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.

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