Friday, August 31, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
New York City, Imagine That . . .
Even well-oiled machines need a test-run.
Yesterday afternoon, the cast of the touring company for The Drowsy Chaperone gathered in the cavernous basement theatre at the Baryshnikov Arts Center for a final run--an Undress Rehearsal if you will--without costumes, sets, lights or orchestra before an invited audience that included several of the original cast-members, Joanna Worley and enough good-will and enthusiasm to metaphorically smash some champagne over the hull as it leaves the shipyard.
Perhaps because most everyone in the crowd was in theatre themselves, the show--a musical about a musical disguising a play about why theatre in general and musicals specifically matter--soared in this stripped down, once only version. In the play, a man sits alone in his apartment and listens to a recording of a long-forgotten Broadway hit. With his desperate enthusiasm as guidance, The Drowsy Chaperone (also the title of the musical within the musical) comes to life in his home. Like Slings and Arrows--the television show that also grew out of the life-in-theatre friendships that gave rise to Chaperone--it's all about the blurry line between theatre and lives lived in theatre as metaphors for actual life.
Later that afternoon at Joe's Pub, Michelle Shocked arrived at soundcheck late from LA, due to plane difficulties. The guitarist was waiting for her but the piano player was delayed due to congested traffic.
Michelle and the guys were there to promote an accidental album as a trio that had never performed together as a group. Her new album, which comes out in September, was recorded live at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival a couple of years ago, when she played an impromptu gospel set. Without her knowledge, it was recorded in pro-tools--something she discovered only after listening to a rough recording of God Bless The Child earlier this year, which had been taped direct from the soundboard that morning. Despite the fact that she contractually forbids recording of her shows, she and her manager made some inquiries and found the "tapes." She liked the sound so much, she decided to release the show as an album.
During the soundcheck, she ran some of the songs by the guitar-player, who had some recommendations of his own about how to play them. "Thanks for teaching me my song," she smiled with genuine appreciation and good will.
Later that night, at the end of the show, she looked out at the perfectly happy crowd and, with a vulnerable and entirely unwarranted air of apology, said, "Thanks--I'm not even sure if this was a show, but I'll be playing with a rehearsed band at the Delacorte in a couple of weeks."
Monday, August 27, 2007
There was bluegrass and jumping dogs, farm equipment and cows, and a lot of food to eat before climbing on large machines designed to make a person lose their breakfast, lunch and dinner of fried dough, turkey legs and root beer floats. It was also ninety-something degrees with humidity high enough to make water sweat.
Welcome to the Dutchess County Fair.
The heat index made it impossible to do the fair in one go, which was good for the various fire-departments of Dutchess County who set up donation blockades on the roads to catch us all coming and going. How can you not give to a fire department? Anyway, the first trip to the fair--the afternoon attack-- was geared mostly towards wandering the exhibits and (for me) trying to explain to the Culligan-water display woman why I wasn't really interested in the filtering system ("No problem if you're renting--you can take the system with you when you move!" "Uhm, I have to go over there now."). Chris, Raina and Blaine loaded up on soup mixes and hot sauces and I busied myself with sampling the dips.
When we left the afternoon excursion, we asked the lady at the gate if she would remember us when we came back if our arm stamps washed off in the pool, shower and ice-bath we all had to take before coming back for the evening run. "No," she said without hesitating and she was right. I guess Chris scrubbed too hard because he had to pay again.
The evening was all about food and fair-rides. And we were doing pretty well until that one ride that looked like a hang-glider but felt like bending your knees on a rock while being thrown at the top of a truck. Figures that that's the one I was most excited about. Better to trust Chris and go where he leads--it's like he has an extra-sensory ability to locate fun and guide you there like a bloodhound.
We stuck it out to the bitter end--sweating and giggly--and managed to find the bar on the way out where all the carnies collect to swap the day's war stories. Round midnight, the fat ladies were singing and it sounded a lot like, "God Bless America."
Friday, August 24, 2007
Kyle asked me to make some signs for the Fall Cafe earlier this summer. Pascal colored all of them exactly the way I dreamed my drawings would look in color. Seriously, I was pleased with the drawings in black and white, but now I want all of my drawings to look like this which is impossible because Pascal has other things to do like playing the Bowery Ballroom this weekend with all the other residents of Balthrop.
Ever since Ruby saw the black and white versions up in Canada over the 4th of July, she says, "cow?" when she sees me. I then ask her what a cow says and she lifts her head and narrows her eyes and shouts, "MOO!" and birds fly away and chandeliers rock and leaves fall from trees which is as it should be for a reaction to drawings done for the Fall Cafe.
If you are an uncle and are looking to score points with your niece, draw a cow.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Morning is Broken
I was lying in bed, awake already, when I heard the crunch. Not the crunch that mattered, apparently, but the one that brought it all to a finish.
When I wandered out to the corner of Court and Union to see what had happened, the ambulance had already gotten there.
Now, I don't really know cars, but--smoking in the intersection with its small hood area crumpled and its engine lying in pieces beneath--was one of those large Soccer-Mom vehicles that looks like someone shoved a van and a station wagon together. There was also a red bumper in the middle of the intersection, but there was no red car anywhere to be seen.
The people gawking next to me couldn't believe that anyone would leave the scene of such an accident, let alone that the other car that had to have been involved in making the remaining car look like it looked could have gone anywhere to begin with after ending like it must have ended. The woman in the remaining crushed car--who was stepping out from behind her inflated airbags and onto the ambulance gurney under her own power--had the wide-eyed stare of someone whose brain was still computing whether to push it and run the yellow light; she had not caught up--perhaps she was still thinking about the dog.
There were people running from further down Court Street--I assumed that they--like me--wanted to see what had happened.
But, no; they had seen more than me and were relaying information from the source.
It took a while to figure out that I was watching the last act of a drama that had begun two blocks down at D'Amico's Coffee. That's where the red car with the missing bumper was, down there on the sidewalk with a tree and a parking meter under it. The entire two block stretch between here and there was littered with dents and old Italians saying things like, "Mamma Mia" just like they do in the movies.
The unfortunate dog, which had been tied to the tree while its master went in for an espresso, had been prised out from the bottom of the pile and carried home by the time I wandered down.
The women in front of D'Amico's were shaking their heads with their hands on their cheeks. One of them looked at the tree on the sidewalk before her and said, "he really loved that dog . . . "
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Booth Sides Now
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Old Man, Take a Look At Me Now . . .
This week was the eight year anniversary of my moving to New York.
I never wanted to live in New York when I was a kid, never wanted to live here when I was in college and never wanted to move here in Grad-school, but here I am and I may leave someday, but I don't see it on any horizon.
I love this city and I especially love my neighborhood and I really love my life and my friends, even the bumpy bits.
Years ago, when I was going through a series of Rolfing sessions, I was told by my Rolfer that whenever I was in any relationship I shouldn't be asking "who is she that I love so much?" but rather, "who am I in this relationship and can I live happily being that person?"
I'm going up to Canada for the weekend; but, when I come back on Tuesday, dance with me, New York City . . . I like the way I look with you out on the dance floor.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Lord, I Feel Like Going Home
I knew I was in for a run of something good when Paul Shaffer walked in and took a table in front of the stage. Also, Kevin had looked at me when I got there and said, "this is gonna be loud."
I sat House right by the stage and waited along with the crowded room for Robert Gordon, Chris Spedding and The Jordanaires--Elvis Presley's back-up singers--to show us how rock and roll never forgets.
I'm not a big fan of oldies, but this show had nothing to do with nostalgia. They've all just finished a new album and they hit the stage like they had something to prove. At one point, Spedding blazed his way through a song, quoting all the rock-guitar luminaries and their signature riffs like he was a human juke box. Yeah, it was a gimmick, but I enjoyed it because sometimes I'm just that shallow.
Next up was Marie Knight and Larry Campbell. I saw Campbell years ago when he was touring with Bob Dylan and I remember being completely taken with his playing. Tonight he was three-finger-picking in glorious acoustic splendor, acting as band-leader and soul-support to Ms. Knight. If you like acoustic music, you should check out the Marie Knight MySpace page and give it a listen.
Then last night, Donna Joy got in from Bloomington and joined me for a twofer of The Ebony Hillbillies and The Lovell Sisters. I grew up on bluegrass, so it was an especially nice night. It filled my soul with some needed relief as I enter into a period of some loss and change and it gave me the chance to meet and spend some time with a whole bunch of folks who just seem to like making good music . . . which is really why I feel lucky to get to spend my evenings over at Joe's . . . and it was nice to share that with a cousin I just don't see very often . . .
Monday, August 13, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Wise Enough To Carry The Scars Without Any Blame
Nellie McKay played a late show at Joe's last night. She's playing again in a couple of weeks and you should go because she's a singular, amazing force of nature. Her catalogue is so strong, her wit and sophistication is like how New York would be if the line between the Gershwins and Rap were a straight one and the way she talks between songs is like watching a car sliding out of control on an icy patch of road and then realizing it landed like Fred Astaire in a top hat.
It's also totally punk rock.
Also, it helps if (like Jeff and I) you come running down to Joe's from the Crowded House show at the Beacon and your voice is all warm from singing along to anthems of murky romance and melancholy joy. "I don't pretend to kow what you want, but I offer love" may be one of my favorite lyrics in all of music followed closely by "Somewhere deep inside, something's got a hold on you and it's pushing me aside--see it stretch on forever." If I can't have the Lennon/McCartney songbook with me on the desert island, I'm taking Neil Finn and Jeff Tweedy, pouring a pina colada and watching the sun set and rise until the boat comes to take me home.
If you're looking for a taste of Crowded House in their prime (in excellent sound to boot) check out Maybe We Ain't That Young Anymore.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Shake It Off
Nels Cline played Joe's Pub last night with Jenny Scheinman.
I know, right?
Nels had a cold, but he and the band were enough to make you momentarily forget that other one he works with. Seriously, the drummer of this band was pounding like he was playing dual lead guitar lines with sticks. And Nels Cline can shred a solo, sick or well.