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