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 features portraits of many folks from Sidewalk, and I also recently launched a photo blog at 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 -
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 -
Antifolk Festival
Sidewalk Café
94 Ave A (at 6th St)
East Village | Map
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.