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.