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


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.....


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monday Night Open Mic, February 21, 2010

Lach hosted the Open Mic last night. It's always a nice familiar feeling to find the old guy in the driver's seat now and then. The place was crowded as hell last night. According to Lach there were 80 acts signed up.

Here are some notes about just a few of the folks who played (and forgive me if I happened to miss you!)

Brook Pridemore played a new song - "Blood in my mouth, pain in my eyes, I have arrived"

Amanda at the piano played a song about another girl named Amanda who liked her boyfriend.

Richard Chanel (Sp?) played some cool stuff - harmonica and guitar - very Dylan influenced. --

Hank and Pigeon --- I find Morgan Herringer's stuff quite beautiful. She and Alex P. did a lovely set..."When I die will you cut me to pieces and put me in a vegetable garden?"

Albert Goold plays some wild stuff on piano and writes some cool music. His first song was sung with a friend Drew Boy" and they did some cool vocal stuff --overlapping lines, interesting intervals on repeated syllables....lots of ideas streaming from Albert's hands and mind.

Seth of Dufus --- what stood out is that a guy came on stage and poured water into Seth's mouth while he was playing, which Seth used to musical effect by gargling and singing with the water in his throat. Seth's stuff often is a stream of wild vocalizing with a fair amount of gibberish lyrics. It was a nice moment to see Lach and Seth together, something Lach called attention to, because neither of them are on the scene that much these days I gather Seth was a regular some point back.

Dan Costello and Rachel Devlin played a new song - Wo Banana (or Woe Bananan?) which was all about bananas. It was cool....They also did the one "I don't want to die with poison"

Myron the Magnificent pulled coins from the air and from people's ears and caps and glasses. He then turned all the coins into gpld chocolate pieces. Myron performs Friday as part of the Antifolk Fest

It turns out Myron also is a reasonably decent pianist and co-hosted Lach's game show What the Fuck? Jon Berger and Miles were the two contestants (they lost)

Boo Hoo played a song called Woody Allen that seemed to mostly be about a plane crash.

Cal Folger Day did a bluesy tune about that old frisco train.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Antifolk Fest, Sunday, February 20, 2009

This blog has always sought guest correspondents. And finally it got one. Man on the scene, Jonathan Berger, filed the following report on last night's shows:

By Jonathan Berger

Just around seven, the show started with the first part of I Heart You. The room was about half-filled, surprisingly crowded for a Sunday night. Maybe it was the Festival; maybe it was because of the Circle Jerk that is I Heart You. When you invite a bunch of local characters to pay respect to each other by covering their material, everybody wants to go out to see if their material will get attention.

Ben Krieger started on piano, doing a Domino song about saloon drinking. I didn't recognize it, or Chris Maher's who did a dirge by, I believe, Christine.

Neil Kelly, who once recorded an album of Thomas Patrick McGuire songs, instead covered the Wowz track, "Sexually Depressed About the Lack of Jameses."

Jordan Levinson introduced her Everybody Knows cover by referring to rock envy. "I don't play rock," she said, "but I wish I did. So this is a really good thing."

Peter Dizozza covered Steve Espinola's "You've Lost Everything," a song he’d helped Steve play just on Friday during the Lookalikes Reunion set. After a verse it transitioned into another Steve song, "Inside and Blue." Dizozza suckered me with his musical zigzag.

Charles Mansfield introduced "Tidewater Rising" by mentioning that the songwriter was in the audience to hear it. "I just saw Dan Costello before I got on stage," Charles explained "Now I'm a lot more nervous."

Brian Speaker started off tuning, explaining that he was covering Debe Dalton. The audience laughed. He went on to cover a song from the Bushwick Book Club songwriting collective, ending the track about fairyland by stating, "I heart Phoebe Kreutz."
Round one of I Heart You completed, some folk chatted while the stage transitioned into longer sets.

Lach suggested "What do you think: an I Hate You night. You cover people whom you hate - or, if you're paranoid, someone you think hates you."

Everybody around liked the idea.

At 7.30 was Philadelphia's Blown Away, featuring Sammy Shuster on songs, a saw/triangle/percussion player, and a video display featuring images that complemented the songs. Sammy occasionally turned to watch the computer screen, perhaps unsure what was being generated.

Cal Folger Day followed at eight with a percussionist in tow. Cal has always seemed pretty good to me (something about her reeks genuine), but I haven't heard any other critical opinion about her, so I'm not prepared yet to weigh on her.

Ray Brown hit the stage at 8.30. Starting with a small instrumental piece, he said, while applause died, "This is about good as it's gonna get."

His next song put the lie to that statement; featuring the phrase "theater of douchebaggery."

Ray's last song had a female guest vocalist and was his I Heart You contribution. Starting with a line from Herb Scher's "Tower Records is Gone," Ray went into Lach's “Drinking Beers with Mom. He’d also done it on Monday at the Open Mic; it was interesting to hear an audience react to the song without identifying with the specific artist. On Monday, Ray got laughter on different lines than Lach would.

9.30 saw the second round of I Heart You. Starting with Crazy & the Brains. Covering Toby Goodshank, Crazy said, “We had thought it was called ‘Track One’ but it's actually called ‘Pulled Pork.’ So, uh… let's go.”

Domino followed, playing through Somer’s “Sean's Song.” I recognized it because of the chorus: “HiFi stereo at your burial…”

Morgan Herringer performed with Cal Folger Day. Threatening to cover Supercute, they instead did a Shivers’ song. The next act introduced himself as “Dan Crow Costello,” and aped Joe Crow Ryan’s stage shtick to a T before hitting the piano and banging out one of the rare Crow originals.

Preston Spurlock covered Dibs, “A man who’s been in more bands than anyone else in this room,” including a couple in which they both play.

Mike Winkler did Crazy and the Brains’ “Saturday Night Live.” While a much better singer, Winkler lacked confidence in the lines, thus leaving his version inferior. In general, the covers on command that were presented on Sunday were less than the originals - mine certainly were. If you don't cover a song as a true labor of love, it's bound to feel like it. Still, the audience joined in with Winkler, really getting into the song.

Jon Berger did three pieces about the AF Experience. Instead of singing, he read the lines. He took more time than he should, presumably thinking he had special privileges. Dick. (Disclaimer: Jon Berger wrote this entry - along with this disclaimer. Dick.)

Sam Grossman and Alex P finished the line-up of I Heart You. P covered Timothy Showalter, from PA. “This guy is why I’m playing and writing songs,” he explained, before launching into a song about community. A perfectly clear ending note for a series of performances about that very subject.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Antifolk Fest in the News

Below are two blurbs about the Antifolk Fest. One is from Friday's NY Times and the other from Time Out New York in August. I find it interesting that coverage of the Antifolk Fest usually at some point gets around to referring to the performers as oddballs, misfits, or miscreants. In fact, the Times chose not to refer to any specific artists playing but just to mention "more than 70 misfit acts." Now, I'm not necessarily upset to be called a misfit. In fact my whole show this year is kind of ABOUT being a misfit, but I wonder if the music writers could find something a little more illuminating to say rather than just lumping everyone together in the category of odd. Let me make sure to say that it's nice to be mentioned at all, but, unrealistic as it may be, it would be nice if there was a little more depth to their description of the artists on the scene.

NY Times

ANTIFOLK FESTIVAL (Friday through Thursday) Antifolk is one of those know-it-when-you-see-it genres, although it’s built, loosely, on the notion that folk music doesn’t have to be so serious (and that punk music doesn’t have to be so violent). This winter’s Antifolk Festival, which began on Monday and runs through next Friday, features more than 70 misfit acts. Schedule and information: Sidewalk Café, 94 Avenue A, near Sixth Street, East Village , (212) 473-7373; no cover, two-drink minimum. (Amanda Petrusich)

Time Out New York, August 2009
Top live show
Antifolk Festival

Sidewalk Café
Sidewalk Café; Fri 7–Aug 16
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. As the leather-jacketed warriors parading St. Marks Place have given way to the gentler souls of Bedford Avenue, the Antifolk world has remained a persistent alternative: less a stylistic meeting ground than a free-for-all built from the democracy of the open mike. It is no coincidence that the luminaries sprung from this world—Beck, the Moldy Peaches, Nellie McKay, Regina Spektor—have all been stubborn aberrations, unattached to any larger cultural movement.

Randomly dropping by Sidewalk can be a risky endeavor: Not every performer is the world’s next Beck. A smart time to pop in is during the Antifolk Festival, which takes over the club for a week or so every August. This year’s lineup reflects the breadth inherent to this creative bloc. It includes some reigning stars: Jason Trachtenburg and his daughter, Rachel, of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, perform on Saturday 8, and Larkin Grimm, an astonishingly slanted folksinger, plays August 16. But the festival extends to a raft of oddballs and miscreants who are less heard and worth hearing. Elizabeth Devlin croons brassy dreams over Autoharp August 14, while Debe Dalton presents old-world banjo laments Saturday 8. Talking Stick pairs the singular performance artists Master Lee and Mr. Patrick August 16. There are also singing rabbis, outsider legends and local nuts—watch your back, Bowery Ballroom.—Jay Ruttenberg

Read more:

Antifolk Fest, Friday February 19, 2010

As usual I'm getting behind in writing up these Festival shows. I started off doing it live right there at Sidewalk, which I thought would make it easier to keep up--the idea being I could dash out a short post between sets--but so far I'm not as good at dashing out quick items as I would like.

I did, however, want to mention last night's set with the Lookalikes. It was quite a surprise to find that two guys who look so much alike are both also such damn good songwriters. I've always liked Steve Espinola's songs quite a bit but his partner Alex Wolf, it turns out, writes some equally rich stuff. They performed one of Alex's songs about a year he lived in England as an awkward 11 year-old and another great song by Alex that was requested--called Old Man--about his grandparents. Steve also pulled out his electric tennis racquet and masterminded some audience participation, and I think somehow Peter Dizozza even ended up on stage playing on a song. Steve also played some cool piano solos with bits of clashing notes in all the right places. This is the type of show where afterward you go 'I wish I could hear that all over again'. but anyway it stood out as one of the better, more moving sets of the Festival so far. I was halfway to the busstop before I realized I should've bought the Lookalikes cd---Lifeophobia--so I ran back and got it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Antifolk Fest, Live, February 18, 2010

Blurple (who just played) is the type of act we need more of around here. Kind of weird avant gardy stuff They even had a song called Avant Schmavant Garde Schmant, or something like that. Another of their ditties elucidated the steps for making grilled cheese, and yet another featured a sort of chant of the lyrics: "Hey Kids, Don't You Smoke, Hey Kids You Will Choke. Blurple consisted of a guy who mostly played acoustic guitar but also played the piano with his foot on one song and a girl who played a variety of things including a hollowed out gourd whistle. Somehow Blurple, I think, came from a combination of the names of the two members of the group.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Antifolk Fest, February 16, 2010

Jeff Lewis: Jeff started off with a new was about trading time...essentially it was about how to be great, how to use the time you have to learn something new, unique....

He also did covers of three songs from the 1950s: "Endless Sleep" by Jody Reynolds and the Storm, The Fang, by Nervous Norvus, and a Tom Lehrer song about when we all die.

Another new one was a song about green sludge. Yes, it was about something called "Crongu" the best green sludge around. (I'm not really sure if that is how you spell "Crongu" by the way. Could be Krongu or Crongoo or Crongue etc.

Jeff also performed one of his documentary films, a new one about the fall of the Roman Empire.

As usual Jeff's set was rich with compelling and interesting material. It had at least three new pieces and three covers I'd never heard him play before. That's a lot of new material and a lot of ideas for someone who could coast a lot more on his established "hits" if he wanted to.

Unfortunately I had to leave before hearing The Everybody Knows. Man these shows go late.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Antifolk Fest, Live, February 16, 2010

Lots of fun to watch the epic Mars Chronicles again. Last time I think I was overly focused on finding the "meaning" of the piece rather than just enjoying the songs, the singing, and the playing. The show is Brian Speaker's sci-fi epic...looking at interplanetary peace, love, and understanding. Nice performances....a very tight job on some complex material.

Next up....Jeff Lewis

Antifolk Fest, Live, February 16, 2010

I had no intention of doing this but Doug Johnson saw my laptop and said "hey, you liveblogging the Fest?" And after about two seconds I thought--well, why not?

Just saw a cool set by Master Lee. I will write about it in more depth, but I love Master Lee's combination of psychology, and comedy, and personal narrative. It's well-constructed, meaningful stuff.

Before that Larkin Grimm performed a set of stark, beautiful songs, accompanying herself mostly on electric guitar but also on a small harp for one song. On guitar, rather than accompany herself harmonically, she mostly played fuzzed out melodic lines that duplicated or went along with the melodies of her vocals.

Brian Speaker's company is now getting set up for The Mars Chronicles. Brian in his rhinestone gown; Ben Kreiger on synthesizer; Dan Costello, piano; Rachel Devlin, Emily Moment, Ariel Bitran vocals; Scott Loving on guitar; Nate Goheen, bass; John Rubin drums.

Show is starting. More later

Monday, February 15, 2010

Antifolk Fest

The Antifolk Fest kicks off at the open mic tonight and somehow I find myself writing from Orlando, Florida. Although I can't be there tonight, I am sure I will be hanging out at Sidewalk most nights of the Fest. Looking at the schedule reveals so many shows to look forward to. At the moment, what looks like a highlight to me is the February 20 show with all those fabulous women, including an appearance by Debe Dalton who remains at the heart of the Sidewalk scene even though she has been temporarily stationed in upstate New York. I'm also looking forward to the return of Lance Romance (billed as MILF City). It's been a long while since Mr. Romanace has played Sidewalk. One of the first nights I was there, Lance pounded the piano with his feet during a song about bees.

I also want to make sure to mention my close pal Myron the Magnificent who makes his Sidewalk Cafe debut on the 26th. Myron is a third generation conjurer who will astound you with his feats of legerdemain. Myron has achieved great acclaim on the stages of Las Vegas and at birthday parties and bar mitzvahs across the tri-state area. After some unfortunate problems during a performance of his famous flaming double sword penetration Myron had to take a break from the stage. However now that he's been exonerated of all charges, he returns to amaze you with his feats of wonder.

Take a look at the festival schedule. Ben has done a great job of creating a fest where just about every night holds unusual and rich promise. I will see you there.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Monday Night Open Mic, February 1, 2010

Chloe Philip, Dan Asselin, Dorit and Isaac Gillespie. Four faces who hadn't been around in a bit returned the other night. Nice to see some folks from various earlier eras, and I was glad to be able to welcome Isaac back from his tour of a few weeks. Dorit convinced me to check out Live Band Karaoke down the street at Arlene's Grocery--an intense scene of a different sort than Sidewalk--an open event for performers of head banging rock and roll to accompaniment of a great backing band. It was cool to see a sort of parallel scene going on right nearby.