Archive for September, 2013

Open Mark

Posted on: September 30th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

I wish I’d brought this up last week. I was a little busy, helping my dad move.

Meanwhile, Mark Krieger moved in on the Open Stage, stood on line, picked from his son (Ben)’s hand and got a number so he could perform.

Mark Krieger apologized for his faulty, faltering playing, but said, “My bedroom guitar-playing gave Ben a sense that he could do better.”‘

He played some foreign piece, trying to bring culture to the masses, then did a Ben Krieger cover (or is a Yossarian Feedback track? Or a Beekeeper cut? Or a Sounds of Salesmen song? Whatever), which he said, “Was the first time I knew he was on to something.”

It was sweet.

I wish my dad covered my material.


In Conversation with Morty the Magnificent

Posted on: September 28th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Morty the Magnificent will perform his unique stylings in magic, this Sunday at Sidewalk Cafe. The set is part of the weekly residency series featuring a rotating bill of performers. from 6pm to 8pm. This week Morty will appear with Laura Eve Engel and special guests…

Jonathan Berger: Hey Morty, at Sidewalk, we’re more familiar with your brother, Myron the Magnificent who started coming around a few years ago. Where have you been?

Morty the Magnificent: Uh, I’ve been upstate.

Jonathan: Upstate where?

Morty: Mind your own business. Let’s just say I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to practice magic tricks.

Jon: I’m sorry, but I’d really like to know why you were upstate.


J: Sorry, I…

M: I’ll say this, when a guy steals your tricks, tricks you’ve practiced a lifetime to perfect, and then claims them as his own – well, sometimes, that guy needs to learn a lesson. There are a lot of lessons that can be taught with the blade from the buzz saw illusion and a set of escape-proof handcuffs.

J: I can see that. So, Myron the Magnificent is your brother, right? He’s told us so much about your family’s history – your loving grandfather Mervyn the Magnificent, your father Marvin… Were you and Myron close as kids?

M: First of all, Myron is the biggest wimp in magic. I used to taunt him by dropping his cards in the fish tank. But it didn’t matter, because he couldn’t do anything with those cards anyway.  I’m sorry but he couldn’t perform a Scarniér Cut if his life depended on it. He’s got the worst Zemmelman Shuffle I’ve ever seen.
And by the way, about my grandfather – Myron’s always talking about him like he’s some kind of saint, but that guy was the biggest womanizer in all of magic. He had a whole second family in Panama. Took me down there one time. Hey I got some red hot Latin step-cousins down there.

J: What can you tell us about your show Sunday at Sidewalk?

M: Well, first of all, I want to say I hope to see a lot of the beautiful babies there.

J: Babies? It’s not really a family kind of place.

M: What are you: an ingrate or something? I’m talking about the cuties, the skirts, the red hot mamas. I want to see a lot of beautiful ladies at the show.

J: Well, I’m not sure they like to be called babies. I think…

M: You listen to me, Elmer Fudd – I’ll call ‘em what I want and if they don’t like it they don’t have to come around. But you’ll see -most of them want to be “Mort-i-fied.”

J: Okaaaayyyy… but what about the actual magic.?

M: Oh, there will be miracles, Curly Joe. There will be miracles, all right. When you’ve been sitting for three years playing poker all day against a guy named The Stump, you learn how to do miracles. Come out and see.

Morty the Magnificent – Sunday night. 6pm. Sidewalk Cafe

Here’s the Beef!

Posted on: September 26th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Five Questions for: Scott Loving
Scott Loving has been an intrinsic, if unsung, part of the AntiFolk community for night unto a generation. He has served MVP guitar virtuoso in more bands than I choose to count. He’s part of the amazing bill on Friday night at 11pm as one half of Beef n Jerky. As Mr. Loving puts it, “I’m looking forward to our show at Sidewalk cafe this coming Friday.”

Scott's the one with the beard

1) You’ve been involved in AntiFolk bands for a couple of decades now. It’s only recently, it seems, you’ve come up front to do your own material, solo. Why the change?

Wow, time flies when you’re toiling in obscurity. Haha. But seriously, I’ve always enjoyed the collaborative aspects of making music. And I’m quite fortunate to have very talented friends who include me in their projects. Conversely, over the last handful of years, I’ve become increasingly interested in music production. I record at home, so I end up working alone quite often. Every so often, Brian Speaker or Dan Costello will throw me a bone, and I’ll dust off the Little Ricky for a solo acoustic set.

2) You’ve been in like forty five bands with Dan Penta. Which of them do you like the best? Least? Which name worked for you?

Dan Penta and I have been making music together off and on for the past 20 years. We’ve recorded and performed under various monikers such as Cool Hand Puke, the Honey Bluntz, Larval Organs, Cockroach, Hearth, Daniel Bernstein, The Everybody Knows, Erratic Rabbits, and currently Jagged Leaves. I have a fondness for all of Dan’s work, including Whisper Doll, which I was not a part of. They were a terrific hard rock outfit. You know, Dan Penta is such a prolific songwriter. I’ve encouraged him to perform under his own name, or Daniel Bernstein, so that people will connect the dots and understand that this is one guy writing all this material.

3) You’ve been in like one band with Brian Speaker. Why?

Not to be contrary, Jon, but Brian Speaker and I have been in numerous bands together. We first began playing together in the aforementioned Everybody Knows. We became fast friends on a European tour we did back in April of 2009 touring with Huggabroomstik. Since then we have collaborated on Speaker’s space rock odyssey The Mars Chronicles, as well as our antifolk satirical act Beef & Jerky. We are copacetic in so many ways, but I think the fact that we are both multi-instrumentalists from a hard rock background drew us towards one another. That and the fact that we are both perverts. Haha.

4) You’re a recent parent – and a musician. Do you believe that musicians should breed?

My son Marshall turned two on September 2nd! I have the utmost love and admiration for him. We listen to a lot of music together in my studio. He is hypnotized by it. I think in general, musicians are empathetic by nature. So, yeah, I think they should breed so long as they are aware of the numerous responsibilities required of parenting.

5) Are you more Beef or Jerky?

I’m Beef. Brian is Jerky.

Beef n Jerky at 11pm on Friday, September 27 at Sidewalk Cafe.

Five Questions with: Sarah Turk

Posted on: September 25th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Sarah Turk is the band Bird to Prey (the band is made up of Sarah Turk). She plays songs in a style that I thought I coined as Australica, but a quick web search has proven me wrong. God DAMN you, Google!

Anyway, here’s Sarah.

1. What does Bird to Prey mean?

Well, ‘Bird to Prey’ is a part of a line out of a very old song of mine, which I don’t actually sing anymore and funnily enough, never really sung live. The lyrics went ‘Oh he had me just like a bird to prey, he attracted me with the colors he put on display’. I don’t know if those lyrics are actually any good these days, but it was an old school jazzy song, a little bit tragic, so it probably suited me. I was looking for a ‘stage’ name many years ago, as I never felt comfortable performing under my own name. ‘Bird to Prey’ was my ‘Myspace’ (yes that’s right) address/link, and a venue in Canada mistook that for my performance name so they put me on their posters as ‘Bird to Prey’. I liked it and decided to keep it. I get mixed reactions to it – ranging from looks of confusion, to what seems like genuine appreciation for it. For now I think it’s here to stay.

2. Your accent: Louisiana? Germany? Upper West Side?

My accent is Australian. I was born and raised in Adelaide which is in the South of Australia, and I moved to Fremantle which is in the West – that part of Australia which is very, very far from anywhere else. I lived in Fremantle for about 6 years before fate brought me to New York. Fremantle is the place I really started playing music and writing songs on my own, as I didn’t know anyone when I first moved there.

3. You’ve got two albums, neither of which is more than ten songs. Are you afraid of depth?

Yes, I have two albums (both available through bandcamp….ahem). And yes, the first one has 8 songs and the second has 9. I’m sure the next one will have 10 as that seems to be the next logical progression. 8-9 songs doesn’t seem like a lot for an album, and I guess it isn’t, but I feel that that the songs which I included on both those albums were the ones that were right for the albums at the time. Particularly ”Saved by the Storm’. There are other songs I could have added, but they might have to wait until the next one. The albums are as long as they are supposed to be. (Is that deep enough for you?)

4. You’ve done the lightest bit of collaboration (performing with Charles Mansfield on the JJ Hayes’ tribute), letting engineer Brian Speaker back you on drums. Is there a band coming? Will it be named after me?

I’d love to start a band! Does anyone want to be in my band? Hit me up!…seriously though, yes that is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. I want to keep it simple though. I played with a drummer back in Australia, and just the guitar and drums together worked really well (and we didn’t even sound like the White Stripes!). Brian Speaker has played with me on occasion and that sounded great as well. We’ll see…a band might be in the cards. And it may or may not be named after you, Jonathan Berger. We’ll keep it in consideration.

5. Would you describe your music as anti-polka? What do you have against polka, anyway?

I would say that my music is a slight mix of styles, although I wouldn’t say that Polka is really one of those styles. Nor ‘Anti-Polka’ (not that I have anything against that). I have more of a bluesy / country sound I guess. Some of my favourite singers are Dolly Parton and Emmy-Lou Harris, and if truth be told I’d love to sound just like them! Although I don’t think I have the talent to do so (ha!), so I probably sound a little heavier and a little rougher around the edges, to make up for that.

Bird to Prey plays Friday, September 27, Sidewalk Café. As always, it’s free.

A Chat with Hamell on Trial

Posted on: September 23rd, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

October 19 – Jonathan Berger got online with the Ed Hamell, the lead singer of Hamell on Trial.  Berger was at the Sidewalk Café’; god only knows where Hamell was. They chatted for a while. Here’s a revised transcription.

Hamell: You there?

Berger: Yep

Hamell: Let’s do it.

Berger: OK. What’s the typical Hamell on Trial day:
Wake up at dawn, start writing, fighting zombies around noon, driving to the gig at three, rocking at eight? Asleep by ten?

Hamell: Well, that depends whether I’m on tour or off tour…  The typical Hamell day while on tour, i.e. this summer when I was opening for Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock was: waking up, doing that silly first thing computer stuff we all do, getting my kid breakfast and waking him up…on day: driving to the gig, getting him lunch and dinner, getting him WIFI, getting him his place where he’s going to be selling merch, sound check, whipping the crowd into a frenzy, checking out the UNCLUDED, getting the boy together and driving to the hotel

Berger: How much touring goes on at this point?

Hamell:  The whole summer was touring – or at least 11 weeks of it.

Berger: Your 11 year old son sells your merch on tour? Is he into that?

Hamell: Yeah, he loves it, meets the people, they all know him across the country and he’s into filming and YouTube so he put out a tip cup that said, “I’m buying a movie camera with tip money” and he made $800.

Berger: Christ. What’s the point in performing if Detroit (that’s the kid’s name) can do that?

Hamell: I hear ya… still love my job though… they’ll have to wheel me out eventually, until he puts me in the home….

Berger: In certain recent shows, you’ll have Detroit on stage with you, he’s sitting on stage, reading a book, paying no attention to his old man at work. He seems delightfully unengaged. You think he likes your music?

Hamell: Yeah, he does, but he hears it A LOT!! From its very first draft, to 200 nights a year almost, he knows ALL the words, but he’s a modern kid and video games are INFINITELY more IMPORTANT than music, old timer!!
Plus he thinks NYC audiences aren’t a lot of fun; he likes the screamers in the Midwest and West Coast… they’re too uptight for him in NY.

Berger: We’re too cool for school, so he shows us how cool a kid from school can be.

Hamell: Except it’s genuinely unaffected… it’s kinda brilliant I think; sorta the ultimate statement….

Berger: Recording: it’s been a while since the last release. When can we hear something new, man?

Hamell: Official release date for Hamell’s new record on New West titled, The Happiest Man in the World is Feb 11th, 2014

Berger: You were on tour with the Uncluded for a lot of the summer. You watched their shows? What’d you think?

Hamell: I really dug them, I was proud to be aboard, the music was really good; Aesop is killer and Kimya’s got balls of steel.

Berger: Do you usually watch the other acts if you’re touring with someone? It seems respectful, but, like with Detroit, you hear the same stuff over and OVER again…

Hamell: sometimes, like with Ani, I wouldn’t watch it for the first week or so and then I would kind of treat myself to an Ani show… get a great seat or get down in the pit, especially if it wasn’t a travel day the next day and just dig it like a general fan… it’s more fun that way for me.

Berger: Everything in moderation.

Hamell: Except crack – that stinks in moderation  That’s my usual way, although with The Uncluded I watched them a lot because I was trying to steal stuff from Aesop.

Berger: When you steal, is it recognizable? That’s a dumbass question. That’s for the witness to decide.

Hamell: Nope, I don’t think so – if for no other reason than I can’t fucking rap, but he’s this weird self-effacing thing juxtaposed with the boast thing that was highly intriguing to me, it’s hard to explain, but it was funny and infectious and I was trying to sorta capture it’s appeal. I steal it and then alter it so hopefully you can’t recognize it, maybe even the original artist can’t…you could flatter them by saying, ‘I was highly influenced by you…’ which would be true, too, of course.

Berger: Happiest Man in the World: Is it all done? Is it the best album ever? Is it all material from your song a day period?

Hamell: Happiest Man is not done but I bet will be Oct 2nd. It’ll be MY best album ever; in shuffle culture nobody compares artists with other artists so it doesn’t matter. All the songs very well might be from my song a day period, but good lord, have they been worked….

(long break)

Hamell: You go to get cheese fries?

Berger: Erin Kleh stopped by.

Hamell: Did Erin go for cheese fries?

Berger: Erin was promoting her show on September 26: Animals Animals Animals.

I’m playing that, and then the next night with you.

It’s a Jonstravaganza!

Hamell: Cheese fries, cheese fries, cheese fries…

Berger: I’m gonna get crème brûlée later.

Hamell: Cheesefriestraganza

Berger: I’ve only started getting it recently, but I will continue getting it until the day I die – probably from caramelaization of the blood.
You like recording with Brian Speaker? I hear nothing but good things.
Does Happiest have lots of arrangement?

Hamell: I liked working with Brian. He’s got a cool room, gets good sounds and had a good ear for what was a great performance from me. A lot of times my ‘revisions’ or rerecordings of the songs have nothing to do with the producer’s inability to capture stuff… I hear the recording, which is usually pretty good on the producer or engineers part, and think ‘I can make this a better song’ and the producer might think oh, Hamell’s not happy, but its not that I’m not happy with him, its that I’m not happy with me… anyway, Brian was great.

Berger: I remember being involved in jam sessions in your basement a few years back (I learned bass!) You’ve moved since then; do you have space to play and record now?

Hamell: Yeah, I moved, my wife and I split up, would have been married 26 years today oddly enough… no, no little studio anymore but a LOT of this album is just me and a guitar and it’s been a real battle getting the Hamell live thing down

Berger: Wait, wait. You’ve got this regular thing of recording earlier versions of songs, then going back to revise the song? So you have like this entire OTHER catalog of Hamell songs?
So if you ever do Expanded versions of your old releases, there could be demo cuts, live cuts… the mind boggles.

Hamell: Yes, I confess, there’s a couple of box sets waiting to happen…I’m releasing 8 of my albums digitally on bandcamp soon but no expanded versions…what you hear is what I want you to hear….

Berger: Motherfucker!

Hamell: Cheesefries?

Berger: It seems that finding the live Hamell sound has been a struggle forever. Big As Life is mostly the sound of one man and guitar, but with overdubs aplenty. So it sounds like a version of the solo show, but still a lot more mannered.
I was crazy excited when Ed’s Not Dead came out, because, good as your albums may be, nothing really compares with that live experience.

Hamell: Hmmm, probably… I can’t tell anymore, I like the YouTube videos a lot really, but thanks on the live thing tip… I kinda wonder what the people hear live, the overtones, the shit in the next room, the guys foot pounding on the stage, the spontaneous screaming, even the facial expressions, just that feeling that it could go off the rails but… the guy’s in control… it’s hard to nail… I work at it a lot at home, just me and a Dictaphone…. doing some more recording with the Butcher Bros that’ll be that kinda vibe, just me and a guitar, but a lot looser: more screaming, less mannered. I want you to be able to smell the cheesefries.

Berger: Butcher Brothers: they produced Chord is Mightier than the Sword. Any others of yours?

Hamell: always did something on every record, you know mixed the live album and Choochtown, did stuff in their studio for every record.

Hamell: I got to record wherever I can get it – you know, where the price is right, where I’m located, who’s got the right gear…. I’m lucky this time; it seems to always sound good, I just keep making it sound more fun, (which ain’t easy oddly enough) until I get it… usually my kid will be in the car and go ‘you got it!’
That’s like the fun stuff live!

Berger: So the Butcher part is what’s next for Happiest, or some other later release?

Hamell: Finishing up Happiest
I might do a covers record next in a year or so – freak everybody out.

Berger: I listen to this podcast, Coverville, pretty regularly. Nothing but covers.
Love it!

Hamell: I put the covers over my head a lot – love it.
So… what? We got a show there at your Sidewalk place? When? With who? Promote, promote, promote, get them asses in the seats!!!

Berger: Next Friday, yo. It’s sort of a Speakersonic sample show, except for me.
I’m playing at nine. I’ll be reading shit.
Bird to Prey at eight o’clock, starting things out with her Australicana, and Hamell on Trial at 10pm.
You heard of any of these people?

Hamell: Oh…we crossed paths… yup, you I know because you have a bike, and Brian I know because he has a wife and Bird to Prey I know because she has an accent, so yes, I’m thinking its gonna be pretty fun.

Berger: It’s sort of the state of quality AntiFolk – at least, in my opinion.

Hamell: Cool, love it, what’s this beef and jerky all about?

Berger: Beef n Jerky (Brian Speaker and Scott Loving’s duo project), is at 11.

Brian and Scott used to live together, and they created a specific set of songs that sound sensitive, but are probably not.
Most notable in their set is the song, “AntiFolk, AntiFolk.”
It pretty much encapsulates the whole experience.

Hamell: Oh, I know that song
OK, got it. Do you think we inspired any AntiFolk community nonbelievers that might not have come before to go, “HOLY JESUS I GOTTA WAKE UP 20 OF MY FRIENDS AND SEE THESE FUCKERS!!!!”

Berger: Oh, who knows? We don’t even have a comments section on the site; I got no idea who reads it.

Hamell: We gotta make promises, big huge false promises, just like politicians do if we’re gonna get butts in the seats…. there’s gonna be free food and beer and naked breasts and money and video games and MONEY… WE’RE GIVING AWAY A LT OF MONEY…TO EVERYBODY THAT COMES. And we cure diseases.

Berger: I will personally offer sex to every third 20something woman who requests it, and/or every other woman.

Hamell: …and fake comments like ‘I blew these guys once and they were the best!’ for the woman attenders and ‘These guys rock; they know all about sports!” for the manly guys.

Berger: I know all about sports! Sports are… the best Huey Lewis album?

Hamell: And dogs love them for pet enthusiasts.

September 27 – starting at 8pm. A show !

It’s Appetizer Season

Posted on: September 19th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

First winner of the Sidewalk’s Appetizer drawing: Arthur Medrano, also known as the back room’s Blueberry Season, Couldn’t happen to a finer guy. Medrano, who comprises Missed Art with wife Shiloh, has no Sidewalk shows scheduled, but it’s a safe bet they’ll be showing up in the next week or two to take advantage of their free appetizer. They like food, see?

wedding day rock

If you like food, you can get in on the action, right here:

Queen of the Scene – Big on Broadway

Posted on: September 18th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Mary Ann Farley, former queen of AntiFolk, hasn’t played music in quite some time (though she should). She’s still busy, though.

Just the other day, she helped ring the NASDAQ Opening bell. She was part of an event for a drug company that she hopes to see value from, and who hopes to see value from her.

Those who didn’t happen to be at NASDAQ got to see the proceedings over at Times Square, where Farley resided for a little while, big as you can be.



Mary Ann’s an increasingly successful fine artist, as evidenced by Incyte’s purchase of a virtual crapload of her work.

You can see more of her stuff at


NOT an Endorsement

Posted on: September 17th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Well, sort of it is.

This Bill de Balsio promo video features Charles Mansfield’s “Flame” as the incidental music – and it swells perfectly make me believe in politics again – at least for the length of the video.

You go, Charles. And you – you all – go out on November 5th, and vote.

A Letter to the Editor (vis a vis Magnificence)

Posted on: September 14th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Dear Editor –

Although I was originally scheduled to appear at Sidewalk Cafe on Sunday the 15th, due to opportunities that have arisen in South Florida’s lucrative network of retirment homes, I will be unable to perform there this weekend. I’ve arranged for a stand-in, my brother Mordecai (i.e. Morty) the Magnificent.

Many folks in the Sidewalk community are not familiar with Morty because in the last three years he’s been…away. But I understand that during that span he’s had lots of time on his hands to practice magic,  and so I’m sure that his skills are even better than ever.

Is there still time to mention this event in your Sidewalk music blog? I’m sure that it would help attendance. The other performers during the Sunday residency/blackout night this week are Sounds of Salesmen and Joe Crow Ryan,


Myron the Magnificent

Myron the Magnificent and his assistant, the lovely Vera

decidedly NOT Morty the Magnificent


The Longest Straw

Posted on: September 13th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Just ending a fantastic Sunday night residency series a week or so ago, Mallory Feuer’s project The Grasping Straws is returning to Sunday night scheduling at the Sidewalk Cafe, this time in a duo format.

It’s also one of those blackout thingamabobbies, so the show will be performed in total darkness. Does that mean you may miss out on the fact that Mallory’s a babe? Possibly. Does it mean you’ll get to focus more on the jazz-inflected voice and the  seery lyrics? Most certainly.

You should go see The Grasping Straws. And who knows? You just might learn something.