Sunday, January 28, 2007

Marking Time

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sing You Sinners

Erin McKeown at Joe's Pub Tuesday. Click here for a link to an mp3. By the way, clicking on the name of an artist on the calendar of Joe's Pub links you to YouTube performances, info and mp3s. It's a pretty elegant design . . . For example, say you wanted to see an awesome performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps performed on Ukelele . . . well, give it a shot.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Superbowl Shuffle

So. I had a weekend for the ages. It started innocently enough, some family in town for a little celebrating, a night of drawing at Joe's Pub. But, Chris and I had travel plans for Sunday. It seems there was this game . . .

But first . . .

See, I forgot my clip light so I was huddled up in the booth with a drawing pad surrounded by four small candles. The first set was a showcase of talent new and established. The Ditty Bops were the lead off, but I was struggling with the lighting, so I'm not sharing that drawing.

I was doing a little better when Sonya Kitchell took the stage. It's hard not to have feelings of deep jealous resentment when you realize that she's only 16 and already this good.

Dar Williams closed the first set. I'm a big fan of hers and have been since seeing her several times at the Cactus Cafe back in Austin. I have all her albums and once stalked her with Jonny at a free show down in Battery Park a couple of years ago. She's a delightful presence, tells wonderful and warm stories and then sings great songs.

I'm sure that a lot of folks who play at Joe's take the association with the Public Theater for granted. They're musicians not actors and it may not matter to them that they're performing in the North-wing of one of New York's great theater companies. Not Dar though. She noted that she chose her outfit as an homage to downtown theater, dressing like Ariel as performed by Parker Posey.

The second set was the Cowboy Junkies and my mind started drifting back to the first time I heard them. I was bar-tending at Hamilton's up in Chicago's Rogers Park. It was a college-joint and on Weekends there was a DJ spinning the dance tracks while drunken Loyola students performed mating rituals.

Somehow I convinced the owner to give me a budget to buy music for the booth. Now, I mostly worked the off-nights so I could play the music I wanted to and not feel responsible for creating an atmosphere geared towards cheap sex and binge-drinking. I imagine there's still someone going into the DJ booth at Hamiltons and wondering where the Rickie Lee Jones, Replacements, Connells and, yes, Cowboy Junkies albums came from.

My bad.

Ah, yes. Chicago. Those were the glory years after the last appearance by the Bears in the Superbowl. The last time I went to a Bears game Doug Williams kicked our asses and Ed and I froze in the frigid 40 below zero wind-chill, watching Walter Payton and Gary Fencik limp their ways into retirement.

So. After the Junkies finished their set and I was somehow both mellowed and invigorated, I packed up my stuff as the Asylum Street Spankers set up theirs on the stage and I made my way over to my cousin Chris's place where I crashed on his couch for four hours. Then we made our way out to LaGuardia at 6 in the morning, flew with a last-minute first-class seat to the Windy city, hopped a cab over to cousin Lindsey's, downed a couple of early-morning beers and headed to the parking lot at Soldier Field for some serious tail-gating.

Now, my cousin Tommy has turned tail-gating into a Fine Art; he's the Picasso and John Coltrane of tail-gating. Tommy has a gas grill that attaches to the rear bumper of his car and he invited a couple of friends who were chefs from New Orleans to join us. As the snow fell all around, we mosied up to the bar at the back of Tommy's car and proceeded to eat a parade of mid-west and cajun delicacies. It started with shrimp, moved on to Jambalaya and red beans and rice, stopped briefly with a Turducken, coasted into a ham, and threw in some bratwurst, rice-stuffed sausage, and ribs to sweeten the pot. There were bloody marys, a cooler of beers and a table with wine, vodka and Jameson to keep us warm by the portable fire pit which was blazing away.

"Does the endless parade of food ever stop?" I asked Tommy. "When the game starts," he replied.

And so it did.

All I'm gonna say about the game was I have never had a better time at a sports event in my life and, despite the fact that it was in the high twenties and snowing, I never even noticed it was cold. I was wearing a one-piece snow-suit that Chris had loaned me, waterproof shoes Tommy took from his own feet and a knit cap made to look like a Bears helmet. Adam texted me during the second-half, asking me where I was so he could find me on the TV. I have never looked less like me than I did on Sunday; you couldn't have found me in that crowd with a telescope and a sharp-shooter. As the fourth quarter turned into the blow-out Bears fans don't even dare to dream about, I looked up into the brightly lit snow falling in waves down upon us and cheered my voice to a shred.

Then we high-jacked a limo, crashed at Lindsey's, tried to wake Chris so he could see the Patriots stumble, slept for four or so hours and hopped an early flight back to NYC.

By 11:00 yesterday morning we were unconscious on Chris's couch, watching Sports Center, so we could see what we had missed.

We didn't miss much.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Moments of Magic Are Just Too Short

Jim Cuddy and Justin Rutledge from last Wednesday night at Joe's Pub.

At the end of the set, Justin stepped out on a table and played a singalong.

Those Canadians . . .

Friday, January 19, 2007


It's close quarters at The Bait and Tackle. You can't all the time see everyone in the band, even when the ranks are depleted by trips to Mexico anyway. Also, you have to go through them to get to the bathroom, but Balthrop yields to necessity.

The bar is your typical singles scene where lust goes hand in hand with creativity and if you don't believe me, just ask my knee.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Still, you should go over to Balthrop if you haven't already, and pick up their FREE album.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Could Be, Who Knows . . .

Amy Winehouse played Joe's Pub Tuesday night. I wasn't there because everybody else was. Seriously, from what I understand, if you're in the music biz or you write about the music biz or you date someone who writes about the music biz, chances are you either had a seat or were trying to get a seat for these two shows.

I got to sit in on the soundcheck.

I guess this is how it works.

Right now, only a few of us Americans know about her, but Amy's really big in England. Huge. She's got it all--talent, controversy, talent and controversy. Also, more hair than a Wookie. And tattoos. And a great album that hasn't come out in the States yet. It's coming in March. This visit is the shotgun blast across the bow, it's the prelude to the main event, it's the meet and greet.

Did I mention she heckled Bono at an awards show? Well, everyone will when they write about her. You will grow sick and tired of hearing about that one.

As the band checked levels, she wandered around Joe's doing a couple of phone interviews. I could hear her talking about all-girl groups that influenced her and how she had a great boyfriend and how much she liked the new songs and I imagined reading the finished piece in a month or two when there's some product to push--it must be nice to have an organized marketting campaign. She flipped through the pages of a magazine during some down-time, grooving to the musicians finding their levels. She seemed relaxed and she took it all in stride, enjoying the last moments of this sustained moment before whatever happens next happens.

Who knows? Maybe this afternoon was like the Beatles first flight to America--a last quiet moment before everyone starts screaming. Maybe it's the beginning of a beautiful relationship where all the controversy that swirls around her in England won't matter because we all get to hear her for the first time. It's a clean slate. Maybe she has a couple of classic albums coming down the pike--songs that people will be singing along with in their cars on the way to the beach. Songs that people will play to remember long-lost moments and faded friends. They'll get all wistful and turn to the person next to them and say, "Amy Winehouse always makes me smile."

Or maybe no one will care. Maybe there's going to be a bigger story in two months. Maybe the stars won't align. Maybe Bono will blame African famine on her and we'll all buy it because she has a lot of hair and sometimes sings drunk on British television (for God's sake, it was a Michael Jackson cover--I'd get drunk and pull a late-career Dylan on it too).

Who knows? She certainly didn't behave as if she had any expectations . . .

Last night she played two short shows for the opinion makers, but yesterday afternoon she sang a bunch of songs, laughed with her singers, taught the guitarist a tricky chord change and I called Jeff to make him jealous. And, although I really would have liked to be at the shows, I can't say that I much minded having the place to myself. I got me a private show before everyone else started telling me what it was I was supposed to think about her--and I'm a very impressionable person. So, for me, Amy Winehouse is always going to remind me of that time I was just starting as the resident artist at Joe's Pub and it was time for a final soundcheck.


For more links and a nice little sample track go to Tofuhut.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Something New

I got shouted at by Daphne Rubin-Vega last night.

I just started drawing at Joe's Pub, here in sunny--no wait, freaking frigid--New York City. So, I'm sitting at my table, trying to let the magic happen. Ms. Rubin-Vega's on stage, singing her heart out and-despite the fact that she has a cold--she sounds great; she's telling some jokes, talking about her favorite TV shows and just generally being a big old star with a new album coming out. I've got my head down, pen moving--we're a couple of songs into the set and suddenly I hear, "And then here's this guy sitting there, writing. He must be a critic or something." And I think, "please God, don't let her be talking about me."

But she is.

The crowd near me starts protesting, trying to explain that I'm drawing not criticizing. Ms. Rubin-Vega is dubious--who wouldn't be?--but she presses on rocking and crooning. But I have become a chip on her shoulder.

I dunno, maybe some people need the chip on their shoulder to push them through. Sometimes when you're not feeling 100 percent and you're giving it your all, you need something to be working against. I know a lot of actors and directors who get sick during tech-week or around opening. I have been there myself.

So, yeah.

That happened.

By the way, there's this one song she performed, En Estos Dias, that about made me cry. Made me want to get up there and apologize for being all into my drawing when I should have been staring at her. Of course, I wouldn't have been drawing anything if she hadn't been there to be drawn . . .

Friday, January 12, 2007

Face the Face

Went to see Pan's Labyrinth the other night with Jeremy. He looked through my sketchbook as I ran to the bathroom before the movie started.

"What do you think?" I asked when I came back.

"Sometimes it doesn't matter whether I like what you're doing in a specific period because what you're doing is something that has to be done on the way to where you're going. You've been working on faces for a while now."

"I'm getting good at faces."

"You're getting better."

"Well . . ."

"You have that problem which is that most of the people looking at your drawings -- looking at them in the place where you do most of your drawings -- are thinking about someone else's drawings and you aren't doing that."

Well, yeah. We've all got problems . . .

Monday, January 08, 2007

Back To Work

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Smile, Darn You, Smile . . .

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Other Branches

Trees are hard to draw.

A tree is easy, but put a couple of them together and suddenly you wish you knew how to cross-hatch better than you do.

Well, I do.

I told Chris I was going to work on my trees over the weekend. But there was a lot of champagne and caviar and riding all over the 1000 acres and there was the movie theatre in the basement and the dancing and the dinners and all the sitting by the fireplaces, sipping scotch and the strange sensation of not having to worry about a thing for a couple of days.

There was the arrival of an ALL NEW year to imagine.

Blaine asked, "do you have any resolutions?" and I said "yes" and, although I had decided this year to keep them to myself, I told her one or two of the goals I've set and she told me about finishing things up and starting again and we sat, sipping coffee, limping to the finish and gearing up for the next one.