Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Well Read

Playwright, Dan Dietz was in town this week for a reading of his new play, The Sandreckoner at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. We all knew Dan down in Austin when he was writing avant garde works of genius which occasionally made their way up here to New York; now he shows up to the big city with an entirely captivating new idea and direction.

"That was . . . good," said the lady behind me to her friend with that sweet note of relief and astonishment one so rarely hears after the public reading of a new play.

It isn't fair to talk too much about scripts in development, but I look forward to seeing where this one goes from here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Blues in Black and White

Andy Friedman and Jeffrey Foucault at Joe's Pub, Friday night.

Friedman is a singing cartoonist, an accomplished illustrator whose work appears regularly in The New Yorker and the New York Times and whose songs are as smart and economical as his drawing style. Foucault's songs are equally spare and show the strong influence of John Prine (of whose songs Foucault has just released an album of covers). They're old friends, touring together, swapping tunes and quietly singing harmonies as the other performs.

Friday, April 24, 2009

One of These Things First

Wednesday night, Bernie and I went over to the Bowery Ballroom to catch Dawn with Josh and Ray opening for Alexi Murdoch. I didn't know anything about Murdoch's music, but I'm a big fan of Dawn's and was excited to see the chemistry of the band, having just spent a few weeks traveling around with Josh and Balthrop, Alabama.

The place was packed early and the crowd was attentive and engaged during Dawn's set, which was nice to see; openers are not always greeted with enthusiasm. But Josh's amazing musicality and Ray's multi-instrumentalist approach to percussion (he plays harmonica and has a keyboard stuck in amongst his kit) are perfectly suited to filling out Dawn's songs. The energy that bursts out of the trio is infectious and can be fiery. "I've never broken a string before," said Dawn sheepishly, rising from her knees after playing the raging guitar hero during Picture Show.

The crowd greeted Murdoch's take on Nick Drake-like folk rock with a reverence that Drake never received in his lifetime. Murdoch has an avid crowd and they'd been waiting a while for his American return. The music is almost an homage and it will be interesting to see where he takes it as he sublimates his exquisite Nick Drake tendencies and crafts a sound that's all his own.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Cows Come Home

Reborn and rejuvenated, Hot Club of Cowtown, performed at Joe's Pub last Sunday night. They're a band of virtuosos that can play in perfect harmony and they sing songs that sound like they've been around forever, even if they just wrote them last week. They're touring in support of a greatest hits package after a sabbatical/breakup that didn't seem to take.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On The Road Again

My Way, The Highway: Balthrop Alabama March 2009 Tour from Michael Arthur on Vimeo.

A lot of folks ask what the big Balthrop Alabama Chalk Talk show is like, with the music and the drawing and the like. Well, here's a little peak. You'll have to come see us live for the whole thing . . .

Friday, April 10, 2009

Life and Times

Bob Mould performing songs from his new album, Life and Times at Joe's Pub on the second night of his completely sold out shows last night.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Outliving The Past

Like a memory someone forgot to remember, Eric Andersen came to the Pub last Friday and played songs from his vast catalogue to a small crowd of fervent admirers. His songs are familiar and often sad (at one point he lamented that he listened to Leonard Cohen music when he needed to cheer himself) and his voice and guitar playing are graced with an experience and ease that never become complacent or routine.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Rock Opera

Spottiswoode and his Enemies debuted their promising new musical-theatre piece, Above Hell's Kitchen, an adaptation of Don Giovanni, last night at Joe's Pub.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Rest Stop

We're back.

Balthrop, Alabama's got its second tour ever under its belt and all we have to show for it is a bunch of good memories, an unbroken trail of satisfied listeners, more than a few empty whiskey bottles and the overwhelming desire to do it again.

And a video tape of every show that I have to go through so I can start making some more movies.

For a band which at full strength is one third ladies, this was a dude cruise, with Lauren representing the girl folk and the rest of us six studs taking turns trying to sister-bond with her the best we could. Josh pulled it off right good and Laura gave me Twilight to read on the road, so I was about two thirds chick when we started, but I lost interest after 100 pages or so and let my natural resources of testosterone spike me up to my default setting of two thirds of a man, belch, fart, scratch. Jason spent most of the time getting March Madness updates, so he wasn't hardly a woman at all and Matt's too tall and stoic to get in touch with his inner sisterhood. Chris and Pascal are just dudes, period, except for when Pascal was in college and he was a girl living Another Hell, but I've been asked not to draw that.

We drank ginger beer in Pittsburgh, ate french toast in Louisville, colonized Rita's place (again) in Huntsville, and slept in the Bobo Gallery after a gig in Asheville. Josh and I slept in the van one night when it seemed like the lesser of two sleeping evils; driving away the next day, Lauren reckoned she might have been curled up on a Dirty Sanchez someone left lying around. One leisurely afternoon in Montevallo, we sat around a campfire and burned windows, doors and anything else that wasn't nailed down while Walker played us tunes and showed us art. We played the Feed and Seed in Loachapoka and played the unofficial after-party for Ani DiFranco in Mobile. The lead singer of Sugar Loaf told us we were "Perfect, Goddamit" from the front seat of the pickup truck he's been permanently bonded to down there in Nashville. We watched a guy get cold-cocked at a bar, played an open-mic night, and recited most of Forgetting Sarah Marshall from memory. We had a scary night in downtown Birmingham, partially mitigated by the fact that we were sharing a hotel with a Mary Kay convention, so at least the elevators smelled good when we got back. We imposed on parents, sisters and anyone else with enough floor space to spread out some inflatable mattresses on.

We laughed and we had a good time and we made a lot of good music and we met a lot of great people and forgot again all about having any fights or gripes with each other and after a bit of rest and a few hometown shows, we'll figure out the next step and take it.

We're getting really, really good at doing this and it's changing all the time and we like sharing, so this one fades in the rear view mirror, but we're looking forward to the road ahead. At least I am.