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Two singer/songwriters. One long-ass interview.
FEATURING DAN COSTELLO PAUL ALEXANDER ANDREW HOEPFNER ALEC WONDERFUL JUSTIN REMER ERIC WOLFSON DEBORAH T CHRIS MAHER MICHAEL MCHUGH BROOK PRIDEMORE JON GLOVIN WITH BELOWSKY DAVE CUOMO BEN KRIEGER CINEMATOGRAPHER HERB SCHER DIRECTED BY JONATHAN BERGER
URBAN FOLK: NUMBER NINE, NUMBER NINE, NUMBER NINE...
Well, start of a new year; start of a new era. Urban Folk is soldiering on, with a few personnel changes, and we hope you’ll stay with us for the journey. Luckily, we’re free, and if you decide to no longer read, we’ll be able to find a couple of bums or fishmongers who’ll happily take the papers off your hands. We don’t need you. We’ll be fine without you, you’ll see. Seriously, stick around. We’re desperate. It’s you urban folk to which Urban Folk is dedicated month after month. Without you, we’re nothing. Don’t go anywhere. Well, you can go somewhere, but... look, just read the issue. Guaranteed to love it, or your money back... Jonathan Berger, Emperor-in-Chief
Urban Folk Wants You! Contribute, distribute, submit materials, buy ads, sell ad space, be a part of it all, whore your family for our own insidious purposes... Were community, so join on in! IN THIS ISSUE:
THE COVER DAN COSTELLO AND PAUL ALEXANDER (PHOTO BY HERB SCHER) LETTERS TO EDITOR THE EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE ANSWERS ALL THE QUESTIONS YOU DARE TO ASK DAN & PAUL PAUL ALEXANDER AND DAN COSTELLO ARE INTERVIEWED BY DAN COISTELLO AND PAUL ALEXANDER BELOWSKY SOME BALD POET GETS THE TREATMENT FROM ANDREW HOEPFNER THE CREATOR OF URBAN FOLK QUESTIONED BY THE CREATOR OF ANTIFOLK, ALEC WONDERFUL DAVE CUOMO ANTIFOLK FESTIVAL, 2006 IN A TIMELY MOVE, JUSTIN REMER REVIEWS THE SUMMER ANTIFOLK F ESTIVAL ANTICOMPILATION OVERVIEW OUR OWN JONATHAN BERGER BEGINS REVIEWING THE HISTORY OF ANTIFOLK COMPILATIONS PAULS PERSPECTIVE COVER BOY PAUL ALEXANDER TALKS ABOUT WHATEVER HES TALKING ABOUT THIS MONTH TRUE STORY: ERIC WOLFSON EXPLAINS THE GENESIS OF TRUE STORY! EXEGESIS BEN KRIEGER UF CONTEST RUNNER-UP GETS HIS FROM DEBORAH T ON TOURING CHRIS MAHER EXHAUSTIVELY DESCRIBES A YEAR ON THE ROAD. WELL, THE FIRST PART INVISIBLE NOISE DAN COSTELLO REVIEWS THE LATEST SERIES OF WEBSITES WHERE HE LURKS A COLLECTION OF THOUGHTS AND ESSAYS FROM EARLY ANTIF OLKIE MICHAEL AMERICA GET IN THE MINIVAN BROOK PRIDEMORE. ON THE ROAD. WITH DANS COSTELLO AND TREIBER. NEED WE SAY MORE? SUBWAY STORIES WHAT HAPPENS ON THE SUBWAY STAYS ON THE SUBWAY - EXCEPT FOR THIS RECORD REVIEWS UH... THESE ARE THE RECORD REVIEWS. WHERE WE REVIEW RECORDS . GET THE CONCEPT? YOU KNOW ALL THOSE STORIES YOU DIDN'T READ THE END OF? HERE THEY ARE! DETRITUS
1 3 4 8 10 12 15 16 17 18 22 27 28 30 32 33 39
UF Addresses urbanfolk.org myspace.com/urbanfolkzine email@example.com Jonathan Berger 1119 Longwood Ave. Bronx, NY 10474
Advertising Rates Full Page Back Cover $110 6.8" x 9.5" Full Page $100 6.8" x 9.5" Half Page $60 6.8" x 4.7" Third Page $45 4.8" x 4.8" or 2.2 x 9.5 Quarter Page $25 3.4" x 4.8" Ads should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org as jpeg or pdf Checks payable to Jon Berger (cash payable to Jon Berger, too)
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 2
Letters to the Editor
you folks ask, and Urban Folk responds
Hey, You know, you wrote about a night at the Living Room where I played earlier this year, but you didn't mention me at all. I was first on the bill, and all thirty people there said I was the best thing on the bill (my girlfriend's sister told me so). Just thought you should know. Jack Uller Dear Jack, There must be some kind of a mistake; we don't do live show reviews. Why? Beats us; maybe because no one but Debe Dalton has ever submitted one. Of course, we're rectifying that with this issue, as we defy current events and write about the Summer AntiFolk Festival. It's on Page 12. It's good; trust us. Dear Urban Folk, I didn't notice pint-sized power pop folkster Dave Cuomo's name in the masthead of Issue 9 of Urban Folk. What gives? His Subway Stories made the zine - hell, HE made the zine! What did you do with your diminutive dictator? Has there been some sort of a coup in the hallowed halls of the finest AntiFolk zine known to man, woman and beast? Signed, Anonymously Ignorant To Whom It May Concern: Dave Cuomo, the founder and guiding spirit of Urban Folk, has taken a much-needed vacation. After a ten-week cross-country gig schedule, and with a brand-new debut album to promote, Dave Cuomo, editor in chief, has taken on the title of Dave Cuomo, former editor in chief. We'll miss him, of course. It was Dave's energy and excitement, along with the pages and pages he filled month after month, that kept the dream alive. No one else could possibly fill Dave's shoes - not without splitting the seams. Dear Folk at Urban Folk, Why do you spell AntiFolk like that? William in WilliamsBurg Dear WiW, Why don't you? It doesn't seem like there's ever been a consistent spelling of AntiFolk out there in the great wide world. The obvious one is anitfolk, but, lacking capitalization, it sort of just sits there. Then there’s anti-folk, which is a little better, but suffers from the same problem. More popular is Antifolk, but what does that represent? Nothing but Anti, my friend, nothing but Anti. AntiFolk, however, taking from the great circle of life (the NYAF logo), gives representation to the two equally important aspects of the word: Anti and Folk. AntiFolk? Get it? Hey, if you don't like it, make your own fanzine… Yo, UF! So who's taking Dave's place in the Captain's chair? Please tell me it's not that fat-headed Jon Berger. His ego and drive to monomania will be the death of the publication. You can find someone better than Berger to take the helm, right? Like a greasy bag of donuts, or an adopted sloth - adopted into a colony of mold. Please tell me you've found someone better to run the azine. Please? Sincerely, Hateful on Haight Hey, HOH, You know, if you send a letter like that, you shouldn't attach a return address. See you soon… Dear UF, What is Urban Folk? Ian in Arkansas Dear I in A, Urban Folk is an electric shock in a vat of lime jello. Urban Folk is saying "Fuck" 14 times in nine different languages. Urban Folk is the mystery dance - without a beat. It's the third Bully Goat Gruff. It's the red-headed stepchild, all grown up. Urban Folk is a drop in the bucket, a day at the beach. It's about artists being sincere, and arch, and clever and irksome, and artful (yet artless) and raw and smart and different - sometimes, just for the sake of being different. Urban Folk is a misnomer. Dear UF, But what is Urban Folk, really? Irksomely Artless Dear IA, See Page 41.
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 3
Dan vs. Paul
two of our feature writers interview each other
Paul Alexander & Dan Costello photos by Herb Scher
Dan Costello and Paul Alexander have a lot in common: they’re both songwriters, they’re both white, and they both write for Urban Folk. Beneath the surface, though, there are substantial differences: Dan has a beard, while Paul is clean-shaven. Paul is married; Dan is single. Dan’s last name is that of a celebrated singer-songwriter (no relation), while Paul’s belongs to a celebrated black singer-songwriter (what? You never heard of Arthur Alexander?). Most important, though, is the process that they each endured in 2006. Costello and Alexander recently met in the same place (the Sidewalk Café) to discuss the trials, tribulations, and triumphs encountered in making their first albums. Making A First Record Dan: How long were you writing songs and playing songs out before you made a record? Paul: Years. I played with bands since high school. Dan: Did you make records with those bands? Paul: I did, I made a record with my high school band, and I guess we made some short albums with the college band. We sent a lot of tracks to local compilation albums. Dan: I had never done that before. I had done theater in college and we had made soundtracks to them, but never proper tracking, mixing and mastering. Paul: So this was all brand new to you? Dan: Yeah, I was really glad to have my buddy Ben Godwin producing it. I had NO IDEA what it involved. I think the thing that got me about making a first record was like, Joie Blaney here at the club, he was always like, "Just have something to sell, even if it's crap, but people wanna buy something, so just have something for people to buy." And I was doing these home recordings, but I couldn't ever think of sending them to radio, or even into a competition. Paul: I feel the same. I wanted something I was proud of. Dan: Are there things that surprised you about making a solo record? I know I was almost over the songs before we even recorded them. Paul: Even halfway through, I wanted to work on the next one. In a way, it kills the songs, it forces you to reinvent them. Like when I do them live, I have to do them differently, because I'm so tired of doing them the same way. Dan: On the other hand, at least now there's a definitive version of them. Paul: Exactly. It's like you put them to bed.. Dan: I wish I had written a brand new song for my album. We did my record so fast and on such a shoestring, there wasn't time for that. Paul: New songs are great because you're not so set. It's brand new so it can be whatever. So you and your producer, you and your band, whoever's working with you, can make it something that you created. Dan: I wanted to make a solid record that was a retrospective of my music to date. We figuratively put to bed the 60 songs we started with. Paul: You started with sixty songs? Dan: Every song I had ever written. Paul: I edited some before I went and sat down with a producer. I probably started with at least fifteen, some were more like sketches or pieces of songs. Which is where that one we did in the studio came from. It went from fifteen, it got cut to eight and I had to write two new songs for the album. Which is a cool thing. Dan: There's like two of them that didn't show up on this one, that a couple people are really pissed off didn't show up, and because the next record's gonna be a hip hop record, I'm retooling them to fit that record. Motivation Dan: Why did you make the record? I made mine to put the first stage of my bullshit aside, and be able to start from ground zero again. What about you? Paul: I wanted something to sell at shows, I wanted to have a collection of these songs that I could leave them be and know that they have a home. I kept banging my head against the wall with stupid ideas, like I'll go find some people and they'll help me get some money together and then a record
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 4
company will help me make an album. Dan: Yeah. Paul: And so I just wanted to do it on my own, for myself. Dan: You can get so disaffected that it's like, "I want to put it out myself." Paul: Yeah, I think that's where I was at, so that's why I wanted to do it, too. Just like anything you do, it's just like building a house and at the end you want to be able to look at it and achieve something. I wanted to build a house for my songs and say "I did this" and no matter what else happens, it's always gonna be there. That's what's so cool about doing an album you can be proud of. It's cool to have a four track demo, that'll leave ya wanting more. And of course I want a second album; I have ideas and I'll never stop, but no matter what else happens, now I have this thing that's a representation of me, and it's always gonna be there. Dan: We keep calling it a record. Someone pointed out to me, it IS a record. It's a document of where you were. My dummer quit the project a week and a half before we started tracking, and I was in love with a girl who was really far away. I was broke. I was getting sick and all these things. And my buddy Lach, god bless him, called me up. And said, "You know this is the way it's supposed to go, right? You know that this is what making a record is. It's all this stuff that's going on with you, the girl in Australia and the drummer that you can't find, it's all of that stuff, it's part of the document. Enjoy it. Don't forget that." Paul: Yeah. Dan: It can be real stressful when you don't know what's going to happen next. Paul: It's true, and it's true in life, just enjoy it... making an album is a hell of a lot of fun. You know that, I don't have to tell you. Dan: Oh god. Producers. Paul: Who was your producer? Dan: Ben Godwin, former Brit in Brooklyn. He was an engineer over there for years, came over here, started coming to my shows, needed a job, I got him a job working sound here, at some point he's like "why don't you have a record? It's time we should have a record for you," and
I was drunk in a cab and I said "okay" and then we just started. We took a leap, and y'know, he did it pro bono. He didn't charge me to produce the record, he wanted me to have a record, and we essentially worked out this cooperative agreement where he would produce my record, and I would help him sell his, and then it turns out I ended up producing his new record. So we've been creative partners back and forth quite a lot. But I still feel like I owe him so much, he basically taught me how to record. I didn't know, I never would have made it, or as professionally or as quality without his help. Who was your producer? Paul: His name's Benjy King, and I didn't meet him in quite as cool a way, but I love him, he's definitely a friend at this point. But I met him because I knew I wanted to make an album so I went looking for people. Dan: Yeah. Paul: And everyone I found gave me songs and dances. It was about money for them. Or it was about points on the album. Dan: Points on the album, like, percentages? Paul: Yeah. Stupid stuff. So this one guy, I don't even remember his name now, he came to see one of my shows, and then kinda said "I like you, but you need a lot of work, and so as much as I'd like to, I've got this guy for you." and he gave me Benjy's number. Benjy's like this producer - mentor - I don't know, spiritual guru... Dan: He coaches people. Paul: Yeah, that's what he is… he's a teacher. I tell him that all the time. He taught me how to break the songs down, how to change the keys. The two new songs that I wrote for the album, I wrote them in a different way than I might have if I haven't worked with him. He got me a vocal coach, and he helped me find the musicians for the album. It was cool. Dan: It seems like a very different process that I went through. Paul: Definitely. Dan: Ben and I talked about this, a producer's role on an indie project is to make sure it gets done. Like, it's not to make big artistic decisions all of the time, but to keep it on schedule. But it seems like in your project, he was much more creatively involved in shaping your sound. Paul: He was, and it's not that he changed my sound, but maybe. Dan: Shaping, I didn't mean changing. Paul: "Shaping" is a good word, I like that. He did, he shaped who I was as an artist and shaped who I was as a person. Dan: Are you happy with the way you're represented? Did you have to give in at all? Paul: I did, specifically on the song "Rosalie." Then there's a couple of songs I wouldn't have done the chorus like this, or I wouldn't have done the background vocals like this, but on a whole, listening to it, it's me, it is who I am. Some of it's a bit overproduced, but it is what it is...
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Dan: Hey, some of my record's overproduced and it's my fault. I could have said no. Process Dan: you made your record on tape? Paul: Most of it. That was a fucked up thing... it wasn't Pro Tools. If I was playing my acoustic guitar out of time, then he would stop and say, here's a metronome, go home and practice. Dan: See, that's old school in a really good way. Paul: Oh, yeah! Paul: Still, I'm definitely gonna do my next record as live as possible. I mean, this one's great, it sounds like the band's all in the same room, 'cause that's what you can do, but it's all tracking, man. I played my acoustic guitar, no one else was there. Dan: See, I don't like that. Paul: It worked out. Dan: I wanted a Highway 61 sound. I wanted you to hear the room. So I had specific room mic tracks. We mixed room mics in, otherwise it wasn't gonna feel right. Tracked records, they sound really sterile. Paul: That's what I'm saying. The next time I make an album, I want to practice a band. Dan: That's the thing. We talked before about Janis Joplin’s Pearl, which is a fuckload of people in one room making a record. And it's one of the most exciting records. It's like WHOOO, the band's just rocking the shit out of these organ parts and these drum parts, it's all happening together. You can hear her dancing around the room. Paul: You can hear the interaction between the players. It's so much different than, I'm chilling with headphones on, jamming with a guitar player. I mean, it's amazing that technology allows us to do that, but it's not the same. Bands Paul: Where'd your players come from? Dan: Basically I cast it from my friends. I wanted a big record. I knew I wanted three distinct sounds on the record. I wanted a jazz trio, I wanted a country band, and then I wanted this rock and roll quartet. So in order to do it, I had to find some people who could do it all, and then I had to fill in the gaps. So I got a really good jazz bass player, but all the fun comes from the fact that it's Eric Wolfson, and Andrew Hoepfner, and background vocals by David LK Murphy. Brook Pridemore's playing ukelele on the record… it's all AntiFolk artists. Paul: It's great they're all friends. I got top notch players and had a friend, Matt Wigton, play bass on a couple
songs, but for the most part they weren't guys I knew. Dan: I'll never be able to replicate the energy of my record. It was 23 people. My brothers are on it, and my brother's girlfriend sings on it. My girlfriend sings on the record, and she wasn't even my girlfriend yet! Crazy shit. Paul: See, I learned so much, and I'm so much of a better musician doing the album that I did. And I don't regret any of that. I named it Despite Everything You've Planned, because this isn't the kind of album I went in to make. I wish I had friends on the album, I wish I had all the band playing in the same room... Dan: But you had aces playing on your record. Your guy's old school and he had a lot of contacts. Paul: Some of these guys are fucking ridiculous. And he sent me to good people, he sent me to Don Lawrence, who voice-coaches Bono and Christina Aguilera, who I never could have gotten in with. I mean, I paid him, but I never would have gotten in to see him if he hadn't gotten that call. Dan: Do you wish you had a band that you played with all the time? Paul: Yeah. Next time, I'm going to use the band that I put together for the release party. Dan: That's what I want for my next studio project. I want to go in with a band that I play with all the time. Then we can just have fun in there. I don't wanna be teaching parts in the studio. Paul: I love this city, but everyone here does a thousand things. They're either songwriters or session players who play on twenty other things to make a living. So I either have to pay a band, or get cats who are just hobbyists and happen to be really into your stuff. Dan: We should be so lucky that people pay us like that some day. Selling An Album Dan: In terms of making money off the record, what have you done so far? Paul: It's selling okay. Some stuff needs to happen; stuff like CDBaby. I don't really know how I feel about CDBaby. I really want to find a medium to sell it through my website. Dan: I do both. Of course, I haven't sold a record through CDBaby. Paul: That is really interesting. I don't wanna say I know I'm going to sell em, but I have a lot of friends in the Midwest where I'm from who are really anxious to get ahold of it. Dan: It's all about pointing people in the right direction, so if someone wants your stuff, they're gonna be able to
Paul vs. Dan
Dan Costello & Paul Alexander
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 6
get it. And because of CDBaby Dan: I think a level of confimy stuff's on iTunes now, and dence helps sell a record. If I some people have bought some get up there, and I have a great stuff. show, I'm going to sell a couple Paul: Selling the record has been copies of my record. People mostly for me, just getting out are going to be into it. there. It's been great to force myPaul: I agree. If I go out on a self: "shit I should go to this open night and play a show, I'm sellmic, because I have an album to ing some CDs and to me, sell." Or "Man, I should be doing that's success. It's not a lot some shows again." of CDs, but it's gonna add up. Dan: I'm not doing enough of that. I thought at some point, that it The Next Record. was such a great record that obDan: The next record…. I went viously it was going to sell... but, from having this huge thing, you know how many great records which I really don't know if it don't sell. says everything I want it to Paul: I can think of two. say, and now I want to be like, Dan: If I had it to do again, I would "Now I want to say exactly spend as much money promotwhat I want to say." Dan Costello takes it on the road ing the record as making it. Ben's still gonna listen to stuff Paul: I wish I had that much money. and tell me what he thinks. Dan: Well, that's about choosing the right things to spend Paul: That's good. on. Unfortunately, the way things get to people is expo- Dan: We'll probably take it somewhere to be mastered. sure, and a lot of the way it's built right now is you have But in terms of creating the songs and the tracks and to pay for that. things Paul: It's true. Paul: - The meat of it, you're going to do at home. Dan: You have to pay for print ads geared specifically Dan: I'm going to have full control and ask intelligent towards people who are gonna buy it. Not like, trying to people what they think. turn on people who don't buy music, but trying to turn on Paul: That's cool. people who read, Urban Folk Magazine, y'know. You buy Dan: I think I'm going to write mostly new songs for the album. The old record was mostly a retrospective of songs an ad in Urban Folk... Paul: But are people gonna read your review and are to date, and this one is like, "New." I don't want it to they gonna be interested and are they gonna go to a sound like a historical document, I want it to sound Paul: - It's gonna sound fresher, a little bit new. But you show and are they gonna buy an album… Dan: Or at least they're gonna go to your website and can do that now, because you made the first album. Dan: Put all those songs to bed. What about you? What's check it out, or tell their friends about it. Paul: Right: "I've heard of that guy," It makes you more the next record gonna be like, what are you going to do differently? legit, too. It helps spread that word of mouth. Dan: You could spread yourself so thin, bugging all these Paul: I'm not going to spend as much money, so in that way you and I are similar. I'll still probably go somewhere people at all these different places. Paul: I know. It sucks. People come to my open mic, but it might be to my buddy Brian Speaker's house, or it and I've been selling a lot at my open mic, which is flat- might be just recording in a club and then recording some tering, but they're all my friends. But my wife tells me, new vocals and mixing. But it's definitely going to be "You want to give that away, but you paid a lot of money more organic - like you did. There won't be fifteen guitar parts, or strings, or whatever. It's gonna have two guitars, for it." It puts value on it. a bass, drums. It's gonna just be songs, not production. Dan: Right. Paul: To give it away, what are you saying about how Dan: Pulling it back. Paul: I want to write for an album, if there are seven songs valuable this piece of art is? Dan: I think we have to turn around the download world, that all seem to speak to me about the same thing, then where people are used to getting stuff for free. They think it's gonna be seven songs. Dan: So I think we spent all this time worrying about if it's available for free then that's the way it should be. Paul: It shouldn't be. People worked hard on that, I don't these little things, and the thing we realized about makcare if you did it on a 4-track or whatever, that's ing a first record and trying to juggle all these things is somebody's passion and that's worth something. that in some way it's a really good representation of us
(continued on page 39)
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 7
Best Damn Slice
get to know the most outspoken, neurotic, baldheaded dynamo of spoken word south of 23rd street Andrew Hoepfner
Coffee fiend The baristas of Union Square know Belowsky’s face and can recite his coffee preference by heart. The poet gorges on caffeine like it should be made illegal, despite wicked withdrawal migraines that confirm his legitimate dependency on Colombia’s magical, bountiful bean. “It’s better for you when you mix some cream in, isn’t it?” he nervously asks, like the chain smoker who switches from Lights to Ultralights. Uncompromisingly monogamous Belowsky’s only in love with one man, and his name rhymes with Bukowski. Spend an evening with him, and you’re sure to receive a narcissistic yet enjoyable education in Belowskology. You’ll hear him brashly curse his “shit gigs” and celebrate with childlike giddiness the times he “hit it out of the ballpark” (Belowsky is always a very honest critic of himself). Be prepared to get an earful about his occasional love stints at Whole Foods, and to hallucinate visions of Belowsky T-shirts, mugs, and DVDs displayed elusively somewhere in the retail shops of the future. Awesome pizza poem Akin to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, as encompassing as Sinatra’s “New York, New York”, Belowsky has concocted a Big Apple classic as joyful and limitless as the city that begat it. Cramming Bloomberg, 50 Cent, Matthew Broderick, and a host of other Manhattanites into his anthemic rant, Belowsky sculpts a pedestal for the godlike New York style pizza slice. Fortunately, “Best Damn Slice” is one of his newest works: the man is in his prime. Fucking hypocrite Belowsky’s “Mall of America” compels me to abandon the consumerist cauldron and embrace a simple existence on the commune. “Junk Food Junkie” makes me want to barf up all those grade D bean burritos I bought at the Bell. Ironically, a Dunkin’ Donut and Starbucks coffee combo, a literal smorgasbord of corporate conglomeration, is classic Belowsky dining. Starbucks! I
Belowsky takin’ it to the street
thought they sponsored the deadly virus in “Race for the 21st Century.” What gives, Belowsk? “F—k it, man, I’m an entertainer,” the unconcerned poet might shrug to idealist accusations. Belowsky is no political buff, and thinks recycling is for c—ts, yet still somehow captures the outrage of the counterculture. Love it or leave it. Glamorous international past In Los Angeles, Belowsky once delivered one-liners on the Sunset Strip. He also ran with a celebrity PR agency in London. He sweated in the discos of Israel and Australia. There’s even a Belowsky recording with some guy from Oasis. Now inhabiting the East Coast, the Manchester native is well-suited to be that romanticized gutter hobo with a poem that reads, “Buddy, I done it all.” Works the room Belowsky rarely steps foot onstage during a performance. He opts to work in and around the room. “The stage alienates the audience. The stage is for wankers,” he snarks.
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 8
Icon worship For the woman lucky enough to make it back to Belowsky’s apartment, you will find it starkly bare with the exception of a few framed photos. Mohammed Ali. James Dean. Belowsky, did you forget your mother? The man cares not for the obscure, fetish-like influences of the music snobs, or the stuffy, unfathomable immortals of literature and academic poetry. Belowsky much prefers the larger-than-life icons of 20th century pop culture, JFK to Pauly Shore. Somehow, the guy managed to make a show stopping tribute to the glory of Larry King. No small feat, in anyone’s book. Stays greasy One of Belowsky’s signature works, “Stay Greasy”, is a motivational speech of sorts that adorns the audience in a slimy, gooey assault of namebrand hair products. “You’re ultimate! You’re mega! You’re extreme!” he praises like a Madison Avenue lunatic. If you can inspire us with Vidal Sassoon sculpting gel, Belowsky, then why are you sticking around here at these dive clubs? The advertising business is calling. He’s staying greasy, that’s why!
Tasteless At the 2006 Winter Antifolk Fest, Belowsky’s set followed a dramatic poet who read one serious piece regarding his grandmother’s suicide. “Suicidal grandmas?” Belowsky later joked as he sauntered from table to table between his own poems. “It seems to me that by the time you get to 78, you’ve forgotten that you wanted to kill yourself!” Hiding behind a wave of chuckles, the previous performer exited silently from the room. Man of mystery Ask Belowsky what he’s doing during the day, and you will stumble upon a curious caper. He’s always “heading out to Jersey,” and he refuses to utter a word more. Invasion Belowsky began his West Coast takeover in October with four appearances at the Standard Hotel.
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 9
what the fuck happened?
Urban Folk’s errant leader, Dave Cuomo, has left the fold. After an exhaustive ten-week tour, Mr. Cuomo has decided to opt out of the responsibilities of the regular publication. But still he cannot escape the Urban Folk. A contributing columnist since the beginning of the zine, Alec Wonderful had some questions for Dave Cuomo, and has deigned to interview the (former) editor, for his own (former) publication. Alec: Sorry I’m late. I was doing something important. Ready? Here we go… Back when you started this paper, you begged and begged me to be a part of it. You even found a way past my security protocols. And now you’re quitting. My first question to you is this: How did you get my phone number? Dave: I tried all 9,999,999,999 combinations. Trust me, it was worth the time to sell your number later. Alec: What? Good thing it’s been switched since then. Dave: But I reached you here... Alec: It’s that kind of drive you used to have for the fanzine. Are you using that now, living the folkstar lifestyle? Dave: Nope, I tried drive and didn’t care for it much. I’m trying out being a bum for a while. Alec: Bumming? Living off of used canned goods? Sleeping with hobos? Dancing a jig for pennies a day? Dave: Being a folkstar on the road meant a lot of sleeping in the car, in flea-infested squats, and eating mostly what I could steal, bum, or dumpster. Alec: Yes, I used to dumpster dive. Of course, I owned the dumpster... Is that how you made ends meet on the road? Not all gold and flowers, was it? Dave: Flowers are free, and you can’t eat gold… but yes. Alec: The touring was bad? Dave: It was fucking fantastic! I’ve never felt so happy and free in my life. Alec: While eating from dumpsters you didn’t even own... Dave: I don’t believe in private property – plus I’m a damn good cook, with whatever I got. Alec: Meaning, like, possum from the road? Dave: I was tempted, very tempted, but didn’t go that far. I decided, though, that if I killed anything with my car it would be my duty to eat it, out of respect. Alec: What was the reaction you got on the road? What sorts of people appreciated what you did? Did anyone compare you to me? Dave: Uh… before that: I should also say that along with the crumbs of society I was also usually living off the kindness of strangers who really are quite kind. Sleeping often in the cafes I played, getting fed by people who’d seen me play or met me on the street and took pity. I was really grateful and a little renewed in my faith in humanity. Cheesy, but one hundred percent true. Now: I think me and you are going for different things. You’re perfect and exude that with every beautiful note. I don’t believe in perfection, I found so much beauty in the imperfections and horror of everyday life. I think people appreciated that. Reaction was really good, actually. Made so many friends and got the feeling that it really is possible to connect with people through song. It’s a responsibility I’m trying to live up to in the writing. Alec: So how many groupies did you bag? Dave: I’d never tell, let’s just say I tried real hard to not make the tour about sex at all. Like I said, though, no one’s perfect Alec: Will you tour again? Dave: Little ones here and there, and at least two big cross-country deals a year is the plan. Alec: My boy Roger Manning used to do that. Dave: He’s a lucky man. Alec: Now he builds websites. Can you build websites? Dave: Fuck no, I make a mean pizza, though. Did I mention I missed my job while I was on tour? Fucking bizarre; never happened before. Alec: Being paid is a powerful thing. Does this make you more of a homebody now that you’re back? What’s the plan for you now? Why are you out of the zine business? Dave: I love my job, love making the best damn pizza you can imagine – and I do! I also love singing. Fortunately, I work at a bar where I can travel whenever I want and for however long I want. I think pizza and folk music are both what I want to do with my life, and will always do both. If there were an anarchist revolution
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 10
became my first song in 8 months. I tomorrow, and we could do whatever we got three more coming right behind it. wanted, I’d do exactly what I’m doing now. Make pizza and sing songs on the Alec: What about the CD? It’s been in weekend. I realized I want to be happy the works forever. There was a CD remore than I want to accomplish imporlease in September. Is it available anytant things. Cooking and singing make where? Do I like it more than when I me happy. Deadlines, pressure, and first heard it? business end shit make me miserable, Dave: Fucking A right, you do! Masteractually. After feeling so free, how could ing with Larry Hammel made a world of I go back to being miserable? difference. I’m actually proud of it, which Alec: But what about the power? The I’ve never said about a recording before. fame? The glory of fanzine groupies? I Response has been really good, too. mean, you’re not on tour anymore, so Except track seven, and every one else groupies should be a priority again, right? agrees it’s a skipper. You can get it on Dave: Yeah... power just means responthe website very soon, but for now go to sibility, which does not make me happy. everreviledrecords.com and you can get I don’t know if fame would make me yourself a copy. happy. It might, but I do know that singAlec: I keep forgetting to talk to Billy the little guy himself ing for a bunch of punks in a basement Bragg about your outright theft of his somewhere does. I’ll stick with what I know for now and song. Of course, as a communist, he might not care. let life go where it’s gonna go. Can I be honest? One- Dave: That’s my theory. I hope his socialism is sincere... night stands depress me every time. Next time I see him live I’m gonna tell him I have a present Alec: That’s why I leave before dawn. Makes it easier for for him – if he promises not to sue me first. There was a everyone. great band, Discount, who did an unlicensed 5-song Billy Dave: I remember... Bragg cover EP. When Billy found out he was thrilled and Alec: Do you have to work on Sundays? put it on his European distro. The Columbian band I covDave: I do, and I always enjoy it. When I told people that ered can’t sue either, because they don’t have the same on the road, they got seriously pissed at me. People copyright laws down there, I’ve been told. seemed to identify with that song the most. It was so Alec: Well, in conclusion, you sound content and inexmuch easier to write about work when I hated it. I’m try- plicably happy with your life. Any comments to the miling to figure out how to write a song about loving your lions of Urban Folk readers who hate your abandonment job, but it’s kind of tough and I’m pretty sure it’s not and leaving them in the arms of that poet kid? going to excite people nearly as much. Dave: I’m really sorry! I wish I had more drive and could Alec: You’re not a bad prose writer. One of the top five at keep doing it, but I hope everyone is happy for me. I’m Urban Folk, at least. Do you plan on keeping a hand in actually generally happy for the first time since moving the zine, or write elsewhere? here. Not to mention that Berger is qualified and will do a Dave: In my head I’m saying yes, yes, yes, but ask the fantastic job, as he always does. Far more qualified and new boss, the great and capable Jon Berger whether or hard-working than I ever was. But help the guy out hownot I have a habit of promising shit and not following ever you can. It’s a community paper and if the commuthrough. The heart is willing, but the rest of me is pretty nity wants to help make it work, it’ll be even better, and lazy and carefree these days. Berger will have his job become that much easier. Alec: Jon Berger. The bald guy? Alec: It sounds it. Alec: I don’t see how you can make great art with that Dave: Bald sweaty guy... lackadaisical attitude, but then, I don’t see how anyone Alec: Whatever... Final thoughts? else makes art, anyway. Variety is what makes life Won- Dave: Thanks to everyone who supported this magazine derful, I guess. Any stories of the road you can share? and made it what it was! I complain, but it was a pleaDave: When I left town I hadn’t written a song in 8 months. sure to steward this thing. We have an amazing commuAll wrapped up in making an album, making a website nity here in New York and across the country of working on publicity type bullshit, working on the maga- songwriters, punks, bohemians, and poets. It was great zine, deadlines, the usual bit, where’s the love of life to to get to know it and learn about it through the magainspire any kind of writing or art? Not until I lost my mind zine. All the great music I heard was more payment than and started yelling at no one on the way to Vancouver, I could have asked for. I see only good things on the realizing I had almost no money, no show for four days, horizon as the community becomes more cohesive and nowhere to go and no one expecting me; when I hit rock connected. I feel lucky to be a part of it! bottom I felt total elation and started singing gibberish at Alec: What better way to conclude... other than telling the top of my lungs. I polished up the gibberish and it you all to buy my new album(s).
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 11
impressions of the ‘06 summer antifolk festival
There was one point during Creaky Boards’ set at the 2006 Summer AntiFolk Fest where they did a song about playing at the Sidewalk Café. It was a ditty in the vein of Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music” (which name-drops a bunch of then-recent soul singers) or The Righteous Brothers’ “Rock & Roll Heaven” (which name-drops a bunch of rockers dead too soon), wherein Creaky Boards lead singer/writer Andrew Hoepfner name-dropped a bunch of people influential to the AntiFolk scene. About two-thirds of the way through the song, Andrew took some time to talk about how he wrote the song, which involved thinking of what names of people important to AntiFolk would work in what rhyme patterns, and taking it from there. He observed that most of the performers he mentioned in the song weren’t at the Creaky Boards show, and that most of the performers at the show weren’t in the song. I mention this not to bring up something about the changing face of AntiFolk – hell, I’ve only been around for a little under 2 years – but to warn those of you reading this who were part of the AntiFolk fest that you will probably not be mentioned in this piece. As I was left out of the Creaky Boards song, so too will you probably be left out of this article. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you (gosh, I hope Andrew Hoepfner still likes me, now that I think of it); it just means that I write in a long-winded fashion, and brevity (i.e., not writing a novel-length narrative of the entire fest) is the soul of wit. Also, I only saw about half the fest (ha H A!). One of my absolute favorite moments of the Fest was noticing that Dan Fishback’s jaw had literally dropped while watching The Bowmans. Like a nebbish in a Jayne Mansfield movie, he had to consciously shut his mouth again. The Bowman sisters’ harmonies created something so special that I’m sure it left more than a few folks open-mouthed.
photos by Herb Scher
The night The Bowmans played was a long one for me. It was Friday night, and Elastic No-No Band, of which I am the lead singer, was the first act at 7pm (we were excellent – shame you missed it), and I stuck around until my eyelids started getting droopy in the middle of Chris Barron’s set at about 12:30 the next morning. I was partly surprised to see the room was not all that full for Mr. Barron, seeing as he was one of the name attractions (next to Suzanne Vega, whose set I missed intentionally so that you could have a little more room to see her – you can thank me later). I guess everyone didn’t spend a good chunk of their pre-teendom trying to master the lyrics to “Two Princes” by Mr. Barron’s group Spin Doctors, as I did for no apparent reason (although this training has helped me immensely when I’m stuck for a song for karaoke). People did come in as his set progressed, maybe because everyone can do with a little whicka-whickawhicka whick whick guitar playing (accompanied by standup bass) and postneo-hippie philosophizing. As I said, though, I got sleepy and had to leave before I found out if he played “Two Princes” again, as he has with the Moldy Peaches in the past.
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 12
Phoebe Kreutz, who played just before Chris Barron, made me intensely jealous. I mean, she’s an excellent songwriter, a great singer, and an able character actor (meaning: she slips in and out of different personas effortlessly depending on the requirements of her song). And seeing as Elastic No-No Band travels a similar road as Phoebe Kreutz, known sometimes as “Joke Folk,” it peeves me mildly that she seems to get more laughs than us. It peeves me in an inspiring way, though. All those laughs are earned, for sure. She has a tune called “Song to Make You Cry” that made us weep all right – weep with laughter (betcha didn’t see that one coming)! For a spell, Phoebe Kreutz had the versatile guitar man Casey Holford onstage to help her out. Casey also had a set that night, which was pretty great. He played some new tunes, and some older ones, including “Junk,” which I had shouted out as a request. After the gig, I bought Casey’s last album, All Young and Beautiful, off of him. I have since listened to it quite a few times, and I think it’s excellent. On recording, Casey’s stuff has the sort of slick layered pop-rock sound you’d expect from Fountains of Wayne, but without making you picture New Jersey. Three of my favorite songs I’ve heard him play are on that disc back-to-back-to-back: “Beard Song,” “Junk,” and “Summer Storm.” Get the CD: it’ll be good for your soul. Something else that was good for my soul (what a crap segue this is) was Frank Hoier’s performance at the Fest. I told Frank as much after he was done, and I wasn’t blowing smoke. Frank specializes in the kind of Americana and folk associated with Leadbelly, Guthrie, and early Bob Dylan, but he doesn’t do it in a way that makes him sound stuck in the past. His love for the music – and skill – really shows you why people return to old scratchy recordings of “Goodnight, Irene” and “Hobo’s Lullaby.” But, of course, most of Frank’s performances are originals that just evoke that old-timey feel that makes you feel closer to your fellow man. When Frank did a John Lennon cover, the impromptu sing-along of the chorus “One thing ya can’t hiiiiide, is when yer crippled insiiiiiide” did us all a lot more good than ten bottles of pomegranate juice.
Wednesday, January 10th at 9pm
Also: 7:30 Ben Garber 8:00 Rachel Lipson 10:00 Hillary Huffard 11:00 Beau Johnson
And speaking of pomegranate juice… No… I got nothing with that. Um… I don’t know, I’ve got so many mixed ideas about the other folks I saw, like stalwart Debe Dalton, the original 2-man lineup of Creaky Boards, the abrasively humorous spoken word set by Jon Berger, the astonishing music/ performance art set by Elizabeth Devlin, the superlative set by Dan Penta, the British set by Ben Godwin, the American set by Kevin Johnston, the Czechosolvakian set by Dan Costello… sorry, I got a little off-track there. (After all, everyone knows Dan is from Slovakia and not the Czech Republic.) This is the point where I’m realizing I’ve got so much to say, I have nothing to say. I enjoyed this fest, and I can hardly wait for the next one. Maybe next time, I’ll see you there. P.S. I forgot to mention Lach. He was there too.
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 13
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 14
historical antifolk compilations, part 1
Word on the street is that Crafty Records is putting out an AntiFolk compilation. This is not an original concept. Every couple of years, somebody gets the bright idea to release of these comps. Travel, then, back to the dawn of time, to the birth of the AntiFolk era, and listen to the clarion call of early AF albums, and just what they meant. White Trash, Volume 1, NY Music (109 Records) Steve Gabe was just sitting in his clothing store/art gallery when Ron Katz came in and asked him if he wanted to release an album of the AntiFolk who participated in the Tompkins Square Park riots. It was an earlier time, 1988, and Gabe, who’d already released several albums on his 109 Records (109 St. Marks was the address of his store), quickly assented. Don Fury produced the mostly minimalist tracks from 14 artists almost twenty years ago. “We made the record that would become the document of the AntiFolk scene,” Gabe asserts, “Mainly due to the Village Voice devoting a lead music article to reviewing the record.” Power of the press… Lots of the acts are folk you’ve never heard of. Mark Zero starts things off with his “White Trash,” which risks falling into cliché (but maybe didn’t at the time), and ends it with Resibaum’s sneering, incredible “Blood on the Pavement”, featuring Gabe’s accompaniment on bass. In between, Tom Clark does his folkabilly “Trouble at Home,” Joe Hurley (of Rogue’s March) presents a rambling, fascinating musical travelogue, “All Quiet on the Western Front.” There’s some guy called Lach, doing a notably nasal “Poor Town” I wonder if he still knows the song. Despite the rapid clip of the recording, some people present some pretty overblown affairs: Lauren Stauber sings over a keyboard-generated beat on the epic “Prisonville Blues,” “We’d be getting high, day and night, wondering why there was nothing to do.” Billy Syndrome rocks insanely out with “Have You Seen the Cows.” It’s a track that’s clearly proud of being loud. White Trash, Volume 1 made a fair amount of noise at the time, prompting Gabe to want to release Volume 2. Broome Closet Anti-Folk Sessions (109 Records) “When I tried to put together White Trash NY Folk Vol. 2,” 109 Records’ Gabe explains, “too many of the artists wanted to go punk rock.” He scrapped the name, but kept the spirit. “I asked my friend and well-known folk artist Roger Manning if he could put together a real ‘Best of Anti-Folk’ record.” Manning had been recording his own albums on 4-track at his small Broome Street apartment, appropriately called the Broome Closet. Featuring five spoken words breaks from King Missile’s John S. Hall, as well as songs from the likes of Cindy Lee Berryhill (fresh off her major label foray) the aforementioned Kirk Kelly, and, of course, Manning himself. Broome Closet “got a nice write up in Billboard’s Grassroots section. “ These songs are all minimalist, like the AntiFolk we newbies know and love. In most cases, the songs are recorded solo. Sometimes without accompaniment. Along with Hall, Maggie Estep does a spoken word piece that precedes her major label debut No More Mister Nice Girl by several years. “It had the distinction of having been the first album Paleface and Maggie Estep appeared on,” Gave notes proudly. Paleface, then a fine young contender, had two tracks on the release, one the very clever and amazingly succinct “Galaxie 500 Party Song,” then, near the end, the extremely, extensively epic “There’s Something About a Truck (I Don’t Know What It Is).” Billy Syndrome appears again with a suddenly timely song, “Funky Stairway.” In it, Syndrome grunts and sweats, funk-style, over a particularly potent banjo. Recorded decades ago, it’s a fitting testament to the recently passed Godfather of Soul.
The 109 Records releases are available today on one CD, in reverse chronological order. The content of the two records may cost less to own today than they did three decades ago, when they first appeared. http://www.cafepress.com/artmonkeynyc
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 15
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Sure, there's CDBaby and iTunes and, maybe your friend Tom's told you, you can even sell your music on MySpace. But is that enough? If my sales thus far are any indication, I don't think so. I am trying to get my CDs into local record stores; it will soon be available on my newly redesigned website, and I recently discovered that Borders will even stock your album if you play at their stores. Getting distribution really doesn't seem as hard as I thought it might be, but getting people to
For the last however many months, my musical mind has been mired in making an album. That process gave me purpose, it gave me a debt to recoup, but above all else, it gave me an excuse for secluding myself, taking over my entire musical life. Now, with the recording and mastering complete, the photographs taken, the graphic design done, albums pressed, and my requisite release party all behind me, I am left with nothing but debt, a dauntingly large number of albums to sell, and a head full of questions - most of them boiling down to, "What next?"
Taking that next step…what next?
Paul Alexanders open mic (now with a chance for features!)
The Creek and the Cave one stop east of Grand Central on the 7-train 10-93 Jackson Avenue Long Island City
Crowin @ the Creek
Tuesdays - 7.30
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 16
I'm proud of my completed album, but I know I can't rest on my laurels - and I can't afford to underestimate the power of persistence, persistence and more persistence in the process. Moving to New York City was Step One for me. Step Two was going out to the open mics, getting my ass kicked, and realizing I wasn't as good as I wished I was. Step Three was trashing all my old songs and writing a shitload of new ones to reflect everything I'd learned. Then came independently producing my album, because persistence hadn't yet brought me a record deal - something I'm now glad about - and I thought I needed an album to up my credibility and get to Step Five. That's figuring out how to sell this damned thing, and it's involving that bitch persistence once again. After all, making an album, like writing an article, can be rewarding in itself, but I have to keep reminding that the real reward is the cash. My disc is a personal call to action that I have to heed for the whole endeavor to be worth the blood, sweat, and tears it cost. Miles Davis once said, "The joy is in the pursuing, not in the attaining," so, though I'm still interested in attaining, it looks like I'm going to have to spend more time pursuing success. Thanks for the support along the way - I hope to see you at the open mics, on MySpace, or somewhere else along the joyous road to selling more albums. pay attention seems to get harder by the second. Instead of writing this article, I really should be spending my time out there pounding the pavement, because I think Dave Cuomo, the Bowmans, Alex Lowry, and every other independent touring artist I know has it right. Even with the increasing exposure internet (and even in-store) distribution can offer, I am certain that nothing sells albums better than getting out and playing killer shows to a live audience.
The True Story of “True Story” (TRUE STORY!)
“The truth?” said Crowley. “The truth is at the bottom of a bottomgless pit.” - J. Harr, A Civil Action
The whole thing started innocently enough: Dan Costello was on stage at the Sidewalk Café earlier this year singing his signature talking blues-turned-protest song, "Saga of Lorimer Jail." "Now I told you this is a true story, and it is a true story," he says at one of the talking breaks in the middle of the song. "TRUE STORY!" I hollered back from the crowd, which got enough of a positive response that I did it the next time he sang the song. And the next time. And the next. Before long, I was hollering it after anyone said true story, or just a story that was true, or sounded like it should be. And with each time, more and more people seemed to be joining in. I think part of the reason why it struck a chord and caught on was that it was like an old jingle that you could hum but couldn't quite name; a face you had seen before but couldn't quite remember where. In truth, it was an allusion to the second season of The Real World - as some may recall, each of the seven housemates spoke a different part of the voiceover that began every episode, with Dominic, the rock critic Irishman, kicking things off: "This is a true story," he began, before lapsing into that fateful, echoed rallying cry: "TRUE STORY!" Dominic shouted those two words at one end of the reality craze ("real people" in "real situations"), a craze that quickly spiraled out of control with each successive show, namely, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Survivor, American Idol, and whatever comes next (my vote: Who Can Survive an American Idol?). Dan Costello stands on the other end of that reality, an end that has gone through the sobering truths of September 11th and the disturbing lies of the Bush administration. While Dominic uses one of the most complex media of postmodern society - "reality" television - to say his line, Dan uses the most basic form of truth telling available in American song - the blues - to say his. Now, obviously, not all of this was going through my mind when I belted out that first "True story!" - not consciously anyway - I was just going fer a cheap laugh. But as it began to catch on and slowly turn into an all-purpose rallying cry, it was clear that there was something bigger here. It got to the point that, when it became apparent that the song would become a key track on Dan's upcoming album, he more than once pulled me aside: "Hey man, can you stop doing that 'true story' thing? I don't want it to get old before the album comes out." I always told him, yes, I would try to stop, and then went ahead and did it again. And more often than not, someone else was already doing it anyway. Several weeks later, I found myself in a recording session for Dan's album, standing alone in the studio with headphones on shouting "TRUE STORY!" as the engineer, the producer, and Dan himself looked on through the control room's glass. "Try shouting towards the screen," said one; "Just get into the feel and don't worry about anything" said another. We were doing the overdubs to "Saga of Lorimer Jail," and it was up to me under the recording team's guidance - to get it just right, to capture the truest "TRUE STORY!" Somewhere along the way, something had gotten lost; this phrase that had once seemed so natural and organic now turned back on itself to become as stale and programmed as Dominic's cry in those endless Real World marathon weekends. The phrase had become a punch line. At the Antihoots, I began shouting things to self-consciously mock the phrase (Lach: "Did anyone see what's going on in Israel this week?" Me: "JEW STORY!"). Others quickly got the joke and fell into line, making their own variants on the line or just saying "TRUE STORY!" with a smile and wink that was more about mocking how the words sounded than referencing truth they might still contain. At one point, I shouted "TRUE STORY!" to performers who announced their song was based on a true story and I got stared down; the story proved to be about how their cousin had committed suicide because he was gay. It turned out that Dan was right all along - maybe because it was his song that unleashed it, he alone understood the power and responsibility implicit in those two words. It went from a Declaration of Independence to a Pandora's Box in a matter of weeks; for once in America's recent years, the truth was out for anyone to have and hold, and no one wanted to let go that quickly. Even if it meant risking the loss of what made those words so powerful in the first place.
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contest loser tells some
There’s something oxymoronic about Ben Krieger. He’s ultra-casual in appearance and yet subtly sophisticated in behavior. He’s married, but trying to score dates with alleged AntiFolk superstars. Ben Krieger, after hearing of the Win a Date with Alec Wonderful contest, generated in a little less than 24 hours a fully produced pop song called, yes, you guess it. “Why I Wanna Date Alec Wonderful.” He did not win the contest, perhaps because the reclusive Wonderful is homophobic, or heterophilic, or just was threatened by the pure pop power of the song. We don’t know.What we do know is this: Ben Krieger had the most Urban Folk response, and we just had to talk to him. Our former Contest Coordinator asked the tough questions. DT: That was quite an impressive little ditty you shot off at about lightning speed. The recording quality is also really nice. I'd have to say that one of the things that interests me the most about what you do, is the layering of sounds that you incorporate, often playing most of the instruments yourself… BK: Usually, most of my stuff comes out so quickly, so any song that I've even done with other people, I've always recorded it on my own first, so I can bring it to them… like my old band, GunStreetRadio. DT: What happened to GunStreetRadio? BK: Uh… I broke them up. It was really my first band, and I tried really hard to make it a democratic process. And, then I realized, once I'd done that, that it meant everybody had a say, so… I just decided to pull the plug. DT: How long ago was that? BK: It was about a year ago, and it's kinda why I wasn't really involved with the AntiFolk scene, or anything, until the Fall of 2005, because I was really more of a band kind of person… I would go to band shows. DT: Well, I have to say, I'm really glad you've come on the scene. BK: Thanks. It's a cool little scene. There are a lot of fantastic writers. The one tough thing about listening to bands is, whether it's their choice of instrumentation, or just the clubs being loud, it's hard to focus on the songwriting. It's interesting to sit down and listen to everything that they're doing. DT: So, that's the main thing that you've been getting out of the experience? BK: Yeah. I think there're a lot of good writers on this scene, but it is tough to find great ones. There's a big difference between the people I really enjoy listening to and the people who really push me. Y'know, like "Wow… there's something that I could really take from them," or "I'd like to try that." DT: There's something I often wonder about the community; because it's so tight-knit, and because people are friends with one another, I wonder how much we would like each other's music if we had heard it elsewhere… BK: That's the tough thing. I'm a huge music fan, and I'll go see a lot of shows, but I almost always go to shows because I really like the music. And, a couple of times I've gotten a sense from people where they'll tell me, "Oh, thanks so much for coming out… I'll definitely have to make it to one of your shows sometime." DT: It becomes a deal. BK: And it doesn't have to be… I will see them play 10, 15 times, and I don't expect the same in return. They don't have to even come once! I think ultimately, that I'd like to have my friends and people come, but, ultimately, you wanna get people that are there for the music. So, I don't mind if they don't come. But I will gladly go and see people all the time. And, sometimes I'll go see some people as a favor, I'm just not gonna see them as often. DT: You had a tour this past spring with Mike Ferraro. You guys went down the Eastern Coast, right? BK: That was a lot of fun. I haven't gone out on tour that much. There are so many cities there that have really good scenes. It was the first time that I utilized MySpace to contact a lot of musicians and network that way, which is one of the good things about MySpace… I'm not crazy about it, but as far as a worldwide database of musicians… it's really good in that sense. The tour was intense. I don't know when I'm gonna go out again. I think in order to go out on tour, you really need to have a goal set, as to what the tour is about. DT: And, going out to make money is probably a little unrealistic… BK: You can break even on tour, I think. If you work your ass off, you can. But, you really have to think carefully about it. I mean, I almost did. I got really close, and if I'd made the conscious choice to eat some more canned beans, and not sit down at a diner a few more times, I would've broken even. And, if I'd managed a couple more home-stays… it was little things like that; organizational
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things. The more you tighten up, I reeveryone's in. I mean one of the best ally think you can break even. But times I've had at Sidewalk is when the ultimately, you have to be able to do rappers got up on stage, and you could more than that in order to pay rent, just feel how some people were comso… it's not easy. pletely into it, and some people were DT: Something you said… that all artcompletely uneasy… It totally disrupted ists are egotists and that it takes efthe comfort level at the Sidewalk. That's fort to focus on somebody else, and a really good feeling. You know, that not bring things back to yourself? you really got a little bit stirred up. I BK: It takes a lot of effort. A good friend loved it. I think they were great. But of mine put it really plainly that "acsome people were clapping along, cusing an artist of being self-absome people weren't. That's much betsorbed, is like accusing a fish of ter for me than like a whole bunch of swimming." There's nothing really people cheering along to some left-wing wrong with it. I think it's hard to write song. songs outside of yourself. A lot of DT: You record constantly. people write songs about things that BK: Yeah, I started keeping track of it they're going through, and things that about four years ago, and I end up avhave happened to them. And, I think eraging about 100, 120 songs a year. Ben Krieger, taken by Ben Krieger that's probably why a lot of people DT: How many of those will you want don't "make it", or at least that their writing drops off after to play again? their twenties, probably because they're so focused on BK: at this point, I'm probably up to about 700, and there's their romances or their drinking, that they don't learn how probably about 150 - 250 that I have played at one point to write about other things, or at least, translate that en- or another, and would gladly play again. I'd say a good ergy into other topics. Then again, there are exceptions 60-70% of stuff that I perform, is stuff that other people to the rule. Robert Smith has been writing break-up songs have pointed out as something that they really like. I'm for the past 30 years, and he's still great at it. And, he's terrible at choosing my own material. married. Again, there's no rule. DT: You're involved with Jezebel Music, right? A lot of songwriters feel like when they try to write about BK: Yeah, I'm involved with them. I've been doing a lot of things outside of their own little world, it just doesn't come writing with them. And, we've talked about actually doing off strongly. They don't feel as strongly about those things. an event where artists cover each other… It would be a It's very kind of passive y'know: “Republican's suck.” That big kind of party event, where that's the focus of it. It's a kinda song. But they don't really think, or they can't ar- nice idea. People will cover like Dylan or Elliot Smith, ticulate why they think republicans suck, as much as and those people have been covered enough. There's a they can think about or articulate why their ex sucks. lot of really great writers in our own backyard. I find it They have a huge list, and they've done their homework, really refreshing to take a break from my own material, and they've lived why their former boyfriend or girlfriend is and play other people's songs. I mean, I listen to other a shithead, and they can write about it. But, ask 'em why people who are around. I love Brook Pridemore. I love Bush is an asshole and I don't think they'd write more Julia Marvel. I love Dewey Kincaide and the Navigators. than a paragraph. And, y'know it's fun to cover those people. There's probDT: I wonder how many people are really saying some- ably a couple other side projects that I'm releasing just thing unique about that… and it's preaching to the choir, for the hell of it… things that I know are never gonna be anyway. on a big CD, but are kind of a specific interest. I have a BK: And that's one thing that has always kinda made me project that's based on an old video game from 1991. uncomfortable about being at the Sidewalk, is when some- And, I wrote about five or six songs around it, they're all body will get up there and sing a "Fuck Bush" song. recorded and done. I'm gonna release that on a site, and Everybody's gets into it, and everybody's cheering. There's that's just totally for people who are fanatics of that game. nothing that bothers me more than a group where I do little things like that just to keep myself busy. http://benkrieger.com/
Alec Wonderful personally selected the winning entry of the contest several months ago, but has refused to offer up any details of his date with contest victor Alicia Wonka. Will the Urban Folk-reading public ever get their chance to hear of Ms. Wonka’s romantic exploits? “I don’t want to talk about it,” Alec Wonderful allegedly replied, “No comment.”
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Voted one of the top 5 albums of 2005. Voted one of the top 5 live shows in Chicago in 2005 CHICAGO INNERVIEW MAGAZINE *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Alex Lowrys psychedelic neo/anti-folk pop is an offbeat offshoot where the hurdy gurdy man takes us on a twisted magical mystery tour. Hot wired and intense, even in its quieter moments, this is challenging, innovative music that pushes established boundaries with alarming ease. CREATIVE LOAFING, ATLANTA *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* On the 13 tracks of the bands new release, Awful Joy, beauty, banality and brutality coexist - fragile and sincere in fingerpicked guitars, whinnying harmonicas and cascading pianos. The result is as strange and beautiful as any acid excursion. As Lowry puts it in Arkansas, sometimes the real world can ruin our good time, but it still contains the only magic that we know of, so whatre you so scared of? CHRIS GLENN, THE PITCH WEEKLYKANSAS CITY *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Listening to Alexander Lowrys sedated croon on Fourth Of July, its a certain kind of soul that makes itself known. Not fragile, but vulnerable, his voice wavers just a bit in that post-Violent Femmes show of sensitivity... JJ KOCZAN, THE AQUARIAN WEEKLYNEW JERSEY *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Lowrys quietly strange brand of neo-folk music is akin to an ocean breeze stirring the hot, heavy summer air: It refreshes and delights, and leaves listeners smiling about the pleasant little surprises that await in life. Such a pleasing discovery is bound to unassumingly tuck itself away into ones soul, to be remembered and treasured for a long time to come. KATHERINE LATSHAW, ENCORE MAGAZINEWILMINGTON/CAPE FEAR *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* . . .he is creating music that is timeless and groundbreaking. . . .More than just the production. . . the songs themselves come through as a force to be reckoned with, DAVE CUOMO, BLOCK MAGAZINE, NYC *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*--* Love, self-discovery, fist fights, theres a little bit of everything on Awful Joy. Mostly love, though. I mean, there is a sunflower on the album cover. CITY WEEKLY, OMAHA *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Lowry employs a mish-mash of styles and a delightfully off-kilter weirdness to both his writing and delivery that makes the manand the band, crackle to life. LAURA BLACKLEY, ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMESASHEVILLE, N.C. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Their elegant mix of unpredictable song structures and dynamics, almost-morose melodies and tunes, and straight-beat grooves are along the same vein as recent works by Flaming Lips, Elf Power, Modest Mouse and Portastatic. . .artistically spectacular. T. BALLARD LESEMANN, CHARLESTON CITY PAPERCHARLESON, S.C. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
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Named One of the Top Emerging Artists of 2006 THE DELI MAGAZINE, NYC *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Lowrys ostensibly part of the neo-folk revival over-running the East Village, but this disc is all over the rock time line, from Ziggy-era Bowie to Yoshimi-Lips, with twangy intervals, chamber pop stops and even a prog-rock touch or two along the journey. He is not to be missed. JOHN SCHACT, CREATIVE LOAFINGCHARLOTTE *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Alexs songwriting operates within a timelessness that cant pigeonhole his sound to a particular era of music. . .his songs possess an edgy, angry, sarcastic, yet lovable uniqueness. . . the guy is clearly shooting for a seat among the giants JEZEBEL MUSIC, NYC *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* The way Lowry manages to wrestle a melody out of all the seemingly disconnected layers of sound is a beautiful mystery that, whether it be serendipity or sheer diligence, makes the songs not merely intriguing but flat out catchy. .Its not often, as in 4th of July that you hear cello and banjo working together but it is that sort of collage of sound and Lowrys dreamy fits of language that make this record not just a solid work of art but such an unadulterated and immediate joy. ROBIN CRACKNELL, AMERICANA UK *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Lowry might be a bit off his rocker but he has a mastery for crafting clever and intelligent pop hooks. . . .The East Village might be the proper place for him to call home but after a single listen hell find himself at home in your stereo and music rotation. SMOTHER MAGAZINE *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
Its a mellow minefield. . .His singing isnt pretty, but its earnest and sad and tough to ignore. His guitar work on the other hand, is pretty, and nimble and country-tinged too. This music isnt pop or rock or even alt-country, really, but a mish-mash of all three. Do not miss this band. BIRMINGHAM WEEKLY *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Awful Joy is the new album from singer-songwriter Alex Lowry, and its adventuresome sounds tear apart the guy-with-guitar stereotypes as they weave through atmospheric soundscapes, alt-country ballads and psychedelic pop numbers. Hints of Bowie, Zappa and more. FLAGPOLE MAGAZINE, ATHENS *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Lowry has in Awful Joy created an album of music that acts like water on a watercolor, blurring lines between genres and re-sorting them into something new and vital. DAILY VAULT, JASON WARBURG *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
* Friday, January 19th 2007 at NORTHSIX * 66 N. 6th Street Williamsburg Jezebel Music Folk Issue Number Common Ground Benefit 2nd Annual Nine - Page Number 21 Urban
After the Electric Moon
travelogue 2006 (part 1 of 2)
There were no people, no cars, no bars, no cheers, no jeers, no noisemakers or countdowns. Not even a tumbleweed. Just me and a three-foot-tall bronze statue of Woody Guthrie standing together in the footprint of a floodlight. It was New Year's Eve and I was in Okemah, Oklahoma, a long-dead dustbowl town famous as birthplace of Woody Guthrie. Just before midnight, I had driven to Okemah from a town called Henrietta, where I had rented a room with my tour-mate Sonya Cotton. It was the fifth day of our 'Manifest Destiny Tour', a brief jaunt across the United States that found us crossing sixteen states in ten days. The Guthrie statue had been decorated with an oversized red bow tied to its neck and a rope of Christmas lights strung around its guitar. I took a picture to commemorate the occasion and welcomed in the New Year, 2006. I made a vague resolution - simply, 'to tour more' - but standing there alone in Okemah, I had no idea just how far this resolution would take me. Eleven months later, I'd strap on my Martin 00-15 and play the biggest show of my brief career, opening for M. Ward in Paris, after nearly 50 shows across two continents. The remaining dates of the Manifest Destiny Tour went by quickly. I lived off of Veggie Subs from truck-stop Subways and miscellaneous packages of dried fruit, seeds and nuts. We played Albuquerque, Phoenix and Los Angeles. By the end of the trip, Sonya and I had worked up a few songs that we'd play together, either in her set or mine. Including gas, two nights in motels and other miscellaneous costs, we spent (collectively) a total of $358.12. Not bad for a week and a half on the road. I spent the rest of January and half of February working as an A/V tech in California after which I drove north to Seattle. I split the month of March between the Northwest and New York, where I began to prepare for another tour. In April, I'd join Huggabroomstik, The WoWz and Le Horror Me for a tour through Germany and the Netherlands. Lovingly, we dubbed it 'The April Fools' Tour'. At the end of March, I parked my car at a friends' place in Seattle and hopped a jet to NYC. Two days later, I was on another plane bound for German. The night before I arrived, Adam Green, the Jeff Lewis Band and Jack "Only Son" Dishel played a show in a 1,500-seat soccer arena that the three New Yorkers already in Berlin - Sam James,
photos by Dibson T. Hoffweiler
Johnny Dydo and Dashan Coram - had gone to with the local Berlin crew. I was a day late and a few hundred dollars short. I landed in Tegel Airport on April Fool's Day where I was greeted by Dashan and some of our German friends: Sibsi Hoffman, the mastermind of the April Fools' Tour, Heiko "Le Horror Me" Gabriel and Christine Foissner. Fresh off the plane, I joined Sam, Johnny and Dashan at Heiko's flat, where we did a phone interview with some guy named Martin who was putting together a piece on AntiFolk for some German radio show. That night, we went to a loft party somewhere in Kreuzberg where our friend Jules was spinning records. Sam, Johnny and I played an impromptu set that included WoWz songs, Sam's songs and my songs. André Herman Düne and Clemence Freshard were there and requested Sam's "Seagull," which we gave a dark, dirge-like treatment. Afterwards, we got down to Jules' 45s. The remaining April Fools arrived one-by-one. First Neil Kelly, then Dibson T. Hoffweiler, and finally Simon Beins. We played our first official show of the April Fools' Tour at Hotelbar in Berlin on April 4th.. What a party! The place was packed to the brim. Heiko played, then The WoWz, then a few songs from Dibs and a couple from me ("mE=mc2" and "Heather"). Finally, I strapped on a borrowed bass and joined Huggabroomstik, as I would every night, to close the show. It was one of the best shows I ever played with them. Everything was ON. The audience reception was a revelation: People GOT it. As Jules apparently said: "For the whole set, the music tee-
bands on the run - well, on the roll...
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tered on the edge of collapse but to everyone's surprise, it never fell apart. Completely amazing!" The next night, I played a full solo-set with the WoWz, Kitty Solaris and Azaila Snail at another Berlin venue called Schokoladen. This, too, went extremely well. I opened the night and after my set, an audience member came up to me and expressed this outrageous compliment: "Tonight, you were better than Bob Dylan!" The WoWz capped off the night with one of the best sets I've ever seen them play. Due to time and sound constraints, they closed their set with unamplified versions of "Apocalypse WoWz", "646" (on which I played percussion), and André Herman Dune's "Orange Hat". When they were done, the crowd kept clapping and cheered for at least a minute. Early the next morning, Sibsi and Heiko went to pick up our rented tour van, a nine-seat Mercedes Benz, with the words "On Tour" painted in English on the side. It had a tall roof and more space than we could fill. We hit the Autobahn and headed to Hamburg, where we played a show at a small bunny-themed venue called Hasenschaukel, close to the Reeperbahn. Before the show, a few of us went to visit some Beatles' landmarks like the Davidwache police station, the Kaiserkeller and the site of the Star Club. At the end of the WoWz set, all of us attempted a cover of the Beatles' "Sie Liebt Dich" (in English, perhaps?) that left the audience slightly perplexed. After Hamburg, we played four shows in three days in the Netherlands. The first was a fully amplified, marathon-length show in Zoetermeer at a youth-center called Latenstaan. We were paid handsomely but despite a venomous WoWz set, a giant-sounding Huggabroomstik show (including a 20-minute version of "Automatron") and a spur-of-the-moment Morningsides set we couldn't seem to engage Holland's youth. Nearly two hours of unrehearsed covers, from "House of the Rising Sun" and "Hey Jude" to "Smells Like Teen Spirit", didn't work, either. Our show in Amsterdam was a lot better. Café Bax fed us delicious food and the audience was far more responsive. The next day, exhausted, we made our way to an afternoon show in an old medieval town called Nijmegen. A fella named Rik Kaez had arranged for us to play an afternoon show at a restaurant/venue called Eet-en Biercafé Camelot. I met Rik back in the Summer of 2005, when he played the AntiHoot. He reminded me of a cross between Turner Cody and Kurt Cobain. Unfortunately, the show was a drag. Heiko, Dibs, The WoWz and I had the opportunity to play short sets but before Huggabroomstik's could play, the manager came and told us to stop. "I'm sorry, we can't have you play, the customers aren't enjoying it and the owner doesn't think its appropriate dinner music." Neil and Dashan were furious. Dashan turned on his battery-powered amplifier full-blast and started playing noise guitar on his way out of the venue. Neil let loose some of
his best American curse words. Rik apologized for the club's poor hospitality. Soon, all a little agitated, we were back in the van: The WoWz were expected in Den Haag for a house show. On our way to the house, we got lost and had to pay a cabbie to let us follow him to our destination. When we arrived, we were surprised to find a fancy house in an upscale neighborhood. The audience was made up of well-dressed 40 to 60 year olds and a few of their children. There was a table full of delicious food and expensive wine. Though we were all disheveled and had arrived considerably late, the WoWz managed to win over the audience and at the end of the night, the owner of the house handed me an extra 50 Euros to contribute to our tour. "For your brothers," he said. Our first show back in Germany, at Stereo Wonderland in Köln (aka Cologne), was a huge disappointment. That guy Martin who interviewed us for the German radio show came early but left before anybody played. The crowd didn't exist and we had to give the club 40 Euros at the end of the night. When the show was over, we decided to hightail it to Sibsi's parents house in Stuttgart, the town where we'd be playing the next day. A few minutes into the trip, Neil, who was sitting bitch in the front of the van, crawled over Sibsi and puked out the passenger side
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window, spraying vomit all over the side of the van as we sped down the Autobahn at 120 km/hour. Our stay in Stuttgart was a much-needed break. Sibsi's folks' place was large, warm and welcoming. We got to take hot(!) showers in a clean bathroom. We each got our own cots to sleep on (no one on the floor!). We spent the day hanging around, playing piano and relaxing. As a result, that night's show at Schaufenster Mitte was a much more spirited affair than our last few. We all played sets, even Sibsi, who performed in front of his parents for the first time.
covered "Big Mouth Strikes Again" for Christine, a song that Huggabroomstik would later record for some UK Smiths tribute compilation. The next day, after taking some group photos in front of the tour van, the remaining eight of us left for Darmstadt, leaving Neil and Christine behind to wait for their ride-share to Berlin. (Christine would continue on to Leipzig, where we would meet up with her two days later.) In Darmstadt, our show was in an old mansion called Oetinger Villa that was given, by the city, to a group of punks who turned it into a co-op, venue and art-space. It was enormous. There were Chris Maher’s back Next, we played Deggingen, a picturstained glass windows and large wooden esque village in the hills of Southern Germany where Chris- staircases, four or five different floors with hallways leadtine grew up. Christine's mother, Peps, had invited us to ing everywhere. The room where we were playing had play in her living room. To our dismay, Deggingen would mile-high ceilings and a gigantic stage. be our last show of the tour with Neil, who had to leave This was the first ever Huggabroomstik show without Neil for the USA the following day. and we expected the worst. It wasn't. It was chaotic, but There was no PA so we all played unamplified, save for magnificently so. The set was heavy on Dashan songs Dibs' guitar and my bass during the Huggabroomstik set. but we threw in some Neil songs and took turns singing At this point in the tour, it was common practice for people where we knew the words. Heiko played electric guitar to jump up and play "Barcade" with Heiko. This night, I through the board. Sam played percussion. Dibs broke joined in the jumping and added some piano. After the three guitar strings. I broke a bass string. Dashan broke regular sets, Sam and I harmonized on an impromptu off the neck of his guitar - a guitar Mike Rechner had version of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues". I followed that given to him years earlier. with a stab at "Why Don't We Do It On the Road?" Neil Despite these setbacks, we kept going. We jumped off
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the stage. We climbed on things. We let feedback roar. Apparently, the guy who 'wrote the book on AntiFolk' was in attendance and Sibsi said he loved it. After Huggabroomstik finished, we retreated backstage but the audience refused to leave. We decided to attempt one last song: A tongue-in-cheek version of Mr. Big's "To Be With You" with Sam James leading us through it. By our last full-day on the road, Sibsi and Heiko had grown tired of babysitting us Americans. On the way to Leipzig, we hit standstill traffic and Sibsi decided to take an alternate route down a winding, two-lane road through the countryside. At one point, Sibsi underestimated the pickup of our van and as he made a lane pass, we narrowly missed a car heading straight for us. When we finally arrived in Leipzig, we kissed the ground. The venue there was called Blickwinkel, booked for us by Christine and Sibsi's friend Fabrizio Steinbach, who plays in Barbara Manning's band. The place was rather sterile and had odd pink and blue lighting. A loud wedding reception was going on next door. Fabrizio had arranged for a radio interview to promote the show and we sent Sam and Heiko as missionaries. Unfortunately, morale had hit an all-time low and when it came time to play, everybody turned in less-than-stellar sets. The Huggabroomstik set was especially bad, easily our worst show of the tour. Afterwards, we all went out to a dance club and tried to forget our cares and lift our spirits.
The next morning, we drove back to Berlin and that night, we played an illegal space in Kreuzberg called West Germany. It was on the second floor of what may have once been a large supermarket. Julie LaMendola and Dan Gower of Ching Chong Song were in town to record with Kevin Blechdom and so they played the show with us. It was the last "official" show of the April Fools' Tour and the last scheduled WoWz and Huggabroomstik sets. Huggabroomstik didn't play, however, as Dashan, Johnny, Dibs and I decided to play a Secret Salamander show instead. Easter Sunday was our last day all together in Berlin. We had one more show scheduled, at the questionably named King Kong Klub, where Dibs, Dashan, Heiko and I played full solo sets. It happened to be the last night of live music at the Klub and so the show received a featured write up in a free Berlin daily newspaper. The write up included a color picture of Dibs. As a result, the place was packed. While at the Klub, the WoWz decided to play one more set, a rambunctious affair that included Sam James pleading for kisses. I didn't think my set went particularly well but a number of people came up to me afterwards and said they loved it. One woman even bought me a chocolate Easter bunny. Two short days later, I was in Paris with Dashan, playing a show with Prewar Yardsale and Lapin Machin that David
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Herman Düne had set up. It was I was back in Paris on at an upstairs venue called Le the 26th, playing at Kitch'up, just a short walk away Mains D'Ouvre. I was from Moulin Rouge. During my exhausted and ready set, Dashan joined me and we to go home. Jimmy arplayed two of his songs. Lapin ranged for us to crash Machin and Prewar Yardsale at his friend Francois' each played great sets and gethouse. I woke up early ting to hang with Mike Rechner on the 27th, took and Dina Levy reenergized me. some Tylenol, and On the 21st of April, I parted made my way on the ways with Dashan and took a Metro to Charles de train to Bordeaux. On our way Gaulle. to the Montparnasse train station, I was fined 35 Euros by the I was on my AirFrance Paris Transit Police for misplacback to JFK when, merch on tour - there was a lot of it ing my Metro ticket. I discovered somewhere over the it later deep inside a pocket. In Bordeaux, I played a Atlantic, the pilot informed us that one of the plane's enshow at an underground, cave-like venue called El Inca, gines had failed, and that we would have to make an which was arranged by a woman named Capucine Frey. emergency landing at a small airport in St. John's, NewI had gotten in touch with Capucine via MySpace at the foundland. The pilot assured us that we still had three suggestion of Eric Bling. The show was a blast. El Boy working engines and that he didn't see a reason to panic. Die jumped up on stage, introduced himself, and played I wasn't didn't until an Italian woman next to me realized harmonica on one song. I ended with a cover of Bob what was going on and started screaming and crying, Dylan's "Mama, You Been on My Mind", a song I'd been crossing herself. playing with Sonya Cotton four months earlier. After the As we approached St. John's, the flight attendants inshow, Capucine's boyfriend, Jimmy Kinast, asked me if I structed us to prepare for an emergency landing and to wanted to play in Paris on the 26th, at Mains D'Ouvre. brace ourselves for a potentially rough touch-down. As "Yes!" I said. I stayed with a writer named Florent who we began our decent, I started to think of all the people I gave me my own room and a spare set of keys so I could wanted to see again, everyone I should have been nicer come and go as I pleased. to, everyone I've ever loved and missed. I considered writing them all a note, in case the plane crashed. If I wasn't After a couple of days in Bordeaux, I took a train back to incinerated in the debris, I figured the rescue team might Paris with the intention of going straight to Annecy. The find the notes and pass them on. Coming Soon kids were opening a show for Architecture Thankfully, we made a smooth and safe landing in Newin Helsinki there the following day and they invited me to foundland, We were put up in a hotel for the night and come see it. Unfortunately, I missed the last train to early the next morning; we boarded a chartered Delta Annecy and had to spend the night in Paris without a plane that took us the rest of the way to JFK. We touched place to stay. I split my time between a 24-hour internet down in New York at around 5pm EST and I had to rush café and a Hippopotamus restaurant, where I ate crème down to the Sidewalk Café, where I was scheduled to brûlée and drank coffee. play a solo set at 9pm. I felt as though my body was I left early the next morning and finally met up with the falling apart - and with reason: I found out later that I had Coming Soon crew. We spent the afternoon at Guillaume been running a 101 degree fever the whole night. After a and Charles Bosson's parents place, a beautiful lakeside delirious solo set that I can barely remember, I played property, and then went to the venue, where we all hung another with Huggabroomstik, to celebrating Neil's birthout until the band played. Their show was fantastic. It day. Dibs was still in Europe, so we played with Neil's was divided into a Bear Creek portion, featuring young younger brother, Luke, on guitar. After the show, I treated Leo's songs, and a Coming Soon portion, featuring myself to a cab and, once home, slept for two months Guillaume and Ben Lupus' songs. Charles joined the band straight. for much of the Coming Soon portion and at the end of To Be Continued… their set, they invited me and some others onstage to http://www.myspace.com/chrismaher help sing the last song, "Outcast."
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I can’t just write about MySpace anymore. It doesn’t show off all the cool original shit people are doing on their own webpages and other music sites. Of course, there’s lots on MySpace too, so when it works (which it sometimes does), there is certainly some stuff to check out there. Happy Surfing! Elastic No-No Band - “Run DMC” Garageband.com is a semi-cool site where musicians post stuff and other musicians rate it. Some people think Elastic No-No Band are not exciting. But I do, and I think the lyric “why you chasing after cleverness like a fat girl on crutches?” is a particularly funny jibe. Garageband.com and Elastic NoNo Band are both worth checking out. Let’s storm the castle and hang our pictures on the walls. Go sign up and give Elastic No-No Band five stars at garageband.com/artist/elastic The New Familiars (Fedor and Guthrie) - I think even a lay-person can hear vibe between performers, even without knowing what’s “different” about it. Music’s fun when great musicians are clearly enjoying themselves. These guys are a good reminder of that. Check out “The Storm” at myspace.com/fedorandguthrie Wooden Ghost - Brooklyn Psychedelic Rock. I enjoy the Neil Young vibe but more than that, I enjoy the relentless bass guitar notes in the breakdown on “Last Chance”. It’s like having a subwoofer for an alarm clock. Check it out at woodenghost.com Elliot Jack is a quartet from Birmingham, UK. They sound like Nick Drake and Antony and the Johnsons with some really cool samples. Lush, warm arrangements and electronica never fit so well together. Listen to “Do Things That Scare You” and the others at myspace.com/elliotjack The New York Howl is punk and soul outfit featuring the wonderful Brer Brian. They have this Doors-meetsin-Asbury-Park-at-Jack-White’s-house sort of groove. Grimy guitars, classic church keyboards, and great bari sax layers matched with poetic hooks. They have a really startling video of their music behind a Betty Boop cartoon and some hula dancers at myspace.com/ thenewyorkhowl. But what you really wanna hear is “Black Stallion”. Whoo Boy. It’s like the MC5 wrote a rock opera. Herman Dune - Herman Dune has this simple video for a cover of Nina Simone’s “Black Bird”. A single camera shot, and the lyrics scroll at the bottom. Ya Ya’s delivery is so honest, there’s nothing extra. Their website is so straightforward. Everyone who wants to know what a website is supposed to do should check out www.hermandune.com Michal Towber - In mid-December a group called Witchfinder General came through Sidewalk Cafe. To add to the confusion, there was a heavy metal band in the 80’s that also took the name of that low-budget, UK horror cult classic. But the band at Sidewalk was all young and thrilling and shit. And not heavy metal, either. They’re the new band fronted by Michal Towber, a noteworthy New York City songwriter in her own right. Go to www.michalmusic.com and catch up. It’s well done stuff. Randi Russo - Speaking of well done... The tracks I’ve heard from the new album Shout Like A Lady sound really polished, but that doesn’t mean boring like mainstream crap (Does anyone else have bad dreams about A&R men who say, “You just need a little polish...”?). Polished like thoughtful, meaning the mics were in the right places to capture great sounds. And you can really hear it on “Dead Horse, Live Ground” at myspace.com/ randirusso Jason Trachtenberg and Julie LaMendola -”Giving Kisses”. Trachtenberg usually writes obscure pop ballads based on photographic slides. Julie LaMendola (of Ching Chong Song) usually writes nonsequitor operatic rants accompanied by piano and saw. This is a match made in AntiHeaven. I mean, I can’t even tell you. Just fucking listen. They make no sense and all the sense there ever was. myspace.com/trachtenbergandlamendola
The selection of artists reviwed above is 100% subjective. You wanna submit your online presence for shout-out in UF? Email me at email@example.com and I’ll check you out. As long as you aren’t one those snobs who put “40-second song samples” up for streaming. Whole songs only, yo. With the volume of submissions getting larger, we can’t reply to everyone, and we won’t write about everyone, but we are listening, fo’ shizzle.
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America Speaks Out!
Oldtime AntiFolkie on various subjects...
Michael McHugh aka McQ/Mike America
Michael McHugh, one of the original East Village artists, is still vitally involved in music. As a booker, poet, host and rockstar, McHugh (Sometimes, McQ, sometimes Mike America) has been connected with that which is urban folk pretty much forever. Here, then, are some poems, some reviews, some musings... a veritable clearinghouse of old school AntiFolk ideas... Enjoy.
Remembering the C-Note The AntiFolk Fest kick off out in Tompkins Square Park was decent last Saturday. There were solid acts like Anne Husick on the bill. Being one of the “Pioneer Artists of the Antifolk Movement” myself, I felt I should review the annual summer ‘AntiFolk Fest’ which featured Suzanne Vega headlining at the Sidewalk Cafe last night. I have to give credit to The Fort’s “AntiFolk head honcho” Lach for getting Suzanne Vega to play in a dark cramped East Village room… for the tipjar! My first chance to see her for free in a quarter century. But it was not to be. Of course, Vega’s upcoming CD is supposed to feature (some of her first recorded) topical post-9/11 songs, and she’s trying to establish “cred” with “East Village Hipsters.” 25 years after Vega rose to pop stardom from out of the ashes of the dying West Village folk scene she has finally embraced the AntiFolk movement! She’s spent plenty of time hanging with West Village songsters like Jack Hardy. Now she’s come over to hang with that AntiFolk Pied Piper named Lach in his domain. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay for the show. It was too crowded. No seats left and little standing room. The act that was on (Olivia Mojica) was barely audible and the room was too mobbed. I would have stayed if it weren’t for that stupid wall that divides the room making anyone who can’t get a seat inside unable to see the stage when entering the room. If Ronald Reagan were alive today and hanging out on the “AntiFolk Scene” he would say: “Mr. Lach... tear down that wall.” Thursday, August 17, 2006 The C-Note on 157 Avenue C closed a year ago with an all night open mic hosted by fave MCs Lorraine Leckie, Jon Berger and Dylan Nirvana. Some highlights: Julian Velard played early gigs at The C-Note and now is a staple at The Bowery Ballroom and Joe’s Pub - he came back and did some great songs on that ole C-Note piano. Lorraine Leckie played a great set and one of America’s best songwriters - David Massengill (Joan Baez covered him) played toward the end of the night. It was great hearing and seeing old pals Kathy Zimmer, Jenn Richman, Canada Anne, Tamara Hey and of course John Hodel. Things ended as they started - with the singer/songwriters. Over eight and a half years I booked such a range of acts - from that back-up singer from a local pop act doing opera over dance tracks, to latin rock and jazz, modern and post-modern and classic jazz, blues, bluegrass, country (Lambchop, Jack Grace, The Cobble Hillbillies), folk, cutting edge new acoustic (Regina Spektor and Rachael Sage both played the C-Note), classic new wave (Annie Golden and The Shirts), cutting edge new alt rock and alt pop (Breaking Laces, Brilliant Mistakes). So much good music... The experiment was to take acts from the West Village who’d never even been to Avenue C and book them along with the best acts on the exciting local scene. We had the wild time. The room was packed a lot and we booked so many great acts. Jules and Ira ran a good little room. The acts loved the sound, the vibe and the backline. We’ll miss it. Well - it’s time for me to go west - ”bringing it all back home.” The C-Note was my first chance at booking a room but the other bookers - Dan Herman, Dayna Blitz, Frank Wood, Alan and Chris also brought in great acts. We’ll all miss The C-Note.
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The East Village is Dead this scene is a pale ghost of what it was I left the west village cause it sucked got over to the east village which then moved to Brooklyn now I mostly just stay home online 20 years ago there was a flier posted in the basement of the speakeasy the last home of the dying nyc folk scene the folk brothers - lach and kirk kelly proclaimed that the west village was dead and they proposed to dance on it’s grave now it’s 20 years later and the east village is dead it died after 9/11 it died after the smoking ban it died after landlords jacked their rents and everybody moved to Brooklyn or the moon or wherever they are now they sure aren’t coming to new york city to hear live music the east village dead sutra live music shows die cbgb’s died with patti smith’s show continental has no more live music it’s a ghost town the clubs are shutting down the tourists who own the condos don’t come out to hear music thanks mayor bloomie and yer developer cronies for ruining nyc night life the east village is dead you want vibrant culture? go to paris or london or somewhere else here it’s just starbucks and the gap you want culture? one word: williamsburg all those pseudo-hipsters dressed like matisyahu that ain’t hip! the punk scene was hip the beats were hip the hippies were hip the sidewalk in it’s time was hip now it’s the father and the son playing to five antifolkies the c-note was hip now it’s a critically lauded burger joint i’m still hip but i’m surrounded by a sea of corporate squares the east village is dead i dance on it’s grave.
“I Dig Antifolk Music” I dig antifolk music and I’d love to get the chance to flail and sing it I think it’s the least tonal acoustic music going down today! Michelle Shocked is so rootsy, she’s funky just like Bootsy and she’s so glad she has a chance to play! I dig antifolk music it’s a whole Alphabet town thing Beck used to play for free beer there, he was a loser back then but now he’s selling product and he’s a huge rock star and I know he really loves to say... “I dig antifolk music” - I can really crank out on that scene I think I can play twisted songs if you know what I mean but if you’re stuff’s well crafted, most likely you’ll be blasted because this music’s a primal scream! I dig antifolk music Joe Bendik’s Acoustic Hardcore now antifolk was too mellow for him he’s punked out yes and how But Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend no longer has green hair now and Hodel’s playing the Sidewalk oh wow! I dig antifolk music and I’d love to get a chance to play and sing it I think it’s the most honest cool sound going down today but if we really say it our radio can’t play it because the music’s too underground hey! I dig antifolk music Lach and the Trachtenbergs are the rage they’re got a cool hip stylee - they command the stage and now those Service Monkeys (Service Monkeys) they really think they’re funky (so funky) but are they really ready to say... “I dig antifolk music - it’s a whole world wide movement I hear on several continents they’ll play it for free beer The radio plays a token - but now Beck and Michelle have spoken and sung it seems like just a cult following career!” Oh I dig antifolk, I dig antifolk music, I dig antifolk music...
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Get in the Minivan
a quick one while he’s away
I. Over the last week, I’ve been traveling through New England for the first time in my life (not including one trip to Boston two years ago, for a show that barely happened and therefore doesn’t count). Ivan Sandomire and I left town for what I called the “A Quick One While He’s Away Tour 2006,” largely because it’s only two weeks long, and was happening mostly because Ivan was visiting us from California, and we convinced him to come on a road trip. I’m traveling from town to town (which are all very close together, strange, considering how much wide open space there is to be had), going into all of each town’s bookstores, accosting well-meaning rural book purveyors for the whereabouts of back issues of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Not sleeping enough, not eating enough, not listening enough. Dan Treiber talks almost constantly, mostly pontifcating on the prospects of each evening’s show, how terrible that local act in Portland was, etc. Ivan is very Zen-like, going into every town uncertain if the crowds (mostly punk audiences) are going to accept him, and accepting his fate as each show unfolds. This is very much home away from home for me, more of the same things that I look forward to when I go on tour. Until Ivan gets a call from an actor buddy, offering a relatively high-profile role in a new independent movie, a prospect Dan and I urge him to take, even as we’re cursing fate and the patron saint of bad timing. Strangely, we’re close enough to home (Brattleboro, VT) to take Ivan back to the city and pick up Dan Costello as his replacement. We had a shift in traveling companions like this once before, when David LK Murphy left tour last summer to go to Germany with his sister, and Ivan joined us. That rift wasn’t startling in the slightest, given that we anticipated Ivan’s arrival and Murph’s departure from the very beginning, and, considering the twice-exploded van that came later in that tour, change in personnel was the least of our concerns. This time, however, the change was a total shock. On one hand, I’m very excited to be traveling with Dan Costello, and I think his new album is the dog’s bollocks (this is something my English stepfather says, which literally means, “dog’s balls,” but is supposed to mean, “very good”). What’s weird is the months of anticipation that led up to Ivan joining us again, the multitude of emails I sent out about the tour, and the T-shirts with our names on them that have all been wiped clean (fguratively). Although the guy in High Falls had never heard my music or Ivan’s, and was mostly disappointed that we weren’t a cover band, he gave me quite a little bit of hassle for showing up with a different artist than who I had originally confrmed. I am not disappointed that Ivan had to leave tour, and I am certainly not disappointed that Dan rearranged his entire life to come and play shows with me for a week, with absolutely no notice. I have had some of the most fun shows I’ve ever played over the last week, especially meeting up with Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains in Vermont, and meeting the Creepy Muffns for the first time in New Hampshire. Rather, the development of the past few days has left me a little shaken. As though I still have a multitude of things to see before I’ve seen everything – which is something I haven’t felt in a long time. II. With our change of cast joining us, we bumble around upstate New York for a couple days, then progress into Buffalo and Ontario. We play at a house party in Buffalo, where we’re treated to General Tso’s tofu and the promise of middle-of-thenight swimming in an Olympic-sized pool. The tofu’s edible, but the trip to the pool is nixed after we hop this giant fence and see the pool has already been drained for the winter – in August! Somewhere in there, I think to myself, “It’s weird how often I get paired up with loud-ass hardcore bands that set my teeth on edge.” At about that moment, around the corner, the drummer from one of the bands says to someone, “You know, it’s really weird how often my band gets paired up with some fuckin’ kid with a ukulele.” I’m a big fan of Canada. I love the scenery, how everybody there does more drugs than I do, how it’s so clean and bland. If I could start a useless fan club for something that doesn’t already have a useless fan club (assuming it doesn’t), it would be for Canada. One thing I hate, though, is crossing the border in these enlightened times. Seems like, growing up in Detroit, you barely had to flash your library card to go through
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customs. Nowadays, we seem to get hassled on at least one of the crossings, if not both. The first time I went into the Great White North for gigs, we got stopped and harassed on the way back through, locked in this office with an agent saying, over and over and in different ways, “How many CDs did you guys sell in Canada?” And I sweat bullets under interrogation and nearly broke. I look out the window, and this agent goes through my guitar case, trying to figure out if my kazoo’s a pipe. This time, though, no problem, and we spend the afternoon as stupid tourists at Niagara Falls with all the other stupid tourists. What a view. I consider man’s obsession with water that either falls off of something or gets shot up into the air, and how, while it’s always pretty, I have never understood it. Now I get it. Sorta. Toronto next, and veggie dogs from street carts that have more relishes than you could imagine. We play between cover sets from a guy named Dave Matthews. Me and Costello keep saying, “It’s really cool to be here in Toronto, playing a show with Dave Matthews.” No one gets the joke. I abandon the shit PA and play in the street, trying to stir the locals out of their apathetic binge drinking. Kitchener, and our friend Lucas Stagg, blur past, except for a couple of jerkoff bands trying to keep us from playing, and doing my set while one band’s tearing down and the next one setting up. We return to the US with no hassle, which, really, is almost as disconcerting as being stopped. Typically, when I gig, I go through Detroit at the end of the trip, to give the trip a homecoming feel, see old friends, etc. We do the same thing on this trip, but seeing how this tour was so short, the homecoming feels premature, like, “Hey, I can’t be almost home. I haven’t even lost ten pounds yet!” I hear that KISS song, “Detroit Rock City,” in the venue, and discover that the main riff is almost the same as “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” by Spinal Tap. Even though Kiss wrote “Detroit Rock City” a full decade before Tap came into non-existence, I still hold them responsible for stealing
from Christopher Guest. Tell me: why’s Kiss always got to rip off the Tap? Next: we make the first trip back to Columbus, OH since the disaster three years ago, when we pull in to the High Five, a local punk club that in the middle of a management-change and a transition into a gay bar. What this means to us, strangers in town, is there are two people (the porter and the bartender) at the club. The owner of a competing room walks in the door and offers us a better gig. We drive across town, are politely but resolutely refused stage time by the presiding band, and walk outside to find our van being towed away by local greasemonkeys. I start to get jealous of Dan Costello. For a long time, I’ve been taking this travel thing for granted. I’ve been spending every day out of New York stuffed in the van, my nose buried in a book – usually the same book over and over – waiting impatiently for the next town, where I don’t talk to anybody, just stuffed in a corner, drinking myself stupid. Every night. It’s almost like I’ve begun to resent traveling, even though this is supposed to be the part of my life that I look forward to. This is Dan’s first series of days on the road, and I’m envious of his wide-eyed approach to the whole thing. I forgot a long time ago that this van-life is something that a lot of singers don’t ever get to do (Treiber and I once assessed that only about five percent of the thousands of small bands and folksingers in the US ever tour). I’ve been lazy (even though I booked this particular tour myself), and I’ve been irresponsible with the task of delivering my songs to new people. I’m largely miserable in my life at home (when I told my Dad about how I don’t think I’m as happy as I was before, he pointed out to me that I hated Michigan, too), and I’m self-sabotaging on the road. Dan seems to love it all - Costello, not Treiber. On the last date out of the city, we leave Columbus at 6AM to drive straight through to Baltimore. In attempting to book the show, I agreed to come to a house and play sets during this couple’s baby shower. I thought, “Punk Rock Baby Shower? Awesome!,” even though the kid kept saying stuff like, “I can’t reallly guarantee that this is gonna be a good gig. It’s gonna be all about my friend having a baby, and all the great times she’s got to come.” In a fit of desperation for a gig, combined with the novelty of it all, I agreed to the show. Arriving in Baltimore, which has always struck me as a grittier version of Old New York (with more crime and tons of dogshit), the scene looks unpromising. No one’s at the door (of the gigantic warehouse, a la the shelledout walkups in Bushwick), so we stand around my friend Kevin’s car – also his home. Kevin, the only guy in town we know, tells us to park on the bridge (over an inactive
(continued on page 39)
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if you’ve taken public transportation, then this has happened to you!
XVIII. I wish I had headphones. If you’re reading this, Santa, and it gets published before Christmas (or even after, and you’re got a Good Gifts for Tardy Boys program or something), keep in mind: I need headphones. I’m relatively new to the MTA, but not so new that I haven’t seen the “entertainers,” guys like UF’s own Brer Brian, who go up and down the middle of the train, playing their songs, busking for tips. Sometimes, they’re good; sometimes they’re bad, always they’re distracting, taking my focus away from the pornographic comic books I too frequently carry. On my own late night green line, there’s an old guy, with a horrible laugh, and he usually stumbles on the Express, and he proceeds to fail to play for stop after stop. I can’t tell if he’s drunk, or senile, or comedic, or nuts (I’m betting the latter). He cracks corny jokes, occasionally diddles a tiny tune on his Casio, but mostly he just focuses attention upon himself. He may ask for money, but it’s clearly a sideline to being center stage. He’s onto something. The train, especially late night, can be an excellent room to find a captive audience, where attendance is mandatory and escape difficult. He’s got a good little scheme going. I fucking hate him. I’ve got a book to read (Wait, did I already admit to the Tijuana Bibles? Never mind) and important thoughts to enjoy and appreciate. I’m usually just coming from a club where I was already listening to music I didn’t like; why would I want a repeat on the train? Where are my headphones? After a couple of journeys suffering through this keyboard playing nut job, I decided enough was enough. One late rainy night, when I saw him coming on my uptown ride, I stood up and headed for the doors to the next car. “You forgot your umbrella!” he called out from the center of the train. “Thanks,” I muttered, and rushed back for the necessary retrieval. The umbrella had sentimental value (I stole it from Breadfoot). I picked it up and headed out again. “You know I’m just going that way next,” he said, adding, “heh heh heh.” “Thanks for the tip,” I replied, and doubled back for the opposite door. I sat down in my new, quiet car, opened up my bag, and began to read. “Wonder Woman,” I said, “How do you do it?” XIX. So blissed was I, I guess, that I didn’t notice my train was running express in the Bronx until I reached Hunts Point, and had to double back to get home. As I waited for the downtown local, I saw a familiar ragged keyboardcarrying man, glancing my way, double-taking, and then approaching. “You’re the one!” he shouted, all humor gone, “You’re the one who left. Why did you do that? Why did you leave?” “I didn’t want to hear your show,” I said. “It all fucked up after that,” he cried, “Some dyke bitch started yelling at me, wouldn’t let me sing.” “Okay,” I said, “But I didn’t want to hear it.” “If someone’s going to make the effort to try to sing and perform, and, and everything, you should let them.” “I did let you,” I replied, “I just didn’t want to be there.” “You motherfucker,” he yelled, but I didn’t quite hear, because the train came in. He entered, and so did I, and we continued our discourse. “I got a right!” he bellowed, “I got a right to do my thing!” I didn’t touch the fact that we were not a willing audience, that we didn’t ask to hear him, that his art wasn’t particularly good. I didn’t bring up any of that. I just said, “Maybe you’ve got a right to perform, but that doesn’t mean I have to listen.” And I reached my stop, and I got off, and I haven’t seen the guy since.
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 32
Send to J. Berger - 1119 Longwood Avenue - Bronx, NY 10474 by the editorial collective (unless otherwise noted...)
Breadfoot featuring Anna Phoebe Teo with Leo This album of acoustical instrumentals from New York’s quiet guitarist Breadfoot and Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s British Anna Phoebe has only seven tracks, but they’re all wonderful. This simple and elegant release could be the soundtrack of a simple and beautiful movie, like Brokeback Mountain, where emotion and pain underlie most every frame. It’s good. It may not always rivet your attention, but it’s fine driving music for a long, lonesome trip. And Breadfoot’s liner notes are in his imitable down-home style; always a treat. Tea with Leo is one strong brew, and I ain’t lyin’. http://breadfoot.com/ Casey Holford All Young and Beautiful In one of the Talking Heads’ most famous songs, the narrator asks, “Say something once, why say it again?” After listening to Casey Holford’s latest CD, one is tempted to answer that, by saying it again, you find you’re saying something else. That answer might seem a little ethereal, but bear with me. There’s a lot of repetition on All Young and Beautiful. This isn’t such a shock; after all, most pop songs are built to be memorable for their repeated hooks, and the album is definitely pop music at its most crowd-pleasing. That is assured by Holford’s constantly inventive guitar-playing and seemingly 80s-inspired candy-coated production, which somehow refuses to be cheesy. But what Holford seems to do on this album, besides making some of the hookiest damn songs this side of Top 40 radio, is to use repetition to explore what else he can get those pesky words to do for him. As an example, he obviously found the title “Something’s Wrong” so fraught with possibility that the album features two entirely different songs with that name back to back. Within the songs too, he seems to be constantly repeating phrases but he uses the opportunity to mutate their sounds into different musical shapes. The best example is probably in his tale of youthful facial hair “Beard Song,” where he talks briskly about the girls who wanted him to shave his beard or grow it different ways. Finally he says, “Then I met a girl from Sa-a-an Diego,” and the song lingers for a moment. He repeats, “Then I met a girl from San. Dee. Ay. Go.” And again: “I met this girl from San Di-AAAAY-go,” before finally delivering the punch line, “She wants me to grow it my way.” At this point this line is such a hard-won victory that Holford celebrates by singing the phrase “My way” ten or twenty more times. The repetition here is more than just playful melodic experimentation, it creates dramatic tension. This exploration of what Holford can get the sounds of words to do seems like an extension of what he does with his lyrics. Holford’s songs mostly seem to be about what it’s like to live. It’s a pretty big topic, so Holford explores it through a lot of little topics: what it’s like to move, what it’s like to get your feet soaked in a storm, what it’s like to get bombarded by junk mail, what it’s like to ride the Cyclone. The cumulative effect creates a portrait not just of the songwriter, but of the experience of post-collegiate adulthood, as viewed with a childlike curiosity. (Justin Remer) caseyholford.com Dan Costello Halloween Baby AntiFolk favorite son Dan Costello, the piano-playing, hip-hop swinging, show-tune loving October 31 birthday boy, said he’d be able to release his album a month after he went into the studio, and by god if he didn’t succeed. He speedily produced (well, Ben Godwin produced it, but still…), then released an album of varied arrangements and exciting songs, selected, as most debuts are, from his entire back catalog. There’s the party sound coming from tracks like “This is the Last Time (The Pot Song)” and the title track, there’s the atmospheric depression of “Maria with the Long Legs” and “Be Your Man,” and, of course, there’s the blue-eyed rap “Stuck Outta Luck.” This release goes everywhere that Dan Costello songs go, representing his schizophrenic style quite ably. At times, Halloween Baby hews close to one character, then spins violently onto a different track. Was this his intent? Probably. Does it always work? Nope. The songs are not segregated into distinct units (his categories: jam songs, jazz songs, acoustic songs), nor are they integrated fully, to effect effortless transition from cut to cut. The album, as a whole,
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is somewhat jarring, particularly when “Be Your Man” transforms the mood away from party, and into something fatr more atmospheric, or when “Eyes Open Wide” goes into “The Pot Song.” Of course, this is faint critique indeed.( “Dan, your artistic vision is too wide; you’re just too good a songwriter…”) In any case, the mild complaint speaks to the songs not at all. Some of them are cool. It’s hard to listen to “Stuck” without bobbing your head, the most rhythmic effort we urban folk are ever known to make. “Hiring Man” keeps it’s chant-along impact on the record, which is no small feat. And while I’ve never particularly liked “The Pot Song,” it certainly has the proper woozy boozy arrangement, straight off of Blonde on Blonde. Costello’s voice, so strong on stage, sometimes flattens out on the album, like on “I’m Sorry.” Nonetheless, Halloween Baby serves as a powerful showcase of his art to date. www.dancostellomusic.com Elastic No-No Band The Very Best Of Elastic No-No Band So Far (’04-’06) Elastic No-No Band, aka Justin Remer, has been bouncing around town for over two years now, handing out demos, wearing his bathrobe, basically making a nuisance of himself. His low-key joke-folk is funny enough, sure, but the slacker ideology behind it seems to sabotage people’s interest. Yeah, yeah, we get the name; it’s a play on Elephant’s Memory. And you look best in the morning, messy and unkempt: the whole hippie thing. We understand. Can we move on now? But ENB will not let us move on, not just yet. With the release of this “greatest hits” package, the man has chosen the best of his thousands of mp3s (his website currently holds 51, no doubt some sort of alien depot reference) to showcase on a real, honest-to-goodness CD, with a cover and everything. Perhaps this is Remer’s attempt at credibility. But even this, ENB’s desperate plea for respectability, still smacks of limited commitment. Most of the songs selected continue to sound like demos. While some include the added accompaniment of live band mates Preston Spurlock (of the Sewing Circle) and Herb Scher (of Urban Folk), the sound is still very much the work of a man who, according to his bio, just likes “making lo-fi CD-R albums for his friends.” It’s sort of a shame Remer doesn’t take himself and his humor more seriously. “Let’s Fuck” is even better than the title suggests (“I just like to hang out with my duck. Well, that was a stupid rhyme. Never mind. Let’s fuck”). “You Think It’s Wrong” is the right direction in all ways. Remer develops the mood of a sensitive song with a lilting melody and an optimistic attitude (“But being tonedeaf is OK, you were probably born that way. It’s called amusia, and there’s nothing that you can do, so just accept it; it’s a part of you. Oooh…”), plus the multi-
tracked choruses at the end… Beautiful. “Jeanette is Working” is another example of ENB trying to get out from under Allan Sherman’s shadow. The production remains demo-low. Even with the band, it’s like Remer just pushes the start button and goes for it. It’s even unclear if the greatest hits are just that. Spending some time at Remer’s site with his scads of demos is a rewarding experience. Maybe, then, this cry for attention is less a statement of what he has already accomplished, and more a hint at what is to come; the artist is not emphasizing the irony of The Very Best, but rather the promise of So Far. (Jonathan Berger) www.elasticnonoband.com Frank Hoier Love Is War Frank Hoier fits into a familiar New York folk singer persona. He plays acoustic guitar and wears his harmonica around his neck. He busks the subways and the parks with an open guitar case for tips. His songs draw heavily on traditional folk and blues. Hoier’s new release, Love Is War, recorded at Olive Juice studios, is free of bells and whistles, capturing the artist in nine solo performances. What’s notable about Frank Hoier is that he does the job exceptionally well. His songs are all catchy and melodic. His arrangements are minimal and tasteful. And best of all, Hoier has a beautiful voice that evokes all the sweetness, humility, and genuineness that audiences have come to sense in him, as a musician and as a person. Kindness and likeability shine from the disc’s opening track, “41st St Blues,” where Frank gives loving shout outs to all the girls with casts, eye patches, and panic attacks. While many New York songwriters branching from the Dylan archetype come off as hacks, Frank Hoier has a distinct magnetism, and is currently one of the city’s best in this vein. The nagging thought when I hear Love Is War is that maybe Frank’s love for traditional blues and folk is preventing him from challenging himself. His songs and performances are great, but now that he’s mastered arithmetic, it’s time for him to start multiplying. Beck and Jack White are two great artists who started in a similar place. Beck found his voice through weird humor, irony, and hip-hop. Jack White played super loud and aggressively. If Frank Hoier can find his own twist on the rudi-
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ments that he’s mastered, there’s no telling what beauty will come from this skillful and authentic folk singer. www.myspace.com/frankhoier Jeffrey Lewis Tapes from the Crypt Tapes from the Crypt documents the early musical efforts of one of the Lower East Side’s most compelling artists, Jeffrey Lewis. AntiFolk historians will delight at hearing the stylistic blueprint of Lewis’s sound, which has steadily gained attention from 1997 to present. As the title implies, the music is delivered in beautiful lo-fi rawness. Jeff’s wordy, super-analytical lyrics are in full effect on “Bite the Bullet (Get a Job)” (“I’ll live with my parents, share a room with my brother, bring a peanut butter sandwich to lunch...”) Early delving into unconventional song topics (“The Complete History of Jeff’s Sexual Conquests, vol. 1") and noise rock (“Gravity Sue”) are here, as well. “Together We Form” Jeff features Jeff playing music back and forth with a boom box recording of himself (Jeff1: “you’re really not that good at that sort of playing” Jeff2: “shut up!”). “Flippity Floppity” hints at Jeff’s humble beginnings (“they played at open mic nights across the land, and they never made much money, but they had a lot of fun”). His Name Is Water is a nice peek into the bizarre sort of track that musicians usually keep to themselves. As for flaws, “Songs about Songwriting” gets old fast, perhaps appropriately. “Clyde and Alyda”’s lengthy narrative is the least interesting on the CD. Beyond these small bumps, Tapes from the Crypt remains easily one of the best demo collections I’ve ever heard. http://www.thejeffreylewissite.com/ Jonathan Berger 96 Jonathan Berger’s got something new to sell. It’s a book of poetry. I think it’s his best of the year. You should go out right now and buy it, immediately. Put the paper down right and find Jon Berger and buy his product. Pay double if you have to. So? What the hell’re you waiting for? GO! (Jonathan Berger) myspace.com/jonathanberger Just About To Burn Just About To Burn So the Mighty Paleface got together with a girl named Monica and an elusive guitar player known as Breadfoot. Paleface had the songs, Breadfoot had the notes, and Monica played the drums like Meg White had taken a couple more lessons. Their songs had a country feel, and the lyrics were the finest pages out of the PF songbook. And then, they just kind of stopped.
Right around the opening date of the 2004 Summer AntiFolk Festival, Just About to Burn was suddenly minus a Breadfoot. Paleface and Monica wrote up an hour’s worth of new songs and made their public debut without a musical director. A long time went by, and the band fluctuated before recruiting Lenny Molotov on lead and steel guitars. Nowadays, Just About to Burn sounds very swampy, like Credence had their heyday in New York rather than SF. JATB is an incredibly solid, danceable live band these days. This CD, titled simply Just About to Burn, is the original trio, PF, Breadfoot and Monica, ten country songs, lyrics about relationships and New York City. The eponymous Just About to Burn album is a great snapshot of a band finding its sound. It’s also a great flyer for what they have the potential to become. (Brook Pridemore) http://palefaceonline.com/ Langhorne Slim When The Sun’s Gone Down When I saw Langhorne Slim at the Sidewalk Café some years ago, I heard his high, nasal, plaintive, annoying voice and walked out. The music left no impression on me, the voice was a joke. Now, after hearing When The Sun’s Gone Down, I’m forced to admit that Mr. Slim does, in fact, possess talent. His voice becomes appreciably better when given the right musical environment. It’s my opinion that on this recording, Langhorne Slim has found what works for him: simple, tasteful, arrangements that drive the music along. His methods are basic, usually consisting of drums, banjo, guitar, bass – and, less often, organ and trombone. He employs these instruments in a variety of styles, from a rollicking, bluegrass-inflected, hoe-down to lyricoriented guitar-driven folk. His voice is still high, but the instrumentation emphasizes its pleasant and emotional aspects. While our Mister Slim has undoubtedly grown as a musician, however, he must still grow as a songwriter. The best song and centerpiece of this disc, “Checking Out,” was written by James Jackson Tothe. Though Langhorne does an admirable job of taking ownership of the song, it’s still a shame that his own lyrics fail to compare. It seems that he is bogged down in trite generalizations that limit the listener’s attachment. Hopefully, by the time his next full-length record is released, he’ll have developed a more personal and idio-
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syncratic style of songwriting to go along with his performance. Until that time, Langhorne Slim is still a very enjoyable folk and bluegrass inflected troubadour. (Jon Glovin) http://langhorneslim.com/ Lowry Live in Atlanta (Unplugged) Alex Lowry has an ear for production. He’d been playing for months in NYC solo, before putting together his AntiFolk supergroup Lowry, which is when it all came together. Whether it’s the quality of players (Both Bowman twins and Steve Waitt have been in the Lowry touring company), or the arrangements he dictated, the whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. Awful Joy, the Lowry studio concoction, got rave notices right here and elsewhere, and variations of the combo have been touring off of the release ever since. But how is the show on tour? Can Lowry bring it on stage? Live in Atlanta seeks to answer that question… and does so, quite successfully in the affirmative. The band sounds amazing. The arrangements are frequently stunningly beautiful, with the Bowman harmonies and strings adding layers to songs that sound so much better in more orchestrated settings. The material is nothing new to the Lowry fan, mostly replicating cuts from the Joy, calling into question the purpose of this live disc. That studio album’s producer, ET Feigenbaum, edits and masters this one, and, while some of the transitions at songs’ ends and beginnings sound amateurish, the overall sound is excellent. The next big question is will Lowry maintain the excellence on future releases? It appears the band changes line-ups like some Urban Folk writers change shorts (once a month or so), will his next set of collaborators live up to the promise of this batch? Time and fans will tell. A fascinating metatextual aspect of the album arises at those same transitions. The audience at Eddie’s Attic sounds perhaps ten strong, and the applause following each piece is slight, and somewhat sad, considering the obvious effort put into the art. Which doesn’t make Live in Atlanta any less powerful a document, but a somewhat stranger one. lowrymusic.com Matt Singer All Us Heathens Matt Singer is all about words. All Us Heathens, his most fully realized recording to date, hops between rock and hip-hop, bluegrass and jazz, while somehow still holding its ground as a solid folk record. His songs change topic like most people breathe, jumping from the awkwardness of childhood to love, to Jesus, to Jews, to welfare reform, to the hand of judgment to trick-or-treating on Halloween, and back to being “the awkward fat kid.” Whereas his last full length, Sublimation, unfolded over a simple
background of acoustic guitar and standup bass, and 2004’s “White Men, Grey Suits” single split the difference between acoustic folk and heavy beat hip hop, “All Us Heathens” finds Matt Singer dressed in a more rustic outfit. Think Bringin’ It All Back Home meets Fear of a Black Planet meets A Prairie Home Companion. Yes, this is one complex package. The lyrics jump, the genres drift, and All Us Heathens is highly recommended. (Brook Pridemore) www.mattsinger.com Paul Alexander Despite All You Have Planned Paul Alexander, in his years on the acoustic scene, has always been a solo player. Sure, there’s been the occasional mewlings, like, “Oh, I’ve got these jazz guys who want to back me up. They’re monsters. Really great.” Did they ever actually back the boy? Not that I know. In fact, Paul Alexander seems to lie all the time. He’s been talking about this album of his for… well, as long as Urban Folk’s been coming out, and that’s, like, months now. Will he ever get it done? Ever? Looks like he did. Despite All You Have Planned finally arrived in the early Fall, and it is a doozy. If you’ve been listening to his material at open mics like DTUT or Matchless or his own local club, the Creek and Cave, then you’ve probably heard most of the material, though he has a propensity to play the same “hits” over and over again. The album, understandably, digs deeper, and widens his sonic palate dramatically. Ably produced and played by Benjy King, the ten songs sound gloriously slick, reimagining Alexander’s basic solo songs into orchestral exercises. The material divides evenly between romantic ballads and songs of self-actualization. The latter suffer from the typical problem of the form. After all, more sophisticated people don’t want to write silly love songs, but how deep do you expect to get in 200 seconds of pop? Still, Alexander attempts the profound, sometimes hoping for a better world by being a better man (“Flood me with sincerity,” he sings in “Who I Am”). The release is generally genial, but occasionally, the claws come out. In “Honestly,” he states, point of fact, “You will never be what you were meant to be.” The song transforms from humble beginnings into an inadvertent nihilist chant. Some of the love songs, too, become starkly bitter. “Bye Bye” begins with “Caught in your shit today,” and cho-
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ruses “I just can’t live this lie.” The music builds to create a haunting document of heartache. Most of the songs are positive, though. Particularly sweet is “You’re the One,” with a slow, sincere delivery presenting an environment for this potent love song that risks schmaltz in the chorus, but still achieves powerful emotional intensity. This is an exquisitely constructed album, which promises good things to come from the artist – if he can ever get that band together... (Jonathan Berger) http://myspace.com/palexandermusic Randi Russo Shout Like a Lady Hot on the heels of 2005’s Still Standing Still EP, Russo’s back with a full-length that takes her some distance from her prior raw, gothic sound. Make no mistake, she hasn’t changed that much. If you’re depressive, Russo is an artist to avoid – best listened to in daylight, where the darkness she evokes has less reach. “Where You Wanna Go” states quite clearly in its bridge, “There are some
times when it feels so good to be down,” but also tells the listener “Where you wanna go, it’s all in your mind.” It’s a choice to be happy, it seems, one that Russo is not yet prepared to make. Other choices are made on this CD. Shout takes bigger chances than any earlier Russo release with some successes, and some failures. The title track is liltingly melodic, building from slow acoustic beginnings to a martial stomp with musical flourishes that never disguise the somewhat simplistic rhyme scheme. Still, the song’s quiet feminism makes a statement that may well be the album’s declaration of intent: developing conscious woman rock. “West Coast Girl,” a subtle attack on consumer driven culture, is strengthened by lyrical references to noir fiction, a genre that also deals primarily in atmosphere, to great visceral effect. “Go West Coast,” she chants, unfeelingly, presenting her ambivalence on her sleeve. Her punk energy is missed, but something new has been added. There’s sophistication on Shout Like a Lady, with a variety of new, mature sonic elements. Lenny Molotov, a multiinstrumentalist who plays guitars and keyboards throughout, creates varied backgrounds that no doubt help lighten the mood occasionally, particularly in “Ceiling Fire.” This track is dynamic, melodic, and – rare for Russo – optimistic. The chorus lifts, a pleasant change and a highlight of the album. It’s the kind of thing Russo should be doing more of in future releases. (Jonathan Berger) http://www.randirusso.com/
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Trevor Exter Water This, Exter’s second album during his time in AntiFolk, is his AntiFolk album. You know: direct, honest, one man and one instrument. Nothing to distract from the songs and performance except maybe some tape hiss. There ain’t no tape hiss here, though. This 7-song EP sounds great. So does his voice, and his cello playing. It’s all good. If only… If only “Let Me Hold You” were more instrumentally distinct. You can barely tell that the excellent Exter is playing some funky ass cello. It sounds like guitar here. Is that an accomplishment? Maybe. But it’s distracting from what his art is. If only more tracks were like “The Money Men.” It starts sharp, and grows beautiful through the hooky chorus, ending with the extended croon, “I love being alone…” before going into the sing-along “Na-na”s, which never seem to quite work on stage. “Grow Up,” meanwhile, is mean, funky, and angry. Everything a good cello song should be. If only the album were slicker. This album is an admirable testament to the purity of Exter’s distinct and exceptional vision. Now that he’s gotten it out of his system, just imagine what he’ll be able to accomplish. trevorexter.com Urban Barnyard That’s the Idea Urban Barnyard is an AntiFolk supergroup comprised of Phoebe Kreutz, Casey Holford, Dibs, and Daoud TylerAmeen. Ms. Kreutz sings lead, and the songs on this 5song EP share the earnestly cynical funny lyrics of her solo work. After countless listens, the line “People never wonder where their pile of poopy went,” still forces a laugh. That line is from the closing track “Surfin’ Sewer Rat,” which imagines subterranean rodents hanging ten on human refuse, backed by a guitar part not unsuited to a record by… er… The Trashmen. Urban Barnyard, as their name helpfully indicates, performs songs about animals in the city. The lyrical approach is generally to humanize the animals in question, or maybe to animalize the humans. For instance, the tune “Baby Pigeon” can be heard as a funny song about a mama bird feeding her young, but with lines like “If you’re not real, then who’ve I been throwing up into?,” it’s hard not to suspect the song’s also about acting maternal in a person-based romantic relationship. Though Urban Barnyard’s focus is solely animal songs,
they find a way to make their five selections musically eclectic. From the surf-abilly of “Surfin’ Sewer Rat” to the rootsiness and Frampton-style talking guitar of “Duck a l’Orange” to the power-pop of “Baby Pigeon,” the group never fails to surprise. The highlight of this brisk, sour-note-free EP is probably “The Manger Song,” which in a just world would become a holiday standard alongside stuff like “O Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” Told from the point of view of the rams whose Bethlehem manger was infringed upon by Joseph and Mary, the song has the giddy feeling of a really hip nativity play – a feeling enhanced by the vocal appearances of Dibs and Casey Holford playing a ram and Joseph respectively. The rams and other manger animals are told to quiet down their complaints, since, in future, they’ll have bragging rights about being the first creatures to see Jesus and, way in the future, will be turned perennially into lit-up plastic lawn ornaments. In a nutshell, five songs is not enough; Urban Barnyard needs to enter Magnetic Fields territory and deliver their own 69 Duck Songs, or something like that. (Justin Remer) urbanbarnyard.com
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Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 38
stories completed - by paul alexander,
dan costello, brook pridemore...
Alexander & Costello - continued from page 7 Pridemore - continued from page 28
stretch of highway, completely deserted, supposedly the only legal parking around), warns us the gig probably will suck, and leads us to an internet cafe. When we finally enter apartment building, we’re told our friend noise musician Dan Deacon, lives there. Neither Treiber nor I have the guts to knock on his door, ‘though Treiber swears it’s me being a pussy. At the party, our hopes sink lower and lower. The house has the same, shelled-out feeling as the rest of Baltimore. The residents tell us there’ll be food soon, and we’ll play sets for everybody, but nobody ever feeds us, and different party games – like a bike race around Baltimore (great for us out-of-towners) keep pushing us further back. When I see the baby shower recipient, she seems ecstatic to have so many friends helping her celebrate, and then looks puzzled, even harangued, by our presence. We killed ourselves, driving from the ass-crack of dawn, to wait hours on the pleasure of a pregnant lady, and then not play. We eventually leave Maryland for home, tails between our legs. For the first time ever, I’m jealous of the punks in Baltimore. We play a few in-town gigs over the next few days, and I come to miss touring, like always. I wish I had a good story about touring – every previous trip, I have at least one incredible experience. Five months later, I’m still thinking about how jealous I am of Dan Costello’s wideeyed amazement of the road, and all those piss-poor kids of Baltimore, who had everything, and nothing, all at once.
and we kind of lost ourselves in it. Paul: Yeah, very well said. Dan: And the next one is going to be a lot more us. Paul: It's going to reflect the new us, and we're different people - we're different people every day. I'm going to have a lot more of an idea about what has to go on the album. We have all these ideas, it's so distracting to boil down what you're supposed to be capturing in that document. Dan: Yeah, our next records will be better because of the last one. Paul: Yes. Very true. Dan: But making a first record, it's hard. Paul: But I had a good time doing it.
Currently in preproduction of a feature film entitled
Talkin New York
featuring artists and music on the Antifolk scene.
Urban Folk Issue Number Nine - Page Number 39
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