Ok, more soon. Go write a song.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kung Fu Crimewave's Rock and Roll Circus, Friday, November 12

Well, finally Kung Fu Crimewave's Rock and Roll Circus is nearly upon us. The show at Goodbye Blue Monday celebrates the release of KFCW's cd Capitol Punishment, as well as the birthday of frontman Luke Kelly. The event will feature performances by: Myron the Magnificent and the Lovely Vera, Kung Fu Crimewave, The Sweet Ones, Purple Organ, and Heroes of the Open End. The only act I'm not familiar with is The Sweet Ones, although the others are all among my favorites, and The Sweet Ones seem to rock from what I can tell by YouTube. I have not heard Heroes of the Open End in quite a while and they should provide a fitting, all out finale to the evening. Come early for the confounding magic of Myron and Vera. I'm assured other circus-y surprises are in store, but you'll have to be there to find out what.

Catching Up

A few things, some a roundup of links you might have seen elsewhere.

Peter Dizozza posted video from a Sidewalk Set going back to 1999. This is definitely worth a look. He opens with a song called "Hell Hole" and then merges into a piece with Jon Berger and Adam Green. There is much spoken word/narrration throughout, accompanied on piano by Peter. The video gives a good visual of an earlier Sidewalk setup before the red curtain was put up and when they had a grand piano on stage. It's also interesting to see younger versions of Peter, Jon, and Adam. I mean, I knew Adam Green was young when he started hanging out at Sidewalk but here he seems like he might have just come from his Bar Mitzvah class.

Major Matt and Nan have documented their tour with the Vaselines in writing and photos. I'll admit I have always had a fascination with life on the rock and roll tour bus. Here is about as close to the experience as you can get (without doing it yourself, of course, which I know you will).

Also, although it's been a few weeks now, I wanted to acknowledge the Debe Dalton/Dan Penta tribute that myself and others performed in on October 23. It was, of course, great to see Debe and to hear the songs by her and Dan. And I was glad to have a chance to play one of my favorite songs by Debe, "Tuesday, Wednesday" (although I'm considering my faulty rendition just a first step in perfecting that song, which I am planning on making a permanent part of my repertoire). However, the overall evening surprisingly had less participation and turnout than I would have thought. Even Dan Penta couldn't make it (because of work obligations). Other performers were: Kung Fu Crimewave, John Roche, Dan and Rachel, Joe Crow Ryan, Neil Kelly, Justin Remer, Ben K. and Morgan Herringer, and probably others who I am forgetting. Debe was at the Open Mic the following Monday, momentarily restoring the balance to a room that has been akimbo ever since she left town a while back. Debe assures me she is returning to NYC permanently in January.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jerry Bock Died

Please excuse the diversion, but one of my personal songwriting heroes, composer Jerry Bock, died yesterday. It might seem like something of a cliché for a Jewish kid from the suburbs to choose the writer of Fiddler on the Roof as a major influence, but while I do think that's a great musical and it has become a landmark piece, it was over years of listening to his body of work, that I grew to love the songs Bock wrote with his partner, lyricist Sheldon Harnick. Moreso than Fiddler, I think the masterpiece of songwriting that they created is a show called She Loves Me which wonderfully uses songs to convey character and dramatic movement.

I know there are some lovers of musical theatre in the Sidewalk scene, but no one really talks about it all that much. While I certainly have my heroes in the rock and pop world, I've been hugely influenced by the great Broadway songwriters, and I think anyone seriously interested in the art of songwriting should go back and listen to some of these works. Bock and Harnick picked up the heritage that was established by writers like Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, and Richard Rodgers who came before them. The songs of Fiddler have been so widely heard that at this point they almost seem like clichés themselves. But realize that when they were written there was no precedent for using the sounds of traditional Jewish music to shape and flavor the songs in a Broadway musical. A good example is "If I were A Rich Man," which starts in the key of C major but then brings in minor tonality that gives it that Eastern European flavor (before shifting into another key altogether). The songs in Fiddler feel organic, almost as if they sprang naturally from the characters who sing them. That ease must have taken a lot of work to obtain.

My explanation doesn't really do Bock's inventiveness much justice. I've just been flipping through a book that has some of his songs in it and I'm struck on each page by the fresh approach he took. His instincts for interesting, unusual musical choices was very strong. And most striking of all is how the choices come from and support the dramatic situation at hand.

Without context it can be hard to jump into listening to some of these Broadway musicals and get them right away, especially since sometimes you have to overlook a kind of brassy quality that some poeple find unappealing. But if you ever do have the motivation, try to check out some of the songs from She Loves Me and give them a little bit of a chance to grow on you. They are orchestrated with more subtlety than most shows anyway. In particular I love the sequence that includes the two songs "Where's My Shoe?" and "Ice Cream."

By the way, I don't get as star struck as I used to, but I do have a framed photo of me with Bock and Harnick from a time they appeared at a Library event I helped organize (you can look through Bock's manuscripts at the Library by the way!). Read about it here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Schwervon on Tour with the Vaselines

Congrats to Schwervon who are now on the road playing 4 dates as the opening act for The Vaselines. I only know what Matt and Nan posted on Facebook, which is that the whole deal came together very quickly. They played yesterday in Chicago, then it's Detroit, Toronto and Montreal between now and Sunday. This seems like a very good--and much deserved--opportunity for Schwervon! to reach a new and larger audience for their great tunes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Supercute in the Times

In an article Monday about the CMJ festival The New York Times ran a big photo of our compatriots Supercute, performing on the sidewalk on Ludlow Street. I find it interesting how Supercute has developed a whole image that goes beyond their music to their fashion style, videos, etc. In the Times photo you'll see Rachel and Julia wearing these huge bows that it seems would enable them to fly from gig to gig if they flapped them the right way. It points out to me that somehow the gals are savvy enough in their style to both mock and celebrate their girlishness at the same time. This comes through in their songs too which simultaneously seem genuinely girlish but also ironic. There is a degree of savvy and also strong drive underneath what they are doing. I give them credit for finding a way to stand out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NY Times Review of Jeffrey Lewis - opening for The Vaselines

Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard played at Webster Hall last week as part of a show headlined by The Vaselines. Jon Pareles reviewed the show for The New York Times, and while the section on Jeffrey wasn't extensive, it was nice to see that Pareles had some perceptive and positive comments about Jeff's work. Jeff's band, by the way, included Nan Turner and Simon Beins, who each, as you undoubtedly know, play in their own bands and with others connected through Sidewalk, OJ, etc. Jeff has certainly been recognized in the Times before but I always think it's nice when folks on the scene are highlighted in the broader media. Below is an excerpt of the section that mentions Jeffrey. To read the entire article, click here.

Excerpt

Jeffrey Lewis, who opened the show, also keeps his music simple, strumming a few chords on a guitar that may well be held together by the stickers covering its front, and leading a band that piles on a cheerful clutter. But he’s a clever, articulate wordslinger, coming up with rhetorical conceits — one song, “Cult Boyfriend,” compared his romantic appeal to that of cult bands and films — and putting in a lot of preparation.

He’s also a comics artist, and his set included two short films — essentially slide shows of his elaborate drawings — that were finely reasoned histories, in rhyme, of the Soviet Union and the French Revolution, affirming populism through primitivism.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bushwick Book Club Covers Frankenstein, Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Annoyed" is how most of the songwriters at the Bushwick Book Club described their feelings about the novel Frankenstein. I think mostly it was a reaction to the character Dr. Frankenstein. Having not read the book since I made my way through about half of it in college, I really can't comment except to say that annoyance came up several times during the night.

A number of the songs had to do with love....Susan Hwang's asked "why don't you love your monster" which I took to mean 'why don't you love your creation...your offspring.' Pearl...whose last name I didn't get but was making her Bushwick Book Club debut similarly wrote about love...saying "love is what you learn....teach love." Rachel Devlin and Dan Costello did a very cool 1950s style-number which I later gathered was in the style of Frankie Valli. There were lots more folks who played...as always I was impressed by Phoebe Kreutz's amazing rhymes. Her song urged parents to keep their kids away from science. Sweet Soubrette said to Dr. Frankenstein hey "why didn't you just knock up some pretty girl instead." And the Up Against the Wall String Band sang a funny song about how the book really is not too much like the movie. Justin Remer read a long short story that was sort of a modern day Frankenstein tale. Other interesting songs were written and performed by Mark Palermo, Anna Leuchtenberg, Corn Mo, and Joe Crow Ryan.

I'm always impressed at how much interesting stuff comes out of these Book Club sessions. Lots of times the songs are rough or at least roughly played....one assumes these artists' own creations were in development up until the last minute, but it's always interesting to see fresh new songs being born and how much solid songcraft comes out of these monthly meetings. Congrats as always to Susan Hwang for putting on a good show.

Kimya Plays The Knitting Factory, Friday, October 8, 2010

Kimya plays The Knitting Factory, tonight.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Reganomics - A Benefit - September 26 at Goodbye Blue Monday



Erin Regan was the focus of a benefit and sort of tribute at Goodbye Blue Monday on Sunday. Kudos to Joanna Kelly and Kate Wheeler for organizing the lovely affair (and anyone else who might have helped who I don't know about). There was a fair amount of Erin Regan merch for sale, including buttons and silk-screened t-shirts that I gather were hand-crafted by Kate and Joanna. It seemed as if even the Erin Regan wrist bands were painstakingly made by someone out of bright pink gaffer's tape.

The performers of the substantially-lengthed event were Daoud, Casey, Dashan, Toby, Kung Fu Crimewave, and the Everybody Knows. Kung Fu Crimewave featured a couple Erin Regan covers in their set, including Your Mom's Car. Erin also played a short set of her own songs. The evening reached a climactic moment in the We are the World-style all-star ballad (see photo) which referenced the hope that her foot heal quickly "for the children." Erin was also presented with one of those oversized checks, like the winner of the million dollar sweepstakes.

Erin has been through an ordeal with a problematic broken foot that hasn't healed and has resulted in financial challenges. Quite a bit of money was raised to help her out the other night.

I wrote in another post about songs I find annoying that are sort of musicalized versions of people's diaries. Somehow, even though Erin's songs draw from incidents in her own life (as far as I know, anyway), they seem to rise well-above these sorts of trivialized journal entries. It's hard to point to exactly why her songs work so well and others don't, but I think it's a combination of sharp imagery, gorgeous melodies, a beautiful voice, and impassioned performance. There have been moments at Sidewalk when Erin has totally swept me away in some deep moment of performance. I wish she was still hanging around the joint.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Fort at Webster

Since he mentions it in his comment in the post below, I gather Lach is ok going public with his upcoming launch of The Fort on Saturday nights at Webster Hall. According to Lach, The Fort won't be an open mic, although there may be some music involved, but a hangout scene woven into Webster Hall's overall Circus night. The Fort will launch October 2 at midnight. More details to come soon, I'm sure. As most folks here probably know, The Fort was the name of Lach's original hangout in his Rivington Street apartment, where the Antifolk scene got its start in the 1980s, and the name has been attached to his succeeding music venues at times as well.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Night Antihoot, September 20 and stuff that's on my mind

I'll admit that I'm in a weird mood or something but I thought tonight was one of the most lackluster nights I've experienced at Sidewalk in a long while. Maybe all the good stuff happened when I was chatting at the bar or something, but when I was in the back it seemed like mostly I was hearing a string of boring songs about frustrated love. I mean of course great songs have been written about love but if you're going to try to take on the Beatles or the Gershwins, or...name your favorite writer of amazing love songs...you better have a damned original way of looking at it. Just because YOU have intense desire, or problems with your mate, or a secret love affair, or whatever, doesn't mean the world needs to hear a song about it unless it opens up some new idea or perspective. Alright, I know that there were some more interesting performances peppered throughout the evening, but I swear during one long swath when I sat there listening it was nothing but "I want you, but I can't see/how come baby you don't love me...(or words to that effect).

Everybody always thinks that their heyday in the scene was the best--and I'll admit that I probably sound like a curmudgeon-y old man by saying (with wobbly, weathered voice) "back in my day....."

Well, it's true, that I have seen many amazing songwriters grace the stage at Sidewalk, and it seems as if many more of them were concentrated in years past--but setting that aside for the moment, what about the sheer over-the-top energy that would frequently strike out from the stage? Just two examples--I only saw him once but I'll never forget this guy Thomas Truax who brought out some sort of Rube Goldberg-like mechanical wheel that had a protruding clapper attached which would make an electronic beat every time it rotated, and of course there's my friend Preston Spurlock who for a long while specialized in creating songs with Casio keyboards, electronic toys, tape recorders, and slide whistles. When Preston and his cousin Chase played a show at Sidewalk they wore matching outfits and pummeled each other with their fists, like something out of an old Loony Tunes cartoon or ancient vaudeville bit.

I'm not arguing that extremity is worthwhile for its own sake. It, of course, has to be accompanied by artistic merit. But what I am saying is that I hope people can push themselves past the easy answer and into uncharted territory of creative expression. Things go in cycles and that goes for Sidewalk too. You never know what's going to happen next week...so I will see you there, for sure.

So while I'm being cranky--I saw from Lach's email today that the Anti-idol competition is returning to the Antihoot at Webster Hall. I beat around the bush about this in my last post, but I still can't quite wrap my head around the idea of grafting a competition onto an open mic. From my perspective an open mic should be the opposite of competitive. This is kind of an ideological issue with me--I don't even really believe in the Academy Awards. How can you have a "best" of anything when you're talking about art? I praise Lach up and down for providing people with opportunities over decades to perform and have their work heard here in New York (I even made a half hour film about that once). He created a brilliant scene that has given thousands of people, including me, a place to grow as artists, meet collaborators and friends, and find an audience. I know that he is doing what he thinks best to keep the scene strong at Webster. But again I say, forget the competition, it's nudity that will draw them in. Try nudity Lach, and cotton candy.

Next time, less pompous ranting, more reporting. Till then....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Monday Night Open Mic and Antihoot returns to Webster Hall

Both of our favorite impresarios are back in town. Ben Krieger was off on a manly man's week in the wilds of Oregon, and Lach has newly returned from a month in Scotland where he performed his one man show and ran the Antihoot as part of the Fringe Festival.

Things were kind of quiet at Sidewalk tonight. On top of the smallish crowd, Ben switched things up by making it a one-song per performer night all the way through. Just as I was leaving at around 10:45 or so they were going into round two in which everyone who stayed around could get up for another song. I like the idea of a one song all around night once in a while but with a smaller crowd I guess people could have stretched out a bit. Anyway, there's something to be said for maintaining a brisk pace.

Despite the low key crowd there were some interesting performers, Love, a Japanese songwriter/DJ performed as did a poet named Sophia who read an intense but interesting piece. It was great to see Ariel Bitran again who played some really cool and intricate guitar stuff. There was a Hungarian guy, Gabor, who lives in Italy who did a U2 medley, and oh yeah, there was me, who played the first new song I've written in quite a while.

Just as a few of us were talking about tomorrow's return of the Antihoot to Webster Hall Lach moseyed in. Word from Britain-at least what I read in the papers--is that Lach is the inspiration for a new breed of English Antifolk comedy--that's a story for another time but it sounds kind of interesting--maybe some of those folks will turn up at the Antihoot. Anyway, with the return to Webster people are wondering if the Anti-Idol competition will also be coming back. I was glad that when that wrapped up at the last show in July the five finalists shared in the prize (they were Tyler, The Fools, Supercute, Rob Shapiro, Cal Folger Day and Crazy and the Brains). Somehow it seems as if it would have been weird had there been a "winner" of the open mic. I get the sense that there are mixed feelings around about the competition with some folks taking it in stride and others feeling that it changed the vibe of the scene. My own thought is that this time around if extra promotion is needed maybe they could try something else like...nudity, for example. Or maybe free cotton candy. Or both. Anyway, I think it's good that the Antihoot is back. A nice scene developed there and it will be interesting to see how it goes as it revs up again. I'm sure that there are plenty of folks out there who will appreciate another place to play and work on their stuff. See you there.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jofranna, Honeybird, Major Matt, Yossarian Feedback





The place was packed for Jofranna's ep release event last night. While Jofranna might not exactly rap with traditional rap authenticity, they do so in their own charming Jofrannaesque style. I really liked their songs, including the one about Coney Island and the one about old people (which I identified with to an alarming degree). The gals lathered up Luke Kelly with Vaseline to demonstrate a technique used by some of the kids Jofranna work with in NYC schools to prevent scratches, cuts and other facial marks when they get into fights--that was a little depressing to learn about, actually.

Honeybird was in from Italy and performed a cool song about their butcher. Major Matt gave a very solid solo show, and Yossarian Feedback surrounded himself on the stage floor with effects pedals, and electronics to perform some very cool stuff using recorded ambient sound and synthesized music etc.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Urban Barnyard, 8-26-2010





Urban Barnyard's show last night was really great. Excuse me if I'm not getting these titles right, but they played "Little Cricket's a Sex Machine," "Hot Dog," and "Wolves," among others, plus a cover of a Major Matt tune, and a new song. I hope someone recorded this (I say, selfishly). At the risk of being redundant-since I've written this kind of thing here numerous times before--Urban Barnyard is strong in so many ways--their songwriting is great, and their performing and playing are also excellent, but I think what really gives them extra added dimension is the way they arrange the songs, with interesting vocal harmonies, trading off on singing within songs, and unusual accompaniment ideas. There's something special about seeing them at Sidewalk or really in any intimate setting, with a bunch of fans and friends on their feet dancing. Hope they come back sometime soon--even if it does involve shipping in one of the members from across the country.

More Urban Barnyard Photos




Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hey, check out this article that is kind of about Sidewalk

Evan Schlansky wrote an article in American Songwriter magazine that covers the time he spent playing at Sidewalk. Check it out by clicking: here.

A brief commercial interruption

Many of you may already know this, but I figured I should take a moment here to mention that I have recently wound down my previous career in order to begin another, as a photographer. If you haven't taken a look before, my web site at www.herbscher.com features portraits of many folks from Sidewalk, and I also recently launched a photo blog at www.herbscher.com/blog. Plus there are a smattering of my photos illustrating previous entries in this blog.

I love taking photos of all types and have shot architecture, social events, still life etc. But I particularly enjoy portraits because of the mixture of the planned and unplanned, the collaborative and psychological aspects, and the visual and compositional challenges.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monday Night Open Mic, August 23, 2010 and Urban Barnyard


I had fun last night but I have to admit I was more in a roaming and socializing mood than a sitting down and listening mood, so with a certain degree of chagrin I don't have much to say about the performances. However I did want to mention that while sitting in the bar area at Sidewalk I spotted a glimpse of Dibs passing by and sprung outside to say hello. Many of you may know that Dibs has moved to Oakland but is back in town for a brief while. Part of his visit will include a performance at Sidewalk on Thursday with Urban Barnyard. I would strongly recommend that everyone reading this who is available attend the show. Urban Barnyard is a force of music that will captivate you. If you're not familiar with them, please just take my word for it and go.

Above is a photo I took of Urban Barnyard a while back for Urban Folk magazine. I can't pinpoint why exactly, but it has always been a sentimental favorite of mine. Maybe it has to do with my love of the band or just whatever was in the air that day that we did this at Sidewalk.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Antifolk Fest, Wednesday, August 11, by Guest Correspondent, J. J. Hayes

Our guest correspondent J. J. Hayes was on the scene at Sidewalk for the Antifolk Fest acts Wednesday. Here is his report:

By J. J. Hayes

Here is my humble stream of consciousness report about Wednesday's doings:

Clinical Trials (a/k./a Somer) was on at 7:00, and I haven't seen her do straight up acoustic set in a while but she was totally in the face of every song she did and her own face was expressing some kind of pitch perfect raw emotion in just about every song. She also snuck in a cover of She-Bop, which led to a discussion outside about other songs which have the same subject matter, or at least apparently do. Like Jackson Browne's "Rosie" and the Who's "Pictures of Lily." I therefore missed Dan Killian's set and cannot comment. Soce The Elemental Wizard -- first time I ever caught a full Soce set, if 1/2 hour be a full set. I cannot complain about a man who will free style Jon Berger's suggestion to rap about Thursday on a Wednesday, and in fact enjoyed the whole thing immensely. After Soce was Barry Bliss, which is where the evening got going for me. Barry did what may be called a laid back set. Barry himself commented that his 1/2 hour ended just as he was felt he was hitting stride. Yet there was something really important, it seemed to me, about a non-intense Barry Bliss set, just a man simply laying down a classic song like "Joan of Arc' (I mean Barry's Song of that title is a classic, not tht he covered Leonard Cohen's Joan of Arc) in a not so crowded but darkened candlelit venue. Dudes, I wish to cry to the rest of the world, you are missing something exceedingly special. Barry's relatively new American Dream should be heard by many people. He finished with his song about how fame is not going to be something most performers on this scene are ever going to be playing arenas with tons of groupies and limos. That song may have been written to someone who really thought they were going to get famous from the music or perhaps from the songwriter to himself, in any case, done in the rather laid back non-angry manner it was so matter of fact in this performance, that one could simply accept the state of affairs that this is not a place for fame and yet it is so artistically compelling on an evening like this that one thinks you know this is as important as any moment in rock and roll history except no one is going to be talking about, because it is not part of the mainstream conversation. Rav Shmuel was next, he did at least three love songs and the tip jar was being passed before we even settled into the set but here's the thing, oh reader, you must hear Rav's new song, his final song which I think he forced into the line-up beyond the two songs after tip jar rule. It is called Being and Becoming and it is I declare required listening. This song had people listening intently and applauding strongly. I had my eyes on Sam James who seemed entranced by it. Sam was up next and somehow coming off of Rav's final song his whole set seemed particularly compelling as if he took some of that existential force from Being and Becoming and imbued that alternative mythical world that Sam James and the songs of Sam James inhabits with urgency. It started me thinking that some singers sing from their particular world (as in Somer, Bliss and Shmuel) but others seem to be exploring a world most of us have thought to be long gone. But these old ballads and this old style, this world which predates even the old weird America, and is more like the old weird English Scots border, has many corners yet to be explored and James is like someone who the longer he stays in this far away country which is really just behind you and to the left out of the corner of your eye becomes more and more fluent in the language and knows places only the natives know about, and is willing to share them in a dark room in the east village. And then Turner Cody. Cody's set (with Spencer Chakedis on mandolin for a number of songs) was easily one of the the best sets I have heard in a while. It was fairly impeccable. Where Sam James was coming from the mist covered green woodlands on the borders of some ancient place, cody was coming out of dryer climes. It was like the southern European mainland, greek island or old desert west, to James's british islands. Cody, like James, is willing to use old poetic synactical strangenesses without blinking and fluently. Listening to Turner Cody is like listening to someone who really believes that that old poetic diction, that worldview of the old ballads, can give us insight into a world where people run around driving Ferraris, and he ends up convincing you that the old weird world never really left us. Or even that the present world is weirder now then you imagine and is utterly capable of being mapped onto the older pathways.

Didn't get to see The Relatives or Drew Blood.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Myron Revives Vaudeville's Magic Delicatessen

On Sunday, August 8 at 9 p.m. magician Myron the Magnificent will revive part of a classic conjuring routine, originally performed by his grandfather--Mervyn the Magnificent--in 1923. The trick was part of Mervyn's Magic Delicatessen --the only magic show ever to have involved deli food. The trick will be part of an all new Myron the Magnificent show at Sidewalk Cafe as part of the Antifolk Fest. This is sure to be a spectacular evening of amazing miracles not to be missed!

Antifolk Fest Photos Part II-Jason Trachtenburg




Antifolk Fest Photos




I hope to be back with some more info about the last couple of nights of the Antifolk Fest, but I'm busy working with Myron the Magnificent on his act for tomorrow. In the meantime here are some photos of Hank and Pigeon, Ray Brown, Supercute, and the Pendulum Swings (featuring Jason Trachtenburg) from Thursday and Friday. For technical reasons I might have to break this up into two posts.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Monday Night Open Mic, August 2, 2010 and The Fest

The Antifolk Festival kicks off tonight at Sidewalk, and last night's Open Mic saw a strong representation of the acts playing this week. I was very impressed by most of the first 10 or so artists who performed last night, including Morgan and Alex P., Ray Brown, Dan Mo, Charles Mansfield, Jesse Lee, Jon Berger Mike Rechner, and Jonathan Vincent among others. I had not noticed Jesse Lee before, but he was a standout. Ben K. kicked things off performing a cover of Domino's song Princess as a duet with Corey the puppet. I believe that Domino would have appreciated this unique interpretation, although I didn't see her there last night. Major Matt, Brook Pridemore, Timothy Dark, Master Lee (Chink Floyd), and many others also turned in strong performances. Myron the Magnificent pulled colorful streamers from the neck of a borrowed guitar and produced coins at his fingertips and from random items borrowed from the audience. Later Level II performed Wanderlust, which included a puppet performance merged with a burlesque routine.

In years past I have been subject to Fest burnout by somehow finding myself drawn like a magnet to just about every show. If you're one of those types I recommend pacing yourself or by the end of this week your eyes will be glazed (and you'll be staring at the Sidewalk Menu hoping to find that one fabulous dish that you just haven't spotted till now--by the way, $2 for an extra serving of pita--come on). Anyway I know that this year I myself will have to miss several of the shows for a variety of reasons, so I am repeating my entreaties for interested correspondents who would like to write up even the briefest of reports on the various nights. Please contact me if you're interested. And don't forget to bring lots of singles if you want to tip the multitude of act playing.

The Antifolk Fest is usually rewarded with a couple blurbs in the press. Most often they emphasize the weird or marginal aspects of the groups that play. I don't know how weird or marginal we really are--well, ok, marginal, maybe, but honestly I think there's room for a lot more weirdness at Sidewalk these days. But anyway, it's good to be noticed and I was glad to see that The New Yorker singled out a couple of interesting groups. Here are the blurbs:

The New Yorker - http://www.newyorker.com/arts/events/nightlife/2010/08/09/100809goni_GOAT_nightlife
SIDEWALK CAFÉ
94 Avenue A (212-473-7373)—Aug. 3-13: The Summer Antifolk Festival. For those who know little or nothing about New York’s antifolk scene and who want to learn more, this annual gathering is a simple and exhaustive solution. More than sixty acts performing a diverse program of music and spoken word are expected, in keeping with this venue’s long-running open-mic night and its tradition of being, well, weird. The festival showcases new talent like the ragtag xylophone-and-guitar duo Crazy and the Brains and the colorful all-girl teen-age trio Supercute!, as well as veteran favorites such as the Major Matt Mason USA, Linda Draper, Toby Goodshank, the Purple Organ, Peter Dizozza, and Turner Cody.


Time Out New York - http://newyork.timeout.com/events/music/352554/4585151/antifolk-festival
Antifolk Festival
Sidewalk Café
94 Ave A (at 6th St)
East Village | Map
212-473-7373
Description
For a quarter century, artists working the margins of New York music have clustered under the antifolk rubric, a broad scene that keeps a safe haven in the back of the East Village’s Sidewalk Café. Randomly dropping by Sidewalk can be a risky endeavor: Not every performer can be the world’s next Beck (to cite one artist who rose through antifolk’s ranks). A smart time to pop in is during the Antifolk Festival, which takes over the club for a week or so every August.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boog City Presents Graceland & Hi, How Are You?, July 14, 2010


Graceland is one of my favorite albums and so I was very interested in the evening presented by Boog City last night at Sidewalk. A gaggle of your favorite Antifolk stars gathered to perform that album along with Daniel Johnston's Hi, How Are You. There were many fine interpretations of Paul Simon's songs. I particularly liked the ones like those by Dan Fishback and Jesse Schoen that went a little against the grain of the original. But there were many fine moments by Casey Holford, and The Infringers, as well as Kathy Zimmer, who I thought stood out on Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. The Infringers rewrote The Myth of Fingerprints so that it was about the petroleum leak in the Gulf. I wasn't so sure about that approach--I thought it came across as a bit of a stretch. But hey kudos to them anyway for trying something different.

I have not yet found the intrinsic identification with Daniel Johnston that seems woven among the songwriters and performers of the Sidewalk scene, although I suspect at some point I will get around to listening to his stuff more carefully since so many people whose work I admire are fans of his. In any event, although I don't have the same points of comparison as I did to the Simon album, there were lots of nice performances by The Trouble Dolls, Bob Kerr, Steve Espinola, Preston Spurlock and The Devil and Christy Davis. Steve played his electric tennis racket on one of the songs and used a reel to reel tape recorder to form a backing track on another. Christy Davis and her pals gave a particularly spirited performance including some theatrically recited lyrics.

I was testing out my new camera the other night--one that theoretically lets me photograph in much lower light than I have been able to previously. Here's a shot of Dan Fishback, who played Gumboots and You Can Call Me Al.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Antihoot at Webster Hall - June 29, 2010

Lach and Co. have introduced some changes/refinements to the setup of the open mic at Webster Hall which very much enhance the feel of the proceedings. As nice as it is, the Marlin Room is an expansive space and initially, with the artists performing from the large stage, a sense of intimacy was missing. Now, the performances are held on the floor directly in front of the stage, and Lach has came out from the sound booth in the back to moderate from a spot up front to the left of the performers. The furniture has also been rearranged to allow for a more intimate feel. Although many of the performers are the same as those who play at Sidewalk, the Webster Hall open mic is developing some of its own in-jokes and stylistic quirks. Rob (?) the bartender was drafted by Lach for some comic interplay here and there and Julie the waitress was also a visible figure on the scene.

I've been thinking that Webster Hall is a good location for Myron the Magnificent to ply his trade. The retro vibe of the place provides a good feel for Myron's act, and I decided to give it a try the other night. Well, we all have our good and bad nights, I guess, but Myron was a little rough around the edges Tuesday. Myron's effort to sever Julie the waitress with two ropes didn't exactly go as planned and some of his other tricks were a little bumpy too. Afterward Myron entertained some folks in the side room with close-up magic and that was fun.

Lach and I were talking the other night and we briefly touched on nervousness while performing. When I first started at Sidewalk, like many folks, I guess, I would practice relentlessly in order to override the nervousness that was prevalent when I played. Now, I try to look at open mics as like a laboratory, a place to develop and work on what I'm doing. I still like things to be polished, and can't help but feel disappointed when they don't go exactly as planned, but it's much easier to look at playing these events as part of a process of getting better and developing your art rather than a be all and end all. I can't say that I don't get nervous at all, but I've definitely gotten better at being involved with the moments as they are happening on stage, rather than worrying so much about how I'm being perceived.

I kind of noticed Dan Mo for the first time the other night, even though I know he's been around for a while. Cool stuff. What he played the other night had a jazzy feel in the chords. Chloe Phillips did some funny stuff--In particular I liked her schtick about how weird people act when they run into someone in whom they have a romantic interest. She also talked about getting dumped by her "wee" boyfriend. Ray Brown's song "Last Summer" was gorgeous.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Juice Box at Scapegrace, Friday, June 25, 2010

I was wandering around Wyckoff Avenue for a while Friday night trying to find the entrance to Scapegrace, the site for Olive Juice's first "Juice Box." event. I finally saw Jen and Uchenna of The Fools and followed behind them.

Major Matt discontinued the OJ All Day Fest, this year, which I thought was kind of too bad. I'd just assumed those would go on forever and that when we were all old and grey we'd be pulling together to schlep amps, set up the merch tables, write the press releases, whatever needed to be done. Of course it's easy for me to say that when I'm not the one bearing all the burden of organizing the whole thing, so I understand Matt's decision. But the event Friday was a nice alternative.

First, the Scapegrace space is amazing. I didn't have any idea at all what to expect when I entered this long hall that was in a state of half-decay. But when I paid my three bucks and turned the corner I was in this incredible large room that was flanked on both sides by gorgeous walls of pressed tin, painted a kind of milky green. The walls seemed as if they emerged straight from a hundred years ago and they showed the wear of all that time. While my fantasies of time travel will undoubtedly never be fulfilled, I always love finding situations where real elements from the past are part of the scene. Julie Delano explained later that they'd discovered the tin after removing layers of unattractive panelling. Artwork by Preston Spurlock, Toby Goodshank, and Angela Carlucci was on view throughout the room and added a lot to the feel of the room. Preston's and Toby's work was on one wall framed in old windows from the house. Angela created a set of amazing intricate cutouts that were posted on the other side of the room.

The space has a large backyard where lots of folks congregated between music sets. Beverages and merchandise were available back there along with lots of good conversation. The humidity had trailed off by that point and the weather was perfect for hanging around out doors

Inside three groups played. First up was Brian, a group of three gals playing what I thought reflected a kind of surf-music feel. The Wowz played a great set, and Schwervon was solid as usual and got the crowd moving. Although I enjoyed listening to the bands, somehow the music seemed to be more of a general part of the ambience than the main focus of the night. DJs continued after the bands played and a small group of enthusiastic dancers were still going at it when I left. Yoko Kikuchi took some photos documenting the night, which you can see be clicking here: Yoko's pictures.

Part of what made the night so enjoyable was the laid back vibe of the whole scene. There was a lot of hanging out and catching up. Although I saw a lot of the regular OJ crew, there also were a good mix of new faces too--at least new to me.

Wycoff Avenue seems to have morphed even since the last time I was there, which doesn't feel like it was too long ago. There are a handful of upscale restaurants, bars, and shops that have popped up. It's inevitable, I guess, but it would be nice to think that the neighborhood could stay accessible to folks who have been there for a while. About two years ago the Forgotten New York site documented the entire length of Wycoff Avneue and you can read about it by clicking here.

Scapegrace is conveniently located a few steps from the Jefferson Street stop on the L, but why is it that late on the weekends the L always seems to be replaced by a shuttle bus? Luckily the other night one came right away and I was able to get moving.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lach and Matt and Matt's Antifolk Memories

I'd noticed the public airing on the OJ Board of longstanding dIfferences between Major Matt and Lach and since this blog is dedicated to documenting the scene in which those disagreements took place, I was mulling over exactly how to refer to the situation here. It all feels a little gossipy, and while intrigued, I wasn't sure if it added to the understanding of the community or was just kind of salacious. In the meantime, while my mulling was taking place, enough time had passed that I wasn't sure I'd get around to mentioning it at all. If you have not already seen the exchange on the OJ Board, it is easy enough to go back and look at it, so I am not going to go into any details on the specifics.

To tell you the truth, based on my experiences elsewhere, I've always been amazed and impressed that there aren't MORE falling outs among people in our scene. The overriding attitude even today is one of support and collaboration. Not that everyone loves everyone else or that there aren't uncomfortable situations here and there (undoubtedly there are more than I know about) but somehow the attitude at Sidewalk has always been welcoming.

However, what finally gave me the rationale to write about this is that the exchange with Lach inspired Matt to start documenting his memories of the Antifolk scene on his own blog. That history is particularly welcome as the period in which Matt was intensively hanging out at Sidewalk has not been extensively documented. Those were the early days of the Antihoot at Sidewalk and a time when some of the key figures from the scene first started coming around and got to know one another. Plus, Matt writes about how Olive Juice got started, which is another bit of history worth preserving.

I'll have to figure out a way to permanently link to Matt's memories here at Sidewalk's Sidewalk, but in the meantime, you can read the three entries he's written so far at: http://matthew-roth.livejournal.com/

Level II Extravaganzarama - Friday, June 11, 2010

The Sidewalk Stage was jam packed with puppeteers, musicians, a magician, a comedian, and more for the Level II Extravaganza Friday. Although the ambitions for the performance overwhelmed the capabilities of the stage, it was an interesting step toward a variety show concept that may develop further in the future. Level II seems to be the overarching name for Ben Folstein's puppet performances and music. I was particularly impressed by his group's musicianship. They had a solid funk feel, which featured trombone, nice bass work, two strong gals on vocals and the impressive guitar work of Ben himself. The songs are from Level II's puppet musical Love is Like Mud. Magician Myron the Magnificent was the evening's M.C., performing tricks here and there between acts and also presenting two excerpts from his stage act featuring his lovely assistant Vera. Ben Croneberg performed some of his Steven Wright-influenced comedy, and although I thought he was doing ok, he was literally given the hook by the evening's impresario Ben F. A later skit depicted a guy in tights filling in for a missing stripper instructor. While the piece might have some comic possibilities, it seemed to go on for a few thrusts too long...Anyway, I may not be the most objective observer considering my affiliation with MTM, but I thought the evening was lots of fun and I hope there are more in the future.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Domino's CD Release Show

Domino's CD release show last night was a mixture of amazing and unusual moments. Domino was set to perform at 9 but when I got there, right on time for the start of her show, I was told that she had yet to arrive. Even though Domino had been heavily promoting the show the night before at the open mic, somehow she had gotten set back and didn't arrive until about 9:45.

In the meantime a very vocal representative from the group of Domino's friends who were present lobbied to let another friend from the audience have a moment to sing on stage. Nick and Ben acceded to the entreaties and Domino's friend Leticia rose and began singing songs in German, Indian, and other languages.

After Leticia concluded, Joe Crow Ryan ably filled in with a set. Joe seems to be getting more polished all the time and I thought it was one of his better shows. It contained numerous covers, and I thought that rhythmically he found a nice pulse to many of the pieces that pushed them along into a tasteful jazz feel.

Domino started her set by explaining that she was starting not with an original tune but with a little dance she does to someone else's song. Watching Domino dance to REM's Orange Crush, while using a bottle of that drink as a prop, is a reminder of the unbridled moments in childhood when we would lose ourselves and dance in front of a mirror or our siblings in some kind of flight of imagination. Her dance evoked a joyful giddiness among some of us watching.

There is no point not acknowledging that part of what captivates people about Domino is how she marches to the beat of her own....guitar playing. But what she brings to the stage has brilliance to it and outstanding creativity. Several of her songs were performed last night to homemade backing tracks which she plays from an onstage boom box. She finished up with this song Cheesecake, requested by Nick, that you have to hear to grasp fully but it is typical of Domino's unique subject matter and style of wordplay. "He wanted another piece of my Cheesecake....I sent him away with Cheesecake." I was so glad I was there for her set. I wonder where everyone else was, though. It was a small house. Anyway, I love Domino.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lach's Antihoot at Webster Hall & Diane Cluck at Sidewalk, Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I've been receiving frequent messages from a Mr. Steve Rogers, urging me to attend events at Webster Hall, including the Tuesday, Antihoot run by Lach. Mr. Rogers is a pretty persuasive guy, so I turned out on Tuesday to see what the hubbub was about. Actually, this was my second visit, truth be told, after checking out the Antihoot's new location on its very first night in back in March.

When I arrived, Talia was playing--the same young Talia I'd noticed at the Open Mic at Sidewalk the night before. Talia's songs often are about the emotional currents stirred up by the guys in her life (or at least the ones she has crushes on) or by conflicts with her classmates in school. I've got to give Talia credit for having the drive to write songs and find places to perform them. Plunging headlong into this stuff at an early age means that she will have more opportunity to learn and develop her writing and generally to find a path into music if she decides that's what she wants. And what better way to do it than hanging out at late-night songwriting joints!

Next up was a group called Now (if I'm not mistaken) a duo with a quite lithesome young lady and a guy singing a heavily pop-flavored tune to a rhythm track.

Mike Rechner played two songs from his Churchill Downs project. Mike's songs always seem heavily influenced by Lou Reed to me--spare and somehow bringing out feelings of alienation. Cool stuff.

Morgan Heringer played a couple nice tunes...she referred to standard ukulele position--one leg on a chair, elbow on the raised thigh, holding the angled up ukulele.

The Gentleman Scumbag was up next with funny stuff about his job as a dirty balloon maker at Lucky Cheng's. I particularly liked the story about the father who insisted that John make a particularly profane balloon sculpture for the man's 15 year-old daughter.

Emily Moment was on hand with accompaniment from a friend on guitar. The songs seemed to have kind of a country-flavored pop feel . Emily's vocals stand out more each time I hear her play.

Joie Blaney was a fixture for years at Sidewalk's Open Mic before moving to L. A. a couple years ago. It was nice to see him back in town for a visit. Joie played some new songs, including one about the bygone days of Sweet Bohemia.

Dave Woodcock, a very versatile performer who I gather is visiting from England, displayed some virtuosic technique with a song on piano about how "life ain't worth a damn" and then turned to guitar for a much gentler song called Gretna Green. Very nice.

The Scufz is a retro-flavored act with a guy on washboard/percussion, a fellow on guitar and vocals and another on washtub bass. The guitarist seemed to be pulling most of the weight musically and had some nice jazzy chords to fill out their sound. In the middle of the set a scantily clad gal appeared with a megaphone to pick up the vocals and added further retro-style with "voidio-do, voidio-do" lyrics. She then surprised us by whisking off her short dress to reveal an even scantier costume underneath.

Lenny Molotov played and JJ Hayes did a song about Killing the Buddha.

One of the things I've noticed about the Merlin Room at Webster Hall is that it provides a much more sophisticated range of atmospheric devices for Lach to play with. The whirling stage lights are one thing but I jumped every time I heard the smoke machine hiss on.

The Merlin Room is a gorgeous space and is a great place for anyone who has wanted to play on a larger stage in amuch more polished setting than Sidewalk. Although it probably had as many people in attendance the other night as Sidewalk's open mic usually does, the large room made it seem more sparsely attended. But with Steve Rogers on the case I'm sure that will soon be a thing of the past.

After I headed out from Webster Hall, intending to catch the train home--I ran into Crazy and the Brains and friends who were heading over to Sidewalk to hear Diane Cluck. Diane's songs are gentle and elegant. They require intent listening but it pays off. In particular, a requested song, Macy's Day Bird struck me as ravishing. One of the reasons to hang out in this scene is for the times when you unexpectedly encounter moments of powerful artistry. Thanks to Crazy and Co. for tipping me off to Diane's show which was a nice way to finish off the night.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Monday Night Open Mic, May 10, 2010

I thought there was some good energy the other night, helped by the addition of a big projection screen behind the stage which featured videos by a few folks on the list. Preston Spurlock showed some of his animations--a number of which I'd seen but all of which are brilliant. Interspersed with those he had some bizarre "found" footage, including a real educational film from the 1980s (?) which explored different ways to refer to a penis. The instructor, a straight-laced looking woman in front of a blackboard kept asking her students for more references and and wrote them all down--cock, dick, meat, etc....totally bizarre. Pete Scalzitti also showed the cool animation for his song Amy, which he accompanied live on piano.

It was actually Brian Speaker who opened the show with a song from his Mars Chronicles opera. Good to see Brian is recovered from whatever bug knocked him out of commission for a bit.

Morgan Heringer played a couple lovely songs--she'll be on the bill at Sidewalk Friday with Cal Folger Day. Birds of Prey performed (Birds of Prey is a gal from Australia who I've seen over the last few weeks). Talia sang Sticky Situation--which she explained is about a girl in her class who i mean to her.

The floating logo from the DVD machine that randomly swam around on the projection screen as various acts played was a strange and inadequate vestige of 1960s light shows. I don't know if anyone else thought about this--but in its day the Fillmore East was just a few blocks away from Sidewalk. How things have changed.

Brook Pridemore, and the Facsimiles played--leading up to Nothing but Strings, which I can only describe as a hip hop violin duo. They were two violinists who played to a hip-hop rhythm track. It was a bit overblown, frankly, but cool nonetheless. I look forward to seeing these guys some more.

Zoe--was it Zoe--I think it was--she sang a song she said was inspried by The Prince by Machiavelli. Most of her performance was from a position on her knees or supine.

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Tonight - Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tonight there are performances all over the place that will test your loyalties and abilities to navigate public transit. As I started to list them all--and the locales--Sidewalk, Cake Shop, Goodbye Blue Monday, Webster Hall, Lilly Coogan's, it made me realize that that the scene that I think of as emanating from Sidewalk really has become rather far flung. For a moment I thought that maybe it wasn't possible to look at this as part of one scene anymore. But, to my sensibility, I do still think there are links and continuity between all these artists and that it's worth recognizing the connections and the ongoing lineage. So, even as things morph and evolve around us, I am going to continue to write about the "Sidewalk Scene" and assume that anyone with a specific enough interest to read this blog will know what that encompasses. And, of course, there still IS the scene at Sidewalk going strong.

Ok, --I'll probably get around to writing more about that stuff some other time, but for now, here is some of what's happening tonight:

at Goodbye Blue Monday Nan Turner celebrates the release of her CD "Construction of a Champ." The evening features performances by a slate of intriguing and talented folks including Susan Hwang, "Jofranna", Dave End, and Nan herself with a large group of friends backing her up as The One Night Stands.

Cake Shop has Only Son and Ching Chong Song on the bill.

Lach's slate at Webster Hall includes an appearance by our friend Joie Blaney, making a rare visit from L. A. Also on that bill is Mike Rechner with his new project Churchill Downs plus Lenny Molotov and Lach himself.

Sidewalk has added an intriguing set by Anders and Co., which I gather will feature folks who were among the regular gang at Sidewalk.

Relative newcomer Charles Mansfield debuts his EP at Lilly Coogan's

I will be at one or more of these shows. And maybe I'll see you there.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Monday Night Open Mic, April 12, 2010

Isaac Gillespie filled in as host for Ben K. last night. After showing some nerves during a bit of a wobbly monologue, Isaac did great, nicely handling the introductions and transitions with the proper amount of humor, banter, and forward motion.

The first act after Isaac was Bird to Prey--a gal who sang some captivating, gentle songs. From a quick Google search it looks as if Bird to Prey is Sarah Turk, originally hailing from Freemantle, Australia. One of her songs was a nice one called Peppertree Road. Check her out on MySpace.

Larkin Grimm is another performer I'd describe as captivating. Isaac noticed she was playing a 12-string electric guitar. Larkin has an unusual style that impresses me every time I see her play.

Next up --Giant Chink --Yes, Master Lee and Touching You are back with another band name. This one was focused as a Heavy Metal group. Master Lee was wearing a dramatic looking red fur and belting out a lot of "songs." He ended his set by saying "we don't rehearse."

Woodford Green - a guy/gal duo from England was next. Some nice tunes with her on accordion and he playing trumpet, guitar and ukulele.

Talia was back. Talia said "I'm Talia, I'm 12 years old, and I'm a musician." Talia's first song was "Never Been Kissed." Then she sng a song that she said she wrote " When I WAS in love." The song was Tornadoes. Gosh--the 12 year olds seem to have a lot of perspective on love these days.....maybe it was always like that and I just don't remember.

Eric -- nice stuff on piano - a good vibe

Yea for The Fools. I love The Fools.

Taylor Wagner had problem tuning her guitar, even with an electric tuner--She talked about how much it sucked being a waitress and then sang a song about it. She kind of belted her songs--at least at moments-- I'm sure we'll hear more from her.

Ben Pagano plays some nice bluesy piano. He did the sort of bluesy standard Hot Tamales and Red Hot.

I walked in to hear the conclusion of a song performed by Faye. Very cool thing where she was playing a kind of repeated chord riff while doing some very cool sort of wild vocals over it. Then she sang an a cappella song. Faye definitely has some interesting ideas going on. Hope to see her again too.

The Essentials -a duo of two guys on acoustic guitars.

As usual I wish I could have stayed around longer. Anyone else want to comment on the rest of the evening?

See you next time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Problem

Too much good stuff going on, not enough time.

Here's a link to a very brief synopsis from the OJ Board by Steve Espinola of the Webster Hall show last Wednesday with Steve and with Mr. Patrick, Emily Hope Price, Diane Cluck, and Soft Black. Read through the links for comments by Jeff Lewis and others: click here

Sounds like it was a great show.

Lach has lots of cool stuff coming up at Webster Hall. I'm particularly intrigued by the chance to hear Hammell on Trial on May 19, an act I've heard a lot about but have never had the chance to see perform.

Lach Presents

OK-time to readjust the calendar - thanks Lach for making more late nights out inevitable.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bushwick Book Club, April 6, 2010

Susan Hwang has done a great job with the Bushwick Book Club cd. I got it last night and have already listened to a lot of it although with 58 songs, I have a way to go. What stands out is the very high quality of the songwriting. Some of this has to do with Susan's good judgment in the songs she chose to include. But it also is credit to the Book Club itself, which inspires such interesting creations. It's great to have this document of the Book Club's first year and also the snapshot of our broader scene that it represents. Tom Bayne's cover -- a class picture in caricature -- in visual form also captures the many characters who have contributed.

Last night's show marked the cd release and also a regular Book Club night focusing on Dolly Parton's autobiography. Susan kicked things off, Maria and Franz played remotely via Skype, a woman who's name I don't know was dressed as Dolly (sort of, I think) and did a fun yodelling number with audience foot stomping, The Hooters, three chicks (one on banjo, one on guitar and all on vocals), did a fun country-flavored number about how they've slept with everyone but so and so...you kind of had to hear it but it had a spoon playing and whistle blowing break down section. Some of the playing was a little wobbly but to me that was the hit of the night. It was a bit of a novelty number that you could kind of imagine at the Grand Ole Opry.

Angela Carlucci told a story about how Dolly's mother would cheer up her kids by asking them to go outside and find stones and the kid who needed the most cheering up had his or her stone put in the soup...Major Matt played in a blonde Dolly wig, Joe Crow did a number at the piano....

It was a fine and fun night....

The Tuesday Tea Cup followed and Preston played one of my favorite songs of his, Gardenias. The song is about senility, basically, but it had people dancing in the aisles, literally. Mark Palermo also played a Hendrix tune. Good going Mark.

Monday Night Open Mic, April 5, 2010

Hello--I was just around a short while on Monday, but here's what I remember or at least wrote down....

Mr. Patrick told a story while playing a big chinese instrument.

Jon Berger read poems from his iPhone

Brian Vergara did a number a capella with foot stomping - it involved a chorus that went "are you hurt, are you sad....."

Olivia Gerber played two songs. She is definitely worth checking out...

I couldn't catch if it was Red Zepperin or Red Zeppelin, but the band formerly known as Chink Floyd, comprising Master Lee, Touching You, Ariel Bitran and Matt Winkler, played next. Master Lee was hilarious and did this running gag where he kept yelling a sort of Kung Fu yell into the microphone. [I've been corrected-see comment below] He also made jokes about activities he'd like to pursue with 14 year-old girls, only to be followed on stage by:

Talia (?) a 14 year-old girl who was as 14 years old as a 14 year old could be. Except she might have been 13. She sang a couple songs about love...keep doing it Talia. Life is better with songs.

Larkin Grimm played--performing with a small harp. She was joined by Cindy who accompanied with lovely ideas on bass and also sang with Larkin.. They were excellent. Unusual and beautiful stuff. The first song was "Mina Minou...your body is gone, almost gone." Check out another version of it here: Mina Minou

Let's take a second to mention all the bad harp jokes that ensued...

I didn't catch the name of the second song but it was a lovely, gentle tune.

Brook Pridemore broke out a cover of Dancing Queen. Ben K. put on the disco lights and then rushed up on stage to add the piano part. The two Dancing Queens, Jon Berger and Joe Crow Ryan shook their respective bodies in the middle of the room. It was all kind of silly but also was one of those amazing Sidewalk moments where you are swept up into an impossible and joyful few minutes of pure fun.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Yikes, I missed it

If you read this blog, chance are you've already seen the following note over at the OJ Board about the night of Major Matt songs at Sidewalk Tuesday. For missing it I should be forced to pay $2 for extra pita. In any event, maybe you haven't seen this, so here's at least a little info about the night from Jeff Lewis...I Heart Major Matt

Monday, March 22, 2010

3-21-2010 Debutante Hour CD Release Show


I've written any number of times about how much I enjoy the shows put on by my pals The Debutante Hour, so it would be redundant of me to go on at length about their great vocal harmonies, strong songwriting, charm, wit, coordinated outfits, and good looks. But, I must report the truth. The Debutantes put on a thoroughly entertaining show at Mercury Lounge Sunday night, at the CD release show of their album "The Birth and Death of Meaning." The trio was in fine form, performing songs that are mostly part of their regular set, but throughout the night the pieces were supplemented by other musicians, most of whom played on the record. So, trumpet, violin, clarinet, extra percusssion (by Nan Turner) etc, were featured in songs like Devil Song, Croak Hiss and Sputter, and others. During Miracle Birth, the Debutante Hour's crack Cigarette Girl and her assistants gave birth to the new cd by sliding them in succession down a red banner (they were then hawked by the pillbox wearing cigarette girl through the crowd). There also was a performance in Spanish by Dan and Danny in matching black bow ties and vests. The Debutantes performed their cover of No Scrub and finished off with an upbeat Ukranian song. Schwervon opened with a fine set. Matt looked a bit like Andre Agassi with his Schwervon headband. A splendid time was had by all.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lach's Antihoot, Tuesday, March 16



Lach's Antihoot got off to a new start last night at Webster Hall. I wandered up about 7:20 or so and saw some familiar faces outside, Debe Dalton chiefly among them. The room inside is large and kind of slick, with comfortable places to sit. There's a stage with a cool back drop that looks like a big wrought iron fan--a kind of Art Deco look. Lach is stationed behind plexiglass partitions in a booth at the back of the room. There's a large bar to the left of the stage. Leading into the main room is a side room that I have a feeling will become like the Sidewalk basement, a place to hang out, practice, chat. While hanging around before things got going, I had this disorienting moment from encountering Lach as Antihoot host in a new setting. After all, the pattern and rhythms of the Sidewalk open mic nights hosted by Lach had grown so familiar over the years.

The crowd was kind of slow to build and Lach delayed sign up a little. Unfortunately I had to leave for a while and so wasn't there for the evening's kick-off, but from what I heard it was pretty much as usual with Lach explaining the ropes of how the evening works. I came back later in the night and somehow things felt more familiar. Bernard was hanging around and people were singing their hearts out on stage.

It seemed to be a kind of quiet kick-off for the Antihoot. There were any number of folks from Sidewalk there: Master Lee and Mr. Patrick, Steve Espinola, Vin, Charles Mansfield, Don Cameron, Rob Shapiro. There also were other performers who seemed new to the scene, who somehow found out about the Antihoot, and there was also a group of mysterious folks in darkened areas along the wall who were hanging out. But the large room made it feel as if it was a little sparsely populated. The new event probably does need some time before it catches on but I have no doubt it will.

As usual, even in the brief time I was there, I heard some really interesting music, some of it from folks I wasn't at all familiar with. Is there a bottomless source of people in New York needing to express themselves? It seems so. The greatness of open mics is the opportunity given to anyone who has the urge, the drive, the desire to tell the world how they feel. Even with Lach back as host, this one will probably take on a character that's different than what came before. So, let's say welcome to the new Antihoot, and thanks for providing us a stage.

Debe Dalton's Birthday Show, Sunday, March 14

Debe Dalton's seat has been labeled in bronze. I think it was Master Lee and Rick Patrick who took care of that. Now there's a little Debe Dalton plaque on the wall down front. Well, we all KNEW it was Debe Dalton's seat anyway, but now it's official.

It was a fun night all around Sunday at Debe's birthday show, with some nice performances.

Myron the Magnificient kicked things off with his amazing magic--Myron is still refining his act a little and one new trick truly flopped. But the rest of the show seemed to go well. A highlight was making a signed handkerchied disappear from the stage and then reappear inside a salt shaker on a table in the middle of the room. How'd you do it Myron? As always the lovely Vera Lynn assisted.

Gillian Visco was next. I hadn't seen Gillian play in a while, but I don't remember her playing electric guitar, which is what she used the other night. Gillian played a series of lovely, kind of mellow songs, including Floatation Devices and The Front Row, which was a request from Debe. I need to check out Gillian's stuff further, but some her songs have some quite rich and poetic lyrics. She does a lot of kind of finger pick-y stuff on the guitar for accompaniment.

Barry Bliss played his cool biography song, with all the details of his life. He had another one called American Dream....a sort of ironic song about the state of things. He also played a song about Rasputin and one about becoming free. Barry looked a little like Rasputin the other night.

Susan Hwang played a great set. Her songs are very strong and her singing is amazing. Even though I've heard most of her songs numerous times, I was still noticing new things in the lyrics--particularly in this song Parking.

Debe started with a Carter Family song, "Over the Garden Wall." She sang "Close the Door" as a duet with Susan. She did the best version of her song Tuesday, Wednesday that I can remember hearing....it's one that I love. Other songs: Normal, Ed's Song, Oh Susannah, Butcher's Boy, and Crackle (?) a new song about missing her friends while she's stationed out of town. My love for Debe's songwriting and performing knows no bounds, as I've written before. Her show the other night was again evidence why.

Ching Chong Spng also played a great set. Their stuff is so incredibly musical. They were in trio form the other night with Dan, Julie and Susan (making her appearance in the fourth set of the night). Madeleine, MIning, Rorissa, Dreaming, and Old Man were some of the songs they played.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tonight: Debe Dalton's Birthday - with Myron the Magnificent

I'm very excited about Debe Dalton's birthday celebration tonight. It's a great bill all around and kicks off at 7:30 with an appearance by Myron the Magnificent. Myron, as you may know, is the magician who has recently turned up at Sidewalk to make his comeback after an unfortunate incident with swords and fire temporarily forced him from his home theatre in Las Vegas. However thanks to the good work of his attorney, Ira Blitz, Myron is back ready to astound and amaze you.

It's a stellar night all around with some of Sidewalk's most interesting acts out to pay tribute to Ms. Dalton. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, March 14
Sidewalk Cafe
Debe Dalton's Birthday Celebration

7:30-Myron The Magnificant, 8-Gillian Visco, 8:40-Barry Bliss, 9:15-Susan Hwang, 10-Debe Dalton, 11-Ching Chong Song

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Monday Night Open Mic, March 8, 2010

This will be really quick. So, a few friends who I hadn't seen at the Open Mic in a long while were on hand the other night. I ran into Lance Romance who hadn't been there on a Monday in ages. It just so happened on the same night Debe Dalton was in town, sitting in her regular down front spot. But Lance didn't realize anything was out of the ordinary --just thought there was Debe as usual--even though she's been away for a while too. Also, was glad to see Pablo Das in a surprise appearance --visiting from L. A.

There was lots of good music played. Isaac Gillespie filled in hosting for a bit too.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hey Dudes - Who Gets to Have the Antifolk Fest?

Lach's New Deal at Webster Hall

Wow. Lach just sent out a dealio saying he's booking two nights a week at Webster Hall. Tuesday nights starting March 16 will feature The Antihoot (!) and Wednesdays (starting March 23) will feature a bill of 4 acts. Tuesdays will be free (no minimum) with sign-up at 7. There will be a five-dollar cover on Wednesdays, again with no minimum.

This is an interesting development on many levels. What jumps right out are questions of how this will affect the shape of things in our little community of performers. Lach founded the Sidewalk Open Mic and then after fifteen years left it in the capable hands of Ben Krieger who has kept it going as the City's preeminent open stage. Now Lach comes back to establish a new open mic on a different night. Will this shake things up at Sidewalk? Will the scenes at the two separate clubs have different feels/characters? Who will have claim as the home of Antifolk? Will it be like Ray's and Original Ray's?!

Well, I'm sure that the scene or at least the City can support two strong Open Mics on different nights. There certainly are no lack of artists looking for places to play. Above all, I'll bet it will be great for us performers who will have more options now. I know I'll be glad to have another place in Manhattan where I might be able to get a gig. Lach sent a link that has photos of the Webster Hall venue and it's a nicely restored space that can hold an audience of up to 500. Marlin Room.

By the way, I like the idea of a small cover charge for Lach's Wednesday night gigs as opposed to the tip jar method. While I don't mind pitching in a little for acts at Sidewalk, frankly I find the tip jar an annoyance. It interrupts the shows, it puts guilty pressure on people, and the artists don't even get all the money. Really I'd just rather pay at the door and be done with it, at least if the door charge is reasonable. Yeesh--had to get that off my chest--sorry Ben!

Angela and Toby at Sidewalk, February 20, 2010

Hi-I came across this video of Angela Carlucci, performing with Toby Goodshank at her Sidewalk Show on Saturday the 20th. This song is gorgeous.

Submissions Wanted

Hey You

If you have any interest in writing about artists and performances for this blog, please let me know.

Right now I'd particularly be interested in coverage of the nights of the Festival that are missing here. That would be the shows this past Wed and Thurs, Feb 24 and 25th.

However, In general the idea as it says above is to cover the performances and other creative activities stemming from the community of artists surrounding Sidewalk Cafe. I define the connection to Sidewalk by some sort of internal logic, but usually it's pretty obvious who or what qualifies for coverage here and things can be pretty broadly defined.

One priority is to provide a sense of what's currently happening on the scene, but I think just as important is building up a base of history that folks can search in the future. My focus has been on documenting performances but if you are interested in album reviews, artist profiles, or any more creative types of write-ups, photo coverage, whatever, that would be cool too. One intention is to showcase the long lineage of folks who have been connected to Sidewalk over the years. Lots of folks have moved out of New York or perform mostly on tour so out of town write ups would definitely be of interest.

I can be reached at thirdclassmail [aaattttt] earthlink [dotttt] net

Herb

The Fest, Catching Up, February 18, 2010

Going all the way back to the 18th, which seems like eons ago...first off, check out an earlier post for some words about Blurple who opened the show that night. Charles Mansfield was up next with a series of emotional songs, including one about a tatooed gal and another that references Frank Sinatra attempting suicide in a hotel elevator. I can't verify that Frank Sinatra did try suicide in an elevator but it's an effective hook for a song....

I wanted to mention the return of Lance Romance (playing as MILF City) to Sidewalk after a long time away. It was great to hear songs like Sexy Bowler Girl, Mrs. Doubtfire and the one about Andre the Giant's Posse. Although Lance seemed a little more low key than I remember him, it was still a nice set--although, ok, truthfully I did wish he would have played the urinal song! Sorry I didn't get to say hello Lance.

Barry Bliss has developed a beard of remarkable proportion. He is putting to shame the Amish and Chasidic people I know. I really liked this long song he did in which he told his life story in detail. I usually find that specific life details in songs have to be handled carefully or the songs can sound like bad diary entries. But Barry's song was nothing but specific detail-- and somehow in that way it was broadly relevant.

Emily Moment sang this interesting song about whether or not to sing political songs (In the middle of it she ends up quoting that Rod Stewart song Maggie May as an example of a pop hit that steered away from politics). I hadn't heard that one before and it was a cool way of actually touching on politics even though that seems not to be Emily's particular bent.

Bernard King put together a roster of nearly 20 performers who focused on work by or relating to Hans and Sophie Scholl, young German dissidents who stood up against the Nazis and were eventually sentenced to death for their outspokenness. Folks like Preston, Charles Mansfield, Randi Russo, Magali and Andrew Hoepfner, among others, read works by Hans and Sophie or sang relevant songs. It was an interesting way to be introduced to a touching part of history.

Jason Trachtenburg's group The Pendulum Swings featured a trumpet and tenor sax, as well as bass and drums plus Jason on the piano. The larger group enabled Jason to step away from the piano some and sing at the front of the stage. Jason played some of the songs we've come to know and love---Everybody Loves the Clown, Must Be Somebody's Birthday, I Don't Want to Tempt Time. The horn players took some jazzy solos too...

It was late as heck by then and I couldn't stay for Smoke.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Antifolk Fest, Friday, February 26, 2010

I always promise myself I'm going to stay on top of writing up the Fest shows, and sometimes I even get off to a good start as I did this year. I thought the strategy of live write-ups while at Sidewalk would help, but it turned out I couldn't get everything down between sets. Well, now's the time, even after the fact, that I try to catch up a little. Fest burnout and life in general intervened a bit toward the end and so I ended up missing some shows I wish I'd seen .

The Fest Wrapped up Friday, coming to a conclusion with a great set by The Wowz.

I arrived at the tail end of The Fools set....I was coming straight from a rehearsal, so I had a good excuse for being late.... Anyway, I heard one of my favorite Fools songs, the one that pays tribute to parents.

The Debutante Hour played next. Those gals get better and better every time I see them. Their harmonies are so tight and well constructed. Plus, I appreciate the fact that they always pay attention to a unified look on stage (nice outfits gals). They debuted a cover of TLC's song "No Scrubs" last night and handled several other of their hits, like Devil Song and Miracle Birth. The Debutante Hour, if you've never seen them, comprise Susan Hwang and Maria Sonevytsky, who trade off on accordion and other instruments (Susan played a lot of percussion the other night) and Mia Pixley who plays cello. They have a great sound and are working on a new cd which I'm looking forward to.

The Debutante Hour was followed up by Myron the Magnificent. Myron is kind of an exasperated magician, struggling with mishaps in his career, an overbearing "magic mom" and problems with his assistant, Vera Lynn. Still, he has the power to amaze, as he did Friday by piercing a balloon with a long needle without popping it, producing coins magically from the air, and passing ropes through an audience volunteer. Myron and I are very close--you might even say we're practically alter egos--and I was glad to support him in his debut at Sidewalk Cafe

Crazy and the Brains rocked the hall with a supplemented group that featured Mike Winkler playing an inverted bass drum and Joe Crow shaking it on various percussion instruments from the side of the stage. (I'm not sure if Joe Crow was invited to perform or just joined in.) I'm starting to get much more into the Crazy aesthetic. It's pretty cool to mix the punk rock/acoustic style with percussion instruments like xylophone or glockenspiel or whatever it is that is played by "The Brains," (who is an excellent musician). Right now I can't stop singing End of the World, Saturday Night Live, and Sexy Magazine.

Despite the snow Don McCloskey filled up Sidewalk yet again. Don is a charismatic performer who really has command of the stage and of his audience. His fans seem to know the lyrics to all his songs and singing along is a big part of the show. Don mixes folk and hip-hop, with hip-hop taking command to a large extent last night. Friday he drew on Jeff from Crazy in the Brains to sit in playing the Glockenspiel on Don's song about...a Glockenspiel. He also debuted on piano a funny song he wrote about men's figure skating. And he dedicated Dance Like a Jackass, to Jon Berger who did just that with hilarious extremity.

Next up was Lach who performed an energetic set that also spun off into monologues and comic pieces like his impersonation of Jim Morrison as Batman. There was a song I hadn't heard before which Lach introduced as stemming from a period staring too long a Monet's water lillies. I can understand how those amazing paintings would inspire a song, and this one was cool, intertwining colors and numbers and language. Several of the familiar Lach songs like Jet City, Hey, and Ungrateful seemed to have extra zest. Maybe it was just me, but there was kind of a coherence to it all, even with the comic tangent. The Batman/Morrison connection came because Val Kilmer played both roles. Lach also did some schtick about short poems, and sang the Spiderman and Gigantor themes as lead ins to a request for Stephen Said.

Toby Goodshank played a cool Barry Bliss cover and also spoke extensively about a couple he'd witnessed earlier in the night involved in some interesting back end byplay. I'm sorry that I had to step out for some of Toby's set but the crowd was rapt so it seemed he rocked.

I've been fan of The Wowz for a while and have been intrigued by their interest in an early 1960s style of vocal harmonies. But it had been a while since I'd heard them and now, it seems that Julie Lamendola has joined Sam Grossman, Simon Beins, and Johnny Dydo as a permanent part of the group. Things have developed in a really interesting way, with Julie's amazing vocals providing a strong counterbalance to the singing by Sam, Simon and Johnny. Plus, the whole group seemed "rockier" with more reliance on electric guitar. There were some really nice musical interludes that involved trading off and overlapping playing on saw and guitar. A nice way to close the Fest.

Stay tuned for a wrap up of lots of other shows yet to be covered.....

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