Monthly Archives: March 2013


Farewell Bar82!! This lower east side joint is closing at the end of March. The last open mic is this Wednesday March 27th at 7PM. It’s called bar82 because it’s on Second Ave between 8th Street and Saint Marks. I’ve been playing at bar82 for years mostly because it’s an excellent sounding room. It’s a separate backroom (with a door) where comedians and musicians would perform. The separation from the bar and pool table area gave the space a focused air. This was a performance space. If you were to step into the space it was to perform or to watch/listen to the performers, if you wanted to jibber-jabber you could go out to the bar. There were candles on the tables in the otherwise dark room with the exception of the light on the platform stage. A beat-up spinet piano covered with various decorative knick-knacks and doo-dads. The fact that the place attracted a variety of performers like Stephen Konzen (The East Village Magic Man), Walter Gambine (performance artist), and Matthew Silver (performance artist/comedian) was a clear indication that this was a safe place to try anything. When I first played there, the open mic was hosted by the illustrious Wayne Kral who had a following and a style all his own. Things kind of went off the rails for Wayne there for a while, he seemed dogged by varying streaks of bad luck and was “let go”. The management then hired Jason Trachtenburg (of the notorious Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, indie-vaudeville conceptual art-rock pop band originally from Seattle). Those of us loyal to the former host were leery at first, as is natural in awkward situations when someone has been fired. I warmed up to Jason upon hearing/seeing his performance, he’s definitely working an angle that’s not easy…although I’m not even sure what it is, is it tongue-in-cheek? …not sure but he gives 100% and that’s good company to keep. So I suppose bar82 is closing due to rising rents as is so often the case in these scenarios which are becoming uncomfortably familiar ahem The Living Room, The Backfence (other joints set to close). Where will we go? What ever will we do?? What we always do, find another place to play. Even when there is NO place to play we’ll play and go where the roads take us!! I’ve been digging the Freakbeat scene of late (1960s British, garage-type rock) so I leave you with The Action produced by George Martin Have a great week all!! -p


The Process

Hello there! First off, the reason I write, “In this episode…”, is because I’m a fan of serial stories, from the sitcoms of my youth (All in The Family, M*A*S*H, Star Trek) to current shows to comic books. heh. That said, on with this weeks post!!
Every artist works differently. The unique process of making something can be a challenge with or without formal training. What usually compels people to make art is (I think) expression. Humans need to communicate with each other and understand each other often as a means to understand themselves. This symbiotic relationship between a maker and an appreciator is like a conversation between a field researcher who retells his experiences in the wild to a laboratory researcher who processes what the field researcher has given him/her. So the excellent news here is that these are active roles. Television (as much as I dig the serial experience, what’s going to happen next?? etc.) is a fairly passive experience. You are the Lord on the throne (slob on the couch) bring me my entertainment knave!!! It’s good to be the king! The act of making has many levels, steps, and layers. From the seedling of an idea which must be watered to the age of a tree which must be pruned (editing). I’ve been asked, which comes first the lyrics or the melody? Do these things occur simultaneously? It’s a hard question because my process is way more haphazard and circumstantial than I’d like it to be. For instance this song (inkblot) took 5 years to write! It took 5 years because I simply did not have the final stanza…then the giant BP oil spill in the gulf happened and that event tied into what I had already written, boom, tune finished. On the other hand, in the quiet of a particular morning (I’m often up early, before the sun) I heard the birds outside in that black to blue transition of the coming day and wrote ‘birdsong’ in it’s entirety, words, melody, everything. It was a relaxed, receptive moment, the exception for me. Sometimes lightening strikes. I read somewhere that the are two types of actor; those of the blood and those of nerves, those of earth and those of electricity, those of the heart and those of the mind, visceral and intellectual. There are, of course, various combinations to these ways of working and depending on who the actor is, they can use more from column A than column B depending upon the role. My songwriting has been fluctuating between the blood and the nerves. Let it be known that one mode of work is not better than another….whatever works, works and the work is the thing. I try to avoid judgement as I conjure up words and melodies. Will people like it? is a valid question but ONLY after the tune’s finished. Some lyrics are abstract musings, some based on personal experiences, and some declarations. I have a few story songs. Some come from dreams, others from realities, and some just rhyme. I write in those black and white marble covered journals, on post-its, in a nice leather-bound journal and record onto a CTR -111 panasonic cassette recorder when there’s a sketch to get down. I have a lot of sketches. There’s an ache I have for good ideas which never got their comeuppance….left by the wayside (poor bastards). I’ve had one guitar teacher in my life, Fred Draper, who believed in a triad of learning (practice, performance, and teaching). I’ve been working on two out of the three. I’ve been working on my singing with the excellent Jill Edwards in order to truncate the recording process (fewer takes) and I practice and perform frequently. So, as in the “What Am I?” post 12/24/13 about genre, wherever the seedling of tunes comes from, they must be nurtured. Take care for what you make and what you make will carry you….does that sound cheesy? heh yeah i thought so. So listen, have a great week! -p

The Catalog Expands

Hello and thanks for dropping by the blog! I have a habit of seeking out good music (boy does that sound loaded) i.e. music I like. I search new and old bands, performers, and styles. Of late I have heard a plethora of previously unreleased tracks, lost sessions, recordings held by estates etc. from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith, and just yesterday a Led Zeppelin track from the BBC. The one release (from Squirrel Thing Recordings) which prompted me to even write about this phenomena, the proverbial straw which broke the camels back of my mind, is an album of Molly Drake (Nick Drakes mother!) singing at the piano. It’s clearly a home recording and the tunes are of a certain era, 1950’s, they are short, poetic, insightful, and sometimes sad. There’s definitely an old timey feel to these songs. The apple did not fall far from the tree, you can hear that Nick was clearly listening to his mothers musings. It might also explain his propensity for alternate tunings on the guitar which some say is a way to approximate a piano range. There’s a very human tradition of generations introducing/instructing/passing down songs, bands, types of music to their juniors. I’m sure there are Rock families, Folk families, Classical families, Punk families, Country families… Beatles or Stones, Rush or Yes, and countless variations within. I heard Mississippi John Hurt, BB King, Simon and Garfunkel, classical and opera from my mother, Frank Sinatra, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young from my father, Jimi Hendrix, Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Stranglers, Yes from my brother, Joni Mitchell, George Harrison, Neil Diamond from my sister. The Beatles and Bob Dylan were around and I don’t know who to credit with those. I remember checking out Who albums from the library on my own. There’s a strange pride which accompanies the uncovering of a lost or unheralded track. I took great pride in finding Prince and Tom Waits when I was in highschool. I am ashamed though that I shunned The Replacements early on (apologies to Nicole Blackman who tried to convert me)…I was shocked that someone had the audacity to use “Let It Be” as an album title! heh Oh boy was I wrong, I’ve since come around 180 degrees. When I “discovered” Rodriguez years ago on the excellent web source,, before the movie about him came out, I was over the moon. I went to see him play at The Bowery with a full band the first time he came here after Light In The Attic re-released his album, Cold Fact, and have seen him basically every time since he’s returned to NYC. He’s a very generous performer and person. But imagine my surprise when I met someone at Keenan’s Piano Bar (long-gone open mic spot in Inwood) who had heard of Rodriguez!! It was like a shared secret. Music is too important to not be shared. As long as there are people driven to make things in earnest from their specific vision and circumstance there will be someone in the future who will eventually uncover and hopefully appreciate. In this way, the catalog extends forwards and backwards at once, dig? Have a great week! -p


A co-worker has been ribbing me of late about the frequency with which I play open mics and gigs. He sees my old softcase by my desk and can’t resist. Why this is the source of jest is beyond me…but I take many things too seriously so a little ribbing is probably good for me. “Dude, you play more than the Dead” har har. I hadn’t really thought about it, how much I play, so this jest made me take a rough tally. For the past 5 years, at least, I’ve been averaging 3 open mics a week (not including full gigs) 52 weeks a year times 3…156 days out of 365? Almost half the year? Am I insane? Have I gone nuts? What is this compulsion? Why don’t I just settle into the drab life of an office drone mindlessly going to work, coming home and recovering from the work-day in front of the t.v. day after day blanking out any creative impulse which might serve as a painful reminder of a dream deferred? Well I guess that’s not how I roll (as it were) I never had dreams of ‘doing’ anything with my songs until recently. As an actor getting work is a lot of the work and is dependent largely upon other peoples judgement of you. I took to songwriting in earnest maybe 10 years ago partly in reaction to the soul-deadening audition process (New Jersey Rep is a golden exception). It was a kind of independence, creating something without rules without approval pending. Now, I know there are “rules” to standard songwriting but I’ve always been more interested in breaking rules than adhering to them…when I was a kid I had this notion of destruction as a creative act, knock down the blocks and what’s left is the mess we’ve MADE (chance has a lot to do with it obviously). I’ve always been party to the creation of songs from the age of… I dunno 3? under the tutelage of my older rebellious brother (rebellion best being sewn in young impressionable minds). Banging pots, pans, lids and jars in the kitchen with my brother and sister howling at full voice or murmuring incantations sotto voce (usually we had been told to quiet down which added to the joy of continuing quietly, righteous!) was a favorite pastime. So the answer to why do I play out so much is simple, I write a lot, I want to be a better performer, and I have an irrepressible desire to express myself. Simple.
Some of the open mic joints I play (or have played) which are still in operation and heartily recommend you all check out are: Indian Road Cafe (first Monday of the month, 8PM host Orville Davis), Sidewalk Cafe (every Monday 6:30PM sign-up host Ben Krieger), Nightingale Lounge (every Monday 7PM hostess Su Polo) An Beal Bocht (Tuesday at 9PM host Eric Sullivan), Buskers (Tuesday at 7PM host Niall Connolly), bar82 (Wednesday 6:30PM sign-up host Jason Trachtenberg), PATH Cafe (Thursday 6PM host Niall Connolly), BackFence (Sunday 6PM host Jon Vomit) Pete’s Candystore (Sunday 5PM Brooklyn host Bruce Martin)
Get out there and play! Get out there and listen! Frequently!!! -p