Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blondie @Brooklyn Museum, Oct. 29th

(I'm watching the Yankees hold a tenuous lead in the top of the 8th, so I'm gonna keep this short.)

This evening, I had an invitation to preview the wonderful new photograph exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum -- Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present. I got there a little later than I had meant to, arriving at 6pm when the after-work crowd was spilling in, so I headed straight up to the exhibit and saw what I could, knowing that I'll be returning a few more times to fully absorb this great collection of both iconic and rare photographs. In case you weren't able to tell, I love seeing live music and snapping the occasional good shot during these gigs with a simple point-and-shoot, so being able to see images of artists including Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Bj
örk and Bruce Springsteen really resonated with me.

Unfortunately, the exhibit got pretty packed pretty quickly as expected, so I ditched it and filled up on some free food at the reception before Julie showed up. What could be more rock 'n roll than soft pretzels, hot dogs and Brooklyn lager? =)

Once Julie came, we took advantage of the open bar and then got on the floor for Blondie, one of the many bands featured in the exhibit and who was performing live for the reception. The crowd was an interesting mix of young and old (and boy, some of those older folks are awfully pushy!) -- Julie commented it felt like we were on a cruise ship seeing some washed up band. And maybe Blondie are past their prime, but they can still give a good time.

For their short 40 minute set, the band pulled out a good number of their own classics, as well as a great cover of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." Debbie Harry came out looking like an older Italian bombshell vampire sporting brunette tresses (not so blonde) and a mask for Halloween, and though she started a bit flat, she warmed up after a while, especially during "Rapture," strutting her stuff. For 64, she's still got it, and she's older than my Mom!

All in all, a great night, and I highly recommend people sign up for memberships, even though admission is usually pay-whatever-you-wish, since a membership allows you entrance to events like this. And I definitely can't wait to go back and check out the exhibit at my own pace.

Here are some more of my pics on my Flickr.

(Okay, not that short, but yay, the Yankees won! 3-1!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tres Belles @Camel Art Space, Oct. 25th

(Okay, so not a gig, per se, but this relates to my oft-partner-in-concerting, Julie.)

I met my friend Julie Torres initially about 8 years ago in passing -- she was a roommate of a friend of mine who I sometimes visited, but I didn't really get to know Julie well at that time at all. A few years went by, and by then, she and my friend had already ceased to be roommates. I had a cheap ticket to a $5 Ben Kweller and Walkmen show at Irving Plaza that I had to get rid of, so I posted it for sale on Craigslist for face. Amongst the numerous replies I received, I recognized Julie's email address and decided that I just had to sell it to her, with the world being so small and all. She came to my office to pick up the ticket, and in that brief moment, we talked about our mutual love of live music. We both bemoaned not having many other friends who actually enjoyed going to concerts, so right then and there we agreed we would seek each other out for future shows, and the rest, as they say, is history. I can't even begin to tell you how many gigs Julie and I have seen together. And while our relationship might have begun over a drink or two with some hearing loss in a crowded, dark venue, today I am happy to consider Julie one of my closest friends.

So, not only does Julie have impeccable taste in music, but she is also a talented painter. In the time that I've known her, I had the opportunity to view her stuff from time to time, like in her apartment or if she happened to be carrying something she was working on, but until recently, never in a proper setting. But then, last month, she was selected as one of three artists to show their art at Camel Art Space in Williamsburg in an exhibition
entitled "Tres Belles," so I could not wait to check it out.

Yesterday, before Shana and I headed to Manhattan to see Girl Talk, we stopped by to catch the closing day reception of the exhibition, and it made me very proud to see my friend's paintings in such a context. She had quite a few of her smaller sized pieces selected, as well as some larger ones which allowed for a different kind of complexity. While I am no art critic by any means, I find her current fixation on fingers very interesting, as they can be very tangible and identifiable, yet they are presented in a way that conjures strong emotion from the perspective of the viewer. To me, fingers can represent strength and control, but can simultaneously be quite vulnerable. You can learn a lot about a person from how their hands look, whether they are balled up in fists, or swollen, or milky white à la George Costanza the hand model. Her paintings are playful both visually and mentally, and challenge you to search for deep meaning within yourself.

I was psyched to see all of Julie's hard work come to fruition and can't wait to see what's next.

Check out more of her artwork on her website here.

Que bella!

Girl Talk @Pier 94, Oct. 25th

Tonight, I checked out the free Girl Talk aka Gregg Gillis show thrown by Kia at Pier 94 just off the West Side Highway. I easily picked up a pair of bracelets while down in the LES for CMJ last week. I knew this would probably be an annoying show, but I have enjoyed his album, Feed the Animals, quite a bit and figured it could be fun, and at least it was FREE.

Shana and I got to the venue just before 6pm, thinking we'd walk right in since it was advertised that doors would be at 5pm and the opener would start at 6. From that point on, I knew this was gonna be pretty much a clusterfuck of a show, since they didn't open the doors till 6:15, and they had us stand behind a flimsy barrier of stanchions while we watched the crew set up the real barrier by the stage for about half an hour. Shana and I did manage to get up front on the rail once we were allowed to move up, which I dunno if it was a good thing, but at least we had an unobstructed view. Just based on the lack of preparation before the music even got started, I'd say a firm NO to ever owning a Kia Soul or whatever the frick they were hawking. Their complete lack of organization in timing and setup inspires very little confidence in their competence at providing a good vehicle. Sorry, Charlie.

The opener, OJ Da Juiceman, came on about 65 minutes after the originally scheduled time, which pissed me off since I was hoping not to miss too much of Game 6 of the ALCS (Go Yankees!). Da Juiceman, a two-bit aspiring hip-hop artist, had a short set, clocking in at about 14 minutes! (Now if only every snoozer opener could play that little!)

Happily, Girl Talk hit the stage pretty soon thereafter, and predictably, it was a totally loud, but somewhat fun mess. We witnessed Gillis bounce up and down in front of his laptop, getting sweatier and sweatier by the moment, eventually losing his headband and sweatshirt and undershirt. At certain points, he jumped into the crowd and surfed a little. I got to hoist his ass over the barrier at least twice, each time praying to God that his sweatiness would not come near me. Homeboy needs some Speed Stick!

The setting itself was made out to be a big party, except there was no booze (all ages show) and I really believe I was the oldest person there, at least up front. There were about 30 kids dancing on stage, making it feel like an MTV Spring Break video, except with American Apparel wannabe models and doofy-looking guys in stupid headbands. Also, there were two Girl Talk crew members who shot streamers, toilet paper rolls and confetti, as well as sprayed water and threw cookies and tortilla chips into the crowd. Yeah. Loved that.

Anyway, the kids ate it up, and I guess I vaguely had a good time witnessing Girl Talk's most excellent DJing for 75 minutes (do I dare call it art or music?), but yeah, I'm old. I don't need to ever do that again. So happy that I got home just in time for the Yankees to pull ahead of the Angels in the 4th inning and win their way to the World Series.

Hello, future lawyer of America!

"Hey, Mom & Dad! I'm on stage, flashing my crotch!"

The rest of my photos here.
(Added 10/28: Prefix Mag threw a pic up of the concert with me in it here.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brooklyn Vegan CMJ Day Show @Pianos, Oct. 22nd

On Thursday, I got out of work around 11am, and decided to take advantage of the new schedule by spending the rest of the sunny afternoon in the Lower East Side doing something I had never done before -- I went to a CMJ Day showcase. I opted to attend the free Brooklyn Vegan lineup at Pianos, bolstered by the promise of free beer, and who can really say no to free beer in the middle of the day. I most looked forward to seeing the headliner, Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah fame who was in town promoting his latest solo effort, but I also had been wanting to see some music in Pianos, in which, until then I had only been for a drink occasionally and had never seen any live music. Shocking, I know.

Anyway, it was also nice going by myself, rolling in whenever I wanted without coordinating with my friends. Much like checking out a museum alone, I was wholly in charge of what I wanted to see/hear and how long I lingered for one band over another. And because the day was free, I really was at liberty to do whatever the hell I wanted, even if it was just sitting at the bar and seeing how many bottles of Miller Lite would I really drink (apparently, 4).

I initially started downstairs in the more traditional stage setup, first catching the band A Classic Education, which reminded me a little of the time I saw The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but with a theremin! After a handful of songs, I then decided that what my up-since-4am body really wanted was to go upstairs and sit in the lounge for some mellower music, and Freelance Whales were precisely the remedy I needed, with their twee stripped down arrangements employing a Sufjan-esque sound built with banjo, metal water can percussion, and a thing that looked like a piece of luggage but made sounds like an accordion. Right after was a singer-songwriter named Rebecca Shiffman, to whom you had to give props for playing solo to the chatty upstairs. I headed downstairs again for the adorable Surfer Blood, who I thought sounded like Weezer meets Beach Boys with a little Fugazi thrown in. After their set, I headed back upstairs to catch the end of Peggy Sue, who turned out to be two English girls and a male drummer, none of whom I believe is named after the Buddy Holly song, but played a great cover of Missy Elliot's "All N My Grill."

I went back downstairs, hoping to catch a glimpse of Lovvers, but the room was majorly packed, so I ventured outside to grab a snack to counter the effect of the beer, which was just running through me. Can you believe that the only chocolate and coconut combo that Economy Candy carries is with white "chocolate" -- BLECH! Mildly placated by some Sun Chips, I headed back into Pianos and once again couldn't make any headway into the downstairs room, so I said fuggit and sat for the last song by Chris Denny and his band. His voice had a slight falsetto(?) quality that my beer-fuzzied brain couldn't quite wrap itself around, but no matter, I was seated for the rest of the afternoon.

The upstairs got really crowded for the next singer, Holly Miranda, so I moved to get a better view and ended up sitting like right under her mic. Despite more or less enjoying everything I had seen until that point, her music was perhaps the first that really stuck in my head, her beautiful soaring voice and excellent use of a looping pedal reminding me of Grizzly Bear and Magnet. Gorgeous stuff, truly.

The last band to play upstairs was Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and his band, who despite the limited space, managed to project a great energy that the packed room really enjoyed. His songs didn't stick with me so much, but his performance reminded me of bands like Dr. Dog or Marah, who always seem to have a good time playing together.

For the final act of the day, we moved back downstairs, and to my surprise, it wasn't packed. Solo Alec Ounsworth played a nice short set that consisted of songs from his new solo album, Mo Beauty, as well as a few covers. Here's his cover of Chris Knox's "A Song to Welcome the Onset of Maturity":

His set was pretty different from the manic energy of a typical CYHSY show, but I knew what to expect, having seen him play by himself opening for The National four years ago at the Mercury Lounge. It proved to be a nice way to wind down and I headed back home to Brooklyn with a satisfied grin on my face.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rosanne Cash @St. Ann's Warehouse, Oct. 9th

After the previous day's marathon session with Bruce Springsteen out in Jersey, I gladly accepted a last minute pair of free tickets to check out the 30th Anniversary Kick Off event at St. Ann's Warehouse in DUMBO within walking distance of my apartment. Tonight's packed event featured Rosanne Cash, known in her own right as a country singer, but primarily (and perhaps somewhat dismissively) by me for being Johnny's daughter. Especially after seeing a taping of Elvis Costello's Spectacle show a few weeks ago during which country music was heavily discussed, I've felt rather deficient in my exposure to country music. I mean, I'm not a total wreck -- I do have some Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Townes van Zandt lurking on my iPod, but I have to admit that the closest I usually get is in the form of newer generation, alt-country-probably-more-rock-at-times types such as Ryan Adams, The Jayhawks, Neko Case, and, of course, my favorite, Wilco. Or when a band like The White Stripes cover a classic like "Jolene." Sheesh, I know -- I'm so lame!

So when I read up on Rosanne Cash and her latest album, The List, I became rather intrigued. As she has recounted, her very famous father "became alarmed that [she] appeared to lack a deep understanding of country music...[so he] gave her a list of the '100 Essential Country Songs' and told her that it was her education and she should learn them all." And from that list of 100 songs, she selected a dozen or so with which to cut an album, including some duets with some of the aforementioned (and my favorite) musicians, including Springsteen, Costello, Case and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Interesting.

Well, I knew not to expect any of those duets to be performed tonight with surprise guests since I think just about all are on tour, but I looked forward to furthering my country music education a little bit, and I believe I did. Rosanne Cash pulled together a nice collection of songs that drew upon some great songwriters.
I really liked the duet "Sea Of Heartbreak," which on the album was sung with Springsteen, but tonight was very adeptly covered by her band mate and husband, John Leventhal. It reminded me quite a bit of the chemistry I witnessed between Gillian Welch and David Rawlings when I saw them perform at Town Hall a few years ago.

rom the few songs with which I was familiar, I could tell Cash managed to find an engaging interpretation different from the original. However, I felt she was probably more in her element during the second half of the show while performing her own music, including gems like "Wheel" (wow, the guitar by Richard Hinman!) and "The World Unseen." At any rate, I am motivated to search for originals (particularly "Long Black Veil") and to compare them, as well as check out her stuff more.

All in all, a pleasantly mellow night that in many ways contrasted from seeing the Springsteen show the night before. Sometimes it's nice, as Shana remarked, not knowing a lot of a performer's repertoire before hearing it played so that you really pay attention to the lyrics and allow the stories to unfold. It was a tight roughly 1 hr. 40 min. set filled with just enough storytelling that kept the audience's attention, even my own despite the less than humane sweaty conditions up in the last row of the venue. Ceiling fans with no windows just don't cut it as a primary air circulation system, ya dig?

The setlist:

1. I'm Movin' On (Hank Snow)
2. Miss the Mississippi and You (William Heagney)
3. She's Got You (Hank Cochran)
4. 500 Miles (Hedy West)
5. Heartaches by the Number (Harlan Howard)
6. Sea of Heartbreak (Hal David & Paul Hampton)
7. Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow (A.P. Carter)
8. Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan)
9. Long Black Veil (Danny Dill & Marijohn Wilkin)
10. Seven Year Ache (RC)
11. Radio Operator (RC)
12. Blue Moon with Heartache (RC)
13. Wheel (RC)
14. The World Unseen (RC)
15. Ode To Billy Joe (Bobby Gentry)
16. Take These Chains from My Heart (Hy Heath & Fred Rose)
17. Motherless Children (Traditional)
18. Satisfied Mind (J.H. "Red" Hayes & Jack Rhodes)
19. Tennessee Flat Top Box (RC)
20. Sweet Memories (Mickey Newbury)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band @Giants Stadium, Oct. 8th

Unlike a few weeks ago when Bestest Boy and I saw U2 and Muse, today I decided to fly solo for a chance to be in the GA Pit for Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. I got into line at about 11:10 am and subsequently was awarded bracelet #90 out of 1,000. For the next 3-1/2 hours I chilled in the parking lot and chatted with other fans, eager to pass the time until security drew the winning number which would signify the start of the line: #787, which meant that I was then actually ~303rd in line. Not bad. After strategizing with my neighbors, including some really nice Canadians named Eddie and Rebecca, we decided we would shoot for center towards Clarence Clemons' mic. Surprisingly, the Giants Stadium staff handled the line lottery rather well, and we were able to position ourselves pretty much where we envisioned, about 3 deep from the stage.

This night marked the 4th time I have seen the Boss in concert, and my 2nd time on the floor, but this was the closest to the stage I had ever been by far. While I came to the show fully aware that the album Born To Run would be performed in its entirety, I don't think I was prepared for the impact of hearing it live and seeing it so close. Our positioning in front of the Big Man Clemons proved key as Born To Run runs pretty heavy on sax, especially the closing song "Jungleland," during which I did get a little weepy. While it was amazing to see Clarence wail away on the sax, I could only imagine the physical stress with which his body must have been dealing as he moved slowly across the stage.

Bruce Springsteen, while younger than Clemons, is no spring chicken himself, recently turning 60(!), but you never would have known it. His energy was absolutely incredible, running through an amazing setlist that ran exactly three hours with nary a lull. I was particularly jazzed to hear "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City" and "Because The Night," which were audience requests, as well as a moving "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," played in memory of longtime E Streeter Danny Federici, who passed away last year. Bruce ran all over the stage and up and down several ramps and catwalks which extended into the pit, and even bodysurfed the crowd for a while during "Hungry Heart." Killer!

It's gonna take me a long time to forget this experience. After all, Bruce was one of my first loves -- Born In The U.S.A. was the very first cassette I owned. I even had a Cabbage Patch Doll I dressed in blue jeans, white teeshirt, red bandana and ball cap in the back pocket. Gimme a break -- I was in the 5th grade! =)

Here's a kinda shaky recording of "Thunder Road":

More photos on my Flickr.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stars Of Track And Field @Mercury Lounge, Oct. 6th

I got hooked up tonight with a pair of tickets to see Stars Of Track And Field, a three-piece band from Portland, OR, which I had previously caught a bit of a few years ago opening for The Long Winters. I recall liking them immensely despite only hearing perhaps two or three songs back then, impressed by how just two guitars and a drum kit sounded like they were playing the biggest stadium. I ended up buying their first album, Centuries Before Love And War, that evening and particularly liked the song "Movies Of Antarctica." I was excited to hear them kick off this evening's set of ten songs with that very cut, followed by a mix of old and new from their latest, A Time For Lions.

Their music is simultaneously well-crafted yet raw. Apparently, they employ a backing digital bass track from a laptop, which at times might earn comparison to The Postal Service, but then they augment it with the contrasting guitars of Kevin Calaba and Jason Bell, giving it an anthemic quality which really comes through in their live performance. I was reminded of The Stills with a touch of early Snow Patrol thrown in. Their final song, "Racing Lights," proved an excellent closer, as it really demonstrated their ability to go completely full-energy, leaving me quite happy to have finally experienced them fully. Those guys really throw themselves into the music, yet remain grounded in their attitude.

Oddly enough, these guys were the opener for this act I had never heard of before -- this woman/band called Lights, a 22 year old Canadian who performs pop/dance/electronica on keyboards and the keytar while looking like she stepped out of an American Apparel ad. Weirdest billing pairing ever! As stated on her MySpace, "[she tries] to find sounds that seem like they could have been plucked from Saturn's rings or a meteor belt." Uh, okay. What bewildered Shana and me the most was that the crowd was decidedly there for her -- the number of seemingly hetero-boys singing along to every word was quite astounding. Who is this chick? It was as though a few unicorns jumping over rainbows farted, and we decided it was too incredibly cute to bear, at least beyond four songs, so we skipped town and grabbed an early dinner of poutine, also Canadian quite coincidentally. Sorry, but not our cup of cute.