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Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

[ATTENDED: July 21, 2017] Phish

I have wanted to see a Phish New Year’s Eve show for years.  But one should welcome in the New Year with people you love, so I will never go to a show on New Year’s Eve.  But this year I decided to try for a ticket for the night before New Year’s Eve.  Once I got my ticket I learned that many people feel like the 12/30 show is ultimately better than the 12/31 show–in terms of music, not theatricality naturally.

I was also pretty happy to find out that my friend Armando and his girlfriend were going.  So we wound up making an evening out of it.  They live near the train station, so I drove to their house and we walked to the train.  It was nice meeting his girlfriend (she is famous from his blog) and we all got along very well.  When we got into the City, he told me we were going to a great Peruvian restaurant really close to the arena.   And what a great find it was.  Rather than pizza or a hot dog we were able to eat a yummy (and filling meal) and it was quite fast as well.

Although, perhaps it could have been faster.  When we walked across the street to MSG, the line to get in was massive.  We never found out exactly what was going on, but they were holding everyone back at a barrier while the line thinned out.  We were running very tight to show time.  But the arena must have known that because the band did not go on as early as they usually do. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHROMEO-Tiny Desk Concert #797 (October 19, 2018).

I’m not sure if I’ve heard of Chromeo, but the name is pretty great.

The band consists of David Macklovitch (Dave 1–Vocals/Guitar) and Patrick Gemayel (P-Thugg–Bass/Talk Box).  They have a pretty classic Prince/funk sound.  But how can they be so funky if they don’t have a live band?

Self-proclaimed “Funklordz” Chromeo played with a live band for the first time at the Tiny Desk. The duo usually performs their live shows over backing tracks with shimmering chrome guitars and keyboards mounted on mannequin lady legs.

I need to see that.  But for this show, there is a live band, which may change their desire to be just a duo, because they sound great.

For “Count Me Out” Dave 1 sings and plays guitar.  P-Thugg plays a great slap bass and, the biggest surprise–a keyboard-operated talk box.

Mid song they shift gears to a major funk storm in “Jealous (I Ain’t With It).”   I love hearing P-Thugg robot singing “I Ain’t With It” and then talk-boxing a synth solo.

But the story of Chromeo is pretty fun as well.

David Macklovitch (Dave 1) and Patrick Gemayel (P-Thugg) met when they were 15 while growing up in Montreal and have been cranking out the electro-funk jams ever since. At first glance, their Jewish and Arab partnership might seem unlikely. But their signature sounds are undeniably infectious, epitomized by P-Thugg’s Talk Box – an instrument that transforms his vocals into robotic sounds.  On being Canadian, P-Thugg announced in his robot voice “it’s very, very cold” to which Dave 1 quipped, “it’s cold… free healthcare.”

The backing band mostly adds synths and drums.  I assume that these could all be electronic, but it feels so much more real with everyone else there.  In the middle of “Jealous,” P-Thugg takes off his bass and Eric “E-Watt” Whatley starts playing a great funky bass of his own.  But the band looks like a cohesive unit (it’s amazing that this is the first time they’ve played together).

The band was outfitted in go-go-style matching uniforms custom embroidered with the words “Funk Lordz.”  The Philadelphia based line-up included keyboardist Eugene “Man-Man” Roberts and legendary percussionists Rashid Williams and Aaron Draper.

“Don’t Sleep” has a very 70’s sound–with some great synthy work from Man-Man.  I don’t know if the song always has this middle section, but Dave 1 shouts, “we’re in DC right?”

With a nod to DC’s own funky go-go music scene of the ’70s, their …. breakdown at the end of the song “Don’t Sleep” was a fitting tribute to NPR’s hometown, Washington, D.C.

Even though their songs seems to be kind of negative (Jealous, Don’t Sleep on Me), the music is fun and dancy.  The final song “Must’ve Been” continues that fun, talk-box hook-filled tunage.

 Listening to Chromeo is a joyous affair. Watching them get funky with a stellar band behind The Desk for the very first time, it’s impossible to sit still.

Chromeo completely won me over.  Also, how do they not have French accents?

[READ: November 28, 2018] “Snowing in Greenwich Village”

The December 3, 2018 issue of the New Yorker was an archival issue, meaning that every story was taken from an earlier issue.  The range is something like 1975-2006, which is odd since the New Yorker dates back so much longer.  Although the fiction pieces are at least from the 1940s and 1950s.

This story felt a lot more timeless than the Stafford story.  It is about a young married couple and the first visitor to their new place.

The Maples had just moved in and their friend Rebecca Cune had come over for a drink.

Rebecca tells them about her previous living arrangement with a woman and that woman’s boyfriend.  The Maples had lived in a log cabin in a YMCA camp for the first three months of their marriage.

Drinks were passed around and Richard was playing the good ghost. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILL CALLAHAN-“Small Plane” (Field Recordings, November 11, 2013).

Many episodes in the Field Recordings series travel far and wide to exotic locations.  For this Field Recording [Bill Callahan Sings ‘Small Plane’ In A Serene City] Bill Callahan travel to exotic downtown New York City.

When we first approached Bill Callahan to do a Field Recording in New York City, we asked him if he had any special place in mind. His reply surprised me: “A community garden.” I guess I’d stereotyped him in my head, because after all those years of dark, thoughtful songwriting — first as Smog and then on the pensive records he’s made under his own name — I’d imagined a library, someplace quiet and dark.

The video starts with the hustle and bustle of the city and then slowly moves into a quiet, peaceful garden, complete with a pond (and turtles jumping into it), birds, tomatoes, and a microphone.

As it turned out, the brightly lit 6th & B Community Garden, with its lush greenery and mellow wildlife, provided just the right setting. The noise of cabs, buses, trucks and the occasional siren wound up punctuating Callahan’s calm, deep baritone, but he makes it easy to ignore.

He sings about being a lucky man flying this small plane.  And he setting compliments his contentment.  It’s just him and his quiet electric guitar and all is well.

[READ: October 26, 2018] “Waugh”

Last week’s New Yorker story was called “Flaubert Again.”  This week’s is called “Waugh.”  The last one was tangentially about Flaubert but this one is (as far as I can tell) not about Evelyn Waugh at all.

This was one of those fascinating stories that was very simple but in which all of the details about the story were so vague that I couldn’t figure anything about it for many many pages.

This is a story of five unrelated boys who live together–they all pull tricks to make rent.  Rod was their defacto leader–not their pimp exactly, because he tricked too, but more like an elder watchmen.  He was tough and very strict.  You could be kicked out of the house for many infractions, and at the first sign of Sickness.

I assumed that this story was set in the 1970s in San Francisco.

Then one of the boys is named Google, so clearly it can’t be set in the 70s. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GREGORY PORTER-“Be Good (Lion’s Song)” (Field Recordings, May 14, 2013).

The still from this Field Recording [Gregory Porter: A Lion In The Subway] certainly led me to think that Porter would be singing on an actual moving train car (the ambient noise would be IMPOSSIBLE to filter out).

Of course, it wasn’t the most practical (or legal–bands and other musical acts need to audition to even set up underground. And those are just the “official” performers) thing to actually get Gregory Porter to perform on an operational MTA train. So we asked him if he’d perform for us at the New York Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn, a collection of vintage memorabilia and reconditioned cars housed in a former subway station. All the better: Porter has a way with vintage suits, and there was a fortunate coincidence about the way it all felt right among the period-specific ads which flanked him. Accompanied by pianist Chip Crawford — who perfectly punches and beds the gaps here — Porter sang his original “Be Good (Lion’s Song),” a parable of unrequited affection.

The only thing I know about Gregory Porter comes from his Tiny Desk Concert.  I marveled that he wore a hat with ear flaps the whole time.  Well, he does the same thing during this song.

Gregory Porter has the frame of a football linebacker — maybe because he once was one, for a Division I college — and the rich, booming voice you might expect from a guy with such lungs. It cuts through a crowd with its strength, in the manner of an old-school soul singer; it demands attention with its sensitivity. If Porter weren’t winning over the international jazz club and festival circuit, he’d rise above the din wherever he went.

This is a sweet, quiet song, befitting him and the location.  The lyrics are a clever metaphor about lions and love.

[READ: October 22, 2017] “Scared of the City”

This is an essay about being white in New York City.

Franzen says that in 1981 he and his girlfriend were finishing college and decided to spend a summer in New York City– a three-month lease on the apartment of a Columbia student on the comer of 110th and Amsterdam.  It had two small bedrooms and was irremediable filthy.

The city seemed starkly black and white “when a young Harlem humorist on the uptown 3 train performed the ‘magic’ act of making every white passenger disappear at Ninety-Sixth street, I felt tried and found guilty of my whiteness.”

A friend of theirs was mugged at Grant’s Tomb (where he shouldn’t have been) and now Franzen was morbidly afraid of being shot.  The impression of menace was compounded by the heavy light-blocking security gates on the windows and the police lock on the door.

Franzen made some money when his brother Tom came into the city to do some work for hot shot photographer Gregory Heisler at Broadway and Houston.  Franzen was a gopher and made trips around the Bowery and Canal Street but he knew not to go to Alphabet City. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 17, 2018] The The

I feel like I have always loved The The.  I’d never say they were my favorite band, but they’ve always been a part of my playlists and lyrics from the songs are constantly running through my head.

From the dancey early stuff off of Infected (the first album I’d heard), to the cool “band” stuff with Johnny Marr on guitar (The The was always and forever shall be the project of Matt Johnson with a rotating cast of others) and finally to the beautiful Dusk, which I couldn’t stop playing all through college.   There were other albums, but these three (and, strangely enough the Hank Williams cover album) were staples for me.

Matt Johnson has this voice, the deep resonating voice, that gets right into my head.  Especially with headphones, especially on the beginning of Dusk.  That album is so pristinely recorded it feels like the guitars are in whatever room you are currently in.

I had the fortune of seeing them in May of 2000, the last time The The played the States (and almost anywhere else).  The setlist below I found online.  They apparently played almost all of the then new album and nearly nothing else.  That seems incomplete (and short).

When he (they) announced that The The had released a new song and were doing some shows in England and Europe, I held out hope that they would come across the pond.  I wondered if they’d play Philly, but they didn’t (and that was probably wise as even the Beacon didn’t sell out).  So I got tickets as soon as I could and scored 11th row.  For yes, I was willing to brave the Lincoln Tunnel and an expensive parking garage to see this show.  And having it only in a few locations made it that much more special. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 17, 2018] Xordox

When The The announced that they were touring for the first time in 18 years, I knew I was going to go, even if it meant dragging myself through the $15 Lincoln Tunnel.  (How do people afford that every day?).

I noted the opening acts: Agnes Obel will appear on all dates as a special guest, except the September 16 show at Brooklyn Steel where Elsyian Fields will open and the September 17 gig at the Beacon Theater where XORDOX (aka JG Thirlwell/Foetus), a frequent THE THE collaborator, will open.

I really like Agnes Obel and I put her on my list of people I wanted to see live.  So I was a little bummed that she didn’t play for my show.  But at the same time, Xordox is the creation of the legendary JG Thirwell, whom I have never seen before either.  Thirwell is probably best know for his group Foetus, but is more recently known as the guy who scores the new Archer seasons.  And that’s pretty great.

Every incarnation of Thirwell sounds different from the previous one (with a different pseudonym: Clint Ruin, Frank Want, and Foetus), so who knew what Xordox would sound like.

For this incarnation, Thirwell is Manorexia. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 8, 2018] Phish

I have never seen a band two nights in a row in the same place before (I have seen Tori Amos three times in four days but that was at different locations).  I knew that Phish always mixed up their sets so that two nights in the same place never contained the same songs.  This was a great way to hear even more different stuff.

Tonight’s show was very different for me though.  My daughter was in the 4H Fair play before the show (she was a wicked stepsister in Cinderella).  I certainly wanted to see that.  It was super fun, although pro-tip…she needs to exaggerate her on-stage behavior more.

I was afraid I’d be late for the show (4H traffic is shocking!), but traffic was light and I made it to Camden in okay  time.  I had to park over a mile away (and still pay $30).  It was a 15-minute brisk walk to the stadium during which time I was feeling kind of down about the whole event.  There were lots of drunk people and scalpers and hawkers and ugly sights abounded.  Plus it was hot and I was in a hurry and then I got to the gates and the line was huge.

I also knew that I was much later than the night before so I wouldn’t get a choice spot at the railing like the night before.

I bought a corn dog (yum) and walked up to the lawn.  I decided to purposely pick a different part of the lawn tonight (Page’s side).  And just as I climbed the stairs I saw Armando, my friend from the night before.  I was hoping to see him and was kicking myself for not coordinating with him.  But I love the serendipity of running into him like that.  He was talking to a woman who turned out to be his mom!  She lives closer to the venue than he does so he was staying with her for the night and he invited her along. She had been to many concerts with him (how cool is that) but had never seen Phish so she was excited for something new.  She was great to hang with.

He had a spot along the railing again and got ready for Night #2. (more…)

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