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Urban Folk

the zine on the acoustic scene


in the City

Issue 12 Summer 2007

Urban Folk, Issue 12 – the Summer issue
Well, Summer’s here, so, naturally, uh... Somer’s here. The winter doldrums, long gone, are replaced by a damp, drenched sunshine that simply refuses to go away...It’s a good thing? Herb Scher continues his outstanding run of covers, while Brook Pridemore continues his outstanding run of getting into trouble out of town. Read all about Brook and Dan’s adventures in Canada – along with Dave Cuomo’s adventures in Canada, as well as features on Brooklyn’s M. Lamar, Northern England’s Jenny McCormick, New Jersey’s Dibson T. Hoffweiler, and AntiFolk’s Debe Dalton. Our coverage of live events increases this issue and – hey! If there’s a show you think should be featured in the zine on the scene, send a word out, a’ight? In fact, you know the drill: if you you’ve got a feature you’d like to write, some reviews you think you can produce, photos or illustrations, just let us know. We’re hungry for you – and cheeseburgers.





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Urban Folk #12 ~ 4

Hot Town, Somer in the City
Emily Moment
How many rock and roll musicians can say that the Miss USA pageant had a direct impact on their life? I know one that can. In 1975, he winner of the Miss USA pageant, Summer Bartholomew, inspired a happy mother-to-be to tuck away the beauty queen’s name for future reference. Her husband, also fond of the name, modified the spelling in honor of the actress Elke Sommers and thus, eventually, Somer Ann Bingham was born. Known today as just Somer, this petite but powerful “electro-grunge” rocker with her sultry singing voice and tough exterior is way more than meets the eye. Blushing and giddy, she was teeming with girlish excitement when she showed up to be interviewed. This was quite a departure from the heartbroken, stormy, 28 year-old I’ve seen at the Sidewalk for a year and never really known. For three hours she opened up about her life’s highs and lows, her fears and her dreams and asked about just as many questions as she answered. She claimed she could talk about music for hours... so we did. Somer was raised in a tight-knit family with her younger sister down in Orlando, Florida. “Yeah, Disney,” she laughs, “I don’t like telling people that as if it de-legitimizes my coolness.” Somer wasn’t really into music at a young age and didn’t actually pick up an instrument until college. Instead, the focus of her life growing up was athletics. Both parents played in volleyball leagues, and Somer was quick to pick up the game, in addition to basketball and softball. In attendance at a religious preparatory school Somer became a Born-Again Christian. She remembers worrying about whether her family would be saved because, though religious, their beliefs were not quite so radical as hers. But around the age of 16, when she changed prep schools for a better Volleyball team, she ended up in an unexpected religious crisis. Not only was she for the first time integrated into a community of varied religions, but the notion began to crystalize that Somer was gay. It became very clear that if the desires she had were sinful, then something was not right with her faith. Soon after, she developed a tendency towards deep depression, suppressed her homosexuality, and focused purely on her game. Somer mentions casually on her myspace page how she basically went to New Jersey to skip classes. Those classes happened to be at Princeton University, this year rated the top college in the country (beating out

photos by Herb Scher
both Harvard and Yale). “The only reason I went there was to play Volleyball. When I got in I didn’t have any concept of Ivy league top-tier schools, I was just ‘sports, sports, sports’.” Somer chose English as her Major since it was the only class in which she received a grade higher than a “C.” It didn’t take long for her status at the elite University to take a nose dive. Junior year, she contracted mononucleosis and, tired of traveling from bench to bench, quit the team. Somer fell into a deep depression, and found herself in a self-destructive, borderline suicidal tear of drugs and alcohol that ultimately resulted in her expulsion. Though this was also when she first picked up the guitar. “College is just so weird. I feel like at that age we don’t deserve that much freedom. Having been at such a good school and not being ready to accept the responsibility, I blew that opportunity. It was a really tough time. I flew home and told my parents I was kicked out of school, I had a drug problem... and I was gay.” Though she eventually ended up reapplying, convincing the school to let her back to finish her degree, those years of Somer’s life remained lonely and troubled. Out of school with not much real direction in life, Somer met Karen, her first girlfriend. “It was the first time I was in love and my whole world was just about this girl. I was traveling at the time and I just wanted to follow her around. I pictured the rest of my life with her. But then she broke up with me and started dating this guy and I was just devastated. And because up until that point I hadn’t been really serious about music, I felt like I didn’t have anything, any meaning, any thing to live for, then that happened and something snapped in me.” Ever since, music has been her life, ironically leaving her grateful for the influential catapult of the grief. “As I naturally got over her I started writing about different things. And it was tough for fans and listeners then because all my songs were about love and heartbreak, but then I really began to evolve artistically.” After several years of traveling and writing, Somer finally settled in Manhattan. She purchased a wealth of sound mixing and recording equipment and began loosely playing in and around the city while doing office accounting work to pay the bills. At the end of May 2006 she finally worked up the moxy to try her luck at the Sidewalk Café.

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Urban Folk: Tonight is your year anniversary at the Sidewalk. Do you remember your first night? Somer: I was really intimidated because the Sidewalk was supposed to be the Mecca of all open mics. I stayed the whole night and I was floored by the talent. UF: What has being a Sidewalk “Sound Bitch” taught you? SB: For starters it made me really appreciate Lach because he makes it seem so easy. I see so much music now. And I’ve learned that everyone has a song. Everyone has that moment of perfect inspiration. That hit or that thing that just taps right into the emotion, or maybe it’s not even the whole song... it’s just that moment. Everyone’s got that awesome phrasing or that cool chord change. UF: Are there any musicians that you know personally that you look up to? SB: Definitely the Fools... anyone who listens to the Fools gets them, and Daniel Bernstein (the artist formerly known as Dan Pinta), he’s poetic and sincere and he’s got this crazy style of singing and his songs catch me somehow. He just hits it. UF: Recently you broke your arm and you had to be in a cast. SB: Yeah, I was snowboarding on a romantic vacation with my girlfriend. That was really depressing to me. Especially because the band – meaning me and this sound guy – was just about to start playing rock shows, we’d been practicing and we just bought a drum kit and then I went and broke my hand. UF: Did you make any artistic discoveries because you were forced to have other people play for you? SB: Dan (Asselin) was actually a rock star, he played three shows with me. I’d never just sung before. And I love it! It was incredible. I actually think though that technically I’m worse when I’m just singing. Maybe singing with the guitar makes me sing from my diaphragm better or something but it’s a whole different connec-

tion with the audience. You have to look at them because you have nowhere else to look. It almost made me think that I should bring someone else on to play the guitar permanently. Although do you think it somehow de-legitimizes the musicianship of it? As if when you sing and play it makes you more authentic? UF: You’ve either got the passion or you don’t. If you believe it makes you connect better with the audience, that’s what’s important. Better to take all the vulnerability that you hole up in your guitar and send it outwards. Isn’t amazing how collaboration can really evolve your own style? SB: Yeah, Dan heard me play and I had just gotten out of the cast so I could only sort of manage. And he started doing this thing with my song in dropped D – which I never do – it was a whole new version of the song that I never could’ve imagined. UF: Do you concentrate on there being a through-line or a message in your music? SB: I think my music is a little schizophrenic. It’s like: here’s my ballad, and here’s my Emo, my grungy, and my electronic stuff. I feel like I have four or five songs that are the rock songs. And in a rock set I’ll incorporate some ballads but make them faster to match the set. I would like to do an EP that was sort of like Nirvana Unplugged. You know, with just a cellist, a drummer and me in a room and make it dark and raw. For now I’m starting to play out with someone who does all the synths and the sounds and that’s kind of what I envision myself doing for the next chunk of my career and see how far I can push that. UF: How do you write? SB: I have all these thoughts bubbling over and I try to put them on the back burner. I kind of write piecemeal. I take lyrics from other songs I’ve written and put them in songs I’m working on. Sometimes I take lyrics from other peoples songs... God, that sounds really bad. UF: Everybody does that. Besides a specific line or phrasing can mean something very different for two people. Meaning is so relative. SB: Yeah, I have no idea what “Polly Got Away” was about. UF: Really? SB: Yeah. I was listening to Nirvana Unplugged constantly. And I was trying to look at “Polly” from her point of view. The chords are very Nirvanaesque and then the end

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of the song – the “do it to me clean” part – I took from another song I was working on. Musically I’m not really sure that it makes sense. UF: Where do you create? SB: The studio is my bedroom... in fact it’s more of a studio than a bedroom. It’s like the new-age starving artists room... lots of high-tech equipment – no bed. UF: Are you calculated and controlling about the type of performance you give? SB: No, sometimes I forget to write the set list. Some people can just play. I like to have a little bit of flow to it, but I’m usually so concerned about whether there’s a battery in my guitar, or whether I should use reverb. UF: Do you ever worry about what the audience is thinking or feeling? SB: I remember I went to see The Kills, they’re really, really, good. And after the show I felt stoned... I felt alive and excited and depressed that it was over. If I had someone feel that way after one of my shows that would be incredible. UF: If you weren’t playing music? SB: Oh, don’t ask me that. I really don’t know. For me it would be a worse experience than that first breakup. Once you find something that you’re good at, it just

becomes exponentially more and more something that you can’t live without – even though I’m not quite great at it yet. UF: Are you insecure about your music? SB: I’m not being true to it. UF: What steps do you have to take to be true to it? SB: It just has to be what I do all the time. For everything I do to be focused to that. But I just don’t want it to be so hard that it becomes a job... too forced... too contrived. What do you think about lyrics over emotion? UF: That I guess you don’t have to worry about words when you’re succeeding with a song where your main lyrics are “la” and “hey.” (Referring to Somer’s shoutin’ diddy, “Hey”) SB: (laughing) Yeah, that song is lyrically challenged. UF: OK. Lets say you had complete and utter control over your future – SB: I do. UF: Well, OK. But theoretically speaking, where would you be in 10 years and what would your journey have been like? SB: I would be doing music every day, traveling, hopefully on tour. I don’t think any true musician goes out and says I want to be on MTV, but you want to reach as large an audience as possible... which is why I love Myspace... People might rag on it, but man, it’s a free website, I’ve met friends through it, I can keep track of musicians I love, and I really like it... unashamedly. I have all these side projects, the acoustic stuff, and weird concept albums and if I had the means to be able to focus on that stuff I would be really happy and I don’t think it’s too far fetched. But as far as moving forward and being motivated I don’t know where to draw a line. Maybe I need to save up for more studio space but if I do that I’m gonna have to keep the day job and if I keep the day job I’m gonna have less time for the music. She may not want you to know this in case it de-legitimizes her coolness, but Somer’s a sweetheart. She’s bright, easy to talk to, and I can pretty well promise that if you track her down, she’ll be eager to discuss and debate the vast universe of everything that is music. Her eclectic style is ever-evolving and if you start following her now, you’ll be lucky enough to take the journey with her. This Fall, Somer will be in France on tour, opening for “The X-Tra Pleasure Burning Band” But if you’d like to catch her here, now, in the States she’s got a bunch of gigs coming up all of which you can track at . ’Tis the season after all... summer’s here.

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Get in the Minivan
All Hail Northwest Texas!
Brook Pridemore
Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to thrive off the warmth of a roomful of kids who actually WANT to be there at the bookshops, basements and living rooms that account for the alternative venues of America. The kid who invites you to his house, tells all of his friends, and cooks a nice vegan spread for a pre-show meal is a million times more gratifying to play in front of than, say, a handful of incidental, angry drunks who would rather be listening to the jukebox. Just a few weeks ago, I experienced a 180 degree flip, in which the bar worked out far better than the house. In 2006, we heard a bunch of crazy stories about about this showspace in Amarillo, TX called The Pod. It was apparently a storefront that had been converted into living space, and they put up shows for traveling and local rock people. May rolls along, and dAN Treiber finally got in touch with the guys who do shows at The Pod. We feel pretty psyched that they know who we are and are looking forward to us coming. Day of show, however, and dAN, Guitar Bomb and I pull into town to find a locked door,

photo by Lauren Terilli
and a bewildered kid who didn’t believe we’d actually show up. He thus did nothing to promote our show and get people into the room. We wanted to yell at him, but he got so drunk through the course of the evening that he flew into a rage and broke his hand punching a wall. Fast forward a year: all three of the same principles, doing what they claim to do best. That is, me, dAN and Guitar Bomb, on the same circuit West of Austin once more. I get the email from dAN saying we’re going back to The Pod, and I shudder. He swears new booker promises us better show. I maintain my reservations. Which become increasingly more doom-apparent as we get closer to date of show – the phone line has been disconnected, and several emails go unresponded. We pull into town to an open door, and some random kids milling around outside the venue, which doubles as rehearsal space for several local metal bands. The place stinks like piss and vomit (not in a charming way), and the poorly lit, David Fincher-esque lighting system belies the beautiful West Texas afternoon outside. Matt, the booker (who I remember from last time, he was the guy who had the sense to call all of his friends last

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minute and make them come over for the show), looks... surprised. As if he didn’t believe we would actually show up. Or maybe he wants us to get the point. After an awkward exchange between Matt and dAN, in which Matt explains that it’s hard to get kids to come over to shows on weeknights (which is bullshit on a stick – it was a Thursday), I use the restroom while the others go outside. Matt, when asked who was playing the house that night and having no idea I’m still inside, says, “I don’t know. A couple of fuckin’ folk singers.” At this point, everyone in the house except Matt leaves. We cross the street and hang out in a park, swinging on swings and trading acrimonious stares with the local homeless and jobless, trying to figure out what to do with the evening. Around “showtime” we make the way back to The Pod (which was renamed E.O.S. over the last year, but since I don’t know what the acronym stands for, I simply do not acknowledge the change), at which point Matt comes out from his room and says he doesn’t think people are gonna show up. He and dAN have a pretty tense exchange, the kind I like to leave the room for. dAN comes out a few minutes later and tells us we’re leaving. Now, it’s funny that my last column was all about having sworn never to set foot in the city of Oakland again;

if the story had ended here, I can imagine myself lifting the ban on Oakland and settling it on Amarillo. But the story doesn’t end, and it didn’t end up being a waste after all. The three of us drive downtown to the sports bar part of town – you know, the “college” or “frat” or “bro” bars. dAN and Mikey pick one at random that looks like it’s got live music, and explains our situation. The proprietors of the bar are more than happy to have us play. Mikey and I quickly set up the PA, making due playing to the handful of people in the bar, most of whom don’t seem to care about us, but at least aren’t rude. dAN’s able to scrape together a few CD sales and a sizeable amount of tip money. Now, these things don’t matter – I should be writing about how awesome the night was, how many cool people that I met, and how at home I felt in the bar that night. This was not the case. It was a sterile, chilly environment full of polite but indifferent people who certainly don’t remember our names now. Like every story should, though (at least one worth telling), this story has a moral, and it was something that I said while I was playing that night: Sometimes it’s better to play the place that sells beer, rather than the place that smells like beer.

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Exegesis Department
I don’t know what it is about hip-hop that appeals to young singer-songwriter types. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the closest thing to poetry that pop music has got going. Whatever the reason, I have gone to tons of open mics and been inundated with white boys rapping while playing acoustic guitars. Now, in the abstract, there’s nothing wrong with a singersongwriter being inspired by hip-hop. For certain tunes I write for my group, Elastic No-No Band, I take a lot of inspiration from ‘50s rock, and if someone tried to tell me that ‘50s rock had no relevance and I should stop being inspired by it, I would tell them to fuck off and die a painful death (I would say this most likely in my head rather than out loud, but you see what I mean). Therefore, in the abstract, there’s nothing wrong with that. In the real world, and not in the abstract, there is something wrong: most of these folks suck at hip-hop. And the ones who do the acoustic hip-hop thing for irony’s sake score no cleverness points with me, because most of them couldn’t make you laugh even if a funny person told them a side-splittingly hilarious joke and then said, “Repeat that.” So why, after being annoyed by all these unfunny jokers, would I write an ironic acoustic song with hip-hop lyrics? Well, duh: to show them how it’s done. Frankly, I find the kind of language used in old-school hip-hop fascinating – secret codewords like “wheels of steel,” “sucker MC’s,” “biting,” “illing,” and “ill” (the last two of which can mean opposite things). This is stuff I used to hear on Beastie Boys records that I now realize were picked up from RunDMC. At the time I wrote this song, I was listening to RunDMC’s self-titled first album and Raising Hell a lot, let-

Justin Remer
ting that wordplay and that sense of humor run around in my brain. Meanwhile, I was trying to work up a tune in something other than 4/4 time, since I had just read about how “Jocko Homo” by Devo (you know, the “Are we not men?” song) was in 7/8 time. I felt lame and musically unenlightened for not writing anything in a weird time signature. I started strumming chords in funky patterns, until I finally settled on 6/8 time (okay, so it’s not at all weird, but it’s not 4/4 either). I strummed, and I just started singing lyrics that sounded to me like they could be old-school, like “All you sucker MC’s be biting me, like I was a cheeseburger.” The rest of the writing process followed quickly and banally, so I won’t mention it here. Some folks hear the finished “Run-DMC” and compare it to Dynamite Hack’s slowed-down, folked-up cover of “Boyz N The Hood” or that bluegrass version of “Gin and Juice” by The Gourds. My response to that is, “Pffffff, no.” Of course, once I calm down and think rationally about it, sure, I can admit we’re all trying to get some giggles from the disparity between what’s being said and how it’s delivered. But those guys seem to be making fun of the words – “See what happens when you take these ridiculous words and put them in a new context?” – while I, of course, am celebrating the language’s uniqueness, using it as a tool to create my low-key comedy. I try to do what Run-DMC did. Their song “You Be Illin’” is hilarious, but not because the slang is silly – it’s fun storytelling with a specific, flavorful voice. I try to use that kind of voice in “Run-DMC.” I just sing instead of rap, and I do it over acoustic guitar-based music, instead of a beat pattern or samples (although, I do admit that I think the song sounds in places like I bit Leonard Cohen’s “So Long, Marianne,” but it was unconscious [yeah, right, isn’t that what George Harrison said about “My Sweet Lord”{and where is he now}?]). With “Run-DMC,” I call out all those terrible singersongwriters, because they are sucker MC’s. They may not actually be biting me like I was a cheeseburger, but after they hear this song, they might start trying.

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RUN-DMC (J. Remer) All you sucker MC’s be biting me Like I was a cheeseburger You step to the mic, clear your throat But you should go no further You pose like you’re a hero But you’re a villain You think your rhymes are ill But you’re just illin’ You don’t know... That Run-DMC are from Queens You say I’m ridiculous And you probably should Ask any of the ladies They’ll say I’m ridiculously good I astonish and amaze With my stylistic touches While you’re chasing after cleverness Like a fat girl on crutches You don’t know... It’s not pronounced Eric B. and “Rah-keem” Like Bobby “Blue” Bland And Mr. T I pity the fool Who’s a sucker MC You’ll never make the A-Team You’re always third string It’s your fault, ‘cause you’re ignorant You don’t know a thing You don’t know... That Run-DMC are from Hollis, Queens. “Run-DMC” is available as a free download at
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Fredo’s Rant
“silly old coot”
Fredo Flintstoné
“Don’t you think you’re a little too old for that?” The first person who usually asks us that is our mother, when we’re teenagers, and she finds we have reverted to some prepubescent behavior like sleeping with our beloved teddy bear or watching reruns of Full House on TV. What can I say? I always did have a thing for those Olsen twins. Blondes will get you every time. It seems, no matter what our age, we always want to go back and relive our childish past, much to the chagrin of others. Sometimes though, while it may seem to others that we are trying to “recapture our youth” as it were, we are really just trying to be whom we are, children at heart. One day at the quarry, after the noontime bell whistle chimed out, I was laboring over my overflowing lunch bucket when I overheard some of my quarry-mates talking about a club they had gone to the previous weekend. According to these guys, the lone band that played that evening “sucked ass” and they each had to shell out a $15.00 cover charge to boot (they paid fifteen bucks for a shithole in the Village?). A good time was not had by all, not by anyone in fact. Not being one to keep a good thing to myself, I strutted over to my excavating cohorts and told them of the AntiFolk music scene – taking place in all the five boroughs and everywhere else folk have an interest in good music. At first, they all scoffed at me, the fools. What could a “silly old coot” like me possibly know about music, let alone good rockin’ music? I offered to show them what I knew about good, rockin’ music. They relented, just as I knew they would, once my offer included my buying the first – and every other – round of drinks. Much to the delight of my co-workers, now bosom buddies, I was correct. The AntiFolk music scene rocked! Tell me something I don’t already know. Once I let my eyes scan the crowd, however, I did feel like the “silly old
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photo by Herb Scher
coot.” Kids, nothing but kids as far as the eye could see. I was surrounded by twenty-somethings, teens and tweeners - you know, young’uns. They were loud, uncouth and children. Could it possibly be that my younger co-workers were correct in their assessment? Was I just a “silly old coot” trying desperately to recapture my youth? And then she took the stage. There’s a lot to be said for age, and the understanding that comes with it. Some things you can pick up parts of through reading a book or taking a class, but when you want to take it to the highest level, make it a part of you, then you need to experience it first hand. There are so many different facets of life that to take something, anything, down to its barest essence you have to live it, live it long and live it hard. No shortcuts. Taste it; smell it, breathe it, feel it, become it. And she had done exactly that. She, with a voice so full of a sweet and pure wisdom that ran so deep it could only speak the truth and nothing more. She, with hair colored like a bright rainbow bouncing off downy tufts of cloud after an intense spring storm. She, a woman of age and of knowledge. She, knowing and doing something no one half her age could possibly know or hope to do. No one else around can come as close serving Stephen Foster’s finest moment as a composer. It was brought to life solely through the performance of Miss Debe Dalton. All I could do was sit back and listen to her voice and her banjo as she played “Oh! Susanna.” Oh, she made my heart ache. I wanted to book the next flight to New Orleans, find Susannah myself and make sure Miss Debe found Susannah so she wouldn’t surely die. When Miss Debe finished her song, all my co-workers could muster was a collective, “Wow.” She had taken not only my breath away, but theirs as well. We were all awe-

struck by her performance. Myself moreso a few songs along when I realized that here was another human being alive who knew that 1927 was the very year that the Carter Family drove over to Bristol, Tennessee to audition for the new recording industry. Now if only she knew they were each paid a whopping $50.00 for their recording and… be still my heart! I doubt any young’uns know that little bit of trivia, let alone who the Carter Family were. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for the experience and knowledge that comes with age. On the way out we passed a slew of young’uns jabbering away at the bar. I wasn’t paying much attention, but the term, “hot blonde” jumped out and caught my ear. I raised an eyebrow. Hmm… maybe

I was on my way to becoming a “silly old coot,” because for the life of me, I didn’t recall seeing any “hot blonde” at the show that night. I had to find out if my eyes were starting to fail me. I excused myself from the rockpile Romeosfrom my quarry, turned tail and made my way back into the darkness of the bar to see what “hot blonde” the young’uns were talking about. I let my eyes once again get accustom to the dark and then I scanned the crowd looking for that “hot blonde.” Did she look, perhaps, like Mary-Kate? My eyes finally fell upon golden locks and it only proved I needed to pay more attention when eavesdropping. It turned out the “hot blond” was none other than Frank Hoier. Oh well, maybe next time.

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w ho s the ...

! issed.. ive ou m L sy


April 19, 2007 Alloy Radio’s YouTube Launch Bar Matchless

Alloy Radio is an internet radio site featuring independent New York musicians, founded by Jeff Schram. Alloy has quickly become known for the quality of its music and innovative design. It has also been instrumental in bringing people together from various local scenes and communities. Alloy decided to embrace its visual side with the launch of a new TV channel on YouTube. The first episode was filmed at Matchless. Matchless is rapidly becoming a hot spot for live music in Brooklyn. The mid-size room is a great fit for both singer/songwriters and bands. It’s also a welcome alternative for the performer who is ready to ditch the dive bars with their crappy sound and rude staff, but not quite up to packing Galapagos or Warsaw. When I arrived at Matchless, the back room was already bustling with activity. Two video cameras were set up to capture live performances. Emily Rawlings, a local artist and photographer, was preparing to take pictures (some of which are included). Leaning against the back wall, I watched Sami Akbari take the stage. Sami is diminutive, but don’t be fooled. She can belt out a note when she wants to, and her personality can only be described as “feisty.” Her humorous banter between songs had the audience cracking up, yet she made the transition to a song about heartbreak seem perfectly natural. Her smooth, jazzinflected vocals were flawless.

Tom Hayes (Emily Rawlings)

Next up was my favorite Irish gentleman, Tom Hayes. Tom’s voice slid effortlessly through melismas rolled over finger-picked guitar. He drew the audience into his world, where ordinary, overlooked moments are transformed into achingly beautiful memories. The set concluded with an a cappella piece that was handed down to him, a ghostly Irish folk song that seemed to strip away the distance between continents and generations. Tom was followed by Here Lies Pa. With several months of continuous gigging under their belts, Here Lies Pa has perfected their sound while maintaining a rousing organic quality. The band made skillful use of dynamics while Paul Basile’s seasoned voice easily shifted from a murmur to a growl. “Beverly Road” was particularly striking, with a driving bridge leading up to a surprisingly understated conclusion. Finally, the night wrapped with a performance by Jeff Schram. Jeff is one of those rare folks in the local scene that fills several roles including promoter, web designer, pod-jay… the list goes on. It can be difficult to maintain your identity as a musician, while so otherwise occupied, but Jeff has achieved a healthy balance. His set showcased new material from his upcoming release, Season of the White Crow. The new songs are far and away his best work, with relentless energy and irresistibly singable hooks. Check out Alloy TV on YouTube at alloyradio. (Jessi Robertson)
Jeff Schram and Sami Akbari (Emily Rawlings)

Urban Folk #12 ~ 14

On June 8, 1936, the Carter Family went into the studio to record a song that surveyed the hardships of our world and contrasted it with the joy of the sweet hereafter. “For fear the hearts of men are failing,” the song began, “For these are latter w days we know.” 79 years and 13 days later, Annie Crane sang these exact same words as ho s the final song performed at Make Music New York’s show at Wagner’s Cove, a picturesque the corner tucked away deep in the center of Central Park along the 72nd Street parallel. You won’t find .. . it on any map – I passed by it three times and asked several clueless park rangers before the popsicle man directed me up Cherry Hill, from which I found the secret rustic path that led down to the shaded grove that borders the park’s Lake. Standing at the water’s edge is a small wooden shelter, built in memory of a Mayor Robert Wagner, from which the Cove gets its name. Folksinger Annie Crane and AntiFolk singer Elizabeth Devlin were drawn to this spot when they each signed up for Make Music New York, a startup program that organizes musicians to play free shows all around the city. Pooling their time together, Crane and Devlin decided to fill out their allotted three-hour slot with Eric Wolfson (myself), Rachael Benjamin, Soft Black, Frank Hoier, a fermata, Dan Costello, and other friends and surprise guests from New York’s folk and AntiFolk scenes. What follows is one performer’s account of the show, in estimated real time. 5:30 PM: Some people find their way through Central Park to Wagner’s Cove for the show’s scheduled six o’clock starting time; most people remain lost in the endless tangle of the Morgan Chase company marathon, happening at the same time. 6:34 PM: Dan Costello steals a Gatorade bottle from the marathon table, but is disgusted that the lemonflavored “water drink” is not simply water. 6:46 PM: Enough people have now arrived for the show to start, but rain starts instead. Everyone gathers the blankets, instruments, and bags into the Cove’s small wooden shelter. Bemused by the idea of a bunch of musicians’ outside concert getting rained on, I dub the show “Wagstock.” It sticks. 6:59 PM: Bets are placed for how long it will take for the rain to let up; Annie Crane wins with eight minutes. 7:07 PM: Wagstock co-founders Annie Crane and Elizabeth Devlin introduce the show and each sing a song to start it up. Annie plays it straight, singing a lilting folk ballad called “Seneca Falls,” while Elizabeth calls up her sister Rachel to sing a song that uses the names of sea creatures in the place of regular nouns and verbs. At first I could follow Elizabeth’s jokes, and then I lobster. 7:23 PM: Dan Costello follows the Devlin sisters’ carefree lead and climbs onto the large diagonal tree trunk at Wagner’s Cove and sings about a land where corporations only want to hire a rich son of a snob and vice presidents ignore their duties to go on hunting expeditions where they accidentally shoot people. In other words, America.
Dan Costello up a tree (Annie Crane)

e! Liv s you

... ed iss m

June 21, 2007 Wagstock ‘07 Wagner’s Cove

7:38 PM: During my set, one of the two random hipster kids who followed us down to the Cove laughs at my esoteric “I talked to Grover Cleveland two non-consecutive times” joke in “Talking Dead President Blues.” I decide he’s the smarter, although not necessarily the cooler, of the hipsters. 7:51 PM: Rachael Benjamin opens with a protest song – about how her husband won’t let her get a dog. 8:01 PM: I search in vain for a vendor selling Gatorade before deciding to grab two Gatorade bottles from the company marathon – one for myself and one for Frank Hoier. I never ask Frank what he thinks of the liquid, but I don’t find it nearly as repulsive as Dan did. Although I would have preferred the “Frost” flavor, the “Free” flavor is ultimately the best.

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water laps right up to the edge of the Cove’s small wooden shelter, “And I’ve gone and left my raincoat at home.” Somewhere, in New Orleans around 1927 – or 2005 – a woman lives these words out in a way that I can only begin to comprehend them. 8:57 PM: Annie Crane closes the night with the old Carter Family song “No Depression,” leading everyone in the redemptive chorus that contrasts the earthly hardship of the song’s verses. Little does Annie know she’s minutes away from her own dose of earthly hardship when she’ll learn that while she performed, someone accidentally kicked her cell phone into the Lake. Author & Photographer 9:03 PM: The musicians and their friends pack up to leave. Among the people left listening is a homeless man who has been sitting in Wagner’s Cove’s small wooden shed for the better part of the night, with a suitcase that holds his worldly belongings. On top of the suitcase rests a wrinkle-paged Bible that the elements have kept open throughout most of the show. As far as I know, nobody asks the man what his name is, even as we say goodbye and leave him alone in Wagner’s Cove, but then again, nobody bothered to see which page his Bible was opened to either. 9:07 PM: It’s still drizzling as the performers walk away from what they decide will be the first of many annual Wagstock shows. When Greil Marcus covered Woodstock for Rolling Stone almost 40 years before we held our little festival in the rain, he wrote that “It was a confused, chaotic founding of something new, something our world must find a way to deal with.” Time will only tell if the same can also be said about Wagstock, but everyone left the show with a smile on their face and a song in their heart, as their minds softly played a Depression-era tune about looking ahead to heavenly joy in the bleakest of worldly conditions, be they wind or rain or obnoxious corporate marathons. (Eric Wolfson)

Soft Black (Annie Crane)

8:10 PM: Soft Black comments how beautiful everything is and how he wishes he could think of a beautiful song to play; I suggest “The Light in My Eye” and he complies with a smile. It’s a lovely moment, but I still wish I could remember that hilarious joke he had made a few minutes earlier making fun of the Morgan Chase company marathon. Not that Soft Black can remember it either… 8:15 PM: Debe Dalton follows up her bittersweet ballad of unrequited love, “Anytime,” with a rousing version of “She’ll Be Coming ’Round the Mountain,” a song that was popularized by railroad workers in the 1890s, first published by Carl Sandberg in the 1920s, and sung by Pete Seeger in the 1940s, before being recorded by Barney the Dinosaur in the 1990s. Happily, Debe drives the song back to its roots by including a verse that Barney never sang: “We’ll have to hide the liquor to make her leave even quicker!” 8:17 PM: The rain comes again, this time longer and harder as the night grows colder and darker. Many of the performers and listeners retreat into the Cove’s wooden shelter; Soft Black stands contently under an umbrella, a fermata sits contently under the open sky, and Frank Hoier stands contently by the trees with an open bottle of wine, drinking from a plastic cup with Feral Foster. 8:21 PM: Frank Hoier and Feral Foster perform blues rags in the rain, as the water soaks into their clothing and the wine soaks into their livers. 8:29 PM: A fermata asks to use my guitar to play his own set in the rain – “Sure, just don’t get it wet,” I tell him. He proceeds to play some of the most mystical and beautiful music my guitar has ever made, with lots of fancy chords that my guitar will probably never feel again. 8:37 PM: Elizabeth Devlin plucks a haunting song on her autoharp while Costello shelters her with Dalton’s umbrella; “The rain is up to my lips,” she intones as the

Urban Folk #12 ~ 16

“Sean’s Song”
Somer Bingham
If I could live and die like you I’d be happy, I’d be so content to sing to someone new long after I am dead I promised not to cry, I lied I let you down this one last time I let you down I let you down I’d like to sing a song in hi-fi stereo, at your burial Think of all the things we should have done Maybe next time, maybe in the next life The poets & the dreamers all agree it seems to me that only the good die happy Even the good die young Only the good die happy until then I’ll be content to dream ‘Til then I’ll be content to hum along Today I poured my heart into a hole covered in handfuls of fresh soil and watered down with shots of whiskey from the flask you gave me I promised not to cry, I lied I let you down this one last time I let you down I let you down I’d like to sing a song in hi-fi stereo, at your burial Think of all the things we should have done Maybe next time, maybe in the next life The poets & the dreamers all agree it seems to me that only the good die happy Even the good die young Only the good die happy until then I’ll be content to dream ‘Til then I’ll be content to hum along
Urban Folk #12 ~ 17

Dibs Bleeds Bands
on Dibson T. Hoffweiler
Deenah Vollmer
Dibs is so great. I know; I’m his ex-girlfriend. But it’s cool, we’re friends. He may be the reason I am in New York right now – I’m not sure – but he is definitely the reason I got thrown into this wild music scene. Last Spring, Dibs went to Germany to tour with the bands Huggabroomstik and the Wowz. He left his black winter coat in my closet. The collar of this coat is flared with one-inch pins. When he came back it was summer and he didn’t need his coat. Then Dibs got a new girlfriend. When it got cold again I lent the coat to my friend Austin who is often under-dressed for the weather. Dibs doesn’t often ask for his things back. And though I’ve offered him the jacket many times, Austin always seemed to be wearing it and otherwise cold. I’m currently in possession of Dibs’ nylon-stringed guitar, though he came over the other night and told me to keep it. He just moved in with his girlfriend and between the two of them they have nearly ten guitars. Dibs wore that pin-flared coat when I met him. It was a stormy night at a cheap Japanese diner. He was with his college advisor who also happened to be my friend’s guitar teacher. My friend was Sharon, who I knew since elementary school. It was March 2005 – spring break. I was visiting New York to investigate a small school I was considering transferring to called Gallatin, part of NYU. Dibs went to Gallatin, Sharon found out when she said hello to her guitar teacher. I was introduced. Dibs had thick dark hair tied into a ponytail that he would later cut and grow again and black plastic framed glasses that I would one day break in half. He’s cute, Sharon said. I agreed. Dibs has a show tonight, his adviser told us. We’re really good, Dibs said. I was looking for something to do. Sharon wasn’t. She was tired. I went alone. I thought it would be a good way to meet Gallatin students. I was wrong; Dibs was the only student there. It was cold and hail shot sideways so I had to hold my umbrella straight in front of me like a shield. I got to the club on Second Avenue, presented my fake ID (I was 19), paid five dollars, and descended into the cavernous basement of the club. The Dream Bitches, the band of Dibs’

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then-girlfriend, were playing when I arrived. They reminded me of the Moldy Peaches – a band I knew from a burned copy of their album my friend Aram once played for me on a ride in his old pick-up truck to the Joshua Tree desert – but with two girls. Later, I patted myself on the back for the apt comparison since the Moldy Peaches were musically very relevant. The Jeffrey Lewis Band played after Dream Bitches and Cheese on Bread played after that. Dibs played acoustic guitar in Cheese on Bread, a band that also reminded me of the Moldy Peaches – musically and lyrically less crude, but just as hilarious and fun. It may have been the best show I had ever gone to up until that time. The music mixed all the genres I was interested in: folk, punk, indie-rock, and blended them into something intellectual, new, and what I considered to be very “New York.” That show convinced me it was OK to move to New York. There was something for me to do there and I could, in fact, make friends. After the show, Dibs and I kept in touch with a steady flow of emails, which later increased to real mail when he sent me two of his solo records, an Urban Barnyard CD called Nay, Whoa, Let’s Go! and a mix called The ‘I didn’t have a Cheese on Bread CD For you’ Mix Disc. From the mix CD I particularly liked Huggabroomstik’s “Extinction Event” and Urban Barnyard’s “The Whale Room Whale’s Big Vacation.” Both bands feature Dibs on guitar. I think that Dibs played banjo on that particular Urban Barnyard song, and “Extinction Event” may have been recorded before Dibs even joined Huggabroomstik, but this still proves a good segue to discuss why Dibs is in so many awesome bands. First of all, Dibs is a guitar virtuoso. He is also a killer drummer. He is also one of the nicest people around. He is responsible, reliable, thoughtful, and a terrific listener (no wonder I went out with him!). He is mentally very stable, at least outwardly, and he tries to make everybody feel OK (See his “It’s Ok” linocuts). He seems nonjudgmental, but he really is, which is pretty awesome. Additionally, he is a computer nerd and an informal recording engineer, which make him technologically sought after. He is great at what he does and he does a lot. As a social being, he shies away from drama, which is a valuable quality in a drama-filled scene. He is the guy you want around to play on your recordings or to eat eggs without ketchup with at brunch (Note: Dibs hates ketchup). For Urban Barnyard, the four-piece

power indie-rock band that only sings songs about animals in New York City and trades instruments and genres in practically every song, Dibs shows off his shredding electric guitar playing, as well as his untrained tight drumming, his booming low-vocals and screaming high ones, and his funny and tender songwriting about gay penguins and Crayola cows (Note: “Crayola Cows” was co-written by Dashan Coram, former member of Urban Barnyard). With Huggabroomstik, Dibs’ psychedelic electric guitar playing provides musical stability in the circus ensemble of noise, rock and roll, power ballads, and childhood. Dibs is a solid member of this three– to fifteen– piece degenerative and accelerating hectic underwear fashion group based around the songwriting talents of Dashan Coram and Neil Kelly. Though rarely at the forefront, Dibs is easily the most sought-after guitar player in the Olive Juice Music community. In addition to the bands listed above, he is a member of Dan Fishback’s rock band The Faggots, his own short-lived band Dibs with Machines, and a guest member at one time or another for almost every band in the community. He is a musical pillar is some of the best groups around and his own songwriting has developed into charming, mature, brilliantly constructed and very weird indie-folk-grunge songs. His three solo albums increasingly show his capabilities as songwriter, musician, and self-recorder. He performances are not to be missed if only to see his long, hypnotizing fingers superlatively conquer the guitar, giving the prettiest music to earnest and surreal songwriting. I moved to New York the August after the March that I met him in, learned his real name was not Dibs (Dibs, 23, is the nickname of Dibson T. Hoffweiler, a pseudonym for a true identity I will conceal), and months later we began dating for many of the reasons listed earlier. We broke up because of reasons not listed. Last April when he went on tour in Europe I met up with him in Berlin, a city that is divided like us now (Romantically, I mean. I wouldn’t be writing this if we weren’t friends). That’s the trip I broke his glasses. He pulled my hair, so I punched him in the face. The break-up happened like this: We went for a walk in the neighborhood of Friedrichstein. We told our friend Hikool that we’d be back in 20 minutes. It took longer. Sorry we’re late, we told Hikool, but we were breaking up. I told Dibs he should write a break up album about me and I would sing on every track. It never happened.

Urban Folk #12 ~ 19

White Pu$$y
A Meditation on Capitalism, Gang Rape and Opera with the iconoclastic M. Lamar
Max Vernon
In all the weeks I have been going to the Sidewalk Café’s AntiHoot, M. Lamar has not missed a night. Over six feet tall, dressed in a uniform of dapper, confoundingly tight garb, M. Lamar typically saunters onto the stage somewhere between the hours of ten and one, sits down at the piano and, leaning forward and bearing a small sliver of his ass crack, proceeds to take the audience on an affecting emotional journey. To the initiated, Lamar’s operatic takes on negro spirituals and eclectic lyricism are both expected and appreciated. Those who have never heard M. Lamar before are typically polarized by his music – when he performs, he aggressively tackles his songs, striking the keys of the piano and throwing his face towards the microphone, frequently nearly biting it. The juxtaposition of Lamar’s fast, classically trained vibrato and this confrontational style of performance (veering on performance art) communicates an eccentric stage presence that leaves little room for ambivalence. One thing for certain is that M. Lamar is not easily forgotten, and is to be experienced. On a Tuesday night I dined with the hard-to-categorize M. at a local vegan Chinese restaurant. We feasted on scallion pancakes and plum wine. We discussed many things. of this sold out gangster hip-hop that really buys into Urban Folk: It seems that a lot of your work deals with capitalism. racial identity. You have songs like “The Masters Whip,” “Nigga Spectacle,” “Plantation Fantasy.” Do you think UF: You’re saying they’re slaves to the system? Don’t your music carves a niche within the group of artists you think they’d argue they’re doing all right? describing the black experience? Is that something you ML: Well, what you can say is that any kind of radical feel comfortable with? vision of Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X that was M. Lamar: I don’t really think I know what you mean by critical of capitalism has been thrown out. We’re adoptthat – is racial identity a genre of music? I’m really just ing the values of everyone else. Gangster culture is a value system that comes from white people – black observing the world around me, like any songwriter. people didn’t invent the gangster. That’s what “The UF: Well, for example, in “Master’s Whip” you’re singMaster’s Whip” is really all about – it’s us saying okay ing from the point of view of a slave. It seems at times we’re going to give up any idea of a radical revolutionmore like you’re channeling emotions from the past ary ideology or politic and just try to get paid. And also, than the present. that people don’t want to try and think up anything else ML: Well, I am doing that, but I’m also very concerned anymore cause, it’s too hard! When I say, ‘This opwith what history has to do with right now. pression is everything to me,’ (from “The Master’s Whip”) UF: How are you translating history into your modern I’m saying people these days are making their identity the Gucci bag that they just bought. I’d like to suggest experience? that it’s not. ML: Well okay, the song “Nigga Spectacle” for instance – what I’m talking about is very contemporary. You can easily find the spectacle in rap. I would go to these clubs and see all these white hipsters dancing to hip hop and R&B making a spectacle out it – there are undertones of racism… If there’s a point to what I’m doing it’s to say that all the stereotypes of Jim Crow and the context of slavery are still with us and there’s a lot of cultural vampirism going on. The hip-hop going on now isn’t Public Enemy, it’s a lot UF: Well, since you’re so critical of capitalism, how do you intend on distributing your music? What are your career ambitions? ML: What it’s really about are values. I mean some people make music with a market in mind – I don’t work like that. I think about the career of Diamanda Galas – she doesn’t sell many records, she’s touring, she’s probably struggling, but she’s been making uncompromising work for twenty five

(photo by Magali Charron)
Urban Folk #12 ~ 21

years, and she’s still growing as an artist. I think I just want to sing for a really long time. It’s not a career, it’s my life. It would be great if I sold records, but I’m not thinking about that. I just want to be as good as possible – I’m still training. UF: When you perform there’s such an element of spectacle. Are you consciously incorporating shock and spectacle into your music? ML: Well I mean you say it was such a spectacle the first time you saw me, so what’s the spectacle the second time? UF: Seeing the reactions of the people in the audience seeing you for the first time. ML: I mean I was thinking about what my work is trying to do – and some of my music is about remembering and mourning, but it’s decadent too, and about pleasure – the decadence being sexualized. I think that what our culture is, you know? “Drink the pussy like it’s the finest champagne” (from “White Pussy”) But for me there’s no shock value, there’s no shock to wake up and be myself everyday, or play a song about gang rape. To be quite honest, I don’t care about people’s reactions to me; I’m more concerned with having a revelatory, cathartic emotional experience when I play. UF: What’s the significance for you of the cross between sex and violence in our culture?

ML: Well when I think of someone like Paris Hilton – UF: You wish she was being gang raped? ML: (laughs) No, no. I just think there’s an element of violence to the way people expose and exploit themselves. I don’t mind the sixteen year old skinny white boys that take pictures of themselves in their towel – but there’s a danger to the way our culture consumes people. People are detached from the emotions of sex, and so things are becoming pornography. UF: I’m getting the sense that a lot of your work is about going against that sense of detachment. Detachment from racism, violence, sexuality, etcera. ML: I’d say that’s accurate – you know I was once approached by this guy who worked at this record company who asked me to summarize what I do – and when I did, he lost interest and said I needed some kind of “one sentence thing” to market myself. It’s a perversion of what music is. It’s detachment from the music. I’m so happy when people get that “White Pussy” is a sad song. It’s about how we’re all forced to become detached from ourselves – trying to pursue certain ideals. All white women, black women, gay men, have to be a certain way. UF: Do you think most people get that? Or do they latch on to the word “pussy,” laugh, and then become everything you’re writing against?

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ML: I just think it’s funny that my songs are about the emotional embodiment of all these negative things, and yet people want to commoditize that. So I guess the work is doing what it’s supposed to do if people have that response: “Oh white pussy is so good!” But it’s not really in my hands how people receive my work. The movie Salo, based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade, is highly influential to my work. That movie puts a lot of graphic imagery out there and then just kind of asks, “OK, so what do you do with this?” My songs are similar – I’m not trying to tell you anything in particular; I just show you something. UF: Wait, if we’re going to go on a tangent about Pasolini, let’s make it about your music – Salo, which is banned in overly fifty countries, is obviously excessively violent and sexualized. Do you believe in the whole Artaud, Theatre of Cruelty school that says artists have to punish their audience to enlighten them? ML: Again, I don’t think music is a postal service that just delivers messages. I think I’m a modernist – I believe in transcendence. I think that the music I’m making can take you somewhere emotionally. It’s emotions instead of polemics. It’s an experience; you have to go there. The singers I love were able to transform you – like Marion Williams: by the time she was done singing you were changed. UF: To make you believe in God? ML: Well, I definitely don’t believe in God. But I believe in the spirituality of music and it’s ability to transport you somewhere, which is maybe why I was drawn to opera from an early age and not gospel actually. I wasn’t listening to Mahalia, it was Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle. I think my childhood was a horrible place to exist in; I needed to be transported. UF: You discuss oppression quite frequently. What were your personal experiences with oppression? ML: (laughs) I think a lot of the black community has a hard time accepting my form of masculinity, but I don’t see why I can’t be accepted as a man. Or why my

music necessarily has to appeal to a gay crowd. I don’t even think most gay people really like my music... But I think I felt abandonment perhaps more than oppression. My dad wasn’t around; my mom was emotionally unavailable – I’m sure that probably informs my work in some Freudian way. But none of those things are major issues in my life anymore…I’m more concerned now with just living my life. UF: You’ve just recently been playing songs with drums and synth and I think it really brought out an interesting element in your work. Is there anything else you’d like to add to it? ML: Well I’m not really interested in ever doing a band experience again. But, I think it would be interesting to incorporate images and projection into my show. But, I’ll have to figure that out. In general, collaboration isn’t my favorite thing. UF: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the reader who might not know your music? ML: Well, first go listen to it. I feel like I’m at the turning point of something creatively – there’s a lot going on now and I don’t really know where it’s going to take me but it’s very exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Urban Folk #12 ~ 23

Jenny McCormick
English Rose
Sophie Parkes
Northern England is best known for its weather and the demise of its Victorian industries. Manchester is no exception. In fact, to the English, Manchester is the epitome of this Northern vision – rain, and derelict cotton mills. But it’s a leafier part of Manchester where Jenny and I meet, with its age-old sycamore trees and large houses turned into flats. It’s still no English Country Garden, though. Strange, then, that Jenny, a well-known voice on the Manchester music scene who has honed her craft very much in and around the city, should choose such a title for her latest album. English Country Garden. It is a title with a million and one connotations – from the jaunty song often attributed rude words, to an elitist cup and saucer setting – but an urban music scene isn’t quite one of them. “I was just singing it in the kitchen one day, and I thought that would actually really work as what I do is country influenced,” Jenny explains, “but it is really English folk. I suppose I was taking the title for what it means, word by word.” It would appear, then, that Jenny is conscious of the pigeonholing practice all too prevalent in the music industry. Especially in the big old bad world of folk, where if they don’t like you, you’re labelled a “singer-songwriter” and cast out into the dingy nightclub circuit to make your trade. If you’re a folk singer, however, you’re one of them and welcomed into the secret network of folk clubs, arts centres and growing number of festivals. “How I’m defined does depend on who is reviewing me. Folk reviewers do tend to call me a folk singer as I’m drawn to the old ballads and the storytelling side of things,” she accepts, “but I’m certainly a cross-over as I don’t just listen to folk. As I said before, I listen to a lot of country, more alt country and Americana stuff, so I get a bit of that creeping in.” Jenny states that the Manchester music scene happily allows for this; in fact, it actively encourages it. “Manchester has an eclectic and intelligent music scene and I know that if I sing a traditional song in any venue in Manchester then people will like it. Everyone’s really open minded and knows their stuff, and I think the music scene in Manchester is more of a music scene – for people really into music, rather than one particular style of music.” And Jenny seems to know everyone. As we enter the room for the Red Deer Club’s Second Birthday Bash, a night well known for its penchant for off the cuff folk and acoustica, it’s a wave here an a nod there. Just as Jenny performs regularly on the scene, she is there to appreciate and support others just as frequently. It’s something that’s paid off, as many Manchester musician friends found their way on to English Country GarUrban Folk #12 ~ 24

den – oh, and her Dad. “Yeah, my family have always been a massive influence. My Dad plays and my mum’s really into it all. The first gig I ever went to was Crosby, Stills and Nash with my family. At sixteen, my dad taught me a Paul Simon song and from then on I began to plays songs I liked with my dad and brother.” For many families, this learning and playing together would be warfare in the making, but not for the McCormicks. “They hear me writing at home so if they’re critical I know that they only want to make sure I’m playing my best. I actually work really well with my dad, particularly arranging songs.” It is impossible to comprehend that Jenny has only recently – in the grand scheme of things – begun to perform live. “When I released my first album, I simply didn’t play live. I was very shy about music, and about my music. I didn’t know any musicians. This time, I’ve relaxed into it, I’ve had more fun doing it, so I’m much happier

with outcome.” Jenny doesn’t speak favourably about her first album, Me I Prefer the Moon. However, it was this that got her a slot at Cambridge Folk Festival. Keeping in touch with contacts made through Cambridge meant that English Country Garden – though self-funded, produced and promoted with a little help from friends and family – will be distributed by Proper. And along with a recent support slot for Alasdair Roberts, Jenny must now be firmly embedded in the true folk tradition. “Well, I’ve left it too late for any of the festivals this year, so I’m seeing what gigs come in. I’ve done a few gigs at traditional folk clubs, but it’s something I definitely want to do more of in the future.” And now that folk music is a bit more in the public eye, surely things will be a bit more high profile? “It’s all very encouraging. I’d like to think it’s resurgence in the interest of our heritage and history, but I’m sure it just boils down to a love of music, of live music. That’s what it amounts to in Manchester anyway – a love of music.”
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On the drive North to Vancouver I approached ecstasy, hitting complete euphoria like a free natural high. I yelled madly to the empty car, composed ridiculous songs to everyone I knew. I cried for joy and despair at the same time. Who knows what caused it? Maybe it was lingering sadness from the one night stand I’d had in Eugene and the lonely feeling of watching her drive away afterwards only to fall asleep alone in my car. Maybe it was the last few nights of driving around that town piss drunk, knowing I shouldn’t, ashamed I’d sunk so low. Eugene reminded me why I hate college towns and how depressing it can be making small talk about your major while holding a plastic cup of bad foamy beer. Maybe it was the two unpaid bar gigs I’d played, or the bitter fight I’d just had over the phone with my ex-girlfriend. Maybe it was all that, and then getting to drive away. Vancouver was to be a highlight of the tour. With four days before my next gig, I picked a city to hang out in where I had no show, no friends, nowhere to stay, nothing except complete freedom and a million possibilities. I had the address of an open mic. I figured a whole adventure - a whole universe could spiral from that. Romance, true love, drug addictions, fame, fortunes to be made and squandered... it could all begin from there. At least somewhere nice to stay with a new friend or two, I figured. I’d been sleeping in my car for most of the last week and was definitely in need of a shower and a hot meal.


da na Ca

able to travel so far on a cook’s meager savings. She questioned me while the sounds of struggling still came in from the back room. I told her I was coming to stay with a musician friend. “I’m going to need to call your friend and verify he’s expecting you,” she said coldly. I looked at her a little dumbfounded. I could’ve given the name of the kid who booked my next show, four days later and an hour outside of Vancouver. I was sure he’d cover for me, but I only had his myspace link, no phone number or address. She kicked me out of Canada, telling me not to come back until I had a phone number they could call, an address, and a bank receipt proving I had 50 dollars for every day I’d be in the country. I spent two hours in an abandoned parking lot on the American side of the border calling every folk singer I knew who might have the kid’s phone number as it grew dark. I called his house. “Um, hi. Mrs. Geddes? You don’t know me, but I met your son online. Will you vouch for me with border control?” I clearly remember the ridiculousness of the request coming out all wrong. “Oh sure,” she somehow said, “it’s not a problem.” At last, some of the Canadian friendliness I’ve always heard about. Back at the border checkpoint I proudly showed my bank receipt and nervously watched as she called the Geddes. She hung up and I was ready to grab my paperwork and still try to make the open mic. She asked for my keys. “You can wait here while we search your car,” she said with a glare. Shit, I thought. I did a mental check list of everything in the car. Definitely no pot, the half empty bottle of whiskey was in the trunk. That isn’t illegal if it’s not in the cab is it? ...Were 100 CDs enough to get me in trouble with customs...? Yes. We argued some more, but my story seemed even less credible now. “Are you not going to let me through?” I finally asked. “I didn’t say that.” She looked at me firmly. “You cannot work or sell anything in Canada. If you sell one CD, perform in any way, get one ticket, or arrested for any reason, you will be deported and barred from Canada for life. Do you understand?”

I hit the border all smiles and friendliness, ready to love Canada and even Canadian police, known internationally as cheerful pushovers. Walking into border control I was greeted by six cops forcing a middle eastern looking man to his knees. “I have a heart condition!” he screamed while the cops beat and shocked him with tazers. “Stop struggling then!” they yelled down at him. Eventually they dragged him to a back room where I could still hear shouting. I tried to smile at the woman behind the counter. She wasn’t having it. I couldn’t tell her I was on tour or I wouldn’t be allowed in the country without a work permit, but it quickly became obvious my little white lies weren’t adding up as to how I’d been

Urban Folk #12 ~ 26

Dave Cuomo

I smiled. “Yes, of course. Thank you!” I grabbed the paperwork and practically ran to my car. It was after ten. The highway was quiet, the street signs were all the wrong shape and marked in kilometers instead of miles. I was severely put off and scared of being pulled over just for having a license plate from the wrong side of the continent. I felt like a foreigner and a stranger – exactly what I was. I imagined every passing car was angry at my existence while the rain and darkness did nothing to help my uneasiness. I went 5 kilometers under the speed limit, too late for the open mic and too spent for euphoria. True love, fortunes, and adventure all lost. For lack of a better plan, I drove to Commercial Drive, supposedly hipster coffee shop row, to try and find somewhere to sit and warm up, maybe make a friend or find somewhere to stay. All the coffee shops were closed and the street was mostly empty. I thought for a second, then did what I always do when I need something interesting to happen. I lit a cigarette and stood on the sidewalk trying to look as open, interesting, and harmless as I could. Half a cigarette later a woman walked up. She was in her late fifties, short, mildly overweight, with close-cropped salt & pepper hair. “Got a light?” she asked me in a rough nasally voice. She sounded pissed and hurried. “Sure,” I said. “Yeah, but I need a cigarette.” She said it like I should have known. I rolled her one. She took it, looked it over then looked at me quizzically. I lit it for her. We stood there smoking in silence for a minute. “I need a drink,” she finally said, taking out a crumpled $20. “I have this money. Will this get us a drink?” “I think it might.” “I’m not going to fornicate with you though. I don’t fornicate. Got technology for that.” She said it seriously in her harsh way then laughed and flashed me a knowing smile. “Where are we going?”

“Is there a bar or anywhere open?” I asked. “Yeah but what key is it in? I don’t play guitar.” she said as if she was answering my question. She laughed again then started walking. I followed. She was obviously batty, drunk maybe, but looked clean and taken care of. Deciding she was probably harmless, I led her to my car. We drove around while she mostly talked nonsense. I enjoyed the insane verbal sparring, while trying to find some coherent strain or wisdom to her. She sang the alphabet, laughed and asked what key it was in. She repeatedly warned me that she didn’t fornicate, hadn’t for years, then either laughed, looked stern, or gave me a sly smile. It was all a little odd, but amusing. We finally found an open bar, a large corporate looking place that was mostly empty. She bought us each a beer and gave me the rest of the change to run across the street for a sandwich. “Where’s your mother?” she asked as we sat in a booth. “Connecticut,” I said. “Where are you from?” “New York.” She nodded like she understood everything. I took this to mean she was putting me up for the night. We found a tiny smoking section in the back no bigger than a closet. It was crowded with five men and a choking cloud of smoke. I sat and watched mostly in silence as the men talked about bluegrass and folk musicians I’d never heard of, sang some, and made corny jokes about life. Sometimes one of them would hit on the woman, to which she’d sing the alphabet and tell them she didn’t play guitar, then look at me and nod as if I understood perfectly well. I liked to think I did. As weariness finally got the better of me she caught my glazed eyes and announced we were leaving. She nodded curtly to the men, one of whom asked for her phone number. She asked him what key it was in and took my arm as we left.

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Urban Folk #12 ~ 27

Back at her apartment she poured us some wine and put on Leonard Cohen. “Now I would,” she paused for emphasis, “fornicate with Leonard Cohen.” She grinned and raised her eyebrows at me. I smiled too just for the pleasant ridiculousness of it all. She started dancing and I joined her for a slow dance. It was nice, the wine was excellent, we could smoke in the apartment, the music was good, and I had somewhere warm to sleep. I was content. We danced for a while until I admitted my exhaustion. She pulled out a mattress for me then went to her room looking back and smiling as she went. I laid down in my clothes, not even taking off my boots for fear of smelling up the apartment. I hadn’t taken them off for days. Five minutes later I heard her door open. She walked up to the edge of the mattress. I feigned sleep, too tired and drunk for any more inane banter. Without blowing my cover I peeked at her. She was completely naked with her hands on her hips looking at me. I can’t say I was entirely surprised. She spoke some gibberish, not even coherent sentences at this point. I laid there with my eyes closed until she went back to her room. Five minutes later she came back out, still naked. I was surprised to realize she didn’t look half bad. She spoke some more gibberish, then clumsily fell to her knees on the mattress in front of me. Face down, I played dead, unsure of her intentions or if she was even coherent enough to have any. She let herself fall right on top of me. I could feel her breasts on the small of my back, her bare thighs on my shoulders and I realized I wasn’t disgusted. Still I lay there motionless. What is the proper protocol in a situation like this, I wondered. I thought she didn’t fornicate, but this seemed a little direct. Maybe she thought I was Leonard Cohen. She was covering me like a blanket and I could feel her breathing in time with my own. The line between trying to hide as deep into the mattress as I could and snuggling comfortably under her became as indistinguishable to me as the difference between what was obviously wrong and what might be a pleasant adventure. Whatever did or did not happen next I don’t think I should say here. I remember when she first lay on the mattress I was held back only by the last vestiges of normal and rational thought. She was over twice my age and to all appearances, bat shit insane. But that kind of thinking wasn’t what I left home on such a ridiculous and haphazard tour for. I had run away chasing adventure, to flirt with insanity, and come back having lived out a good story to all its logical conclusions. Here I was, literally flirting with insanity and finding myself at the climax of a great story. 3,000 miles from home, at the moment of truth, who was I to trade a beautiful perfect ending for something as mundane as normal and rational thought?

I woke up in the morning to the sound of coffee brewing and my hostess offering me a mug and a towel for a much needed shower. I made us breakfast from her refrigerator and we sat around the apartment smoking and talking. She was still a little off, but I was happy to find her much more coherent by sunlight. Her apartment was scattered all over with books on feminism and radical theory. She said she had been a women’s studies major and now spent all of her time reading. We discussed politics, life, music, love, and all the other usual topics that go well with cigarettes and coffee. When I left she wrote down her address and phone number, saying I was welcome to stay as much as I needed while I was in town. We hugged warmly and I kissed her on the cheek. I spent the next four days writing letters and reading in coffee shops hiding from the rain. The coffee in Vancouver is amazing, so thick and strong it almost tastes like chocolate. I kept mostly to myself and contentedly slept in my car. On the last day I finally went for a walk around the harbor, getting soaked from the rain and splashing in puddles. I wrote my first song in six months singing to myself out there, and marveled at how deserted a large city could feel. It was one of the more pleasant vacations I can remember. I didn’t see the woman again. There was no apartment number on the address she’d scribbled down and my phone didn’t work in Canada. I could probably have found my way back, but took it as a sign. With the experience sitting warmly in my stomach, reading and drinking good coffee was all the adventure I needed. I still have her address safely in a box, though, partly as a souvenir, but partly too because I just might be back that way. It’s a good bet I’ll be just as badly in need of a shower and still lacking in whatever rational logic might hold me back from another lovely evening. An earlier version of this essay was printed in In the Raw

Urban Folk #12 ~ 28

The cop at the Guelph Police Service walks from behind the counter and goes to look for Brook’s license in the Blond Officer’s locker. A sign on the wall lists the reasons a person may not be discriminated against in Guelph. It’s called the Guelph Human Rights Code. The police in Guelph are not allowed to discriminate against people due to Country of Origin. That, and about twenty other factors including age, race, and appearance, are written, on the wall, across the desk from the people who have misplaced Brook’s license. We can’t get back into the US without it.


da na Ca

“Don’t worry, we’ll find it.”

“One beer, officer, earlier in the night.” “License and registration.” Brook hands his license to the cop; we scour for the vehicle’s registration but only find an expired one. While we continue looking, he actually says, “It’s all right, you don’t actually need to keep looking for that.” We go into detail about where we’re going, where we’re staying, and what we’re doing. “Would you mind stepping out of the car please?” Brook follows the direction, and when asked if he’ll take a breathalyzer, he agrees to. No worries, after all, he only had one beer at 10PM – FIVE HOURS AGO! Now, the breathalyzers in Guelph have letter ratings, and Brook blew an “A,” which means “Alert.” This implies that Brook had SOMETHING to drink tonight. It means his blood alcohol level is somewhere between .05 and .079, which is below the legal limit of .08. At .08, you’re drunk driving. But if you blow a breathalyzer between .05 and .079, up comes the A. You’re not D for Drunk, you’re A for Almost drunk (or Alert), and are at risk for drunk driving. and being a menace. You are a potential potential danger. While they are administering the breathalyzer, the lights start flashing. As if they need to flash them as part of their training. As if they realize they forgot to flash them earlier… The punishment for blowing an Alert? Your vehicle is towed and your license is suspended for twelve hours. They don’t even let the sober girl in the back seat take the wheel (My partner Rachel, who did not hit a joint behind the club, like I did…). No one can drive that car. We’re supposed to stay with our pal Lucas in Kitchener, about 20 kilometers away. We’re not gonna get there tonight. While we wait for the tow truck, I call Chad, one of the other performers from Jimmy Jazz. He agrees to meet us at the club, and give us a place to crash about two blocks from the venue. The truck arrives, we collect some belongings from the van, speak with the officer. What did we do wrong? We drive a Plymouth minivan, a popularly stolen vehicle. We are from out of state; we were leaving the downtown area. We don’t have a light that shines on our rear bumper license plate (due to an electrical issue in the van which also prevents the front passenger window from rolling down). It’s like the guy is reading from a

The Blond Officer is Dave Cauley, a 21-year-old looking gentleman cop who trailed us from the bar, after our gig. We drove four blocks ‘til we missed a turn and pulled into a driveway to turn around. Brook tries to back up but a cop has stopped directly behind us, no light flashing, not even headlights. As its unclear what is happening, Brook gets out to ask for directions. The sirens never flashed, the flashing lights never spun. “What are you doing out of your car?” “Sorry, officer. I need directions.” “I don’t know how they do it where you’re from, but up here you stay in the car when you get pulled over.” Still, no lights. Brook gets back in, and the officer asks for license and registration. Brook had one pint at 10PM. It’s now 3AM, we’ve just left a long night at Jimmy Jazz, a bar in Guelph where we played our hearts out, not once, but twice, playing early and late sets. We hung out with Paul Macleod, who was in the 90’s Canadian pop band The Skydiggers. He’s been playing Mondays at Jimmy Jazz for years, but with newly cracked ribs, he doesn’t play very long and needs a lot of opening bands, hence our presence. We made about 100 Canadian dollars, if you include CD sales and tip money. Not bad, considering twenty-four hours before, this was supposed to be an off day with no income. “Have you had anything to drink tonight?”

Guelph, Ontario
Urban Folk #12 ~ 29

Dan Costello D a n

textbook, a textbook that he probably got quizzed on in the last few days. He’s such a rookie. It pisses me off. I wanna hit him. I’m not that stupid. We have him make an official list of all the equipment in the van. We take our money and our laptop. We leave our guitars, our keyboard, our PA equipment and our merchandise. We also take the bottle of Jim Beam that we had stashed under the seat, for long afternoons of NOT DRIVING in strange towns. We watch them tow the vehicle and start back to Jimmy Jazz. Chad and Aaron meet us and they roll a sympathy joint. We take some Tylenol PM, all still congested with a head cold that’s circled around the van at least twice already. Rachel and I go to sleep. Brook can’t sleep and I completely understand. He gets shaken up easily, and this of course, is his record label’s van, and he is feeling very burdened. It makes him sick. I sleep soundly until about 2PM. Chad has a radio show, and has apparently reported our towing woes, playing some of our songs. His roommates make us a lovely breakfast of eggs, potatoes, beans and veggie dumplings. We walk past Cornerstone, a wonderful coffee shop full of familiarish local punk anarchist kids eating spinach salads. We get mediocre coffee drinks, and keep walking to the Guelph Police Station to pick up the license and liberate the van. You know you’re in a small town when the guy claiming his property at the police station desk isn’t wearing

a shirt. We’re in the air-conditioned waiting room when I hear that Creaky Boards has lost two members. Michael David called last night, and left voicemail. He never leaves messages, so I knew it was important. I call him back, having forgotten last night in the wake of our towed van, and now, waiting with nothing to do but chat with our new friend Chad about everything we do in New York, Creaky Boards came up and I remember to call Mike. So that happened. And we’re still waiting for them to find the license. Upon arriving at the station, the gentleman behind the desk has the tow certificate, but no Brook license. “The officer will be in at midnight.” We have a show in Toronto at ten! I’m incensed. I say, “We’re traveling, we need the officer to be held accountable for this. I mean, it’s bad enough he trailed us from the bar….” Rachel and Brook snap my mouth shut with their stares and the desk officer says, “Stop, I don’t need to hear that.” And now, we’re still waiting for the license and they’ve called blond rookie Cauley in from his nap to locate it. He’s just arrived; Brook intends to glower at him when he finally gets some face time. And Brook is also plotting his victory dance, intending to walk shirtless up to the van. Rachel is readying her camera. Chad is waiting with us all this time, just to buy a copy of the Anticomp Folkilation, our 2-CD set on Crafty Records. I’m blogging, and readying my blindfold for Brook’s Victory Dance. Who knew that the Velvet Clown Victory Tour would be such a ride?

Guelph, Part Brook Pridemore 2
...So, having been stranded in a foreign city, with no ID and no vehicle (a van I’d been living out of for almost two months), I was left feeling like a man without a country. The Constable had assessed my body type and weight, and decided for himself that I was lying to him about how much I’d had to drink. He called us a cab to Kitchener without our asking. We had had the fortuity to hold onto a phone number of one of the evening’s other performers, a guy who lived in town, and although he had no idea who we were when we called him, he was happy to let us stay at his house. Standing outside the club, waiting for our friends, we heard other performers lament about how Guelph is an old mafia town, how the police fleece out of town visitors out of their hard won gig money through impound fees and traffic tickets. Locals park their cars at home and walk to the bar. Everyone knows what’s up, and laugh semi-good-naturedly at our misfortune. I can’t help but think about Summer of ’05, a twice-exploded van and State troopers chuckling at our misfortune while we wait for the wrecker. Back at Chad’s (for that was our friend’s name, the other performer), for the first time in a very long time, I was completely turned off by the prospect of imbibing any further drugs, and curled up into a ball to try and sleep. I ended up shaking with rage and sadness through most of the night. Next afternoon, at the Guelph police station, I realize for the first time that Canadian cops are not called “Officer.” They are called “Constable.” This makes the whole ordeal feel very archaic and foreign – as though, at any moment, King Lear may come out of nowhere and demand a blood sacrifice, or at least, offer me a mug of English Breakfast and some Poutine fries. The desk officer – excuse me, CONSTABLE, told me, calmly and with no sign of remorse or interest in making things right, that I could have my car back, but they

Urban Folk #12 ~ 30

have misplaced my ID. I could come back at midnight and speak to Constable Collie, the arresting officer, when he comes in for his shift. He waved me off with a flick of his hand. At that moment, in my head, I became a Falling Down Michael Douglas. I took out years of repressed anger on this pig’s face. I was blood and sinew and relentless violence, in my head. Out loud, Dan said something about the Constable following us from the club to make his quota, and the desk Constable, Rachel Devlin and myself simultaneously said, “Shut up.” The desk guy got Collie on the phone, telling him to come into work early to find my ID. Having finally realized we were foreign citizens being held without legal ID, everyone started to move a little faster. Collie and the desk guy going back to the same distant evidence rooms to check again and again, to no avail. Three hours passed, and we run later and later for the gig in Toronto. Collie put a call through INTERPOL to Sault Ste. Marie, letting them know I’m on my way in the morning. The Guelph police department agree to pay for my new ID when, and if, I got home. The tow guy, still at work fifteen hours after he took our van, got us change and a receipt with a big smile on his face, as though we were paying his rent. I remember little about the evening in Toronto except: 1. We were on the wrong side of town to get the veggie dogs that were in abundance last time we visited. 2. The proprietor made us some very good samosas and gave me a few Mike’s Hard Lemonades (I know, I know). 3. People were very respectful and generous with money and friendship. Except the guy that got mad at Dan for saying “Canadia.” We rolled out of Toronto very late in the night, somewhere between 1am and 4am. The realm of time that I, as a frequent road-tripper, have come to refer to as “O’ Dark Thirty.” Rachel and

Dan alternating behind the wheel (since I have no license, I can no longer drive). It wasn’t until we were at the border, being questioned by Customs as to why I had no license, that we realized we’d anticipated the wrong border, and were, in fact, several hundred miles away from the border where Interpol was expecting us.

Customs, for me, was a fairly blasé ordeal. Several questions about my life were answered for me: Customs: “Did you ever live in Kalamazoo?” Me: “I went to college in Kalamazoo.” Customs: “What was your last address there?” Me: “I don’t recall. It was a long time ago.” Customs: “Was it 815 South Westnedge Avenue?” Me: “Yes.” Dan and Rachel’s questioning was even simpler: Customs: “Guys, what’s up with all the CDs in the trunk?” Dan: “We’re on tour in the States. We didn’t play in Canada.” Customs: “Oh.” We were released across the border with no fanfare, no red tape, but I couldn’t help but think they were following us. Waiting for the right moment to spring the trap and reel us back in. To what? I don’t even know. Dan then treated us to breakfast near Frankenmuth, MI, the Christmas capital of the world, where a local working class guy assumed that Dan and Rachel were expecting a child. I can only think to myself that, while that weekend wasn’t scary enough to keep me from going to Canada, it’ll probably be a long time before I drive a car up there. (photos by Herb Scher)

O da na Ca

Urban Folk #12 ~ 31

musicians, take note

Bar 169
Thomas Patrick Maguire is a folksinger from Sunnyside Queens, a good friend of mine, and author of some of the most potent and infectious songs on the current underground New York scene. My second trip to Bar 169 was to hear Tom, scheduled for a ten o’clock slot. I arrived by nine, and Tom and I traded rounds of beers while we waited. A little after ten, he was told that it would be eleven before he could play. At eleven, there were suddenly three more sets preceding his. The first of these three acts took almost half an hour to set up their sound equipment. Tom didn’t play at all that night, at least not at Bar 169. Maybe he won’t play there ever, and that’s Bar 169’s loss. Once it became clear Tom was suffering the same fate as Drew, I decided to find out just where the management was coming from. The manager identified himself as “Mark,” and seemed willing enough to talk. In my first question, I took issue with his way of handling the schedule: “Do you realize you are creating resentment among the musicians when you bump them back in the schedule like that?” “Oh yes,” he responded, “musicians are always getting upset and bad-mouthing me about it.” “Aren’t you concerned about not honoring your commitments when you make changes in the schedule?” “Musicians often don’t keep their commitments and don’t show up when they’re supposed to... or maybe not at all. I’ve been dealing with this situation as a manager of clubs for a long time, and I’m pretty successful at it.” “But don’t you think that the resentment might eventually have a negative impact on business?” I could see a faint smile beginning to appear on Mark’s face. “No,” he said, “not really. There’s stuff going around on the internet all the time, and there have been a dozen or so articles saying boycott Bar 169 and how horrible we are. As you can see, it has no effect on business. We’re doing just fine.” His smugness was beginning to irritate me, but I wanted to get as much information as I could. “Well, how do you decide who gets bumped and who doesn’t?” “We just do a head count at the door to see which acts are bringing in the most people, and we schedule them accordingly.” I wondered whether this was true, and later found out

Live music is thriving in New York City, especially in the showcase clubs on the Lower East Side, Brooklyn, and Long Island City. Bar 169, named after its address at 169 East Broadway, benefits greatly from this boom. Led there by the booking of two of my songwriter friends last summer, I paid the ten dollar cover and enjoyed plenty of good music and a lively crowd. The sum of both experiences, though, has left me with mixed feelings. I liked the place: its unpretentious atmosphere, the long bar, the pool table in back, the bowls of unshelled salted peanuts. There isn’t really any sawdust on the floor, but you get the impression it’s there anyway. There’s a good balance between what seems to be arranged and what seems unplanned. The resulting space is easy, comfortable. But I didn’t like the way the management treated my friends. In fact, I really wonder about the discrepancy between the down-home appeal of the place itself and the rather unprofessional attitude taken by the manager. From what I’ve seen, I’m guessing it’s the owner who deserves credit for the way Bar 169 is set up and its solid, relaxed feel. Unfortunately, the owner must also take responsibility for the way his manager rides roughshod over some of the musicians who go there to play. Drew Torres is an instrumental genius whose masterful acoustic guitar playing had captured my attention on open mic night at the Creek and the Cave in Long Island City. My first trip to Bar 169 was to see Drew, scheduled for an 8:30 slot. I arrived half an hour early, ready to hear him and anyone else who was performing. Around 8:30, Drew was informed he wouldn’t be going on stage for another hour. Not too long after that, he was told it might be 10:30. It was close to midnight before Drew finally got on stage. I’d planned to get my money’s worth by staying all evening anyway, and I wasn’t disappointed with any of the music I heard while there. But why did Drew get bumped further and further back? Was it to sell more beer to Drew’s audience, assuming they’d all leave once his set was over? Did the management think maybe Drew would perform better after having to wait so long? Could anyone who’s heard Drew Torres perform imagine how his playing could be improved? No, being discourteously delayed three and a half hours definitely did not help the show.

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that Tom had brought in more people than at least one of the acts that he’d been bumped behind. “You know,” I said, losing patience, “you could avoid most of the negative stuff if you simply told the musicians up front how you operate and what to expect.” That got to him, and he snapped back: “I DID tell you guys when you came in that you’d have to wait!” I don’t actually remember him saying anything like that, and even if he had, it was beside the point. Telling them after they’re already there is hardly being up front, but I wasn’t in the mood to discuss it further. I’d gotten all the information I was going to get from Mark – and way more information than I wanted about him. Bar 169 uses a booking agency to actively recruit musicians over the internet. This works well in finding musicians who are looking to showcase their music and in putting together a great variety of talent. It provides the paying customer a good evening’s worth of entertainment. The problem begins with its practice of gross overbooking. Overbooking is only mildly dishonest per se, but it’s important to understand that the club overbooks on the theory that musicians are an unreliable lot, not to be trusted to show up on time or sometimes, at all. According to the manager, his experience has proven to him that he needs to protect himself from no-shows and late-shows by keeping an excess of musicians waiting in the wings. He then juggles the schedule once the musicians are at the club by bumping certain acts to later and later time slots as the evening proceeds. The manager of Bar 169 is coming at the whole enterprise from a position of distrust, augmented perhaps by an adolescent desire to impose his personal preferences at will, regardless of what commitments he or his booking agency may have made. I consider his attitude to be less than professional. By hiring a third party to do the booking, he at least partially evades accountability for whatever the agency may have told – or not told – the musician. When you show up on time, ready to play, as agreed, he can then slip in an innocent-sounding comment about the schedule running a little behind and that there may be a delay. If he sees you accept a small delay easily, he figures maybe you’ll accept a longer delay and so on. The United States of America is still a free country – believe it or not – which means that the manager of a private enterprise has every right to manage as he pleases. Granted, a certain level of flexibility is advantageous for all in running a successful evening at a club like Bar 169. But by not being up front about his intention to juggle the schedule, the manager is demanding that all the flexibility be on the part of the musicians. The question here is not about the rights of the management but about how much musicians are

willing to take. The bottom line issue for performers is that this kind of careless mishandling of artists is bad for business. Your friends won’t appreciate being kept waiting for you to get on stage (whether they admit it or not), and their unpleasant experience then becomes associated with you. A lack of professionalism by management can damage your image and end up hurting your business. If, as a musician, you rely too heavily on the word of the booking agent or the manager – without any further discussion or clarification – you might be setting yourself up from the start to be bumped out of your time slot. You can’t assume you’ll actually get on stage at, or even close to, the promised time merely because you’re assigned that slot. My suggestion to musicians who are considering playing at Bar 169 is to make clear to the booker that you take your commitments seriously and you expect the same. Make sure they understand that your audience will consider any excessive delay to the agreed-upon time slot to be a discourtesy and a release from your commitment. Then tell your friends to say at the door that they are there to see you play at a certain time and will want a refund if you aren’t allowed to appear at that time. Arrive well before your scheduled time, and inform the manager you are showing good faith by doing so. Explain that you will consider any unreasonable delay in the agreed-upon time to be a release from your commitment and that you have told your friends to ask for a refund of the cover if you don’t appear on schedule. It’d be a lot more fun not to have to make such rigid, legalistic stipulations. Bar 169 could avoid the necessity of doing so if they’d just be more up front with musicians about how they run their evening schedules – but that would imply a certain level of respect toward those who come there to perform. Too bad the respect is lacking. And in the final analysis, Bar 169 doesn’t really need a good review from me. What they DO need are you – the musicians – for their success.

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hits the road....

Costello’s Web
Dan Costello

Great songwriting outside New York City? No, wait, there IS! Imagine me, little Sidewalk Dan Costello, waltzing around the US in a minivan with Brook Pridemore. There is good music happening in other places; there are notable artists, who, if they stumbled into an AntiHoot, would feel right at home. Let's hope they come by soon so they can score a gig. derbox, a collective studio/performance space right on Evan Greer the main strip. Pat The Bunny (formerly of Johnny Hobo Evan is part of the Riot Folk collective, who are "Hell- and the Freight Trains) has been a central figure in this bent on MAKING FOLK A THREAT AGAIN." He lives in scene. His brother, Michael Schneeweis, has this band Boston and has wistful songs about changing the world. with punk vocals, pop drums and guitars, and classic I usually hate that sort of "We will march" acoustic rock style bass lines. He's learned some things from punk, but Evan's songs are honest and pretty damn Pat, whose new outwit the Wingnut Dishwasher's Union singable (listen to "I Want Something") . He's doing features Brook Pridemore. But his melodies and strucgreat things in social action, including animal ture are more youthful, romantic, and clever. Highly recliberation, and we played a vegan pizzashop ommended is "King Kong vs. The USA" on Plan-it-x fundraiser for him and a couple kids arRecords and rested for heightening michaeljordantouchdownpass. awareness about inChris Yang justice. Check Evan and There's something in the water of all the Riot Folk kids out,; Guelph, Ontario, where one in these are people who are every 5,000 people is a doing things, not just talking great songwriter. I think about it. it's above the provincial avPyramid $keem erage, cuz more people in I was only too drunk to see a Guelph turn into rookie cops, or band one night of tour, in Portcute coffeehouse matrons, than land Maine. I played first at a great songwriters. Chris Yang is a show in a bookstore that had soft-spoken fire breathing acousthings like "Nancy and Ron tic punk. The people who watch him Reagan's Home Videos" for a are amazed by his intricate guitar, dollar and seven bands to perchanging meters, and lingering form. After drinking too much chord extensions. His lyrics toe the line beJim Beam and playing a pretty tween abstract and compellingly revealing. Buy his CD lame set, I spent an hour talk- ing with my May All Yr Children Be Dragons, produced by fellow brother, smoking a joint in the vestibule of the First Guelph superstar Richard LaViolette, at Bank of Portland. Brook comes out after what he says . was an hour, and said, "I can't believe you missed that!" Ooh De Lally I checked out Pyramid's page the next day. I'm sorry I It's not just my love for Disney's Robin Hood that draws missed the show. Everyone else that night was just sorta okay (exception below), and this guy (real name me to this band. But they do have a great CD wrapped Todd Kessler), with his high concept rap, tongue in cheek in construction paper and sewn together with the phrase "as seen on TV" attitude, is fucking great. At the end of "Ooh Da Lally, Golly What a Day!" Maybe it's Frances' the night, it wasn't just Brook, EVERYONE was talk- saw-playing and accordian skills. We saw lots of pretty ing about this guy. And I was asleep in the corner. good bands with similar arrangements (tall bass player dude, quirky girl with fun instruments, endearing singer with guitar) in people's living rooms. None of them had Michael Jordan Touchdown Pass a song as worthy of attention as "As The River Flows." Brattleboro, Vermont is home to some damn fine ched- dar cheese, good weed, organic bread, and The TinMonkeyface
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We're in Pittsburgh, we have a 5 hour drive to Philadelphia and it's already 10PM. I'm ready to get in the minivan. But there's this one more performer, the last of ten (myself included). It's night-time in a park, and by illuminated frisbee she reads her lyrics and plays solo bass guitar. Her name is Hillary. She seems like she was destined to live in a Art Loft, walk her Boston Terrier and join the Fourth Street Food Co-op before heading out to play packed Brooklyn parties. What's better, she has strong, sensitive, well-written songs like "Dragonflies and Butterflies". Her voice can sound overdriven, and also really sweet. Fans of Misha and Deborah T. would enjoy this fantasy mash-up. Sorry for the VERY confusing URL: wwwmyspacecommonkeyface

Mischief Brew and LavaSpace When you're less than 100 miles away from home, the engine light's on, you're running low on canned goods, money, deodorant and patience, it's great to meet a truly good person. And Erik Peterson, also known as Mischief Brew, is a truly great person. That counts for a lot, but doesn't by itself warrant mention in this column. Erik played the last set of the night at lavaspace (go to to read about this well-run collective) while Rachel Devlin, Brook and I alternated smoking cigarettes and manning (womanning?) the merchandise table. This song "Devil of a Time" came wafting pleasantly through the air, and after a long three weeks of travelling, I finally felt like dancing again. Listen at

Scott Alexander Makes Friends Scott Alexander, enthnomusicologist and vegetarian, has released a three-song EP, but don’t think of it that way. Think of it as part of his globe-spanning plan to, as you probably already guessed, make friends. The songs, ADD-influenced and occasionally driving (like a super-cerebral Dufus), seem to do little to aid Alexander’s plans to befriend the universe. But the shows, and the website, and his general non-New York demeanor, well, they do the job nicely. Alexander’s website promises a hotline, a collection of recipes, requests for genuine interaction with his fan – sorry, his friend base. Scott Alexander’s new disc covers subjects near and dear to all, with titles like, “Fucking Technology” and “Unfortunately Fat.” He plays excellent bassoon and adequate guitar. While you can buy the album from the man and some electronic sources, you can also download it for free at his site, where you can see some entertaining audio & video clips as well. The album may be the focus of what Alexander is doing, but it is defniitely the website that makes him great. (Jonathan Berger)
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Recordrecord reviewed? Mail to J. Berger Reviews Want to have your
1119 Longwood Avenue, Bronx, NY 10474
Linda Draper: Namesake AntiFolk veteran Draper (she once produced her own fanzine about the scene, AntiZine)’s album sounds very familiar, and why not? Recorded at Olive Juice, co-produced by Major Matt, featuring local talents Danny Fastfingers, Soce the Elemental Wizard, and the Leader’s Sam Lazzara, this disc is even released by Planting Seeds Records, recently home of the Voyces - and mastered at the Engine Room. Linda Draper’s is a voice deep in the heart of New York’s acoustic community. It is made up that which we know, but it also sounds different. Part of it is her voice. High and sweet yet startlingly mature, Draper serenades; each word is clear and evocative and beautiful. The entire album is mature, a substantial step forward for an act that had nothing to prove. Perhaps, though, there is intent to add layers to Draper’s already substantial style. On “Sunburned,” a track on which she plays everything, she sings, “I’m too old to be concerned about the point of no return / or the respect I’ll never earn / It’s all right...” She continues, “Leave your bucket and brush at home because as far as I can tell / it already has all gone to hell.” This is Draper’s first album away from long-time producer Kramer (Shimmy-Disc), and the first she’s been involved in the production. This might be reflected in the title track’s lines, “Behind every great woman is a great man no one understands / Behind one of these three doors is a great prize waiting for you / And behind every great prize is a great loser to see you through / Just like I used to.” Who cares? The low-key charm of Draper’s latest makes me want more of the same. (Jonathan Berger) Toby Goodshank: Everything Intertwingles On his twenty-somethingth album, and the first since last fall’s sublime Mogo on the Gogo, Toby Goodshank steps to the plate and grand slams it out of the park before casually shaking dirt out of his shoe. Kirk Gibson style, like it’s no big thing. The fucker. Everything Intertwingles splits the difference between the absurdist humor of early discs like Follow Me if You Want to Fuck and the more abstract lyrical imagery of 2005’s Jyusangatsu and Di Santa Ragione. Here, the blank verse poetry of “Babylon Molehill” stands hand in hand next to the goofy, potty-mouthed hip-hop of “Italiano,” as though the two were mismatched but perfectly comfortable neighbors. Much more of the same twinkling, stratospheric acoustic guitar abounds here, with lyrical overtones that often make little to no sense on the surface - the subject matter only becomes apparent after multiple listens. The point, from where I sit, is to listen to the music as something of a sound collage. Psychedelic effects without psychedelics. Guest appearances add greatly to the aural sensation, most gracefully by Miss Tania Buziak and Gregory and the Hawk’s Meredith Godreau. In fact, it’s Miss Godreau’s voice and violin playing, specifically on “More Than One” and “Carry On” that lend a great deal of the psychedelic effect. On first play, I was surprised that Mr. G was able to exceed my expectations by changing directions. I’m still pretty surprised. (Brook Pridemore) Jeff Jacobson Before there were heavyweights to dispute, Jeff Jacobson was already crafting memorable melodies, and contending in his own right in the Williamsburg songwriter contest. For years Jeff has been playing his well structured, well executed masterpieces across the five boroughs, and yet other than a short EP and the occasional compilation, he had not released much – until now. Jeff’s debut album is comprehensive. It includes tracks that Jeff’s been playing for years, and also offers equally impressive new material. I’m a bit biased, as I’ve been looking forward to a Jeff Jacobson album ever since I met the man four years ago, but Jeff’s debut – sans the Undisputed Heavyweights – is everything I thought it would be and more. Anyone who’s ever seen Jeff Jacobson play will say that he writes

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poignant, polished, well-executed pop songs full of memorable hooks and exquisite guitar lines. Still, Jeff has truly outdone himself on his self-titled Family Records album. Created with the help of producer Benjy King (who also helped me produce my album), Jeff’s disc may have taken a year to create, but it is well worth the wait. From the opening guitar on “Let You Down,” Jeff draws listeners in and does anything but let you down over the next nine tracks. The production complements Jeff’s already wellcrafted compositions, as subtle electric guitars, keyboards, and even guest vocals from fellow Heavyweight Casey Shea make the album such a joy to listen to again and again. Jeff has unquestionably always been a superb guitar player and songwriter, but on this release, it’s his vocal performance that really struck me. Jeff’s voice sounds strong and soulful across the board, taking listeners in from mellow tracks like “Your California” and the acoustic “Pretty Picture” to the more rocking “Falling Backwards” which begins with the line “You say I am holding back again.” Jeff does everything but hold back, delivering top-notch vocal performances. Classic Jacobson songs like “Halfway to Summer” bring me back to the first time I saw Jeff perform at Amy Hill’s mythic DTUT open mic, but years later, the new production gives even this and other classics such as

“Castles” a fresh new sound. On “Who We Are,” Jeff prophetically pontificates, “a change is coming…” This could well be a reflection on how people view Jeff Jacobson. As a humble and talented member of so many other songwriters’ ensembles, Jeff Jacobson’s solo work has certainly been overlooked from time to time, but he is nonetheless a heavyweight in his own right, and this is hopefully only the first of many great solo releases to come from this standout solo artist. (Paul Alexander) Don McCloskey: Northern Liberties McCloskey’s latest is like his last, 2004’s Bombs Over Bristol (he still plays a variety of styles: 60s style folk, hip-hop, rock and soul), but unlike it. The styles he affects has been limited. Gone are the anglophilic excusrsions, there’s less outright rapping. This disc is less expermental musically, but makes up for it in other ways. McCloskey plays with a band all over Liberties. He writes more sensitive, meaningful material. “Buried Alive” is a subtler song than we might expect from the bombastic Big D, featuring delicate keys, multiple Dons harmonizing, and a thought-out high concept high-technology rant: “Fax me a photocopy of your pen / With a text message that says, ‘Rmbr wen / We usd 2 use ths thngs bck wen we wer 10?’’re on my buddy

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list so you must be a friend / Because I don’t think therefore I IM.” “Son of it All” features rap, an anthemic chorus, and lyrics that tell a multi-generational tale of hope and faith. “My Föcken Glöckenspiel” is a sorta hip-hop track going out “to all the hep cats keepin’ it unreal.” “Fountain of Youth” is am MOR hit just waiting to be heard. And “This Just In” is McCloskey as protest Dylan via Highway 61. McCloskey is still trying stuff out, mixing things up, and making us dance. This time, though, he’s also making us think. (Jonathan Berger) Jenny McCormick: English Country Garden Jenny McCormick is a storyteller, as the best folk singers often are. The album opens with the excellent “Go From My Window” where the female protagonist tells her lover exactly that. However, it’s more a sexual warning. She wants “a harbouring” and undoubtedly so does he, yet the harmonics and whispers tell us that this lady is not to be messed with. The lover would do better and take her words at face value. Jenny is excellent at creating an atmosphere, but better still is the literal, almost onomatopoeic manner in which she employs her words and music. For example, the double bass, although sparse, is continually creaking and groaning like the trees camouflaging her window. The second track, “Don’t Be Cruel,” makes comparisons with Northern English folk singer Kate Rusby understandable. Here the Northern English elongated vowels come out, more than when Jenny speaks. Although the scene depicted in the song is very English country, with haystacks and horizons, the banjo and harmonica introduce an American folk and country twang which is to quietly resonate throughout Jenny’s repertoire. Similarly, “The House Carpenter” is very much derived from English balladry, but the lead guitar licks are essentially American. Again, the woody double bass, creaking and groaning, is like a prevalent warning underneath. For Jenny, it’s not about virtuoso playing or clever lyrics. It’s about telling it like it is, and emphasising meanings through subtle musicianship. Highlight of the album is also the highlight of her live set, “Hey Joe.” Its country swing touches on Lynyrd Skynyrd, as the bass is no longer premeditating and ominous but instead playfully skips between notes. Most fascinating, though, is the way in which the singer intones the title line. Jenny’s voice soars between the most unexpected pitches so that it is impossible to

sing along – for the first few listens, at least. The album also has a naval theme, with a few of the songs conveying tales of woe from the sailors and the lovers they leave behind. Here, the music gently lilts and Jenny’s breath bounces as over waves. The songs are often desperately sad, but somehow you know Jenny’s not a dark, brooding Morrissey type. She’s just someone who can empathise well with her subject matter. (Sophie Parkes) Jeff Schram: Devil Ain’t Got a Chance Leave it to a guy who runs an internet radio station to realize that although album presentation is nice, it ain’t necessary. That’s right, even without pretty packaging, the mastermind behind Alloy Radio and plenty of artists’ breath-taking websites (check out for just one example), Jeff Schram reminds us all that his talents are multifaceted. His three-song EP Devil Ain’t Got a Chance is, as far as I know, exclusively available in electronic form – a revolutionary idea for any artist, myself included, who lives with far too many copies of their albums in already cramped New York City apartments. Still, it’s not just Jeff’s progressive distribution plan which makes his EP noteworthy. His bluesy hook-laden release propels listeners through its high energy cuts, delivering just what it promises in the title track. Jeff claims, “You better watch yourself, little girl, when I grab hold of you.” The songs move you to dance, and then move you to start the album all over again. The production value of the EP is strong, yet it retains a very raw and very real quality which helps the songs stay so sincere. Produced by Uri Djemal at MadPan Studios, Schram comes off fragile yet powerful, as his well-orchestrated compositions blend into each other as a cohesive statement of passion, desire, and drive. An important force in the New York songwriter community, Devil Ain’t Got a Chance reminds us all that Jeff Schram is much more than a wizard of the web, he’s also a hell of a singer/ songwriter himself. (Paul Alexander) Soft Black: Blue Gold Blue Gold is the culmination of two years of songwriting and performing from New Jersey’s Lone Perm, Vin Cacchione, and it was well worth the wait. A long-time punk making big noise with his old band, Give Us Barabbas, Vin’s sound has mellowed out over recent years, but still knows how to rock the fuck out. Lyrically, Blue Gold is a lesson in deep, world-weary sadness. The sound of someone who got down to the bottom and is just now starting to see the light again. Vin’s voice shares not a few similarities with David Dondero’s, and his wavering, plaintive tone makes the

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most of lines like “Let me die with the light in my eye.” It is not an easy task, deciphering the subject matter of Soft Black songs - it’s more something that FEELS sad, rather than SOUNDS sad. Either way, sometimes the greatest sadness produces the greatest beauty, and I would daresay that this is the case on Blue Gold. Under the almost ubiquitous guiding hand of producer Dan Costello, the band sounds a lot like The Band herein: plenty of piano and organ abound, with some very well-played but mostly tasteful electric guitar weaving in and out among the rhythm section and Vin’s own acoustic. In fact, the only major gripe I’d have about Blue Gold is the occasional point where the atmospheric folk songs get suddenly shoved out of the way for Mid70’s style extended guitar interludes. This is, however, a small complaint about a big, classy collection of songs. Highly recommended. (Brook Pridemore) Chris Yang: May All Yr Children Be Dragons I don’t know what they put in the water in Guelph, Ontario that makes it such a Mecca in an already amazing part of the world. It may be a mild sedative, but it may also just be that the people in Guelph know how good they have it, and want to preserve their small town lifestyle, while occasionally introducing small clusters of outsiders.

Chris Yang is one of the more prominent members of Guelph’s Burnt Oak Records, a little label responsible also for releases by Richard Laviolette, Slow Hand Motem and Griffin and the True Believers. Chris’ new platter is a delirious, gear-shifting collection of sweet folk songs about whales, chemical imbalances and girls. Yang’s angular, largely finger-picked acoustic guitar playing and the occasional plunking piano lay an easy bed for his unassuming, gentle baritone. However, in the vein of any good post hardcore album, the serenity often disappears at the drop of a hat, jerking Gang of Four style into screaming cacophony, especially on tracks like “Once I Was a Whale,” and the voices-astrain-whistle effect on “Brooklyn.” The finest moments on May All Yr Children Be Dragons - and there are many - come on the more loveworn songs, like the gear-shifting “Landscapes” and the drunken, jamboree style “Don’t Know What.” Indeed, “Landscapes” features one of the saddest single lyrics I’ve heard in years - one I desperately wish I’d written myself: “If you’re so good at convincing yourself/convince yourself, convince yourself to stay.” Grab this disc as soon as you can, and try to see Chris the next time he visits New York. (Brook Pridemore)

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Out Now On Family Records!

the bootleg series volume 1

The Undisputed Heavyweights Live From New York City
Money \ Lartigue \ Bitches Be Trippin' \ Roll Your Windows Down \ Back To You \ Just For Laughs \ A Girl Like You

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Jeff Jacobson

The Mixtape Vol. 1

Cross-Pollination: The Mixtape Volume 1 (FR-002 / Digital Only)
Features free, exclusive downloads from some of the most exciting past performers that were part of the weekly Cross-Pollination concert series at Pianos. Includes My Brightest Diamond, Jeffrey Lewis, Kevin Devine, The Undisputed Heavyweights, Matt Singer, Wakey!Wakey!, Jay Mankind, Cloud Cult and more. Download now for free at

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Wakey!Wakey! - Make A Fist Inside Your Pocket (The Bootleg Series Vol. 2) Casey Shea - Alive & Welll (The Bootleg Series Vol. 3) Seth Kallen & Friends - TBA In Philly (The Bootleg Series Vol. 4) Jukebox The Ghost - TBA Full Length Matt Singer - TBA EP & More
Cross-Pollination : A weekly concert series featuring some of the most exciting talent NYC has to offer. Two artists each play an individual 40 minute set, followed by a 3-song collaborative set, leading to unexpected and often spectacular musical results. Every Tuesday at Pianos (158 Ludlow St. by Stanton), 8-10pm, FREE! 151 weeks and running! For info on releases, schedules, music placement, concert promotion and more visit
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