Urban Folk

(the zine on the scene)

free for you and me

a sort of leavetaking.

featuring: OJ All Day 2008... the Wowz... Debe Dalton... Mr. Rogers... JJ Hayes... The Trouble with Boise... Open Mics... Compact Discs... and a farewell address.

Urban Folk 16: The Final Curtain
Well, this is it: the last independent issue of Urban Folk. When Dave Cuomo wanted to start this rag back in Aught Nine, I told him it wouldn’t last fifteen issues, and boy, did I prove me right... It’s been a couple years now, with lots of text under all of our respective belts, and I would have to say the entire experience has been rewarding. Oh, not financially. All but a few issues were run at a loss. And not critically, unless by ‘critical,’ you mean ‘received lots of hate mail.’ Not spiritually rewarding either, really. I mean, I kind of doubt anybody involved in fanzine production have souls to begin with, so how could this be good for it? The point I’m getting at is, I guess, thanks for the contributions, the words, the photos, the poems, the pictures, the CDs, the sexual favors. Thanks for being involved, and most of all, thanks for not buying Urban Folk.

Jonathan Berger, former editor

LIKE
COVER

THE INNARDS OF A STOMACH, HEREIN ARE THE GUTS OF THIS ISSUE

ELVA BERGER TOOK A PHOTO OF HER SON. HIS NAME IS BERGER. JON BERGER… THIS VERY PAGE. I T 'S WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT . PRETTY, AIN'T IT? INTERVIEWED IN THE 1ST
ISSUE, FEATURED IN OUR LAST .

1 2 4 7

TABLE OF CONTENTS DEBE DALTON THE W OWZ MR. ROGERS OJ ALL DAY URBAN JOKES SOPHIST FOLK GET
IN THE

HERB SCHER REPORTS.

BREAKING NEWS: DEENAH VOLLMER TELLS US THAT SAM GROSSMAN ISN'T SAM JAMES. JOCELYN MACKENZIE
ON WATCHING

PBS PROGRAMMING. 12

OLIVE JUICE MUSIC PUTS TOGETHER IT'S SECOND ANNUAL FESTIVAL. READ ALL ABOUT IT. 15 A SAMPLING OF MAGAZINES THAT THIS ONE IS NOT . 19 JJ HAYES, THIS MONTH, WRITES ABOUT MEDIEVAL ARCHITECTURE. HOW
DOES HE DO IT ?

20

MINIVAN

BROOK PRIDEMORE DOESN'T LIKE IDAHO. I S IT THE POTATOES? CHECK OUT PAGE 22 JONATHAN BERGER RIPS OFF DAN COSTELLO'S SHIT . 23 SOMER BINGHAM EXPLORES SEVERAL OF THE CITY'S OPEN MICS. W HICH ONES ARE GOOD? 24 JOE CROW RYAN, BUSKING NEAR THE TRAINS? HILARITY ENSUES! 26 THE LAST
REVIEWS EVER IN AN INDEPENDENT

COSTELLO'S W EB OPEN MICS SUBWAY STORIES RECORD REVIEWS MARK SINNIS

URBAN FOLK. TREASURE THEM. LOVE THEM... 28

JONATHAN BERGER TRIES TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF INTO AN UNHIDDEN FUTURE. 31

What’s Next? Urban Folk is merging with it’s kissin’ cuzine Boog City. All acoustic matters will be handled as a regular insert in that monthly Village Arts publication, masterminded by Professor David Kirschenbaum. Ther Urban Folk segment of Boog City will still focus on AntiFolk, and all that is acoustic in the New York City. The mandate hasn’t changed, just the location. Urban Folk will be part of something bigger, better, with more mature circulation and distribution system. You’ll still find us. Trust me. Have I lied to you? ...Well, OK, then. Have I lied to you today?

Urban Farewell Addresses myspace.com/urbanfolkzine urbanfolkzine@gmail.com scribd.com To (snail) mail the former editor of Urban Folk: Jonathan Berger 1119 Longwood Avenue Bronx, NY 10474
Urban Folk issue 16 - the Final Curtain ~ page 2

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It Takes a Village
the making of Debe Dalton
It is probably not a stretch to say that most performers who turn up at Sidewalk Café are looking for a forum – a place to express themselves and find an audience. However, time and again, those who arrive looking for a launching pad find themselves captivated by the tightknit community that has formed in the world of AntiFolk. Nested within one of the world’s largest metropoli, Sidewalk is like its own small town, a place where the faces are familiar, where bonds are made, and bands are formed (and the local paper is handed out free of charge). Debe Dalton’s March 14 birthday show promised to be the usual fun night out at Sidewalk with performances by The Telethons, Ivan Sandomire, Costello, Brook Pridemore, and Debe. But through a charming surprise that came at the end of Debe’s set, the evening ended up demonstrating the club’s bonds of community in action. In something like a modern-day version of a barn-raising, Debe’s friends came together to provide her with a remarkable gift. Debe began learning guitar during childhood in the early 1960s and started writing songs as a teenager. She gave it all up in her late twenties, when, working as a school teacher, she felt that her creative pursuits were too time-consuming. In 1988, her interest was brought back to music when she convinced a friend to part with a discarded banjo, rescued from the trash. Debe began performing at Sidewalk Café in February 2004. and quickly found a home there. She was described as a “stalwart” of the scene in a 2006 New York Times article, and from her preferred seating area down front at the left hand side of the stage she has probably seen more shows and certainly stuck it out to the end of more Monday night AntiHoots within her time than any performer. It seems that for Debe, drawing an early number is not a priority. “I like getting to the end of the night,” she says, “after 1 a.m. when a good percentage of the people are new and willing to stick it out.” Debe’s songs, which she performs to her own banjo accompaniment, undeniably reflect the traditions of American song and are influenced by the work of songwriters like Stephen Foster, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger as well as others like Mimi and Richard Fariña who emerged during the 1960s folk revival. Al-

by Herb Scher

though the musical content ties into this heritage, in their subject matter her songs are often movingly personal and eloquent, sometimes surprisingly so, given her somewhat reticent demeanor off stage. They range from “Close the Door,” a delicate ode to “shifting winds” in her life to “Ed’s Song” about Debe’s compulsion to play at open mics, and “Sorry Joan,” an apology to Gandhi and Joan Baez, in which she remembers slamming a pervert in the jaw! Debe has a unique presence onstage, starting with her pink and aqua tinted hair. In combination with the sight of her banjo and the work shirts she favors, first time audience members might wonder if they are at a punk show or a hoedown. But when she plays, these matters become irrelevant. Debe’s lyrics, music, banjo-playing, and singing blend into captivating and beautiful moments of pure song that have won her a place of honor in the hearts of her many Sidewalk fans. Yet, though she seems to thrive on live performing, Debe has been skittish about capturing her work in recordings. “I’ve been making music since I was ten years old but never been able to record,” she explained. “If there was a recorder I would stop playing or deliberately mess up. I had a real mental block about it.” About two years ago Debe decided to try to get over that block by having her shows at Sidewalk recorded. Since then she had fifteen of her performances captured from the sound board, but out of fear that she might destroy the disks or throw them away, she gave them to a trusted friend for safekeeping. That’s where Rachel Devlin comes in. It was Rachel who held onto the body of Debe’s recorded shows and who, with that raw material in hand, launched a secret project in collaboration with some of Debe’s other friends. “A couple weeks before her birthday Frank Hoier emailed me and said ‘why don’t we put together a CD of her live recordings?’ I’d been thinking the same thing, but I hadn’t thought that we’d do it for her birthday because of the tight deadline.” The ball got rolling and Rachel and Frank set to work. The first challenge was listening to the recordings of all fifteen shows, and trying to name the tracks. “It’s difficult because Debe doesn’t name the songs what you think they would be titled,” Rachel said. “Eventually in one version she would say the name. I had ten verUrban Folk issue 16 - the Final Curtain ~ page 4

+ 1 page pix

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Frank Hoier and Debe Dalton, Urban Folk’s first cover artist and first featured artist

sions of “Ed’s Song,” eight versions of “Normal.” Frank came over and we spent a whole day listening to different versions and figuring out which ones we liked.” Then Frank decided to contribute a set of duets that he and Debe had recorded during a Sidewalk residency. From that point on the project plunged headlong in a rush toward completion in time for Debe’s birthday on Friday the 14th. “We still didn’t have a good version of “Ed’s Song” or “Anything,” so we concocted this crazy scheme the Monday before her birthday to get people to request those two songs and we recorded them without her knowing.” At that point Sidewalk soundman Brian Speaker learned about the project and revealed that he himself had been getting Debe down on digital tape. Aware that her self-consciousness while being recorded hindered her performances, Brian told Debe that the club’s sound equipment was malfunctioning, but was secretly capturing her shows planning to eventually help Debe put together a disk. Brian joined the secret CD team to contribute his material and help with the technical aspects of the production. Illustrator Peter Nevins was also recruited to design a cover for the CD. “On Tuesday we’re still figuring out which tracks to use and which tracks not and the final order,” said Rachel. “We still had to get the whole order of tracks to Peter so he could do the artwork. Brian and I were calling each other until 1 am that night. “Once we got finished audio, on Wednesday we sent the track listing to Peter with final titles.” On Thursday Rachel was supposed to pick up the final mastered CD at Sidewalk from Brian Speaker. “Brian’s computer crashed before he could do the CD, and so he brought his whole hard drive,” said Rachel. Dan Costello and Rachel worked through the night until 6:30 Friday morning duplicating the CDs, and printing all the cover inserts and the CDs themselves. They continued printing and assembling the package throughout the day up until Debe’s show. At the end of Debe’s set on the 14th, the whole team jumped on stage and Rachel announced to the audience – and to Debe – that they had created Debe Dalton: Live at the Sidewalk, an 18 track CD. As soon as the evening’s show was over, Debe’s fans began buying the disk and by evening’s end about twenty were sold.

The first run of 50 copies sold out in a few weeks and a new batch has already been made. “This was really a labor of love,” said Rachel. “The minute someone said ‘We really need this’, someone else would say ‘Yeah, got it.’ People have been waiting to have a Debe Dalton CD for so long that they were really willing to help out. “It was really incredible how it happened,” she continued. “Frank hears things differently than I do. Frank hears things like whether the banjo and guitar are in tune. I’m hearing whether Debe is sounding comfortable and what her performance is like and Brian comes in with these mad technical skills. None of us on our own could’ve done this because we all were listening in our own way, but together we made the perfect Debe Dalton CD.” But how did Debe feel about the project? “I felt very taken care of,” she said, “And I also felt relief that I didn’t have to do it.” This story of a group of Sidewalk regulars coming together to create a CD for a friend is a somewhat dramatic example of the community in action, but whether it’s in collaborations formed, guitars borrowed, romances made, feedback given, articles written, late nights hanging out, or help in times of more dire trouble, bonds such as these play out all the time in Sidewalk’s dingy back room and in the community at large that stems from it. Some songwriters who turn up at Sidewalk soon determine that it is not for them. On one message board someone wrote, “if you want to be recognized for the true musician you are, I suggest avoiding the circus that is Sidewalk Café.” Yet for many it is the connections forged over time with others who share a passion for self-expression that keep them coming back. In her quiet way Debe reflected on her own involvement in the scene. “I was always looking for a place where making music could happen in a community of artists I could respect and love and they could return it – and it’s here.” Return it they did, in the form of Debe Dalton: Live at the Sidewalk.

Urban Folk issue 16 - the Final Curtain ~ page 6

The Wowz
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Satirically Depressed About the Lack of James’
by Deenah Vollmer
What’s in a name? What’s that mean anyway? How come the words we say Mean what they mean when we say them? Do you like my songs the way I play them? Good day Sam James Good day for changing your name — “Good Day Sam James” by Masheen Gun Kelly Two years ago, I received a book from Sam James, as he was then called, entitled A Cabalah Primer. The Cabalah is the esoteric teachings of Jewish mysticism. It included a note written with pencil on a torn piece of paper. “This is the book that started The Wowz,” he wrote. Now Sam James is back to Sam Grossman and The Wowz, a folk-y rock n’ roll trio, live on. “Hey, look ya’ll,” Sam said to me on a snowy day near the New York Public Library, “The adoption of the name Sam James was a satirical gesture.” He would repeat the phrase “satirical gesture” three times. A professor once said when something is repeated twice it is an accident, but three times and something deeper is happening. In Holland, if you sneeze twice you’re sick, three times and tomorrow will be a sunny day. There are three members of The Wowz. This year their third album will be released. Three, clearly, is the magic number. The Zohar, a major work in the Cabalah, posits that the human soul has three elements: Nefesh, the animal part, Ruach, the spiritual part, and Neshama, the higher soul. This triad is not too dissimilar from the Christian Trinity or Freud’s psychic apparatus. Sam James is nefesh and neshama. Sam Grossman in ruach. Sam James is Son and Holy Ghost. Sam Grossman is Father. Sam James is id, Sam Grossman ego and super ego. Sam James never looked me in the eye, but Sam Grossman gives good eye contact. Sam James talked at me. Sam Grossman talks to me. Sam James is a character on stage. Sam Grossman recognizes that he is performing. Sam James is hilarious. Sam Grossman is charming. Sam James passionately seeks women. Sam Grossman has women. Sam Grossman is the name on the passport. Sam James is the international man of mystery. “I didn’t think I could pull it off and I didn’t really,”

The Wowz

photo by Herb Scher
Grossman said, articulate and slowly, “Maybe it’s too easy to rest everything that’s strange about me on a neurological condition, but I went a little nuts in 2006. The circumstances I got myself into were such that I must have been crazy. I want to explain that I have a disease that makes me different.” Grossman is patient and kind. Grossman was very able to express the dichotomy between mysticism and neurons. He is engaged in a battle with the devil – he empathizes with Daniel Johnston, with whom he shares a diagnosis – and sometimes his narrow brown eyes are sharp and focused, but other times they seem to be looking very far away. “Your problem, Mr. James? You were born with a problem only the devil could solve,” wrote James on his Myspace blog on September 19, 2006. Around that same time Sam James talked to me about what he called “the genius level.” He told me Johnny Dydo, drummer for The Wowz has reached the genius level. He told me Bob Dylan is past the genius level, a prophet. He said both Maimonidies and Leadbelly are at genius level and that black people in general have an easier time achieving genius level. As James, Grossman self-published at least three books: one, a songbook of 51 songs inspired by the Francis Child folk ballads, another is many pages listing cryptic and invented email addresses, and the third a book of writings called Name Games. Name Games is a photocopied booklet, and like all three of his books is copied on colored printer paper and stapled in the corner. It is a poetic manifesto for Sam James, but contains the official identification of Sam Grossman on the cover as a photocopy of his passport. The Sam Grossman of 2003, if the photograph was taken when the passport was issued, has long hair and a look of mild surprise. His name is Samuel Thomas Grossman. He was born January 6, 1981 in New York. The passport was issued in Connecticut where he attended college at Yale. The first line of Name Games is “Praised be the Lord, Blessed be the Messiac: the Sam James Stoary.” Throughout the poetic page of biblical declarations, “story” is spelled in different ways and with different capitalization, suggesting there are many stories. One Sam James story begins in Europe.
Urban Folk issue 16 - the Final Curtain ~ page 8

To Simon Beins, guitarist, singer, and songwriter for The Wowz, James was born on the April Fools Tour in 2006 when The Wowz toured with Huggabroomstik and Horror Me, a solo performer from Berlin. “He was a character that people really loved and latched onto quickly and easily,” said Beins. “Sam James is great. He’s a really fun and exciting guy on stage. Sam James doesn’t exist so much anymore and I definitely miss him a little bit, but everything has its own time. Sam James’ time is up. He might be back. I don’t want to speak for Sam James. “I think Sam James was born in the public eye,” Beins continued, “He has more [than Grossman] that he’s willing to give publicly and show off publicly.” Sam James was a performance. “Performances do not end on stage,” Grossman admitted. “They go on to parties, they go on the street, then on to other people’s shows too. A performance artist really never stops.” Sam James went to Europe. Beins called the name change playful, “Like dressing up in different costumes.” While in Berlin, at the residence of Horror Me’s Heiko Gabriel, Sam James recorded “The Sam James Medley,” an improvised eleven-minute track of cover songs, where many of the words are changed to “Sam James.”

Gabriel washed dishes while Sam James sang “James, get back, James, Paul McCartney, James, James Joyce, get back to where you once belonged” to the Beatles tune “Get Back.” He taped “She’s got a ticket to James” and “Hey James, don’t make it bad, take a right wrong, and make it wronger.” He changed Dylan songs too. “They’re selling postcards of the hanging, but don’t James want to know.” And to Elvis he sang, “Love James tender.” When Gabriel’s dishes crash in the sink, James sang about broken dishes. What is the meaning of all this? Is Sam James part of the oral tradition? Is he revising the past to make room for his own artistry? Being in Berlin, should he “get back” to New York, “where he once belonged?” Ultimately, is he taking a right song and making it wronger? Or did he make it James-ier? After tour, Neil Kelly of Huggabroomstik wrote a song called “Good Day Sam James” with a verse that goes ““Good day Sam James / What’s on your head today? Why wear a yarmulke / When you can just wear a beret / Or a bleach blond toupee / You changed your name / Give it up for Sam James.” Grossman attributes the name change in part to antisemitism. “I wanted to highlight the extent to which a kind of latent anti-Semitism plays a big part in the way people view you,” he said. So he eliminated his Ger-

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man Jewish surname when introducing himself, and was accepted differently. Johnny Dydo likened Grossman to Adam of the Bible who named the animals. The name Sam James symbolizes a season in the artistic career of Grossman. He envisions himself as having many names. Sam Grossman is college generated. Sam James is a taste from the British Isles. Sam Grossman goes to the bank. Sam James is an undercover Zionist crusader. Neither one plays in The Wowz, but both can be found there. According to Grossman, S.T. Grossmark IV plays in The Wowz. Looking back, Grossman said Sam James was not a responsible thing to do. “With the name adoption came a change in behavior. As a one time psychotic, I wanted to make sure that was in the interview because I want to be able to take responsibility for the weird things I’ve done that may have upset other people.” Sam James acted weird. Sam James talked more. Sam James was more confrontational. Sam James had unreasonable confidence in his talent. To Grossman, the Sam James story goes back a bit further than Europe. He was hit by the magic of folk song in the winter of 2005, when he became interested in the ballads collected by Francis Child. Tjese songs were considered to be the folk music canon, the inspiration for Sam James’ songbook. “I chose a folk singer name because I didn’t want to be a folk singer, but I felt I needed to train in that idiom to achieve my real goal of being,” Grossman paused, “a rapper.” All Wowz agree that their music has a lot in common with rap. In fact, according to Dydo, the new Wowz album is recorded with a hip-hop producer. “We think of ourselves as the Wu-Tang Clan,” Grossman said. “We are about protest as much as we are about revelry. If we were really like Wu-Tang Clan, we could be protest singers and ladies’ men,” Grossman said and blew his nose in a napkin. Simon Beins said that rap and folk come together on the new record. “There’s a certain communal element to what the Wu-TangClan does that’s also present in lots of folk music. There are some geographical differences as well as style and façade, superficial differences, but there is a core that is similar,” he said. He cites specifically the way in which all three Wowz are involved in every song, a quality that is unique to the new record. They often switch off singing verses, while coming together harmonically for the choruses. All three also participate in the song writing process.

Sam Grossman, (once Sam James) The Wowz emphasize the importance of having differing points of view and the unique synthesis that occurs in the whole. “We can talk about the same thing with different perspectives,” Dydo said. Dydo called Grossman the spiritual leader of the band and said his own thing “has to do with singing more about prosaic problems. Every day is a new struggle”. Grossman said Dydo plays with a hip-hop persona, “who seems to be indignant, but is resigned like a beggar,” which he attributes to Dydo often being drunk on stage. “He explodes with charisma and offsets the eggheadedness of the rest of the group.” When Grossman and Beins sing together they can sound like The Everly Brothers or Simon and Garfunkel. Grossman said that he and Beins are like synchronized swimmers mirroring each other. When Dydo’s coarse voice is added to the mix of the new record, the result is deeper, more original, and resonates more in the streets. Simon Beins is the rock, the ego mediating the extremes of Johnny and Sam. Simon is the country boy, “Bringing small town values” to the band, said Dydo.
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“I like country music most of the three of us,” said Beins. “I’m from a small town and Sam and Johnny are from the big city. I’m into polish. I love glossy stuff, not as a rule, I just love shiny exterior. The new record is way shinier than any other records that we’ve made and I love that about this record. It makes me really happy because it’s as substantive as any music anyone is making. I don’t think we’re covering anything up with pol- Simon Beins ished production, or synthesizing sounds. I think it’s a great package that we’re giving to people.” Compared to the other records, Beins said, “This one is more electronic, way more computer-oriented, with synthesized and electronic sounds. I think it’s totally awesome. It’s the most important record of 2008.” Grossman called the new album “Macintoshy. “It’s smooth around the edges with human style curves,” he said. “It’s clean. Some songs sound like singles. The album is painstakingly edited. It’s very short because we didn’t want to leave room for imperfections. It’s a major work.”

The electronic elements are subtle and seem like little flourishes. At one point I think Beins voice is distorted, but the harmonic acoustic Wowz are still alive in many songs. It’s nice to see something completely different like “John the Red Rose,” which is based on a traditional Scottish folk song and adapted into a W.H. Auden poem. The song echoes with police radio sounds and rap parts. And where is Sam James in this record? According to Beins, the psychedelic waltz “Sun Point” was written by Sam James on the April Fools Tour in Europe. In addition, in the song “H.O.T.,” Dydo sings, “They say that I’m no good / But I say I’m missed understood” and all three voices go into the refrain “Sexually depressed about the lack of James’.” James has another overt reference in the song “James and Sons” which goes, “James and Sons was a shameful business once / But now what a proud industry it might be.” All three Wowz should be proud of their industriousness. As far as the new album is concerned, it’s not a bad idea.

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Ultimate Truths for the Creative Soul
Mr. Rogers and The Return of Spring
by Jocelyn Mackenzie
On Monday, March 20, I woke up as usual in my little sister's room. The lemon yellow walls and baby blue ceiling with the fluffy clouds painted on it seemed dull in the morning light. This morning, the rainbow of countless horseback riding ribbons my sister had won over the years hanging from every available surface, were not a reminder of her accomplishments, but a reminder of the dreadful fact that I'm once again living with my parents out of a room that's not even mine. It was not a particularly gorgeous day. I lay in bed for a while listening, waiting for that final moment of sweet silence when my mother would finally turn off the TV, gather her keys up in a jingling swoop, and leave for work. That's the moment my feet would finally be able to will themselves out from under the snowman sheets and onto the blue shag-carpeted floor to start my day, because they knew they would have to cherish those few sacred minutes of alone time before trudging onto the commuter bus for the daily forty-five minute ride into the city. On 3/20, however, my timing was off. I shuffled down the stairs and, turning the corner, was greeted by my mother's painfully cheerful smile. "You're up early!" "You're late for work." "Oh no, just on my way!" "Mph."I begrudgingly poured myself a cup of coffee. "You know," she said, pulling her purse over her shoulder, "today is National Sweater Day. You have to wear a cardigan!" "Okay..." "I saw it on the news. It would have been Mr. Roger's 80th birthday today, so they called a National Sweater Day to honor his memory. You know how he always used to zip that cardigan up..." But I had stopped listening. Immediately, giant tears had formed in my eyes and started pouring down my face. I couldn't stop crying. All I could think about was Mr. Rogers. "Honey, what's the matter?" My poor mother had no idea how to react. It's not rare for me to cry, but this one came further out of left field than usual. "It's just that..." I sniffled, trying to calm myself down and actually figure out what it was that had incited this profound and overwhelming reaction. I mean, the guy had a TV show. He's been dead for five years. Really, what was the matter? "I just loved him so much." And that's exactly what it was. I hadn't thought about him in years, but suddenly it became very real that the impact this man had on my life had gone deeper than I'd ever known. I used to watch Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood every single day when I was a little girl, and every day, his reassuring smile and soothing tone made my young self know that everything was right in the world. But it wasn't just the fact that his neighborhood was perfect and magical and colorful, like a kiddie-land drug trip. He was so encouraging. There was nothing you couldn't accomplish with Mr. Rogers on your side. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" he would ask, then take you on a field trip and introduce you to someone who did something amazing, like a ballerina or a concert pianist or a crayon factory worker. He would ask them how it was that they came to do what they did; he narrowed down exactly what steps they took to get to where they are. Fred Rogers didn't just encourage you to dream, he showed you that there are concrete ways that you can make your dreams real. He lived and breathed positive reinforcement, persistence, and courage. He was also a firm believer in expressing feelings through art and music. In his neighborhood here was nothing you couldn't talk about, and if you couldn't find a way to say it in words, you could draw a picture or sing a song or do a dance to show on the outside what was going on inside. There was no feeling you could have had that should shame you; you could be confident knowing that he would listen and would never judge. This message helped mold me into the songwriter I've become. And only now, as I'm writing this, am I realizing that one of his favorite mantras, "I like you just the way you are," has surfaced as a lyric I'd written for my band Pearl and the Beard's song "Oh, Death." It was the first song we'd
Urban Folk issue 16 - the Final Curtain ~ page 12

ever written together as a band. My band-mate Jeremy Styles had written the verses and didn't quite know where to go with it. Very naturally, the chorus was born, which repeats, "I love you the way you are, the way you've always been." Fred Rogers wrote that line, not me. And yes, looking back on it, there were a lot of not-sosubtle Christian messages imbued in many of the episodes that my young-woman-not-so-Christian self would be skeptical about showing to my toddler self for fear of blurring the line between what's appropriate to say on public television and what is not. But in the long run, Fred Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, did not preach to children to love Christ. He preached to children to love themselves and to be good to one another and to be thankful and patient and kind. All of these things can be perceived as Christian values, but coming from that man, with those gentle eyes that always looked right into yours from his place on the screen, they were human values. I thought about Mr. Rogers all that day. I sent text messages telling friends to put their cardigans on and zip them up tight. I posted two Myspace bulletins with a link to a video of his farewell after the final episode aired. Maybe I went a little overboard, but it was something I

had to do. The man that had reached out to so many young people deserved to be remembered. When Mr. Rogers died, I was a student in college. I was clearly very very busy doing very very important things (most of which were time-consuming distractions from what is really important to me {which is music}). But now, I am a musician; all I've ever wanted to be. And although I'm a musician with a day job who lives with her parents because she can't afford to pay rent, I'm finally a musician nonetheless. Suddenly I became very grateful for my seemingly stifling circumstances and realized that they are actually very valuable resources and steps I have to take right now towards living out my dream. And I may not know exactly where that dream may take me quite yet, but I do know that Mr. Rogers is one of the people that helped me get there. On Monday, March 20, I had a rebirth in self-confidence and faith that my dream can become real, and a resurgence of gratitude for all of the people and circumstances that have already taken me this far. How fitting that the anniversary of Mr. Rogers' birth happened to land on the first day of Spring this year. That night I lay under the snowman sheets in my sister's sunny yellow room, looking forward to the morning, and humming to myself, "It's such a good feeling to know you're alive..."

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Urban Folk issue 16 - the Final Curtain ~ page 14

OJ All Day!
what to expect at the festival to start all festivals
While touring as a musician in Europe Matt Roth found himself playing in small club nights and music festivals, often put on by record labels to promote their artists. Back home, as the driving force behind Olive Juice Music, Roth had already been running a record label, music distribution company, recording studio, and web community for songwriters. In 2007, inspired by the EU, he decided to add music presenter to Olive Juice’s repertoire and kicked off the first annual OJ All Day festival at Cake Shop. More than 20 artists played and hundreds of people attended. This year the festival expands to a second day and includes more than 30 acts, plus a craft sale, free clothing and book exchange, and a bricks and mortar Olive Juice Store. Artists on the bill include Jeffrey Lewis; folk-punk pioneer Roger Manning; Schwervon! (Roth’s duo with Nan Turner) and a broad range of performers from the community that has gravitated around Olive Juice. The festival will be presented Saturday and Sunday, May 24th and 25th at Cake Shop, 152 Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side. “Last year’s fest was more successful than I ever could have imagined,” Roth said. “We set the bar high for ourselves. There’s a kind of energy that surrounds a music festival. I think it even elevated the performance levels of a lot of the acts that participated, and the positive response was especially rewarding because so many people who played in the festival lent their talents to putting it on. Olive Juice Music was started in 1999 by Roth and Tom Nishioka as a web site and record label. Stemming out of the scene at Sidewalk Café, Olive Juice expanded into a collective of artists, with group meetings and members who paid dues. After finding that the collective format was hindering the ability to get things done, the group eventually coalesced under Roth’s leadership and has grown to provide a structure and support for a wide group of artists who value an independent approach to creating, promoting, and distributing their work but remain tied to the spirit of mutual support that still guides Olive Juice. “The phrase ‘independent’ music suddenly seems too individualistic and disconnected,” says Jeffrey Lewis, whose critically acclaimed new album 12 Crass Songs (Rough Trade Records) was made at Olive Juice’s recording studio. “OJ is communal, locally-grown, supportive, and not at all like most ‘indie’ labels which are nowadays just smaller versions of major labels.” The OJ All Day festival is a good opportunity to get a taste of Olive Juice. More information is available at 2008.ojallday.com and a full schedule with artist bios follows...

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Day 1
Upstairs
1:30 pm Liv Carrow This young lady’s songs are like the little animals that your 4-year-old nieces and nephews make out of playdoh; lumpy yet distinguishable in form, and rudimentary to the point of psychedelic complexity. 2:30 pm A Brief View of the Hudson “Perhaps it was fate, perhaps not, but from that day forward whenever I take the train home and it goes above ground between 125th Street and 137th Street I look to the west and between the buildings and behind the highway, right before we disappear underground once more, I see A Brief View of the Hudson.” 3:30 pm American Anymen OJ All Day will host the first American Anymen show in almost 2 years. This time they’re taking out the old sampler and playing the songs they like best. 4:30 pm Randi Russo Her fingers ride and glide the rails of strings of a righthanded guitar played upside-down and backwards. Her haunting voice reminds one of a modern-day Patti Smith. 5:30 pm Phoebe Kreutz With smarty-pants lyrics atop dubious guitar stylings, Phoebe Kreutz makes you chuckle until you realize that she’s totally dead serious about all this nonsense. The New York Times called her “genuinely funny,”, o that’s pretty cool. 6:30 pm Lisa Lilund She was born in the Jungle of Bolivia, raised by monkeys. That is why she doesn’t have what they call very good manners. She lives and dreams in Paris now. 7:30 pm Dave End This acoustic D.I.Y. troubador writes queer cupcake loving honesty pop and can be found wearing costumes in a living room near you. Listening to Dave End’s music is like giving your younger self a hug.

8:30 pm

Prewar Yardsale

This old school AF duo play a bucket and a tincan and a guitar with a fuzzbox and a flute and a tamborine. They sing songs that they write in bed at night after their son goes to sleep. 9:30 pm Toby Goodshank The soft-spoken, enigmatic Goodshank made his highprofile debut playing acoustic guitar in The Moldy Peaches (Rough Trade). In a relatively short amount of time, he has become a crucial voice in the underground NYC music scene, with unconventional song-structures and surreal lyrics supported by an uncommonly professional approach to his craft. 10:30 pm The Babyskins Formed at the end of 2001, collaborators Crystal Madrilejos and Angela Carlucci take the stage sharing guitar and xylophone duties while weaving in and out of haunting vocal harmonies. Their acoustic folk songs deal mainly with the trials and tribulations of that wonderful but also very wretched thing called love.

Downstairs
1:00 pm The Leader A fancy lady plucking a see-through bass guitar. A debonair gentleman smashing a 40’s era drum kit. Beautiful to the eyes and ears, The Leader rock out with the dynamic grace of two sonic gymnasts (in formal attire, no less). 2:00 pm The Wowz The WoWz are a three-piece miscellaneous band from New York City who play weird folk music. They comb (and combine) the eternal dolor of Hank Williams Sr. with the perverse humor of David Berman and the improbable harmonies of Beatles For Sale. 3:00 pm Huggabroomstik Intended to be a response to what was supposed to be the New York rock ‘n’ roll renaissance of the early 21st century., they have evolved into a full on lo-fi psychedelic pop noise collective with an ever evolving line up of supporting characters including, basically, anyone who shows up to practice.

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4:00 pm

Double Fantasy

11:00 pm

Schwervon!

Double Fantasy began as Babs and Nellie. They met as members of Guitar Situations and soon discovered they liked each other’s lo-fi-ish songs a lot. They’ve often been compared with clocks, lumps, church ladies and wet spaghetti, and occasionally dead people. 5:00 pm Purple Organ The man behind he organ states his first musical experience as, “Mommies songs, as I suckled. On the beaches of California, a strange percussive form of guitar playing was born from a combination of marijuana smoke, a lust for life and an extended period living out of a Toyota Camry.” The Purple Organ is the byproduct of one man’s ever evolving musical journey. 6:00 pm Art Sorority for Girls Daoud Tyler-Ameen grew up on the lower east side of Manhattan. His songwriting career began in high school with a string of extra-credit projects about literary characters and the life cycles of plants. Art Sorority for Girls is a collection of storysongs about the awful messes kids can get themselves into. 7:00 pm The Faggots The Faggots are the brainchild of queer songwriter Dan Fishback, who was getting sick of being called “cute” & “spunky” by music reviewers and himself. The Faggots play rock music inspired by the great girl bands of the 90s — The Breeders, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, That Dog, Sleater Kinney… the list goes on. 8:00 pm The Lisps They write songs about science and love, space and pain, babies and documents. Their performances have been known to involve bloody tambourines, wrestling, lipstick-smeared melodicas, tap shoes, old kitchen cabinets and dinosaurs. 9:00 pm Dream Bitches dream bitches (pl. n): Yoko Kikuchi and Ann Zakaluk (oftentimes with an extended family) tinker with the boundaries of what it means to be friends, take trips, have boyfriends and lead parallel lives, while dreaming up a landscape of densely crafted lyrics, rock guitars, and smart harmonies. 10:00 pm Paleface Featuring Paleface himself and drummer Monica “Mo” Samalot, they’ve been charming audiences all over the US with their fun-lovin’ tunes and soulful energy. Paleface started writing songs after spending some time in NYC with friend Daniel Johnston.
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Nan & Matt met and fell in love amidst the fertile gutters of NYC. They have been likened to both Sonny & Cher and the Pixies, and are DIY to the hilt, mixing and recording the bulk of their records in their cramped Lower East Side apartment - which they have converted into a center for underground music production and online distribution called Olive Juice Music. 11:59 pm Roger Manning A true antifolk pioneer: the first Roger Manning album was mostly recorded on a 4 track cassette machine and released in 1989 by California punk recording label SST (Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.). He has been described as: Led Zeppelin meets Joni Mitchell meets Sonic Youth meets Public Enemy meets the Clash meets Woody Guthrie meets Big Audio Dynamite.

Day 2
Upstairs
2:30 pm Major Matt Mason USA Major Matt Mason USA has been making music since the late 80’s. Major Matt has evolved from recording by boombox to a catalog of five full length albums. The DIY spirit is a big part of Matt’s art and lifestyle as he continues to carve out a niche for truly modern American Folk music. 3:00 pm Elizabeth Devlin Elizabeth Devlin invokes influences from scratchy American phonographs and love-lived, combining bitter-sweet, haunting vocals with angelic, cacophonous Autoharp melodies. 3:30 pm Dan Costello Dan Costello is a Brooklyn songwriter and performer who also records, works as a sound engineer, and will do pretty much anything for a fair price. Is there work out there for a beard model? He co-runs The Brooklyn Tea Party, a live/work space in the heart of Bushwick’s far-out scene. 4:00 pm Preston Spurlock Preston has been making lo-fi bedroom recordings of his nervous, oddball songs on a Casio SK1 for eight years. Besides performing solo, Preston is also a permanent member of the groups Huggabroomstik, Elastic No-No Band, Don’t Enroll In Public School, Mango Glaze, and Old Hat.

and The Faggots, but not during Art Sorority For Girls, because he will be banging on drums. Besides music-making, Dibs tends to play around with computers. 6:00 pm The Best A princess of all things tiny and home-made, The Best sings catchy, riot-grrl, anti-folk ukepop with child-like wonder and ancient wisdom. Known to the legitimate world as Betsy Cohen. 6:30 pm Jeffrey Lewis Jeffrey Lewis was raised in New York City and is a maker of comic books, tragi-comic folk narratives, and lysergic garage rock. Live shows also incorporate “low budget videos,” Jeff’s large illustrations displayed to accompany certain songs. His most recent album Jeffrey Lewis: 12 Crass Songs, is a collection of songs by the legendary anarchist punk band Crass, reworked by Jeffrey into glorious folk, rock, psychedelic, orchestral and electronica productions which dazzle the ear while losing none of the political power of the originals.

4:30 pm

Erin Regan

“As inauspicious as the night began, Erin Regan turned everything around in a matter of seconds. Her stage persona may say stay the hell away from me, but her bleak, outsider chronicles are welcoming and inclusive, and will resonate hard with any other cool kids who’ve been liberated (or long to be liberated) from a stifling environment.” (Lucid Culture) 5:00 pm Brook Pridemore If you haven’t seen Brook Pridemore in more than a week, he’s probably on tour. Brook played two hundred and one shows in 2007, and is on the fast track to break that record in 2008. Brook is hard at work writing “A Brighter Light,” his fourth album, which promises to “whup the ram’s ass with a belt.” 5:30 pm Dibs Dibs is playing guitar. He is looking down at the guitar, in order to play it. He will be looking down for hours of the festival, during performances by Huggabroomstik

Downstairs
Olive Juice Music Distro Brick & Mortar For A Day A rare chance to purchase all your favorite OJ distro items in person with no shipping fees. OJ Artists Craft Sale There’s a lot more than just music making going on in this community, mini Cakeshop used records sale too. OJ Free Clothing and Book Exchange Bring some! Take some!

Urban Folk issue 16 - the Final Curtain ~ page 18

future publications to consider?

Urban Jokes
Turban Folk

As we at Urban Folk transition away from a quarterly publication, we’ve been brainstorming other projects to be involved in. Some of them are brilliant. Then there were other ideas...

Verbin’ Folk
“I am active.I think, I speak, and I act... ” “...I am passive. Actions happen to me. I allow the world to act upon me. ”

Passive, aggressive or neither? See page 19...

December’s dastaar!

H e r b n F o l k s !

Urban Toke
Play the piano…

…in ten short years!
It’s 4:20. Do you know where your munchies are?

page 19 ~ Urban Folk issue 16 - the Final Curtain

by JJ Hayes

Spandrel Monger
if the need or desire for recognition and compensation are not present, still the independence of the quest is compromised by what others have declared to be known. It is not a free and independent quest unless the artist is seeking what is new to the artist (but then there is no distinction between artists who think they do something totally new with artists who, in fact, do). Both are looking for something that is new to them individually. But then the artist who mines the old, revisits it, works with it as it is new to them, is also an explorer of the same order. What then is the difference between an artist seeking to be new to the rest of the world and an artist seeking purely commercial gain? It seems these motivations threaten to obscure the truth that may be available to the artist, alone which could be new to the rest of us. It is precisely what is known to the artist (and therefore considered unworthy of attention or even boring to themselves), which may be unknown to others. That which is commonplace – personal ways of thought and phrasing and sense of sound and vision – may be unknown to us, the recipients, until the artist is willing to share that work. Artists are humans with a set of spandrels and maybe they are spandrels. A spandrel is an ornament on medieval architecture that seems to serve no useful purpose. The term was adopted by Stephen Jay Gould for a feature, a mutation which appears for whatever reason and may or may not be useful now but when circumstances change give the species with a particular spandrel an advantage. Or it may be a hindrance. By its nature, a spandrel is something whose origin is not within the control of its possessor. It has been given, it has arisen, it is what it is. Why these spandrels? What will happen with these spandrels? The artist has to play, as Debe Dalton notes, and when such a deep seated spandrel as having to play, to write, to make art is unsupported by the surrounding population near and far, family, friend and stranger, perhaps the artist just wants to be normal for a minute. To be normal, the artist may seek those possessed of similar spandrels. The aforementioned Stephen Jay Gould was one of the authors of the concept of punctuated equilibrium. At the margins of any species arises a much smaller population, perhaps a spandrel-bearing population, that in short order replaces the existing species in a given
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It is all about the unknown. As our knowledge grows, we find less to be new. Those with the greatest experience among us state that such and such is not new; it’s been done before. But it is new to us, we who are less well versed. And then what was old, what has been done before, becomes new to us. But what is new is what was once unknown. And if it contains within it enough of the unknown-to-us, it may prove fascinating. It is all about the unknown. The pleasure I derive from any work of art seems to be that it either hits dead on an experience I already know, or communicates an experience I haven’t had. But even the former is about the unknown. My experience is not new, but hearing it told perfectly is new. I either did not know that another human had such an experience, or could appreciate such an experience, or could possibly communicate it so well. The experience is old but the telling is new. The new is the unknown being made manifest. We did not know it was unknown until such time as it was revealed. The unknown being made known is the new. Some of us strive mightily to make something new, only to be told that it is not new at all, that we are not fully conversant with the world of arts and letters to really see something for what it is. But such a view conflates the individual critic’s personal knowledge with a collective knowledge. It declares as objective and eternal that which is contingent upon the accidents of space, time, technology, industry and the critic’s experience. It declares that the first to be recorded and known was in fact what is new. It leads in its worst manifestations to a rejection of what seems superficially old, accompanied by a failure to hear what is actually new. The converse is the artist who insists on the objective newness and worth of their art and narcissistically refuses to acknowledge that what is new to them is not necessarily new to others. Having bought into the notion that the new is important, they search through the limited range of what they have been told or personally know, and try to produce something, only to run up against hearers who say it has all been done before. The ability to produce something heralded as truly and objectively new, as a conscious and intentional act is predicated on knowing what is known in the field. But then the quest becomes driven by the need for the recognition of its newness, of its revolutionary character against a standard set by others. More profoundly even

environment. Evolution does not progress gradually. There is a sudden change and then a period of equilibrium. But you are never going to know at a given time if the smaller population you inhabit, with its own peculiar set of spandrels, will be the group that sweeps aside the old way of looking at things, or will simply continue to exist at the margins or even be eradicated. Such is the world of music I guess; one never knows. All our conversations are about the unknown. You mention something, I mention something; you reveal something unknown to me, I reveal something unknown to you – even if it is only the fact that someone else has had the same experience. We desire to be heard. We seek audience. So there is the unknown of receptivity. We want a lot of willing recipients, but sometimes we only find a few. We want perhaps the hall crowded with 3,000 simultaneous recipients rather than a hundred different venues with an average of 30 (if we can get even that). We can find out what enough people want and give it to them, but then we are not being heard. There are spandrels of receptivity as well as spandrels of creativity. And all of that is really unknown as well, until the artist finds new fans willing to reveal themselves.

It is the unknown revealing itself to the unknown. Indeed, the artist searching and exploring is revealing something unknown about themselves to themselves, and then that self-communication becomes a communication to others. So the artist must first be receptive to herself or himself and then send the words, music or images outside themselves where the offer will be accepted or rejected. When a hearer communicates in return that something new has been revealed, that is the unknown, the-will-someone-like-it of existence, making itself known. So the origin of all this is unknown. Where it ends or whether it is going anywhere is unknown. The offer is an offer of the unknown to the unknown, which unknown then responds with its own offer of the unknown – namely the acceptance or rejection of the unknown made known. And the artist may accept or reject that unknown-made-known. And so the mystery of origin and end, of history and transcendence, of offer and acceptance; of knowledge and love really goes on at every open mic, at every performance of every show. Maybe it’s the same with the art of living. Hey, maybe it’s the same with everything.

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The Worst Party that I’ve Ever Seen (Boise, ID)

Get in the minivan
photo by Lauren Terrilli
times into a megaphone that I was about to play. After a few minutes of loud apathy from the drunks, I went ahead and started playing to the handful of kids who gave a damn about the songs. After I made enough noise, twenty or so kids (out of the easy hundred in attendance) filtered over and watched politely/indifferently. I was fed a couple of sweet compliments from kids who’d watched, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d wasted my time preaching to the inconvertible. Pat’s set did not go much different. Having played snare drum for most of his sets on this tour, I’ve become accustomed to the typical polite enthusiasm for my songs (which most people are not familiar with) transforming into frenzy when Pat starts (more people having a past history with his music). In Boise, however, even Pat’s songs ended with a rustle of clapping from the small crowd, something akin to crickets, or the clinking of martini stems in a glass tender. Somewhere in there, someone had promised us that there was keg beer being sold, and we’d get the money from those sales. When that came up in conversation after the show, Dan was told there was no money, and he then went around trying to scavenge up some change for gas, with little luck. So: We had driven hundreds of miles across uneasy terrain and out of our way to play our songs for alcoholics who couldn’t care less about our music, let alone our message; and we couldn’t scrounge a tank of gas out of them. To be fair, Pat and I both received several apologetic/ thankful emails from kids who cared. A lot of words about how Boise needed us to come there, that our show really brought the community together. Those kind words are more important to me than the lost CD sales or tanks of gas. When I can clearly see that I’ve affected a younger punk, I feel like I’ve won.

by Brook Pridemore

We left Missoula at a leisurely pace, not realizing that we were in for 7+ hours of intense, winding mountain driving across the peaks of central Idaho. I’d been through that terrain before, and my impression of Idaho will always be potatoes, meth and an endless vista of flat, flat great plain farmland. For reasons I can’t remember, I insisted on doing all of the driving, and thus pulled into Boise a shivering, rubbery mess. Like Dick Van Dyke in an endless loop of the intro to his own show, I stumbled around the Myrtle Morgue, never quite getting a foothold on my surroundings. I had joked on the way in that I hoped Doug Martsch would come to the show; we could catch up on old times, but the Built to Spill mastermind was nowhere to be seen. Well, he’s probably holed up in Twin Falls, smoking weed and noodling along to Neil Young records. There were a LOT of people in the small backyard for a Wednesday night. I thought to myself that either the weekend starts super early around Boise or we had a massive, pre-existing following in South Idaho. It turned out to be the former. What appeared at first to be a decent, pretty rollicking party was in reality mostly a bunch of drunk meatheads who didn’t give two shits about the local punk bands, and didn’t give ONE shit about the out-of-towners who’d traveled most of the way across the country to play for them. I try never to carry an air of entitlement. I don’t expect or ask anyone who does a show for me to roll out a red carpet. I have never once in the last four years asked any audience to “be respectful.” If you think that your goddamn punk rock band should be treated like rock and roll royalty, then you’re in the wrong business and I don’t have any time for you. But I DO think people should have some appreciation for a couple of punks who drive hours and hours across unfamiliar territory to share their warmth and ideas. When you consider the price of gas alone, the traveling wingnuts are not exactly in a seller’s market. Pat the Bunny (my latest travel companion) has joked more than once on this trip that he can’t wait for the day when gas is so expensive that we have to tour on horseback: that then, finally, the poseurs will finally be separated from the real road dogs. I was instead confronted largely with indifference when I opened my guitar bag. Wendy and Luke, the two who seemed most in charge of the show, hollered multiple

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But this talk about community leads me to my ultimate dilemma about Boise. What do you do when your community – because like it or not, any time you go to a place and play a show, that place is your community, at least for the day - largely has its eyes and ears closed? Someone whose idea of anarchism is constant, belligerent drunkenness is just as hard to reach as someone who’s been brainwashed into a cult. When Pat and I talked about Boise on the way to the next show, he suggested a paradox: some people’s idea of anarchism is to subvert the system through community development, the sharing of ideas, and inclusive-

ness; other people’s idea of anarchism is to subvert the system by alienating everyone possible. I wish I had an answer. Even before I quit drinking, I’d resented the fact that people use punk shows as a springboard for alcoholic idiocy, but any action I’ve ever tried to deter that stupidity has made me feel like an old man, watering my lawn in my underwear, yelling at passing cars to slow down. I have toyed with the idea of asking bookers to announce shows as dry until after music’s over, but I desperately don’t want to seem holier than thou. I’m sorry to leave this one open ended, but all I know how to do from here is keep moving, and keep seeking out the kids who actually care.

Costello’s Web by Jonathan Berger
There are a variety of old school AntiFolk chicks that I used to stalk, but then they left town or set up restraining orders, and I lost touch. Luckily, with this newfangled tool, the internetz, I’ve been able to track down some of the lovely ladies of my past. web). There are some obvious attacks on the Brenda Kahn right from the left with a pretty twangy – almost ironically so – voice. I’m not loving the track, Brenda Kahn’s the reason I got into this but any jibe against a political party is worth a whole AntiFolk business. It was trying to little support. follow her around when I discovered the Fort... and everything changed. Now she’s The other track is better. “Forty Cent Raise,” living in PA with a passel of kids and a featuring vocals from John Doe, speaks to povreal estate license, and I never get to hear erty level employment, where there is such a her anymore. But: what’s this? She’s got a site up? thing as a forty cent raise. It was about fifty years ago She’s got some songs there for downloading? She that the Pajama Game’s “Seven and a Half Cents” spoke wants some money for them but she doesn’t police it to the same point. The song makes me ache for in any way to make me cough up the dough? I’m in America, much more than the “Jesus” song. It’s good heaven. Her MySpace page has some other songs, to hear Cindy Lee back in the saddle. Maybe she’ll get but I think my favorite is “Regular Job.” Kahn’s style to tour for the new Beloved Stranger album, and I won’t remains literate; she rhymes “statistic” and “ballistic” have to go online to listen to her stuff. while she addresses issues of growing up, and grow- myspace.com/mscindyleeberryhill ing out of her early dreams. These are home demos, I believe, created entirely by Ms. Kahn herself. I’m glad Casey Scott to have them. I go to this page a bunch. I kind of loved Casey Scott for a little while. She was a brendakahn.com/music.htm nutjob, but her performances could be electric, and her songwriting was distinct. Even when singing a love song, Cindy Lee Berryhill she was acerbic and edgy, the very height of AntiFolk The original first lady of AntiFolk, the chick who inspired artistry. When she moved back to Portland, Scott crea hundred Kirk Kelly songs, is now a mother in SoCal. ated Red Venus Love Army, “12-piece soulful rock orShe’s also reinvented herself as an anti-country artist, chestra.” The three tracks up on MySpace have been taking the same violent stand against the C&W format all I’ve had of them for a while, and… currently they’re she once had against West Village folk. There are two gone. Why am I mentioning them, then? You should songs from her new album on MySpace. One is the look for Casey Scott however you can. If you ever get well-distributed, arrhythmic “When Did Jesus Become the chance to hear Red Venus Love Army, do so. “400 a Republican?” It’s been all over Neil Young’s Living Stars” is a standout. With War site, and blog pages all over the world (wide myspace.com/redvenuslovearmy
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On Open Mics by Somer Bingham
When I first set out to cover the open mic scene in New York, I expected to hit every open mic I could find, give a brief summary of each, and recommend each reader a perfect open mic based on skill level, genre, format and whatever other categories emerged based on the fruits of my quest. Some of the open mics I planned to review are now defunct (with good reason, I think) and some of them have yet to receive a visit from me. I still have boundless hope for the next installment in a future issue of Urban Folk, assuming the editor doesn’t fire me, or give up publication like a big fat quitter. I am not afraid of you, Mr. Berger. Bar 4 444 7th Avenue at 15th Street Park Slope, Brooklyn Tuesday at 8:30pm / Sign-up at 6pm Free The sign-up is listed at 8pm, but in reality if you don’t make it early for the “pre-sign-up list,” you’ll be playing late into the A.M. Of course, the benefit to playing late is that you’ll get to hear all the other songwriters that frequent this very popular Park Slope open mic, many of whom have already gotten booked to play shows at this and other Local Correspondents venues. For those those of you who don’t know, the LC are a community of musicians, based in Brooklyn who run the open mics at Bar 4 and Matchless and also book a monthly showcase at Rockwood Music Hall. Some of their bookings are done from the open mics, so for those looking to break into those venues, come ready to impress. The first time I played this open mic, I sauntered in around 9pm, apologetically asking if there was any room left on the list for a time-insensitive musician like myself. Tanya Buziak, a Local Correspondent who manages the list, kindly added me to the end of the sign-up sheet, which put me somewhere around the late 30s. I settled into a corner and had a glass of wine, glad to pay my open mic dues and patiently listen to what this group of artists had to offer. Like any open mic, the skill and experience levels fall on a bell curve, with a few beginners, a lot of average to good acts, and the occasional melt-your-face-off talent. With so many acts playing two songs each, the night tends to blend together (or maybe that was just the wine kicking in?) especially since the “sound” of many of the artists is so similar. I was a little tipsy when I finally made it onto the stage around 2:30am, but there were still about 15 to 20 people hanging out so I didn’t have to play to the walls, the bartender, and the soundman – who, by the way, was very attentive and eager to make the room sound good for each act. There are even a few non-musicians hanging out in the crowd, which is a huge benefit to those who impress the audience and happen to carry around their email lists or have CDs to sell. My only criticism comes as a result of the second time I played the night; though I rushed over from my day job and hit the pre-sign-up list at about 7:15pm, I still had to wait ‘til 2:30 to finally play. A little frustrating, but perhaps this is due to the popularity of the open mic. The bartender mentioned that people were lined up at the doors when he opened at 6pm…and that would be my recommendation for those who like to be in bed before midnight. Also good to know: if there are a lot of musicians on the list, the night will switch to a onesong format, at the discretion of Ms. Buziak, and then back to two songs to finish up the night. Be mentally prepared in case you are one of the unlucky ones! This does help to speed up the night, however, and prevent it from ending at sunrise. Summary: Excellent vibe and atmosphere, but arrive around 6pm to make it on early enough to show off your skills to the other talented singer-songwriters. Bar Matchless 557 Manhattan Avenue at Driggs Greenpoint, Brooklyn Sunday at 9pm / Sign-up at 6:30pm Free Another Local Correspondents event, this one is a little less popular than the Bar 4 night, but with many of the same musicians. The stage is quite awesome; however, it’s separated from the rest of the club, so your audience consists entirely of other musicians. Tanya Buziak also manages this open mic but after sign-up she moved to the bar and allowed the soundman to take over the rest of the night. Since the sign-up list includes a line for email addresses, I assume that a talented performer who catches the ear of the soundman might get contacted for a show, but this is just speculation. Again, I came in late, but there was plenty of room and I was on the stage before midnight. About 25 people came to play. One of the soundmen mentioned that the open mic gets very crowded in the summer, when
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the back wall garage door comes up and the crowd can spill into the smoking area and out onto the street. Passers-by even stop to check out what’s going on. I’m looking forward to checking out the scene when the weather is a bit warmer, but of course that means that if you want to play early, you’ll probably have to be there as soon as the sign-up list drops. Bar Matchless is one of the coolest bars I’ve been to; it was converted from a motorcycle garage, which explains the back wall garage door of the venue. There is a long bar in the front, foosball, pool, a quieter back room, and booths. The venue area has a couple of couches and chairs, and it doesn’t feel too empty even when there aren’t people in the audience. From my limited experience, this seems to be a better venue for those who are just starting out and don’t want to wait at the end of the longer lines at some of the more popular open mics. Summary: Great stage, especially for a newcomer looking to hone skills – at least while it’s colder and the list is shorter – and play on a very nice, roomy stage in front of other musicians. Look to the summer for more of a scene. Sidewalk Cafe 94 Avenue at East 6th Street Mondays at 8pm / Sign-up at 7:30pm Free admission / Two drink minimum You probably don’t need me to tell you about the longest running open mic in New York City, where acts like Regina Spektor, The Moldy Peaches, and Nellie MacKay, have graced the stage. If you’re reading this, you might even be sitting at it. Founded and run by Lach, who also coined the term “antifolk,” this is one of the most popular open mics in the city and fosters a creative and often welcoming singer-songwriter scene often until 3am. I was quite intimidated by the open mic’s reputation for talent – one posting on openmikes.org claimed that the first 20 acts are “usually so good you may decide to head home and work at it some more” – so I put off playing for months before finally showing up. Sign-up is by lottery, which has its drawbacks and merits; I’ve seen as many as 80 on the list, but the
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newcomers should know that every act will get to play, as long as they can tough out the wait. At around ten the format switches from 2 songs / 8 minutes to 1 song / 4 minutes per performer, which helps move the night along and give hope to those who are concerned with the wait. But waiting shouldn’t be considered a hellish endeavor; the other performers are sure to keep you entertained. During the first night I attended, the genres ranged from psychedelic folk rock to dark piano pop, from blues to antifolk (this writer considers antifolk to be both a genre and a subculture. The genre is acoustic punk, often politically minded, while the subculture, based at Sidewalk, promotes the values of good songwriting with a focus on melody. I know you’re going to take this out, Jon Berger, but I don’t want to confuse anyone with my ramblings). Experience level was varied, but keep in mind that many of the acts that

play are promoting a show while a many of the rest are playing to try to get booked, so complete beginners were a rarer breed. The audience almost entirely consists of other singersongwriters, making this less of an opportune place to draw a larger fan base – though you will see email lists passed around and also receive multiple fliers for shows. The sound is generally quite good, though it can be a little loud at times. When the weather is warm, the crowd spills into the street where some musicians even play impromptu shows. Summary: Might be frustrating for a beginner; best for those who are looking to get booked and/or benefit from networking, collaborating or being influenced by the other singer-songwriters who hang out in and around the venue throughout the night. Vox Pop 1022 Cortelyou Road at Coney Island Avenue Brooklyn, NY Sundays at 7pm 2 drink or snack minimum No doubt this open mic is worth the hike out to south Brooklyn via the Q train. Sign up is at 7pm, but despite showing up about 20 minutes late, there were only about 15 people already on the list. The night that I played seemed a bit “front loaded” with experience – I imagine the regulars are more timely than the rookies – but I thought the overall concentration of talent was awesome considering the size of the open mic. Even more

pleasing was the variety: a bit of country, a bit of antifolk, a bit of rock, emo, spoken word, and even an impromptu performance of “The Witch is Dead” by a half pint rock star in the making. The venue is a café/bookstore/publishing company dedicated to democracy and the “voice of the people” (hence the name) and serving up food, organic wine, and beer on tap. It’s a cozy space complete with outdoor seating, which is perfect for the warm summer months ahead, and the crowd was generally supportive throughout the night. It wasn’t uncommon for a performer to announce a show they were scheduled to play at Vox Pop. Also, most of the musicians mixed in a cover or two along with their original material. My favorite aspect of the night was the three song format – more of a mini-set than you’ll get at most of the more popular open mics I’m used to playing around the city. It was a little hard for me to hear my guitar and looper pedal during my set – the speakers are in front of the stage, and there are no monitors – but the crowd was respectfully quiet, so this wasn’t too much of a drawback. A closing praise of the night: most people stuck around until the last few performances to listen and encourage them, so the last of us didn’t have to play to a completely empty room. We left just as the host was finishing his closing set around 11pm. Late for a school night, but early for a open mic! Summary: For beginners or pros; a cool night to spend in a part of Brooklyn you’ve probably never been to.

How Was Work, Honey?
by Joe Crow Ryan
Though being a full time musician (2-4 hrs a day, almost every day) seems romantic and exciting- even to me – it is a job. If you have a job, you have a routine. While the musician has the benefit of the occasional instant gratification of warm applause, unbridled esteem and the deepest of smiles from beautiful women and men* (everyone is beautiful when they smile at me), most days are like yours: nothing really happens. Seeing my last story in this mag made me think, “What has happenned worth writing and reading?” Well, whaddaya know? See what happenned. I am playing at my favorite station after midnight and ask those assembled, “Are there any requests?” and before I get to the part that goes, “Requests are likely to be approximated” (really, who can know all the

Subway Stories
photo by Herb Scher
songs? You can usually at least get the genre ,era or, sometimes, the artist), someone offers, “I’ll give you five dollars to shut the fuck up!” Reflexively, I rejoin, “Ten dollars! Though if there are any other bidders....” “Just Shut the fuck up!” he persists. I pause to look around (I only have one ear, so cannot tell from which direction a sound comes). Off to my left, about ten yards off, I see some surly-postured, angrily motioning and tall black man. He continues muttering in a smoldering sort of way. Did I mention that the slowly running L-Train had just disgorged a great number of passengers who have come over to my place of work? Well, among this number is a familiar figure of a tall-tall black man of considerable body mass who has in the past smiled and
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shared his wealth while enjoying my act. He is of the What I could recognize was that there was an escalaopinion, which he voices, that the distant heckler should tion of anger and mutually percieved disrespect that just shut up himself. hinted strongly at imminent violence. Here is where I launch my First Ammendment riff, defending both my right to sing and my foe (for that is how he defined himself to me)’s right to criticize. I went on with a new bit: “I know that I am not responsible for people’s taste in music. That has nothing to do with me and I understand that this stuff I do is not for everyone. I know there are people interested in this and people disinterested in this. And if you can’t exercise your disinterestedness in as small a matter as this, I don’t see how you’ll make it in New York.” “Holy Shit!” I think (I nearly never use vulgar language out loud, since I feel it should be saved until nothing else will do. It concentrates their nastiness so that when you do let loose out loud you can scorch your listener’s eyebrows – figuratively). “This could hurt.” I start strumming, the whole platform- to me- crackling with the fear that we are about to see some major blackon-black crime – all because little ol’ me has to whip out my unbidden schtick in public.

Since I have been speaking, I don’t follow the exact words but my foe and advocate both have been hold- The strumming turned into “The Scared Song,” to remind me that it is my choice to eschew Fear. As I sing, ing forth between themselves while I was riffing. I find myself waiting for the feeling I love in my dreams, I continue, “Plus, it is only going to be for a little while when I am about to be killed, no two ways about it, and you have to suffer this. The train will be along in three I have nothing to do but let it happen (that is how I met songs or so. Compared to the Knicks, this is just a Lily. Ask me sometime). The tension of the situation teaspoon in an hourglass.” (that was the first time I made, however, for an imperfect peace. ever said this: the Knicks and the hourglass thing, and I thought it was pretty good. So did some others who I am thinking, “What if he has a knife? What if he comes where I sit crosslegged and kicks me and kicks me mildly laughed) and kicks me? Did this “...oil on the waters...” calm the building storm? What if my advocate and my foe struggle at length? When the laughter dispersed, the two interested and Will I help before the cops get here (the station has an large black men had advanced to a stage of social in- NYPD Station right upstairs)? Turn the other cheek? tercourse with which I am to this day alien. Well, that has been one of my lifelong goals, but, Geez! It was as though American blacks have a lingo private The song ends. to themselves (I am put in mind of the Trinidadian brothers who used to preach eloquently but who, when they My foe is reduced to indistinct muttering between my spoke to each other, used a type of English that would following FIVE songs (even for the G-Train, this train is taking like FOREVER). need subtitles on a movie screen). More listeners on the now packed platform from the sluggish L-Train smile and contribute.At last, the GTrain comes. The platform is clearing except for me and my foe. He approaches and addresses me, “That’s right, you stay right there, motherfucker (true, but we can’t go into that right now other than to say none of them were my mother) You stay right there.” and he scoots through the shutting car door. Of course, he feared that I would follow onto the train and continue oppressing him with my dulcet ministrations of musical art. Which I don’t. Another platform fills and empties. Another platform fills and empties. “Huh!” I think, “Maybe he meant, ‘Stay here until I go get my Glock so I can bust a cap in your miserable subway-busker ass.’” On second thought, I was right the first time.
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CD Reviews
Interested in reviewing CDs? Being reviewed? Either way, we need you! Contact:: urbanfolkzine@gmail.com
Jerry Cherry Life is Sweeter “Big City Life” starts Jerry Cherry’s full-length with a big crunchy guitar that tells you you’re in for a full-size rock album. “Lancelot,” the following track, features a mournful trumpet and lyrics that seem melancholy: “a tragedy unfolds if our love should grow cold” leads into references to happy loving couples who rode off into the sunset like Lancelot & Guinevere and Romeo & Juliet. Then the string-laden “Turned Around” is an ode to satisfied love – or maybe a perfect relationship. Cherry switches gear from song to song, displaying an eclectic nature. The vocals often sound sad, the music often joyous. “Everywhere” illustrates this dichotomy perfectly; the song has that sound you recognize as familiar the very first time you hear it, with a full electric guitar over plaintive vocals: “If you only knew how much it hurts to go a day without you…” The boy can mix it up. “Fit In” adds dramatic resonance in the middle of the track, for a rousing orchestral effect. “Freakshow” is great hard rock fun. “If you really wanna turn me on, what’re you doing over there?” Cherry selfharmonizes over big guitars and screams, whoops, and hollers. “Hello, My Dear” also sounds hauntingly familiar, though repeated listens refuse to divulge just what it sounds like. Cherry’s amalgamation of style hides his influences well. The last cut, “Worst Looking Man,” is most obviously the showstopper. If you’ve heard Jerry Cherry, then you’ve heard “Worst.” It’s the hit, it’s the mantra, it’s the theme song. In this track, his voice goes from poignant to slick, as he details the ladies who shoot him down, and his justification for why they shouldn’t. “Hey baby, don’t be so mean. I’m not the worst looking man you’ve ever seen.” Sure it’s shallow, but fun, and funny, and our Mr. Cherry has earned a few smiles by this point. A big band plays behind him, with big horns, drums, guitars. It’s huge, Jerry Cherry’s “Worst Looking Man.” You oughtta hear it. (Reviewed by Jonathan Berger) jerrycherry.com Annie Crane Annie Crane As I listened to Annie Crane’s brief, self-titled affair, I thought to myself, ah, I wish this were a scratchy 45. I also thought, gee, I’m glad someone else likes old mountaintop fiddle riffs as much as I do, and man, I’d really love a Hostess cupcake right now (The third idea really has more to do with my ritualistic afternoon sugar binge than with Crane’s disc, but...) Another honest thought: this EP could have been much, much longer. Crane offers up just five short tracks, but covers a lot of heart-broke, weather-worn ground; I was sad to see it end. Maya Roney on fiddle and Dan Costello on piano add substance and profundity without interfering with Crane – they also drive home her stylistic nod to ancestral Americana. With simple instrumentation and a pliant, ethereal voice, Crane channels Baez via Krauss via the Chieftains. She nimbly quotes all of the American folk markers (softly plodding guitars, lyrical legends) but adds a smart, modern twist. Thank God: I loves me some Baez, but another bland revival would have me crying into my paisleys. Crane’s music is mature, minimalist, and she’s got a depth to her voice that lends credence to even her most mythical poetic wanderings. Crane’s femininity is an asset to the album. Too often, women songwriters try to ditch the softness and insight thinking we should sound like the boys, when really, we just sacrifice truth. Finally, here’s a girl-guitar combo that is unapologetic but never angsty. Crane is no Avril, no Ashlee, no way. And she is confident and smart. She muses on her roots, her future, and her heart with a precise mix of honesty and archetype. On unrequited love, in “Pennsylvania,”: “Sorry dear, honey dear, but he never really loved you, I put a great river between you, and left it up to you to venture ‘cross.”
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She could be taking notes directly from Emmylou Harris’ “Red Dirt Girl”—and I think I caught some Feist there in “When I Grow Old,”— but if you’re going to fill some footsteps, those are phenomenal ones to choose. And Crane is the second woman I’ve heard sing something pretty about Lake Charles (the first being Lucinda Williams). I’m starting to think I ought to get down there for some inspiration. My favorite tracks on this bite-sized EP are “Ring Down” and “Franny and Zooey.” The first is a winding, spooky tune that I could accuse of rambling, but won’t. Every writer needs an epic, and this one is a seductive way to beckon listeners in to the EP. “I could hear his heart from miles away, from miles away.” Phew. “Franny and Zooey,” besides citing my complete bestest-ever favorite Salinger novel, has a particular unassuming beauty in being so bare. You have to give it up for someone who’s not afraid to be quiet and wise. Or maybe you should just put her on your next country-driving mix and let her get you lost. (Reviewed by Jordan Levinson) myspace.com/anniecrane The Hot Left The Hot Left Dave Feddock used to perform as Fave Deddock. He’s got a better moniker now, leading the threepiece outfit the Hot Left. No, I don’t know what it means – literally. What it means on a sonic level, however, I can fully grasp. The Hot Left is explosive. Feddock definitely knows his way around a hook. There are lots of moments on lots of these songs that are memorable: the wail at the end of each line on the first track, “Down in The Basement,” the early Joe Jackson Band sound of “Right On Time Again,” the riff that accompanies the verses in “When I Get Knocked Down,” and then the song’s chorus? Sweet…
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What little problem I have with this down-and-dirty ten song release revolve around the words. Feddock’s voice isn’t the strongest in town, and while it pulls off the snottier punk songs, it works less well on the plaintive “Test Tube.” To make matters worse, the vocals are pretty low in the mix. And speaking of words, what about the plot? Let’s look at the “Knocked Down,” where our young Mister Feddock describes three separate scenes where motion occurs. In Verse One, he chats up a girl then takes her downstairs and gets down and dirty. Verse Two, they sit in traffic: “I tried to pull out of the lane / the other drivers insane / and then I screamed ‘Hey babe!’ I think I need a little space / but then the traffic started moving at a nice steady pace.” Verse Three, the narrator’s alone, drunk at an open mic. I can’t follow the through line of the story, or even if these anecdotes connect at all. “I like the idea of saying something without really saying anything,” Feddock explains, “Using words as colors to give the impression of something but doing it in an admittedly bone head way.” I’m not sold that his approach executes all that well. The musical drama in “Knocked Down,” building through the last verse, doesn’t seem substantiated by what’s he’s actually describing. The words seem too plain to add much to the picture. I can only imagine how powerful this track would be with a different lyricist and singer. “A friend of mine had a very strong feeling that I should be the one singing,” Feddock says, “He thought the songs were really personal and actually pretty wellrealized vocally.” There’s potential depth in the songs that could make Feddock’s investment stronger than anyone else’s, but his greatest strength is absolutely in the music, and the muscular, popping arrangements. Absolutely worth a listen – maybe nine. (Reviewed by Jonathan Berger) myspace.com/thehotleft Claire Fisher Gold Miner’s Journal After rotating Claire Fisher’s latest work, Gold Miner’s Journal, through my 5-disc a few times, I took a peek at her MySpace page. I was hard-pressed to recognize the quirky, intriguing Fisher here on the interwebs as the creator of this slightly half-baked demo. The tracks on Fisher’s page have a tight, funky edge and some great instrumentation. I’ve got to say, the girl can really write a hook. “Gold Miner’s Journal” feels unseasoned in comparison.

Fisher plays solo acoustic sets around Grand Rapids, MI, and her homespun, high-talking spark is reminiscent of the Hudson Valley coffee shop circuit, where Joni Mitchell covers abound and everyone is just a little bit nicer than down here. True to its origin, “Gold Miner’s Journal” is a perfect suburban-springtime album: Fisher’s voice is smooth and well-pitched, her melodies are clean and strong, and her lyrics are smart. The whole record glides by so pleasantly that the occasional veers toward the overwritten or the precious are almost forgivable. The record is young and innocent, which might work better for Fisher if it was all a little less innocuous. As it stands, she’d do better to skip the meticulous production until she’s got a fuller sound, and could rough herself up a little: have a torrid affair, get a funky haircut and lose the KidPix cover art. The record’s opening song, “I Won’t Wait,” showcases Fisher’s bluesy leanings, which regrettably wander off somewhere around Track Three. Her thumpy guitar lines are begging for a backup band and some harmonypartners, additions which could really launch her into the Be-Good-Tanyas realm of femme-folk peculiarity. This type of charming oddness starts to emerge in “You Are A Giant,” and gets downright wacky in “Pirates.” Fisher has got the brains and the chops, she just needs to find her niche and set herself apart from all these other white-bread folksingers out there. If Fisher sticks to the surreal and the sassy, she’ll be a woman to truly watch out for as her writing matures. (Reviewed by Jordan Levinson) myspace.com/clairefisherchick Wakey!Wakey! Silent as a Movie Mister Mike Grubbs has certainly come a long way since his first solo piano show at Rockwood Music Hall as Wakey!Wakey! Dazed and confused, blaming an absent (and possible fictional) copy desk attendant for his lack of a band, Grubbs, under his new name, played a series of new songs – songs that were untested, songs that were strong, songs that promised a new pop style for this long-time acoustic player. There was

potential in the matieral – much of it not yet realized, but potential nonetheless. And now there’s a live uber-EP, Silent as a Movie, which executes the pop orchestration hinted at way back at the beginning. Performed with a four-piece string section, a rock band, an occasional accordion, and other sporadic guests (songwriters Casey Shea and Misty Boyce make appearances), Silent as a Movie hints at words like “Chaotic Masterpiece,” if only because some of these pieces requires mastering anarchic elements, like collaboration and arrangement. The songs thrive in this environment, with the already beautiful “Falling Apart” suddenly sounding stunning – seriously. The building excitement in “Take it Like a Man” could only be done with accomplished players executing excellent work. “Cokehead,” featuring Ivan Sandomire, also grows in excitement, adding band mates and energy, eliciting the proper emotion at the proper time. “War Sweater,” though, never ceases to piss me off. Sure, it sounds great. The music is beautiful, but the chorus, “You wear your religious like a war sweater,” it’s stupid. You wear your religion like you wear a war sweater? You wear it like one who sweats war would wear it? What the hell is a war sweater, anyway? In general, Grubbs’ lyrics bear examination. “I wrote this one love song and then realized I wrote (it) about the government when Bush was reelected,“ Grubbs once explained, “So I thought I should write all my songs and disguise them.” So these are political songs about girls or something? Makes as much sense as the band’s name (though, admittedly, Wakey!Wakey! sounds better than Mikey Grubbs). Note: the live show from which most of this material was culled, one of Liberated Matter’s weekly CrossPollination gigs, featured a sensitive and touching version of SNL’s “Dick in a Box.” I guess Lorne Michaels wouldn’t give permission for that cut to make the album. Damn you, Lorne Michaels, DAMN YOU! (Reviewed by Jonathan Berger) wakeywakeymusic.com

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“A Mystery Wrapped Inside an Enigma Smothered in Secret Sauce”
Mark Sinnis, the former leader of the Apostates and current leader of Ninth House, has released his first solo album, featuring 20 years of greatest misses, songs that didn’t work for either of his bands. It’s called Into an Unhidden Future, also the name of one of the multitude of songs on the album. I wish I could get a handle on this guy. I feel like something’s missing from my understanding. Sinnis’ debut solo album is 19 songs long – 19! – though the cowboy goth Ninth House released a full length just last year, and he’s their songwriter. Boy’s got a lot to say, I guess. A complete set of lyrics resides on poetrypoem.com, and there’re like a shitload of songs. But, within all this material, is Sinnis saying something? I think so. The first line of the album is “Nine times seven is sixty three, there’s nothing wrong; it was meant to be, aerosol, I’ll figure it out by myself.” I can see the math being a Dylanesque joke, but not in line one of song one. Placed thusly, it’s got to be significant, but how? The man’s band is Ninth House; could they have produced seven albums and sixty three songs? Was Sinnis born in ’63? Is this some oblique reference to the assassination of JFK? Lenny Molotov appears on the album, and he writes songs about JFK... “Aerosol”’s wordy mouthful of a chorus, “You’re lost I found it / can’t convince me I was saying… I’m inside, I’m lying here / I saw you, are you yourself?” suggests intellect and lyrical intent, but I haven’t quite decoded it.What I have decoded is the value of Sinnis’ singing: it’s great. His voice is clear, strong, flexible and subtle. These are minimal acoustic numbers (though a plethora of guests other than Molotov make appearances). The website for Ninth House explains their name: “The ninth of twelve houses in astrology focuses on higher learning and the ability to extend our minds... represents our lifelong struggle to find out what we believe about the world, God, man and life…”
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Mark Sinnis

by Jonathan Berger

Pretty New Agey. The posters for shows and venues suggest that there’s a horror rock connection, and his voice sounds like psychobilly isn’t too far in his past. Among this score of songs are some pretty impressive tracks. My favorite: “When the Sun Bows to the Moon,” with a rhythmic multi-instrumented track that rhymes more than most of the release, and sounds simply beautiful. With lines like, “What’s less is more / crawl into / when the sun bows to the moon,” I think he’s most interested in painting a picture, combining the poetic with the mundane. In “Waiting for a Train,” Sinnis presents rich emotional delivery while detailing redundancy: “Follow me, release me through the blackened night / take the train through the blackened night / I’m waiting for, waiting for the train, waiting for the train, yeah.” This is another track where Sinnis eschews traditional rhyme schemes. There’s consistent scansion throughout the album, but few actual rhymes. “I don’t like when things rhyme too much,” Sinnis explained, “because then it sounds contrived.” Another train song, “It Takes Me Home,” seems to reference lots of country and folk tropes. Home is the other side, you see, on a train that’s sixteen coaches long. “I like a lot of old school country,” stated Sinnis. “That’s Why I Won’t Love You” presents the aching hurt of the narrator, but it’s almost a spiritual act, where he refuses to get emotionally involved with anything. True story? Sinnis said, “99% of my lyrics are autobiographical. I write about my life .Everything has been a personal experience. It keeps it honest. “You can still say something deep and profound and have it be intelligent without dumbing it down. I want songs to be little bit of a riddle.” Mission accomplished, sir. I don’t think I understand what makes Mark Sinnis guy tick, just yet, but I’m gonna keep trying. myspace.com/marksinnis