Urban Folk: issue eight

An Ode to the Road: I’m writing this from Boulder, CO where I played a great show with an old friend last night. Tomorrow I’m off to Albuquerque, then on to San Diego and up to Seattle before finally heading back east, hitting all the towns along the way. As folksingers we come from an ancient tradition of traveling troubadors, singing the stories and the news at all the towns along the way. You can give us cars and guitars that plug in, but it’s nice to know that essentially the idea hasn’t changed. Back in New York, I’ll be singing about Tulsa, just like I sang to Tulsa about New York. And so we bring you an issue dedicated to the road. Eric Warner gives us Brattleboro Fest from the rambling anarcho-nihlist perspective, Mick Flannery shows us New York thorugh Irish eyes, and “Caseless” Joe Scone looks at folk music at the end of the road, on the front lines of combat in Iraq. Enjoy, see you when I get home! - Dave Cuomo, Editor

In This Issue:

Contact us at urbanfolkzine@gmail.com back issue pdf’s at urbanfolk.org

Cover - illustration by peter nevins - peter nevins.com Letters to the Editor – you speak, we respond Iraq Correspondence – “caseless” joe scone reports on folk music on the front Brattleboro Fest – eric warner’s tale of a wingnut conspiracy Dan Fishback – andrew hoepfner explores the backside of outsider art Cheese on Bread – jonathan berger mourns the end of an era Drinking the Big Apple – mick flannery’s new york from the irish perspective On the Road Again – jason rabinowitz on non-club venues for the alternative road hound Urban Folk Birthday Celebration – photos by herb scher Olive Juice - tony rubin goes behind the scenes with major matt Win a Date With Alec Wonderful – the results are in! Leo - paul alexander sits down with the ever eccentric artist Be an Urban Folk friend! myspace.com/urbanfolkzine

Larry Hammel – dave cuomo talks to the producer about recording on the DIY budget Paul’s Perspective - paul alexander takes the local road to Long Island City Get in the Minivan – brook pridemore on the open road, a double feature! Praise Jesus! - grey revell on brer brian’s anitfolk infiltration of church Singing to the Heavens - brer brian follows up with an interview with the flock CD Reviews – david lk murphy, diane cluck, regina spektor, toby goodshank, and more!

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Letters to the Editor
Dear Urban Folk, How come nobody’s written about me in your magazine? What do I do to get you to write about me? Signed, Anonymous Dear Anonymous, Well, with a name like that… Really, the best way to be written about is to just do what you’re doing. There are a bunch of writers these days, and they’re inspired by a bunch of different factors, so if, what you’re doing is of any worth, you’re number’ll probably come up. Of course, Nobody here in the editorial collective advises this, but you could pursue the editors or your favorite writer at Urban Folk. You could harass them, saying things like, “Write about me. WRITE ABOUT ME!” or maybe, send a press kit with what you feel makes yours an interesting story, like, “I’m Finney McBob, and I’m the only boy to have left my hometown in the last 40 years…” See, if no one has written about you on the strength of your music, your performance, or your inner charm, you gotta give them a reason to, right? Right… To the people at Urban Folk, Why? Curious Dear Curious, Because we like you. Dear Editor, What’s gonna be in the next issue of Urban Folk? Love, A Rumor Monger Dear RM, Whatever you write for it. Wanna write about a show you really liked? Send it along. Want to suggest that Debe Dalton is an unpaid assassin (she’s not, you know)? Print it out, and we may publish it. It’s not like we’ll take just anything, but we do want your thoughts. It’s a community paper, after all, so join the community.

send letters to urbanfolkzine@gmail.com
Dear UF, How can I get back issues of Urban Folk? Sincerely, Rich Beyond Measure Dear Rich, The main editors keep a few copies locked away that they’d be willing to sell to you at incredibly inflated prices (charging as much as 300% more than the original cost). Or you could just go on over to urbanfolk.org, where there are PDFs of most of the old issues, available for free. Yes, you read right. For FREE! If that’s not good enough for you, send an $18.00 check to urbanfolkzine@gmail. com To Whom It May Concern: That Jon Berger guy seems really cool. Can I be his friend? Dear Whom: No.

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Iraq Correspondence
by Joseph “Caseless Joe” Scone

With almost 20 years of service, now serving in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Caseless Joe (left) is a folksinger as much as he’s a fighter. He writes to us about folk music on the front. part 1: The Ojays The American folk movement in Iraq is not underground or even undercover, more like, underarmor. It is being sweated out in 130 degree heat and screamed into four dollar headset microphones in the acoustic sauna of a plastic port-a-potty. Guys who would never consider themselves musicians, never mind “folk”, are screaming their nightmares into psychotic rhapsodies of an applepie collage of conflicting nightmares. Born to kill, kill to live, live to ride, ride to die, any pie left? Someone tell me, what is anti-folk. That was for Mom who would have said “So, you’re some kind of hippie now?” I miss her. Anyhow... As an American soldier assigned to work directly with Iraqi soldiers and their leaders, I wanted to get some understanding of those people with whom I would live and work. Many will agree that folk music is a peek into the common moral aspirations of a society. Granted, I am not one who would say that in a normal conversation but, at the time, I had 11 months and 29 more days on tour in Iraq. Therefore, I asked one of my interpreters. “Eric, you know any folk songs?” “What is folk?” “Like old songs that everyone one knows the words to when the old people sing.” “We do not have this. Saddam-Hussein-killed-all-[ song ]-from-my-people and we-want-only-to-live-in-

peace-and-brotherhood-with-our-beloved-Americanfriends” “Right, so … umm, you like Bob Dylan?” Thus it goes. Everyone has an agenda. No one has any shame about it. Ask a question about anything and the first answer is [the other ethnic group] killed off the [joy/spirit/love] of [whatever you asked about] by [whatever method seems most dramatic; shooting farmers in the fields; poisoning schoolchildren’s milk; or driving a car bomb into the only hospital that treats (my ethnic group)] BUT! They cannot kill off my faith in my American-friend-to-whom-I-am-dedicating-my-lifeas-too-small-a-price-to-pay-for-the-gift-of-freedom-thatyou-have-brought-my-people. (Yes, it is often spoken just like that, in one breath.) I wonder what their music will sound like in 5 years. Ode to American Forces We love and miss you our American brothers But you went home to your twice blessed mothers And we prepared for power’s vacuum Scratched these words onto Hope’s future tomb Does your cultural ADD allow you to recall Why the proud to serve had to fall? Didn’t think so Bye <Attitude On The Side> Every event that I described above did occur at one time or another during the 30 years of Saddam’s oppression. I’m sorry that your high school principal wouldn’t let you wear a miniskirt to class, or your stepfather called you a fag, or your classmates harassed you in the halls. You should try real oppression. It sucks.> part 2: Burhan Marjeet Then one day in Iraq I am doing some work with a group of Iraqi soldiers when one of them slaps me on the back and sings “Amozah, to bo min fahrzi “, (does it sound like a hit yet?) “Amozah, to bala barazi”, then several others fill in with alternate, amusing, and occasionally obscene, lyrics, all in the Kurdish language. My poor Question: What does it take to write a good folk song? Answer: Many, many bad folk songs, and a Saaz

interpreter almost choked on his tongue by translating and laughing in the manner of one who has just sung “Froggy went a-courtin’” to a total social outsider. Thus it is to pass that, fully armed with the knowledge that there is a folk song surviving, in at least one of the five local languages, it still takes three months to get a set of lyrics. You too can have a complete set of lyrics just send $9.99 and a self addressed stamped envelope to Amozah Lyrics c/o Urban Folk 306 Jefferson St 1R Brooklyn, NY 11237 … or you can get them free at www.myspace.com/ caseless which is what I would have done if I could have but of course I could not because I had not yet typed them up, so there. Nonetheless, I found a song, managed to get it written in Arabic script, then had it translated to roman script, learned how to mispronounce every word, found out what the lyrics translated to in English, corrected some of the pronunciation errors, practiced the run on sentence, worked out a balance of English and Kurdish that was acceptable to me, and eventually, recorded the song. So what’s the rush? Death. </macho on> Death is this big stupid rock that sits up on top of the mountain teetering and tottering and just being there because, you know. You know, that eventually your number is gonna come up. The average American has as good a chance of being hit by lightning, twice, on the day he or she wins the lottery as she or he does of being whacked by some terrorist SOB. Unfortunately, I am not average. Neither is any other guy who’s scribbling songs on the back of a MRE box, baking in the heat, wondering how stuff can be so screwed up in this part of the world. Even so, our chances are only one, against the population of Scranton, Pennsylvania, that I will never see this issue published. [Ask the guys from the 109th PA Nat. Guard how that works.] So if I have a song, story, or statement, that I want to be heard, I must to record it, now. I must post it on some half naked

OK I predict that, at least in my house, the saaz will be to the 21st century what the sitar was to the 20th. The saaz is a muti-ethnic instrument, that has between 4 and 7 strings and a single bottom bowl that usually measures 7-9 inches across. That makes the sound chamber much smaller than that of a mandolin. The neck of the saaz is anywhere from 20-36 inches. It is made out of several types of wood but walnut seems to be the most common in north eastern Iraq. Oddly, the traditional saaz is fretted with string. More modern manufacturing processes in Turkey are beginning to use brass or steel frets but the original twisted grass string fret clearly defines the saaz as a shepherd’s instrument. A single bowl and a straight stick neck with moveable string frets. If you don’t like the sound, twist a peg, move a fret, make it sound good to you.

website, now. And you must play it now. </rant off> part: 3 Bob Dylan Now that it is firmly established that I descend into madness every 340 words or so, allow me to blurt this out. Don’t sell Pepsi if your alphabet does not have a letter P. <So who is your copilot> The picture of a huge red faced army chaplain screaming “there are no atheists in foxholes” sits right next to the memory of a too-cool little nubile num-num [I bet she thinks I remember her name] who tried to deflect my teenage advances with her statements on how wonderful a godless society would be. Well girlie, twenty years later, I am certain of 2 things. First, you don’t fit into that t-shirt anymore, and second, “there are no atheists in foxholes”. There are a lot of Christian, Christian Alternative, and Gospel song writers here. Sometimes the Alternative part is a fair stretch of road away from what most call

Christian. I recently encountered one song that will serve as an appropriate example. The music consists of an acoustic guitar strumming a C in a regular soothing pattern. The first verse is a softly mumbled Lord’s Prayer delivered in a classic American hum-drum lip service to church. Second verse is a similarly delivered Jesus Loves the Little Children. With the third verse following the classic ‘same as the first’ pattern, why does the song deserve comment? The chorus is a non-melodic screaming of “Oh Fuck Oh God Oh God Oh Fuck Oh My Fucking God OK Fuck OK God Lets Go” delivered in an atonal screech, redolent of fear, to the looped sound of AK-47 fire. The statement, God is real, I am alive, Who’da thunk it. myspace.com/caseless

Brattleboro Fest
tales from the wing-nut conspiracy
By Eric L. Warner

It’s 3:17 in the morning and I’m sitting in a dorm room in Towson, Maryland drinking whiskey and watching over a beautiful passed out crusty named Ursula. In the other room is my traveling partner, Ashley Martin. When people ask us how we came upon this lifestyle, we tell them about Brattleboro Fest. Let’s just start from the beginning. On May 3rd, a friend from New York called up all his friends from Long Island and told them that he wanted them to accompany him up to Brattleboro, Vermont. With little to no knowledge as to what was going on Ashley Martin got into the car in search of something. She had been a part of a DIY scene in Long Island that had turned into a typical get-drunk-under-the-bridgeand-bitch-about-how-there-are-no-more-shows scene, and was on a search for something new. At the time I had mentally resigned from college life and was spending a large portion of time in the woods down by the tracks in Brattleboro making patches, building robots, and helping find housing and food for all the crusties and travelers that were coming into town. Spirits were high, but unlike last year’s fest, the cops had found a flier for this one and were on to us. They were trying to find out who was in charge so that they could have someone to arrest, as we had no permit, no permission, and no desire to ask for either of those things. Of course, no one was in charge. We had long talks at the town mayor’s office about how this is an autonomous effort on behalf of the youth community and everyone who comes is the leader, and by that same measure no one who comes is. We were let go

with a warning to watch ourselves and that if anything got out of hand, they were going to come down on us. At that point I decided that the cops, the mayor, and the members of Building a Better Brattleboro, had all already lost. On May 5th I got out of class and went straight down to Harmony Parking Lot, the festival grounds. At first it was a mix of the usual suspects and a few new faces. Then people started showing up, one by one, then in packs. We organized games of Capture the Flag in the parking lot. We played music in the streets. We had a robot parade down Main Street. Everywhere you looked, there were the youth of today, basking in the sun. The cops had found our encampment the day prior and blocked off our access road down to the tracks so we found new housing at the nude beach just outside of town. That night, things exploded. I had left the parking lot at around 4 to go nude swimming down by the beach and when I got back at 5 there were between 200-300 people there waiting for the show to start. The first band up was Endless Mike and the Beagle Club. They were awesome and by far one of my favorite bands of the night. They opened with an anti-war poemsong that was sung through a loud speaker with vocal distortion. For the first time in a long time I stood on the staircase of Common Grounds looking over the crowd and saw radical politics mixed with nihilism in such a way that it made me feel like I was right, that we had already won. Next up was Mark Leonard who had an amazing set; his song “In Our Wildest Dreams” had the whole

town shaking. Sadly, I had left with a few friends to go dumpster food for everyone, as well as visit my polyamorous girlfriend, Penny. We returned in time to see Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains. I had seen them play at least a dozen times that semester but this was by far one of the best. With no stage and no PA, it was just a mob in the middle of the parking lot singing along so loud that it drowned out the band. From Main Street you could hear 300 passionate and pissed off kids screaming, “We aren’t revolutionaries, BUT WE ARE THE REVOLUTION!” At 10:45 the cops were threatening to arrest all the minors, so we headed down to the nude beach to set up a tent city. The bonfire was going within 10 minutes. Soon after, we had jugs of wine, cases of beer, hard liquor, and all the usual Brattleboro chemicals that keep a party raging for days. I remember a mass circle of kids hanging around the fire, some naked, some dressed, some kissing, some snarling, some just being kids. I was exhausted and felt obligated to take care of the ones I had brought, so I spent most of my night baby-sitting and making sure that minors weren’t getting alcohol poisoning. I crashed out at about 2am and woke up at six in the morning just in time for the arrival of the Breakfast Beers. It was at the camp breakfast (bud light and cold pasta) that I met Ashley. She was being hit on by a sketchy guy from Connecticut and I decided to barge in and help her out. That’s just the kind of guy that I am. We packed our bags and spent the rest of the day hanging out. We played kick ball in the park, four square at the elementary school, and drank 40s down by the river. We dumpstered about 30 Kaiser Rolls to feed everyone and Penny brought a few cakes from her job to help too. The show that night was an amazing line-up but extremely tiring. There were 11 bands, each with a set list between a half hour and an hour. When Shannon Murray played we decided to turn it into craziness since she’s so used to playing stuffy intellectual coffee shops. We whipped out the robot costumes and started moshing and dancing, getting the crowd fired up. By the time she played “Hallelujah! I’m a Bum!” and “Casey Jones” everyone was dancing so frantically that Shannon got a little scared and was asking us all to make sure no one got hurt. Other bands who played that night were Bread and Roses, Evan Greer, Uke Box, Mischief Brew, and a ton of others that I can’t even recall due to many factors including, but not limited to, not being there for the set, being intoxicated during the set, or having my attention on this gorgeous girl Ashley I had met. I do remember Mischief Brew’s set, because it blew my socks off. When he took the stage the place exploded. Kids were tearing it up moshing, and I saw a guy in a whole leg cast crowd surfing. Shannon Murray took cover on a chair in the back of the room, which slightly saddened me. She really believes in feminism and making all genres of music (including punk) safe

for women, and I think that the adrenaline of the dance hall had a little too much masculinity. I danced with Ashley the whole set, stopping only to scream along with “Thanks Bastards!” and “Roll Me through the Gates of Hell.” I never made it to the after party Saturday night. It turned out that me and Penny were trying to hook up with the same girl, so we talked her into coming back to Penny’s house with both of us. I’m not going to go into details about what happened that night, as its none of your goddamn business... but I can tell you about the camp that night, or at least what I heard second hand. The camp was moved up the mountain because the cops had found our tent city, forcing us to move again. This time we had an 18+ rule that was sort of enforced because we knew this party was gonna be crazier than usual. A couple of travelers had brought dust and acid for everyone, and we didn’t want anyone around that who wasn’t old enough to account for there own actions. I heard that a random middle aged guy dressed as a pirate came in the middle of the night. Nobody knew him and he sketched a lot of people out. Honestly though, we’re all sketchy people. I mean, celebrating your sketchiness is a foundation of the Wing-Nut conspiracy. The next morning, we woke up and headed back to the parking lot, I took Ashley out to breakfast and we said our good byes. I told her that I would see her soon. Who knew it would turn out to be a lot sooner than we thought. I then went and lied down next to everyone else in the middle of the parking lot in the sun for about 2 hours, listening to a few kids still tripping from the night before talking about how life is a scam. Everything is a scam! The hippies were a scam! I didn’t really follow the logic but it was damn funny for about an hour and a half. I’m not sure what happened after that. I think it was a mixture of the fest inspiring me towards a DIY lifestyle, being fed up with school, and not wanting to work in the system. All I know is 4 days later, my room was packed, all my shit was in storage, and I was hitching down to NY to meet up with Ashley. We left NY together and have been traveling ever since. I gotta go now, because we are squatting the empty (and unlocked) dorms at Goucher College and security just came in to find 9 crusties drinking, smoking pot, and watching Boon Dock Saints in a room where no one is supposed to be, especially us. I think I should go pack. Until next time,

ALL POWER TO THE WINGNUTS!

Dan Fishback

sings it from the asshole

by Andrew Hoepfner

photo by Herb Scher

My first memory of Dan Fishback is watching one of his monologues in which he recounts an episode of rectal bleeding and the invasive doctor’s appointment that followed. I squirmed in my seat as this indie geek described shitting beautiful red ovals of blood that rivaled Mark Rothko. Simultaneously, I felt shocked and giddy. If the act of shitting blood could be treated in such an open and funny way, then what was there in life to really be so embarrassed about? Fishback looked pleased as I congratulated him in the moments afterwards. He mischievously grinned, “I think I just alienated myself from everyone else in the room.” Maybe he was right, but when the next open mic musician dude took stage with his John Mayer imitation, it didn’t seem to matter. I was wishing for more art like Dan Fishback’s. I wanted a story to make me squirm,

because oddly, squirming had led to a feeling of liberation. “That monologue was supposed to be funny,” Dan recalls two years later. “I felt like it was an audience of people who really didn’t want to hear about my asshole. And didn’t want to hear about assholes, in general. Didn’t want to acknowledge that they had an asshole. Wanted to think that people just had no holes at all.” There are a lot of assholes in the world. That is to say, there are plenty of topics relevant to the human experience that make people uncomfortable and even scared to acknowledge. Equipped with pen and guitar, and an occasional dildo, Dan Fishback eagerly fills the void. Whether its through songs about abortion eating M.D.’s or theatrical performances regarding the similarities between Egyptian criminal law and

gay sadomasochistic porn, the outskirts of taboo are suddenly thrust out into the open by Fishback, in all its terror and humor. The thrill of shock is definitely enticing to artists. On the other hand, mixing humor with very painful subjects risks the chance of insensitively hurting someone in the audience with whom the particular pain is very real. The cheap thrill doesn’t seem to justify toying with such a weapon. It’s payoff is brief and fleeting, an artistic orgasm. To really be effective, shock needs to be rooted in something deep and meaningful. The beauty of Dan Fishback’s work is its roots in the human soul. As a gay performer, his art seems especially in tune with the soul of the outsider, the misunderstood. “My existence itself is considered taboo by many people. And if they’re wrong about me, what else are they wrong about?” he explains. “I live in taboo, so it’s my responsibility to guard that terrain for its other occupants.” Thus, Dan Fishback emerges, a bold defender of assholes. Making controversial art is a means of questioning the absolute morality of the mainstream. With any subject that is inherently uncomfortable to talk about, there is an accompanying set of dominant morals that is limited and harmful to the people who have a stake in that subject. By shoving contradicting viewpoints in his audience’s face, Dan is making an effort to debunk the myths and assert truths that are more accurate, more respectful, and ultimately more human. “That’s the ethical imperative of being queer - to explore the fringes of acceptability and make those fringes safe for everyone.” In modern times, villains are everywhere. Hostile homophobia and war-bent imperialism are rampant in mainstream America, gagging unconventional mouths and plugging unconventional assholes wherever their seeds are sown. Fishback’s latest play “Please Let Me Love You”, which just completed a successful run at the Hot festival at Dixon Place, is in large part a response to the political form of repression that has deformed civic dissent into taboo. In a cascade of brilliant tangents, “Please Let Me Love You” ties together Michael Jackson’s pedophilic desires with George W. Bush, a distraught Iraqi lesbian couple, clashing pro gay and anti-gay activist mothers, and a dead American soldier with a knack for lounge singing, to name a few. Through this playful ensemble of horrific images, the audience is shown a powerful connection between the misunderstanding and abuse that occurs in our personal relationships and the ways this same misunderstanding and abuse occurs on a much more dangerous, international level, specifically the war in Iraq. “Please Let Me Love You” also presents the uncomfortable suggestion that there may have been an element of love between Michael Jackson and his 13 year-old lover, Jordan Chandler. “The last real boundary when talking about sexual relationships between adults and young people is that there are gradients of unacceptability. That there could be a spectrum of bad.”

It’s undeniable that sexual urges happen long before people are legally entrusted to act on them, and it’s not difficult to imagine a positive sexual relationship existing between young people and adults. On the other hand, Dan notes, “The taboo against child sex abuse makes sense to the extent that it is reasonable to say that you can’t trust young people to make decisions for themselves.” In one of the play’s most striking confrontations with child abuse, Fishback portrays a child who was raped by a Catholic priest at a picnic while his family gathers around and sings “Little Deuce Coupe” by the Beach Boys. “How could you let this happen?!” he screams. The juxtaposition of bizarrely silly imagery with profoundly disturbing images can be deeply moving. It invokes the strange uncertainty of not knowing whether to laugh because it’s shocking or to cry because of the intense pain it implies. The combination is stylistically reminiscent of fellow New York City performance artists like the O’Debra Twins, Jessica Delfino, and comic Rick Shapiro, who are competent taboo humorists in their own right, and hailed by Fishback as inspirations. As an artist becomes comfortable dabbling with taboo, they may run into backlash adapting to the real world. Fishback admits, “I almost lost a friend by saying that the government should subsidize animated child pornography.” His perspective was that a pedophilic feeling isn’t evil in itself, and if society acknowledged that pedophiles who aren’t violently active deserve to be happy, those people could be supplied with an outlet for their urge so they wouldn’t harm anyone. The argument has its merits, but remains a funny example of how life on the fringes of thought can distort an artist’s concept of normal and decent conversation. With a body of work that places significant focus on social and political issues, Dan creates art with the hope that each bit contributes its own small effect on the larger popular opinion. However, gauging the effectiveness of politically radical art is not as much of a concern to him as perceiving the counter effects of apolitical art. “It’s going to have way more of an effect on the voting populace for fucking Death Cab for Cutie to sing some dumb song, or really beautiful song, about being home for summer and seeing a girl and really liking them and thinking that’s the hugest deal in the world. That’s going to be a huge effect, because that’s going to inspire thousands of kids to feel like their little romantic problems are the most important thing in the whole world and contribute to their apathy.” Dan urges, “The one responsibility that anyone has making art is to be aware of the way their art is going to translate politically, because all art translates politically. To understand its effect and accept it and consider it.” Sometimes the political aim of Fishback’s art is less concrete, and the moral of the story, less clear. His bluntly named band, Dan Fishback and the Faggots, is a more ambiguously directed experiment with the gray areas of

acceptable speech. Calling a band “The Faggots” exposes the homophobic slur in all its cruelty and discomfort. The value in this title is the chance to create a deeper, more direct dialogue about homophobia. Yet the name choice also holds a risk, that of giving a wide range of people license to speak the word. Dan related to me the conflict he felt upon hearing shouts of, “faggots!” erupt from his audience at shows. Are any of them saying the word with a mean-spirited, persecutory attitude? Is it morally wrong to cause heterosexuals to scream the word “faggots!”, even if they intend it with the most enthusiastic, supportive attitude? Or should only people like Dan Fishback be allowed to say “faggot,” because they are faggots? Was that sentence morally acceptable for me to write, as a heterosexual? These are the touchy, yet intriguing reactions one has to Dan Fishback’s potent expressions. Fishback himself is unsure if one must experience a specific oppression to be entitled to use its language. “Even referring to my own band, whenever someone else says it, there’s this tiny ping of, ‘Shut the fuck up! Who the fuck do you think you are? You’re not allowed to say that. I’m allowed to say that.’ Intellectually it makes no sense to me, but emotionally, it’s just the truth. And I still haven’t come to terms with that.” The Faggots is one example of many overtly gay expressions Dan has brought about. Others include his previous theatrical performance, “Assholes Speak Louder Than Words” and his retrospective series last spring, “No Direction Homo.” Part of his motivation for being so forthright about his sexuality is the desire to expand the definition of being gay. “It’s very important for a young person, or any person, who has just come out and is trying to feel comfortable about themselves to be able to easily see other gay people in the world doing interesting things. And it’s particularly important when the most easily accessible gay culture is so commercialized and so anti-human.” The sculpted, waxed gym enthusiast of Chelsea is a narrow stereotype that gnaws at Fishback. “I’m so completely outraged that people come out, look for something to accept them, and end up finding something that is trying to chop them up into a narrower slice of human being. People told me, oh you’ll grow up, but I never get less mad. I take it really personally.” There’s a host of variations of gay folk that Fishback would like to see more visible. “Very physically large gay men performing. Older gay men,” he lists, “gay men with lots of body hair, all who are also comfortable and happy and experiencing the same problems as everyone else. Gay men of color. Gay men who are total punks and don’t buy anything. Vegan gay men. Even if I’m not that interested in their art, if it increases the definition, then it’s worthwhile and I’m going to support it.” Dan Fishback presents himself as an inspiring alternative to any stereotype: a sweet, skinny intellectual in glasses, immersed in the roughness and fun of punk and folk music. It’s a unique personality that

you don’t have to be gay to be enchanted by. In one of his recent mailing lists was an enlightening thought about gay pride month. Fishback said he didn’t necessarily believe in pride, but also definitely didn’t believe in its opposite, shame. He wrote of favoring more of a gay “presence” rather than pride. As I understood it, Dan was talking about how the word “pride” implies an unnatural obligation to have to stand up for your natural, ordinary existence. Dan’s message was pointing toward a better reality where gay people, like heterosexuals, wouldn’t have to be abnormally proud of their sexuality, but simply present. As a heterosexual, supporting gay pride always seemed like a no-brainer. It’s a blessing to learn from an artist who can take a good concept, question it, and replace it with something even better. Ironically, it was in front of a hip, urban, gay audience where Fishback received the most shocked reactions to his art. In June of 2005 at a blog reading series called WizzyWig, he performed the first and last monologue of “Please Let Me Love You”, which happens to contain a large portion about assholes. At the reading, Dan discovered that the shock potency of being sheltered from uncomfortable subject matter is rivaled by being intimately familiar with it. “The crowd freaked out! So much!” he describes. “My performance went overtime because I had to pause for these huge intervals between lines to wait for the laughing and screaming to go down.” In the piece’s climax, attempted anal sex goes awry with the discovery of one partner’s allergy to the lubrication. A very graphic, gross description of the lover sucking shit and lube off the condom follows. “I think it was because most of the people in the crowd had had experiences with sex and shit at the same time, and they understood the inherent terror and humor in sexuality,” Dan reflects. Somewhere out on the fringes of acceptable thought, in a place where the sun don’t shine, is a magical merrygo-round of taboo artistic expression. There’s something very scary about it, yet very fun and enticing. Something crucially important bubbles just below its amusing surface. People will continue, and must continue to talk about the topics that are off limits. The dismantling of boundaries is just as unstoppable as their creation. There is still so much to explore and learn from our collective asshole. In these New York City days, Dan Fishback is a fine teacher of such things. danfishback.com

Cheese on Bread
photo by Herb Scher

are they toast?

by Jonathan Berger

6/24 – Is it a sad day, or one of celebration? Is it an ending, or a new beginning? Is this the death of a cool band, or a renaissance for all of its many members? It depends on if the cup’s half empty or full, I guess, and there were lots of cups in varying states at the Bronx’s Bruckner Bar, where Cheese on Bread played the last of their farewell shows. Born of the creative friendship of homosexual Dan Fishback and girl Sara Fitzsimmons, Cheese on Bread has played songs of silliness and sensitivity, charm and chaos, melody and madness, for the last four years. They started playing together at university, “Where we told each other how bad we were at playing guitar. ‘I’m so bad at it.’ “Oh man – I promise you I’m worse.’ Then we saw each other play at an open mic. ‘Dude, you’re really good!’ ‘Whatever man, YOU’RE REALLY GOOD!’” The duo could have broken up when Dan graduated and moved to New York, but, as he became enveloped in the New York AntiFolk scene, his appreciation for the COB project expanded, not contracted. “I always wanted to be in a band,” Fishback stated, “Sara and I met each other at the right time. I think we were both nervous about making serious music, so the idea of a ‘joke band’ felt appropriate.” Adding fellow Philadelphians Matt Keesan and Kevin Kelly, as well as AntiFolk’s own Dibson Hoffweiler, the duo became a band, and much more. “To me, Cheese On Bread is a band of course, but also the idea of my friendship with the other four members.” Dibs said, “Having Cheese On Bread end is really sad. I’ve become very close to the other four members.” Not all members are as pessimistic about the future of the group. Kevin Kelly explained, “I really hope that this isn’t a finite END, but rather a change in direction for the band.” So why is the word Farewell being bandied about in the first place? Why did their promotion for the show read: “This will be the last Cheese On Bread show for the forseeable future. It marks the beginning of INDEFINITE HIATUS.” Is it an end, or a beginning? “Kevin and I are moving out to the other coast,” Sara Fitzsimmons explained, “but Philadelphia is still our home and New York City is still our neighborhood best friend. And Cheese on Bread has learned how to make

long distance relationships work.” Kelly continued, “At the very least I hope that we can make a really excellent record of the work we have done as a full band, and maybe even do a little touring to support it.” That’s what everyone hopes, but that’s so far off. And Saturday, June 24th might be the last night, as far as we know, that anyone will ever see Cheese on Bread again. So hundreds of feet trekked out to the South Bronx, to see the adorable duo that became a band, and to say goodbye. Other bands on the bill included the Bronx’s own the Lisps, as well as AntiFolk SuperGroup Urban Barnyard, Schwervon!, and COB’s old touring mates, the Bloodsugars. Each of their shows was spirited, and everyone on-stage tried to keep their melancholy to a minimum and kept the alternate reality hits pumping. At eleven, the stars of the night hit the slightly-raised stage, and did not one, but two sets of material from their solitary release, Maybe Maybe Maybe Baby, and much much more. There were two versions of “Samurai.” They sang “Sally.” They brought up just about every person who’d played drums for the band, and countless other guests, to boot. The love in the room was palpable, as was the heat. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in the Bronx before,” I thought I heard someone say in passing. Dibs, who had the honor of opening for his own band COB in his own band, Urban Barnyard, had wanted to make a speech during the earlier set, to express his feelings about the breaking up ‘Bread. He wasn’t sure he could say anything without breaking down. “I just think it’s a shame that the band is ending at all,” he later said, “Because of all the joy I have seen this band spread, as both an audience member and band member. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the privilege of being in a project that makes people so happy.” And what’s in store for the individual members? Well, Matt Keesan is off to Washington DC. Dibs will focus on solo shows and Urban Barnyard. Sara and Kevin have formed a duo called Homesick Elephant. “It’s a much more serious adult-like folk band,” Sara said, “So it’s a bit of a change, at least for me.” Fishback, of course will continue playing solo, along with his varying backing bands, the Faggots and the Faguettes, as well as working on his next record. “I’m working on a new play as well,” he added, “But the rest of 2006 is going to be the year where Dan mostly does just one thing, and really goes for it.” cheeseonbread.com

How I Spent My Summer Vacation
an Irishman drinks the big Apple
by Mick Flannery

I stepped on a bus in Cork City. It was bound for Shannon Airport and was to be the first leg of a long journey. Lee walked me to the station. As the hydraulic doors eased shut our relationship officially ended. This had been my idea. All around me were traveling sales-boys and salesgirls. They wore black suits and made nervous smalltalk. I hated them viscously. They feigned little laughs and interest in each other while I wiped tears from my eyes still looking at Lee. I had to go from Shannon Airport, Ireland, to JFK, cross to La Guardia, fly to Toronto, then on to St John’s, Newfoundland for a week of gigs. Twenty-four hours of plane signs and baggage reclaim. I was part of a group of Irish singer-songwriters on a paid visit. Afterwards I was to go back to New York and achieve outrageous fame in the space of three months. In St. John’s I felt very strange, alone, free. It was a port town, built on hills. I liked it, and I grew very fond of being drunk in it. The people were nice, the beer was nice, and the gigs went well. The drink got to me and I became extremely lonely. On the third night I called Lee, tears were streaming. She mentioned meeting me in New York. I didn’t say anything. I left the hotel room and walked to the nearest bar. A big friendly guy drinking whiskey offered me hookers. I gave the prospect a lot of thought but didn’t go through with it. On my last night in St. John’s a woman much older than me named Brandy came back to the hotel with me. She stayed but I was too drunk to

do anything. It was early morning when I arrived in New York. My sister Sarah had rented an apartment on the Upper East Side. I got a cab. “69th Street and 1st Avenue” I said, as instructed, having no idea what it meant. I rang Sarah and she came down looking all excited and full of life, as usual. The apartment was fine, a room for Sarah, and a room with two mattresses for me and my friend Dave Macelroy who was joining us in two days. Over the next few weeks I wandered aimlessly around the city searching for the music scene. Sarah set me up a few gigs, made up a demo CD, made all the calls, did all the talking. She posted an ad on Craig’s list for a backing singer. We timetabled auditions in the apartment. It was very strange. Some of the girls that came were awful, I didn’t know how to handle it. We chose a girl named Leslie Graves. She had a nice soft voice and had a natural way about her. Dave Mac and I were doing a lot of drinking. I was supposed to be concentrating on a career, he was meant to be looking for work so he could save money for a trip to New Zealand. The month was coming to an end and neither of us had much money left. We had pissed it away, mostly around Ludlow Street on the lower east side. Meanwhile Sarah secured me a gig at CB’s Gallery for the album release show. Sarah was going to be leaving soon, and Dave and I had to find a new place. He did more looking than I did and that pissed him off. He was right. I didn’t have his energy or confidence. Initiative is not one of my finer

qualities. New York weather had been aggressively hot, though the city itself was very cold and hard. The city discouraged me. I found it difficult to sleep at night. I was calling Lee a lot. I told her how I missed and loved her. She felt the same. She and Oanna, Dave’s girlfriend, made plans to visit us for a week in August. We were going to need a place with separate bedrooms. We, or he, found a place on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sarah had to put up the deposit for us before she left. We moved to Brooklyn. Dave found work on the building sites. I would go to open mics, returning shitfaced as he was getting up for work. Bedford Avenue was awful. The people were mostly rich kids with no natural or organic qualities to them. They were artificial people, their own insecure clique, with perfectly fashionable torn clothes, expensive shoes and tattoos, all scared little mama’s boys and daddy’s girls. Death. I spoke very little with anyone, I could not relate. I went for long walks, I spent a lot of time reading. I ate at a Polish diner -pretty waitresses, cheap food. I liked that I couldn’t understand them. Most of the things I overheard on Bedford nearly made me sick. I couldn’t wait for Lee to arrive. She would hate the place too, it would drive her crazy, and she was completely irresistible when she was mad. I had been spending Monday nights at the Sidewalk Cafe, in the East Village. It had taken me six weeks to find the most well-attended open mic. I had made a few friends there. Dave Cuomo, good man, ran a small paper called Urban Folk and had reviewed my demo in it very favorably. Frank Hoier, John Sfara, Dan Costello, I knew a lot of people there. I knew the bar-maid, Mericea. I spent a lot of time sitting at the bar flirting with her. She took a lot of my money. She made drinking even more enjoyable. I never realized drinking was a waste of money until I couldn’t afford it anymore. Finally Lee arrived. When she saw me she ran and jumped into my arms. People around sighed. The first time a New Yorker was happy for me. I felt like someone. She looked electric. I tried to hide an erection. We mauled each other in the back of the cab, all the way to the flat. We went into my room. I loved her. I held onto her like letting go meant instant death. That night I slept well for the first time in New York. A few days later Oanna arrived. She was French with dark skin. Men longed for her. The four of us did the tourist thing: museums, Ms. Liberty, Empire State Building. The money was running out. We went to Coney Island. Dave and Oanna fought, Lee and I didn’t. Their relationship had fire. Everything was out on the table. They were crazy with and about each other. Lee and I had a tendency to let things fester. A kiss, embrace, sex would make things go away. Forget for a while. Our relationship got drunk as much as I did.

Lee stood up from our perch on the beach and walked off. She did not return for a long time. I walked along the beach ten minutes before I found her sitting, sobbing. She said I had changed. I had. I was tougher. New York had done some of the toughening but me and my ways had done the rest. Being alone got me used to being alone. People adapt. Being alone also reminded me that I am fundamentally a loner. I was distant but she was all there, trembling and vulnerable and a long way from home. She had come far to find me, to be near me, only to find that geography wasn’t to blame for our drifting apart. I was. She was confused. She knew something wasn’t right. I consoled her. I told her I would come back to Ireland in September and we’d work things out. I didn’t really believe that but I didn’t know what else to say. The relationship was shit-faced. The girls left and Dave and I got drunk continuously. He had to loan me money. When I was down to my last $500 dollars I decided to withdraw it from the ATM with one go. I punched it in. Nothing came out. Put the card in again and repeated. The balance read $4.32. Fuck. The next day I rang Allied Irish Bank in Cork. “It’ll take two weeks before the account can be reimbursed, maybe longer” Fuck. I had 100 euro in my wallet for some reason. I went to the bank with the machine that robbed me in the first place to get it changed. “Do you have ID?” I took out various cards and gave them to her. “These are all out of date” “I don’t carry my passport” “Sorry sir, NEXT” Murder. Primal hatred. Ice-bitch. I walked out. Fuck New York. I rang my Irish bank for a loan. They gave it to me. Bastards. I had been fucked in the ass by these people and they were sitting back smoking a cigar watching the interest run up. MURDER. I got very drunk that evening on Dave’s hard-earned money. The album arrived to Dave, my second cousin’s, house in Eastchester north of the city. He and his family were lovely people. He called me to tell me the CDs didn’t play on CD players. The company, fuckwits, agreed to send CDs that played but would not reprint the booklets. This meant we’d have to take the shrinkwrap off 1000 CDs and replace the duds with the good ones. Dave and his family didn’t even give me a chance to help. They did it all. They drove the CDs down to CBGB where the CD launch had begun without them. Good people. I owe them a lot. I owe a lot of people. Very few people owe me anything. Artists are selfish. The show had gone well. Later we all went to a bar nearby. Cousin Dave spent a lot of money on us. He was very generous. I felt like someone that night though I held on to no one but my ego.

Dave Mac and I couldn’t afford to pay anymore rent. Dave needed all his money for New Zealand. My flight home wasn’t for another three weeks. Dave Cuomo let me stay in his apartment in West Harlem. Dave Mac went to stay with Leslie in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The luck of the Irish. I slept on a small mattress in a small room at Dave’s place. I boiled at night, there were roaches everywhere but I didn’t mind. I was lucky to be there. The area was poor. Toughened faces. To be white was to be out of place, but I was ok as I was poor and could not hide it if I wanted to. I had nothing to offer anyone and they knew it. Young kids would call out “blancito” as I walked by. This meant white boy I presumed. I thought it best not to react in case they had nearby older brothers. At night I heard lot of fighting, shouting, the place definitely had more atmosphere than Bedford Avenue. I liked Dave Cuomo. He was all there behind the eyes, generous and full of life. He got me a day’s work humping for some TV production company. Twelve hours, $200, “O.K.”. Alicia Keys was to do some public service announcement for the tsunami appeal. There were swarms of busy pretty people with headsets and a constant appearance of importance to them. I looked like shit. Due to complications with the landlord and rent at Cuomo’s place I had to leave. I went to stay with Leslie and Dave Mac in Park Slope. Three of us in a bedsit. Park Slope was safe, too safe. It never got your blood running. At this stage the money was so low I was busking in the subways. I was hungry all the time. Days in Park Slope drifted by with Dave and I doing a lot of drinking. One night I went to do a gig in Brooklyn. The Mark bar. I played to a bunch of Russians shooting pool. The stage was in front of a TV screen that was three times my size. It was awful. John Sfara came down. I appreciated his company. I was to get twenty dollars from the bar, a tip jar was to be passed and I was to drink for free. No jar was passed (not that the Russians had been all that interested anyway), the barman started charging me after six beers and six whiskeys. Prick. I asked for my twenty and left. I wandered, walked into a bar. Polish bar. Two guys were asleep at the bar. I ordered a drink. The barmaid was nice enough to ask me where I was from. I told her I was Irish and she directed me down to an Irish bar and said I might be able to get a job off one of the guys down there. I must have looked really down and out. I hadn’t even told her I was unemployed. The Irish Bar was black with smoke. At around six I left, hammered. I found the subway. G train, ghost train, fuck. I had entered at the wrong side of the station. I decided I was capable of climbing down, crossing the two sets of tracks and scaling the opposite platform. I knew something was electric. I avoided the tracks, stepped on the guard over the third rail, tripped. I repeated this for the next set of tracks. Later I heard that

it was the third rail that carried the current. I was lucky I didn’t get cooked. I got back to Park Slope two hours after Dave had left for work. It was coming near the end of my stay. Myself and Dave decided we’d go to one of the big night clubs we’d heard about. We started in Brooklyn around 5pm. We were drunk when we walked in to the liquor store to get a 40 each for the train-ride into Manhattan. Forties finished, cab to the club. We paid something outrageous to get in. It was outrageous we were allowed in at all. We drank and danced with women. I don’t dance very well, but Dave had it down. He always did well when it came to women, fucker. At about 4am things were wrapping up. We ordered two shots, talked shit for a while, downed the shots. When I came to I was outside a diner, I didn’t know where. I decided to go in. I ordered an omelette and asked how to get to the F train back to Park Slope. I went outside and blacked out again. When I came to this time I was standing over the Hudson on some kind of pier, I could see the water below me between the timbers. I ran. I was in complete panic. I eventually found an F train and was so relieved I lay down and fell asleep. I awoke to an announcement, “this is a Manhattan bound F train the next stop is.. “ fuck. I had slept all the way to Coney Island and back again. I had passed Park Slope station twice. I checked my pockets. Everything present. Dave Mac had done the same thing a few weeks back and he was robbed. When I made it back to the flat, Dave was sprawled out on the mattress that we were sharing. I pushed him to one side and lay down. It was very bright outside. I slept. When I woke up, Dave was on the fire-escape smoking. He told me that he had come to in a park somewhere in Manhattan and did not remember how he got there. We came to the conclusion that our shots had been spiked. The day before my flight Leslie took me to Sony headquarters to meet A&R head Beka Callaway. Leslie had set the meeting up. She was a good friend. Beka turned out to be too busy to meet me. I left a CD at the desk and we left. At the airport I didn’t quite feel like I had failed in my mission. The homebird in me felt anticipation for the known and comfortable. I kissed Leslie, gave Dave a hug and went through security. It’s been nearly a year since I went to New York. When I returned to Ireland I did not feel myself. I went back to my job as a mason. My drinking went out of control. Lee and I broke up after only a few weeks. My drinking got worse. I have just about got myself together and have started writing songs again. mickflannery.com

On the Road Again?
So we know playing out of town can be quite hit or miss, yes? If you want to spread your name about the globe like so much Earth Balance, actually pay for your gas, or even meet cool people and not drive 180 miles to play for the 9 people who are at the bar every day of every week anyway you may wish to seek alternate places to book yourself other than “clubs”. Is there an alternative? As they say in the red states: You bet. Teen centers, “Art Spaces”, and community style living arrangements are some fantastic places to play, where, in general the people are psyched to see out-oftown talent, you’re treated well by the establishment, and you make friends. The following is a list of amazing venues my band and I discovered that are totally not clubs. These are absolute diamonds in the rough. The Firehouse - North Manchester, IN This place is run by a man named Jabin who is a high school English teacher in the town. In his early thirties, Jabin is one of the sweetest people in the mid-west. The firehouse is about 5,000 square feet and funky-looking. It used to be a firehouse and was about to get destroyed when Jaren bid for making it a teen center. He bought the place from the town for a dollar (for real!) and the rest is history! The stage and sound are great. It’s a frequent stop in the mid-west for growing bands. A lot of posters featured were of some great and well-known bands. There’s a built-in audience, a guarantee, and a hotel room for the artists, plus if you’re lucky you’ll get some rollicking, shit-kicking, country karaoke with Jabin himself after hours. thefirehouse.net Studeo 315 - Mishawaka, IN This is an immaculate teen “art-space” that has allages events. It was created and is run by a young married couple, Jessica and Tim. There’s a “bar” that serves refreshments, crazy art installations, and a table set with any and all media you care to play with. Seriously! Clay, wire, all kinds of paper, wood, and tools, not to mention your normal cray-pas, pastels, crayons etc... In fact, since there was no place to stay and crashing at teenagers houses is generally a no-no, Jess and Tim let us just sleep in the venue while they kicked our asses at a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament... myspace.com/studeothreefifteen

playing the places that are totally not clubs

by Jason Rabinowitz

Fishtown Artspace - Gloucester, MA Another teen art space. We arrived at noon to find some kids drinking cheap wine out of the bottle and skating around the parking lot. I guess that’s what you do in Gloucester... We were treated well and placed on a heaping, heaping bill (I think there were about 10 other high school bands on the bill and we headlined at 9PM). The kids were really talented and incredibly receptive to us. I don’t think it paid particularly well, but it was a great experience. One of the other bands on that bill came to see us play at our next venue. The woman who worked there offered us floor space at her house. She’s called Sarah and she’s awesome. Shep is the manager/ director. A cooler cat you’d be hard pressed to find. artspace.org Arthouse - New Brunswick, NJ The Arthouse rocks! It’s a house in a college town with a stage in the basement and some great people living there. There was a fantastic video installation and some of the best music on the bill that we had the whole tour... It’s mostly run by a fantastic fellow named Chris. Sadly, I bet by the time of the printing of this article the Artspace will have moved into different hands because Chris is graduating. myspace.com/arthousex Meridian Underground - Meridian, Mississippi. When we rolled into Meridian there was an actual preacher yelling things about the devil to the Meridian Underground. No kidding. The cops had to come to take him away. Apparently he protests all rock and roll shows there... A stones throw from the Big Easy, this one-stop record/ clothes/art/head shop cum back-room venue, is literally just that: the entirety of the underground in Meridian. All the kids hang out there. And they represent en masse. Very sweet folks down there, and they hold down the scene for miles around. meridianunderground.com Now get on out there! Yee haw!!!!!

Urban Folk Birthday Bash & issue 7 release party
May 19th, 2006 Sidewalk Cafe
photos by Herb Scher
Jonathan Berger caught with his shirt tucked in

Andrew Hoepfner sings with the Creaky Boards

Dan Penta

Cuomo!

Belowsky covers Andrew Hoepfner with hair goo

Dan Costello

Ching Chong Song

The Expectant Crowd

Rick Shapiro

Olive Juice

Matt Roth

by Tony Rubin

photo by Herb Scher

You get some sun on the lower east side if you live on a high enough floor. That’s the case today in Matt Roth’s fifth-floor walk-up. I’m sitting in the Olive Juice Studio control room that is also the nerve center of Olive Juice Music. He has the web site open on his computer, and he’s looking at requests that have come in from half-way around the world for OJ products. The day before he had spent 14 hours recording Jeff Lewis. In a few hours Toby Goodshank will be arriving to work on his next OJ release. In fact, Matt has been so busy that I had a hard time getting him to sit down for this story. But that’s today, in the East Village, with a cat named Gummo on my lap getting ready to attack. Let’s go back a little bit. Try 1994. A young man from northeastern Kansas, leaves the University of Kansas to see a bigger piece of the world. Like so many have before him (even Dorothy ended up doing it in the books), he leaves Kansas behind to search for Oz., which turns out to be New York. A relationship – not a tornado – draws the

boy to the big city. The relationship ends, but Matt’s love of the city and the anti-folk music scene lingers. Working first at Tower Records and then at a recording studio, Matt wrote songs while attending the weekly Antihoot at the Sidewalk Café - and thinking about making CDs. His first album, under the name Major Matt Mason USA, (Me Me Me) was released in 1998. “I learned from Fortified Records and Lach (founder and head of that label) about the world of distribution. That album was a very expensive endeavor, and ultimately not very fulfilling on a profitable level. I learned very quickly how pointless it was to pursue the ‘industry way of doing things’ at this level. The world is so big. Just to take a tiny bit of space – square inches of space on a chain record store shelf – the amount of investment is comparable to investing in a nice car.” That experience became the catalyst for Olive Juice Music. “I think originally it was what everybody sort of does at a certain point.” he said. “Somebody tells you it

looks better if you make up your own label – labels seem to matter, as opposed to just saying this is your demo. But then everyone was doing that and it sort of defeated the purpose.” Matt’s solution was simple: “I was thinking maybe a better way to trick people into thinking you are more legitimate was ‘why don’t we all get together and agree on one name and try to do it as a collective’ and so that felt really cool.” For Matt, there was a dose of altruism as well: “I learned from the experience with my record that there was so much great music out there that should be available, but the only reason it wasn’t was that the artists didn’t have all that money to blow at the time.” Matt got together with Williamsburg-based engineer/ songwriter/performer Tom Nishioka (who performed as Never Louder than Lovely) to form the original collective. “Tom was willing to put Olive Juice (Matt named it after a beloved dog that had died of cancer) on his CD, too. And then we started involving more people: Randi Russo, Mike and Dina of Prewar Yardsale. We tried to make it sort of a collective. “I was working at a sound studio at the time - this was 1999, 2000 - and I started recording people there in the off hours. Prewar Yardsale’s Lowdown album was the first one done that way. I was just sort of learning what to do and they were up for just seeing what would happen.” The collective label started to take shape. In the early days the decisions were done by consensus, and expenses were shared: “We tried to meet once a month, we had dues that would help pay for the website and we even tried to do a print catalog. And we put on shows. We were sharing resources – some people were making their own CDs by hand – or some people were using short-run CD manufacturers. Not everybody even had a computer. And the same for booking gigs – some people didn’t really know how to get a gig. There’s power in numbers. Nobody was doing that for us so it just made sense. I was trying to think of all the things that people complain about – people say ‘if I could just have a label – or distribution.’ We all learned how to make our own CDs and put them out.” As more people became involved, the label suffered growing pains. “We would all vote – it was pretty cool but also it was a real good lesson in how that kind of stuff is very difficult – true socialist-democratic type processes where everybody sort of votes on everything. Some things were majority vote, but when it came to inducting people it had to be unanimous. That was very difficult. I wanted things to happen much faster than they did.” Matt saw the potential for Olive Juice to be more than just a fake record label for everyone’s demo. He thought it could have a life of its own, and was clearly on a different path than the rest of the collective. “ I had left my job and I was freelancing, and I had more time on my hands and I was ready to spend a lot more energy

on it. Most of the other people had regular jobs – we’d try and schedule one meeting a month and I’d get all psyched for it and then people couldn’t make it and I’d get really pissed. It was frustrating because I thought I was putting in more work.” By early 2002 he decided that having one person in charge could help push the label further. “We joke about now like it was a coup. But actually it was just an email I sent to everybody. And people just said ‘Oh, OK.’ I guess I sold it to people as ‘I’m working for you now’. I’d like to involve more people on an administrative level but of course I can’t afford to pay them.” Matt became the dictator, but a reluctant one. He just wanted to get things done, and had the time and resources to do it. “I had saved up money that allowed me to buy a computer and start recording stuff at home, and then spend time putting a database together of all sorts of different resources.” As he put more thought into the label, he found more responsibilities to take on. Among them, “focusing on the web site, along with promoting the label. And I wanted to do the distro – a section of the website where you could sell other people’s CDs too. A lot of people don’t know how to do that. And we got into that when that technology was somewhat new – the idea of Paypal, which made it much easier and cheaper for small businesses to sell things over the web.” Matt has purposely kept the financial structure simple – he takes a straight percentage of the retail price to act as the non-exclusive distributor, and the bands make their own product and send stock to OJ as needed. The increase in business over the last few years has been incremental but steady. The website is known worldwide by underground music aficionados, helped in no small part by the OJ message board, an uncensored free-for-all that slips seamlessly from the state of the world to the state of the minutiae of an individual’s mood that day. Europeans, especially, have been supportive of the label, due to extensive touring (Schwervon!, Jeff Lewis, Prewar Yardsale, and Matt himself regularly travel the Atlantic). And Olive Juice Music is the center of it all. “It’s such a great ‘web’ for things to come in and go out – it sounds cheesy, but that’s what I really get off on. To feel like you can really expose somebody to something – some really cool music. And you can also get turned on to other people through it. And often times when people become part of something they become better. I love to watch that happen.” OJ has also begun streaming OJ Radio and there are plans for podcasts which people can subscribe to and download. People are even sending demos in hopes of being signed. “It’s kind of sad because they don’t realize its just one guy sitting in his apartment – and I can’t really do anything for them except put them on the website. But on the other hand it’s kind of exciting: ‘Wow, someone thinks we are a real label’” And some

of those demos have resulted in OJ distribution – for instance North Carolina’s The Wigg Report, or the French band The Futures. Matt loves to put unusual bands that he likes on the web for distribution, but he warns of the business. “I feel I have to be honest with them – it’s hard, it’s no different than having a job, you have to work for people to hear you – it’s no different, and probably harder than any menial job.” But there is a payoff for OJ’s director as well as the bands: “I’ve sold plenty of things where people just went to the site and read about it. That’s really exciting to me. Maybe its like an ego thing – it makes me feel like some kind of cool dude – at least I’m promoting stuff that I really think is cool. It’s like a real transaction, I’m not tricking someone into buying this in a glossy display at Tower Records.” And what about the music that Matt is not tricking people into buying – is there an “Olive Juice sound?” A full roster of quirky, self-effacing singer songwriters and charming boy-girl duos? He doesn’t think so. “I don’t have a conscious check list. A lot of them are just friends. Mainly I see the label, and especially the distro as an opportunity to help friends and other people whose music I like who maybe couldn’t afford to do it otherwise. I can dedicate an hour of my time to helping them put it out.” While Matt works to give many artists a leg up, he does not appreciate everyone’s art equally. “The people who are actually on the label, those are people whose music I love. But I can really fall in love with music if I really like the people. Admittedly there are a lot of duos – I like couples, I like that balance of the sexes. I like girls that rock, and I like girls that rock with guys together. I don’t think rock has to represent the misogynist ‘sexy anonymous experience’. I can understand that music and sometimes I enjoy it. But to be in a monogamous relationship and still make rock and roll – that’s really interesting to me. “But also I think even with the bands on the label there is a lot of diversity. I love folk music. But I really love challenging avant-garde jazz as well. I’d like to think that our artists are not afraid to make some statements, both personal and political – some substance there. Novelty can be a big trap in the anti-folk world – you can get a lot of attention – but then there has to be some real substance there. That’s what I hope we are bringing to people.” Matt’s monogamous-duo bandmate Nan Turner arrives at that moment, and Toby is on the phone wanting to be let in. Gummo (the cat) leaves my lap, biting my wrist as part of his goodbye. Another Olive Juice evening. I make my way toward the creaky tenement steps, passing under a sign that reads “Always Make New Mistakes”. olivejuicemusic.com

Win a Date with Alec Wonderful
the results

alec with flowers - self portrait Last issue, Alec Wonderful initiated a contest: Win a Date with Alec Wonderful. Most of the queries went direct to the illustrious Mr. W’s website, and we’re told the response was simply tremendous. Now, our hero, Alec Wonderful, keeps us apprised of the results. Well, my surprise tour of Indonesian, Micronesia, and SouthEast Esia has left me reading only the cream of the crap that my New York handlers (Thanks, Ron!) have sent me. And, while I was impressed with the range of styles and ideas involved in the entries, I think what struck me most was the unilateral devotion to me, Alec Wonderful. What can I say? It was Wonderful to see! Here are some of the entries I picked out among the rest because, you see, I liked them best. Alma Subasic wrote an epic poem. At least, I think it was a poem. It was in some Slavic tongue. I don’t speak Slav. The shape of the sentences were pretty impressive, but I’m not even positive if it rhymed. I’m really just guessing it’s a poem, actually… Bruce Kalen explained what he would do on a date with me – listen to me play guitar, take notes on my philosophy of life, photograph me in a variety of positions. He explained quite clearly that he was not gay, so there would be nothing sexual going on our date, which, frankly, was something of a disappointment. I haven’t had a gay experience since I did research for Alec Spectacular’s “I Am Curious Homo,” back in ‘00. Patrick Grant, on the other hand, suggested something a little less chaste. I don’t want to go into the details of his personal predilections, but Pat had in mind candlelight, dancing, and 18 hours of glorious fisting. Certainly, the boy made the short list. Delores Kimball sent photographs of her three-story brick and mortar display, which read, in blazing red, “I WANT TO DATE ALEC WONDERFUL.” Simple, to the point. Very clear. Not, unfortunately, visible from outer space, but a very good effort. Bill Gates retired from his job in order to better devote himself to all things Alec. Instead of flowers he would buy me the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. He said he would take me around the world to places where the things he wanted to do to me weren’t illegal. Of course, I’ve already been around the world, and what about Melinda? Sun Tranh Tsien choreographed the Hanoi Nationalist Dance Troupe’s semi-obscene “The Wonderful Dance,” which involved positions and acts that could not be performed by the two of us. If the rest of the dance team were part of the deal, then we would have had a winner. No such luck. Ben Krieger wrote a song, entitled “Why I Wanna Date Alec Wonderful.” Good tune, but a little too derivative of my 1983 B-Side, “Why You Wanna Date Alec Wonderful.” That was a really good song. I had something to prove back then (everyone was still talking about Thriller). Anyway. Krieger was biting my act; not bad, but he’s out. Alicia Wonka sent a pictorial display, not unlike the winning contestant from the eighties. Almost identical, in fact. I’m wondering if she paid someone in my staff to give up the plans of the earlier entry. I have to respect that level of dedication, and, anyhow, there are several positions that I’ve yet to take on. I’ve been working out, though, limbering up, and I’m ready to give it a shot. So, without further ado, I declare Alicia Wonka the winner. She gets to Win a Date with Alec Wonderful. Just contact my people, and they’ll iron out the specifics, Alicia. I look forward to meeting you, perhaps as much as you look forward to meeting me. To the other contestants: congratulations on trying. I’m sure you had fun in the process. Now leave me alone.

Leo
in his own words
by Paul Alexander

Leo is an artist’s artist. Folk legend Odetta has covered his work, as have The Boys Choir of Harlem. Jefferson Thomas, too. Some of the best acoustic players in the city, Bruce Balmer and Amura, are happy to back him up at gigs. Paul DeCoster, another occasional band member, asserts that Leo “understands the yearning people have for something greater in themselves and can tell many stories to support that – it is an honor to perform with him.” Hearing Leo play, whether at one of his shows across the five boroughs, or at his frequent forays into the world of open mics, is always a treat. Having amassed many songs in many genres over his lifetime of writing, Leo rarely plays the songs you’ve heard from him before – he’ll throw in brand new compositions composed on the way to the gig, or on a cocktail napkin while listening to other artists. Sometimes, he’ll play the song you loved so much a few weeks before, but it’s reimagined, reinterpreted, reinvented. Leo is a writer’s writer. The artist known only by his first name joined the New York acoustic scene in 1996 or so, around the time of the demise of the Fast Folk movement. Initially playing with a group Leo coined DeMix, he dropped out of music for a while after 9/11. “I had no desire to play or write music for quite some time as it seemed the height of irrelevance and self-indulgence,” he explains. Leo eventually returned to playing out again, this time solo. He reintroduced himself “to the great undying open mic scene around town.” As a performer, Leo has played solo dates in New Jersey, on Long Island, and even upstate in Woodstock and Saugerties, such as the Bethel (Woodstock) Festival. Leo served as the lyricist for a rather ambitious album and concert project a few years ago called Sounds of A Better World. Woodside’s own Thomas Patrick Maguire admires Leo because “you can see that over the years he’s taken genres such as folk, punk, and old school rap, and applied them to his music.” Perhaps Leo inspires so many others because of his huge range of influences. Leo claims Ray Davies, Prince, Joni

Mitchell, the Who, Conway Twitty, the Harry Smith Folkways collection, and Motown as models. He also finds “inspiration that comes from nature, art, film, photography, dance, a good book, a good book title, and from listening to different kinds of music – other writers, other performers, other genres.” Leo is a performer’s performer. “I’ve always been a firm believer in blowing minds whenever and wherever possible – and this is probably based on some of the rather astounding shows I’ve been lucky enough to see over the years. In the late 90s, Ed Hamell was someone who was just so charismatic, and that quality of just drawing people in – but not just drawing them in, but doing it again and again – that’s something I aspire to… really just to be entertaining. Clubs come and go… from Fast Folk to the C-Note. Still, even as things change, I continue to walk into open mics and have my mind blown.” Songwriting comes easily to Leo, but “you still agonize over the details, and you have to go thorough a lot of crap to find the stuff that’s good – you have to reinvent the wheel.” He adds, “I realize that the idea of ‘progression’ often seems to help people define and understand the work of an artist. But I don’t think ‘progression’ counts for much. People want to put things in periods or stages or phases, but you can paint a masterpiece at 19 or at 91. If it’s timeless, it’s timeless – it doesn’t matter when it was done. If you are able to write stuff you can write at any point in your life – not that you can’t get better.” As far as Leo is concerned, “sometimes lyrics answer questions even better than prose can…an artist’s work speaks for itself.” As the line in Leo’s song “Artist” goes: “I like to go out / I like to go ‘out there’,” suggesting Leo’s constant quest to have his artistic voice heard, even if he isn’t the one directly delivering the message. In recent years, Leo has written songs with groups of senior citizens, with children from all over the world, with the homeless, and the mentally ill. Leo is looking for more musical experiences. “I’d like to hear my songs recorded by other people, or used in films or TV, or hey, even used

as ringtones or PlayStation sound effects. I’d like to record – with strings, horns, orchestras, smashing funk bands, ancient bluegrass bands, world-beat percussive ensembles, wailing instrumental virtuosos, hordes of hot background singers, or just alone, with maybe a couple of good guitar players. You know, I just want to be found, to have someone take me seriously.” And take him seriously, many do. New York musician Jana Peri says, “With his broad facial expressions, floppy hair and sometimes a faux English accent, Leo comes across a bit like a Muppet who swallowed Ray Davies, but don’t let the warm, fuzzy exterior fool you. Leo is not for kids. This guy pens some of the cleverest songs around, with lyrics that will sneak up and quickly rip through you like a drive-by shooting. He thinks of things you wish you’d thought of and brilliantly crams them into the smallest, catchiest musical space, thereby maximizing their impact. If you ever thought that hard about anything, you’d hurt yourself. Leo’s generously done all the work for you.” “Music is my life,” Leo says, “and on a good day, life is my music. No, even on lousy days. Regular jobs? I have had all kinds. But even music can turn into one if you’re not careful, or even if you get lucky. There’s a spoken line from a great Kinks tune called ‘Top of the Pops’ which says ‘I might end up a Rock n’ Roll god / It might turn into a steady job.’ “My own take on my music, on this ‘serious body of work,’ is that hopefully it’s a series of hit songs – depending on how they hit you, or what kind of hit you’re into. Some are hip-hop epics, some are tonguein-cheeky Brit-rock, some are brooding melancholia songs for the mad and lonely, some are straight ahead power-pop, some are rootsy, pro-folk, country songs.” All of these sounds come up on Leo’s most recent effort, Dime A Dozen. Like Leo, it’s eclectic and good. According to bandmate and

fan Amura, “Leo is an excellent songwriter and poet or maybe an excellent poet who’s applied his fine writing style to music. His songs take the listener to other places and settings and this includes the listeners in the audience as well as the musicians who play with him.” How Leo goes about this varies on a song-by-song basis. “There’s no one answer as to how a song should come together. Music was made to help us achieve and maintain that beautiful big-beat brain-dead state, and hopefully some of mine does. Music was made to help us muddle through, understand, and maybe even transcend that bewildering, dispiriting state, and hopefully, some of mine does that too… ‘Don’t you ever take the fall / All for one and one for all / Just beat beat your head against the wall ‘ “There are advantages to performing and stardom, etcetera, but there are so many pluses to just being a songwriter. I’d like to reach artists who’ve already gone through the crooked climb to commercial success or who are still on the way, and see if they might want to record some of these songs.” Leo admits that, for all his prowess as a performing songwriter, he, like many open mic regulars, sometimes leaves an evening thinking “I just heard someone at an open mic, or just heard a great record, and feel like – damn they’re so good, so why bother?” Still, Leo realizes, “it’s ultimately got to go back to going out just for the value of going out. Get out and play – it’s worth it to go out and play as much as one can, as going out has value in and of itself, and I’ve learned not to listen to ‘when you gonna grow up?’ or ‘when are you gonna get a real life?’ It’s a wheel – you leave the scene, you get married, you have kids, then you go looking for another open mic.” myspace.com/leosongs

making great albums on an indy budget

How to Record an Explosion
interview with producer Larry Hammel by Dave Cuomo

Larry Hammel has been working in the music industry since the eighties, and has been a first hand witness to the massive industry changes brought on by the digital revolution that are now radically altering our concept of how music will be produced and what makes a career musician. Now with his own studio and record label, he is on the front lines of helping artists negotiate this new world. We sit down with him here to get a better understanding of what this all means. Ok, let’s get a short overview of how you see the industry changing for the new generation of artists coming in. Well, initially the business and the major labels evolved around studios. Sun Records was a studio. Atlantic Records was a studio. Motown was a studio. Basically when the recording technology first began, the labels started up because they controlled that. It was an evolution of technology that gave rise to the record labels, just as a revolution in technology today is giving rise to dissemination of the major labels and a flourishing of small labels and independent artists. The new technology has allowed bands the ability to not only record their own music much cheaper, but also able to distribute and promote it and act as their own record labels. Also the internet makes it possible for the indie labels to have more clout and be far more successful than they could have been back in the day. At the same time, it is making the major labels less viable and important in controlling the purse strings and career guidance of new artists. They still are extremely important in distribution, and to a lesser level, in manufacturing and promotion. The trend in the business is less reliant on CD sales and more on the artist’s over all ability to generate income through other avenues, such as licensing, publishing, and live performance. The majors are now trying to take a larger piece of this. CD sales themselves are going to become increasingly less important, which was the labels traditional economic base. Mp3’s seem to be not only changing the nature of the industry, but also the idea of an album as an artistic piece. It’s different than buying a CD used to be. Completely. A record and a unit sold was the commodity of a record label, it’s all they had. When cassettes came out and people were able to tape stuff off the radio, yeah it took away from sales a little, but it wasn’t a major thing. You still wanted to own that album. It seemed like it came directly from the artist. You wanted the artwork, something real on your shelf. It was a tangible item in your hand, where an mp3 is not. That’s a huge difference. People today don’t seem to care, the entire paradigm is changing. Are we going to lose something as we make that conversion? First, quality wise, and second artistically, is it possible to make a collection of mp3’s carry the same weight a concept album had? CD & mp3 is almost as big as the difference between a record and a cassette tape. It isn’t quite as bad, cassettes were far worse, but in the end I don’t think people care as much with the quality of the delivery medium as they do the quality of the actual music itself and the message it’s trying to put across. Be it consciously, lyrically and musically - or unconsciously, the production that went into actually trying to put forth the message. In the end the quality of the production and the message must still shine through. For those of us trying to become career musicians, can we still hope to make a living in the new decentralized landscape? Or without the traditional major label money and promotional power is it going to be a lot harder to expect that? Where in the old days Nirvana was being discovered and striking it rich overnight, today’s Nirvana is making a steady living at music. You’re not waiting around for a producer, or a manager, or a record label to come along and make you millions of dollars anymore. If you’re an artist and you’re waiting for that, you’re nuts. Except for American Idol, that just doesn’t happen. The labels can’t afford to, or don’t want, to take chances on new artists anymore. And, except for the pop stars, artists aren’t consistently selling millions of albums like they used to. The trend in the industry over the last ten years is less superstars, more niche artists. Millions are now hundreds of thousands even on the majors. And labels are looking to sign already established artists, rather than breaking new ones. If you’re looking to actually start a career at this, you’re expecting to do a lot more of the ground work yourself at first, play a lot more live shows, and you’re hoping to make about $40,000 a year. That’s

doing really well. It sounds less exciting than the old rock star fantasy, but probably more musicians will find themselves able to make that kind of income off of their music than were able to strike it rich in the old model. So, in a way it’s a good thing. It opens up the door and makes it less about luck and more about putting in the work. Like you said, without the promotional power of the majors it’s nearly impossible to sell a million records. At the same time there is a lot you can do, and it’s far more possible to sell thousands of albums profitably on your own than it ever was before. You don’t get to be Rod Stewart anymore. God bless him, we’d all love to just be a singer and not do anything else, have a hundred million in the bank and just worry about your hair, but those days are ending. Artists now have to start by doing more of what the labels have traditionally done in the past, artist development, promotions, even financing the recording itself. Eventually you may get to the point where you can hire people to do some of that for you, but as far the idea of someone coming along and handing all of it to you in the beginning, it’s over. So on a DIY or small indie label’s budget, can we still afford to make art on the scale of some of the great albums we grew up on with? Is there a danger of the overall quality of music starting to suffer? Ok, what would it cost you to make a great album? You may need two months in a top studio at $1,000 or $2,000 a day, so basically you’re paying $100,000 to make that record in a great studio. That’s probably not possible without a large label behind you. So you go to a smaller boutique studio, more like what we do here. You’re never going to achieve what you would at a million dollar facility, but you’ll spend a tenth of what they would have charged you and still be able to get something incredible. Here you may spend $5000, $10,000 or $20,000, depending on how much time you need, how many engineers it’s going to take, and what musicians you might need as sidemen. But you can still make a great album. So let’s say your budget is $25,000. Now you have to press the CD’s. Probably get 5000 copies for around $5000 and the graphics cost you another $2000, so now you’re up to $32,000. Then you get some promotional materials, posters and all that. So say for a round figure you’re up to $35,000. But you’ve got yourself a great record in your hand with no label to worry about. Now you have to sell it. Sell ‘em all for ten bucks, you’re up fifteen grand. Your fixed costs stay the same, go press another 5,000. Now you’re making a living. I have to admit that still sounds too pricy for independent artists. I always tell people, credit cards. Think of it like investing in opening your own business, because in

essence it’s the same thing. You can only make your first album once, but you can pay it off for the next three years. But still even with that, $35,000 is probably more debt than an artist can take on. Let’s move down to the other scale, $5,000. Now we start compromising. Whereas we might have taken a month or two to record this record with preproduction and everything to really get it down the way it should have been, now you have a couple days of preproduction and rehearsal in the studio. Hopefully you’re well rehearsed and hopefully all your musicians are on spot. But yeah, with a prepared artist it’s possible. You’re not going to get the same amount of time or creative license to play around and create something new right there in the studio. You’re not going to be able to record several different tracks looking for that perfect guitar tone. But it will be good enough that the essence of the music can come through. If you’re rehearsed and know what you’re doing, you’ll be able to take the time to get it right and we’ll be able to make it sound great for you. I’d say for that kind of money you can still do something ground breaking and memorable if your music itself is of that quality, and if your band is polished and ready to go. What’s your best advice for those of us on an indy budget, but still wanting to make a memorable album? I remember a Michelle Shocked record that came out, I think it was of campfire songs, that was recorded on a walkman. It was mastered and released, and that was her first record. Anything can be a record. It depends what you’re looking for. Me as an engineer, I look for the essence, the nuance, the muse, what’s going on with the artist and how to recreate that sonically. To me the most important thing is that all of the artist’s emotion and passion, their essence, comes across on the recording. That’s a difficult thing to do. How would you record an explosion? There could be endless ways, it depends on what you’re going for. Do you want a low ominous rumble that steadily rises? Do you want a shocking impact that obliterates everything on the first hit? It depends on what the music is trying to do. That’s what we’re trying to capture on tape, and it’s going to be different for everybody. But hearing that explosion should make the listener feel what it would have been like to have it happen right in front of them. That’s why it’s of so much importance to me that the artists who come in here have the resources they need and reasonable expectations. Yes, it is harder these days, and there is less money floating around for experimentation and music in general. But we need to make sure we don’t short change the art itself with all of the changes going on. A well recorded fifteen second explosion will have more impact than a whole album of, maybe good, but lifeless sounding songs. deepwavemusic.com

Praise Jesus!
Anyone who likes soul music, performance art, the Lord, hot urban black men or women, Brer Brian, or all of them slammed together must do themselves the service of attending one of Brer Brian’s Sunday gospel services at Faith Worship & Praise Deliverance Tabernacle in Bed-Stuy. If you’ve ever seen Brer Brian, itinerant artstar, then you can appreciate the Dada-esque insanity of the deal: his gospel-soul organ playing kicks like a mule, backing up a rabid preacher. It’s like the Dirtbombs but heavy on the Jesus. The drummer, at fourteen, is very, very good, providing a great bed for Brer to lay down the religion on some northern fried organ licks that’ll make you think you’re way further south than Bed Stuy. I lived in New Orleans for almost two years; believe me when I testify to Brian’s organ chops. He could have gotten a gig in the Quarter any night of the week. The creative tension between Brian and the preacher, Pastor Crooms, is intense. You can’t ignore it: the Pastor asks for more strings on the keyboard, Brian pretends he doesn’t hear it. The preacher makes it a point to mention Brian at least two or three times through the sermon, and maybe once or twice during the service, as in “Jesus loves you! Yes, you too, Brian!” The man is on a serious mission to save the Brer-inator, but Brian will not give in. He remains a soldier of hell, who plays organ for Jesus on Sundays, and everyone’s better for it. Once the percolating call and response between preacher and that distorted electric drone board begins, the Pastor Crooms starts frothing, foaming, and before you know where you’re headed, you’ve arrived at the bubbling stew that gave us rock and roll. Listening to the black spirituals and unrepentant white freakboy antics, wrestle, vie for control, violently argue, simmer, marinate, and finally, marry into something that puts the whole game into perspective, that’s a once in a lifetime chance – unless you go again next week. There was more of this in more innocent times. The race line wasn’t so thick and hard to cross in the days of the MGs, the Chambers Brothers, the early lineups of the Family Stone. You still find musical miscegenation here and there, like with the Dirtbombs, mentioned above, or LA’s great the Negro Problem, or the unhip yet beautiful old Hootie. But if you want to see it in front of your eyes, struggling to be born, barely making it, week after week, that little church on Bedford and Jefferson is as close as it gets these days. Be prepared. You’ll hear the phrase Praise Jesus more than ever before, unless you’re Dina Dean, Erin Regan, or someone else with a southern church background. It can be disconcerting to the agnostic/atheist demographic,

by Grey Revell

maybe a little weird for our Jewish friends, especially when the Preacher comes in close and starts slaying his parishioners. “Good Lord, are you saying he kills them?” “No, of course not.” Being slain is nothing more than having your man of god place his hands on you and receiving an almighty jolt of pure Jesus energy that knocks you on your repentant ass, physically. On your ass. I saw about six people hit the floor and stay there. Being raised in the mighty Church of Rome, my only concept of being slain was what God would do if he read my fourteen year old mind, sitting next to Jill Sandoval, during the Liturgy of the Word. So I had never been slain, spiritually or otherwise, but when the preacher placed his hands on my heart, and told me to receive Jesus, I almost wanted to fall. “What the hell,” I thought, “believe in unicorns, resurrections and all that, man. Get slain!” But Brer Brian was feet away, sitting at the organ, silently chuckling. I figured, “No, I’ll stand, thanks.” As a New Orleanian, a recent receiver of Hurricane logic, and an evacuee, I was singled out for special treatment. I was also the only other white man in the place, aside from the antifolk organist. The woman in the back, a small dark mama in a blinding white dress explained that she was told by the Holy Spirit that my family needed a bigger place to live. I could always use a bigger place. If Jesus wants to hook it up, then cool. Thanks, Christ; I’ll take it. The preacher was open and friendly after the service, an amiable engaging earthbound shadow of the dervish I had been watching for almost two hours. In fact, everyone in the place was genuine, and really quite beautiful, and if they all find something to love in that crazy mixed-up Brer-brain, then maybe, just maybe, he’s really beautiful too. A scary thought for all the Brerbashers on the Olive Juice board. The service rocks. Brer rocks. The hot Brer-lette girl back ground singers, led by Chaniqua Brathwaite, rock. The Preacher rocks like a demon. Hell, Jesus rocks hard… in Brooklyn. Faith Worship & Praise Deliverance Tabernacle 1183 Bedford Avenue Pastor Crooms 11am – Sundays

Singing to the Heavens
I Don’t Know What You Come To Do
by Brer Brian
In certain segments of American society, white children are raised by black people. Much to everyone’s surprise, I became a part of this tradition relatively late in life, when, at 27 years of age, I was adopted by a Black Protestant church in BedfordStuyvesant, and they put me in front of the organ. I didn’t exactly know what I was doing or what I was getting into, but the experience of joining the Faith Worship & Praise Deliverance Tabernacle permitted me to be schooled and humbled by a variety of seasoned Gospel masters, as well as young prodigies such as bass-player and drummer Robert Booker, who, at 13, has already performed at Julliard and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Three years later, I finally might be settling into the role. If anything, the experiment has been a wildly successful experiment in seeing how well the God who delivered black people from segregation and slavery would care for a homeless, supposedly unemployable antifolkie/artstar. Here are some brief interviews with the church folk, in an attempt to bring you their stories.
photo by Herb Scher

(Pastor Crooms is the church’s worldly leader. He is 47 years old, has been married twice before his current wife Cheryl, and has five children, including stepson BJ Hyde and a 23-year old daughter. He also heads up the Urban Angels children’s program, to which I’ve been inviting artists to perform.) Q. How long have you been pastoring? A. 14 years Q. What kind of trouble did you get into as a younger man? A. Fights, stealing, sexual sins, drinking and drugging. Q. Why is having a church family important? A. Three - Support, knowledge of the way of God, study and worship or walking in together because of agreement.

Q. What role did the churches play in the Civil Rights movement? A. Gave the leadership and confidence that the task and need had God’s Blessing. Q. What issues do people face today, and how do the churches help them? A. Family and teens, single family, negative music, lost values of the American way of life as and Christian nation. (The church) remains a moral foundation for all the above answers. Q. What role does music play in a worship service? Should musicians who want to play in church be saved first? A. The music of the Church is Holy with the goal of ushering the people in the very presence of God. The musician of the Gospel is not there for entertainment as secular musician are. They should be saved for the service of their God.

Q. Can secular music serve a divine purpose? A. No, God does not need secular music for his purpose in the life of his creation. Q. What’s wrong with Hip-hop? Were the Last Poets better than Ludacris? A. The industry has no concern for its violence and negative culture... The Last Poets voiced a revolution not a party. Ludicrous question to put him (Ludacris) in the same thought of the Last Poets. Q. Who’s just going straight to Hell? A. Not my problem. That decision is left up to Christ Jesus. (Mandel is 14 years old and plays the drums in church. He is witty and spry, but his smart-alecky comments earn him frequent reprimands from church elders.) Q. How many different instruments do you play? A. Drums and Steel Pan. Q. What AP classes are you taking? A. Biology and Computer Science – yea! Q. Do you feel that your time in the church has helped you become less annoying over the years? A. Sorta... It all depends... I think so, after all the speeches we get. Yes, I got a bit better.

Q. Are you still driving your mother crazy? A. You bet your bottom dollar. Q. What do you imagine yourself doing for a living when you become an adult? A. Um, something with science or debates, maybe a lawyer. Who knows...? (Scott and Chaniqua Brathwaite are one of the church’s young married couples. They have a charismatic son named Judah, who, at 1 years old, is already an aspiring keyboardist/drummer/preacher/MC. Scott’s been away for military training, but I was able to ask Chaniqua some questions about his time in Iraq. ) Q. How long was Scott in Iraq for? A. One year, from January ‘04 to January ‘05. Q. How did he spend his downtime? A. Movies, like crazy, on the portable DVD player. Itunes on the I-pod. He read the Bible a lot. Q. What does he think is going to happen there in the long run? A. He doesn’t really expect it [the U.S. installed government] to work out. Q. What was the last movie you both saw? A. X-Men 3.

photo by Herb Scher

Paul’s Perspective
As the home of the modern art space P.S.1 and many visual musical artists (like Andy Stack, Chel O’Reilly, Sukato and, of course, myself), it’s safe to say that Long Island City is home to a vibrant artistic scene. I’ve been excited in my years in Queens to see L.I.C. growing in its reputation as not only a place to live, but a place to see and create great art, especially music — a second weekly open mic has even sprung up in L.I.C., hosted every Thursday night from nine to midnight just down the street from the Creek and the Cave at Dominie’s Hoek. Crossing the East River may not be as glamorous as crossing the country, but Queens – well, specifically Long Island City – offers all us urban folks an out of town opportunity, right in our own backyard. Trust me, after a year as the host of the weekly “Crowin’ at the Creek” open mic, I know just how hard it can be to get friends and fans from Manhattan or Brooklyn to make what they consider the arduous (and sacrilegious) trek from their homes to Queens. Nevertheless, even without your regulars, there are lots of places to play with built-in audiences throughout the borough (After all, Queens is the second most populous part of the City). And Long Island City, in particular, is a readily accessible alternative for amassing new admirers. Queens is closer than Philly or Boston, but clearly less expensive to travel to, and it’s teeming with the widest cross section of future fans-to-be than any of the other boroughs. So, rather than spending your hard earned payola on a road trip with your favorite backing band, get out your Metrocard and make a five minute pilgrimage to what I, for one, hope will soon be known as New York City’s newest musical Mecca: Long Island City. After all, in a city with a population of just over 8 million, more than 2 million reside in the great borough of Queens, and they want to be entertained… by you. Ask anyone who gigged in the remote region we now call Williamsburg not so many years back how great it was to nurture a new niche, and then think about all the development going into LIC. Buildings are going

On the Road to Long Island City

by Paul Alexander

up, cafes are growing out. There’s even that silly little beach by our piers. I don’t mean to sound like a commercial, but I’m getting more and more excited about my own neighborhood. Silvercup Studios, right next to the bridge, produces the Sopranos. There’s a growing number of special high schools to go along with LaGuardia College. Wonton Foods has the largest fortune cookie factory in the States. And don’t get me started on Socrates Sculpture Park… You should consider making the short trek out to Long Island City, if only to see the growing scene. LIC may always be in the shadow of Manhattan’s skyline, but we won’t be overshadowed for much longer. Get on the road, over the bridge, through the tunnel. Come on out and see how the other boroughs live. For more info on the neighborhood: licnyc.com/ queenswest.com/

(www.myspace.com/palexandermusic) Saturday October 7, 2006 10 pm

Paul Alexander’s

Album Release Party

The Parkside Lounge (www.parksidelounge.com)

Get in the Minivan
I. Big Town, Small Town “You’re gonna love Austin,” my Dad told me, “Great music town.” Having just retired from the Air Force, he’s been around to a lot more places than me (at least for now). I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d already been to Austin, and it didn’t do that much for me. Nothing against Austin. Quite the opposite. Cheapo’s is, without a doubt, the second coolest record store I’ve ever seen, with endless racks of used cds to sift through, and countless handmade, out-of-print Wesley Willis albums to marvel over. The Hamilton Pool, the now-defunct Austin Music Co-op, and Lone Star Beer (the National Beer of Texas. Making fun of the band we played with at Trophy’s. The cokehead that kept screaming at me to play Neutral Milk Hotel, then blew out the monitors during his own set. These are all great memories I have in Austin, and I always have fun when I go. But as a touring musician, and a struggling, independent one at that, Austin’s a hard sell. It’s a town of sixty thousand people, six thousand of which are gigging musicians. In a town that small with that many musicians, and that many choices, Austin’s a hard little shell to break into. Having heard what I’d heard about Texas-that it’s this big, stinking cesspool of bigoted, angry rednecks, I’m surprised how much I like going down there. But I prefer the road less traveled, Amarillo, Lubbock and Denton, for example. Towns where there’s the same demand for music, but a more limited supply. Generally, towns that aren’t as “fun” tend to make their own fun, and it’s usually a bigger, more rambunctious fun than what you get treated to in the bigger cities. For Example: Kearney, NE. Ivan Sandomire and I were driving from Oregon to Chicago, after our van had thrown a piston and left us stranded on the West Coast. We had rented a car for the week, then driven back and started east with a new engine. Just outside Kearney, the engine threw another piston and caught fire. Stranded in a hotel room for the night (which we hate), we spent the next day waiting for this guy Delroy to bring us a car we could get home with. Dan struck up a conversation with a kid in a Minor Threat T-shirt, and asked him to set us up with a gig for the night. The party that we played at the Minor Threat kid’s house ended up being one of the best, most fun gigs of that tour, and Kearney is now one of my favorite places to go back to.

by Brook Pridemore

Moscow, ID. A Sunday night. We had left Salt Lake City at 7:00 that morning, driven twelve hours through the mountains of Idaho to get to this house show. For a few days, we had been dealing with promoters forgetting to put our fliers up in their venues, which is a big deterrent on draw and enthusiasm in each town. Pulling into Moscow, we drove up this reallly steep street to the venue, and noticed crazy, hand-made fliers leading us to the show. We knocked on the door, and we were greeted by four complete strangers who proceeded to treat us like their long-lost childhood best friends. We played a pretty wild show in their garage, complete with a dog running around under my feet while I played, and Mikey closing out the night jamming out with our friends on a cover of “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Next morning, I woke up and walked around town, and it started snowing (in MAY). Six days later, ON A SATURDAY NIGHT, we were in Oakland, CA, where all the “cool” kids from San Francisco live. Mikey and I gamely tried to play to the two people who didn’t wait outside until we were done, and we were rewarded with hostile stares, and the indignity of said crowd filing in and sitting down the instant I strummed my last chord. Brewster, NY. At the end of me and Mikey’s This is our Day Job Tour in 2004, we played at this coffee bar about forty minutes north of SUNY Purchase. After some confusion over whether we’d get to play, they worked the two of us into the show. It was a big mashup of acoustic punk songwriters, benefitting a local independent newspaper. I saw a copy of that paper, and its lead article was about the dangers of too much soy in a vegetarian diet (I wish I could remember more, because it struck me as pretty crackpot). After my set, this girl named Heather came up and bought one of my cds. It turned out that she hadn’t even seen the set, she just wanted to support us because we were from out of town. Two years later, Heather’s boyfriend Jay looks me up online and asks me to come to Rhode Island, all expenses paid, and be there when he proposes to her. He tells me she listens to that CD all the time, and that it would really make a special moment for her if I were there. Now, I love New York City, but nothing like that is ever going to happen here. brookpridemore.com

CD reviews
Amurá The Best Part of Me

send your CD to 306 Jefferson 1R, Brooklyn, NY 11237
by the editorial collective
things to do with American roots music. On the cover, Darren’s last name, Kramer, has vanished, and his moniker, Deicide, has been removed from quotations. His old liner notes consisting of amateur photos are replaced with beautifully illustrated album artwork. Accordingly, his music has also evolved, and takes more chances. Darren comes off as a cool character. To keep the rhythm, he places a microphone on his stomping tap dance shoe. This colorful approach is applied to Darren Deicide’s musicianship across the board, and has proved most fruitful in regards to his uniquely sly style of guitar playing. Rather than focusing on complicated solos, Deicide slowly hones in on strange dissonances hidden along the fretboard. “Little Ol’ Snake” is a perfectly titled demonstration of this slithering guitar, which is distinctly blues flavored, not folk. This musical snake is present throughout the tracks, and may be the album’s most delicious offering. Deicide’s love of his instrument and pride of his craft are unmistakable. Bordering on being a concept album, not every experiment works on Temptation and the Taboo. The three slow starting tracks, though carrying more creative push, can’t seem to compete with the fourth, where Deicide returns to the catchy blues-punk style of his previous album. In his high snarl, he seems most comfortable spouting straightforward, Iggy Pop-esque lyrics over straightforward raucous music (“Nothing’s gonna stop me from what I want!”). The Day the Man Went Down delivers in similar fashion. Part of the problem is that Deicide’s lyrics don’t seem to be strong enough to hold their own on slow, sparsely arranged tracks like Loneliness and Fear. His softer, lower vocals are also lacking in power. There are places where Deicide’s creativity pays off. On “A Night in Journal Square”, a psychedelic spoken word piece about sparing change, kettle drums rumble and emergency sirens shriek to convey Deicide’s psychological conflict.The poetry can get overwhelming, but the sounds are definitely adventurous and fun. Even better is “Dreaming to Live”, the album’s final track, where Deicide finally strikes paydirt. Chaotic, sagging blues guitar sucks the listener inside Deicide’s abstract and apocalyptic dream. If Darren still intends to make a Part Two, this could be the right direction for his creative itch. It’s offbeat lyrics, structure, and production head exactly where Deicide is working towards: enjoyably expanding his own artistry and consequently expanding blues music. darrendeicide.com

Over a quarter of the songs on Amurá’s sophomore disc end with the word “blues,” which is no great surprise. This guy is, after all, an older black gentleman, and he wears a hat, so of course he plays the blues, right? Well, despite what this album suggests, he’s a lot more than that. Amurá, who hits the open mics as often as his second shift job allows, is an impressive guitar player – which is understandable, since he’s had over forty years of practice – and an exciting experimental songwriter. It’s clear this cat spends time practicing his craft. This release, though, seems to take fewer chances than the performer traditionally will on-stage. The tracks are all Amurá and guitar, and hew fairly close to the blues path. His more rocking numbers aren’t as fleshed out as they could (should) be. Certainly, his worn, elder statesman voice burps the blues, but the artist’s experiments seem less evidenced on album. Luckily, there are highlights: a sultry rhythmic solo on “Love Sick Blues,” and the beautiful “Blackbird”lifted guitar riff on “The Way of Things.” Then there’s “Help Me Out”’s hard introductory sound, and the closer, “Walkin’ Shoes,” a perfect ending for an album. There’s an earlier release from Amurá, released back in another century. Maybe that one has more variety, more of what we’re used to at open mics and gigs throughout the boroughs. Everything on this disc sounds good, but it doesn’t seem like it’s the Best Part of Amurá, just a part of him. amuraunlimited.com Darren Deicide Temptation and the Taboo Part One Is it time to give up on modern blues? It tends to be a terrifying variety of sound, stocked to the brim with dull musicians wanking soulless guitar solos. On Temptation and the Taboo, Darren Deicide pushes his creativity to demonstrate that there are still new, exciting

David LK Murphy Goodbye The first word that comes to mind with this album is: beautiful. Take the opening track, Gone. A driving rolling snare softly in the background accents an equally soft marching guitar rhythm and a just-occasional-enough-to make-it-tense bass drum hit. Then David’s voice comes in lonely over the top, pure and sweet, just for a second in a simple pretty melody line joined just a moment later by layered harmonies that (somehow, don’t ask me how) tastefully start to resemble a church choir. It is an impressive effect, very impressive. A little abstract in sound, almost a little proggy, but definitely accessible. We always knew David was good, his voice is dark and pure, his guitar playing is excellent, and his songs are impressively composed. Still we see him maturing into his own skills on this release. In the past his voice could become too thick to be able to hold on to, or the technically impressive composition of the songs wouldn’t leave much room for an enjoyable melody. Here we don’t see those problems. His voice has all the character it ever did, but without too much thickness, the songs are sweet too, with still impressive melodies that are distinct enough to rest easy on the ear. Then there’s the production. This is where the word beautiful earns itself. The sound is soft and muted, with much of the backing band blending together in a way that makes me think this might have been recorded analog. With a drum kit, acoustic guitars, cello, and some other string and horn padding, we have an incredibly lush and warm sound. Subtlety is the key here, with no instrument really taking the lead, instead the arrangement working seamlessly together as a united mesh, where the smallest variation can change everything. This is a short album at only seven tracks and the one thing curious is that despite all the beauty, I find it had a hard time holding my concentration the whole time. With the hypnotic lushness of the sound holding steadily across the whole album, after the first few songs there aren’t a lot of surprises here or much to redraw your attention. If there were some variance from the original idea, something to change tracks or move things in a direction once the initial sound had been explored I think I would have an easier time going all the way through. Still, this is again a beautiful album and one I put on frequently, because in the end it’s like Reggae. It may start to sound like they’re always playing the same song, but fuck it, it’s a really good song. dlkm.com

Diane Cluck Monarcana Diane Cluck is often romantically and artistically linked with antifolk cabdriver Barry Bliss. Although their appearances as a pair have waned lately, their sonic resemblance persists. This spring, Barry Bliss’s improvisational record stood out as something unique and beautiful. Monarcana by Diane Cluck enchants with similar charms. Both are sparsely arranged, lofi experiments that refreshingly (and insistently) come across as art for art’s sake. Throughout the album’s 23 tracks, Diane creates unsettling, three-part vocal harmonies, toying with the illusion that she is all three Sirens at once. Her discordant mix of sung tones are the centerpiece of the album, and swirl like smoke over distant, usually isolated instruments. A piano is chosen for one song, an accordion on the next, acoustic guitar on the third. Sometimes, Diane’s lyrics are comprehensible, and dwell on cryptic imagery smelling of pagan curses and soft, lonely madness (“Lucifer told me that I should go easy, that I should lay back and let slack water take me”). In other places, her words are lost in a spiral of wailing sounds, and become more atmospheric than narrative. The songs are not easily distinguishable from one another, which casts the record as a singular, eerie mood rather than a series of memorable, separate ideas. Somebody once told me that a common feature of Barry Bliss and Diane Cluck is that they are both intimidating in their own ways. How receptive you are to Diane’s intimidating presence will determine how much you enjoy this album. Is she exotically elusive, or just calculatedly aloof? unicornsounds.com/diane.htm Dylan Nirvana Pentagonal Flower Dylan Nirvana’s got a name that polarizes people, but it does get people talking about him. And some of what they say is, “An acoustic player? Where’s the Nirvana?” Now, with this EP, those same people are probably going , “This music sounds cool, but where’s the Dylan?” These four songs are really produced, and sound pretty cool. The ringing harmonies in “KT-88” are great. The guitar sound throughout? Gorgeous. The lyrics have some poetic sensibility, and there’s some humor in there, too, but the name alone can do nothing but bring up comparisons (Why didn’t Tom Verlaine suffer such a

fate? Or Mike Rimbaud?), comparisons that DN’s highpitched, sometimes screechy voice can’t successfully resolve. It’s a little surprising that such a well-produced disc didn’t do something to sweeten the artist’s voice, but otherwise, DN and Walter Manning did a really good job. The music sounds great. Soon, there should be a full album. Maybe the voice will be improved by then. dylannirvana.com Leo Dime-a-Dozen Anyone fond of Leo’s eclectic musical musings will be pleasantly met by his Dime-a-Dozen album, initially released several years ago. The arrangements are intelligent and supportive, adding interesting counterpoint to Leo’s well crafted compositions while leaving room for the listener to digest the essential elements of each track. Songs like “Love Is Big Business” have choruses which will ring in your ears for hours, but it’s often Leo’s more fleeting lines such as those he raps in “Gone with the Wind” which ultimately prove more poignant — staying with you for the long run. Always a bit “self referential,” as per his song, Leo nevertheless manages to tell “other people’s” stories with equal emotional impact, as he proves with track 6 “Teenagers of Carbondale.” And though I do love to see Leo play with Amurá on lead guitar, I must admit that Charles Bascombe’s lead guitar work on this album is superb, nicely complementing each composition, adding to rather than detracting from each song’s impact. Covering more genres than there are tracks on the CD, Leo certainly seems to wear his many influences on his sleeve. All in all, it’s nice to finally find a songwriter whose above average songwriting skills match their above average ego. Regina Spektor Begin to Hope Spektor, who performed regularly at Sidewalk Café and other downtown clubs in the 2001 and 2002 era, writes spare, pulsing songs that at first seem mysterious and enigmatic. “This is how it works/It feels a little worse/Than when we drove our hearse/Right through that screaming crowd” she sings. But gradually the songs start to come into focus. Out of a blur of words, music, sounds, and Spektor’s idiosyncratic vocals and piano playing emerges an almost painfully moving sense of longing and need for human connection and love. These thoughts can be pinpointed in individual songs like “Better” in which

Spektor sings “If I kiss you where it’s sore/Will you feel better, better, better/Will you feel anything at all.” But it is really from absorbing the album as a cohesive whole that its penetrating effect is realized. The disk seems to release clouds of ideas and emotions that linger for a long time after it finishes playing. There’s a kind of loopiness to some of the songs. “Hey remember that time when I found a human tooth down on Delancey….Hey remember that month when I only ate boxes of tangerines (so cheap and juicy!) .” Spektor seems to be singing about very specific shared memories, ones that any two friends or lovers might have. Although enigmatic, the oddness of the lyrics somehow makes the song more tangible. Unlike many artists who are stronger in some areas over others, Spektor’s songs rely on a balance and interweaving of words, composition, vocals, piano playing, and other instrumentation and sounds. She utilizes a variety of vocal effects including yelps, unusual pronunciation, hypnotic repetition, and a lilting style that lays a rich texture over the frames of her songs. Her piano playing ranges from spare and gentle, to classically influenced to gospel-tinged, as in the shimmering, beautiful song “Field Below.” With the support of a major label, Spektor has been able to draw on more elaborate production elements than on her previous self-produced disks. Where in the past she most often accompanied herself on piano, on Begin to Hope she draws on a wide range of instrumentation. The sound still seems to fall very much within Spektor’s characteristic musical style, although in a couple of cases she draws on some distracting electronica. Sometimes Spektor can be a bit too precious and one or two or her songs are just plain annoying. However most of them are things of beauty and integrity. Although it might take a while to penetrate their surface, the songs sparkle with sound and meaning. reginaspektor.com Riot Folk compilation Evan Greer Live In Cambridge I was hoping that the music from an anarchist collective called Riot Folk would at least give me enough angst to spray paint a few giant A’s around the neighborhood. Where are the snarling, dangerous vocals? The earsplitting, overdriven acoustic strums? Disappointingly, the recordings on the compilation sound deflated and flat, and the bulk of the sounds here come off as a little wimpy. Riot Folk’s progressive ethics are definitely their greatest virtue. The songs cover important, though familiar, topics, including dissidence towards the Iraqi war, union picket lines, and exposing the underbelly of

America’s tyrannical history. Keeping the flame of social discord alive with overtly political music is admirable. The criticism that these protesters lack originality and artistic flair seems mean-spirited, however naggingly true. Listening to Ryan Harvey’s “About the Only Thing That Governments Have Done” and Evan Greer’s “Picketing Song”, it’s clear that Woody Guthrie is a big hero to the Riot Folk collective. The musical sensibility is there, but missing is the lackadaisical wit that gave Guthrie’s legendary songs their spark. Out of the eight musicians, Tom Frampton’s potential shines the brightest on the compilation. His two loudly belted songs sound the most like a genuine riot. “5string”, Frampton’s ballad, weaves conversations with Guthrie and John Brown into reflections about the singer’s deceased grandfather and his own shortcomings. Sparing the backing by a solemn piano, this song has a musical beauty to complement the lyrical. On Evan Greer’s live album we get a much better picture of what Riot Folk is all about. Here there is all the energy missing from the compilation. Riot Folk is all about the live show. When we hear a crowded room singing along to the political choruses, it gains a power that lacks on a lo-fi recording done alone. It’s inspiring to hear a mob singing about change and makes it easier to believe in such a thing, like hearing unity happen. Evan also feeds off the energy of the crowd putting some of the punk back into the sound with a raw and passionate performance. Being in the crowd at an acoustic show where the kids genuinely care about the message and dance and sing along with fists in the air in a crowded basement or open performance space, is a whole different type of folk show from the typical coffee house style. It’s refreshingly alive and a striking contrast to sitting down and listening to someone singing about their feelings. The trick for Evan and Riot Folk will be to figure out how to translate this live energy onto recording. The simple lo-fi recordings make sense with the DIY ethic, but still we are losing something artistically if we can’t capture that energy and power onto a studio album. Even trickier is the fact that simply making a full band produced version of this music would cheat it just as much as the lo-fi solo recordings do. It seems important they stay true to the folk DIY ethic even as they try to create better albums. There work is cut out for them, if only because what they’re doing and the audience they’re building is inspiring, and something that deserves to be heard in a way that gives credit to what they are. riotfolk.org Six7 s/t Six7, after hearing the pseudo-R+B female vocal singing the words “psycho bitch,” over and over, on

your song “Psycho,” I really wanted to write a horrible, scathing review that compared your self-titled CD to the worst parts of towheaded, mysogynistic rock bands like limpbizkit and Korn. I wanted to find a bunch of really awful adjectives for your semi-rapped, growly singing. I wanted to say that the full band arrangements stripped away all of the irony and charm of the solo acoustic performances that I remember. But then I found myself tapping my toes, and I knew it would be unfair to just dog the album. In some places, the irony shines through, especially when Pat Six7 makes Jay-Z-style boasts like, “You’re Microsoft? Well, I’m Macro-hard!” over what sounds like a riff straight from the first Clutch album on “We Don’t Care.” I am also especially partial to the line, “A bunch of asses in my hole-zone,” on the cheekily paton-the-shoulder opener, “Me.” The Six7 bio draws comparisons to Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, which made me scratch my head when I first put the disc on. I got to thinking about it, and this might be close to what the guy from Dufus would sound like fronting a more conventional rock band-straightforward enough, sure, but the eccentricities shine through just the same. Danceable tunes, with just a little squirt of Green Slime to keep it interesting. In conclusion, this is a decent rock album that is well-played, goofy in places, and slickly produced. The charm of the solo live performance leaves a hole, but it’s a hole that can be chewed around. PS: Six, never ever call a girl a “bitch.” But if you decide you still have to, have the juevos to keep the word in the song’s title. six7rock.com Thomas Patrick Maguire Woodside Lanes Somewhere between the ultimate demise of his Modern Lovers, and before the beginning of his solo recording career, Jonathan Richman spent years travelling around, singing kids songs at elementary schools, where he felt his wide-eyed songwriting would be best appreciated. A decade and a half later, in between his Noise Addict days and his slick-pop-rock albums, Ben Lee recorded a couple of ultra lo-fidelity albums on his 4-track. Both Jonathan and Ben wrote simple songs about the Ice Cream Man, turntables and the insecurity of going shirtless at the beach. Both sounded like they were nostalgic for an idyllic past that never existed. Thomas Patrick Maguire sounds like that childhood Ben Lee is finally old enough to go to the pub. Still ultra lo-fidelity, still simple songs, with a little less wide-eyed wonder on songs like “Christian Mob,” and “My Own Personal Earthquake.” This is mostly guitar and vocal, but still summery, with some lyrical passages consisting only of oohs and aahs. My only real complaint is that

(excepting opener”The Remedy) “Woodside Lanes” lacks the drums that moved TPM’s previous CD, “Pissing Streams,” along at a steady pace. thomaspatrickmaguire.com The Silent Comedy Shoehorn Paraffin With the acoustic/roots/folk movement being so heavily predominated by singer songwriters, it’s refreshing to hear an acoustic band where that actually sounds like a cohesive band. Rather than just accenting the chords and lyrics, the musicians sound tight like the songs were composed together as a unit. The closest comparison I could make here would be O’Death with a little more Jerry Garcia, and a little less punk rock. Opening with the more than danceable (and aptly titled) “Carnival Song,” Southern California’s The Silent Comedy give us a full sound of acoustic guitars, organ, drums, and an incredible fiddle playing an energetic and danceable carny song as catchy as it is driving. As if to drive the point home that this music is about fun and meant to be accompanied by a festive atmosphere, mixed low into the background are the sounds of people whooping it up and and partying, sometimes shouting along with the music, sometimes apparently involved in their own side conversations. Beyond this initial festive feeling, there is somehing dark and poetic beneath the rhythm and the songs on this album. It starts with the fiddle which is an almost constant presence drawing out soulful melodies in all manners, from the dark and hellish when required, to a nostalgic appalachian feeling. The playing is excellent and brings out the emotions of each song as only a well played fiddle can. From there, the mandolin touches, deliberate guitar strumming, and vocal melodies all build this into an album that can be moving even in its festivities. “I Know Something You Don’t” bridges that gap the best with a yearning lyrics and melody over the appalachian fiddle sound and a heavy beat with the band. The Tuba Song takes on a plodding haulting rhythm, with a drunken chorus shouting along lazily to the vocals which sound as unconcerned as they do sad. While we don’t say this here often, a better produced recording probably would have helped this album to get across the full energy that it sounds like they’re capable of. Luckily, I’ve heard such a better recording is in the works. I’ll give ten to one that the live show is what this band is all about and a raucous affair worth checking out. myspace.com/thesilentcomedy

Toby Goodshank ‘di Santa Ragione’ For his umpteenth album of semi-free verse poetry over angular acoustic guitar, Toby Goodshank has put together a near full-band outing. Drummer Dave Beauchamp factors heavily into the arrangements, providing a fouron-the-floor beat beneath the increasingly intricate guitar melodies and multilayered vocals. Toby’s sister (and Double Deuce bandmate) Angela Carlucci carries a heavy prescence here, serving as a grounding point to the often-roaming lyrics. The fleshed-out arrangements work best on “The Death of My Enemies” and “Effigy,” with Angela repeating the acronym “F-I-G” beneath the lead vocal. Subject matter ranges from the endless possibilities of blank CDs to the La Bamba soundtrack to an endorsment of a favorite local band “Army of Love,” but the biggest story on di Santa Ragione is told in “The Death of My Enemies,” with only the words “I have you now, it’s amazing.” Sometimes, the simple stories are the easiest to remember, and it is those six words that stick out the farthest in my head and in my ears when listening to this album. Considering the volume and quality of Toby Goodshank’s recorded output, di Santa Ragione is not the best album he’s made to date, but it is definitely as good a starting point as any. olivejuicemusic.com/tobygoodshank.html