Monthly Archives: May 2013

Rewind, My First Attempt at Blogging. Rodriguez 2009

So here’s my very first attempt at blogging. This is my review of the first time I saw Rodriguez live. It’s weird I think my writing style has changed since then…I hope it has. Imagine my embarrassment when I find out years later he has glaucoma (face-palm)

Was it an act? Was it age? Is he blind? I watched Rodriguez perform at the Bowery Ballroom on Friday May 15th, 2009. Within this past year the excellent label, Light In The Attic, has re-released a number of excellent albums from Serge Gainsbourg to The Monks to two Rodriguez albums, Cold Fact and Coming from Reality, 1970 and 1971 respectively.
The opening band, The War on Drugs, was from Philly. The singer played a fuzzed out 12string acoustic occasionally switching to 6string or a keyboard, various pedals, bass and drums. Fuzzed out driving stuff but not distinguished. If I could understand what dude was singing, it might’ve been better. Does every performer hide behind something (effects, unintelligible singing, age) in order to maintain a mystique?
Rodriguez’s’ two albums have sated (for now) my thirst for authentic lyrics and melodies. He creates tapestries of street life, reactions to dire circumstances with humanity. Where Lou Reed found the bitter edge and embodied it Rodriguez employs the poetry of Dylan. He’s a romantic despite the inherent downtroddenness (that a word?) of his subjects. He’s finding moonlight in the gutter or whatever Wilde said; he’s looking at the stars.
So he’s led out by the hand by the young (the whole band’s young) bassplayer without his signature hat and glasses. What is it? Is he blind? Drunk? On drugs? Older? What happened to the guy who wrote these songs I’ve been hooked on? The gesture of being led implies a weakness or a loss of former ability or power (but I’m middle-aged so that may be informing my reaction). Rodriguez got to the mic, put the soft slightly crumpled almost-top-hat on and the big shades. He seemed to dig donning the…artifice? Protection? It was done with a soft smile recognizing it’s all a show. He was an elegant sort of shambles with an easy bop, maybe chalk it up to nerves. A phrase he said a couple of times was “Thanks for steppin out”. The young band didn’t get the groove. Their time was off (but not on all tunes) they were too fast on a couple. Rodriguez whispered to the bass player who then relayed the message that “Rodriguez would like to introduce the band before we get started” and so it went. Bass, lead guitar, three horns (alto sax, trombone, I couldn’t really see the third player but I think a French horn(?)) drums and a young woman on keys/synth/tambourine and Rodriguez plays an electric nylon string guitar. He addressed the audience a couple of times with a rambling sort of ease, once to offer advice as to how to get along with your mate, 2 words, yes dear. He said he was from Detroit and almost word for word He responded to camera flashes by asking to have the house lights come up, then leaned back and gestured a big square lens to take a picture of us all and he swore he wouldn’t forget. There were howls/catcalls when he removed his outer coat. There was an exchange with the audience when offered a drink and asked what he’d have he said red wine. So a red wine was produced in the classic Bowery fashion, a plastic cup. Rodriguez downed that red wine all at once. The second cup of wine was sipped. This songwriter has nothing to prove (to me anyway), he’s written these great songs. Was it an act? Isn’t it all? I’m real glad this old songwriter, new to me, has taken up the challenge of touring and given me a chance to experience his live show. -philip
Setlist:
1.Only Good For Conversation
2.Crucify your Mind
3.Inner City Blues
4.To whom it May Concern
5.I wonder
6.Can’t Get Away
7.Sugarman
8.This is not a song it’s an outburst, or establishment blues
9.Rich folks hoax
10.I think of you
11.I’m glad we didn’t find the time (2nd time Rodriguez played it live)
12.Jane S. Piddy
13.Forget It
14.I’m gonna live til I die (solo)
15. At last (solo)

Women Rock!!!

I’m not sure how the subconscious works but I’m pretty sure it’s up to something up there in my cranium. Recently, well let’s be honest, always, women have been under the gun. The horrible and terrifying rapes in India, in the US Military and the kidnapped tortured women in Ohio are enough to make me want to forget having anything to do with anyone ever again. Rape is a violent crime but on top of that it seems to me such a betrayal, an act usually associated with love, pleasure, procreation, something positive is completely destroyed. There are power dynamics in our society which dictate who we are and how we should behave as such. The stereotypical portrayal of men as sexually aggressive beasts and women as alluring sirens persists. A lot of these signifiers are in marketing, on television shows, in magazines and stray far afield from understanding the opposite sex let alone ourselves. In fact, if anything, the advertisements we are constantly bombarded with are meant to be the ‘norm’ so that they can keep selling whatever it is they’re pedaling. I had a conversation once with my friend (great actor) Johnny Kitt about his experience being black, African American and we agreed that being born black in America meant you were immediately thrust into a political situation more so than whites. I remember seeing an example of this on some t.v. show….the woman, an author, I forget her name, used the example of what nude pantyhose looks like and I don’t know whether things have changed since I saw that show but ‘nude’ pantyhose were for white skin. I think women are also born into a political situation, lower pay, warped assessments of their looks, strength, ability, and intellectual prowess. I’m reminded of the John Lennon/Yoko Ono song, “Woman Is the Nigger of The World”. I’m uncomfortable with the n-word still (call me old-fashioned) despite it’s use as means to reclaim it’s power. There has always been rape as there has always been war. That doesn’t mean we should accept what we know to be wrong as natural.
Sometimes I’ll direct my listening towards a particular sound or genre either based on a recommendation or a mood or a curiosity…that was not the case these past couple of weeks. I think my subconscious has done something with these news stories and I’ve been listening to women who rock, maybe as a coping mechanism? Not specifically Riot Grrrl bands (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riot_Grrrl) but rocking tunes. Real horror is hard to process, music helps.

The Breeders (Last Splash (re-released last week)), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9hAS2uHG_I http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KflW4EsVL7o
PJ Harvey (Rid of Me) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAV1CGlfNC4
Sleater Kinney (The Woods) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgBRjqDE-24
Wild Flag (s/t Wild Flag) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psI461_rl9U
The Pretenders (s/t Pretenders) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6-0ypKuwv8
Ida Maria (Fortress ’round My Heart) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aokl2lnUlQ
Shannon Wright (Over The Sun) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfCYG0Jkq1Y
Veruca Salt (American Thighs) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC9AUR-iTo0

Be good to each other. Have good listens! Til next time. -p

P.S. I post these things every Monday!

Rocky and The Pressers!! (Interview with Eric Sullivan)

I first met Eric Sullivan of Rocky and The Pressers while he was hosting the Tuesday night open mic at An Beal Bocht, 445 West 238th (at Greystone Ave.), a year or so ago. On May 4, 2013 I went to his bands highly attended record release party at The Mercury Lounge.
Rocky and The Pressers are: Eric Sullivan (vocals/guitar), Mario Rincon (vocals/guitar), Seth Nicholson (vocals/drums), Rocky Russo (bass), Danny McDonald (vocals/guitar/saxophone), Dylan Hume (vocals/keyboards/trombone), and Adrian Colon (percussion)

Hey Eric, thanks for doing this man. I really dig the album and the performances I’ve seen so I want to help get the word out. Here are some questions:

1.Where are you from?
I grew up in Fleetwood, New York til age 10, then attended elementary school in Riverdale at Fieldston. We lived in Hastings when I reached high school. Year after high school lived in Park Slope…then back to Riverdale. So…I’m from the Bronx mostly.

2. How did you come upon this type of music? And would you simply call it reggae?
As a teenager I was listening to a lot of Sublime and their influences…back to the source. Most people don’t know how big a reggae head Brad Nowell (lead singer) was…his listening went pretty deep, obscure references permeate his lyrics, but he was also quite obviously a huge Bob Marley fan. I became a student of Marley primarily and then discovered so much more reggae…and I’m still digging. And yes, I really would call it reggae…it’s reggae.

3. What was your first instrument? (after the paintbrush heh)
Got a guitar at age 3 but didn’t learn to play until 12. At school they started us on recorder and then I learned saxophone.

4. Where did you meet your bandmates? How do you ever get everyone (6 players) together to practice?? hahahahaha
Went to The Fieldston School HS with Rocky and Danny who were both in my younger brothers grade and friends of his. Two of them always had bands in high school as I did…later on we were between projects and we all started jamming at An Beal Bocht…Mario is from the neighborhood and I used to play little league sports with him…he got invited to one of our very first rehearsals…Seth knew Rocky from mutual friends at SUNY Purchase…Dylan as well. Danny Flinn and I started the thing as sort of a duo. After a year and half we parted ways. Now we have Adrian on percussion, he used to hit the MaGoos open mic (5602 Broadway)….really talented dude. None of us work nine-to-fives so we live broke and with our parents…but we have time to rehearse.

5. Would you discuss the “Dance at The Playhouse” image and title? (I think we spoke about it a week ago or so)
It’s a poster that hangs in Mario’s family home in Maine…it was made in 1954 by a man named Tudge Whittimore as an invitation for a square dance that was held in the community “playhouse” which is the building we did our core tracking in. We thought it was alluring and it said a lot of things. Intriguing. Plus it was a welcome solution to the problem of settling on some kind of logo or branding…and an album title and cover art.

6.Who are you listening to lately (if anybody)?
Haven’t been listening very aggressively. Needed to clear my head to be able to mix. I’ve been going back to a lot of reggae on the daily…just keep finding old artists I never knew, it’s endless. Also checking out some early calypso from the 1940s…Gordon Lightfoot and Scott Walker every day.

7. Do you go to record stores to buy CDs or LPs or download or stream music?
I stream from YouTube or groove shark mostly. I don’t carry an iPod or smartphone so I have no need to download…I buy CDs occasionally.

8. Do you have a favorite reggae artist? Dub? (I think we spoke of King Tubby once) Ska?
Reggae has to be Bob Marley…he’s the biggest because he’s the best. I don’t listen to dub all that much, I’m more after the song. Not too much ska really.

9.Great Arrangements on “Dance at The Playhouse” is there a particular producer or record you took your cues from?
Thanks. Nobody in particular. I am a very big Michael Jackson fan…Quincy jones’ work is heroic. The production and arrangement of Scott walker’s 4 solo records has also made a powerful Impact on my style.

10.What do you hope this record does? Are you hoping to attract major label attention? Expand your audience? Get more gigs?
I just want it to be heard…all over the world. And I’d like it to take us all over the world….and to the venues that I’ve always wanted to play.

11. Some of these tunes have an old school, almost doo-wop feel (I guess I’m thinking of the tune ‘Hurricane’) was that an influence?
I’ve definitely been exposed to lots of doo wop …my uncle is an encyclopedia of doo wop and has turned me on to how vast a genre it is. It’s actually something I plan to study before going on to write the next record. That and more of the early calypso and other island forms.

12. So I’ve seen you guys twice at The Mercury Lounge, great sets. I was impressed with how balanced the sound was. Do you check each other? Do you go by the rule nothing louder than the drums?
We just try to keep the guitars low…bass high…vocals clear with enough verb to cover mistakes.

13. You have the bulk of the writing, singing, producing duty, does everyone pitch in for their particular parts or do you have parts in mind for them?
I direct the music pretty thoroughly…guys get annoyed some times but I always try to explain my reasoning in terms of why it’s best for the song. I have parts that I can’t do without especially drum beats…they’re so important to get right. Guitar parts are more open ended a lot of the time. I’m kind of a hard ass…to be honest.

14. Do you have a favorite author?
Good question. I can’t pretend to be extremely widely read…but the best writing I have read was by James Joyce…and also Umberto Eco…smarty pants stuff.

15. What was the name of the punk band you were in? Your played drums, right?
Eye banker…yes I played drums…we put out 5 songs and played 3 DIY shows.

16. The harmonies are really smooth and natural on this album, do you all go to a particular voice teacher?
We have worked a couple times with my old vocal coach, Ilana Davidson. She is a Riverdalian and is involved at the An Beal Bocht scene sometimes…such a great vocalist and instructor. She helped us with some vowel replacement methods…helped us with dynamics on the song “home”. In particular…we haven’t had the money to do more work with her for several months now.

17. I dig the sequencing, was it easy to have these songs sit well next to each other?
Thanks for noticing…they were tough decisions that were made only at the last minute. There are very clear reasons for the sequencing but I am forgetting them.

18. Where did you record? Did you record any of the parts simultaneously? Where did you do overdubs?
We tracked drums bass and two guitars simultaneously in the playhouse in Maine…we did primary overruns there and all the rest including vocals in the year that followed…mostly at our rehearsal space, Rocky’s basement.

19. How long did the album take to make and are you happy with it?
It took 18 months…waaaay too long. We are happy with it and proud.

20 So you’re played in Maine on Friday and An Beal Bocht on Saturday, do you have other NYC dates lined up and where/when can we purchase “Dance at The Playhouse”?
We’ll be at Joes Pub on June 7th! And will be at Mr. MaGoo’s in July and August…having a good ol’ time.

Dance at The Playhouse will be available on iTunes within the month! (I heartily recommend this album it’s a great summer listen with interesting arrangements and beautiful melodies) plus The Villalobos Brothers lent their talents on this one! http://villalobosbrothers.com/

In the meantime give a listen!! https://soundcloud.com/rocky-and-the-pressers/sets/dance-at-the-playhouse

Thanks, as always, dear reader for tuning in! Dig it! Enjoy this weather!! -p

Ban on busking May 2013

On May 8th NYC will start enforcing rules that will effectively ban buskers from Washington Square park and most areas of the other parks.
Merriam-Webster,busk·er noun \ˈbəs-kər\

Definition of BUSKER

chiefly British
: a person who entertains in a public place for donations
— busk intransitive verb
Origin of BUSKER

busk, probably from Italian buscare to procure, gain, from Spanish buscar to look for
First Known Use: 1857

Of all of the things to take the character out of this amazing city this one I take personally. We’ve seen music venues shut down usually due to increasing rents, we’ve seen the increase of big box type stores further squeezing out any Ma and Pa opportunities and a general influx of blah and bland-o, brand-land money. DON’T KILL THE FLAVOR! (join my cry to the heavens). My earliest memory of NYC street performance was of steel drum players in the subway in the 80’s reflected soon after in the soundtrack for the excellent film, ‘The Brother From Another Planet’. I don’t see how a performer performing with an open case that happens to have money in it counts as solicitation….it’s up to the listeners discretion to pitch in a coupla bucks or not, isn’t it? There was a Federal lawsuit filed by Robert Lederman of ARTIST (Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics) in this regard. Here are a couple of neat links, an interview from 2008, http://gothamist.com/2008/11/24/robert_lederman_artist_activist.php and an article from 2011 http://thevillager.com/2011/12/15/dont-ban-the-buskers/. We live in this amazing time of information trading hands at an incredible rate and yet we are still the last ones to know what we have wrought…like the giant plastic garbage patch, twice the size of Texas in the Pacific somewhere between Hawaii and San Fransisco. We’ve know plastic is “bad” for a while but, it seems, if we’re not confronted constantly or at least inconvenienced by things then they may as well not exist. Artists like Robert Lederman are often prescient, as he was during the Giuliani administration. Artists are a cultural resource…so how can the city push them around under the “quality of life” umbrella? It feels as though we are often regretfully looking back despite having had the facts and the opportunity when the moment most called for action. We can engage in something destructive like a preemptive war why can’t we protect, preserve, cultivate, defend, rejoice in the positive things which enrich our lives, like the arts, before they are sanctioned, sold, restricted and sullied? I guess this is just the way of people…never knew what you had until it was gone.

I FORGOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!!!! Here’s a petition I signed against the ban, https://www.change.org/petitions/mayor-bloomberg-and-parks-commissioner-white-repeal-the-park-restrictions-on-performers-musicians-and-artists