April, 2009

4/29/09: The Megan Wolf Project @ Fontana’s (97/100)

April 30th, 2009

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It’s all happening.

The final day is finally near. Which means, the final event/party/show is also near. I haven’t talked about it much yet, but here’s what’s happening. My friends Al from ARMM and Francis from Shout It Out Loud Music are sponsoring the 100th day. They booked Fontana’s as the venue, three secret bands (to you, not us), and we invited who I could. It’s a small venue, so the list is tight. If I was unable to get you in, I apologize in advance.

Tonight we all met up at Fontana’s for a quick walk through of the venue. Francis has a video crew coming as well, to document the night/project. So they had to do a quick tech scout of the room. We talked details, met the contact at Fontana’s and so on. The planning for this event has mostly taken place via email, phone calls, etc. I’ve been in daily contact with Al and Francis, and they’ve been doing all the legwork behind the scenes.

This was the first time we’ve all been in the same place together since…hmm…since the Holly Williams show at Joe’s Pub, I think. Al and I have seen plenty of shows since then. And Francis and I saw Headlights and The Love Language last week at Bell House. But, anyhow.

We met up at Fontana’s tonight to hash everything out: talk sound check times, lights, cameras, and a rough agenda for action. But, before any of this went down, I had to head out to the other side of the fucking country for a quick in my company’s Portland office. Yes, you heard that right. Not only that, but Sunshine got back to NYC tonight, too for a two week trip. So basically, she was getting in, and then less than 12 hours later, I was leaving for two days.

Me: Hi, Sunshine.

Me: By Sunshine.

As long as I was already at Fontana’s for the walk through, I figured I’d make whomever the first band playing my 97th band. Fuck it, right? I was there. And trying to make it so by the time Sunshine got back from the airport, I would have my music done for the night. And it almost worked out perfect. Almost.

We wrapped up our walk through at Fontana’s just as the first band of the night, The Megan Wolf Project, was going on. Just then, Sunshine called to say she was jumping in a cab at JFK. Damnit. Not enough time for the band to play. Hmm. I told her to just take a cab to the club, I’d meet her there, and the band would hopefully be done in time and we’d head home. She agreed, and I headed down to check out the band.

Megan saw us scouting the place out beforehand and asked us who we were. I told her about the project, and that I was on day 97, and she was thrilled to be part of the end of the project. Even giving me a shout out a few songs into the set. She was a really nice, was very pretty and had a nice voice, but I just wasn’t sure what to do with the music.

It wasn’t off-putting. It just didn’t do much for me. Not a whole lot to grab onto. Maybe I was preoccupied with the upcoming 100th show, or trying to time out right with Sunshine getting to the venue, or the fact that I had to leave for Portland in the morning – but I remember very little about the actual music from the band. It was fine, just not memorable.

About halfway through the set, Francis, Al and the director Bruce’s crew had to split. Bruce hung out and had a beer. We bullshitted about the night, and he snapped off a few shots of the band. Then, with two songs left, I got the call from Sunshine.

Sunshine: I’m outside.

Me: Shit.

I headed out, grabbed her, carried her luggage inside, begged my way out of paying the $7 cover just for the last song, and we headed downstairs so I could complete the 97th day.

Whew.

Day #98 and Portland, here I come.

NYC -> PDX -> NYC

April 29th, 2009

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How’s this for a last second twist in the end of this project? I have to fly out to Portland on Thursday for a meeting on Friday. So days 98 and 99 will be out west. Then back to NYC for the 100th on Saturday. Makes for a good, dramatic end to the journey, I guess. So much for coasting to the finish line.

4/28/09: Melody Gardot @ City Winery (96/100)

April 29th, 2009

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Nice. Another show directly across the street from my work, and at City Winery. The place where Ed Kowalczyk murdered his own songs just a short time ago. That was a fun night. And so was tonight.

My boy Al came through with some tix for this show, courtesy of his boy Tony, who pulled through on this show and the Soundgarden or…excuse me…Chris Cornell show at Webster Hall back on day 76. This show was about as far away from Chris Cornell as it gets. City Winery doesn’t roll like that. They keep it civilized. Sit down, drink your wine, and let the singer sing.

Tonight’s singer was Ms. Melody Gardot, jazz singer/songwriter from Philly. She’s got an interesting and inspiring story. She was in a hit-and-run accident when she was 19, and during the extensive recovery process, she focused on music. She’s 24 now and still walking with a cane. But you might never know the pain she went through from her stage presence.

Melody was all personality, in her music and in her stage banter. You could not only hear her songs, you could feel them. She sounded much more mature than her age. Like she has been performing these soulful songs for 20 years. Then her sassy stage banter reminded you that she was in her early twenties. At one point, giving some people in the crowd shit for walking around.

“Hey, where are all you people going? Back to your seats I hope. We’re not taking a pee break yet. It’s not time.”

At my table tonight was my friend Al, Jim from Gibson Guitars – who I’ve met before – and Jim’s friend and landlady, Michelle. We had a great spot near the back that let us talk softly without disturbing everyone. But even that was impossible sometimes as Melody kept some songs really, really quiet. Almost to a whisper.

This show was yet another reminder of how much I now love jazz. I swear, if there’s one clear thing I take away from this project, it’s that jazz will play a huge roll in my life from now on. Maybe I’m getting old, and that’s what happens when you get old, but I love it.

Melody kicked it up a notch halfway through the set, which was nice. Because sleep jazz and red wine isn’t the best combination for someone who’s exhausted from seeing 95 straight days of live music. At home, maybe. Out in public, not so much. I was afraid I might fall asleep at one point.

Melody threw in some more crowd banter toward the end of the set, telling us how ever since she was a kid, she played with a brandy snifter on the edge of the piano to hold tips. Then when she got older, it was for booze. And tonight, the tradition was sadly broken since all they had were wine glasses. Which makes sense. The place is called City Winery.

I tried to imagine how to describe Melody’s sound, and my only real references for this sort of music are Madeline Peyroux mixed with some Norah Jones and Diana Krall. She was backed by a 6-piece band with trumpet, sax, xylophone, drums, stand up bass and cello. She bounced between the piano, acoustic and electric guitars. Using her cane to help her around the stage.

She sang one song in French. Played two classics in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” and presumably the rest were off her new album. She wrapped things up around 11pm, and Al, Jim, Michelle, Tony and a few other people hung around at the bar to have another glass of wine, because why the hell not? And it’s good we did, since Melody herself hung out way past her show, and we caught her on the way out.

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I told her about the 100 Bands project, and that she was day 96, and she immediately hugged me and thanked me for picking her to be part of it. Hey, nothing wrong with a pretty lady singing to you all night, and hugging you before it’s time to go

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4/27/09: Lost in the Trees @ Mercury Lounge (95/100)

April 27th, 2009

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God damn…this project just keeps getting better. Oh, and my friend Kurt fixed my camera, making the pictures much better, too. It’s a shame it’s almost over. Maybe I’ll have to keep going to 200 or 300 or…um yea, no way!

A folk orchestra from Chapel Hill might not sound like the most exciting thing to go see. But listen, when a band is good, a band is good. And Lost in the Trees was good. Really, really fucking good. They’re an 8-piece band from Chapel Hill lead by Berklee College of Music alum Ari Picker, and they killed it. I could’ve listened twice as long.

They were intense and haunting and beautiful. Not like the Arcade Fire. It wasn’t hat intense or self-important. This band seemed really nice and humble, and the conductor smiled the whole show, just as their music surrounded and then tore away at you.

Picker played a 12-string guitar, strung up as only a 6-string, and was flanked by a cello player, two violinists, a drummer, and three multi-instrumentalists who bounced between two glockenspiels, two tubas, electric guitar and an accordion. Oh, and yes, this was another band with a random floor tom sitting center stage for anyone who’s not a drummer who wanted to play it. I’m giving these guys a pass since they’re an orchestra.

Luckily I didn’t have to work too late tonight, so I was able to make it to this show just after they’d started. It was a bit pricey for a Monday night, and since I only stayed for this band. But whatever, there are only a few days left.

On that topic, I’m already a little sad. I think I already miss the project, and it’s not even over yet. It seriously doesn’t feel like that long ago that I started it. Obviously, it has been, and I don’t feel like I could do another 100 days. I don’t think I could do one more day beyond 100. But I don’t know, I guess I’m just getting the blues now that the real countdown is on. Only five left. Five days. Can you fucking believe it? I can’t.

Here’s a brief list what I’m going to miss:

  • Doing something unique
  • Feeling like I’m doing something unique
  • Talking to band members after their sets and seeing their faces light up when they hear they are a part of the project. Seriously, after the project I’ll just be another fan kissing their ass about how great their set was if I try and talk to them.
  • Planning out my week. I know it sounds silly, but planning out who I was going to see each week was half the fun. To see what sort of music I was going to be experiencing.

I know there’s more. A lot more. But there will be plenty of time for that after the 100 days are over, and I can look back and really get into it. For now, I’ll leave you by saying days 96, 97, 98, 99, and most certainly 100, will be the best of the project so far. Because I will try and soak every last minute out of them.

Week #13: What I’ve learned so far

April 27th, 2009

You can find live music pretty much anywhere, anytime: Case in point, last Monday night when i was in CT for work and found myself downtown Hartford enjoying the 16-piece big band Hartford Jazz Orchestra – in a sports bar & grill, with a bunch of old people. I love it.

Whoever books the Cake Shop has a great ear: I’ve seen numerous shows at Cake Shop over the course of this project, including the very first one. I’ve gone into every show virtually blind, not knowing the bands at all. And I’ve always left very pleased. I guess what I’m saying is, if you find yourself on Ludlow St, and want to spontaneously want to listen to music, pop into Cake Shop.

Finishing strong doesn’t mean seeing big named bands: I was all concerned with “finishing strong” in the last 10 days of the project. At the time I thought that meant seeing the big name bands, headlining shows at Bower Ballroom and the like. Then I found myself in downtown Hartford, CT on Monday. Working late on Tues, Wed and Thurs, rushing to see something, anything on the Lower East Side. And you know what? Those unknown bands were just as good, if not better, than some of the bigger names I’ve seen. So am I finishing strong? I think so.

I’m tired: I have loved this project. It’s been one of the coolest (if not, the coolest) creative endeavors I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I’ve seen some amazing music. Met some incredible people. And I’ll look back on this forever. But I’m tired. Oh so tired. I need some sleep, and couch time, and not drinking time, and gym time and Nick time. Soon, I will have all of those things again. And I can’t wait.

Interview on East Village Radio, Thursday @ 2pm

April 27th, 2009

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I just recorded an interview with Mike Newman from East Village Radio. It will be on air between 12pm and 2pm this Thursday. It was a lot of fun, and good to look back over the past 95 days. Check it out. I will post it in the press section afterwards.

Beyond Beyond is Beyond with Mike Newman

4/26/09: Lenny Pickett & The NYU Block Party Band @ Bowery Poetry Club (94/100)

April 26th, 2009

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Another amazing day, in the high 80s, but I couldn’t just lay around the Park for six hours again today. Too much to do. I had to do an interview for East Village Radio for the project, and record my radio show, but first, I met up with this guy Mick, a writer for the soccer weekly First Touch. Oddly enough, they have a music section in a soccer publication. My friend Paul made the introduction, and Mick wanted to meet to write a piece about the 100 Bands project. And since I’ve played soccer since I could walk, I was totally down for it.

On my way home, I thought I’d pop by the Bowery Poetry Club, a cool little venue I’d been meaning to check out. I saw on the chalkboard outside that Lenny Pickett was playing with a group of students calling themselves The NYU Block Party Band. I had no clue who Lenny was, but it sounded like jazz from inside, so why the hell not.

I walked in, paid 7 bucks, and then took a seat in the music room, with the three other people watching Lenny and a 9-piece orchestra comprised of NYU music students. His students. Not only is Lenny a saxophone virtuoso, the leader and Musical Director of the Saturday Night Live band, but he’s also a music professor at NYU. And today was a performance with NYU music students.

Not exactly what I’d had in mind for today’s band, but one I’m glad I saw because man…Lenny can really play the sax. I arrived in the middle of a number, and after they finished that one up, Lenny was pretty funny when he said, “So that’s what I’ve been teaching your son, Mr. and Mrs. Cogliano.” Their son was the guitar play. How adorable is that? Probably not very if you’re their son, I would imagine.

The most interesting thing about this show wasn’t how the guy at the door, who took my 7 bucks and then asked me how may day was going so far – in a really genuine and sincere way. Although that was surprising, especially for New York. The most interesting part was how here is Lenny Pickett, a guy who heads up the SNL band, was a member of the jazz/soul band Tower of Power, basically holding a rehearsal with his students. And they’re mostly keeping up.

Obviously he’s miles ahead of them in talent and experience. But he was there, in a t-shir and jeans, playing to a room of four people, on a beautiful Sunday and seemed to be having a blast. Another cool thing was the song selection. He played classic jazz songs like “Honky Tonk,” which Lenny said all sax players are required to know, as sort of the price of entry if you want to be in a band. And he even rearranged the Led Zeppelin song “Black Dog” for a 10-piece jazz band. Which was totally interesting. And, apparently quite difficult, according to him.

I didn’t know any of the other songs, but it didn’t matter. I knew that these students were doing a great job keeping up with Lenny, that he seemed to be having a good time, while mentoring his band and making one student’s parents very proud. And I knew that the vibe at the Bowery Poetry Club made me want to check out again. Just maybe not within the next six days.

Day 94: done.

Less than a week to go.

4/25/09: Box Elders @ Cake Shop (93/100)

April 26th, 2009

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I’d like to think Box Elders were named after one of my all time favorite Pavement songs. But, then again I’d like to think a lot of bands named themselves after Pavement songs, because Pavement was an amazing band. Influential enough to warrant such inspiration. But I think these guys were named after the bug instead. The bugs I grew up with in Minnesota. Annoying, but harmless, little bastards.

Not like the band, Box Elders. They weren’t little or annoying. They were tall and fun. From their ridiculous outfits, to their song-after-song-after-song assault on the eardrums. They just cranked out pop gem after pop gem with little or no pause or audience banter. Ramones style. And the similarity with this masters of the three chord, two minute song didn’t end there.

If I had to describe Box Elders to someone, I’d say they were The Ramones and Beat Happening, with some California surf punk thrown in. And the funny thing is, they’re from Omaha. Ok, that’s not funny ha-ha, but you know what I’m saying.

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Before the show, I spent all day in Central Park with friends, laying around in 80-something degree weather. So come show time, I was feeling pretty wiped out, but still managed to pull it together to meet up my friend Josh and Scott, a friend of a friend. We grabbed some pre-show drinks at Local 138 before heading to Cake Shop – my savior of a venue lately.

Cake Shop has probably been the best venue to see smaller, relatively unknown bands throughout this project. Whoever is booking the shows there has a great ear, because I’ve yet to be disappointed. Just a little something for your NYers out there, if you’re looking to spontaneously check out good local music, pop by Cake Shop. Like Josh, Scott and I did tonight.

We got there around 10:15p and Box Elders had just gone on. There was a decent crowd at the show, which was good. You never know at these shows. I’ve been to Cake Shop and seen it super crowded, and I’ve been one of five or six people. Tonight, we’re probably talking a good 20 or 30 people bopping along to the pop gems of Box Elders.

What an interesting band, visually and audibly. Your eye immediately goest to the bass player, who is shirtless with a silver coat, super short shorts, and ankle-high alligator boots. He whipped his hair around, getting in caught in the Christmas lights that hang above the stage. Then there’s the drummer who plays standing up, and often plays keyboards and drums at the same time. He was truly amazing, in his drumming and multi-tasking abilities. On guitar was a really tall, goofy guy who was also sporting super short shorts and moccasins.

“What I want to know is how the hell these three guys found each other,” said Scott. Solid question. They definitely seem like an odd trio, but maybe that’s why it works. Or they’re the only three guys in Omaha who can relate to each other, so they formed a band. Whatever their formula, it’s a good one.

“A bit one note,” said Josh. Sure. Solid point, I guess. But I was totally ok with it, because I like that one note. Even if I hear it over and over and over again.

4/24/09: Headlights w/The Love Language @ The Bell House (92/100)

April 25th, 2009

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I think they were just trying to get rid of the beer and booze leftover from our Founder’s Day party at work earlier in the month, since this email went out around noon today:

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So naturally, we all pretty much gave up on getting anymore work done for the day at exactly 3:35pm. That meant a long, hazy night ahead. I was going to see Headlights at The Bell House, but probably not until after 11pm. I was actually going to try and get there a bit early, since my friend Francis was getting there to check out the opening band, The Love Language. Any band Francis is checking out is good enough for me.

But first, work beers. Then after work beers. Then more beers after that. Then a $25 cab ride from the West Village to Gowanus, Brooklyn. That’s one unfortunate side effect of the end of this project: I’ve gotten lazy. I’m even taking cabs back and forth between the LES and my apartment, and that’s a 10 minute walk. I’m clearly running out of steam.

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I arrived at the Bell House a bit later than expected, with a nearly dead iPhone and a healthy buzz. Met up
with Francis and his posse pretty much right away. The Love Language was already on, and I was liking what I was hearing. And there were a shitload of people on stage. I guess it was Love Langauge and Headlights, doing it Broken Social Scene style with like 10 people up there. It was good, catchy, carefree indie rock – which apparently not a lot of NYers cared to listen to tonight, sadly. The venue was pretty empty.

But who cares. I was glad to be there. The band sounded great, and Headlights was due up next. They hit the stage around midnight, I think. Maybe a bit before. I have their record Some Racing, Some Stopping and it’s pretty good, but I truthfully don’t know them that well. And sometimes, that’s the best way to go into a show: no expectations.

And they were good. The place may not have been packed, but they brought their sweet, indie pop like it was. I was digging it. I mean, again, not the greatest band in the world, but you could do a lot worse. The guitar and bass players switched instruments, which I always like. They even played a song with nothing but accordions and keyboards. I think. Or was it jsut the guitar player playing the accordion? Can’t remember (see beginning of this entry for clues as to why).

At the end of their set Love Language returned the favor from earlier in the night and joined Headlights on stage. Then the band called it a night. And soon afterwards, so did I.

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4/23/09: Darwin Deez @ Pianos (91/100)

April 24th, 2009

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I walked like a zombie toward Pianos tonight. Must…see…music…but…want…sleep. Another late night at work. Left at 11. Darwin Deez was supposed to go on around 11:40. Naturally, they didn’t go on until after midnight. I got there around 11:20, so a band named Thing One was on stage. I have no idea what the fuck they were all about. They were a sight to see, if nothing else.

The singer was jumping around, bouncing and shaking like he was possessed. But his look and enthusiasm didn’t really match the music. It was weird. The band looked like four totally different guys on four totally different pages. I couldn’t figure it out. The singer was a real singer, like Seal or something. But he looked like a jock, and wore a Grateful Dead t-shirt, and skinny headband. I was seriously confused. Still am.

Ok, speaking of skinny headbands. What the fuck is up with this new trend on guys? I get it on women, but both guy lead singers in the bands tonight wore skinny headbands, like this, except on a guy. Not sure if this is going to make it to the level of singers with drumsticks and extra floor toms, but I’ll be keeping an eye out. Might be a new thing. Or an old thing and I’m just noticing.

Thing One finally got off stage just after midnight, making way for Darwin and his bandmates to take the stage in their ironic outfits. They kicked off the show sort of perfectly for them: to a choreographed dance to the Peanut Butter Jelly Time song. Pretty funnny. Then transitioned into an upbeat song the people in the front row immediately began dancing to.

Most of the people in the crowd seemed like Darwin Deez veterans, and they came to dance. Especially the guy who grabbed the tambourine from the stage, and danced with it – in time – all night, as if he was a member of the band. Darwin didn’t seem to mind.

The show as fun, pure and simple. The songs were pretty simple and guitar-driven, geeky, art school indie rock. Sure, there was level of pretentiousness cloaked in irony. But it just seemed like young NYU/art school kids having fun being in a band. I’m not going to give them shit about that. I’m an old fart compared to them. And I’ve seen too many bands in the past 3 months for this to faze me. I just kicked back, listened, shot pics, and smiled.

They ended their very short, 30-minute-ish set to another full band dance number. Not sure about the song this time. Not sure if matters. It was 12:30 and I was fucking beat. But not too tired to say a few words to Darwin and grab a CD before hopping in a cab home.

91 down

9 to go