Archive for November, 2013

YES!

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

Yes William is growing by leaps, bounds, and short flights. Emily Einhorn’s band, now comprised of three boys surrounding her with electrical instruments, wow’ed the crowd at the Sidewalk Cafe Friday Night, as part of Mallory Feuer’s assassination day extravaganza. As the band works out arrangements before our eyes, the band becomes stronger and stronger… and stronger.”Beggartown” and “Get Inside My Car” were highlights – as they often are,

You can download a couple of tracks from the band over at http://yeswilliam.bandcamp.com/. Maybe you should.

 

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today

Posted on: November 22nd, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

On this, the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, Fenton Lawless presents his song about the event: Coup D’etat.

Listen. You might learn something (it might be french).

Age of the Lawless

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

Sometime after the Monday Night Open Stage began, Fenton lawless entered the building.
He sat down up front, in fedora, glasses and pants – much like the picture below.

It wasn’t long before the AntiFolk old-timer was brought onstage, to ply his songwriting wares before the various and sundry.
“I probably have the wrong mic,” he muttered, “I haven’t been here in so long…”
“Where you been?” the soundman asked.
“Jail.”

He started his set with “Duke of Dogs,” the first song I heard him do at the 2001 Summer AntiFolk Fest in Tompkins Square Park.
There’s an intriguing guitar part at the end of the chorus that I’d never noticed before, which elevates the ode to a pet to something…  else. I don’t remember the interesting guitar work from way back when; has his playing gotten better, or have my ears?
“Now they say that a dog is mans best friend,” Lawless sang, “I ain’t had a friend since I don’t know when.”
Wanna hear the song yourself? It’s right here.

He followed with a new song, “Coup D’état,” about the assassination of JFK – almost fifty years ago today.
It reminded me, strangely, of a song he did soon after 9/11, about the greatness of America. It was the kind of jingoistic gesture heard across the City back then. He doesn’t play it anymore. It’s interesting that Lawless’ initial emotional reaction to the Towers falling would be akin to an event separated by half a century.
“Coast to coast in a state of shock we all watched the widow grieve…” he said before getting off the stage, and fading into the night.

It was good to see Fenton again. Maybe he’ll pop in again sometime soon.

Marshall Strolls On

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

Steve Espinola, who is always in the know, just informed me of the death of John Marshall, who haunted the Sidewalk Cafe and curated nights there back in the 90s.

I didn’t know him well, he always seemed something of a crackpot, but he was clearly dedicated to artistic endeavors and supported people’s art to the utmost of his abilities.

I tried to interview him for my first fanzine, AntiMatters, and found him far too difficult to collect anything meaningful. I wanted to ask him about curating specific acts at the Sidewalk, and he spent 90 minutes telling me of his adventures in the 60s. It sounded vaguely interesting, but his storytelling seemed unreliable, and it was very specifically not what I was interested in. He refused to be deterred, and after two hours, I found myself with tapes of meaningless information and no article in the offing.

I was just thinking about that incident earlier today, how that interview was an abject failure and how frustrated I was to be able to mine anything useful.  Then I got word from Steve about his death, and a moving eulogy at Goldmine explaining just how important Marshall had been in the birth of English Folk Rock. If Dave Thompson is to be believed, Marshall was a vital part of a musical movement that deeply informs that which comes out of the Sidewalk.

All of that information was probably there in the recordings that I ignored and erased in the last millennium, which, in its way, speaks to grassroots art in its own way. Marshall’s demise shows that there is potential genius in every one of us, perhaps hidden or disguised in the current conversation, but a little digging, a little context – maybe a little imagination – and you could experience something amazing or profound.

Apparently, we lost someone very important in John Marshall. Maybe next time, I’ll be able to realize someone’s value before before they pass.

Another obituary.

Reviewing the Zoo

Posted on: November 15th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

It’s unlikely you’ll get a chance to see them, but Urban Barnyard are the very best band ever.

One of the top ten, certainly.

The most entertaining, at least.

Urban Barnyard is the finest act in the world that does nothing but perform songs about animals in the city. And they’ve got a new album. And it’s been out for almost two months. And I just discovered it. And it’s frigging amazing.

Made up of entirely of AntiFolk alumns, Urban Barnyard has two members that continue to live in NYC: singer Phoebe Kreutz and overdubbist Casey Holford. The other members have (ahem) flown the coop.

But they’ve left this document, Hot for Your Trail, which is probably their best yet. The album sounds amazing, fleshing out the astonishingly varied arrangements the group gives to their extremely narrow songwriting focus. The album starts with the glorious “(Why Do You Know So Much) About Wolves?” based on the movie Blood and Chocolate.  It’s not the only movie reference in the set, with “Oh No! Godzilla!” (which also seems to end in alternative punctuation).

The album sounds great; it’s been too long since the band has been heard, and this is the only way you have to experience them for the time being – though the constituent members (also including Dibson T Hoffweiler and Daoud Tyler-Ameen  – from Art Sorority for Girls) all are known to play the Sidewalk.

Hot for Your Trail cover art

Anyway, enjoy. The new album is at http://urbanbarnyard.bandcamp.com/album/hot-for-your-trail.

Down with the Underground

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

You probably weren’t there at the Monday Open Stage when the Pizza Underground honored Lou Reed with their beat-fashioned set at the open mic, transforming Velvet Underground (and some Lou Reed) compositions into songs about pizza. With one of the five members on guitar and the rest of the band on forms of percussion (including pizza box – clean), the sunglasses-adorned band belted out a medley of VU material, including “Sweet Jane,” “Waiting for my Man,” and what felt like one hundred others.

This group – mostly AntiFolk irregulars – did their set to riotous applause and then a quick departure into the night.

Can a full show be far behind?

God, I hope not.

Dork Does gooD

Posted on: November 11th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Did you know that Adam Brodsky has a podcast?

Do you know who Adam Brodsky is?

In the 1990s, Brodsky was the self-avowed avatar of Philadelphia AntiFolk. I haven’t heard much form him the last few years (he hasn’t returned my messages – or my money), but I just saw via out tenuous Facebook connection that he’s released 12 episodes of Rhymes Against Humanity – With Adam Brodsky.

Who knows? Maybe it’s good.

You may be able to get it somewhere else other than Apple, but why would you?

The latest episode features Brenda Kahn, whom I love.

Brenda Kahn is much prettier than Adam Brodsky

Adam Brodsky made music at some point, too. I guess you could check it out.

Real Anniversaries

Posted on: November 9th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

It occurred to me today that we in the Sidewalk community are actually coming up on some real anniversaries.

As you no doubt know, all year we’ve been talking about 20 Years of AntiFolk at the Sidewalk, and it’s been technically true: Lach first started booking and hosting open mics at the Sidewalk in 1993, so this calendar year is the 20th consecutive year of performances. But the shows didn’t start til the end of the year, so events in January were much closer to celebrating the 19th anniversary.

As I recall it, the first show was in early December. I wasn’t there, but I saw documents soon afterwards that suggested there hadn’t been gigs in the back room for very long. It might have even been November, so… this month? Maybe next? We’re at 20 solid years, and a real anniversary!

Just as important (to me), is the anniversary of my first gig, and the start of my own performing career.

My first Sidewalk gig was November 8, 1998, which I missed remembering by a day!

Anne Husick, who was booking occasional shows at the club, had asked me to do some of the poetry I’d just started showing people a couple of months before. I was drafted to do something I’d always wanted to do, and I did my homework to do it right: flyers, emails, regular begging at the AntiHoot… I left no stone unturned to get an audience.

And the people liked it. Really: my mother was very encouraging.

My shows got decreasingly less well-populated, the audiences less appreciative, and my fresh-out-the-gate charm less pronounced, but I’ve kept at it, for fifteen years.

Fifteen years…

That’s way too long.

Night of the Hex Moon

Posted on: November 8th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

(Mostly written by Evelyn Chapman)

Sam Barron has been performing for close to ten years now, and has been here at Sidewalk for the past few years. Thursday night we all gathered together to celebrate the release of his newest album, Hex Moon. We haven’t bought it yet – shame on us – but after hearing him perform it was easy to fall for his soft-spoken and easy listening style. Ben Krieger opened with a set on electric guitar – on any night it isn’t strange to see Ben filling in where he is needed. It’s almost as if he knows when the club needs to book any extra act… We were lucky. It could have been a Yossarian Feedback show, or he could have performed as The Beekeeper, or Sound of Salesmen. Worse, when Brian Speaker showed up, there could have been the umpteenth reunion of Crabs on Banjo, with their brand of improvisational rough rock. Instead, we got a steady diet of electric folk from the Sidewalk’s booker, the Open Stage’s host, and the weight-losingest man on the scene (now that Carl Creighton’s MIA), all in one bearded body.

Sam Barron, the man of the hour, opened his set with a song on ukulele dedicated to Lou Reed, which references literally a few members of the pantheon of rock and roll undead. It may be called “What’s Good for Some,” but we can’t tell, since it’s not on Hex Moon. It might be called “Not Good for Anyone.” Alternately, it could be called “Ukulele Rag # 509.” Who knows?

Barron moved on to guitar to play the first song on his album. Sam does a wonderful job of making the songs as personal to his audience as they are to him, by providing their stories of their birth, ala Storytellers. In this way – and in many others – I can’t help but think of Billy Joel. Bear with me: Sam’s songs are similarly lost, hopeless, and beautifully bitter, and his lyrics are soulful and sweet. I mention Billy Joel in nothing but good ways. I hadn’t realized I was already a fan of Sam when I arrived; at the Halloween party I recently attended, Rebecca Florence covered Barron’s gorgeously bitter ode to New York, “NYC,” a song for anybody who understands the complicated relationship New Yorkers have with their city. Sam closed his set with “Go,” an appropriate song judging by the lyrics. “You’ve come so far, but you’ve got so far to go.” It was full of hope and oh so relatable to so many of the musical folk who haunt the Sidewalk stage.

Next thing I knew a tall long-haired Master Lee had taken the microphone, opening with the question, “Have you ever smoked so much Marijuana, you forgot where you put the Marijuana?” And it only got better from there, as Chink Floyd (featuring the musicianship of Jonathan Vincent Wood and Mr. Brook Shields) related Lee’s tales of parenthood, creativity, and… Zen? Maybe it was Zen. That’s Asian, right?

Charles Mansfield was the next act, playing with an increasingly AntiFolk all-star ensemble as the creatively titled Charles Mansfield Band. Their song “Monday Morning” was heart-shaking in that way you can feel every cavity of your body vibrate. That good. Did I buy his album that night? I did not. I am a bad fan.

Debe Dalton closed up the night, with a very specific set list that Sam had specifically requested, and for good reason. Debe has been performing since the mid-seventies, and frequented the Sidewalk long enough to have been awarded a plaque on the side of the stage. Everybody who’s anybody knows the blue-haired lady with a banjo –  just don’t call her the Banjo Lady!

Thankfully, the moon had not been hexed that evening. It had been a mellow Thursday night, and from what I could tell, it was perfect for the album and the artist we were celebrating.

Sam Barron Released!

Posted on: November 6th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

The illustrious Sam Barron is dropping some sonic stuff this Thursday at the Sidewalk Cafe. He took a few virtual minutes to shout some answers at some questions.

 

How many albums do have?
THERE IS ONLY ONE.  IT’S CALLED HEX MOON.

You’ve been musical for a long time; what’s kept you from recording before?
I HAVE RECORDED BEFORE, BUT THOSE RECORDS ARE FROM WHEN I WAS MUSLIM.

What makes you think this one is any good?
I’M NOT SURE IT IS.

Did you book the acts for your CD celebration?
I REQUESTED THEM; KRIEGER BOOKED THEM.
Were these guys involved in the album?
NO.
Do you just like them? Anything particular to this lineup?
THESE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE PERFORMERS.  MY HOPE WAS TO KEEP IT VIBE-WISE DIVERSE AND INTERESTING.  I AM REALLY HONORED THAT BEN, WILL, CHARLES AND DEBE HAVE AGREED TO DO THE CD RELEASE SHOW.  AND IT LOOKS TO ME LIKE AN INTERESTING NIGHT.
Did you owe them money?
NOT YET…

How long have you been AntiFollking?
TEN YEARS PLUS.

Have you observed any notable changes in the community during that time?
SOME OF US ARE GETTING OLDER…MOST EVERYONE IS GETTING BETTER.   I THINK BEN DOES A GREAT JOB OF KEEPING THE SCENE ANCHORED IN ITS PROPER AESTHETIC, THE THING THEY CALL ANTIFOLK, WHATEVER THAT IS.  LIKE, IF SOMEONE FROM THE PREVIOUS DECADE SHOWED UP TO PLAY, I THINK IT WOULD SEEM LIKE THEY WERE NEVER GONE.  DANNY KELLY FOR EXAMPLE.
What do you get out of it?
$4 WINE BEFORE 8:00 PM

Within that time, it seems like you’ve disappeared for extended periods. What’s kept you away?
PROBABLY JUST CREATIVE EBB AND FLOW.  I NEVER FEEL FAR AWAY FROM THE SIDEWALK.  

It seems like you’re a lifer; how important is your music to you?
MAKING MUSIC FOR ME IS LIKE EATING FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.  WITHOUT MUSIC I DIE OF SCURVY.
Is this your real name?
YES.
Have you ever thought about getting yourself a duchy, so you could be Duke Barron?
IT’S A GOOD IDEA.  HADN’T THOUGHT OF IT.  CHECKING EBAY.
Get the album at http://sambarron.com/