From what I've seen so far, the energy of the Festival has very much inspired some tight and compelling performances. There was a lot to enjoy Wednesday night, starting with Domino's typically offbeat but wondrous performance. While there were moments where she sort of seemed to lose her way, there also were some sections where I couldn't believe the sounds she was making. She also did some cool dance moves. Amanda Nicole played a beautiful set with just herself and an electric guitar--dense and ethereal at the same time. Crazy and the Brains totally rocked the place. Everyone at Sidewalk was on their feet dancing most of the time. It was the best C&TB set I've seen. I caught the beginning of The Telethons with John standing up and playing drum. It was rocking along, but unfortunately the late hour caught up with me and I had to head out.
Thursday--Jon Berger gave a strong spoken word set which included some of the newer material he's been writing. His parents were there and I always wonder how they react to some of Jon's more...personal pieces. Jordan Levinson's material is very much influenced by traditional country music. She played some covers including one by Townes Van Zandt and another by Blind Willie McTell. Jordan's finger-picking was effective and her vocals were particularly strong, drawing at times on the sort of yodeling style that is woven into some country music. I'm not so familiar with a wide range of country artists, but I did fall in love at one point with this album by Iris Dement, and I often feel that Jordan's voice has a quality similar to hers. In any event, she sounded great. Comic Rob Shapiro appeared as a substitute for the originally announced Bernard King Presents. While I've seen Rob give rollickingly funny performances, his brash and confrontational style wasn't a good fit with the rest of that night's bill and he lost the audience as he soldiered on. Brook Pridemore sat for most if not his entire set, something I don't remember him doing before, but he still gave a very energetic performance. Brook stepped into the audience and then led us all out to the street for his finale. That was cool. When he finished his last song, Brook ran away up Avenue A.
One of the things about the Antifolk Festival is that it give you a chance to see some performers in a different frame. I sat close to the stage during Lenny Molotov's set and was getting into his guitar work in a way I hadn't before. I liked the song he finished with--Dick Will Rise--which I think he said he hadn't played in 12 years. It was about Richard Nixon. Emily Einhorn's set was stunning. What can I say? She has it all. Her songs are very rich and her singing is inventive and gorgeous. That was one of the best sets I've seen at Sidewalk in a while. She played "In the Office," which is a song I love--plus some new songs--"Hollow" and "Roses" (among others) which I am looking forward to becoming more familiar with. In the song Nonsense--mostly through the stylized way she sang the chorus sections--she found a fresh approach to looking at unfortunate relationships. Lach was back and played a warm, tight set. There was a good balance to the material he chose, including songs on both guitar and piano, and he was connecting with the audience. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying a set by Phoebe Kreutz. There's such a lightness and humor to her songs. She played a couple numbers with Gary Adler, with whom I believe she collaborates on musical theatre pieces--and the one about the character who marries her second cousin is hilarious. She also had other friends on stage as special guests including Toby Goodshank, Angela Carlucci, Yoko Kikuchi, and Matt Colborn. I caught the beginning of Isaac Gillespie's set. It turns out he asked a friend--a woman-to sing most of his songs--which gave them a different quality. I couldn't stay for the whole thing but I enjoyed what I saw at the beginning. Isaac was also projecting film footage during his set which gave it a surreal feel.
It's intense to be at Sidewalk night after night for hours at a time. For one, you need to have a lot of dollar bills with you. But I do think the shorter Festival schedule makes it manageable. We're heading into the home stretch. I will see you there.