Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday Night Open Mic, August 29, 2011

It was a good one. Hamster Rap (by Neesa Sunar) ruled.

Now available: chess boards in the back room.

Good to see all the folks, old-timers and new.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Opening Night, August 10. 2011

Dad's Rec Room.
Colorado Ski Lodge
Howard Johnson's Hotel Lobby, 1974
College Rathskellar, also 1974

These are a few of the ways the new interior of Sidewalk's backroom was described at its opening Wednesday. Yes, the music room does have quite a rustic feel to it now. The walls are lined with wide boards that evidently come from an old barn. And the rest of the decor has a rough hewn feel, almost like a self-conscious imitation of a country breakfast restaurant.

After all the anticipation the truth is, it really doesn't matter. The basic layout of the room is the same as it was. There are plenty of benches built in all around the walls, and tables in the center--just like the old days---plus a new stage that is bigger than the old one. As soon as the lights went down and Ben got up and started doing his schtick, it was just like Sidewalk as usual.

Although it felt like a regular open mic, it wasn't really because most of the acts in the early part of the evening had been selected by Ben to represent different eras of Sidewalk Cafe-dom. I don't know how I ended up first on the bill for the night except that I had a show scheduled for the next day--but I kicked things off with nervous renditions of a couple of my songs. There were too many others to go into lots of detail on them all, but the bill included folks like: Erin Regan, Howard Hughes, Phoebe Kreutz, Adam Green, Bible Gun, Debe Dalton, Steve Stavola, Brooke Pridmore, Sam Grossman, Prewar Yardsale, Bendix, Morgan Heringer, Dan Penta, Jon Berger, Dan and Rachel, Bernard King Presents, Elizabeth Devlin, Rav Shmuel, Charles Mansfield, Emily Hope Price, Albert Goold, Emily Einhorn, Rick Patrick, M. Lamar, Jim Flyn, JJ Hayes, Jen Kaplan. I left at 1 a.m., and I'm still trying to find out what Jason Trachtenberg did that got everyone so worked up at the end of the night (he arrived after I left).

I played a show on Thursday night and the best thing I can say about the sound system is that I didn't notice it. In other words of all the things I had to think about, whether I could hear myself on stage wasn't one of them. I think it will take some time to assess that new system but from what I can see so far, it's a big improvement over what was there previously. There's also a new lighting rig and all new lighting instruments. The thicket of random wires that used to snake around the ceiling is gone--as is the old disco light. The mirror ball remains. All the keys on the piano work and the music stand there is back.

The rest of the place has, of course, also been upgraded and although the main dining area wasn't yet open, the bar was going full tilt. I don't know how all the young, attractive folks hanging out there got the idea to come by on the first night, but the place was already busy.

I guess I'm kind of glad that the restaurant's decor--although definitely clean, modern and brushed up, features some odd and incongrous choices. It will carry on the tradition. After all, what the heck were those two large playing cards painted on the wall near the old entrance all about? And the random skeletons all over the place. Some day the new sliding barn door into the ladies room and the wine label wall paper in the bathrooms will stand out the same way.

All that said, Sidewalk's owners deserve credit for investing in their restaurant, including the back room. In general the spiffed up new joint is an improvement all around.

Congrats to Ben for keeping us all together over the last 5 months and for working on getting the back room up to speed. And to Brian for planning and installing the great new sound system. It was good to be back. It was good to see Ben behind the board and Debe in her rightful place. It was good to see Berger storming all over the stage and into the audience, and it was even good to face the wall while playing the piano. Our little clubhouse is up to speed again. See you there soon.

See you all at the Sidewalk.

Pictures to come....soon....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Last Night and Tonight

Hey There-Yeah, Sidewalk reopened last night. The most remarkable thing was how normal it seemed to be there. Everyone just fell into their groove. Anyway, I was there and I took a lot of pictures and have more to say and I will have lots of stuff up as soon as possible. The delay, however, is partially due to this little show I'm playing tonight.

I'm so excited to be playing with the guys in the band again. We've worked out some really fun stuff and I hope you can be there.

The Key Lime Pie Revue Reunion
Sidewalk Cafe
Tonight, August 11, 2011
9 p.m.
Also on the evening's bill: Elastic No-No Band, Steve Stavola, comedy from Jack Dishel, Debe Dalton

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Web Sites-A-Poppin

The sidewalk music calendar went up today on Ben Krieger's sidewalkmusic.net site, and Sidewalk the restaurant launched its own site at sidewalkny.com. It's good to have these sites up, finally, like 'whew, things are back to normal.' There's a full list of performers up for the Sidewalk stage, showing in a new easy-to-read calendar format, and, although the restaurant's site doesn't have too much info, it does have the complete menu. While the food choices are almost entirely new (so long to my veggie penne) it has the same kind of feel as what was available at the old Sidewalk with a variety of moderately priced sandwich, salad, and breakfast choices as well as a selection of entrees. I was a little worried for a second that Sidewalk was trying to go upscale on us, but honestly the menu seems to offer a good range of selections, and while the prices of things have gone up a little bit, for the most part they seem pretty fair. There are many fewer choices altogether--for example no more omelettes, no more nachos, no falafel, no black bean burger (but Jon Berger gets to keep his Chicken Schnitzel).

There's a clear link from the restaurant site to the music site, but I wonder if having two separate sites isn't a little confusing for the end user than if it all had been integrated into one overall Sidewalk site--or at least if the sites looked as if they were related.

Well, I hope word is getting around about tomorrow night's opening celebration. I'll bet it will be a fun one. See you there.

Sidewalk All-Star Extravaganza - Wednesday

Here are the details regarding Sidewalk's Opening Celebration tomorrow night. It's a nice bill of folks, and I'M looking forward to the show, but I assume people will also be coming by to check out the new joint and try some of the paper-baked tilapia. I wonder if they got the Debe Dalton plaque back in place. And, ahem, a reminder that some of us are playing later in the week, like even the following night (scroll down the page for details). See you Wednesday.

Sidewalk Opening Celebration
Wednesday, August 10 at 7:00pm - Thursday at 12:00am
Sidewalk Cafe, 94 Avenue A at 6th Street

An army of artists from the NYC antifolk scene celebrate the second coming of Sidewalk. Each perform will play 2 songs, open mike-style, and then we'll open up the stage for a one song wonder round that will go until it ends or they kick us out. To sign up for the one song wonder round, just show up and see Ben at the sound booth.

Performances in the first part by (in no particular order):

Emily Hope Price
Bible Gun
Prewar Yardsale
Phoebe Kreutz
Steve Espinola
Rav Shmuel
Dan Costello
Emily Einhorn
Brook Pridemore
Sam Grossman
Jack Dishel
Charles M
Erin Regan
Dan Penta
Morgan Heringer
Mr. Patrick
Joe Bendik
M Lamar
Bernard King
Debe Dalton
Give to Light (Andrew H)
Elizabeth Devlin
Jon Berger

Each artist will perform two songs. An open 1-SONG WONDER ROUND will follow at 11pm til late.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wrapping Up at Tribes - Back to Avenue A

Although I wasn't entirely crazy about the vibe (and certainly not the smoke) at Gallery of Tribes, I do think it's impressive that Ben managed to keep the Sidewalk culture alive and thriving there during the months that Sidewalk itself was closed for renovations. Unfortunately I had to be out of town for the final night at Tribes, but I gather it was a fun evening. I WAS there for the second to the last Monday and finally found myself connecting to that old 'you just don't know what's going to happen" feeling that has been a defining part of the Sidewalk experience at its best. It was a fun and slightly wacky night. Morgan Heringer and Ray Brown filled in for Ben who, one imagines, was home with his newborn. Morgan seemed to take most of the MCing responsibility and although she was hesitant at first, things started to flow after a while. Jen Kaplan cracked me up with her explicit tales of dating life which also inspired a brief audience colloquy about certain expressive practices of interrelating.

Anyway, I'm getting off the topic. We're getting close to Sidewalk's reopening and information about the new place is coming out in dribs and drabs. The most specific details so far have come out in the following article in the Village Voice online.


There are several interesting points here, including that Sidewalk has hired a publicist. It really cannot hurt to have people who know what they're doing help with promotion. But I hope that the publicists are tying into the most notable and newsworthy factors of the Sidewalk story. I would be thrilled if the "housemade potato chips," "paper-baked mustard tilapia" and "rustic hanging lanterns" help Sidewalk achieve great press. But to my mind what Sidewalk has going for it that other places don't is a deep subculture of artistic expression that despite its small size physically has had a large impact in the City's arts world. While I gather the music activity at Sidewalk pays off for the restaurant, its owners and managers still deserve credit for nurturing this shaggy scene for so many years. I have always gotten the sense that their heart is in it.

When Sidewalk opened in the 1980s, the East Village was filled with similar places--informal, cheap restaurants, patronized by the young artists and striving New York newcomers who moved to the area when it still was on the edge. In recent years Sidewalk has been one of the few remaining throwbacks to that time. I gather until the current renovations relatively little had changed at all since it opened, so in recent years it was easy to get the feel of the old East Village, just by entering. It's great that Sidewalk is being updated--it was about time really. No matter what though, I'm sure that I will always value Sidewalk for fostering artists and for its connection to the old East Village. I hope that Sidewalk's publicists see the value in telling the story of how the power of the Sidewalk community is so strong that it stayed entact over 5 months, waiting to return in full force to Avenue A. In the meantime, I'll look forward to trying some crème brulée French toast.

By the way, it would be great if we could see the schedule of upcoming shows. Some of them--mine included--are coming up soon.