Friday, May 29, 2009


Pete Seeger came to Joe's Pub last night to sit in on a few songs with the South African band, Sharon Katz and the Peace Train, as they tried to raise money for a school in South Africa.

Seeger's singing voice is mostly gone, but the audience backed him up by knowing most all the words and as Living Legends go, he was quick-witted, sweet and humble. Although he didn't sing Wimoweh, he introduced it by explaining how he came to hear it (through Alan Lomax) and redo it--"We had a minor hit with it" he understated with a wry chuckle. The introduction was pure Seeger--a rambling and fascinating tale of the intersection between music and injustice and the role race and privilege played in a simple one-word song about a lion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


We spent last weekend down in Southeast Ohio as guests and performers of the Nelsonville Music Festival. A good time was had by all and some of us might even have had too good of a time. We ran into some friends from the road and made a bunch of new buddies and got to watch Willie Nelson's big show from the hospitality suite, eating Skittles and drinking beer, just like they do in Texas.

Because we were scheduled to perform during the day, it was impossible to do the projections like I normally would during a show, so instead of drawing the songs, I inked the Festival.

With rain threatening, we headed over to the main stage to load in our gear. Folks from the area who had brought along fold out chairs and picnic blankets watched as we checked the levels, and tuned.
"Are you from Alabama?" we were asked repeatedly.
"Actually, Balthrop Alabama is a small town located in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, " we'd explain.
"That's a long way from here," one woman told me.

Normally I have my head down and my pen working fast during the show. I never get to look out at the audience and see the faces; I never get to watch folks hear the music. It was nice to sit on the stage and watch all that listening and smiling happen.

The weather stayed mostly dry while we played. Folks smiled big, danced and bought some CD's and T-shirts and some came up to us afterwards with warm words and friendly introductions. One guy, who couldn't be convinced that I wasn't Pascal, kept hugging me and telling me I sang like Tim McGraw.

"Welcome to Balthrop, Alabama!" is how we were introduced at our second show, Sunday morning. This might not have cleared up the central mystery of where we're from, but I suppose it let everyone know where they were.

Willie Nelson got his own stage and clause in his rider that said his bus had to pull up near enough to the stage that Willie could get on and off without having to be talked to by a bunch of people. That way, I guess no one can confuse him with Pascal and tell him he sings like Tim McGraw. By the way, in case you were wondering what music plays before and after a Willie Nelson show, I'm here to tell you that if you come to hear Willie, that's all you're gonna hear.

Monday, May 11, 2009


It's been either really cold or really hot for a while now and the rain's been falling like New York is the downstairs neighbor of a great lake. It hasn't been Spring but for an hour or two here or there, often manifest during inconvenient work hours or as unexpected transition moments between the aforementioned Hot, Cold and/or Rainy.

Until Yesterday.

Spring sprung around for a full day on Sunday and the hipsters in Williamsburg came out to read and show off their new tattoos and, for a day, we got to pretend like the weather was as seasonal as it used to be.

I miss the subtlety of seasons, when ninety degree days weren't bookended by lows in the forties. I wonder how I'll explain it to the kids someday, how we'd ease into summer with a time of gradual warming and growth; a forgotten past when winter followed a period of gradual chilling while leaves slowly changed color and dropped.

But if a Take-What-You-Can-Get Spring day in Williamsburg is the best the world can offer, then pour me a margarita and check out my whiter than white legs.

Summer's almost here. The pools are about to open.

We've got a few hours to get ready; let's make the most of it.

Friday, May 08, 2009

House Party

Last night Toshi Reagon and Meshell Ndegeocello headined a show to raise money and awareness for FIERCE, a group dedicated to the empowerment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer youth of color in New York City.

During a hurried soundcheck at the Santos Party House near Chinatown, Toshi and her band got ready to entertain a crowd of kids whose excitement may have elevated the entire block around which they were wrapped, waiting for the doors to open.

"I told the band, no comps for this one," said Toshi. "A lot of people bought forty or fifty tickets just to give to kids who couldn't otherwise afford it."

She looked over at the heart shaped disco ball and the rope hanging from the relatively low ceiling over the audience space where, moments earlier, Kiebpoli had been warming up her aerial act. "Don't know how that's gonna work," she laughed, "but it's gonna be fierce."

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Risky Business

John Wray, reading as part of Amanda Stern's Happy Ending series at Joe's Pub.

The rule of the Happy Ending series is that everybody has to take a public risk, so last night we had Wray revealing his tattoo for the first time and Arthur Phillips retiring from his career as a writer to chase his dreams as a matador. To prove his dedication he brought along a bull--a small robotic bull, to be sure, but now we can say that Joe's Pub has hosted a bull fight and that will look nice in the press clippings.

The musical guest this month was Vampire Weekend, who took a break from recording their second album to play a stripped down set, performing with a stand up bass in public for the first time ever. They also played a cover version of Tom Petty's Walls, turning it into a sing along in front of Edward Burns who was seated on the couch and had directed She's The One, the movie which featured the song prominently in the soundtrack.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Mike Daisey at Joe's Pub last night with his new new series, Mysteries of the Unexplained. Last night's Mystery Explained was Facebook and if the performance wasn't exactly an explanation, it was a better than fine exploration.

Daisey returns to the Pub next month with more Mysteries of the Unexplained.