Posts tagged ‘NYC’

What I learned in 100 Days

May 5th, 2009

Here goes: the last and final “What I learned…” post. But this time, for the whole 100 days.

This is the most exciting time in music that I’ve ever experienced
And I grew with Motley Crue, Guns ‘n Roses, R.E.M. Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, U2, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Run DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers and more. These are all legendary, amazing bands. But I’m telling you – right now this is the most exciting time in music. At least for my generation and those younger than me. Here’s why.

The old music model is broken, but that’s okay: the power has shifted to the artist. The Internet is killing majors, but fuck majors. You don’t need them. But bands need you, now more than ever. Bands may not make any money selling records, but they never did anyways. Fans have the power to keep music alive by simply going to see live music, buying merchandise (and yes, records) directly from bands. This has never been more true than ever before. Fans have direct access to more music than any other time in music.

Some might say there’s no quality control anymore. But fuck that. You are the quality controller. You decide. Any band that has access to a computer can record a song, put it on the Internet and let the people decide if it’s any good or not. That’s exciting because there’s more of it, and you can decide what’s worth your time.

Not only that, but look at the music itself. Take the genre of “indie rock” for example. Listen, I hate genre monikers like this (remember “alternative rock”?) but it’s exciting when one “genre” can be as diverse as to include bands like Belle & Sebastian, Matt and Kim, Sufjan Stevens, Feist and Blitzen Trapper, alongside Animal Collective, N.E.R.D., Kings of Leon, The Avett Brothers, Of Montreal, Bell Orchestre, Black Lips, Wolff, and Wilco.

The ’60s sounded like revolution. The ’70s sounded like rock and disco. The ’80s sounded like pop, new wave, DIY and glam. And the ’90s sounded like grunge and hip hop. So what does the ’00s sound like? All of the above and them some. And that’s pretty damn exciting

People like to see other people do things they couldn’t imagine themselves doing
People remained curious about this project from beginning to end. At first, I think they wanted to know about the music. Later when they asked me, “How’s the project coming?” I think what they really meant was, “How the hell are you still awake or alive or sane?

People like being a part of something
This goes for all the friends who joined me on the journey, the musicians, PR contacts, managers, etc who I met, plus the random people who emailed me and generous people who sent donations. When I started out, I hoped a lot of my friends would go to some shows with me, but I figured I’d do most of it alone. Boy was I wrong. Friends came out of the woodwork for this, and it was awesome.

I also tried to meet as many musicians as I could. I would approach them after their set to tell them what I was doing. About 98% of the time the response was really great. A few musicians blew me off, but fuck them. They were too self-involved anyhow, so who cares. I got to meet some great people. And they were as happy to be a part of it as I was to be doing it. See The Wrens entry for an example of how happy.

As you know I also took donations. These were not only a way to help me get through the 100 days, but for everyone to get involved and feel apart of the 100 days. Some were as small as $1, some got as big as $200 or $250, but I appreciated them all equally.

Finally, I was fortunate enough to get on a lot of guest lists. Sometimes that was a result of me unabashedly requesting it, but more often than not they were offered up by different contacts I made, or people who contacted me along the way. The generosity of PR folks, band members, band managers, label people and so on was helpful, humbling and appreciated.

The band (almost always) starts an hour after the venue says they will
Keep this in mind if you’re going to see a show in NYC, at the Bowery or Mercury for example. If they say the band goes on at 8pm, they actually go on around 9pm – or later. This is just how it is, at least in NY. Why? Alcohol.

Venues want to get you in and sell you as many overpriced drinks as they can before you notice that you’re waiting for the band to start. And they’ve gotten pretty good at timing it out. Which meant I got pretty good at timing when I needed to show up. Unless I wanted to see the opening bad, then I was screwed.

But, there are a few exceptions:

The “Early show”
These is the show before the show that’s scheduled to bring in the real crowd that night. The doors for these shows are usually at 6:30pm or 7:00pm, and the bands tend to start 30 minutes after they say they will.

Europe
Shows start on time in Europe. I learned this one the hard way when I missed Ben Lee at La Fleche d’Or. But it wasn’t just France. Shows in England started at or near the listed time, too. Just a word to the wise if you’re gonna see a show in Europe.

Random, unforeseen bullshit
You show up hoping to see the band that starts at 10pm only to find out that they pulled out and aren’t playing. Or their timeslot got swapped with the band at 9pm. Or the band that was supposed to play at 8pm didn’t show up, and so each band got bumped up an hour. All of these happened to me, and it pissed me off, but what can you do?

Beer is only as good as the tap it comes out of
I drank a lot of beer over 100 days, which is why I’m not drinking any for another month or two. But I didn’t do this for me. I did it for you, the readers. Ok, that’s what I tell myself. But either way, I did it, and now I’m here to report back.

Here is your guide to the best/worst beer taps in NYC: (from worst to best)

Mercury Lounge: Shitty
The PBR is the worst, but it’s also the cheapest, which makes it tempting. Don’t do it. It tastes and smells terrible. The Bud Light is ok, but I would step it up if you’re at the Merc.

Bowery Ballroom: Just ok
Stella isn’t bad here, but can be a bit average, and lose some of the sweetness it should have. And it’s $7, which is bullshit, so they should clean the taps and figure a way of making it worth the price.

Webster Hall: Not bad
Plastic cups suck, but the beer wasn’t bad.

Pianos: Pretty Good
I drank mostly PBR cans at Pianos, but the times that I drank from the tap, I got a Stella and it was pretty decent – mostly because it comes in a glass, not a plastic cup.

The Bell House: Good
Didn’t really drink too much from the tap here, the cans are too cheap ($4), but the one time I did, it was good.

Cake Shop: Good
The music room may be a dive, but the tap beer is good.

Rockwood Music Hall: Good
Pretty decent, but I’d suggest getting a glass of wine instead. They pour them pretty deep.

Music Hall of Williamsburg: Very good
Probably because it’s new, but all the beer I drank here was good.

Le Poisson Rouge: Very good
I hate the stupid mandatory 20% tip if you use your card at LPR, but it’s a new enough venue that the beers come out of the tap tasting delicious.

Joe’s Pub: Excellent
It’s a nicer and more expensive venue, so naturally, they care about their bar.

Going to shows alone isn’t as bad as it seems
Before this project, I would go see a band alone, but not that often. And I’d feel sorry for myself, and hate that I didn’t have anyone to talk to, and waaaaahh waaaaahh waaaaahh… Then I realized, seeing a band can be like seeing a movie. Once it begins, being alone is fine. You shouldn’t be talking during the music anyhow. Granted, some bands are a lot more fun to see with friends. But don’t let the fact that no one else wants to go keep you from going. Just go.

Get to know unknown bands
It’s only natural to want to blow off bands you’ve never heard of before. You’ve never heard them, so why would you care? That is, unless you need to see music every single night, like I did. And sometimes there’s a night where you don’t know who to see, so you have to pick a band at random – as I did. And you know what you’d find out? It’s worth taking chances on unknown bands.

Music will never cease to amaze me
The fact that I can find live music in downtown Hartford, CT on a random Monday night amazes me. How I can still see Les Paul, the 93-year old man who invented the solid body electric guitar, every Monday night, have him flick me off for a picture and meet him afterwards amazes me. The fact that I can be asked on stage to perform with a band that’s been together for over 20 years, to a sold out crowd in NYC amazes me. And the fact that I can see 100 consecutive days of live music and still love music amazes me.

Thanks for reading. Now do yourself a favor and go buy a ticket to see a band, right now.

5/2/09: 100 Bands in 100 Days Final Show with Takka Takka, Anamanaguchi & Right on Dynamite @ Fontana’s (100/100)–PART 2

May 3rd, 2009

photo by Mike Pollock

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Go back to Part 1

The 100th show: Part 2

Showtime

Friends started showing up, and then just kept coming and coming all night long. First, it was Brent and Tim. Then John and Kara. Then Lance. Then Scott, Josh, Dave, Dan. Then Thomas…and so on and so forth. The next thing I knew, the place was packed, the open bar was in full effect, and we were just 30 minutes away from the music. I was running around like headless chicken and getting dizzy from bouncing from one person to the next. But it was awesome that everyone was as excited as I was.

Al and Francis took the stage just before 9:30 to introduce me. Then I thanked them for throwing the party and everyone for coming, and then introduced the first band of the night: Right on Dynamite.

They took the stage and fucking rocked the house. It was awesome. People were dancing, jumping around, having a great time and I was just loving it. I saw ROD on day 8 of the project, and they sounded just as good, if not better this time around. They were super excited to be playing tonight, and you could feel it. Toward the end of their set they announced that they had a few songs left, and then one “special song” after. That “special song” was the one I was going to perform with them: “I’m so tired,” by The Beatles. The song that best sums up what it feels like to see 100 consecutive days of live music.

And there were the butterflies again. Man, I was nervous. I thought I would forget the chords, and the words, and look out into the crowd and just freeze up. All those normal stage fright things. But once I stepped on stage and the crowd went nuts, none of that happened. Jon clicked it off, I played the opening lick and then the first words of the song came right out:

I’m so tired. I haven’t slept a wink.

I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink

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photos by Mike Pollock of 50showsat50.blogspot.com

It was the longest 2-minute song I’ve ever played. And the most fun. Thankfully Dan and Nick helped me out on vocals. Even though I had the lyrics taped to mic stand, I still stumbled over a few words here and there. But whatever. I was doing it, and it was awesome.

We finished the song. The crowd went wild. And my rock star moment was complete. But not my time on the stage. I had some awards to give out. A few weeks before the final show, I decided I wanted to honor those people who’ve played important roles in the project. I made up little gold and platinum records with 100 Bands in 100 Days artwork, and a plaque.

Here are the awards I gave:

The Farthest Distance Traveled Award, to Brent Boswell
The Most Shows Attended Award, to Jeremy Egner
The Guy Behind the Guy Behind the Guy Award, to Francis Garcia
The Badass Motherfucker Who Went out of his way to Make Sure This Project Was the Best It Could Be Award, to Al Risi

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Then I introduced the next band: Anamanaguchi. They’re a great 4-piece instrumental band that routes their instruments through an old Nintendo. Yes! Gamer rock! I loved it and so did everyone else. The crowd was really digging them, which was great. You just never know with an instrumental band. But they’re so high energy and fun and original that it’s hard not to love them.

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As Anamanaguchi continued to crush it on stage, I saw some of the guys from Takka Takka and thanked them for playing the show. They returned the sentiment and were happy to be asked. Anamanaguchi finished up their set, and then suddenly the show was almost over. How did that happen?

I got up on stage again between sets and thanked the band, reminded everyone to stick around for the third and final band, Takka Takka. Then, I bopped around the party, hoping to talk with some friends I hadn’t had a chance to say more than two words to all night. The best thing about being the guest of honor is having all your friends turn up for your party. The hardest part is not being able to spend a long time with any of them.

After a pretty quick set up Takka Takka was ready to go. I first heard of this band when they played at SummerStage with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Architecture in Helsinki a few years ago. I missed their set that night so I was looking forward to seeing them tonight. And I was excited for the finale. The last and final band. The final piece of the puzzle. After Takka Takka, the 100 days would be complete. I have to admit, I was a bit sad to see it all come to an end. As difficult as it was, and as long as the 100 days felt, I was going to miss it for sure. But first, Takka Takka was going to bring it all home.

As they started playing, it hit me once again that this was actually happening. That all the people in the room were there because of me. That the band on stage, and the two bands that stood there before them were there because of an idea I had. All the cameras, lighting, the director, DPs, the sound guy, the open bar, and all the planning – everything was because of this project. That is a fucking humbling feeling, to say the least.

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Takka Takka played an awesome set, finishing out the night, and the project, in a great way. They are a fun, easy going rock band with a sound as unique as their name. The guys in the band were so nice, and seemed really happy to be there. Good times all around.

After the set, I took the mic one last time to thank all the bands and everyone left standing for being a part of this monumental night in this project and my life. And, apparently, I was cursing like a drunken sailor. Hey, I’ve always said I’m a writer, not a speaker.

And that was it. The 100 days was complete. The binge gigging was over. I did it. And it was time to go home.

What will I do next? Will there be another 100 days project? Will I go through live music withdrawl? Will I be able to go home and sit around and watch TV without getting bored out of my mind? When will the documentary of this event be available to see? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions right now. But I’m looking forward to having the time to figure them out.

All I can say is, stay tuned. You haven’t heard the last of me.

See more photos from the Final Show

5/2/09: 100 Bands in 100 Days Final Show with Takka Takka, Anamanaguchi & Right on Dynamite @ Fontana’s (100/100)–PART 1

May 3rd, 2009

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The 100th show: Part 1

Wow. I have no idea what to say about this party. What an amazing, amazing night.

I will start off by saying thanks to Al Risi from ARMM and Francis Garcia from Shout It Out Loud Music for throwing me such a kick ass party. Thanks to Right on Dynamite, Anamanaguchi and Takka Takka for rocking the house all night. Thanks to Bruce Ashley of Company X and his film crew for documenting every last second. Thanks to Sunshine for flying in from London, Brent for flying in from San Fran, John for flying in from Minnesota, Tim for driving down from Massachusetts, and everyone else in NY who came to Fontana’s last night to help celebrate the culmination of 100 consecutive days of live music with me.

This was the coolest party I’ve ever been to and been a part of. Here’s how it all went down. And just so you know, this is going to be a long post, so get comfortable.

Pre-show madness

I got a call around 4pm from John, one of the DPs from Company X who was filming the night. He was outside my apartment, waiting to jump in a cab with me to film an interview on the way to the venue. I was headed there early for Right on Dynamite’s sound check, and to practice a song I was going to perform with them after their set. The other two bands were coming in from out of town, so they wouldn’t be able to sound check this early.

I stepped out of my apartment, and John already had the camera going. We hopped in a cab, did a quick interview on the ride over, then he jumped out of the cab at Fontana’s. When I went inside, Al was already there, and John did a short interview with him as well. I did sit around for few minutes just waiting – the calm before the storm, if you will. Then Right on Dynamite showed up and it was on.

We headed downstairs where Bruce and his crew had been setting up all day. That’s when I realized how real tonight was going to be. I mean, there were multiple cameras set up, including one a fucking dolly in front of the stage! They brought their own lighting for the stage, to spotlight the bands, etc. It was out of control, in an awesome way. They even had like 3 or 4 Flip cameras on tripods. Unbelievable.

I did a little setting up of my own by hanging some pictures my friend Alan shot for me of the more tangible items I’d collected along the way: wristbands, ticket stubs, flyers, my little written record opened up to where Les Paul signed it, my nasty ass earplugs, camera, and so on. I even had a bunch of commemorative posters made up for the night and set them up for sale, too.

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Right on Dynamite started their sound check and that was one more reminder of how real tonight was. And then I got nervous, too. Earlier in the week, my friend Brent suggested that I play a song during the party. He suggested “I’m so tired” by the Beatles. I don’t know if he imagined I’d take him so serious, but I did. After he said it, I immediately IM’d Al and had him ask the band. They were totally into it, practiced the song at rehearsal all week, while I did a little practicing at home. And tonight, I was going to do it in front of everyone at the party.

What am I nuts? I’m a guitar player, not a singer. But the song was so fitting that I just had to do it. Fuck it, right? After ROD sound checked, it was my time to get up on stage and run through the song with them. It went pretty well actually, but I was still nervous as hell about playing it tonight.

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Calm before the storm

By 6:30 the venue was set up, ROD had finished with sound check and now I finally got a moment to sit and relax and take a few deep breaths before everyone started to arrive. We actually had to clear out of the room by 6:30pm since there was a band who actually had a gig that night at Fontana’s, who I’m sure were saying “WTF?” when they saw all the film equipment, etc.

Oh, wait. I forgot. I didn’t get to relax yet. I still had to do an interview. I thought it would be some hand held interview like Al did earlier, boy was I wrong. This shit was really official. They had an area set aside that was pre-lit with two cameras. I sat down and we did about a 30 minute interview. Itwas a lot of fun to be able to reflect on the project just before celebrating the end of it.

Ok, so after that I actually did get to relax a bit. Al had run home to change and print out the guest list, etc. Francis took off for a bit too, I think. And it was finally just Sunshine and me, relaxing in a booth upstairs having a drink. But not for long…

Continue to Part 2

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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4/26/09: 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.

4/17/09: Great Lake Swimmers @ Bowery Ballroom (85/100)

April 18th, 2009

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My grandma Katie died today.

For those who have been reading for awhile, you know that I made an emergency trip back to Minnesota one month ago (almost to the day) to see my grandmother who had fallen sick pretty quickly. We didn’t think she had long left. In fact, I didn’t think she’d even make to the weekend when I planned on heading back to Minnesota. But she was a fighter. The doctors, orderlies, hospice workers – they all said she could “go any minute.” But she didn’t. She kept fighting – and that’s just one reason I loved her. The rest I don’t need to explain. We’ve all had grandmothers.

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(with my mom in the 50s, and with my nephew Gabe this year)

For the last month, I felt that any call from my mom, dad or sister that would be the one. Today that call came. I’m at ease with her passing because I know she went peacefully, and had family visiting her every day. I got to see her just a month ago, and talk to her several times since then. The last time being Saturday, when she sounded like she was getting better, even if the doctors said the opposite.

She was definitely on my mind during the whole Great Lake Swimmers show tonight. To be honest, I don’t really remember much of this show. I watched the first few songs from up front, snapped off some photos, then went and leaned against the bar to watch the rest. And text with my sister. We were texting back and forth through most of the show, talking about today, how we missed gma already, how our mom is doing, etc. I couldn’t be with them in MN, which is the shitty thing about living out here in NYC.

While I don’t remember much about the Great Lake Swimmers show, I do think they were the perfect band to see tonight. It wasn’t too crowded, they kept the lights on the stage pretty low, and their music is sufficiently mellow and melancholy to allow me to reflect on the day without really paying attention. When I was paying attention, I was sometimes surprised to look up on stage and not see Iron & Wine. Just sayin’.

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I have GLS’s record Ongiara, but not the new one, Lost Channels. It doesn’t matter much though. I feel like they write one long, continuous song. Which is a good thing at times. It’s nice because you can put them on, and then zone out. Exactly what I needed tonight. I didn’t need a crazy rock show with stage diving, or moshing, or singers with drumsticks, or precious indie antics. I needed something I could ignore, so I could think about what I would’ve said if I’d had a chance to say goodbye to my grandma.

Love you gma. We will miss you forever.

4/14/09: Flight of the Conchords @ Radio City Music Hall (82/100)

April 15th, 2009

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(Please read the following with two different New Zealand accents in your head)

There was some singing. Yes, some singing. And also some talking too. Yes, in between singing there was also talking. But it was mostly singing. Right, mostly singing of songs. There was some mutha’ucka ‘uckin’ with my shit. Actually, it was the seat, not the shit. Right. It was some mutha’ucka, ‘uckin’ with my seat.

(Please stop reading with New Zealand accents, that’s a bit weird. Yes, a bit weird.)

Ok, that was bad. I apologize. But I couldn’t help it. Flight of the Conchords’ humor is so simple, it makes you feel like anyone can do it. But they can’t. Or, rather I can’t. Being apart of the they, that is.

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But I can sit and laugh at these two funny mutha’uckas crank out awesomely absurd songs in really great seats thanks to Francis and Sub Pop. ‘Ucking fantastic seats actually. So close that my buddy Thomas and I saw a guy a couple rows in front of me bolt from his seat, jump up on stage, and run clear across it and then get grabbed by two security guys on the other side. Ok, I’m sure everyone at Radio City saw that. But I saw the smile on his face as he jumped out of his chair. I imagine he was thinking, “Fuck it. They played the songs I wanted. Might as well go out with a bang.”

Not a bad idea. Maybe I should’ve done that. Would’ve made for a great story here. No, I’m too much of a coward. Instead, you get my feeble attempts at New Zealand humor. And awestruck comments about Radio City Music Hall. You don’t remember me making those? That’s because I haven’t done it yet.

I am always amazed by Radio City Music Hall. So amazingly beautiful. It makes me want to dress up just visiting it. Even makes me want to take a picture of the bathrooms it’s so impressive. Which I didn’t do of course, that would be weird. The other nice thing about a show at Radio City? Shows there start on time.

When it says that Kristen Schaal (Mel on the show) os going on at 8pm, she goes on at 8pm. I was secretly hoping she would be in character as Mel. But she was funny doing her stand up, nonetheless And then,when she was done, she introduced Flight of the Conchords and they came right out. No waiting around at Radio City. I like it.

But not as much as I liked the show. Which was nothing short of brilliant. Think about it. It’s two guys (ok, one other guy on cello on half the songs) commanding a huge, beautiful room of about 6,000. A room that looks like this:

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They played all of the best songs from the show. Opening with “Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor.” And continuing on with “Bowie,” “Business Time,” “I’m Not Crying,” Robots,” “Mutha’uckas” and so on, and so forth. Still so funny out of context of the show, and often stripped down with just them and their guitars.

The Conchords crushed it, I thought. Like I said, being able to command a room like that with dry humor and silly acoustic songs is amazing. Maybe they weren’t intimidated, but I know I’m humbled just walking into Radio City. A huge, leggy blond of a building. The most beautiful venue on the street. Depending on the street.

4/13/09: The O’s @ Fontana’s (81/100)

April 13th, 2009

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God bless America for bluegrass music. The beautiful, sweet sound of the banjo, acoustic and slide guitars. Eat your heart out indie rock. Sometimes you just need a little reminder of where you came from to set you straight. I wrote all of that with a Texas drawl in my head, FYI. Even though I’m from Minnesota, yet somehow lost my accent all together somewhere between growing up in MN, undergrad in SC and the last 7 years in NYC. I just think talking about bluegrass sounds better with a southern drawl. Or, in the case of this blog post – imagining a drawl in your head as you write.

The O’s were just the reminder I needed that I grew up with roots/American music like The Gear Daddies, The Jayhawks, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Son Volt, The Honeydogs and so on. I was raised on this stuff. It’s in my blood. Even though I don’t really bust it out that often anymore – apart from Wilco who is in a steady rotation pretty much all the time (I listened to A Ghost is Born twice and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Sky Blue Sky each once today). So it was nice to see two guys up on stage, cranking out some stuff that sounded like home. Or some version of it.

But tonight wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. It was supposed to be about a big show. The Neko Case and Crooked Fingers show up in Times Square. Except I choked and didn’t get a ticket in time. And now that there are a limited number of days left in the project, I want to make sure they all count. So I felt like a bit of a loser for not jumping on that ticket, and that I was just settling for some random music. But it’s these moments that surprise you the most.

The O’s are two guys: John and Taylor. That was pretty much all I knew going into this show tonight. Oh, and I saw that they were playing a show in Dallas, TX with Mark Olson and Gary Louris, formerly (and soon again, I think) of The Jayhawks – hometown heroes of mine. So, in my mind, if these guys are good enough for the Jayhawks, they’re good enough for me. And I was right. Or, they were right. Ok, we were all right.

The O’s were great. Not only great musicians and songwriters, but funny and self-aware about there being less than 20 people in the room. They cracked self-deprecating jokes about it the whole time, which helped break the tension of it being early and empty. They played a fairly quick set, under an hour, and probably could’ve played more if the sound guy would’ve let them. I know I could’ve listened to more.

I introduced myself to the band and picked up a CD after the show. I mentioned how I was a big Jayhawks fan growing up, so I was happy to see them playing with Olson and Louris. They said they cut their tour short to get back to Dallas so they could play that show with them. I said good luck, good night, and ran across the street to pick up dinner from the best little dumpling house in NYC (as far as I’m concerned).

81 down, 19 to go.