Wednesday, April 30, 2008

These Are The Good Old Days

Carly Simon and her household played the Pub last night to celebrate the release of her new album. Nancy flew in all the way from Ohio just to be there and Jimmy Webb sat up front and played on a couple of songs to make the night all special and the like.

Ben Taylor sat in with the band, which shows you what good connections can get a person. Katie Marie liked that he asked about her hair color, but I pointed out that if being the offspring of two of the most successful singer/songwriters of the seventies doesn't breed sensitivity then nothing will.

Peter Callo, Carly's guitarist, wandered over to my drawing booth during a break and talked to me about meeting Klaus Voormann. "Have you ever heard of him?" he asked.

"Oh, yeah," I replied. "He was such an elemental influence on me, it wasn't even conscious."

Then he told me about hanging out with him during the making of Carly Simon's album and I found the only other person I know who could have geeked out with me about both Klaus Voorman's art and bass-playing. Later, when Chris Collingwood was on stage in his Yellow Submarine t-shirt, I asked Kelly if she knew who Klaus Voormann was; her answer supports my theory.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Kyle Fischer and Lucy listening to the levels at St. Paul's.

Last week, Caithlin DeMarrais, Kyle, Konrad Meissner, Bob Hoffnar, Josh Kaufman and Bob's dog Lucy reconvened for another pass at one of Caithlin's new songs. This time the church was a little warmer than the last time we were all there together and no one had to bundle in a coat to make it through a take. Caithlin sounded relaxed and the sound was inspired--but, I guess that's what you expect when you set up shop in a house of worship. There were cookies near the prayer books and a six-pack in the pews, Bernie was pacing looking for his shot and it only took four or five takes to make it sound like art. Lucy looked like she approved, but Josh stayed for a minor-chord piano overdub . . .

Thursday, April 24, 2008


it has been a crazy couple of weeks, a barrage of goodness that has arrived like a feast.

First of all, to be clear, The Joe's Pub gig with Balthrop, Alabama and Caithlin DeMarraiss was the most exciting and wonderful thing I have ever been a part of. Caithlin summed it up pretty well last night when she said, "The most fun two bands, one artist and a club full of people could possibly have" and Lauren's admonishment to me on the bus back from Sag Harbor Sunday to "stop smiling" probably explains why my face hurts.

And then on Monday, Michael Leonhart rolled in to the Pub, told them to keep the screen in place and put on a show that was completely inspiring and wonderful. Michael shared some of the delightful sounds and songs he composed in various hotel rooms and tour buses while on tour with Steely Dan. He's always thinking, that Michael Leonhart, and turning ephemeral ideas into tunes. A few weeks back, Michael and his wife Jamie joined Katie-Marie and I up in the booth to watch Tony Scherr and I noted that, at the height of his enjoyment and excitement about the show, Michael pulled out a little pad of paper and a pen and started taking notes, jotting down ideas and smiling like a mad genius. On Monday he showed up with four horns, a human beat-box, a scratcher, a table of electronics with his trumpet hanging on it and a trio of gorgeous back-up singers--including his sister Caroline and his wife Jamie. And, oh yeah, an amazing collection of eccentric films and video loops to round out the experience. And it was hands-down one of the most inspired things I have seen at the Pub.

A week earlier--after a day spent working on a video for Jamie Leonhart that Jeremy and I are putting together--I had seen Michael as band-member with The Eternal Buzz Brass Band, Geoff Mann's amazing ensemble. Geoff was the drummer and a horn-player with Balthrop, Alabama before he and his wife moved to California to soak up some sun and start a family; but, they were back for a tour and some New York time. Matt, Josh and Jason from Balthrop all played with The Eternal Buzz as well, which exemplifies how intertwined this web of talent is becoming. Everywhere I turn are friends and collaborators doing work that moves us all forward.

The realist in me imagines that these times are rare, precious and few; the idealist counters that the potential is always there to actualize and maintain this blessed magic.

Of course, both the idealist and the realist have been invited to perform with Balthrop, Alabama again at Joe's Pub in July, so either way, I'm gonna keep smiling a little longer.

Monday, April 21, 2008

More Picture Show

Here's another cool shot from Friday, this one by Joe's Pub photographer, Kevin Yatarola . . . (Kevin's work from another Pub show can also seen in today's NYTimes . . .)

Picture Show

Photographs by Bernie DeChant from the show Friday night.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sold Out


Right now, I'm working on my portfolio and Lauren's boss is calling her in for some help and Pascal is working on a deadline and Chris is making a latte and Matt is dusting off a masterpiece and Josh has got printing ink on his hands and Jason is wiping down the counter and Kyle's getting ready for the Seminary and Therese is grading papers and Andrew is filing a brief for someone and Annie's babysitting and Maria's recovering from that last editing job she had to do to make ends meet.

And, after the work week comes to an end, we're playing a Sold Out show at Joe's Pub.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Our little town made the New Yorker today in the Listing Section (scroll down for the blurb or go out and buy a copy, because we're in the freaking New Yorker).

Also, even without the New Yorker's coverage, at last count (last Friday) there were only thirty tickets left for the show. If you still want one, now is the time to buy . . . See you there?

(New Yorker illustration by Michael Weldon)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Radio, Radio

Lock 10 With Ken Vandermark, performed at Joe's Pub Monday Night, presented by Exhibit A Performance Group.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Waiting On A Train (Platform)

The other night, I met up with Pascal, Lauren and Dawn Landes down at the Mercury Lounge after Dawn's set with Lauren sitting in on a cover of one of Pascal's songs. I was bummed that I'd missed it, but it's hard to be in four places at once and I barely managed to be in the two that I made.

On the way home, we were approached by a guy named Darryl on the F train platform near the First Avenue end of the station. Darryl was sporting a twelve string and wanted to play Dawn a tune because she had her two guitars slung over her shoulders. We were all a little wary at first, but he had a good smile and a manic enthusiasm that was less scary than inviting, so we turned to listen. He broke into a version of Neil Young's Don't Let It Bring You Down, jazzy in his vocal arrangement, but slow and sweet. At the chorus, Dawn, Lauren and Pascal joined him, not quite matching up as they sang the familiar melody as opposed to his variation. The potential was there for a clash of tastes and egos, a fight to see whose version would prevail, but when Dawn Landes, and Lauren and Pascal Balthrop start singing together, all merging traffic yields to the Eldorado in the center lane and besides, Darryl is a generous busker.

Darryl started another tune and asked the ladies to sing along. We smiled because he was strumming Dream a Little Dream, which is a favorite of Lauren's and no invitation is needed when that song starts. Heads turned on the platform and curious looks emerged on the faces of weary New Yorkers as it seemed like something magical was about to happen right in front of us all; but, just as the tune was starting, an A train arrived--a little too early for once, and traveling on the wrong track; we moved to get on.

For a moment it seemed like the moment was over, but time stretched and Darryl hopped on this redirected A train and decided to take a ride with us for a while. Clearly, nothing was going the way it was supposed to, but we were all getting where we were meant to go.

On the train, Darryl explained that there is no black and there is no white when music is playing and a guy standing by the door nodded and said, "that's right" and the look in his eyes, shy but engaged, watching but hesitant to participate was the look of a man hungry to hear something positive and grateful it landed there in the car with him. Darryl turned his guitar over and showed us the photos on the flip side, a picture of John Lennon, a picture of Darryl when he was a boy with his guitar and a picture of Darryl with Ronald Reagan.

Some guitars have more stories to tell than others.

We hopped off at Jay Street to catch the F and Darryl tried to get Dawn to play his guitar, but she demurred, having already played her set at the Mercury Lounge. She told Pascal to play and he started strumming Tell The Stars, the song Dawn had covered earlier. Lauren pulled out the percussion egg she's had in her coat pocket since she bought it a few weeks ago and Dawn, Lauren and I sang the background vocals.

And an entire train station stopped, listened and broke in to applause when the tune was done. Now, I've heard Tell The Stars performed a few times and I'm sorry I missed the duet at Mercury Lounge, but I think that performance, waiting for the train to Carroll Street down below the city that doesn't sleep in the borough we call home may just have been definitive.

When the F train finally arrived, we all hugged Darryl goodbye and went home for the night. As Pascal, Lauren and I got off the car (Dawn had already exited), I handed a guy who had been watching the whole thing from Darryl's first approach to our exit, the postcard for the upcoming show at Joe's and he looked at me gratefully and said, "thank you . . . " as if the question to "Who was that masked man?" had finally been answered.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Andrew, Lauren and Pascal rehearsing last week for the big show.

Seems tickets are going fast--we've sold well over half the place and it seems like there may be no more tickets available come April 18th, so if you're planning to come, buy now . . .

Last night, the whole band (excepting Jane who was AWOL), gathered over at Castle Anthrax for the first full run of the potential set-list, complete with me drawing, projected on the wall. Then I came home, wrapped myself in a blanket and watched the tape from the camera we used for the projection.

Huh, so that's what it looks like when I'm drawing. Oh, that's what it looks like when I don't know what I'm going to draw next. Say, that was cool--I wonder if I can ever do that again? Man, that band is fucking awesome.


I can say with confidence (and a churning stomach at the anticipation), there will not be a better place to be at seven o'clock in New York City on April 18th, 2008 than Joe's Pub. Miss it at your peril.

Oh, did I tell you we're gonna be in the New Yorker?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bright Makes Right

My Brightest Diamond played songs to start and finish the Joe's Pub debut of The Happy Ending Music and Reading Series last night. The music was one of those breathtaking performances that reminds me how special it is to be a part of Joe's Pub, to be that close to amazing talent, to share the experience with such small and appreciative audiences.

The show was hosted by Amanda Stern and featured readings by Daphne Carr, Alec Hanley Bemis (who looks sort of like Satan in a way)(because of the horns and red make-up)(but with no tail) and Rob Sheffield, all of whom read tales of the importance and relevance of music to lives lived.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Spring Is In The Air; Now I Need It To Stick Around Longer Than A Day

I miss the subtlety of weather.

When I was a kid, seasons came one after the other, not like this Hourly Schizophrenic Climate Blues. It's hot. It's cold. It's sunny. It's raining. It is at once warm, yet frigid; the weekly weather calendar has become like a fine-art description--it is both this and the opposite. Well, that's fine for art, but I'm living in the real world and we get tired of the Both/And scenario when you start applying it to the temperature

Being reasonable--despite my readiness for Summer--I am willing to accept Spring in the meantime. I want to see bare arms and legs. I'm ready for some cleavage and tan lines. But,I will take bonnets and pale blues to start things rolling.

We've been having a bit of a late-winter funk recently, but things must be shifting at the tectonic level because the smiles are returning to our faces and the music the other night was sweet yet tart. The Both/And scenario is perfectly fine when it comes to the songs; anyone can tell you that--that's what pop music is all about.

I just want warmer weather to go along with this new mood in my heart.

That's all.