Friday, September 28, 2007

Sound Czech

There will come a day soon, when The Plastic People of the Universe will be playing their Velvet Underground meets Frank Zappa sounds at the Halls Carnegie and Alice Tully, but last night Joe's had them. It took them forty years or so, but here they are, unwashed and ragged and ready for their close-up.

Their music inspired Vaclav Havel and their persistence was one of the motivating beats of the Velvet Revolution. More recently they have featured as characters and soundtrack in Tom Stoppard's Rock and Roll which opens here in New York in November. (Folks were handing out flyers for that show as people left this one.) When Rock and Roll opens, I'm sure that all the Everybody's Who Are Somebodies will want to elevate the Plastics to the level of cultural monuments and they deserve it--they've defied the institutions of communist order with guitars, bass and drums on a road that has brought them jail-time, censure and harrasment. A government crumbled around them as they played in basements and makeshift tents and the folks who listened to their music as the soundtrack of their lives took over and are now watching as others run the new countries they formed out of the wreckage.

But, you wouldn't know it to see them playing in the dark, wry smiles amd deadpan introductions accompanying wah-wah pedals and extended two-chord jams; pretty basic stuff, but absolutely essential.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gypsy Fall Guys

It was a hot summer afternoon making a cameo appearance for early Fall in New York City and the Joe's crew was making another day of it at the Delacorte.

"So this is where Shakespeare worked?" said one of the members of Beirut as they arrived for soundcheck.

Ashley joined me for the show later and this morning declared that it was the best time she has had since leaving Turkey for New York City. Last night she kept dancing and laughing and telling me all about how her uncle's wedding had the exact same music. She was especially fond of the New York Gypsy All-Stars Band and Balkan Beat Box.

"This music is the music of weddings and funerals!" she shouted over the sound of the crowd. I told her to keep it down, but she said being quiet during a concert was not the proper way to enjoy the experience.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

World Turning

A concerned reader with tech problems writes,

"So Monday -- much to my horror and dismay, my 6 CD disk changer stereo system, which I have been enjoying for many years, suddenly and unexpectedly died. OK... it didn't completely die but the display that use to tell me which disk, which track, now flashes "ERROR" "ERROR" "ERROR" and won't open up any of the disk chambers. Inside the disk changers are the soundtrack from ONCE, Nick Heyward latest and Tracey Thorn's latest, and Billy Bragg and Wilco. I feel like I've lost loved ones. Thinking about taking a sledgehammer to it to try and get my disks back.

Has this ever happend to you? Any advice?"

First of all, find the ear of your CD player and blow in it softly. While waiting for it to respond, order an IPod on line at the Mac store.

Second, the problem here is that you inserted too much good music at once; your player's never gonna open up with that combo. In the future (if there is a future for this player), be sure to include a copy of 38 Special's Greatest Hits or something by Air Supply.

You might also try unplugging the machine, shaking it while humming and throwing it at the wall (being careful not to hit a lamp or small children).

On the plus side, the future is now! Welcome to the post-cd world; God wants you to go digital . . .

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Plugging In

Don't forget to turn your monitor around for the full effect . . .

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Park Life

This week Joe's moved into Central Park and we couldn't have picked two nicer days to start the late summer fun.

On Thursday we spent the day with Patty Griffin, Allen Toussaint and a bunch of amazing song-writers from the CMA . . .

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fall Cleaning or What Do You Do With A Bunch of Drawings?

Slaid Cleaves played at Joe's last week. The last time I saw him was with Shannon at a living room show six years ago. Shannon's a movie star now and Slaid and I've both aged and we've both ended up at Joe's but only he can yodel. When he's not yodeling, he sounds like this.

The Old Ceremony went on next. They're friends of Sara and they sound like this only live, they rock harder and deliver deadpan jokes that amuse and delight. They also have a fancy new video and it looks and sounds like this.

On Saturday, we all went over to Williamsburg again, but a bunch of us must have missed the bus or something because Balthrop was a five-piece instead of their traditional ten. Still, any excuse to hang out at Soundfix is nice and the horn parts sound good when played on . . . uhm . . . mouth-trumpet.

Then last night I went way uptown and had a nice French meal at La Goulue. Anybody who's anybody eats here, when they're not eating someplace else. Apparently, Michelin gave them a star recently. I'd have given them two, but I don't have any stars to spare. We were sitting next to two people who--when they weren't answering their phones--kept talking about the movie they were making. At this rate, they're never gonna get that movie made, so if it's you, stop calling them.

Also, I drew a dog for Tina's friends.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Different Stages

I first got to know Fang-Yi Sheu when she was a principle dancer with the Martha Graham Company. This last week, the Martha Graham Company was performing at the Joyce, but Fang-Yi was over at the Baryshnikov Center for Dance giving a few select-folk a sneak peek of what to expect when her new company (based in Taiwan) starts regular performances next year.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tales of The City

Sometimes there's so much going on in New York City, you don't know where you are or where to look.

Sure, America was watching their local football team on Sunday, but here in the city so nice we named it twice we come from all over, so our sports bars have to please everyone all the time with all the games everywhere. Redskins fans are reaching over cheeseheads for their Buffalo Wings and Bears fans are left to cry after the first half, just like they always do.

"Do you know why we don't pass on third down?" I asked Chris. "Because it always looks like that."

"Look, a pile of guys," said the cute bartender in the Michael Vick t-shirt, torn to display her midriff.

"Tell me," I asked, "Are you really a Michael Vick fan or do you just hate dogs?"

"I don't really follow football," she sighed, looking down at her top. "I just like red."

I had to leave at the half because I had tickets to Midsummer that night in the park. It was a Shakespeare-like week. Two nights before, Ian McKellen and the RSC opened King Lear at BAM. I was sitting in the front row with Judith, trying to avert my eyes during the mad scene, which he played naked with his shirt over his head. There are a lot of folks out there who would pay just to see Gandalf waving his magic wand, especially when Doctor Who is playing the Fool, but I'm too demure for such bold choices.

Monday night, Clare And The Reasons soundchecked early, trying to battle the squawk so they could sound less like Jimi Hendrix and more like this. I couldn't stay for the show because Little Johnny Walch was being inducted as a member of the class of 2014 over at New Dramatists. In case you missed it, Lisa D'Amour says John Walch is a lot of fun when he's high. I wouldn't know anything about that, but I like his writing.

As we left the bar after the ceremony--a block and a half West of Times Square--a woman in a Detroit Lions cap approached Illyana and I and asked, "excuse me, are you from around here?"

"Yes," we replied, ready as always to help a tourist.

"What city is this?" she enquired.

Illyana and I looked at each other like Vaudeville pros setting up a spit take and said, "what?"

"Is this Manhattan?"

Now, apparently she was confusing "city" with "borough"--she was looking to dance the night away at a club and wanted to know if she was close to the famous Times Square dance scene (insert spit-take here)--but. lady, if you have to ask, you must be doing something right . . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Quick One . . .

Kyle (oh, click that link just for the photo, please) and Lara and I went to see Petra Haden last Friday at Joe's. Geoff Farina opened. Apparently Kyle knows him from way back and was shouting out requests, but Geoff said he didn't know how to play "Pepsi-Cola." I don't know who to believe, Kyle or Geoff, but it was a nice evening, despite the minor controversy. Besides, Kyle gets the benefit of the doubt for introducing me to Fred Armisen backstage, which made me feel cool.

Petra Haden
was so good I couldn't draw; I just wanted to listen to the acapella goodness. Heidi mocked me, but I've been loving Haden's version of Don't Stop Believing . . .

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Word of Explanation or What's So Funny?

Everything. Everything is funny--or should be.

All through the summer, I've been working on some very large drawings. They take a long time and they're too big for my scanner and I really have intended them for a show at some point along the way, rather than the ether of the internet.

They can also make me a little blue. Or they come from something in me that is a little blue. Or they're trying to capture something in the city I live in that has a tinge of blue. Or doing them, sitting alone in my apartment makes me sing the blues.

You know, figuratively; I'm not actually singing.

Mostly, I'm listening to NPR pod-casts.


It has felt completely right--healing even--but it has also been hard, which usually means it's what I'm supposed to be doing.

Still, as an antidote, I've been trying to make more cartoons--gag panels to cheer me up and make me laugh; some pop songs to turn to when the blues singers let the harp-solo go on too long.


That's what's up with all the cartoons.

In case you were wondering.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Canned Laughter

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

It's Time . . .

It's been a long hot summer, but there's a breeze in the morning air and everyone left the city to us this weekend.

We celebrated birthdays, listened to music, played some Guitar Hero and took in a movie or two. We talked about the long bike trips and the distant travels. We rode the roller-coasters until we nearly passed out. We played in the park and over-indulged. We avoided an early trip to the hospital--let's wait the full remainder of six weeks or so, shall we? We ate some cheese and strawberries. We tried to clean, really we did. Some of us started thinking about packing and some of us dreamed of the so-close-I-can-taste-it homecoming.

And did I mention that I'll be performing as a guest artist with the Indianapolis Symphony in October? Don't quote me on it, but let's call this a teaser.

Come along, Fall; I've been waiting. Besides, they say that this year Fall is the new summer . . .

Into the Next . . .