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Urban Folk: issue three
A tale of two Villages... Lance Romance (giantrats.com), poster boy of East Village AntiFolk, a man who has been
known to sing a duet with his own asshole, graces our cover for the limits and the patience he tests. More straight and studied musicians who I have taken to see him drop their jaws in wonder and quit their pianos to pick up a kazoo (not that Lance plays a kazoo much, but you understand). This is a contentious artistic ﬁgure (note the letter from Harried in Hunts Point), who fronts an issue focused on the two sides of the Manhattan singer/songwriter coin. From the West Side came Folk, and on the East Side was born AntiFolk. One steeped in traditions, one intent on breaking them. Enjoy them both, and enjoy the read. In other news we will soon be online, thanks to Urban Media! urbanfolk.org, currently under construction, will soon host the entire publication in digital form, complete with mp3’s. Yay! -Dave Cuomo, Editor
On the Cover - lance romance as rendered by michael d arthur (michaeldarthur.com) Letters to the Editor – yes, we do that now Justin Devereaux – dave cuomo talks to an old village folk singer about how it was and the way it is Amy Hills – paul alexander gets the scoop on the reigning queen of the Easy Side scene AntiFolk Fest – jon berger explores the meaning and joy that is the AntiFolk Festival Poetry Page – frank hoier, donald green, jon berger, dave cuomo Exegesis Department – a double feature! with frank hoier and mick ﬂannery* Subway Stories – dave cuomo ﬁnds a sad world underground* Be an Urban Folk friend! myspace.com/urbanfolkzine Open Mics - jon berger talks up his favorites Alec Wonderful – alec tells a different story of getting banned from the west village Metamorphasis - dan penta explains cockroach’s name change* Tatiana Pahlen – poetry and a short play by new york’s favorite russian writer Paul’s Perspective – paul alexander ﬁnds some peace with his producer CD Reviews – lowry, mick ﬂannery, cheese on bread, and more...
*illustrations by Baby Girl
In This Issue:
Contact us for advertising or anything at firstname.lastname@example.org
How you can help... Urban Folk was modeled on the punk Back/inside cover - $85 (7.5” x 10”) zines I grew up on, but all of those had a leg up on what we’re doing Full page - $75 (6.8” x 9.5”) now. Since zines were so common in punk, there were enough labels Half page - $45 (6.8” x 4.7”) willing and ready to advertise in and support them, already aware that Third page - $30 this was the best outlet for promoting themselves outside word of mouth. (square: 4.8” x 4.8”; tall 2.2” x 9.5”) Unfortunately for us that system isn’t as well established in our scene. We would love to see the singer/songwriter scene coalesce into the Quarter page - $25 (3.4” x 4.8”) kind of strong self sufﬁcient independent community that punk became, and a whole crop of fanzines, labels, and artists supporting each other is necessary to making this happen. This magazine is an experiment to see if it’s possible to get the idea up and running here in our scene. So far we have had some success, and the magazine has been well received, but we’re not quite there yet. None of us have a lot of extra money to throw around, but I really believe that supporting each other now will beneﬁt all the musicians, clubs, and labels (not to mention the culture at large!) in the long run. A lot of you are not on any label at all, and are putting out your cd’s yourself, or getting your music out through your website. We designed our advertising with this in mind, so that an artist could afford a $25 ad to promote their cd or even just their website, and the clubs or labels could afford the larger ones. Aside from simply getting you exposure, supporting us now will come back to you. As soon as we cover printing costs consistently at the current 2,000 copies, we will see if we can’t double to 4,000. When we know we can cover that consistently we will double again, until every subway seat, every campus lecture hall, every bathroom stall in every bar, is proudly spreading the word. Great thanks to all of our sponsors who have kept us around so far. This is your scene and your magazine, and we need your support to keep it going. -DC
Letters to the editor
Dear Urban Folk, I’ve noticed that you have very attractive people on the cover of Urban Folk, but no accompanying article. Is it because you’re afraid to feature articles on the beautiful folk in your magazine? Is this some kind of conspiracy? What are you trying to HIDE? Angry in Astoria Dear A in A, You were partially right. To increase sales of our free publication, we at Urban Folk decided to feature performers on the cover that would attract people to our magazine. However, we ﬁgured that the average Urban Folk reader, part of a superﬁcial and cowardly lot, would be far too shallow to care anything about the artist. Due to your incisive letter, we have opted for a different cover policy at Urban Folk. This issue, please welcome Lance Romance, musician, soundman, and decidedly unattractive man. In addition, please accept these short bios of our two former cover models, as penance for our sexist and attractivist former agenda. Erin Regan just did time in a northern Virginia correctional facility for crimes against the state. She sings songs and plays guitar – sometimes at once, and has wowed audiences in clubs as far aﬁeld as the Living Room and Pianos. Find out more at erinregan.com. Frank Hoier not only plays guitar and sings, but he also plays harmonica! He is an artist as steeped in the blues as a California white guy can be without embarrassing himself. Find out more at myspace.com/frankhoier To the editor of Urban Folk, Is Debe Dalton really the Banjo Lady? Confused on Christie Street Dead CoCS, While Debe Dalton plays the Banjo, she is, in fact, no lady. So the name doesn’t apply. If you call her the Banjo Lady one more time, she’s gonna use that thing to knock you upside the head, sort of like in her song, “Sorry Joan.” And don’t think that the thin skin of the banjo’s gonna save you; underneath it is metal. Hey UF, Who wrote that review of my CD? I really want to kick his ass! Unless it’s a her. Then I want to date her. Do I have a problem with intimacy? Alone in Astoria
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Dear A in A, Are you, by any chance related to Angry in Astoria? No matter. We’re keeping reviews anonymous for the time being, so as to allow the most honest assessment of artists’ work. That way we can feel fully free to discuss your album in the most effective and entertaining way, without fear of being… dated. Perhaps, if you study the reviews page, you’ll become increasingly familiar with the writer’s style, recognizing it from other articles in the publication, and then quietly but assertively accuse the suspect in some random alley. Not that we endorse any such thing. Dear Urban Folk, Tell me the rumors are not true. I have heard that the coveted third cover of Urban Folk will be allotted to the horrible, mischievous and much-maligned (though rightfully so) Lance Romance. Is this true? Is one such as he – a slothful, freakish hippie – to be what represents NY folk music through the hot summer months? It cannot be so. Say it ain’t so! Lance Romance is representative of a prevailing style of music affecting New York City like a virus. It is outsider art done by insiders. It is “funny” music made by fools. It is lazy folk. It is Idiot Rock. What Lance does is write simple lyrics – quirky, yes – but not smart. Not digniﬁed. The music he composes is simplistic, and he can’t even play it correctly. According to his website at giantrats.com, he has been to Berklee School of Music, so whither the incompetence? How can he play such basic songs, such stupid stupid songs, without any sense of dignity? What bothers me most is how the people seem to like him. Their enjoyment of Lance Romance encourages the convention of catering to the lowest common denominator in all things. When the Moldy Peaches redeﬁned what could be successful for us lo-ﬁ artists, who knew how lo(ﬁ) it could get? Not I. I boycott Lance Romance shows. I boycott Lance Romance products. I boycott Lance Romance covers. Do not put him on the cover of Urban Folk on this, its prestigious third issue. I beg of you: do not! Harried in Hunts Point Dear Harried, Yep, too late. Sorry.
Whereas: ... Justin Devereaux has been a major force, through his love and performance of Folk Music, in perpetuating the Folk music tradition of Greenwich Village, which occupies an important place in our city’s cultural mosaic made all the more important because of Justin’s contributions; ...and Whereas: Now, as a Singer/Songwriter, he is still playing in the Village after over 40 years. His CD “Whiskey Eyes” won the Best Folk Track, Male From the New Century Music Awards for 2001; now, therefore Be it known: That the Council of the City of New York most gratefully honors, for his exceptional service to the City, the community, and the nation,
the times they have a-changed
by Dave Cuomo
“The problem with antiFolk is that they’re all walking around trying to be anti-commercial. Anti-commercialism is a lie. But I guess we’re all living a lie in some way.” “What’s yours?” I ask him. “I like to think I’m more important than I am.” Justin Devereaux ﬁrst came to Macdougal St. in 1957. Living in Greenwich Village on and off for almost ﬁfty years, he has seen and been a part of the rise and fall of the near mythological neighborhood. While wandering around the Village, I was stopped by people at every club I went to, telling me that if I was writing about folk music, Justin was the man I needed to see. Also, I should probably talk to him soon, due to the cancer that is currently preventing him from performing. He is an opinionated man, in some ways bitter, and I relish the chance to hear what he has to say. He is one of the last of the old guard folk singers who remember New York back before prices sky rocketed so high it became virtually inhospitable to struggling artists. He is also all too aware of the changes that make the Macdougal St. of his past something that he or any of us might never see again. Justin was born in St. Vincent’s on Staten Island the day after Joan Baez was born in the same hospital. He grew up in a variety of orphanages until at 17, after his ﬁrst brief stint in Greenwich Village, he stuck his thumb out on the highway and traveled the country for ﬁve years deeply inﬂuenced by On the Road. He ﬁnally settled down in Rhode Island where he found his mother and helped out at the coffee shop she ran called Tete A Tete. There he found himself immersed in folk music. Traditionalists like The Weavers and Pete Seeger were inﬂuencing the musicians who came to play at the club. Tom Ghent used to wash dishes at the coffee house before he started singing, and Justin likes to take credit for helping to inspire his career when one night Tom was complaining incessantly that he could do much better than the hack talent playing. “Why don’t you then?” Justin asked him. Six months later Tom came back in and played
the most beautiful song Justin had heard. Taking his own advice Justin picked up a guitar and taught himself to play, at ﬁrst using only one ﬁnger. “The simplicity is what made it accessible to people, it was something they could be a part of. When all of the really good players started coming in, it scared people off. It was one of the things that killed folk music.” “How did folk music die?” This turns out to not be a simple question. He gives me a weary look. “Open mics, for one thing. They aren’t a real performance. How much audience is really there? It’s only other musicians. That’s not performance, it’s practice. You need an audience for it to be anything. And then, half the musicians there can’t play at all. Why would anyone come to see that?” He tells me about the basket houses that were the mainstay of the scene in the sixties when he moved to Greenwich Village from Rhode Island. They were little hole in the wall joints that catered largely to kids coming over from New Jersey where the drinking age was higher than in the city. They were cheap dives that were known to make their rum and cokes using rum extract instead of liquor. Justin would watch amused as the kids would drink these down and then stagger around as if they were actually drunk. Musicians took turns playing ﬁfteen to twenty minute sets, at the end of which they would pass around a basket for tips. By playing three or four of these clubs a night, a small living could be eeked out. I ask Justin why nobody tries to run places like that anymore. “Rents are too high. You can’t get by on that anymore. You see anything around here renting for $35 a month?” There were several clubs such as Gerdie’s Folk City, The Gaslight, The Four Winds, Café Bizarre, and many more, mostly centered around W 3 St. and Macdougal. Only a few owners controlled all of these, and ﬁerce rivalries developed between them. An artist playing at one owner’s clubs couldn’t normally cross over and play for a different owner. Unless, of course, you were really good. “I could play just about all
of them,” Justin tells me. The key difference between the basket houses of the sixties and the open mics and clubs of today is booking criteria. “Talent is what got you in back then. It was up to the club to bring in the audience.” This is the thing I see him get most bitter about. “Now the only thing they ask you if you want to play somewhere is ‘how many people can you bring in?’ That’s supposed to be the club’s job. Talent doesn’t matter anymore and it shows.” In 1987 Justin took over as manager of The Speakeasy where he often butted heads with the owner over this issue. “Dr. Ruth’s grandson came in looking for a gig, but he was terrible! I told him no, but the owner made me put him on because he could draw. His ﬁrst show, the place was packed. So I was told to book him again. The next time the place was almost full. So I had to book him again. The last time he played, only ten or twelve people showed up.” The last bit is noted with a small sense of satisfaction. Eventually Justin got frustrated with the owner’s frugal nature and quit. Soon after, the club went under. At one time, he had an opportunity to run Kenny’s Castaway, but he was adamant about the idea that he would book acts based on talent rather than draw. The owners didn’t share his priorities and Justin declined the job. In general though, he speaks highly of The Speakeasy and the Fat Black Pussycat, the two venues he managed, for building a steady audience through word of mouth and their own reputation. Justin does see some hope these days. He credits Eric Grandson at the Village Ma for trying to bring in real talent. A certain (mildly secretive) picking party too, held every other Tuesday in a large living room in SoHo, has built a large steady audience due to the credibility of the show rather than any single performer. The problem as he sees it lies with the club owners, not necessarily the high cost of rent. “It requires a sense of commitment on their part to what they are doing. It has to be inside your soul.” This commitment is necessary for owners to put in the work to promote and nurture artists. The real key is that if a club develops a reputation by consistently booking talented acts regardless of their draw, the venue itself will develop a steady audience of its own. I point out to that this is why I respect the Sidewalk Café, for being one of the only places I know where unestablished artists can go and be given the chance to grow and develop a following from the ground up. Begrudgingly, he gives the club credit. “How do you, as a traditional Greenwich folk singer, feel about antiFolk and the East Village scene?” I ask him, noticing his lack of enthusiasm over the Sidewalk Café. At ﬁrst he gives a little laugh and says that antiFolk has nothing to do with reality, but then he checks himself and gets more thoughtful. “It’s not folk. Folk music is based on a tradition and a history. The lyrics have to really say something. I don’t particularly enjoy what they’re doing over there, but it is its own valid form of music. It’s interesting, but it has no commercial value.” I point out that this is largely intentional, that it is not necessarily meant to be commercial. “People
who disdain commercialism disdain what they are doing,” he counters. “But haven’t you also noticed that commercialism tends to water the music down in order to increase its appeal? Look what’s happened to Nashville, or what Clear Channel has done to stiﬂe anything interesting from getting radio airplay.” “Yes that’s true. Clear Channel is terrible, and popular music can be awful and generic. But you can be commercial without being watered down. It’s something you have to ﬁnd in yourself. If you have a vision for what you are doing, then you know what your image is and how to sell it. If you believe in what you are doing, you’re going to want people to hear it. Otherwise who are you doing it for?” It is
an interesting idea that is slightly counter intuitive to those of us who grew up on the idea that art and commerce are intrinsically at odds. It reminds me of the story of how Nelly McKay was able to convince a major label to let her do a double album as her ﬁrst release. At ﬁrst the label laughed at the idea of a new artist trying to ask that. So her manager and her got facts and ﬁgures showing how double albums have historically sold better and been more proﬁtable. They came back and gave a presentation to the label complete with charts and graphs. In the end, the label acquiesced and gave her what she wanted. “Yes, but most managers today have no backbone. That’s why it gets watered down. Dylan had a good manager, the best, got him whatever he wanted and the label couldn’t
touch his music. Do you think any major label today would be putting out songs like that? There is an audience looking for that kind of authenticity, but you need to be some-what commercial if you want to reach them.” “Do you see hope in the rise of independent labels?” “It’s wonderful. It’s the best thing possible. I’m on one myself, Sutherland Records, and I couldn’t be happier with them.” Tom Ghent and Justin knew each other from Rhode Island and were playing around the basket houses at about the same time in the sixties. It was not an amicable relationship, and Tom could frequently be found heckling Justin during his sets. One night Justin switched to a cheap guitar during one such episode and smashed it over Tom’s head. They have been fast friends ever since. Thirty years later, Tom Ghent offered to put out Justin’s ﬁrst album on his label, Sutherland Records [see the full review in the CD reviews section]. It is a nostalgic album both in lyric and sound. It combines covers and originals all spun with a traditional acoustic folk feel. “The reason I became a good songwriter, according to Tom, is because I always knew how to cover a song well,” he tells me. “You have to interpret a song, not just mimic what’s already been done. You also have to understand what the lyrics are saying and communicate them. If you want to entertain, you have to communicate.” Justin’s adherence to this idea was rewarded when his album won him the New Century Music award for Best Folk Track, Male in 2001. While he started playing folk music over forty years ago, Justin has only been writing songs since 1987. It was after a ﬁfteen year hiatus from music that he was able to ﬁnd his own words. The hiatus began one night at The Four Winds when he played to an enthusiastic full house. When the basket came back it held only 16 cents. He quit folk music that night and began pursuing theatre, something that had intrigued him since his childhood when he used radio dramas and movies as a way to escape the hard life of the orphanages. Over the next ﬁfteen years he focused himself on acting and his family, even taking straight jobs including working as the business rep for the Actor’s Equity Association. When he was asked to play a song one night in 1987, at ﬁrst he declined, but soon was coerced, and he says his “ﬁngers remembered what his mind had forgotten.” He has been playing steadily since. The long hiatus partly explains Justin’s strong views on the state of music in New York today. He left music in the early seventies when Greenwich was ﬂourishing, and came back in the late eighties only to ﬁnd the scene a pale imitation of what it was. “There’s no center anymore, no atmosphere. People used to listen to folk music because it said something relevant about their lives, and now everything’s gotten so dumbed down.” And yet, he still lives on Macdougal St. and stays active in the music in Greenwich Village. Despite its changes over the last half century, it will always be Justin’s home. Unfortunately you won’t ﬁnd Justin playing live these days. “I won’t give an audience second best,” he says.
Chemotherapy has taken its toll on his voice and causes his hands to tremble when he plays. I don’t notice a lessened quality to his performance, but I understand that an artist who knows the proud feeling of giving your all for an audience might not enjoy going on stage feeling that it’s not his best. “I’d like to get over this, to be able to play live again, maybe record a second album. Can’t tell though, the way things are going.” In 2004 the New York City Council recognized Justin with a Proclamation honoring him for his years of dedication to the folk music tradition of Greenwich Village and the city. It is impressive hanging on his wall, and I ask him how it came about. He looks at it with pride, then gives a little laugh. “They’re always giving those things out. If we turn on channel 74, we can probably see them presenting one right now.” I assume he is exaggerating and just being humble, but then he turns on the TV and switches to channel 74. Sure enough the City Council is handing out Proclamations honoring Puerto Ricans in the community. “It’s still a really nice honor,” I tell him sincerely. “Do you have any closing comments, words of wisdom for us?” “Oh, I’m not a wise man. I like to tell people that I have decided to not give advice any more, and that the rest of you should really do the same.” I appreciate the joke, but press him further about what kind of a legacy he hopes to have left. “I do hope people remember the ghosts and the spirit of Greenwich Village. There was so much here. Before the folkies, there were the beatniks -they were the most commercial of them all. With their bongos, cigarettes, and berets, they knew exactly what their image was and they weren’t afraid to sell it because they knew what it meant. Before them there were the bohemians, writers, actors, playwrights. Then of course there were the hippies after us who turned into yippies and ruined everything. It was all here in Greenwich, back when the East Village was called the East Side, it still doesn’t seem like it should be called a “village” to me. There was the art and life, and people coming together and the most important thing was to “drop out,” but then the yippies tried to make it political and it just didn’t work, but anyway... That and the rents rising, and I don’t think it could ever happen here again, but I hope it can still go on somehow.” I tell him about the open mic I went to the night before, where we stayed until four in the morning, starting impromptu bands, trading songs, reveling. He looks pleased. Never mind whether it was East Side, Greenwich, East Village, folk or antiFolk, I feel conﬁdent that Justin doesn’t need to worry, that no matter how high the rents go, how short sighted club owners may be, or theoretically impossible it is for us to survive here, inexplicably the spirit is alive, and every year they’ll be more of us coming in to ﬁnd it and keep it going. sutherlandrecords.com
queen of the scene
“Amy’s music stands out because she writes the kind of songs you instantly know you love,” says friend and fellow singer/songwriter Jeff Jacobson. “I still remember the ﬁrst time I heard her play. Her songs stay with you long after you’ve heard them because of the honesty with which she writes about the people and places in her life. She makes you feel like you’ve been there or knew them too. That’s why when she plays people listen.” Amy is constantly amazed by this kind of praise that people bestow on her and her songs, just as she is always humbled by the crowds that come see her play. She is generally humble about what she’s done as a musician in New York, which is what makes her so endearing. This is especially true considering how respected and important she has become to the singer/ songwriter scene. A beloved performer and songwriter, she also hosts one of the city’s most inﬂuential and popular open mics, DTUT’s Wednesday night “Open Up.” She has lost all delusions of rock star glory that she may have once harbored on arriving in New York, and is instead ﬁnding a different kind of success, something more grounded and local, based on fostering a strong supportive community and almost reluctantly building an ever growing fan base through patience and diligence to her craft. Before ever thinking of becoming a songwriter Amy was raised on the strict study of classical piano in the Suzuki method starting at age four, in Charleston, South Carolina. She then expanded into musicals and operas as she got older. The daughter of a priest, her and her sister would perform Indigo Girls songs at her church after she took up the guitar in middle school. Later she picked up a ﬂair for creative spontaneity singing in an improv comedy troop. Not until her mid twenties did she ﬁnd herself faced with a sorely broken heart and ﬁnally turn to songwriting. At ﬁrst it wasn’t meant as anything more than therapy for herself, but while attending graduate school at Yale for technical design and production in the School of Drama she began performing
for other people. Pretty soon she had recorded her ﬁrst ep, ‘Things To Say,” and was making excursions to New York where she began playing at the Sidewalk Café. What she found there drew her in and after her ﬁrst year at Yale she dropped out and moved to the city. Her ﬁrst summer here, she practically lived at the Sidewalk. Her devotion to the club eventually led to her being given the opportunity to run
by Paul Alexander
the legendary Monday night Antihootenanny from January through August of 2004 while it’s usual host, Lach, was away on tour. The love Amy had for the community she found has carried through to this day. She laments that her growing audience of friends and fans makes it harder for her to play the smaller venues she loves like Sidewalk, or more recently Rockwood Music Hall. It isn’t that she minds the larger space, but she isn’t fond of the idea of her friends having to pay to see her or being separated from her audience. She sights a variety of inﬂuences for her work, Lyrically she admires, Patty Grifﬁn. For more of a full band sound she takes inspiration from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cake. She also has noted the inﬂuence of “quirky bands” like the Postal Service, Death Cab For Cutie, Citizen Cope, and her hometown heroes Jump, Little Children. But ever the local supporter, she says it is her friends and fellow songwriters who give her the most inspiration. She relishes the opportunity to run her open mic as a chance to always pick up new ideas and encouragement, and says that it is these friends who keep her in tune with what is really going on in the music world. It was a close friend who tragically inspired many of the songs on Amy’s last album, when fellow songwriter Aaron Wilkinson was killed. He left an important and lasting impression on audiences and musicians in the city and around the country. The loss is felt keenly in Amy’s songs, where her masterful song craft pay him tribute and mourn the tragedy with an open emotion that can be felt. After several years as the host, Hills remains impressed by the people who continue to attend her open mic because of how supportive they are, especially the Upper East Siders who live in the neighborhood and stop in just because they genuinely want to listen. Years after its inception, the atmosphere at Amy’s open mic is just as enchanting as it has always been, something she credits to the fact that she is still enjoying herself, especially as she watches her friends grow as songwriters, performers, and people. Still, for all the great songwriters Amy has loyally watched share their therapeutic and beautiful lyrics each week, she is sometimes bothered by other songwriters who come-off as selfimportant; people who arrive at her open mic almost with an aura of entitlement. Although it may seem hard to stomach the overly self-important songwriter, it is actually the nonlisteners at the open mic who bother Amy the most because she knows how much listening to others has helped her grow as a songwriter and performer. She says she hates to see artists fail to take full advantage of the immense amount of inspiration her open mic offers every Wednesday night. Amy’s creative well has run low as of late, a plague which afﬂicts almost all songwriters at some point in time. Yet Amy seems unnaturally comfortable with it. She attributes her drought of only two new songs in the last eight months to both the intimidation of playing in the band Cockroach with a songwriter as talented as Dan Penta, along with the higher standards she has developed for song craft which have made her more particular about her own writing. She considers herself lucky for the chance to work with Dan, who she used
to admire from afar when he fronted the AntiFolk “it band” Larval Organs. The new incarnation Cockroach, recently renamed Hearth, is itself a local force of unparalleled talent, self described as “folk-noir.” Intimidation aside, Amy constantly reminds herself that she has always been inspired by friends, Danny Kelly for one. A familiar face on the Sidewalk Café AntiFolk scene, who inspired Amy to writer her ﬁrst protest song. In the face of her writer’s block she is now seeking out more ways to collaborate with fellow musicians. Currently, she is pursuing a collaboration with singer/songwriter and banjo demigod, Debe Dalton, and the world famous Undisputed Heavyweights. Amy is appreciative that she is always supported by “an army of helpers” here in the city, She believes that there is a real feeling of reciprocal support between artists in New York City, a support network which she helps to foster as she strives to go see as many of her friends shows as possible. This is quite a feat for someone with such a large amount of songwriter friends, but one she takes very seriously. She is constantly amazed with the amount of great original music the New York scene offers, as she insists that every night there is something legitimately worth seeing here. One such artist whose notoriety Amy has watched blossom over the past several years is her good friend Jeff Jacobson. Jeff holds Amy in equal regard for both her dedication and her music. “I ﬁrst met Amy at her open mic,” says Jeff, “ which is the best in NYC due to the way she always creates such a supportive and friendly environment. People always come back, and it says so much about Amy as a person—the way she makes you feel special and always encourages you to do your best, and not worry about just getting out there and going for it. I’m not even sure she knows she does it, it’s just her way. Amy was huge help for me as I was starting out, as I know she is for countless others. Her open mic is still the ﬁrst place I think of to try out new songs.” Since September of 2004, Amy has worked at Engine Room Audio as the manager of the studio and duplication house. Her boss is Mark Christensen, a seasoned producer, who is currently helping Amy produce a new six song EP and is also working on a three song demo for Cockroach. Having happily lost her major label aspirations, she credits her change of heart to her time working with producers at Engine Room Audio and elsewhere, who have all had record deals and have helped the idea lose its appeal. Still, even as Amy’s audiences outgrow her favorite venues and she continues to attract attention at every level of the game from other artists and the media, she mostly remains interested in just making music, and has completely abandoned any suppressed delusions of grandeur she admits she may have secretly harbored upon arriving in NYC. These days her only real goals for the future include continuing to live the life she currently enjoys, and maybe ﬁnd some more time for herself and for the City, as she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Nevertheless, like many singer/songwriters in the New York scene, Amy still really wants to make a living as a musician, and she knows that might mean the next step is ﬁnding herself a legitimate manager, publicist,
or some other form of support. All the same, Amy’s thoughts on success have shifted over the course of her time in NYC, most notably as she has watched her friends achieve a lot of “success,” but only through what she sees as shameless self promotion. According to Amy, “I never really liked the idea of a ‘scene,’ but I guess if there is a scene I’m in it. I mean, Lach gave me opportunities and was very supportive.” Even still, for someone so in awe of new artists who makes friends and gathers support on any given Monday or Wednesday at either Lach’s Antihootennany or her own open mic, Amy cannot deny that New York City has a vibrant singer/ songwriter scene. She understands that not everyone can appreciate the music from the New York scene because it requires thought, and some people may never get it, but she also asserts “that’s why I love it.” Her love comes through in her hard work and humble enthusiasm, which serve as an inspiration and example to singer/songwriters all over the city. If there is a scene, she is not only a part of it, she is in large part responsible for the vibrant community it has become. amyhills.com dtut.com
“welcome back my friends to the show that never ends...”
So, the Summer AntiFolk Festival is about to start. And you may ask yourself, “What is this AntiFolk Festival?” And you may wonder, “What is AntiFolk in the ﬁrst place? ”The answers to these questions, like so many of the important ones, are in fact connected. It’s that time of year again... August, for those of you who have been around the block - the block being 6th Street - means that the Summer AntiFolk Festival is underway. The AntiFolk Festival, a 20-year tradition now, is a cornerstone of the AntiFolk experience. Its history is wrapped in legend. Herein lays the tale: Back in the day, there was a little village called Greenwich, and in it, there was a long tradition of people aping a man called Dylan. Into that community strode, proud and brave, a youth with but one name; and his name was Lach. They booed him off the stage. “You had these white singer songwriter kids who were playing their boring little songs,” Lach explains. “They had their teeny little kingdom and they weren’t going to let anyone in who didn’t kowtow or bow down to them. So I had to create my own club, my own revolution.” That club was his Rivington Street loft, soon named the Fort. There, in response to the West Village’s New York Folk Festival, Lach put together a reaction, a response, a nascent revolution, in the AntiFolk Festival. Over the years, such powerhouse acts at Jen’s Revenge, Lunchin’, Adam Brodsky and Neal with an A have been featured at AntiFolk Festivals, as well as lesser-knowns like Regina Spector, Mary Ann Farley, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Hamell on Trial, John S. Hall, and the Moldy Peaches. It’s part of what makes AntiFolk a community, this self-reﬂective act of mutual support and congratulations. It brings out the brightest in people.
The AntiFolk Festival
by Jon Berger
In the past, there have been outdoor concerts in Tompkins Square and Central Park, parades, multiple venues ala CMJ, banners, radio show tie-ins and donations to various good causes. Last year’s Winter Festival featured its own miniature British Invasion, with the toddling UK AF scene coming to town to play a score of gigs. This year, the Sidewalk Cafe hosts the entire event, and it’s to be a more intimate affair. Just acts on stage doing their thing. However the individual festival plays out, though, there’s always an increased sense of community throughout the scene, and a sense of exhaustion when it’s over. And a brunch. Don’t forget brunch! The Festival runs from Saturday August 13 through Sunday, August 21. On the various bills this year include acts such as Ben Face, Casey Holford, Jenn Lindsay, Peter Dizozza and Belowsky. Haven’t heard of any of them? Go to the shows: you may well be talking about them for weeks. antifolk.net next issue: Debbie Dalton reports from the Fest!
CLARENCE’S WISH (from Jason, Joie and Lach)
Paine (November, 2000) Thomas Paine stands at the foot of a bloody red stained guillotine he has tears in his eyes a stoic old face he turns to me asks which ﬂag do we next want to stain does red go better with white & blue, or yellow which coats nicer, stars or sickles? Blue Joy Out of gray sky came a bright blue bird. He sat upon my window sill and for an instant -no more than a ray of sun in the whirl of time- we stared at one another He then lifted his blue wings and gently returned to the gray. I combed my hair. I brushed my teeth. I dressed. I then had my morning lemon and went off to work. And when the gray had gone to yellow and from yellow to a soft, mellow brown, I gathered my things and rushed home I wanted to see if he had come again with evening time Why? I could not really say Perhaps, this is what loneliness can come to -Donald Green Grey Cloud Sandwich “That wasn’t even a little snack,” said the Twilight to the Night. “That Day was like a little bite.” Unsatisﬁed, it wandered to the pantry of the sky, made a grey cloud sandwich, sat and sighed. - Frank Hoier
When I wished I wasn’t born and that little putz Clarence came along to show just what would be up… I saw things I never dreamed dreamt things I’d never seen gone to places I’d never been. It was astonishing… The future passed on by and I saw a day without me. A week without me. A life without me. It was strange and wonderful and done in the twinkle of an eye. It was astonishing…
they wear green now A world when I was never born I say my clothes never worn do you like red and green? my mother’s hymen never torn (and that’s an image I’ll always mourn). like christmas I saw a life I lacked he smiles a globe where I was a ghost. we’d better get shopping I saw an existence from which I was extricated and I’m here to tell you, it was no pretty picture. - Dave Cuomo Though to you, it would seem no different. For the clouds were the same. The skies as blue. The oceans as thunderous The people as proud, as poor, as puerile and potent. It was astonishing… A world without me was indistinguishable from my own lost lonely, long-lambasted, lengthy life. A world without me was as sweet, as supple, as strong and smart and as sad as the one I stride. There must be a mistake, Clarence said, but there was none. My existence proved meaningless, empty, unmourned… The world without me was unfortunately identical. but, at least, I knew, I could end it with a clear conscience. No one would even know I was gone from their astonishing life. -Jonathan Berger
“Jesus Don’t Give Tax Breaks.” Yes you may get a job you ain’t even qualiﬁed for. You may even get out of ﬁghtin’ in a war. You may live your whole life and never have to sweep your ﬂoor. But Jesus don’t give taxbreaks to the rich, lord God, Jesus don’t give tax breaks to the rich. When you get to heaven and you knock upon the gate. You may think you can walk right in but someone will say wait. No taxbreak givin’ Republican president’s gonna help your fate. No cause Jesus don’t give taxbreaks to the rich. lord God, Jesus don’t give tax breaks to the rich. Yes you may beg & plead & say you never harmed no one. But you ain’t never helped nobody either what good have you done? If you believe in Jesus why you so afraid to lose your gun? No, no Jesus don’t give tax breaks to the rich, lord God, Jesus don’t give taxbreaks to the rich. So all you wealthy people feelin’ like you’re on a throne. You can save all of your money & keep it for yourself alone. But judgment day you may ﬁnd what it’s like to weep & moan. Lord cause Jesus don’t give tax breaks to the rich, lord God, Jesus don’t give tax breaks to the rich.
double feature! listen to these songs at alloyradio.com/urbanfolk
Why the hell did you write this song?
I was reading Al Franken’s book “Lies & the Lying Liars Who Tell Them”, and this song just popped into my head melody and all one day. It was done in 5 minutes. I was a block from my apartment which is on 129th & Lenox in Harlem. Making the trip from the Village, or downtown up to Harlem everyday I get to thinking about what some people have, and what others don’t have a lot. I don’t think I know how to run the world, but it seems to me a little sharing could seriously change the world. I always liked the Woody Guthrie song, “Jesus Christ”. It says, “He went to the preacher, he went to the sheriff, Told them all the same; Sell all of your jewelry and give it to the Poor, But they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.” We are in a new age of materialistic, self obsessed, greed, and it will never bring anyone happiness. So basically I’m trying to say to people, instant karma’s gonna get you! I am sarcastically pointing out that Bush and his rich Christians don’t really follow the word of Jesus. They don’t fear Jesus, they fear being poor. I don’t want this to be an us-them ﬁnger pointing song. I simply used the word Republican because it’s relevant right now. I am saying that greed is evil. If there were an opposite to love it would be greed. And why in the world are we here? Surely not to live in pain & fear. more about Frank Hoier at myspace.com/frankhoier more about Mick Flannery at mickﬂannery.com
Mick Flannery, what the hell is this song doing?
Take it on the Chin
(Andy Dunne) Ray (Rory O’Brien) Luther (Ricky Lynch) Paulie (Mick Flannery) John Lyrics in bold print Lyrics in italics Lyrics underlined Lyrics in normal text I put ﬁfty ﬁne dollars on this hand. I’m in. I’m out. Not a chance So only one of you dolls wanna dance, Boy you’d better have some balls in those pants. Gimme two cards. One card. Oh look at that! Try to ﬁll a ﬂush up to bite me in the ass. Jese, you must think Lady Luck is up there hidin’ in your hat, Or your tryin’ to fuckin’ fool me boy we’ll see about that, It’s a hundred to play now, we’ll see what you weigh now, the pot is getting hotter boy we’ll see if you stay round. Chorus Oh the road, the riverboat, Take it on the chin and deal again, Till your money’s spent. Verse 2 Jacks or better, twos are wild, Man I haven’t won a round in a while, This whiskey must be cloudin’ my mind, I’m getting older could be losin’ my style. Hey John, I hear you’re leavin’ us, Headin’ off to better parts, Don’t you go forget us now. I hope you’re gonna send a card. Ya I’m headin down south a while, You know me just the wife and I, I hear the weather’s mighty ﬁne, Down by Saint Columbentine. But God knows I need a break from ye, And payin’ your kids college fees, You’ll miss my money more than me, Hey why don’t the two of you calm down you’re actin’ like a pair of ... Shut the fuck up, what the fuck’s it got to do with you. I don’t see your money here so you don’t get to contribute Nothin’ to this little battle me and the boy are havin’.. You gonna play or you gonna talk all day, If you don’t got the money throw those cards away. Ah you’re blufﬁn’ you got nothin’, I say read ‘em and weep cause I’m in. Chorus x2 Ray makes ﬁrst bet The other three respond, only Luther sees the bet Ray tries to rise Luther They buy cards, Paulie is dealing. Ray tries to predict what Luther has
Ray raises the bet and tries to rise Luther again Luther doesn’t see the bet, Ray wins the pot During the chorus John gathers the cards
John calls the next game and deals
Paulie tries to stir trouble by makin John seem like a deserter
By this time John and Paulie are out of the game Luther and Ray are head to head again While john is talking the tension is rising between Luther and Ray, they’re raising the bets again and again.
Ray barks at John for trying to interfere
Luther, seeing that Ray is agitated tries to rise him Ray falls for it and sees Luthers last bet They both show their hands and Luther wins
IIX. The Needy The entire song he is looking me in the eye without moving. A little unnerved, but taking it as ﬂattery, I ham up my performance hoping to get a good tip. He looks young, but his dark beard is fairly full. His face looks lost and forlorn. There is something else there too, a little bit of madness, the subdued quiet kind that is more sad than threatening. I ﬁnish the song and he walks up to me. “I really like your music,” he says timidly. I can’t help but ﬁnd myself a little disappointed when people compliment me without seeming to even consider the idea of tipping, even if they do seem a little strange. Strange people carry change too. “Thanks man.” “ummm, you’re a really good guitarist.” “Not really, trust me.” “Do you... do you give guitar lessons?” “Naw, sorry, I’m really not that good. Guitar’s pretty easy to learn though. Just get a chord chart and drill Bob Dylan tunes. You’ll see. It’s just about the easiest instrument there is to pick up. Almost all my songs are only three chords or so.” His expression never changes and he looks at me in silence for a long time like he’s about to say something. He seems really awkward and needy and I feel bad, but I’ve always been a little socially awkward myself and didn’t know what to say either. I want to keep playing more songs before the train comes, but the way he looks at me as if deeply engrossed in our lack of conversation I feel like it would be rude, like cutting him off in mid silence. Finally his sad, lost expression brightens just a little. “Umm, will you be my friend?” I freeze up. The nice guy in me, the one who writes songs about being there for the people that no one else seems to need, wants desperately to say “Of course! Sure, lets go get a beer right now! (can you spot me one? I’ll get you back.)” But I don’t. I’d like to say I was being cautious, but really it was something a little less streetwise and a little more of just not wanting to get entangled in anyone else’s problem ﬁlled life when I’m pretty sure I have enough problems of my own. The train starts to pull in and he is still looking at me expectantly. “Sorry man, I’m kind of busy these days and I don’t really...” I trail off. He nods as if this was what he expected. “I’ll see you around though,” I offer. “Yeah, sure,” he turns around to board the train giving me one last dejected look as he steps on. I would feel worse if it wasn’t the same expression he usually seemed to carry.
a world going on underground
IX. Oaxaca, Mexico
by Dave Cuomo
You could hear her over a block away. It was a cocky voice, loud and angry, off key and very much the voice of a child. After a song she would come up and self righteously demand change like some spoiled kid. She wasn’t spoiled, though. When I ﬁrst saw her I couldn’t tell if she was just a kid playing on the street for the hell of it, maybe for some money for candy or sodas. With her demanding attitude in her little pink dress, she could easily pass as any cute bratty kid. But after seeing her singing by the wall of the cathedral all day, we found her panhandling with her family at night. I usually saved my coins for when she was singing. I wanted to be encouraging. I always gave her ten pesos, too large a tip for Oaxaca, customary for New York. Call it a cross-cultural exchange of ideas. Sometimes I felt bad about how much I enjoyed listening to her sing, like I was taking pleasure from someone else’s misfortune. But if so much of our art comes from pain and suffering, albeit not always to her extent, does that make all art appreciation a little sick and voyeuristic? Anyway, I couldn’t help it. The way she pumped her accordion with such vigor, the way she sang like she couldn’t care less whether or not you wanted to listen, you were going to hear her, and you were going to pay up. In a lot of ways she reminded me of what a lot of AntiFolk singers try to be. Except to her it wasn’t some sort off ironic and jaded art form, she really was a desperate kid with a very good reason to be pissed. I sincerely hope that in some way she enjoyed singing, or that she will learn to as she gets older. Maybe that’s naïve, but I like to think of her in ﬁfteen years putting all that anger and self-righteousness into conscious expression, telling us all to fuck off from a stage. New York’s hipsters would drool and she wouldn’t give a damn. X. Maybe I Shouldn’t Be Printing My Phone Number in a Magazine “Hello?” “Yes, is this Dave?” “Yeah.” “Hi, it’s Sylvia. Remember me?” “Sylvia...” “I saw you playing in the subway the other day. Oh, it just brightened my afternoon.” “Oh, wait. Yeah, I remember. You waited around with me
for the ﬁddle player to leave. I think you even missed a few trains to listen. That was really nice.” “Yeah, oh, I really enjoy your singing.” “Thank you” [awkward silence] “So I just wanted to call and say hi and see how you were doing” “Oh, I’m good. You know, pretty busy. How are you?” “Good, good, thanks for asking.” [long pause] “So yeah, I’d really like to be able to come see you play at your show, if only I had someone to go with, or someone to stay with in the city. I don’t think I should come back home that late by myself.” “Oh yeah. I hope you can make it though. It should be a good show.” “Uh huh, I really want to come. It’s just if I had somewhere to stay in the city...” “Yeah, that’s hard. It’s probably not good to be on the subway that late by yourself.” “Yeah, I don’t know.” “Ok, hey I’ve got to get on the train now, I’m late to go play somewhere uptown. Hope you can make it to the show.” “Oh, ok. I’ll call you again when I see if I can get a friend to go with me or ﬁnd somewhere to stay, and you can tell me what time and where it is again.” “Ok, yeah.” “All right, good to talk to you, I’ll call you tomorrow.” XI. Smoking for Two After ﬁnishing up playing for the day I walk to the far end of the platform to take the train downtown. I smell a cigarette, which always makes me a little jealous since I don’t usually have the guts to try to get with that in a station. I notice a very pregnant woman standing there, so I look around to tell whoever it is smoking that they should be more polite around an expectant mother. Then I notice that she’s the one smoking. Not wanting to judge, I try to bum one off her. “Sorry, this is the only one I have. All my stuff keeps getting stolen.” “That’s terrible. How?” “The shelters are so awful. The women are so mean! They’re always ﬁghting, and as soon as you fall asleep they steal all your stuff. They take your clothes. They even steal your underwear while you’re sleeping! You’re underwear! They’re mean, mean! I can’t sleep there. I don’t know where to go.” “Oh god, that’s awful. Do they have a shelter for women that would be better?” “I was at the women’s shelter, and the women were just so awful. I don’t think I can go back. I’m sorry, do you have any change? Can you help me out a little?” When I ﬁrst saw her she didn’t strike me as homeless, but now I start to notice it better. Her dress is a little more dirty and rumpled than I had at ﬁrst seen, her tied back hair looks unkempt, and her face, while still pretty, is starting to show a few cracks and
a look of despair. “Yeah, yeah, of course.” I had gotten tipped two gold dollars. I always save the dollar coins for other street musicians or panhandlers. I give her both of them. “Thank you, you’re really sweet.” I can’t stand the thought of her and her baby in a shelter, afraid to fall asleep, of that poor kid growing up on our pitiful excuse for social welfare, probably getting taken away only to be tossed around in foster homes. “Do they have a place for women with children? Somewhere better for you, like a shelter speciﬁcally for mothers?” “I can’t go back to the shelters. They’re awful! I don’t know where I’m supposed to go. What should I do? Where can I go?” I always like to be the kind of person who has something to offer people, some form of help, a good idea, some way in which everything can be all right. I rack my brain and realize that I have absolutely nothing for her. “I, I don’t know. I’m sorry. I really hope you can ﬁnd something.” “Thank you.” “I have to go call someone real quick before the train comes.” “Ok.” I walk up the steps to the mezzanine and watch there for the train so that I can slink back down and duck into a different car where she won’t see me. I don’t know what else I could say to her, and with nothing to offer I feel the need to run away. I ﬁnd myself wondering if she’d gotten pregnant since being on the street. Was it rape, or had she found a moment of passion with someone? I wish there were a way to ﬁnd out her story. Honestly though, I don’t think I could take hearing all the sad circumstances that led her here, pregnant and alone. Easier to picture it how I’d like to imagine it, a story with it’s tragedies, but with at least a moment of love and sweetness too. I want to think that the story isn’t ﬁnished yet, that there is some hope for a better ending, but sitting there on the mezzanine steps with nothing more to offer than a few coins, it’s really hard to believe. XII. I Think I Might Start Screening My Phone Calls “Hello, Dave?” “Hello?” “Hi, it’s Sylvia.” “Oh, hi.” “Just wanted to call and see how you are. I haven’t seen you playing down at Union Square lately.” “No, no, I’ve been kind of busy getting the new issue of
the magazine out. You know how it goes.” “Mm hmm. I’m still hoping to come see you play, you know, just need to ﬁnd someone to go with or somewhere to stay. I really can’t think of anyone I could go with.” “Yeah, it’d be great if you could make it. I’m a little nervous about it honestly, but we’ve been practicing a lot and I think it should be good.” “That’s wonderful.” [long pause] “So, how are you, is everything going well?” “Uh huh, how about you?” “Oh good, I’ve been working, and that’s good.” “I’m glad,” Silence again. I search my brain for subject matter. Finding none, “Hey I’m sorry, I’ve got to run, but I’ll talk to you soon?” “Yeah. Well, good to hear from you. I’ll be looking for you at Union Square.” “Yeah, hopefully I’ll be able to get back down there soon. I do miss it. I’ll talk to you soon, ok?” “Ok, I’ll call you later.” XIII. 14th St. Funeral The platform has started to smell like death. While I play the late shift, the benches are crowded with pan-handlers, bickering among themselves and loudly shaking cups of change at my audience. Seeing as I was there ﬁrst, I decide to say something. “Hey, listen man,” I say to the most obnoxious of the bunch “I think if we work different ends of the platform we might both do a little better.” I never know how to feel about the fact that people begging become competition for me and cut into my business. What does that make me? “Hey man, fuck you,” he growls. “I’m sitting here. Who the fuck are you? How about you shut up and get out of here. Goddamn people, telling me to move. Hey, fuck you.” I shrug and go back to playing. If there wasn’t something so tragic about him, I would wish they were more like the older guy sitting alone at the end of the benches. He doesn’t beg. Doesn’t say a word actually. He just sits there staring off, wrapped in a blanket with his cart next to him, stuffed bags spilling out over the seats. I wonder if my playing annoys him, especially when I repeat the same songs a bunch of times over the course of a few hours. Honestly though he doesn’t seem to notice much. The way he looks out from his seat is so calm, so ﬁnal, steady. There is an air of acceptance about him, as if he’d resigned himself to the idea of living out his days in his seat on the bench. The only person I’ve seen him talk to is Jeff Braxton, the singer who played the spot right before me. They seemed familiar, so I ﬁgure he must not mind music too much. While I’m playing, and with plenty of people standing around, one of the other panhandlers gets up and walks over to one of the support beams, unzips his pants and relieves himself. This helps to explain the smell. To my relief, one by one the noisy ones leave for a more lucrative spot. All except for the older guy at the end. In fact, as I keep coming back over the course of a few weeks, I never see him move from under his blanket. I never see
him go relieve himself either, and I realize with some horror that he might not bother to get up for that anymore, again helping to explain the smell. I never spoke to him, and it was a little unnerving to always ﬁnd him there week after week. I don’t think he was usually even sleeping. He just sat there staring off. More unnerving though, was the day I came back and found him gone. No trace of him remained and the platform had lost its ominous odor. I like to think that maybe they came and got him, took him to a hospital or a home where he could be taken care of. Somehow, I doubt it though. What scares me most is the prospect that he died down there alone, while all of us went about our days with hardly a second thought. I know this is an old story for New York, the most common kind of urban legend told around here, but I’m still not comfortable with that and shudder to think that I might be someday. XIV. I Have Stopped Answering the Phone if I Don’t Recognize the Number “Hi Dave, it’s Sylvia. Just wanted to call and say hello, see how you were. Haven’t seen you playing in the subway lately. Did you write to the man from the café that I told you about? I think I gave you his email address on the message. They had a piano player there the other day that was just wonderful, and I thought about you. Well, anyway I already told the manager all about you, and how good you are, and they said you should write to them if you want to play there. It’s right near where I live in Brooklyn too, so I could deﬁnitely come see you and I wouldn’t even need to ﬁnd anyone to go with. That would be so wonderful! Well ok, call me when you get a chance, I’d love to hear from you. Talk to you soon, bye.” XV. New Friend I don’t recognize a lot of people, especially considering the amount I come in contact with through playing underground, but as soon as he gets on the train I remember him. Same dark beard, same needy lost puppy dog eyes. I’m praying that he won’t notice or remember me. I think about getting up and going to the next car, but ﬁgure it really shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t even have my guitar with me. For added security, I take off my hat and stick it in my bag, feeling conﬁdent now that I’m just any random subway rider with a slightly familiar face. For a few stops he is facing away from me, but then he turns around and notices. Smiling a little, he walks over. “Hey.” He gives a little wave. “Hey, how’s it going?” I resign myself to the encounter and answer friendly enough. “Good.” I have to give him credit for the way he can hold a gaze through uncomfortable silence like it’s nothing. “Where’re you off too?” I ﬁnally ask. “50th St. You?” “Fif-” I catch myself. “42nd, need some guitar strings.” “Oh.” he gets that brief hopeful look again. “Um, will you
be my friend?” I start to freeze up, but then I think about it for a second and shrug inwardly. “Sure.” “Really? Hey, that’s really cool.” His eyes are just about twinkling, and he has a full on smile. “Do you have a pen? You could give me your phone number.” I go to hand him a magazine, then catch myself. I pat my pockets and look up at him. “Sorry, no.” His expression starts to fade a little. “Don’t worry though, I’ll see you around.” His smile returns. “Yeah. Great.” There is only a brief silence. “You ever take the express train?” “Sometimes, I think it takes longer waiting for it a lot of the time, though.” “Yeah.” He gives a little laugh. “What’re you going to 50th for?” “Shopping. You?” “Yeah, me too, shopping. Need some new guitar strings. My old ones are dead.” “Oh. Cool.” Without too many long silences we pull into 50th St. “All right man, I’ll talk to you soon.” I shake his hand good-naturedly. “Yeah. Great. I’ll talk to you soon.” When the doors close he turns around and ﬂashes me a smile. I give a little wave and smile back at him, realizing only after the train pulls away that it is genuine. more stories at myspace.com/cuomomusic
Jon Berger on...
I host this open mic on Fridays. I’m not proud of that fact, even though it’s the best open mic on Fridays from 5-7 on Avenue C. It just happens to be the only open mic from 5-7 on Avenue C. This isn’t promotion. The open mic does all right, but just that. We rarely have more than ten people show up, which is really less than you want to hear your material after you’ve lugged your guitar however many hours, rushing to get their in the short short time period the open mic is running. On the other hand, if many more than ten people show up, then each act gets less than eight minutes, counting set-up time, and it’s not really worth it to walk the half mile from the nearest train station. My open mic has never really succeeded. But that’s OK, because I go to a lot of other successful open mics each and every week. On Mondays, I hit the AntiHoot at the Fort at the Sidewalk Cafe (94 Avenue A), called the longest running open mic in the city. It’s also just about the busiest. It’s run by Lach, the booker at the Sidewalk, and the founder of AntiFolk. The AntiHoot’s an institution for a reason; it’s a hoot! Every week, as many as eighty people sign up to do two songs or eight minutes of material. When they get their randomly assigned spot (except for those gigging the club that week; they get preferential treatment), they have the opportunity to hit the stage any time from eight until two thirty in the morning. The ‘Hoot is long-running in a bunch of ways. The thing about the ‘Hoot, though, is that it’s fun. There
by Jon Berger
are a lot of regulars, so there’s a sense of community about the place. And Lach puts on a really good show. His regular monologues, puns, and one-liners show he’s paying attention And his interaction with the performers keeps them on their toes, and entertains the audience. There’s a two-drink minimum at the Sidewalk, but I’ve found ways around that. Monday night is probably the high point of the open mic week, with spaces also open at the Baggot Inn, Caffe Vivaldi, and Bowery Poetry Club, but I’m almost always at the AntiHoot. Tuesday, I’m in Long Island City, at The Creek and the Cave (10-93 Jackson Avenue), where Paul Alexander is getting things off the ground. The room is pretty comfortable, and I recognize a lot of the faces, but because it’s a different borough, and there’s a bar, and a restaurant all attached, there’s a chance to play for an entirely new audience. Of course, no room is ever ﬁlled with strangers for long. You can often recognize the desperate and the lame from some other open mic. Say hi to me. I was pretty resistant to start going to C&C, because, after all, it’s in Queens, but it’s surprisingly easy to get to - much more convenient than the Sidewalk. Alexander also books the Thursday nights there, when he’s not busy eating one of the giant fucking burritos. The open mic starts around eight, goes until everyone wants to go home, which seems typically around eleven. Wednesdays, I go to DTUT (1626 Second Avenue), where Amy Hills has hosted her Open Up for over two years. This is my favorite room for an open mic. There’s no enforced minimum in the coffee house, it’s well-lit, there are lots of attractive women running through, and it’s in a neighborhood where lots of stuff is going on. Also, it’s closer to home. Amy Hills is one of the prettiest open mic hosts, and her concerted effort to make the acts - often new - feel at home is obvious, even if it’s sometimes to the detriment of the audience. But the place is said to be a pick-up place, and the deserts are amazing; they have a peanut butter rice krispy treat like you wouldn’t believe...The event runs from a completely random sign-up at 6:30 through eleven o’clock. Friday evenings sees me at the C-Note (157 Avenue C), at an open mic hosted by Jonathan Berger, who is me. Clearly, there is no better MC than me. I bring an energy and enthusiasm to the table that cannot be beat - and the jokes? Oi... The problems with the open mike are legion. It runs from
5-7, which is minute. Because most people have jobs, it’s almost impossible for most to get there at the beginning, and those who don’t have jobs have difﬁculty with the one-drink minimum. If too few people show up, then, it’s lame, but sometimes its worse when too many people show up, and not everyone gets to play two songs. More often, we can go around a few times, though, so everyone gets their chance to play again and again. And of course, hear Jonathan Berger spout off on any number of subjects he knows nothing about, like women and bathing. People don’t pay attention at the C-Note the way they should, and sometimes, folk leave right after doing their songs (like they have so many places to go at 6:30 on a Saturday. Freaks...), but it’s the only open mic that early on Friday, and the only open mic that features yours truly ranting for extended periods. Who could ask for anything more? Well, clearly, me. That’s why I hit so many other clubs so often. Uh... so what’s the point of this? I guess if you want to see me, Jon Berger, perform, or maybe just buy me a drink. this is roughly my schedule for the week. Stalkers, I’ve just given you a leg up. Do not waste it. antifolk.net/sidewalk.html thecreekandthecave.com dtut.com thecnote.com
Alec Wonderful recalls being abandoned by the West Village
by Alec Wonderful
I remember being banned from Folk City. I mean, sure, it’s an old story. Most of the early AntiFolk were on the West Side of town, playing our punk-inspired acoustic music, and then The Establishment would kick us out. It happened to Lach, it happened to Roger Manning, it happened to Cindy Lee Berryhill, it happened to Paul Hogan (long story), et al. But they were kicked out because of their musical ideologies. Now, granted, I shared those ideologies (DIY, kill your idols, sex with strangers in abandoned church buildings, wrestling crocodiles), but my banishment from Folk City had other reasons. The thing is… how do I say this without sounding egotistical? Well, think of it this way. You know how Bruce Springsteen and U2 used to play small clubs when they were getting started, but they don’t anymore? Hey, I’ve got a better example: the Beatles used to have a residency back at the Cavern Club, but eventually, they sold a few more records, and the place got packed, and they moved their residency over to Shea Stadium? It’s something like that. I remember the day that Mike Porco came up to me, telling me they couldn’t book me at Folk City anymore. “I’m sorry,” he said, teary-eyed, “but the club just can’t hold your crowds. People are getting hurt. We have to ban you from the club.” I couldn’t believe it. Folk City was where I’d had my ﬁrst four-way (triplet models), and I would never be able to play there again. I thought about ﬁghting it, but I didn’t want to hurt anyone, and there had been numerous injuries due to overcrowding. Also, knife ﬁghts to get tickets. The Voice did a cover story on it. “I’m so so sorry,” Mike repeated, openly weeping. I think he tried to cop a feel. So I took the ban quietly, though, occasionally, would book shows at Folk City under various pseudonyms. Alec Pseudonym, that was me. Alex Fantastic? I tried that one out once. Albrecht Wunderbar and the Weimar Republic did a couple of shows. Sometimes, I’d even perform using my birth name, Johnny Rotten, but that never worked out too well. I never wanted to leave the West Village music scene. That’s where some of my pre-peers came up. Great acts like Bob Dylan, like Mort Sahl, like Louis Armstrong. All the greats would make music in Greenwich Village. It hurt like hell to get out of Dodge. Luckily, there were others who were banned from the West Side. That was the genesis of the East Village acoustic scene, the folk punk revolution, the urban folk
Been There, Done That
existence, the days of AntiFolk. Good times. When Lach formed his little club in his little apartment, I thought I’d give him a shot in the arm, and pop over there. Now, it’s common knowledge that Lach worships me like something that gets worshiped a lot, and he was clearly not alone. Naturally the whole scene soon came to revolve around me. Not many people remember this anymore (I’m not saying anyone’s at fault, though personally, I blame the Swiss), but after I started showing up, the entire West Village crowd would pour into Lach’s open mic. Bleecker Street was a like a ghost town. It was a heady time, everyone so ﬁred up with creativity and my music and the feeling that something was happening, something big and wonderful so much like a dam just about to burst. It’s really too bad that didn’t work out. For who could have known that somewhere, there was an insidious conspiracy, a plot so powerful, so well-thoughtout, so encompassing in scope and dynamic in action, that the folk music world would quake, forever suffering the consequences of this scheme? I remember the day it all happened. I was in the midst of coitus with my then-girlfriend, who happened to be six Swedish singer-songwriters all with PhD’s in biochemistry, when I got a call from Robin Hirsch, of the Cornelia Street Cafe. “Dude,” I said, for I was always one to speak of the people, to the people, “What, as they say, is up?” “Alec,” he said, “I need to make you an offer you can’t refuse.” “OK,” I said, pushing one of the love-starved Swedes off of my ripped six-pack, “Shoot.” “I want to give you a substantial sum of money to leave the country.” “Say WHAT?” It was true. Robin explained that I needed to leave town. Apparently, I was too big for the West Village
and too big a draw to not be in the West Village. “We’ll even pay for your visa. How does Germany sound?” I explained I would never play Germany until they reunited under one ﬂag (which is altogether another story), and asked about the We of which he spoke. “All the West Village club owners are in on this,” Robin said, “We call ourselves… the Consortium.” “I’ll have to think on your offer,” I said. “You have two days.” It was soon after that that I went on my ﬁrst European tour. As an aside, I’ve always liked Scandinavians, which probably has something to do with their culture’s openmindedness and general musical appreciation, but certainly has much more to do with their insatiable appetite for sex with me. After I received the key to the city from the mayor of Copenhagen (who kept winking at me and rubbing up
against me in a way that was both a little off-putting and a little arousing), and found that it actually got me into banks and whorehouses and such, I realized being exiled from my native land wasn’t so bad. Why should only those in America experience my Wonderfulosity? I owed the world something, maybe half as much as it owed me. I was having such a good time in Scandinavia, and the money the Consortium invested in my disappearance was so mind-bogglingly vast, I could record with the Reykjavík Symphony – sure, I had to ﬂy them over, but so what? I could afford it. It was not long before I became the international superstar you know and worship today. Of course, by then, I was no longer bound by the laws of mortal men, so could travel the globe as I saw ﬁt. I even opened my own Greenwich Village club for a few months, but that’s a tale of another animal. These were good times for Alec Wonderful, and thus, the world.
Cockroach undegoes a name change
by Dan Penta
When I was about 18 I wrote this: COCKROACHES AND FAGGOTS Look to the gutter They scurry below Cockroaches and faggots Burning holes in their sides They were born brothers And scourged by mankind I took him as an epileptic He spat and then spoke Entanglederanged
I marked his scriptures Baptized them with boot heels Just as stones were broken Over the horns of the Golden Calf Only now the cow did not burn to dust It opened its mouth and swallowed me up Spinning in a black hole A wilderness dervish Intoxicated by ritual Shaded charcoal and milk-fed Until after passing My body was shattered By angelic razors Of lamenated light Splintered and dead Excreated from the idols gilded asshole I was reborn a cockroach. THE END This was the beginning of a sepration of image from image and back that I needed for a long time and now I don’t need it anymore and I don’t want it and it is gone. My name is Dan Penta and I play in this band called Hearth. hearthmusic.net
Pigeons Dedication to Marx
(Tanka) Two pigeons Squatting on the head Of the Karl Marx monument – Dropping lavishly; They do not give a shit’ski.
poetry & a short play
Tatiana Pahlen was born, raised, and educated in Moscow, fascinated by Russian literature. Since her arrival to New York in ‘86, she ﬁrst translated some of her earlier work, then started writing directly in English, a language she “respects and worships for its beauty.” Aside from poetry, she also dabbles in non-ﬁction, short stories and cartoons. She is a welcome ﬁxture at DTUT’s Wednesday night open mic. and is currently working on her ﬁrst book of poetry called “Poetry and Eye.” Read more at tatianyc.com.
The Blister (One act play)
Matilda, a thirty-something year old art critic. Paul, a middle age manager at an upscale hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Sunday morning: Matilda is on the way to church. A big hat covers her face. The phone rings: she picks up the receiver. We see Paul sitting in the chair with the Sunday Times on his lap. The page is opened on the art section. Paul: Hello! Hope I didn’t wake you up? Did I? Matilda: No, but I wish you did. Good morning, Paul! Paul: Listen, Matilda. I have some questions about your article. Matilda: Can we talk later? I’m late for mass! Paul: So, will I see you tonight? Matilda: Not sure. I’ve got this blister. Paul: Where? Matilda: On my lip. Paul: Really? Matilda: Looks bad. Paul: How often do you get those? Matilda: Sometimes . . . Paul: How strange! Matilda:I remember my ﬁrst when I was seven. Paul: Hmm. Matilda: It sits robustly on my upper lip. Huge! Paul: Does it hurt? Matilda: Every time I drink or smile. Paul: And you smile a lot. Matilda: Do I? Paul: Especially when you drink. Matilda: Hmm. Paul: I get blisters too. Usually on my hands.
Matilda: Really? Paul: Not often. Matilda: I bet! Do you have any now? Paul: I don’t know. Let me look. (He reaches for his spectacles.) I don’t see any. How did you get yours? Matilda: I was cooling off in front of the air conditioner, for an hour and a half. Remember? It was 108º yesterday. Paul: Did the air conditioner rub your lips? Matilda: Not really. Paul: How did you get this blister on your upper lip? Matilda: Don’t know. Paul: Is it a cold sore? Matilda: Yes, it is! Did I say a blister? Paul: You bet! Matilda: My God! Paul: Funny! Matilda: How strange. Paul: Not as strange as your article. Matilda: Really? Paul: Were you cracking apéritifs? Matilda: Certainly not! Paul: Shall we get some tonight? Matilda: If you won’t make me laugh. Paul: Can’t promise, we’ll discuss your article. Matilda: What is so funny about my article? Paul: Everything. Can we talk later? You are late for mass. Matilda: Forget it! I’m coming over. Matilda slips out of her pair of Gucci’s, tightens up her sneakers; leaves her straw hat on the chair; puts on the
tattered Yankee hat and runs out, dashing furiously to the front doors. We see Paul, with a gleeful smile, lighting up a thin brown cigarette. The coffeemaker is steaming. He adds a second cup on the coffee table. Then he searchers throughout the dusty box for his old records, ﬁnds “Who Could Compare With My Sweetest Matilda” and places it inside of the cherished gramophone, an old chump. The music is on. Paul sinks into his chair with the Sunday Times; it’s opened to the art section. The doorbell rings. A disheveled Matilda pops her head in. CURTAIN
Girl with a Pearl Earring
(To Vermeer) The glow of the solo pearl, Once lost in rays of beaming light, Transpired in the sparkle of the eyes Bursting through the bewitching frame, Aiming at me those lonesome mirrors. I’m drawn to their lucent charm they stare calmly with a prudent drive; leaning forward and disarmed I study the face of the Flemish maiden, capturing viewers from the wall. I cast a smile at this solemn soul, She smiled back, then leaped off the frame To give me her second abandoned pearl, She let go for the sake of a curl Fixed on the side of her covered ear. With chills up my spine I clasped the pearl, still warm, which made me feel dazed. Looking back at Vermeer’s canvas, I caught the artist’s withdrawn gaze, hidden in the eyes of his far-fetched girl -June 4, 2001
At Washington Square
I will chant again and again Till my voice is rasping And my feet sore From standing all day long At Washington Square Among other chanters Repeating over and over No more war . . . No more war . . .
Living in the past is an easy thing to do. I mean we’ve all had our own “glory days,” which is why I’ve been thinking that it’s somewhat sobering and even awakening to have a producer reminding me of who and what I am now. After all, as my producer recently reminded, an album may now be referred to as a CD or even an MP3 and not a “record,” but no matter what you call it, what my producer and I are assembling right now is a record of me, my songs, and a document of the here and now. Reﬂecting upon that, I have begun to rethink any initial misgivings I might have had about the way this album is progressing. I mean, I may have written some of these songs at the age of 18, recorded a few of them the way I heard them at 21, but just as Hemingway reads differently now and Scotch tastes pleasantly different, I am a different person today, coming at my songs from a different place, and I have to embrace that. I am beginning to see that my producer is ﬁghting me from time to time not to realize only his vision, but he is also attempting to help me ﬁnd the “Truth” in my songs as they exist today, even as I ﬁght him and don’t want to see that. Wars are waged everyday, and like the general of my own hero-bent mouth, I am beginning to learn the value of choosing my battles wisely. Indeed, after months of monotonous musing on music, one recent evening my producer and I found ourselves both too battle worn to solider on without a meeting of the minds. It’s not that Benjy or I ofﬁcially waved the white ﬂag of surrender or even called for the cease ﬁre of an armistice, I just think we were both ready to make an album together, and not constantly ﬁght over what’s right. Difﬁcult and as poetically disastrous as it was for both Benjy and I to let our thoughts run freely, in the end, I for one am beginning to appreciate the value of well staged diplomacy. Passion can be blinding, and can lead to a false sense of entitlement, especially when being applied to something as personal as art. Nevertheless, now that Benjy and I have broken down our Berlin Wall and have begun letting our ideas further each other rather than merely sabotaging one another’s intentions, I am amazed by what we are accomplishing. I have begun thinking that though I might be the only one who knows what I want from this album, I may not be the one who knows what should be on it, and even though I may play a teacher in my 9-5, I still have much to learn. From the beginning, I have realized that in order to make this the best album possible, I
War… what is it good for?
by Paul Alexander
need to be completely honest about what I can and cannot do. That’s why I was so open to Benjy’s suggestion that I see his friend, the famous vocal coach Don Lawrence, to work on certain vocal issues I have been ﬁghting for years. In the same vein, I know that’s why I hired a producer and multi-instrumentalist as hands-on as Benjy in the ﬁrst place. Even still, somewhere along the way I think I have let my own “ideas” get in the way of what might be best for the album as a whole. That’s not to say that I am not still weary at times of the choices Benjy is making for something that is supposed to be a representation of my art, but I’ve begun forcing myself to remember that though I wrote the songs, like my days spent as part of a band, when working collectively on a project with someone, sometimes I need to let go. That said, a seasoned producer, a serious philosopher, and someone I feel fortunate to call a friend, Benjy King has taught me more than when to play and not to play, he has begun to teach me when to speak and when to listen. Because after all, like life, music isn’t all about just creating sound—sometimes music is about listening. To learn more about Paul Alexander visit: palexandermusic.com
send your cd to 306 Jefferson St. 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237
listen to the samples from the artists reviewed in this issue at alloyradio.com/urbanfolk
Brendan O’Hara and the Humble Ones Perceptive Inception Jazz inﬂuenced piano pop and done fairly well, I think I like what Brendan is going for as a cool and thoughtful jazz poet more than I actually like the way the sound comes out. His voice is pretty good, if a little whiny at times, he has a good easy rhythm, and as far as my unlearned ear can tell he knows what he’s doing composition wise. It’s the songs themselves that come across as a little ﬂat and ballady. It’s as if Tom Waits in his early bar song days took himself a little more seriously and didn’t have the self depreciating desperation in his piano and voice that made him so appealing. This is a little confusing considering the lyrics. Partly in his subjects, partly in the way he paints a picture, but his phrasing and rhythm on the page really come across as good poetry. For example, “Who is that man? On the baby grand, who is that man?/look at them hands,/And she goes goddamn./Got to be the baddest man in the whole wide world...” or “the cutie at the counter, selling catﬁsh and fried ﬂounder, /cups of coffee and some creamer, she says how about some steamers, /man she’s such a dreamer, god you should’ve seen her,/ I’m in love” I ﬁnd myself pressing pause on the CD to read the lines out loud and enjoy them. It’s not what he says so much as the way he words it with a clever relaxed rhythm and ﬂow that seems to get lost when he starts singing. I wonder how hard it would be for him to ﬁnd that cool easy feel in his playing as well as his writing. Drop some of the ballad mentality and replace the showy trained voice that he uses for singing with the relaxed and clever one he uses for writing, and we just might have something really interesting on our hands. brendanohara.org The Cashiers Your Love As an album, this is not the best listen, but as a home made demo for a forthcoming band it gives reason to look forward to Michal Eisig’s (formerly of American Anymen) new project, The Cashiers. She plays good short Ramones inﬂuenced pop rock songs reminiscent of The Donnas. Despite the loﬁ quality of the recording and the distorted buzz from the mix, I think the grungy sound suits her songs well. Honestly, the last thing a catchy female fronted rock band needs is slick production to take away its heart (like The Donnas). She has a bit of a snot and some attitude, which is a nice contrast to the bop along quality of the melodies but she doesn’t sound like she’s over doing it for effect. I like the dirty old school rock n’ roll sound she uses for her guitar much better than the
by the editorial collective
rich fully distorted one a lot of people would have chosen for this style. Her voice isn’t especially sweet, but she doesn’t over do the gruffness either, leaving it sounding tough but honest. The best track had to be “Nonsense, Just Do Your Best,” for its upbeat catchiness and sing along chorus with lyrics almost reminiscent of The Clash. All in all, I think Michal writes a good catchy pop rock song, and given her penchant for an honest stripped down feel, I am excited to hear her new project when it fully comes together. firstname.lastname@example.org Cheese on Bread Maybe Maybe Maybe Baby Wow, this duo is like the Moldy Peaches, only good. See, the Moldy Peaches were an adorable duo, presenting preciousness and precocity as art. And sometimes, it was, but a lot of times it was just loﬁ crap. This, the debut release of Cheese on Bread, is sometimes loﬁ, but certainly not crap. New Yorker Dan Fishback and Philadelphian Sara Fitzsimmons make up the band, though, just like the Peaches, they’ve expanded into a six-piece rock combo. The album, though, is just the two of them, with lots of guests. The album’s a lot of fun. The album’s pretty funny. It’s pretty limited arrangements of love songs and mild political screeds. Highlights include the bittersweet “Kiss Song,” the sweetly bitter “(You’re Just a) Gucci Model,” and the inexplicable “Sally” (“My feelings would best be expressed in a monologue by Sally when she grew her tiny breasts – oh yeah!” And just who the hell is Sally supposed to be, anyway?). Uh… you should get it. cheeseonbread.com Chris & Aurore To Never Again Chris & Aurore are traditionalists in the late sixties idea, good melody with a strong message. I’ve been told they don’t like to be labeled as political artists, but I’m sure we can at least call what they do social commentary. The two songs on this EP are good examples of this, steady melody driven acoustic songs arranged with clean sounding guitar and harmonica. The lyrics are painted artistically and packed with smart observations, usually not without some hope or optimism, which I think is often the key to making songs like this work. For instance, I hear “People” as a treatise on religion that is smart enough to look at the situation from a few angles. It starts and ends with versus about how people will always twist and skew any idea, no matter how beautiful, into something that will end up being used for distorted and often violent ends. They then make sure
to throw in the contrasting chorus, “But if you walk alone/ No matter how far you roam/ And if you cry alone/ Please know you don’t cry alone.” Maybe there’s some reason, an intrinsic loneliness, that makes religions appealing? This is a much more mature approach then simply lambasting the religious as sheep, as many artists might be apt to do. In “To Never Again,” an anti-war song, there is a sense of optimism (if a morbid one) that those who propagate wars are bound to feel and understand the horror of what they’ve done when they see the results. I appreciate the more realistic human understanding than a song about Bush being pure Satan would have given. Thoughtful and artistic lyrics combined with strong acoustic melodies are what warrant these songs as true “folk,” meant as a compliment –organic music with a strong message that could ring true in any time or place. It’s music that warrants Debbie Dalton’s banjo on the second track (an added bonus). myspace.com/chrisandaurore Dan Costello Antidote – Primitive Recordings Vol. 1 This album is good for a lot of fun. Dan has a relaxed wit combined with an easy going feel. At times poppy, at times folky there are enough stand out tracks to keep this one moving along and eight tracks leaves you wanting more (always a good thing for an album to do). The folk hop track “Stuck Outa Luck” is one of my favorites, catchy with a strong beat and a good groove to keep your head bobbing. This being the only song like it here, I think (and I almost never say this) I would actually like to hear more of the folkhop style from Dan. He ads a sense of self-dpereciation to the lyrics, which is a welcome change from most hip-hop. The rest of the songs go from a good acoustic sound to piano jazz pop, of which I prefer the former. Sometimes the voice on the piano songs can get a bit much and showy which I think could be toned down a little, but overall Dan’s wit and easy going charisma come through for a good time. dancostellomusic.com email@example.com myspace.com/dancostello Darren “Deicide” Kramer Rockin Til The Apocalypse The guitar sounds like the worst settings I ever found on my old stratocaster played very loudly, the percussion sounds like a stick hitting a desk played by a very uncreative metronome, but goddamnit I’ve missed snotty vocals like that. Darren, formerly of the underground radical rock band Hopeless Dregs of Humanity, reminds me of the old dirty blues inﬂuenced street punk bands that would make you snarl and bop until your shirt was soaked with sweat. Just like them he’s a lot of fun, more than a bit obnoxious, completely infectious, and probably great to dance to at 2am in a dive bar with $2 PBR. The album is composed of rockabilly tunes with lyrics that range from why the world is doomed to why his girlfriend is tough, then he turns around and waxes philosophical or political (the spoken word piece, “Dum Didddy Dum,” is fun to listen to and kind of inspiring). Even when he has a strong message his lyrics are about as
snotty as his vocals. “Cmon” is probably my favorite song on the album for it’s quick energy and revolution advocating lyrics. The hidden track cover of “Let’s Go Get Stoned” with strong female back up vocals made for a sweet ending note, too. Kind of made me sad to see the album ﬁnish. The recording, as I mentioned, leaves a bit to be desired, the guitar sounds muddy and is accompanied only by the pleasantly grating tapping of the percussion (turns out to be his shoe tapping), but the vocals come out clear and the back up singing meshes well. The grungy sound quality ends up adding nicely to the dirty street punk effect. It’s too bad he decided to open with an overly long instrumental intro, but skip past that and it’s good pissed snot infested rock n roll with a revolutionary heart and a simple energy that a lot of musicians could learn a thing or two from. Props on the name “Deicide,” too. darrendeicide.com everreviledrecords.com Don McCloskey Bombs Over Bristol point I fucking love Don McCloskey. An energetic solo performer, McCloskey apes styles and effects moods at the drop of a guitar pick. He’s even gone through an enthralling, complete “Bohemian Rhapsody,” to hilarious applause. The guy performs well. His songs are funny, and run the gamut from A to, well, around Q. He’s got straight folk songs, pop, some acoustic hip hop. What he puts his mind to, he easily attains. All of this is most clear live on stage. This recording, Bombs Over Bristol, is an excellent, clean, effective document of his songs, well produced and expanded upon. But it’s best to see him on stage, doing his thing. The enormity of the changes that Big D can go through is far clearer that way. If you can’t see the guy live, get the album. But go see the guy live. counterpoint Don McCloskey obviously knows his shit. The album sounds really good; good production, quality songs, everything here is done well. The only problem is I’ve heard all of this before. Just about every song on here is a near copy of another old style or song, musically and lyrically. Granted, the catalog is diverse, going from hip-hop, to old sixties folk and rock to numerous other styles. Give him credit that he can do all of this really well, but the problem with mimicry is that without putting anything new into the equation there is no reason to put on Don over Steve Miller or Bob Dylan. Also, when mimicking the hip hop he sounds more like an imitation of bad white boy hip-hop than anything else, and this just becomes exponentially embarrassing. After awhile the whole thing takes on a bit of a Weird Al Yankovic feel, only at least Weird Al tried to make jokes. Don might be one of those artists who seem to feel like pure imitation is ironic and therefore somehow funny. Maybe some of us are jaded enough to think so, but I hope that the majority of listeners want a little more for their time. Really it’s too bad because Don is obviously talented, and I would love to hear what he has to say if he ever gets around to ﬁnding his own voice.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask of an artist, especially one who goes to the trouble of putting out an album as well crafted and produced as this one. enormousD.com Ingrid Michaelson Slow the Rain Poppy, but oh so sweet, and not without her creative side, I can’t get enough of this album. Ingrid’s melodic sense is wonderful, and almost every song becomes memorable within a few listens. When added to the pure sweet tone of her voice, this album is a strong achievement, especially considering it was entirely self-produced. The arrangement consists mostly of piano, bass, and drum kit, which all play off each other in interesting ways but still manage to stay tight and in line with where the song is going. The sound of the recording is crystal clear as well, which suits her style well. When her layered background vocals kick in it can be enough to make me want to melt. I especially liked “Charlie,” an encouraging song to the Peanuts anti-hero that has a quick instrumentation contrasted with her drawn out vocals, building into a catchy light chorus complete with call back harmonies. Also the simple guitar and vocal “A Bird’s Song” is a stand out, painting a nice personal picture through a lilting long developing melody. On songs like “Porcelain Fists,” she can lean towards balladeering, but the sweetness of her melodies make this far from a problem. Also, the drums, which are usually the death of poppy ballads, really save the songs by providing light driving backups where the usual tendency would be to give a heavy drag behind. Her piano rhythms and riffs quite often add to a light quick tense build up that keeps us engaged and eager for where she is going. The grand climax we are waiting for doesn’t always come, which again adds to my respect for her, and when it does it is not overly grandiose, but a nice moment that sneaks up sweeter than expected. It’s funny, there may have been a day when I would have run screaming from how poppy this album can be, and her lyrics often give away her unabashed pop roots, but I’m glad my mind has been opened and that we are in a scene where all types of music co exist so that I can enjoy these sweet and mature songs. ingridmichaelson.com Justin Devereaux Whiskey Eyes Sweet and traditional, this album is the culmination of Justin’s 40 plus years as a folk singer. The opening “Living
Legend,” written by Shell Silverstein, says a lot about where this album is coming from. It is a nostalgic piece about the legacy of the classic sixties scene that sounds autobiographical coming from Justin. His rich voice tells a story well, which is essential on these kinds of songs. The sound too, produced by Tom Ghent, is rich and clean. It is about half and half covers to originals, but they mix seamlessly, as I know Justin takes care to choose covers that he feels strongly about. His own songs can almost come across as traditionals, written in the classic folk form. “Tienenmen Square” is a good example of this, a story commemorating the heroics of the infamous day. This type of glorifying topical song was a staple for centuries, but is a dying form and may come across as strange at ﬁrst, but its sincerity wins me over. It seems the natural thing for a song to do, and I appreciate a song glorifying people without irony for something that truly deserves it. This album really is about a dying form that I feel lucky to have preserved here. Songwriting may have made leaps and bounds since the sixties, but a record of where we’ve come from like this album will always be priceless in telling us where we are going. cdbaby.com/cd/justindevereaux sutherlandrecords.com Kathy Zimmer Dreamin’ Dreamin’ is four songs long, and most of them seem to have religious connotation. But don’t worry; this is no goddie music. The ﬁrst song, “Gospel Book,” is about about a young girl’s ﬂight from a world of fear and, in the chorus, religion. The second song, “Winter,” paints the picture of a musician who needs to sing and play to survive. The third, “Holy Terror,” is about being a “rock and roll rebel” who makes “a war cry at a decibel too high.” The ﬁnal song, “St. Patrick,” is titled after a saint, but is really about the singer’s relationship with her guitar. So most of the material, one way or another, seems to connect the divine with music. Interesting… the lyrics are more intense and deeper than most, and the voice is that of a classically trained singer. She can sing rings around you – unless it’s Kathy Zimmer reading this, in which case, Kathy, you sing real good. kathyzimmermusic.com Lowry Awful Joy I have always been a fan of Alex Lowry’s music, but this album outdid my expectations by leaps and bounds. Fueled by Eric Feigenbaum’s production (I would go so far as to compare it George Martin in quality and creativity), Alex’s progressive pop folk takes on a completely new life. Acoustic guitars combine with a heavy beat and all sorts of clever
instrumentation such as the pipe organ that accentuates the chorus to “What You Got.” Mix in the impressive backing vocals of Sarah Bowman and Paula Valstein and you have yourself some moments of aching beauty. More than just the production though, the songs themselves come through as a force to be reckoned with. The obvious choice for a single would be “Juke Box Heart,” with its offbeat lyrics and grand lilting chorus that will be stuck in your head for days. There are too many other standouts to name them all, but sufﬁce it to say that at least half of the album would be capable of winning legions of fans. They are catchy and innovative folk- rock songs with clever lyrics fueled by Alex’s quirky vocals. What impresses me is that despite all of the production layered on here, the natural acoustic feel is never completely lost. It is an impressive trick I have yet to understand. The album isn’t without some bad choices, such as the track of distorted vocals having a conversation, which seems utterly pointless to me. The lyrics to “Imo Fight You,” and “Bedford” have always bothered me, but in context of the album and the way the song sounds around them here, I don’t mind them as much as I used to, and almost start to appreciate them. Context is everything on this album and Eric and Alex managed to put it together in such a way that each song ﬂows seamlessly into the next, creating an album that twists and turns beautifully and takes the listener on a trip to be remembered. So far this gets local release of the year in my book, setting the bar pretty high for what is capable by independent New York musicians. All I know is both Alex and Eric are powerful artists who, if there is any justice to this business, are bound for great things. oddmob.com lowrymusic.com Mick Flannery Evening Train – demo I haven’t been this excited for an album for a long time. Don’t let the ad next to this review fool you into thinking that we’re giving a glowing review because we were paid. Just the opposite, after hearing Mick play and then hearing the demo it felt imperative to get as many people as possible to hear this. The obvious comparison here is Tom Waits, but to stop there doesn’t give enough credit. Mick is a songwriter of the ﬁrst order. His writing is ﬁlled with a deep heart wrenching sadness to the lyrics, combined with melodies that give just the right amount of hope and warmth before falling back into a despair that is impossible to not want to embrace. His voice is pained, gravelly, and powerful. Recorded or live, it carries through and stops you in your tracks. This is only a three song demo of an album that will be available by the time you read this. It is a concept album with a story revolving around two brothers both trying to get the last train out of their small town. “In the Gutter” starts with a classic dark folk feel introducing one of the brothers debilitating alcoholism combined with a tough resolve in the timeless refrain “My bed is made in the gutter, but I won’t lie down.” From there it breaks into something poppy bordering on bouncy, which might sound like a bad idea here, but trust it. It holds true to the dark folk feel even with the slight Elton
John touch, and the hope and determination in the lyrics are exactly what we’re yearning for. The song put together is an instant classic from the ﬁrst listen. The second one comes in with a rhythmic electric riff that honestly I thought sounded more natural on an acoustic live, but either way the song shines through. Here we meet the brother Frank, a bartender who tries to refrain from sympathizing or caring about his desperate customers, but the care with which the scene is drawn shows anything but a lack of sympathy, as Mick moans like an addict a long repeated haunting plea from his patrons “Please, Frank.” Frank’s just there to do his job though, described as “pouring water into sinking ships.” The last song is a drawn out ballad of sorts, introducing the vocals of Mick’s aunt in the part of the love interest that seems to be coming between the brothers as one of them contemplates skipping town with her. Her voice manages the trick of being sweet as well as low and morose, which also describes the song itself with it’s long catchy melody that lifts just long enough to make you really feel it when it falls back down. Sad stuff, and an intriguing story that I am burning to hear in its entirety. Do yourself a large favor and get the full length (available 8/17). See him live too, before he goes back to his native Ireland in September and you miss the chance to see him stop a room cold with his powerful deep tragedy. mickﬂannery.com Testosterone Kills War All The Time This is an interesting album. Self described electro-folk combining an acoustic guitar with programmed beats and synth. It’s an idea that actually can work really well, especially on the opening track “Where I Stand,” which is upbeat and catchy with a cool digeree doo sounding synth melody harmonizing with a nice acoustic riff. Different, but deﬁnitely enjoyable. The lyrics are personal and political, with a running vendetta against homophobic religion, the best example being “Arizona” with its continued “Fuck You!” refrain worrying about and railing against bigotry and judgment. Usually the lyrics are more thoughtful, if blunt and lacking in poetics, and I especially appreciate the man against god themes that sound like someone with their ﬁst raised on a mountain questioning the sky. Sometimes the sound doesn’t always live up to the promise of the opening, and it can devolve into drawn out meandering songs that, when coupled with the nasally quality to the vocals, can begin to resemble modern r&b. Some of the slower songs do work though, like the closing “Big Sky” which uses a pretty harmony over a nice soaring melody to a sweet effect. I think there are a lot of good ideas here, someone with a lot to say and a creative musical idea to say it with, and as long as the songs keep their punch it’s as enjoyable as it is interesting. antifolk.net testosteronekills.com
The Voyces - The Angels of Fun The Voyces have gone through some interesting changes of late. Coming to New York City as an acoustic vocal duo, expanding into a full-rock band, then devolving into Brian Wurschum’s one-man show, there are multiple phases of the Voyces to experience. The Angels of Fun caught the Voyces at their biggest, back when band wasn’t a four-letter word. Even then, though, with a majority of instruments played by Mr. Wurschum, it’s still one man’s vision, although vocal partner Laurel Hoffman was clearly vital to the mix. The sound is straight out of SoCal. At shows, you can ﬁnd the Voyces covering a variety of softrock touchstones, like Simon & Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, and the Beatles. This album sounds clean and well produced almost to a fault, risking sterility. Though the album seems stripped of energy, it does present the words smack center for you to enjoy. Unsurprisingly, Wurschum and Hoffman’s voices are the strength of the The Voyces (Somewhere in the world, another band beat them to the name the Voices. Bastards). Also emphasized in the Angels recordings is the Wurschum’s delicate songwriting. Sometimes, the compositions sound important, sometimes forced. In “Tangerine,” the lyrics state “Don’t tell me that this is not profound,” which begs a witty criticism.. This album isn’t the ﬁnest presentation of the variety of incarnations of the acclaimed and respected band. But then again, it’s dated 2002. Things have changed a lot since then. We have been told Brian has entered a darker sad phase to his new solo project, an idea that leaves us intrigued. And you know what they say about the Voyces: if you don’t like their sound, wait a minute. thevoyces.net
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