Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nick's Farewell

Nick Heller has been a friendly face at Sidewalk the last couple years. I'm not sure of his actual title,  but Nick has been involved in providing service at the restaurant (I think "counter guy" is how his job has been described).

This past Monday Nick stepped on stage and offered what turned out to be a surprising farewell to the restaurant. As his name was called I spotted Nick at the bar grabbing what certainly was not his first beer of the night.

He started his set by mentioning his inebriation and while I won't go into the specifics of the content of the act, suffice it to say that Nick took advantage of the opportunity to express frustration with the management of Sidewalk Cafe. In fact--in addition to lighting up a cigarette on stage--he revealed a couple bits of choice behind-the-scenes information which provided us all with some interesting perspective on how things go at Sidewalk. In all honesty, Nick didn't have a lot to say but seemed as if he really wanted to vent his feelings about the place. His finale was hurling the microphone against the back wall. I give Nick credit for letting loose. I'm not sure how his performance will contribute to his long term career prospects but in terms of witnessing raw humanity in action it was an intriguing spectacle. I've seen a few performances at Sidewalk over the years where people really let their id take charge. There are not too many opportunities in life to really let it all out like that and as long as its done with the safety of the audience in mind, I applaud the use of Sidewalk's Stage as a venue for working out the widest range of emotions.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Go Love

I stopped in to hear Go Love last night. The group connects me to the spirit of Sidewalk that I found so appealing in the first place. First of all, most of the members are folks who spent time on the scene developing their own work and gradually making social connections before joining together -- at the instigation of Ray Brown, I believe - to form a sort of musical collective. There's a strong sense of musicality to what they're doing, but also a parallel strain of unselfconscious goofiness, and enough rough edges to make things interesting. The opening song had some lovely overlapping vocals sung by Sarah Stanley and Morgan Herringer and it also featured interwoven guitar and ukelele playing. It was nice to hear the flute and glockinspiel used to good effect throughout the night. Percussion effects were played on Tupperware and typewriter. In addition to Ray, Sarah, and Morgan, the group last night included Charles Mansfield, Beau Alessi, and Sonya Gropman. Each performer (with maybe the exception of the typerwriterist Gropman) led the group on a song or two, but there was a lot of collaboration and supportiveness. Their next show, on November 9, is slated to be their last. I don't know about that. I think they better keep the love going. Check out: and

I caught parts of Sarah Turk's release show for her cd Saved by the Storm and Ben Pagano's set with his band. Nice work from each of them. I'm sorry that other commitments kept me from hearing the night's complete bill which was drawn from the heart of Sidewalk's artistic corps. The others featured were Kung Fu Crimewave, St. Lenox (Andrew Choi), Mal Blum, and Crazy and the Brains.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Update & Myron & Vera at the Fringe Festival

What's been going on in the world of Sidewalk lately? Well, I have to admit that I've been distracted a bit in the last several weeks...yet I did attend the fabulous all-day July 4 celebration at Goodbye Blue Monday. Thanks to Dan and Brian for all their hard work on that. Plus, there was the second reunion of the folks from Chameleon, the scene that preceded Sidewalk. I enjoyed the supergroup Go Love, one of the only bands currently on the scene with a member who plays typewriter. Typewriter accompaniment is becoming such a lost art. Aside from that, I will be at Julie Delano's Church show, next Saturday, July 28 at Culturefix. Featured are such folks as: Preston Spurlock, Christy Davis, Tom Bayne, Chris Anderson and....Myron the Magnificent and the Lovely Vera.  

Myron & Vera at The New York International Fringe Festival

In the meantime, Myron and Vera have a big show coming up at The New York City Fringe Festival starting August 11. Ever since they were kicked out of Vegas the duo has been quietly building their new act, using the Sidewalk stage as a place to experiment. Now they are ready to  move into the (relative) big time at the Fringe Festival. Myron and Vera perform some of the most head-spinning magic you can imagine - but I've noticed they also occasionally get caught up in their own squabbles. Those two should get it together. The expanded show includes musicians (Sidewalk's own Peter Dizozza is music director), scenery (designed by Ben Folstein/Level II) and lots of great magic.

The show will be presented at the Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street. 
Saturday, August 11, 7:45 p.m.; Sunday, August 12, 5 p.m.;
Wednesday, August 15, 9:30 p.m., Tuesday, August 21, 7 p.m.; Sunday, August 26, noon.

For tickets, go to From there choose "Shows" then "Search Shows" Go to the "M" listings, scroll down to Myronic! and then click the date you want and enter payment info.

Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door.

See you at the Sidewalk, the Fringe, Church, Goodbye Blue Monday or someplace soon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dashan (via Matt)

I've been thinking very much about Dashan and the recent tragic news about him. I wasn't as close to Dashan as many others on the scene, yet whenever I saw him he was welcoming and inclusive. Dashan was unique in many ways, one of which, it seemed to me, was that he had very low or even nonexistent barriers between himself and others. He seemed to really love engaging with people and drawing them into his realm. I always appreciated his receptivity. Aside from seeing Dashan at numerous parties and performances, we did have a couple prolonged, intense experiences together--a madcap subway ride home from Brooklyn, and a visit to buy his bass that turned into a 5 or 6 hour social event. I hope at some future point to be able to more fully process my thoughts and write more about Dashan here. I know I'll miss him, though.

In the meantime, Matt Roth has written a really good personal reminiscence about Dashan. I particularly like this line: "There are few people in this world who were as unapologetically good at being themselves as Dashan Coram."

I suspect if you've found your way here to Sidewalk's Sidewalk that OJ and Matt's blog are already on your radar screen. But if not, I hope you'll click here to read Matt's post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Radio Amateur

Hey--Nick Nace's Radio Amateur site is pretty cool. Check out the interviews with folks like Debe Dalton, Ray Brown, Major Matt, Mike Rechner and others. Nick also spins disks (is disk spinning still a relevant term) by a wide range of artists from the scene. Since Nick is a presence at Bowery Poetry club in addition to Sidewalk and also runs his own open stage, he draws from an interesting mix of artists. Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Matt and Nan say Goodbye, Wednesday, March 7 at Sidewalk

I started helping out with the OJ All Day Festivals during the second one. Those events were such a lovely coming together of a musical community, and I thought we'd all be working on them together into our dotage.

But things change. The other night a considerable number of friends of OJ came together at Sidewalk Cafe for what were basically farewell performances by Matt Roth and Nan Turner, who have decided to move to Kansas City, Matt's hometown, after years here in New York. The bill included performances by Bliss (Barry Bliss goes electric), Nan, Prewar Yardsale, Toby Goodshank, and Matt.

Considering the nature of the event, there was less sentimentality than you might have thought, although Matt did read a charming piece he'd written about his involvement in Sidewalk and how it affected his life.

It's worth reading by clicking: here, poem, here, Matt talks.

Over the years OJ has provided varying types of support to many artists from the Sidewalk scene. Even though I feel as if I personally connected with OJ somewhat late in the game or in a tangential way, or whatever, looking back there were numerous opportunities that I had because of my connection to them. Come to think of it, Matt helped me launch my photo career by using this photo on his site. Thanks for being my first customer, Matt! Many others have relied on them for distribution, recording etc. OJ is DIY out of a certain kind of necessity, but I think also it's an intentional aesthetic. Matt and Nan have shown how music can be created, recorded, and distributed in a personal, handcrafted kind of way.

Aside from that, how many nights have I spent literally jumping up and down, carried away to the beat of Schwervon!? There were a couple shows at Brooklyn Tea Party where I thought the floors might collapse from all the energetic dancing.

Maybe it just hasn't sunk in that Matt and Nan are leaving, but I have a feeling that somehow they will still be a presence on the scene. Anyway, I'll look forward to seeing their progress in this new phase. You've got to admire them for figuring out how to keep on playing. All the best guys.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wrapping up the Fest

I liked the shorter duration of the Fest--even shorter than last time. Made it feel more manageable.

Ben Folstein's late-night sing-a-long Sunday was a fun and somehow appropriate way to end the Fest. Those of us who made it to the conclusion of Blackout Night ended up chiming in on songs like John Jacob Jingleheimershmidt, This Land is Your Land, and Margaritaville. There was a core group of folks who were having a ball with this and I was afraid some of them weren't going to let Ben ever leave.

I haven't been to enough Blackout Nights, but they're great. Our lives are filled with so much technology these days that hearing people perform without any electronic interference feels like a relief--a sane few hours to escape the assault of all the media and information coming at us at other times. Breadfoot, Osei Essed, Larkin Grimm, Turner Cody, Master Lee and Mr. Patrick all performed compelling sets. I enjoyed Myron the Magnificent's set although as usual he seemed a little nervous. At one point he accidentally spilled hot wax from a melted candle all over his blue tuxedo jacket. Anders Griffin entertained with percussion interludes between sets and played with some of the acts. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make the early sets of the evening, but I'm sure they were great.

I missed out on Saturday altogether because of another commitment, but it sounded as if it was another packed night. Friday night was crazy, with several crowd-pulling acts on the bill. I particularly enjoyed hearing in succession Gina Mobilio, Kekye, and Emily Einhorn. Each of them had interesting quirky songs and strong performing style. Because Gina is known at Sidewalk mostly for her poetry, it was kind of a surprise to hear her set of strong songs. She wore an amazing black dress--a piece of architecture, really, that expanded out in the shape of a parachute. At one point Gina sank down into it toward the floor while singing about the Wicked Witch of the West, creating a visual reference to the melting Witch scene from the Wizard of Oz. A number of Gina's songs had to do with the draw of celebrity and fame, always an interesting topic.

These few highlights just scratch the surface of all the great stuff that was presented during the Fest (and by the way, J. J. Hayes has documented every one of the Fest's shows on his Antifolk Explicator site--thanks, J. J.). One of the benefits of the Fest is that it puts a frame around what is happening on the Sidewalk scene at a particular moment in time, providing a point of entry to discover acts that stand out. I know that I personally encountered some new performers that I very much enjoyed and otherwise wouldn't have known about. It was also nice to experience some of the surprising and transcendent moments of creative expression that I have always felt are what make Sidewalk so great in the first place.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Obama Sings the Blues

We have a President who can sing. Check out the footage of Obama singing a few lines of Sweet Home Chicago. The dude is so Antifolk. We should get him a gig.

Antifolk Festival Gets Underway

Hey-did I mention the Antifolk Festival is here? It kicked off last night, and while there were any number of bright spots during the evening, I thought Morgan Heringer very much stood out. Morgan's blurry, languid vocals force her listeners to focus intently, and the reward is a set of sophisticated, moving, clever lyrics wrapped around music that lies at the intersection of jazz, folk, and showtunes. In particular the few songs she performed at the piano last night had a kind of exquisite beauty.

I was very happy to hear Ching, Ching after a long while. They played a selection of their hits, which suited me fine. They did a classic rendition, for example, of Old Man, which I loved. Two very committed dancers dressed as The Internet, kept up a steady stream of interpretive movement throughout the set.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Krieger

Those of you who weren't on hand at Monday night's open mic missed a very special announcement. Sidewalk Cafe's Chef (yes, they have a chef--his name is Erik Rubin) announced the introduction of The Krieger burger, a new menu item available only in the back room. I don't think the fact that it is cheesy and cheap has anything to do with its namesake. The burger features cheese and bacon and goes for five bucks.

More significantly our fearless leader is also the subject of an in-depth Q & A at American Songwriter. Our resident gal reporter Gina Mobilio was the one who grilled Ben on his experiences running the music scene at Sidewalk. Check it out here: Ben Krieger Interview

Friday, January 13, 2012

360 Degrees of Sidewalk

Make sure to check this out. It's one of those 360 degree photographs showing Sidewalk's front dining room pre-renovation. How did this even happen? I really wish they'd given the back room this treatment. In any event, I hope this stays around for a long while as a reminder of the old days.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Milk Cup

A group called Milk Cup made a vivid debut at last night's open mic. A description by Ben, which I hope he doesn't mind me swiping from a Facebook post:

"So Ray Brown plays, then Charles Mansfield, Jonathan Berger, Matthew Silver, and then some act called MILK CUP drags drums and a bass amp on stage and goes into some sort of death metal frenzy complete with fishnet body stocking and table dancing, which inspires me to hit the gong repeatedly with my head. They scream long after the lights have been lowered to black and they get the gig, of course."

And my experience:
I was sitting in the front row and in the middle of the song the Milk Cup singer came over to the edge of the stage and repeatedly ordered me to give him my glasses. I'm not sure what he wanted to do with them, but I am thankful I had enough presence of mind to refuse.

Mr. Milk Cup started off fully dressed but stripped to his fish net suit somewhere during the course of their song. At one point, as Ben mentioned, he jumped up on a table, and then, if I remember correctly, he ran out into the audience where I think he took off his first piece of clothing. Mr Milk Cup was not exactly a slender guy, so the image of him in his fish net suit, accessorized nicely by blue boxer-briefs--was quite striking.

The singer was so dramatic that not much attention was paid to the drummer, although bits of drum stick were breaking off during the set and flying into the audience. The tip of one stick fell into my lap.

I wish I knew what they were singing about...there actually were some lyrics--they were just impossible to hear.

Milk Cup was by far the most dramatic of last night's acts, but there were some other good ones. Chink Floyd, for example was very solid as always--nice piano playing by T. Y. and some meaningful thoughts from Master Lee.

Oh yeah....the Canadian comic...what was her name...she was funnny--mostly because of her over the top energy--sort of the same type of intensity as Milk Cup but directed toward comedy. That's not usually the style of comic that turns up at Sidewalk, but it worked.