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Monthly Archives: November 2010

What I Heard: Nov. 15th-Nov. 21st, 2010

This week was pretty light in activity, but time and money can force one to sit on the couch, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite activities. I got myself off the couch twice during this week, to head off to the movies once (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and then again to attend an event at the Museum of Modern Art, aka, MoMA (photography exhibit, The Raincoats and Kathleen Hanna DJing). I also stopped into my favorite hotel bar at the Warwick on 6th Avenue and 53th Street. It’s nice and dark inside. I’m usually by myself whenever I happen to stop in, which leads me to think that the staff may suspect that I’m a hotel call girl by some of the stares I get from them. But hey, that’s part of the excitement, I guess. I met an awesome Czech bartender and I will have to go back in for more crazy conversation about European politics and Lincoln Town Cars.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Ziegfeld Theater, NYC

Harry Potter Poster at the Ziegfeld Theater, NYC

I’m a nerd. What can I say? I have read all of the Harry Potter books and faithfully attend almost every movie close to its opening, usually at New York’s last movie palace, the Ziegfeld Theater. The Ziegfeld has a huge screen, comfortable seats, great sound, and bathroom stalls complete with toilet and sink inside the stall. The Ziegfeld is a place that evokes old-fashioned Hollywood and shows just one film at a time, not like the Mega-Plexes on 42nd Street, the AMC or the Regal E-Walk. I saw Lawrence of Arabia complete with musical overturn there, and if a movie that I want to see is playing, I will go out of my way to see it at the Ziegfeld. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has been split into two movies, so I’m hoping that the next installment that releases on July 15th, 2011, will play at the Ziegfeld, too. Who needs IMAX when you have the Ziegfield?

There’s really nothing that I want to say about the movie. The visuals were great and though there is a long swath of the movie that moves slowly as our three heroes go into hiding to find the horcruxes and unnoticed by Voldemort at the same time, I didn’t mind so much. The three main actors, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, have grown up on our movie screens and turned into fine young actors who I hope will develop their craft throughout their lifetime. They have certainly learned from a slew of the best British actors out there who have appeared in the Harry Potter movies. Life for a child actor can be difficult to continue in performance as they grow up and I wish them all the best on whatever journeys they make in the profession.

Daniel Radcliffe is well on his way to a long-term career on the stage. In 2008, I saw Radcliffe on Broadway in a limited-run production of Equus. The story centers around a disturbed young man who blinds several horses during a fit of religious and sexual rage and repression. The entire play is a psychological drama between the boy (Alan Strang) and his therapist (Dr. Dysart), with the therapist trying to get Strang to unload on why he blinded the horses and Dysart trying to get a grip on his own life, too. I’ve never been fond of the play. It’s too “angsty” for me with a lot of 1970s psycho-drama thrown in, but it’s a great acting vehicle for actors who are in control of their craft and was an excellent way for Radcliffe to stretch his acting wings away from Harry Potter. The production was controversial because the Alan Strang character played by Radcliffe has to appear nude onstage for one scene. A seventeen year-old naked Harry Potter sent a lot of hearts aflutter, but really, if you’ve ever seen a production of Equus, you know that there isn’t too much to see anyway. Plus, it’s not that stimulating sexually… Strang is naked while talking about how he stabbed out the eyes of horses, after all. Woot. Sexy. Not.

Radcliffe will be coming back to Broadway in February 2011 in one of the smartest and slyest musicals of them all, How To Succeed in Business (Without Even Trying). The musical, based on the book of the same name by Shepherd Mead, was first published in 1952 with the subtitle of The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune. Mead worked in the advertising firm of Benton & Bowles (one of the ad agencies based on the teevee show Mad Men), and when he retired, he wrote the satirical manual after climbing from a job in the mailroom to a vice-presidency. After several attempts to turn the book into a play, Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls) and Abe Burrows successfully created the musical, eventually winning a Pulitzer Prize for their efforts.

The story centers around J. Pierrepont Finch, a window washer who hears passages from the book, “How To Succeed in Business…” telling him to do all sorts of things to move on up the corporate ladder. His boss, J.B. Biggley, played by the funny and seasoned John Larroquette (surprisingly making his Broadway début in the show) cluelessly lets Finch take over a contest for the the World Wide Wicket Company and hilarity ensues. The cast is rounded out by Finch’s love interest, Rosemary Pilkington (Rose Hemingway), a secretary at the company, the boss’s squeeze, Hedy LaRue (Tammy Blanchard), the boss’s nephew working his way up from the mailroom, Bud Frump (Christopher J. Hanke), and lastly by Rosemary’s friend and fellow secretary, Smitty. Smitty will be played by Mary Faber, who now appears as Heather in the Broadway production of American Idiot. Faber is the second lead/featured actor in American Idiot to go on to other Broadway productions, the first being Joshua Henry, who played the Favorite Son in American Idiot in Berkeley and Broadway and now stars in the Scottsboro Boys at the Lyceum Theater. Everyone will miss Faber in American Idiot, but wishes her the best in her new role. Faber’s last show in American Idiot will take place on December 12, 2011.

The original choreography of How to Succeed in Business… was created by the Broadway legend, Bob Fosse, though he’s not credited as the primary choreographer of the original show. Fosse also did the movie version that came out in 1967. Though Fosse is dead, I do hope that they keep some key elements of his original choreography, which is Broadway all the way. And speaking of that 1967 movie version… if this Broadway production is a hit, I can completely see it being turned into a movie starring Radcliffe. After all, every great movie gets a remake for good or bad, and it’s probably time that this one did, too. Especially if the production and Radcliffe are successful on Broadway.

How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying) previews at the Al Hirschfeld Theater on February 27th, 2011 and opens on March 27th, 2011. Here’s a synopsis of the plot at TheatreHistory.com.

The Raincoats and Pictures by Women Exhibit – MoMA

MoMA Exhibit - Pictures by Women

I am not in the habit of attending events at MoMA. It’s not my favorite museum in the world, it’s too small, overly crowded and has line management from hell. What it has going for it, of course, is the quality and depth of its modern art and photography collection — if you like that sort of stuff — which I happen to like. I decided at the last-minute to attend this event as my friend David told me about it and he knows that I like to see old punk bands from back in the day perform, most of whom I’ve never heard of. In this case, it was a female “post punk” band called The Raincoats. The night included a very comprehensive and thought-provoking exhibit of photographs by women, appropriately titled, “Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography.” The exhibit continues until April 4th, 2011 and includes photographers such as Diane Arbus, Berenice Abbot, Adrian Piper, and Alex Prager. One of my favorites were a series of photographs from Francis Benjamin Johnson (1864-1952), one of the earliest female photographers and photojournalists. The photographs displayed from Johnson were a series commissioned by the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, an African-American school around the turn of the century that eventually became Hampton College in Virginia. The photographs depict young African-Americans doing all sorts of college and school-related activities and it’s refreshing to see images of blacks from the time period as they do their classroom exercises and physical workouts. You can view some of Johnson’s portraiture and architectural photographs at the Library of Congress.

Alex Prager - Pictures by Women at MoMA

The works of female photographic icons, Diane Arbus and Berenice Abbott were excellent, but it was the large-print photographs of Alex Prager that really caught my attention. Prager’s work has a deep sense of pathos surrounding beautiful women in potentially charged situations, all with a retro-throwback 1950s style. Prager works from Los Angeles, and her photographs have a California flavor to them with their depiction of the endless sunshine that pervades California, with a sense that something is not quite right in the perfection and beauty. Prager’s women are glammed up and find themselves in all sorts of compromising situations, but there is always a sense that they are in control, even if they have completely lost control within the context of the photograph. Visit Prager’s site for more information on her work, and here’s a list of articles about her work at the site.

The Raincoats, along with DJ Kathleen Hanna, appeared as part of MoMA’s Pop Rally events that feature “collaborations with artists and musical acts, performances, film screenings, receptions, and special viewings of exhibitions at moderate prices.” You may know Hanna as the female voice on Green Day’s American Idiot song, “Nobody Likes You,” but she’s better known as a founding member of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, and is both a legend and controversial figure in the world of feminist punk Riot Girrl culture. I didn’t hear most of her DJing because I spent so much time in the bar at the Warwick Hotel that I didn’t get back to MoMA until the line was crazy and it took almost 25 minutes just to get my ticket and wristband and get inside. I went upstairs to look at the photography, and by the time I finished, the Raincoats were playing and the crowd was thick in MoMA’s atrium. So thick, in fact, that it was difficult to move… not that anyone was moving to the Raincoats, but that’s probably because their music isn’t really danceable or moveable. I was really hoping that a moshpit would break out and some serious art would get damaged, but alas, that was only in head.

The Raincoats hail from the United Kingdom and have been around since the late 1970s. The two founding members of the band, Ana da Silva and Gina Birch met at art school and formed a band in 1977 with members of The Slits and other female bands of the time. Their music certainly has an art school feel to it with its dissonant vocals, violin, and eclectic lyrics and music presentation. Kurt Cobain was really into The Raincoats, and wrote that their lyrics made him happy, which was probably a tall order to fulfill.

The Raincoats – “Fairytale in the Supermarket” – MoMA, Nov. 20, 2001 – pristeen t

As to the performance, if I knew their music from back in the day and felt the way that Cobain did about their lyrics, I may have enjoyed myself more, but as it was, I probably should have stayed at the Warwick Bar. I could overlook the rusty nature of the band and their several false starts and the washed-out sound in the space, but the entire evening was a bit too much on the art school and feminist polemical side of the musical equation for me. I sometimes break out in hives at events that take place in museums and I’m not that comfortable in them for the most part, particularly at MoMA. I couldn’t hear most of those lyrics that made Cobain happy, though one from a new song could plainly be heard, “When you ask me if I’m a feminist, I say, why the hell would I not be?” Uh, OK. Toward the end of the show, Hanna came onstage and they sang an Ari Up (of the Slits, who recently died at the age of 48), song together and ended the set with The Raincoats’ most well-known song, “Fairytale in the Supermarket.”

The Raincoats with Kathleen Hanna sing Ari Up’s “Vindictive” at MoMA – jennpelly

Whatever my feelings on the band or the show are, The Raincoats are loved in feminist post-punk music circles, and if you’d like to check out some of their work, they have music on sale at their site and here’s their MySpace page with a few tunes on it as well. Here’s Kathleen Hanna’s take on the band and their music. Here’s some other reviews of the show and scene: Crawdaddy; Pelly Twins Blog; Artforum.

What We Didn’t Hear: Jesse Malin featuring Green Day – Nowhere….

I said last week that I’d briefly mention this, so here goes. Sometime this year Jesse Malin and Green Day got drunk together and wrote/recorded a song called “Depression Times” with Malin on vocals and featuring Green Day on instruments and back-up vocals. The song was going to play on Rich Russo’s Sunday night show on RXP101.9, but at the last minute, Russo said he had “equipment issues” and the song didn’t materialize. A week went by and no song and a third week later, RXP DJ Matt Pinfield announced on his Facebook that the song would début on RXP’s morning show and again, it was pulled at the last possible moment. This leaves me wondering if the song actually exists or if it’s just a figment of someone’s imagination. I have no idea what is happening, but someone has pulled the song three times and since Russo’s original tweet about playing the song was posted on Green Day’s official site, it’s probably not Green Day. I know that the music industry is a bit unpredictable, that’s a given, but after three failed attempts to get the song heard just once, few people on the Green Day Community forum believe that it exists in the first place and some are beginning to not care. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see and be pleasantly surprised (I hope) in the end, when it does materialize.

For a little background on how “Depression Times” came about as well as Malin’s friendship with Green Day, here’s two snippets of interviews with Jesse Malin:

Über Röck Magazine, Jesse Malin, Exclusive Interview

When you toured with Green Day did you ever think they’d go on to be such a world wide phenomenon? Do you still keep in touch with Billy Joe? I always believed that they were a very powerful band and Billie is a real and talented writer. Who knew a punk rock opera would connect so well. I remember when Mike Dirnt told me about it one night while I was DJing at Niagara and I thought he was out of his mind. Now they’re gonna be on Broadway. I talk to Billie Joe regularly. He’s a good friend. I recently recorded a song with the three Green Day guys called ‘Depression Times’. Maybe it’ll come out some time soon. We might name the band Drunk In New York.

Distorted Magazine – Three Cords and an Attitude: Jesse Malin

Jesse Malin - Three Chords and an Attitude - Distorted Magazine

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What I Heard: Nov. 6th-Nov. 15th, 2010

It’s another week of  life and I was lucky to see a couple of shows of the music variety from November 6th-15th, 2010. Earlier last week, I watched a lot of teevee. I was recovering from the Halloween weekend of Japanther and World/Inferno Friendship Society and the harder I dance, the longer the recovery. I wish I could tell you about some great teevee show that I watched, but, I can’t remember what I watched. I know I watched the Amazing Race, since I’m a stalwart fan of that show, one of the few reality shows that I watch. For three weeks running I missed the Zombie-laden American Movie Channel adaptation of the Walking Dead and I probably won’t bother to catch up with it now.

The boring but restful week of unmemorable teevee gave way to a nice weekend of visiting local Lower East Side music venues around the corner from each other, Arlene’s Grocery on Rivington and Rockwood Music Hall on Allen near Houston. The surrounding area tends to be a bit trendy these days since the Hotel on Rivington opened up a few years ago on Rivington near Delancey, as well as the fancy Schiller’s, on Rivington a block east of Delancey, and the Essex Street Market reinvented itself from a chaotic neighborhood market selling live chickens to an upscale market selling organic rabe and pricey restaurants.

I don’t venture much into the general area since the tiny Todo Con Nada (or just Nada) Theater on Ludlow Street closed eons ago. I practically lived in theaters within this three-block area back in the late 80s and 90s, when storefronts were cheap and production values for Off-Off-Broadway theater were none to minimal. Need a barn for a play? This area had it for you: Surf Reality, the Present Company, House of Candles, and the late-comer, the Piano Room, were venues that fueled my need for the craziest theater possible. The Neo-Futurist’s long-running and successful improv show, “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (30 plays in 60 minutes), made their New York expansion from Chicago to NADA when they arrived in NYC in 1995. The little theaters are gone now. I actually saw a Ferrari parked on Allen Street a few weeks ago, and while waiting for Honah Lee to go on at Arlene’s Grocery, there must have been at least 60 mini-skirts walking on 120 6-inch heels, and even a fine looking dude in a silken bikini bottom and leather jacket. It took us a little bit of time to realize the lady was a guy, but she was hot nonetheless.

This is New York’s famed Lower East Side. It’s come a long way from the days of McGurk’s Suicide Bar from the 19th-century to today’s trendy, night-cluby, scene.

Honah Lee, Beardo the Man and The Ladrenos – Arlene’s Grocery, NYC

I hadn’t seen the tweeps from Honah Lee (Tim, Jim, Dim, and Tony) play since last April, when they were on the Party! Party! Party! Tour with the Mystic Knights of the Cobra, and both somehow ended up opening for the Foxboro Hot Tubs. They don’t live that far from me, in Trenton, NJ, about 90 minutes away by train. I don’t have a car and the train fare went up to $30 R/T from New York’s Penn Station. No matter what the fun on the other end of the train line, $30 to Jersey, Trenton, New Jersey, no less, is steep. The last time that Honah Lee played at Arlene’s in Manhattan back in the summer, Green Day played the same night at Holmdel in New Jersey, so I missed the fellows back in August. There was no way I was going to miss them again.

Honah Lee at Arlene's Grocery

Honah Lee may not be the most musically-accomplished band, but who needs a band like that anyway? They are completely earnest, raw, loud and unpolished with catchy, screamable lyrics, a steady beat and crazy stupid-fun. When I see Honah Lee, I can’t sit still and I just want to dance. They love to play music, get people drunk, and have a good time, too. Really, what more do you need? Something strange and unexpected always seems to happen when I see these guys play.

The night started out well enough. The band room venue for Arlene’s Grocery is a large, black box space, and when you walk in, you can immediately feel the circulating air conditioning system, which is fabulous. In an odd way, though, the mixing of air conditioning with beer and bodies can leave a strange smell in the air. Add to that equation a human super-vomiter, and you have yourself an air problem. Two songs into Honah Lee’s set, some dude near the bar let out a Monty Python-“It’s waffer-thin” stream of voluminous vomit that filled the room not only with the smell of air conditioning, beer and bodies, but also with the overwhelming smell of vomit. The stream cleared the right side of the room, and the smell cleared the dance floor. It’s not unusual for beer-induced vomiting to take place at a Honah Lee show, but it’s usually the band doing the vomiting, or at least something super crazy. Honah Lee is a bit unpredictable with a sense that the unexpected can happen, and it usually does. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t overcome my gag reflex to the unexpected river of vomit no matter how much I tried, and I had to go outside for a bit to catch my breath.

Nonetheless, the show was fun and once I came back inside and the air conditioning broke through the smell and a mop and bucket appeared, all was well again. Honah Lee didn’t even notice the vomit, and played a good 45-minute set including “Loss for Words,” “Bobby’s Dead,” “Happy Birthday Dad I’m in Jail,” “53rd and 3rd,” “Life Won’t Let Me,” “You’re Too Much,” “I Hate My Job,” “Leave Them Girls Alone,” “Californibation,” “Gun,” “I was Wonderin'” and “Sex and Cigarettes.” Most of the songs they played are new, but three songs are included in their eight-song CD, I Want It All, “Loss for Words,” “Gun,” and my favorite Honah Lee song, “I Was Wondering.”  The video to their single, “I Hate My Job,” can be seen on YouTube.

Honah Lee – “Gun” from I Want It All – Arlene’s Grocery, NYC 11/13/10

Beardo the Man

Beardo the Man went on before Honah Lee, and I have to say, I found them funny for a little bit. Their schtick is 90s Long Island/Jersey mega-group complete with Korg synthesizer and ironic terry-stretch head- and wrist bands. They were musically pretty good. Of the three bands, they had the more polished sound, and certainly projected a definite bravado, and they drew a crowd. I listened to four or five songs, the first of which was a new one called “Desperate Bitches.” I can’t quite remember the words, but the chorus pretty much had the words “desperate bitches want to go out with me.”

Beardo the Man CD Liner - At least I got a free CD! - Click for song titles

I caught a few more of their songs before the ironic misogyny got a bit too… ironic, though they did do a fabulous cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” and I enjoyed their song, “Everybody’s Jealous of My Bike!” and “I’m a Dancer.” But after “Don’t Touch That Girl” and “I Love Kids! (in da butt),” I left and went outside to hang with Honah Lee.

The Ladrenos at Arlene's Grocery

The Ladrenos (their Myspace is new and without songs) came on after Honah Lee. I wasn’t going to stay until I saw them break out a trumpet and a trombone. I’ve mentioned before how much I love brass in punk and ska, and the Ladrenos are Latino-laced pop-ska. Since seeing La Plebe at Hoodstock in Oakland back in September and making an effort to listen to Latino punk bands during Green Day’s tour through South and Central America, I decided to stay, even if they were having technical difficulties with their guitar setup, which took overly long. They finally got it together, and impressed me enough that I stayed for a few songs. While promising, the songs, as my friend that I was with noted, “all started to sound the same.” The lyrics were in Spanish, and I only know bits and pieces of the language. I believe that they may be newly-formed and working out their set, and I’d like to see them again one of these days, particularly on a bill with other Latino-pop-punk-ska bands, though I have no idea where to find this kind of music in New York City. The band is from Queens, New York.

All-in-all, it was a good night of music and crazy adventures on the Lower East Side, and it’s always fabulous to see some of my favorite people on the planet, Honah Lee.

John Gallagher, Jr. – Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2 – 11/14/10

The next night, Sunday, I ventured back onto the Lower East Side to see John Gallagher, Jr., who plays the lead role of Johnny in American Idiot. Gallagher is one of the nicest, most humble people and it’s obvious that he loves to sing and play music. Every time I’ve seen him perform at Rockwood, (the first time this past January before American Idiot opened and three times this summer), I’ve been struck by his relationship with his guitar, his music, and with the audience. It could all be a facade, but I really don’t think so. He’s a nice dude who has a song in his heart and plays a mean acoustic guitar.

His music resides on the folk-rock side, and at one of his shows, he stressed how much the musician John Prine means to him. Two times I’ve seen him as a solo performer, and twice with his friend on hollow body-guitar, Thad DeBrock, a guitarist from Spring Awakening. Gallagher formerly was in the band, Old Springs Pike, but starring roles in Spring Awakening and other television, film, and theater productions prompted him to leave the band. The band itself continues without Gallagher as Spring Standards.

Though I like my music mostly on the wild side, I do appreciate the quieter musical life. Gallagher’s shows are relaxing and his easy banter with the audience provides a good and easy laugh. His lyrics can be a little starry-eyed and grave, (“We’re all gonna die, so we better start to live; Just remember, no one’s gonna love you for being selfish” from the song, “Start to Live“), but he sings them with an intensity and sincerity that is contagious and from the heart. And did I mention how well he plays an acoustic guitar? Gallagher, Jr. is at Rockwood about once a month, you should go and see him if you can. The shows are free with a one drink minimum.

John Gallagher, Jr. – “Constance” – Rockwood Music Hall, 11/14/10 – (via @johngallagherjr and @onbonosback on Twitter)

John Gallagher, Jr. Setlist

Still Sixteen
No Scorn
Beautiful Inside
Two Fists Full
So Many Things
Close to the Cusp
Waiting at the Bus Stop
Start to Live
Three Out of Five Ain’t Good
Dead for a Year
Wurlitzer in Space
Mayday on Commerce Street
Constance

Thanks to Jaime, Vi, Michelle and John I. for help with filling in mental blanks, setlists and lyrics.

What I Wish I Could Have Heard

The Lawrence Arms: Knitting Factory, Brooklyn

My friend Jaime went to see the Lawrence Arms at the Knitting Factory, and when she tweeted about the show, I decided to check out the band. Since I’m a Johnny-come-lately, I had never heard of this Chicago-based band who has been around since 1999, but I do know that what I heard from their Myspace impressed me. I’ll have to check them out next time they come to town. Here is their official page, LawrenceArms.org and this is their MySpace page.

Pee-Wee Herman’s Big Adventure

I was going to briefly note that Pee-Wee Herman is on Broadway in a limited-run show until January 2nd, and I wanted to see it before it closes just after New Years. However, the little issue of tickets for the show stood in the way as I didn’t have money for them. Ask for what you want and ye shall receive! I rarely win anything, so I was surprised when I scored two tickets to see Pee-Wee Herman Broadway! I entered a Twitter contest for the theater blog, Steve On Broadway and I won tickets to the show. I’ll be seeing it the night before Thanksgiving, which should brightened an otherwise blah weekend. Though, I have to tell ya, that blah weekend will end with me seeing Star Fucking Hipsters at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on Sunday, Nov. 28. Now that’s a way to end the blah holiday blues.

If you are into theater and are on Twitter, you should follow @SteveOnBroadway. His Twitter feed is very good (besides the fact that I won tickets to the show) and he was recently included in a list of the “Top 100 Theater Tweeters” on BroadwayWorld.com.

That’s it for what I wish I had heard for the week of November 6th-15th. Check back next week when I report on Harry Potter and the Deathly Gallows (yea, ok, I’m a nerd, guilty as charged!), a strange night at the Museum of Modern Art with a female punk-new wave group from the 1970s, The Raincoats, and the crazy stupidity of not hearing a song from Jesse Malin featuring Green Day that was supposed to be heard three weeks ago. This coming week, I’m seeing Pee Wee on Broadway, and Star Fucking Hipsters, and if I can throw in some other music over the Thanksgiving Day week, I’ll try.

Don’t forget that the cast of American Idiot will be performing during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (yes, I know, ironic since Green Day has a depressing song called “Macy Day’s Parade”), which will be broadcast live on NBC starting at the crack of morning. More info on the parade can be found here. I won’t be going, but have fun to those who do!


“I Was There” – 1991 and 2010

“I Was There” – Green Day in Costa Rica, 2010 – Part of me wants a video of this on the upcoming Live DVD but part of me wants to keep it locked away in raw memory, too.

This past October, at Green Day’s show in Costa Rica that ended their 21st Century Breakdown tour, the band performed a slew of “Old School” songs, songs primarily from the pre-American Idiot and Warning eras of Green Day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a Green Day fan beg for songs from the old days, usually from those albums that came out from 1990/91-1998: 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, Kerplunk, Dookie, Insomniac and Nimrod. In fact, it’s annoying the persistence of it sometimes, but I understand. A lot of fans love the “old” Green Day and many fans missed live performances since their introduction to the band is from the American Idiot era. These fans can kick themselves (like me) for not following the band from their younger days either because they weren’t into them back then (like me) or not born yet (unlike me).

I bought all of Green Day’s albums over the last sixteen months except for American Idiot (I’ve had that one since 2006), but despite this fact, there are numerous songs from the old school days that I yearned to hear over the course of the tour and several from the 21st Century Breakdown (see what here) album itself that the band didn’t play on the tour. Since I had the good fortune to attend a lot of shows over the tour, I got to hear more than a few new and old songs that were on my mental list, but it’s nothing like actually being there back in the day.

In Costa Rica, the “old school” portion of the night included songs such as “Brat” (Insomniac),Road to Acceptance” (1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours),”Christie Road” (Kerplunk), and Warning’s Waiting,” as well as a song that Green Day may not have played live — except for sound checks — since 1991. Or, at least that’s how long the gap exists between 1991 and 2010 when it comes to live performances of “I Was There” from 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours on Youtube. From 1989-1991, there are five live performances of “I Was There” uploaded that I found. Two of them are with original Sweet Children/Green Day drummer, Al Sobrante (John Kiffmeyer) in Davis, CA in 1989 and at International Foods Day at Pinole High School on May 10, 1990 (there are two versions of the Pinole, H.S. show on YouTube). The other three clips finds Tre Cool drumming the song in Little Rock, AK and at the Starr Club in Tampa, Fl., both in August of 1991 (see below for the Starr Club), and then again in December of 1991 at the Den in Wigan, England, here and here.

The song doesn’t appear again as sung by Green Day themselves (covers of the song are uploaded) until yesterday when Green Day LIVE on Facebook posted a video link of the song from the Costa Rica show from Oct. 29, 2010. Fans of “I Was There,” including me, have been waiting for this to pop up, and just when all hope seemed lost, some nice person uploads a creaky cell phone-recorded version of the song from Costa Rica for us fans who were not lucky enough to have been there.

The video is raw and unprofessional, but personally, I don’t mind that so much. It reminds me of the old school days that way, where the pre-digital, celluloid memories of “I Was There” are clunky with a slight touch of melody, like the unpolished and fast sound that comes out of Green Day’s first EP, 39/Smooth. The videos, with not-so-great sound, syncing issues and chaotic filming, capture not only the rawness of Green Day’s musical youth and the sheer bravado of their performances, but also the fleeting quality of memory itself. Memories are never played in perfect HD in your mind, memories are never clear and crisp, and you never know when a body will come sailing at you in real life, too. Ok, maybe not that last one, but memory is fleeting and rarely accurate as time goes on and we move further away from the the original good moments, the pictures, the places, that we want to make last, despite any troubles we might have in our life… “But I don’t let it get me down, Or cause me too much sorrow, There’s no doubt about who I am, I always have tomorrow … I looked into the past, and I want to make it last, I was there, I was there…”

“I always have tomorrow” isn’t necessarily true, but at least it’s a good rallying cry in melancholy times for anyone, and heck, “I was there,” dammit, having a great time and stamping existence with our presence and always moving forward to the next thing in life. I kinda love this song when I’m feeling full of regret about the past or defiant in creating the kind of future I’d like to have for myself and others.

“I Was There” was written by John Kiffmeyer, the only song on 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours penned by him. All other songs on the album were written and composed by Billie Joe Armstrong. Billie Joe jumbles the lyrics up a bit in the 2010 version in Costa Rica, but for a song that they haven’t played in front of an audience since 1991, it’s as fun and vibrant as when they were kids in sweaty basement venues playing in front of a hundred people, only 1000 times bigger, playing in a stadium of 20,000 people.

I’m glad that Kiffmeyer wrote this song for the band, but I have to say, I’m exceptionally happy that Tre Cool ultimately became the drummer of Green Day. My favorite of these versions besides the Starr Club, below, is the up-close version of “I Was There” from The Den in Wigan, where Mike is running around changing basses, Billie Joe is avoiding bodies on the stage, and Tre starts drumming while waiting for his new and life-long bandmates to kick in. Tre takes it all in stride with his wicked smile, egging on the audience with his licks to keep them moving as fast as possible. Must have been good times. I wish that I had been there.

“I Was There” – Green Day in Tampa, 1991 – Last Youtube videos of this song are from 1991 with new drummer, Tre Cool

“I Was There”
Looking back upon my life
And the places that I’ve been
Pictures, faces, girls I’ve loved
I try to remember when
Faded memories on the wall
Some names I have forgotten
But each one is a memory I
Look back on so often.

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

Looking back what I have done
There’s lots more life to live
At times I feel overwhelmed
I question what I can give
But I don’t let it get me down
Or cause me too much sorrow
There’s no doubt about who I am
I always have tomorrow

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

Looking back upon my life
Faded memories on the wall
Looking now at who I am
I don’t let it get me down.

Looking back upon my life
And the places that I’ve been
Pictures, faces, girls I’ve loved
I try to remember when
But I don’t let it get me down
Or cause me too much sorrow
There’s no doubt about who I am
I always have tomorrow

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

Composed by John Kiffmeyer, 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours


Spalding Gray Archive Acquired by Ransom Center in Texas

Spalding Gray

Image via Wikipedia

One of the reasons why I started this blog at the start of Green Day’s tour last year was their sense of performance: how they perform, their synergy with the audience, and how the audience reacted to their performance. I saw Green Day for the first time live at a crazy show in Central Park in May 2009 and I was blown away by their interaction with the audience.

One of the primary reasons why I enjoyed going to so many Green Day shows this year is that they encompass the kind of performance that I love, a sort of experimental theater of music that directly engaged the audience and demanded their participation. The basis of experimental theater attempts to renegotiate the connection of the audience with the performer by breaking down the traditional view of how theater is presented. It actively engages the audience in the performance by directly confronting them and demolishing the traditional and invisible “fourth wall” separating performers and audience. One of my favorite actors who successfully connected with their audience in such a way was the monologist, Spalding Gray. Gray was a member one of the premiere experimental troupes from the 1960s, the Performance Group and a founding member of probably the most successful experimental theater company of them all, the still running Wooster Group, whose members include Kate Valk and Willem Dafoe.

Not all performance demands the crazed punk-influence interaction of a Green Day show, of course. A good performance, however, captivates an audience and engages their mind and imagination. Gray’s monologue performances were simple: he sat behind a table in front of a microphone with a glass of water and his script placed before him. Once he started his monologue, he would take you on a trip, to Cambodia, to New York, to his mother’s suicide, to a ski trip, to the inner workings of his mind and emotions. How he broke that fourth wall was directly talking to the audience, looking them straight in the eye, and divulging his most intimate fears and emotions, many of which the audience could relate to within themselves.

Spalding Gray – Swimming to Cambodia

Gray’s most successful monologue performance was based on his time filming the 1984 film, The Killing Fields, which depicted the experiences of three journalists reporting from Cambodia during the horrific war and subsequent genocide that occurred in that country under the Khmer Rouge during the 1970s. Gray had a small role in the film as an American diplomat. Gray’s monologue, Swimming to Cambodia, told the tale of his time in Thailand with the film’s actors and crew, and delves into his life with his future wife as well. The monologue was made into a film in 1987, directed by Jonathan Demme.

Gray was a master storyteller and who doesn’t like a good story? Unfortunately, his life story ended tragically. After suffering injuries from a car accident in Ireland in 2001, Gray succumbed to the depression that dogged him during his life, and he committed suicide by jumping off of the Staten Island ferry as it crossed from Manhattan to Staten Island in 2004.

I’m a former performer who studied experimental theater and also created and performed several one-woman shows. Spalding Gray was one of my heroes. I loved his work and was devastated when he died. I was lucky to see two of his monologues, Monster in a Box and It’s a Slippery Slope. I’m also an archivist and read today in the New York Times Artsbeat blog that Gray’s archive has been acquired by the Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin. The Ransom Center is one of the most excellent repositories of archives in art, film, and theater, and a few years ago acquired the prop and script collection of actor Robert DeNiro. The Center will now hold Gray’s original working notebooks [IMAGE], diaries, correspondence, cassettes and videos of his performances. Reading the Ransom Center’s description of the collection, it’s an incredible archive of an incredible performer. On the whole, though, while I’m happy that the Center now has this incredible archive of Gray’s work, I wish that we still had Spalding Gray himself. His death was such a tragedy and I miss his voice. Luckily, his archive will keep his voice alive.


What I Heard: Oct. 29-Nov. 5, 2010

Since Green Day’s tour ended, there is really nothing much to talk about when it comes to the band. The Twitter feed has gone silent as Billie Joe had a technology rant at the concert in Peru and I have a feeling we won’t be hearing from him for a long while as Green Day headed back to the Oakland area to work on whatever they are currently working on. I had thought I would stop blogging at this site, but I decided at the last minute to keep it up and talk about not only Green Day, but other music, theater, social and political musings as well. I’ve been a bit busy with a maniacal project at work, and haven’t blogged much over the last week. I hope this column will be a weekly roundup of events I’ve gone to and hopefully will be able to bring you new music and acts to check out for yourself. Just a note: you won’t like what I like and vice-versa. This is just a place to share what I heard. Here goes the first one, What I Heard over the week of Friday, Oct. 29 to Friday, Nov. 5.

Japanther, Dog That Bites Everyone and Team Spider – C-Squat, NYC – Oct. 29, 2010

A few months ago, I traveled to California to see Green Day’s last American shows of their tour. The tour ended in Mountain View, just outside of San Francisco. At the same time, a small music festival called “Hoodstock” was going on in Oakland and the first night of Hoodstock occurred the same night as Green Day and featured the Brooklyn-based, two-piece band known as Japanther. I was a bit bummed that I couldn’t see them at Hoodstock. I swore when they came back home to the Brooklyn area that I would indulge in a little Brooklyn art-school noise, and luckily, a small show for Time’s Up, a “New York City-based not-for-profit direct-action environmental group that uses events and educational programs to promote a more sustainable, less toxic city” benefit happened at C-Squat in Manhattan’s East Village just before Halloween.

Cometbus Words at C-Squat. Photo by GDM

C-Squat is the heart of Manhattan’s anarcho-crusty-punk, whatever-it’s-called, music and political scene. Since I’m not what I would call a punk and am too old to really fit in, I was a bit worried about feeling out of place. I go to a lot of events by myself and feel out of place everywhere, so it’s not necessarily just at punk shows do I feel like a strange misfit. Luckily my friend Mike Chickenman introduced me to a few people at C-Squat, and I also saw a girl there that Mike had introduced me to when we saw Bad Religion at Irving Place on Wednesday of that week. I also met a kid named Grim at the venue, and he was kind enough to talk with me for a little bit. I ran into some politically-minded people that I have met over the last years at the Time’s Up benefit also, so I began to feel a little less out of place than I usually do. I don’t consider myself a punk (as no one else would either), and I don’t fit easily into any “scene.” Luckily, by the time that Japanther hit the stage, my inhibitions about my own sense of identity faded away, and I almost hurt myself dancing when I joined in with the younguns on the tiny dance floor. I’m always amazed at shows that have a crazy dance floor. On the whole, people take care of each other as they are slamming into one another, unlike the pit at Green Day’s Montreal show that I went to back in August, where people were just assholes.

C-Squat is also where on-the-road ‘zine legend Aaron Cometbus recently wheatpasted some of his original Cometbus writings on one wall and floor, and I took a few pictures of his work for a friend who is a huge Cometbus fan. I only had my iPhone on me, and the few crappy pictures of the night that that I took can be viewed here.

Team Spider at C-Squat. Photo by GDM

I started the night watching the bands from the balcony, as Mike had left by this time to head to work and I still didn’t yet feel comfortable enough to hang out on the floor. I also kinda love to watch a dance floor from above, too. The night began with the band Team Spider, a mix of ska and punk, and they got the small crowd going as bodies slammed into other as they will do to music with idiosyncratic beats. When dancers fell, others were there to pick them up, even as masked Halloween dancers violently pushed each other and a dog ran through the crowd chasing a ball. The band itself was fun, and I liked their song “Fuck Brakes,” which basically is about, well, the freedom to chose brakes or not, or Live Free or Fucking Die. The lead singer wore a bike helmet with a NYS license plate stuck through it, and I have the feeling that he’s had more than one encounter between bike and car in his life. You can listen to some of their songs at their Myspace page, including “Fuck Brakes,” located here.

Dog That Bites Everyone EP Cover. Photo by GDM

The next band up was Dog That Bites Everyone. I had seen them open for Star Fucking Hipsters in Tompkins Square Park over the summer, and I enjoyed their mix of garage rock and r&b. They are a difficult band to categorize, and I enjoy that, too. The crowd had gotten a bit denser by this time, filling up with people there for the Time’s Up benefit that weren’t really into dancing, so the crowd didn’t move as much as they did for the first band. I thought to myself that when Japanther went on, those folks were really going to have to get out of the way or be crushed, and I ended up being right about that. I was still up in the balcony for the band’s set, but I knew that my time was limited there as the person next to me, who was really drunk, threw up over the balcony and really needed to go home. Here are a few pictures of their show at C-Squat from their Myspace page.

After Dog That Bites Everyone, I was going to head outside for a smoke, but they weren’t letting people outside as capacity had been reached, so I ended up talking at the door with a doorman and some crazy funny kid who was trying to decipher a strange text message and picture that he had received from a friend. The kid couldn’t figure out if the picture and accompanying text meant a booty call or not, but I was a little scared for him as the text message mentioned blow torches and pliers, and I told him that he had two choices: call the guy and figure what the heck he meant or stay and see Japanther and not run the risk of third-degree burns. I have no idea what he decided, as I headed back in after the smoke and Japanther were ready to go on anyway. I headed to the floor and was determined to dance as much as this old body could.

Japanther is a two-piece band made up of drums, bass, and a cassette sound machine. The two members of the band, Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly, met at the Pratt Institute art school in Brooklyn, and have an art school sensibility mixed with punk and a techno beat, I suppose. They’ve been around since 2001. While the sound might not be for everyone, I guarantee you that if you see them, you will be compelled to throw yourself into a few sweaty bodies and loose all sense of physical inhibition. Oh wait, that just could be what I did for their show. Your experience, of course, may be different.

Japanther – “River Phoenix”

World/Inferno Friendship Society and In Cadeo – Brooklyn Bowl, Halloween, Oct. 31, 2010

I was looking forward to this show so much, and I think my expectations of meeting new people and enjoying a fun Halloween were blown out of proportion in my head. It’s not that I didn’t have a good experience hearing and seeing World/Inferno Friendship Society, I did, but as someone who goes to a lot of events by themselves, I felt incredibly lonely at this show where everyone seemed to know each other and were in on the Great Pumpkin Experience.

Mike was there again, and a few people that I’ve met, but Mike was working and others knew scores of people there, and due to my mood, I didn’t have that Friendship experience. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, another loser night by myself, and got way too overwhelmed and left early. Plus, I was still incredibly tired and in pain from Friday’s Japanther show at C-Squat.

In Cadeo - Brooklyn Bowl. Photo by GDM

The first band, In Cadeo, was not my cup of tea. They fashion themselves after the band, The National, and while they are incredibly accomplished musicians with a big sound that included cello, I was bored stiff watching them. Reading their press, they are placed in a grunge/punk category, but I think they are more hipster-sounding grunge, if there is such a thing. (Ugh, categories!) I am very good at moving to any band that I see onstage if their music moves me, and I have no qualms about bopping my head if the beat is right. Unfortunately for me, In Cadeo bored me to tears, but that also might be due to the incredibly crappy mood that I was in. You can hear some of their songs at their Myspace page, and they have incredibly positive press, so don’t let my bad mood affect your listening pleasure. I enjoyed their lyrics and the song, “The Archer,” so make sure you check that one out.

World/Inferno Friendship Society - Brooklyn Bowl. Photo by GDM

Feeling like Lucy with her head stuck in water. Photo by GDM

As the time neared for W/IFS’s performance, the crowd packed into the space around the stage tighter. If you’ve never been to the Brooklyn Bowl, it’s part bowling alley, part bar, part stage area, and it’s huge. The intimacy of C-Squat wasn’t there, and again, my mood and body wasn’t the best. I huddled into a corner with my back to a wall but close to the stage. I was hoping that I would be compelled to fling myself into the pit at some point, but it just wasn’t happening, but it was fun to see the crowd go wild and it was evident that this musical collective, with a rotating cast of musicians (and an aerial performance, too!) and the audience have a great chemistry together that has been cultivated over a long period of time. [Read the Wiki page for more info.] I hope that if I see them again, I’m in a better spirit because I love their sound: part-punk and gypsy-rock with a touch of Weimer-era Germany thrown in, too, and I heart tremendously any band that combines an excellent front showman with brass. I hope to see them again when I’m not in such a holiday funk.

Showgasm at Ars Nova with Visiting House Band Declan Bennett

Last night’s show was a cabaret showcase called Showgasm, which takes place at the Manhattan space, Ars Nova, on W. 54th Street. I went to see Declan Bennett play with members of the American Idiot cast, including ensemble member, drummer Gerard Canonico, bassist Chase Peacock, and Jared Stein, assistant musical director of the show, on piano. Chase Peacock and Brian Charles Johnson of American Idiot also performed as their two-piece rap band, Fran Sancisco, doing two songs, including “Roofie Girl,” which is basically a rap about getting girls high on roofies cause they can’t get them any other way.

I was quite impressed with Bennett’s sound and style, and as usual, impressed with the drumming of Gerard Canonico and Jared Stein on piano. I had never heard Chase Peacock play the bass, except for a few months ago at a Green Day Rock Band event, and I give him a thumbs-up as well. There was a cello player also, but unfortunately, I did not catch his name. Bennett’s style is soulful and his lyrics are touching. He’s quite earnest in his performance and music. It was the first time I had heard him play and I couldn’t really hear him speak from where I was sitting when he said the titles of songs, but his MySpace page contains at least one that he performed called “Blu Tack” that I really enjoyed. I look forward to hearing him perform again.

The night itself showcased several comedy acts and there were some laugh-out-loud performances, including one of the funniest performers I’ve seen in a while, Amy Albert. Her Delilah Dix character is a washed-up cabaret/movie star who likes to tell her tales of hanging out with the likes of David Hasselhoff and Paula Abdul, and she has a great cabaret voice and musical style. Check out her website for a clip of her act. I also enjoyed the host comedian, Billy Eichner, who tried to show his video, “Forest Hills State of Mind” based on Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” but the video just wasn’t cooperating. The full lineup of acts who performed can be found on the Ars Nova Showgasm site, located here.

Forest Hills State of Mind – Billy Eichner with Rachel Dratch and vocals by Amy Albert

Things I Wish I Could Have Heard

Lastly, there were three performances this week that I wish I could have gone too, but hell, you can’t do everything. Roger Waters performed “The Wall” this week in New York City and Social Distortion played with Lucero and Frank Turner at Roseland. On a smaller scale, an acquaintance of mine, Christian Gibbs (who played in the house band for Lizzie Borden: The Show) had a cd release party last night at the 92StY’s Tribeca space. His band is called Lucinda Black Bear and the album is called Knives, which is a follow-up to their first album, capo my heart. I love them. Check out the band at their site, located here.

That’s it for this week. I hope that I get to hear/see/do some stuff this week to report back to you!


Honah Lee Premieres New Video, “I Hate My Job!”

Honah Lee – “I Hate My Job” – Check out more music and performance dates at Honah Lee Music

Honah Lee is a fun band, snappy and brusque and they rock out in a nerdy-punk sort of way. I met them during the Party! Party! Party! Tour that they and the Mystic Knights of the Cobra did back in April 2010. They were the first opening band for the Foxboro Hot Tubs at Don Hill’s on April 23, 2010.

The band is from the Trenton, NJ area and were recently highlighted in the Trentonian’s “On The Beat” column about local Halloween shows. The paper said:

Cross-dressing with smeared makeup and marker-ed-up from head to toe in tawdry, faux tattoos, Halloween arrived three months early for the city wild bunch the last time On The Beat caught them at The Mill Hill Basement. It was a crazy scene, as they’re a crazy band — that we’re hoping will save this scene someday — and came at the conclusion of a windswept weekend tour with Michigan’s own intoxicated demons, The Plurals. There were lots middle fingers and people trying to crowd surf. Was thinking there might have been a chicken fight or two. Even some male nudity. And a blurry experience from this end. Pretty much rocked our socks off. Well, The Mill Hill Basement (300 S. Broad St., Trenton) is where local legends are born, and its Halloween hootenanny — from what we’ve heard — tends to get a bit loony. Perfect marriage, right? It goes down on Saturday night and comes a few weeks after Honah Lee debuted their yet-to-be-released new video for “I Hate My Job.” For fans of debauchery, debasers, The Replacements and Weezer.

I hope they save the local scene too! I’ll be at their show in New York City coming up on November 13th at Arlene’s Grocery on the Lower East Side. Hope to see you there, too!