YUZIMA at the Bowery Electric: A mindful conversation and show review
08/21/2019 — In July, I attended YUZIMA’s performance at the Bowery Electric. Since we both happened to arrive very early to the venue, I wanted to catch-up with the artist who appeared on my blog a few years ago. (The article was a full-length interview that focused on reviewing his full-length EP The Machine). As tempted as I was to speak to YUZIMA, I learned the singer-songwriter likes to take time before a show to partake in mindful meditation.
Mindful meditation is simple, but it is not easy. What is it exactly? According to Cathy Wong (2018), in the article on Verywellmind.com, “Mindfulness Meditation,” Mindful(ness) Meditation “is a mental training practice that involves focusing your mind on your experiences (like your own emotions, thoughts, and sensations) in the present moment” (verywellmind.com, Sep. 2018). I, for one, have a difficult time; my mind naturally wanders somewhere else, specifically to the past or the potential future. I give YUZIMA, a.k.a Yuzima Philip, credit for practicing mindful meditation, especially before a show.
In my own attempt, I started to observe the crowds around me. I took notice of elements within the Bowery Electric I had not seen during previous visits. For example, the space has a faux crystal chandelier that hangs from the ceiling. From a distance, and based only on physical appearance, the incoming customers fell into the category of a student; professional, or other. A group of five young professionals surrounded the edge of the bar just by the area that was three feet away from the ticket-checking podium. One man exhibited a sense of chivalry for a woman within the group; he continually stood on his feet and let her sit in a bar chair. His eyes were glued to her, but she seemed more interested in talking to the other female companions within the group.
Scanning the bar further, I noticed that they had installed a television monitor on the back wall, a screen that showed musical acts playing on the stage just beyond where the bar ended. The act I saw performed music that was a mix of alternative adult rock and jazz. I had remembered feeling moved by one song they had composed. I then, however, heard them cover Led Zepplin’s “Dazed and Confused” which I had criticized. I vocalized my thoughts to YUZIMA, to which he replied: “I try not to judge.”
We did get to quickly reminisce over what has happened in our lives since I interviewed him in 2014. YUZIMA had gotten married; traveled to New Orleans where he filmed the video for his song, “Atheist.” During this time, he also shot a music video for the song on BASH, “Madame Laveau.” The music video for this song was shot in NYC, but it was created to look like it was filmed in New Orleans. I especially liked listening to him talk about the Louisiana city and cultural hotspot. I immediately started to remember the HBO show based on the city – Treme.
Then, came time for the show. YUZIMA’s set started with the song “Back Wall.” Next, the song list included: “Resist,” “Separation,” “Atheist,” “Miami,” then concluded with “Madame Laveau.” He performed these songs half-plugged – with only one electric/acoustic guitar and no back-up. The artist’s enthusiasm felt just as powerful as his performance on-stage with The Beatles Complete on Ukulele in 2013.
The songs YUZIMA performed on the set that night feel far more melodic than the tracks on his 2014 release, The Machine. I was excited to hear him play a half-plugged version of “Madame Laveau,” which, in my opinion, is the most lyrically intriguing song from the set.
Wong, C. (Sept. 30, 2018). “Mindfulness meditation.” [Webpage]. Retrieved on Jul. 2019 https://www.verywellmind.com/mindfulness-meditation-88369
On a pathway to Americana and more: A review of Jamie McLean at Rockwood Music Hall
On Wednesday, February 28th, with a performance at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2, Jamie McLean and his band, celebrated his first LP One and Only. Released on February 23rd, producer/ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer (Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris) helped bring this record to life. The show on February 28th by this Tom Petty-like singer – please emphasize the “like” as I elaborate on the versatility of this record – would act as the perfect program for a lover of Americana, even classic rock, who perhaps possesses some preference for Jazz and may have also had a little run-in with the Ska genre.
As audience members slowly filled the space in front of the stage, at about 8:20pm on an unusually mild day for the season, Jamie and his band were tuning up in the dark. The bass player played along with the tunes on the radio. Meanwhile, Jamie communicated to the sound engineer on the second floor through his microphone, “I need the bass vocal.” A saxophone player would soon come to the stage to also partake in the prepping that attendees seemed not to notice.
Once the band finished tuning, they had all left the stage, Jamie, his bass player, the drummer, and the sax player. I only hoped that within a few minutes, they would return to the stage and perform. That, they did, re-entering the dark performance space and confidently taking the stage. The lights turned on to expose the band, just after the first few strums on the Les Paul, plucks on the bass and beats on the drums. The concert-goers gradually quieted themselves and directed their attention toward the music. The band’s first song on the program was the title track, the same one that helped me draw the connection between Jamie and Tom Petty’s voice.
“You’re not the only one,” which reminded me ever so slightly of Petty’s “Refugee” followed in the program. The specific musical element that separates this song from the one by the famous singer is the order of the chord progressions. I also ponder the reason I think of Petty’s hit when listening to “You’re not the only one,” and conclude that the tone of Jamie’s song gets darker, entering a minor key.
As the program continued, Jamie transitioned out of “Petty” land and into a realm that felt like more his own. The track that marked this transition is titled, “Yesterday’s Champagne.” This song includes lyrics within the verses building up to the chorus, “If you wanna talk about it/I will be right here/ If you wanna cry about it/I will be right here.” Then for the chorus, Jamie sings “you are sleeping in the hallway/looking for the answer/looking for the voices…” These words seem to tell a story about no ordinary hangover, but one that includes something of a post-coital tristesse. Further, the title for the tune is fitting, especially as the tempo slows down, and the harmonic rhythm in guitar, simultaneously, becomes more syncopated.
Later, the saxophonist, Steve Salcedo, enters stage. While I cannot recall the name of the song, I do remember it delivers a little Ska. More notably, Jamie and his band made sure that listeners received an ample dosage of the sax player’s virtuosity, by allowing him to surprise the audience with two solos. During these moments, Jamie stepped away from the spotlight and played rhythm guitar to support the woodwind player, and it reminded me that sometimes great music consists of collaborations that crossover into different genres.
In the next song, “Spirit,” a trumpeter, Maurice Brown, joined the band. His solo started softly, then within seconds, the flared with forte soprano notes. Steve remained on stage, and would later join Maurice in a call and response solo. As Jamie and his bassist stopped playing, the drummer acted as a mediator for the horns, holding them together with a constant rhythm so that neither one of them traveled of course into free rhythm jazz solos. The piece was still jazzy though, without straying too far into another musical realm. Executed to perfection – which I am sure was achieved through hours of rehearsals, the work which audience members do not see – this song left the audience in awe.
I can only elaborate so much on the show that Jamie put on that night with his band, and guest horn players. I will attest that Jamie’s new LP, One and Only puts listeners on a pathway of Americana, along which we can find doorways or small windows into other genres. Although anyone can quickly discover this band’s music on Soundcloud or doing any Google search, the best way to learn about new music and talented artists like Jamie McLean is by attending one of their shows. I hope some readers take the opportunity to do so the next time Jamie and his band come to the Big Apple.
Phoebe Nir at The Bitter End: Alternating styles for a fun performance
May 25th, 2017 — It has been far too long since my last entry. Aside form work keeping me busy, so has life. I have had a flux of positive changes and challenges (the positives for the most part outweighed the challenges). I now find myself happier than ever to write a review about a performance I attended a few nights ago.
I went to see New York art-punk artist, Phoebe Nir, perform at The Bitter End, a musical venue in West Village that although may have a charm that is a level up from a dive bar; still upholds a reputation of being a rocking place to enjoy live music. The artist sang with a seven-piece ensemble that included a keyboardist, lead guitarist, drummer, backup singer, bassist, rhythm guitarist and, from what appeared to be, an electric saxophone player. The audience consisted of strangers, family members, and close friends.
Just to give you a little background on Phoebe, she is on the same Brooklyn-based label as Marla Mase, True Groove Records and, according to her website, also describes herself as a theater artist. She will release her new EP, Red Tape Nation on June 9th. The title track of this EP is, as described by her publicists, an onslaught of fuzzy guitar riffs, and off-kilter vocals. This track, filled with punk-rock elements that seem overused, also has rhythms in both the drums and the guitars (harmonic rhythm) that make the song undeniably enjoyable. I certainly hope to learn more about the inspiration behind this song in the future and give it more critiquing.
Returning to the onstage performance a few nights ago, Phoebe did not include “Red Tape Nation,” the title track of her forthcoming EP, on the bill. Instead of taking the time to ponder why I listened to the songs she played. A few of these selections came from her last short EP, Side Hustle, such as “Joe.” I soon learned that Phoebe writes music that does not stay purely true to punk rock.
Phoebe delivered a crisp vocal performance within each of her songs; an amalgam of tracks that seemed to have come from an ambivert. One minute this artist has a high opinion about her experiences which she fearlessly exhibits through cabaret-styled vocals. For example, in the energetically rhythmic song “Foreshadowing,” Phoebe sings (something along the lines of) I lost like a winner… and now, I am winning like a loser. During this time, she pumps her fist in the air before quickly turning into an elevated forefinger which she points down to herself. The next minute, she collects her thoughts into a calmer song – a cover of The Sundays’, “Here’s where the story ends.”
An additional track – an original which I cannot remember the name of – could serve as the perfect break-up song, mellower than “Foreshadowing.” The following lyric stood out to me – When you played the Goldberg Variations/ It was a jewel in time. This introspection helped display a more conscientious side of the performer. Of course, this would all turn around at the very end, when Phoebe concluded her one-hour set with a cover of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life,” a number also on Side Hustle, and one that got many audience members to clap and even get out of their chairs.
Personally, I have experienced times when it’s hard to watch a performance where the audience has to endure either an hour filled only with driving rock music or an hour of slower alternative rock songs. By organizing the order of where these types of songs alternate, listeners will barely notice an hour has passed. My last description adequately reflects my experience listening to and watching Phoebe Nir, and her band, at The Bitter End. My only criticism of this show is that for the last song on the bill, “Lust for Life,” Phoebe’s mic could have had more volume. Anybody who is familiar with Iggy Pop’s song will know that the drums and guitars play one volume – loud. Other than that, I recommend going to a performance by Phoebe Nir.
Recapping the Northside Festival Innovation and Music Moments
June 17th, 2015 – Last week, from June 11th through the 13th, I attended the Northside Festival – the innovation and music portion in Williamsburg. I went to this festival as a member of the press, appointed by Workman Group PR. In 2009, the Northside Festival, created by the publishers of The L Magazine, Dan and Scott Stedman, started as a festival of film screenings and 50 musical acts (Carter 2009). This year, the festival saw 400+ musical acts, 50+ film screenings, and an innovation portion that had been added in 2013 and has expanded to 150+ speakers who work in design, innovation and entrepreneurship this year (Eventbrite 2015; Shaer 2013).
Northside Media Group expected more than 100K attendees (projected) in 2015 that might generate a few million in revenue (Eventbrite 2015; Shaer 2013). On the subject of business, there is more good news for Scott and Dan Stedman. On June 4th, Zealot Networks, a Los Angeles-based digital-first media company, acquired the Brooklyn-Based, Northside (CrunchBase 2015; Shieber 2015).
Now that I have given you some background information about the Northside Festival, I want to share my personal story. When I was completing my badge registration form for this festival, I had a choice to cover music, which I would, of course, select. Then I had the option of also covering innovation or film in addition. Since I had finished my temporary role with the Center for Student Entrepreneurship at CUNY in March 2015, and graduated with a Masters in Marketing from Baruch College on June 3rd, my head was still freshly stocked with information about NYC entrepreneurship, and marketing. Northside’s innovation, therefore, seemed like the next place I wanted to cover.
The innovation portion of the festival lasted two days, and all the presentations and showcases were compacted in a very organized schedule inside of some of the most beautiful, artistic and hip locations in Williamsburg. Every morning, between June 11th and June 12th, the Northside Festival started with a breakfast sponsored by Co: Collective inside of the Wythe Hotel at 9 am. Badge pick-ups were always between the hours of 8 and 10 am for the press and staff in various locations. I went to the one at McCarren Park. On June 12th, at 8 pm, the end of a successful innovation portion at Northside concluded with a party sponsored by Zealot Networks on the roof of McCarren Hotel, located right across from the park.
At this party were a few people I had met and wanted to meet, but did not get the chance. Dan and Scott Stedman attended (of course), and Trond Hansen – the creator of Kite, whom I interviewed for my LinkedIn page. I also met someone who worked for Zealot, and she had moved to New York City about six months ago. I told her Williamsburg is a great place to discover new music and experience New York’s independent art scene. She said she planned on attending the music events on Saturday, June 13th, the next day. Also, I also met an independent film critic, whom I had also seen and chatted with multiple times throughout the festival.
Stand by my LinkedIn Page to read more of my coverage on the innovation panels, presentations, and launch events I attended – including the Kite App Launch, where you can see photos of right here. Please also see photos of the closing party on McCarren Rooftop, and terrific shots of a band I saw across the street at the park, The Very Best – a group that came all the way from Malawi just to tour some major U.S. summer music festivals. Then, I also have some shots of Alyson Greenfield’s set at The Gutter from Saturday, June 13th. I want to shout out THANK YOU to Alyson, who introduced me to Workman Group PR, who then, introduced me to Trond, and exposed me to the entire Northside experience.
Carter, N. (2009, June 10). Williamsburg replaces pool concerts with Northside Festival. New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/williamsburg-replaces-pool-concerts-northside-festival-article-1.374184
Crunchbase. (2015). Zealot Networks [data file]. Retrieved from https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/zealot-network
Eventbrite. (2015). 2015 Northside Festival Local Sponsorship Package [data file]. Retrieved from http://www.eventbrite.com/e/2015-northside-festival-local-sponsorship-package-tickets-15439386621
Shaer, M. (2013, May 26). The Rise of Northside: How the eight-day, multi-venue music festival whistled past “the graveyard.” New York Magazine. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/guides/summer/2013/northside/
Shieber, J. (2015, June 4). Zealot Networks Buys Brooklyn-Based Media and Events Company Northside Media Group. Techcrunch. Retrieved from http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/04/zealot-networks-buys-brooklyn-based-media-and-events-company-northside-media-group/#.9e6gbi:pCq5
Kim Logan comes to New York with New Music
April 22nd, 2015 – I always enjoy staying in touch with artists I have interviewed for Music Historian. It makes me even happier to take someone very close to me to a show by artists I admire. Last night, I took my younger sister, Christina with me to Rockwood Music Hall to see Kim Logan.
When we both entered Stage 2 at around 8:45 pm, the space was crowded and filled with people who focused on habituating a space on the wood floor they silently designate. As we waited for the previous band to finish, Christina and I tried to keep our place without bumping into anybody. Once the group finished, and audience members started rushing in and out, I kept an eye out on the opposite end of the room, to watch for Kim. I eventually spotted her, and temporarily left my space to say “Hello” to the fiery red-haired songstress.
Kim kindly invited us backstage so that we could briefly talk and catch up. While Christina and I waited for Kim inside her dressing room, we both spoke to a few of her band mates who performed with her that night. Her drummer, who has been traveling with Kim on her entire tour, practiced a few of his rhythms with his drumsticks on the couch. The saxophonist of the group sat on the couch adjacent to the drummer and cleaned his instrument. Christina conversed with the blonde and pretty backup singer. The singer, who would join Kim for one night, talked about her parents’ move from England to Los Angeles.
A few moments later, Kim stepped backstage, and we got to talk. She is ready to take her new songs on the road, and she feels excited and ready. Aside from a saxophone part, the presence of a brass section with a trumpeter and trombonist shows that Kim also has a talent for picking multiple players for a large band who can perform with her and help span her sound. Further, her talent spans across listeners from different cities.
Christina, who has very different taste in music than I do, loved Kim’s performance. My sis positively told me, “You should keep an eye on her. She is better than most artists I hear on the radio.”
Gypsy Rock Folk and Americana Folk Rock at the Cutting Room
June 26th, 2014 – On Friday, June 20th, one day before the Make Music New York Festival, friends and fans of Todd Carter and Sylvana Joyce – a musician and acquaintance of Alyson Greenfield’s – were one of the many independent musicians who closed vibrant Spring season of music in New York City. There was no better place to mark such an occasion than at The Cutting Room, a restaurant, bar and performance space in Murray Hill, and by far, the largest and most ornamented performance space I have attended for a show. See the pics below.
At about 7:00pm, the doors to the auditorium of the cutting room opened. Sylvana Joyce was scheduled open the set at 7:30pm. This gave me plenty of time to order some food. I ordered a serving of Earl Grey Crème Brule and a glass of Pinot Grigio to pass the time. The crust on the dessert was just the right consistency, and a hint of bergamot, that essence which is in Earl Grey tea, shined just enough in the dish. Of course, because I am a lover of wine, the Pinot Grigio was also fantastic.
Sylvana Joyce and her violinist, Sean-David Cunningham, opened the show with music that sounds a little bit like Cabaret. She plays beautiful classical piano while Sean expresses such virtuoso in his playing, I thought he could pass off as a Klezmer fiddler. Just a little bit of information about me – I have a special place for Klezmer music in my heart. I played the guitar in the Syracuse University Klezmer Ensemble in 2009. Returning to this duo’s sound, they describe their style as Gypsy Rock/Blues and Folk. Below, I have included a video of one of their songs which were inspired by some of Sylvana’s personal family history.
The singer songwriter’s mother immigrated from Romania in 1979, and Sylvana’s grandfather was a folklorist and a composer. She claims he heavily influenced her musical practice. This piece of history is also very dear to me. Read why here. (Standby my blog over the next few weeks and you will see this theme of ‘gypsy’ pop up quite a lot).
Sylvana Joyce + The Moment are actually a five-piece band, and I hope to see them play together sometime soon. After Sylvana’s set, there was a 20 minute intermission for those who had come in late and wanted to get some food and drink. At 8:00pm, Todd Carter a.k.a The Looking came on for an hour plus show.
Todd played songs from his most recent 2013 release, Songs for a Traveler, in which he took Americana and folk songs once sung by Sophie Tucker and Judy Garland, and turned them into rock tunes. The most memorable moment in The Looking’s performance was a new song that Todd introduced as a love song to the Portuguese-Jewish philosopher who lived between 1632 and 1677, Baruch Spinoza. Listen to it below. I certainly hope to hear this song again on a future album by The Looking.
If the above song stirred any curiosity about Todd Carter a.k.a. The Looking, I definitely suggest you examine Song’s for a Traveler to get a sense of the group’s sound and style. Plus, I recommend the album for anybody who is a fan of experimental rock guitar music. As for Sylvana, while I would classify her music more as Romanian folk rock and blues, I would have to see her five-piece band perform. Based on what I heard at The Cutting Room if I do see them, I believe will be in for a treat.
“Uncharted Places” Premiere at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar
June 1st, 2014 – On Friday, May 30th, I went to Brooklyn Night Bazaar in Williamsburg to see Alyson Greenfield’s premiere of a song she worked on with beatboxing talent Shane Maux at the Converse Rubber Tracks Studios called “Uncharted Places.” She performed this song with Shane Maux, and Nate Morgan and Interroben. Here is a snippet of the premiere.
Alyson performed at 9:00pm, but I had arrived at 7:00pm. During this time, I talked with Alyson and met some of her friends – two lovely ladies who work in musical theater. Together, we examined what Brooklyn Night Bazaar had to offer, including a food court of amazing vendors.
All three ladies bought dishes from Brasserie, Alyson specifically ate one called “The Truth,” and remarked, “This is how all food should taste.” Meanwhile, I had a fried risotto ball filled with ground beef, taco seasoning and cheddar from a different vendor. I have never devoured a more delicious culinary hodgepodge. The venue has plenty of picnic table seating between the flea market set-up, the performance stage, the food court and – before I forget – the game station, where visitors can play ski ball, Ms. Pac Man, House of the Dead, air hockey and more.
After our meal, Alyson stepped backstage for make-up and warm-ups. The three of us continued towards the flea market. Brooklyn Night Bazaar that brings together various merchandising businesses under one roof to showcase their inventory to the public, almost like a flea market. I have never been to a music venue that accurately reflected the theme it portrayed in its name. The two ladies and I circled around the jewelry section. I was impressed by some of the craftsmanship many of these shops exhibited, including Wumee.
One very large Mango Passion iced tea, and purchase of a necklace later, we made our way to the game area where I played Ms. Pac Man. I felt like a kid again, and the experience really helped me lighten up.
On the topic of lightening-up, while BNB provides the public multiple drink options, including a pub annexed from the main room, Beer Garden; the flea market and game place offers an alternative to drinking.
After Alyson’s amazing show, I bumped into Casey Dinkin, another great musician who Alyson introduced me to last year. I felt so excited we were all under the same roof on a great night in Williamsburg, I just had to take a picture of the three of us.
Finally, the last person I spoke with is photographer Jasmina Tomic, who I met at the 2013 Beatles Complete on Ukulele. Jasmina talked about how at times, especially when the weekend rolls around, she does not know when to stop working. This has been the case for her as her business grows. I usually find this is also the case for me. When you live in the city, you often live to work. Sometimes, one must slow down to stop by the Brooklyn Night Bazaar and see a friend’s premiere of an exciting song they have worked on for a long time.
Those who attended the performance on Friday will know they can – if they have not already – sign up for the newsletter to see the music video for “Uncharted Places.” While I did not record a snippet of the teaser to the video, which Alyson also presented that night, I am sure that all of her fans will see the video in due time. Until then, do stop by the Brooklyn Night Bazaar for an iced tea, a game of Ms. Pac Man and a delicious risotto ball or “The Truth.”
Stop by Rockwood Music Hall and Learn What’s New on the Music Scene
March 18th, 2014 — From the moment I reinvented my blog for the first time 3 years ago, Rockwood Music Hall quickly became one of my favorite music venues in New York City. Located in the Lower East Side, it is the perfect place to see a show for under $20 and enjoy a drink while you watch. Rockwood Music Hall has a total of 3 stages. Stage 1 is in a room that has two floor seating, and it is the most ideal place for videographers to set up their equipment. Stage 2, just next door, has a single floor seating, and the stage background is a brownstone wall.
For the first time last Thursday, I went to stage 3 — located in the basement — to watch Todd Carter perform. To my surprise, I was able to pick up the best quality video recording on my Samsung Galaxy.
Last time I attended a show by Todd was at the Symphony Space in the Upper West Side. He put on a full hour set to launch his 2013 release Songs for a Traveler. During the Rockwood Music Hall set, Todd performed “River in the Pines” and “Blue River”, songs from that album. In addition, he also added a cover of a song by an art group from the 70’s called Hugo Largo. Listen to it in the video below.
The songs Todd played that night pivoted towards a different genre, one that was more progressive and ambiance-inducing, as opposed to the rock ‘n’ roll immersed Americana playlist from Songs for a Traveler. On the stage, Todd collaborated with more guests, including the known uke player and Brooklyn producer Roger Greenawalt.
School and work have kept me very busy. Luckily, I was able to put down my books and finish my work early last Thursday to reconnect with important people on the independent music scene including Alyson Greenfield, who is currently recording music for independent films while simultaneously focusing on the 2014 Tinderbox Music Festival. I also had the chance to briefly see Roger Greenawalt, who is also working on a project set for a public launch this June. Finally, I stopped to say hello to Todd, who felt very pleased with his performance and delighted to see his own friends and community come to support his work.
In addition to speaking with previous interviewees and acquaintances, I also met music entrepreneur, Chantilly, a singer, songwriter and blogger who founded the Noise Collective – a networking project that connects musicians with other musicians, professional songwriters and agents. I would certainly love to learn more about Chantilly’s business and spread the word about it in the near future.
Sometimes attending concerts can also lead to new learning experiences and potentially new and exciting discoveries within the urban musical landscape.
Tinderbox Music Festival 2013, Music Hall of Williamsburg
November 3rd – This year’s Tinderbox Music Festival, originally created by electronic music brainchild Alyson Greenfield, and managed by Music Industry Jane-of-All-Trades, Rebecca An, unfolded on two stages at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Sure this showcase downsized from last year’s three stage event at Webster Hall in Washington Square near the ever so yuppie NYU campus, but to my surprise, I found this year’s festival more enjoyable, especially since I was able to get closer to the musical acts and, for the most part, record better quality footage of their performances.
One artist who really stood out to me and many others was Angela Sheik, the fierce vocal- and multi-instrumentalists. She received the title BOSS US National Loop Champion due to her fast effects pedal footwork and ability to build her own virtual backup band using a looper. Check her out in her performance at the underground stage, and prepare to be amazed.
This year’s Tinderbox attracted a wide variety of individuals. Aside from the artistic group and their friends that are acquainted with the music acts, plenty of individuals who hold 9 to 5 jobs, and tourists, stopped by to unwind with a drink and great music. The thought of a music festival might ring to some as a very noisy and chaotic place to relax on a Friday evening in November, but Tinderbox 2013 served as a meeting point for music that was a cross between popular, punk rock, adult alternative and lounge-like electronic.
The first act to hit the main stage was Aye Nako, a band with punk-riffs that were constructed with major chords against innocent and child-like vocals. Following this act, was Half Waif, a band that creates songs with dissonance and intriguing rhythms while echoing the vocal style of Tori Amos. Sure, this bands’ music is formulaic in composition, but the instrumentation includes keyboards, electric guitar and bass, and a drum set all manned by an individual player.
Meanwhile, a different type of formulaic composer was performing below the main stage, one that used a laptop to be her band while singing live into a microphone. This band is called Mad Rapture, and the careful precision of sounds and balance enables this intimate performance to emulate the effect of hearing to a song on the radio.
Returning back to the main stage, Butter the Children brought listeners back to an era of punk rock music that glorified two-minute songs composed purely with analog electronic instruments, like old rock ‘n’ roll. Sadly, the bouncing bass in the amplifiers did not resonate well on a video recording. So I encourage you to listen to songs by Butter the Children on their website.
Finally, Alyson Greenfield took the main stage with her own set, which paired the traditional practice of music created by an analog band and the new practice of looping.
Tinderbox Music Festival brings New Yorkers a musical showcase that is both highly organized and very innovative. I look forward to next year’s festival.
Remembering CBGB while missing the ‘90’s: The 2nd Annual CBGB Festival
October 15, 2013 – On Saturday, October 12, music lovers amidst the electronic signs and flashy flagship stores in Times Square gathered for The 2nd Annual CBGB Festival, which was marked by film screenings throughout the city of the newly released film, CBGB (2013), and rare performances from The Wallflowers, Lisa Loeb, My Morning Jacket, Grizzly Bear and more. As I stood in front of the outdoor stage waiting for the music to start, I overheard a woman describe the prominence of drugs in rock ‘n’ roll to a young man who could have been her 18 year old grandson or nephew.
“Back then, when people gathered at these concerts, especially at CBGG’s, it was all about doing drugs.
That was rock ‘n’ roll; drugs were everywhere. Now, drugs are also everywhere, you see pharmaceutical companies putting up their ads at these music events. You can still get them,” she joked.
In addition to overhearing people’s conversations, I also listened to Lisa Loeb’s solo set. Prior to performing her “Stay (I miss you),” she shared the story about how this song became famous.
Loeb says that when she privately performed this song for her friend (at the time) Ethan Hawke – yes, the actor – he was in the middle of shooting the film “Reality Bites,” directed by Ben Stiller. Hawke brought the song to Stiller who then decided to include the number in the film’s soundtrack.
Hearing neighboring audience members talk about drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, listening to Lisa Loeb’s music, and waiting for the Wallflowers to perform made me think that the musical portion of the CBGB festival was partially paying homage to the ‘90’s. While this decade for me was marked by exciting life events like watching an Eastern European country rise from the collapse of communism, discovering MTV, and learning the piano, I have fully come to comprehend that the music of that decade will not return. Lisa Loeb echoed this thought when she sang one of her newer songs that will be on her album No Fairytale. In the chorus she sang:
“Those were the ‘90’s/ You can’t live in the past/ You said you loved me then/ but I don’t wanna go back.”
Then between Loeb’s and The Wallflower’s set, I started to think about my personal nostalgia for the ‘90’s and discovered that it really started around 2000, when I started to develop a love for rock music from that time period, like grunge and alternative folk. Sometimes I wish I could have been a part of Generation X an older generation to experience the prime of ‘90’s rock ‘n’ roll. I am also sure many music lovers who were kids during that decade wish the same.
So, Saturday’s CBGB festival made us miss the ‘90’s. Aside from the merchandise, banners and displays; how did the former landmark venue for American Punk and New Wave bands like The Ramones, Joan Jett & The Black Hearts, The Police, Misfits and more, fit into this festival’s music scene? I can only conclude that it was the spirit of CBGB that New Yorkers wanted to remember. This festival satisfied people’s need to hear live music by the bands that they had loved for decades and stand in close physical proximity to that band. Now, if only the 3rd Annual CBGB music festival could fulfill that same need with bands that actually played at CBGB. Imagine the hype that the Police and Patti Smith could create in one of the city’s most touristy and family-friendly hot spots.
August 1, 2013 – Last Sunday, July 28th, I saw Casey Dinkin perform live for the first time at her album release party for Right Now For Now.
It was a beautiful and warm evening with a little rain – weather which is particularly unusual for what we had experienced for most of July yet pleasant to very many – when Casey’s family members, followers that have funded the making of her album, and fans from New York City, Albany, New York, North Carolina and Washington D.C. came to the Rockwood Music Hall for the event.
Whether they were sitting at the bar or at tables or standing shoulder-to-shoulder, the audience greatly anticipated the hour-long set that marked the celebration of Casey’s debut.
During her performance, the singer songwriter introduced each song with a brief story.
“The music is not hardest part about being a musician in New York City, it’s finding a place to live,” said Casey. She continued to explain that while she was living in her first apartment in the big city, lights from street lamps constantly shined in her room. Yet Casey found that she slept peacefully in this light. Then she started playing her song “Light of New York City.”
The introduction for “Eight Days of Waiting,” the first track on her new album, produced a more comedic reception from the audience, one that Casey received with satisfaction and a dash of shyness.
Casey certainly has the sweetness and genuine charm to pack a performance space. In addition, she has the sought after talent and dedication for performing music live. Watch these videos of her songs “Eight Days of Waiting” and “Line in the Sand.”
Time certainly flew for listeners at Rockwood Music Hall during Casey’s show. We all did not realize that an hour was almost up, which allowed Casey to perform one more song. That track was “Brass Heart.”
Once the show concluded, the celebration continued in the backroom, where Casey signed copies of Right Now For Now. Several attendees, me included, lined up to purchase a CD and have Casey sign the case which, I must add, is beautifully designed and produced.
If you like what you read, heard and saw in this post, please look out on Casey Dinkin’s website for her upcoming shows.
June 28, 2013 – Last Friday, the Make Music New York Festival treated all of New York City to free live music making. I was delighted to help Avi Wisnia plan his 7th Annual Brooklyn BBQ Block Party which was included in this larger festival. The event took place on the sidewalk of the international design brand in Williamsburg Brooklyn, Kinfolk Studios. Nine bands that night each contributed their own musical style to this exciting hodgepodge display of independent music in Brooklyn.
Following Khuene was witty lyricist Pete Galub. Performing solo on his Strat, Pete drew in passing individuals with beautifully constructed tunes from his recent release Candy Tears.
Daniel Harris made an appearance as a one-man band playing atmospheric melodies on his electric guitar – music that set the perfect tone for that warm and pleasantly windy June 21st.
The Paris-based trio The Kandinsky Effect drew in more listeners to the outside of Kinfolk Studios with their signature style of experimental jazz.
Afterward, Avi Wisnia took the center stage with his band, serenading audiences with his modern take on west-coast jazz and Bossa Nova.
Caleb Hawley, the only solo acoustic guitar singer in the line-up, exhibited his wide-ranging voice in his folk-infused rock ‘n’ soul songs from his albums We All Got Problems and Steps.
Next, Alan Cohen came to the forefront to bring back the two-minute infectious tunes – a component of rock ‘n’ roll that many of us have fallen in love with at one or many points in our lives.
Following Cohen was Matt Nakoa, the upstate New York native whose music weaves between classical and blues.
The all-girl Japanese punk-rock band Hard Nips concluded the concert with their driving riffs and rhythmic harmonies. Everyone on the streets around Kinfolk Studios walked by to stop and watch the band for their entire set.
Avi Wisnia’s 7th annual Brooklyn BBQ Block Party in conjunction with the Make Music New York Festival, which is also in its seventh year, has probably seen its best turn-out so far. Hopefully this concert will help Brooklynites remember Avi Wisnia and anticipate his 8th annual Brooklyn BBQ Block Party for the next summer solstice.