Monthly Archives: May 2009

Get ready for tomorrow’s 12-hour music marathon

Tortoise will perform for free tomorrow night, less than 24 hours after a sellout show at The Bell House in Brooklyn.

Tortoise will perform for free tomorrow night, less than 24 hours after a sellout show at The Bell House in Brooklyn.

It’s that time of year. The Bang on a Can Marathon, 12 hours of music featuring dozens of groups encompassing hundreds of performers, starts at noon tomorrow in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center in Battery Park City as part of New York City’s River to River Festival.

The marathon was created by Bang on a Can, one of the nation’s preeminent new-music organizations. You might think of it as a more civilized, air-conditioned All Points West festival for contemporary composed music.

Click here for the full schedule.

It’s a come as you are, come-and-go event. You can check out what appeals to you or what you don’t know, and leave if you don’t like it. It’s programmed in two-hour chunks, so set times are not strict and things do get moved around. But acts almost always appear somtime during their scheduled two-hour window. For example, you can count on hearing Marathon headliners like Ryuichi Sakamoto and Tortoise in the 10 p.m.-midnight segment.

Everyone will have their preference, and here are a few of my picks:

  • Noon-2 p.m.: BoaC co-founder Michael Gordon‘s seminal work Trance is on the schedule, performed by Signal, one of the best new-music ensembles around.
  • 2 p.m.-4 p.m.: Todd Reynolds String Quartet will perform Stringsongs by Meredith Monk. Todd is an amazingly talented violinist, a patient and caring teacher and a good friend of Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?
  • 4 p.m.-6 p.m.: This is a segment rich with great stuff. Lionheart and Ethel perform excerpts from Phil Kline‘s John the Revelator, a multi-part work for quartet and voice that merges elements of the Roman Catholic Mass with popular music and takes its name from the well-known American traditional song. The Smith Quartet, whose work I don’t know, will be performing Gavin BryarsThe Sinking of the Titanic. And the Bang on a Can All Stars, the Marathon’s house band, will play new works by guitarist-and-composer Bill Frisell, who will join the band.
  • 6 p.m.-8 p.m.: Ars Nova Copenhagen performs For love is strong by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang, another of BoaC’s co-founders.
  • 8  p.m.-10 p.m.: Ken Thomson, an amazingly energetic sax player and leader of Gutbucket, brings his 9-headed Saxophone Monster to the stage to perform his own composition, Rut. Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen & Ars Nova Copenhagen play Thirst by Julia Wolfe, the third BoaC founder. Another ensemble worth catching is Victoire, an electroacoustic quintet performing “Like a Miracle” and “I am coming for my things,” both writtend by Victoire founder Missy Mazzoli.
  • 10 p.m.-Midnight: Pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto will perform new works of his alone and with the All Stars, who will also play Steve Martland‘s Horses of Instruction. It’s always worthwhile sticking around for the final act of the day, which this year is slated to be Tortoise, a Chicago-based post-rock instrumental ensemble. I’m not extremely familiar with this band, but I’m excited to see them live. They have sold out The Bell House in Brooklyn tonight. So if you don’t have tickets for that show, the Marathon is the only way to see Tortoise here until July 21, when they appear at Le Poisson Rouge.

A new feature this year is the Marathon live-Tweet team. Check Twitter throughout the 12 hours for updates and impressions from the team, filed with the #bangonacan hashtag.

Grizzly Bear, ACME and Here We Go Magic rock Town Hall

GB with ACME

Grizzly Bear with the ACME string quartet at Town Hall in New York City on Friday, May 29.

If there were any doubters in the crowd at Town Hall for the second and last night of Grizzly Bear’s stand at the Times Square venue, they were won over by night’s end.

The band had nearly perfect sound, and made even the looser, older songs, sound like sonic kin to the newer, fussier songs.

Poor, boomy sound that plagued the opening act, Here We Go Magic was absent from the headliner’s set. And a string quartet from ACME, an NYC-based new music ensemble, beautifully rounded out the Grizzly Bear sound.

Here We Go Magic.

Here We Go Magic.

Can The La’s finally make a second album — 19 years later?


Vintage La's

I hope it’s true this time, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t wager much cash on the latest reports that the legendary Liverpool pop band The La’s will re-form, tour and finally record a second album later this year.

Frontman Lee Mavers is planning to revive the revered band, whose 1990 hit “There She Goes” made waves with its throwback sunny guitar jangle and its carefree sound, according to new reports.

Drew McConnell, bassist for The La's V.4

Drew McConnell, bassist for the latest lineup of The La's.

Drew McConnell, the bass player in Pete Doherty‘s Babyshambles, broke the news, saying he’s joined Mavers and they’re looking for another guitarist and a drummer for a UK tour and to record an album that has already been written. Given that Mavers has been playing with Babyshambles lately, none of this comes as a complete surprise. But given Mavers’ history with The La’s, there’s a huge question mark whether any of this information is credible.

There’s no word on whether the planned new album will comprise new material or songs  written for The La’s never-released (and presumably never finished) second album that was started in late 1991. Its failure to drop was credited to the extreme perfectionism of Mavers, the band’s songwriter, singer and lead guitarist, who had complete creative control at that time.

After that album failed to materialize, The La’s disappeared for awhile. The band reemerged in 1995 with a different  lineup, playing some shows before dropping out of sight again. Mavers and original bass player John Power reunited in 2005 for a handful of shows, but no official recordings emerged from that effort.

McConnell’s announcement is raising hopes among The La’s fan base, but even the true believers on the band’s internet discussion board seem skeptical.

I’m skeptical, too. But hope springs eternal.

Civic duty

Things will be a little slow on Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? today. This blog’s entire management team (that would be me!) has been called to appear for Grand Jury service.

I’m doing my duty. Be back soon!

Family and friends remember Jay Bennett

Friends and family of Jay Bennett gathered in Urbana, Ill., last night to honor the rock musician and former member of Wilco who died in his sleep over the weekend.

Among those who gathered was Edward Burch, a longtime friend of Jay’s and his collaborator on Jay’s first post-Wilco album, The Palace at 4 am.

According to a report on local TV station WCIA:

Jay Bennett wrote a lullaby for his baby niece 19 years ago. Now the lyrics are taking on new meaning. “So sleep now, my darling,” sang Edward Burch strumming his guitar. Burch wants to make sure his friend of 20 years rests in peace so he’s keeping his music alive. “He had such a great heart,” said Burch. “He wouldn’t just show me how to play the cord, but he would also explain why in musical terms it works the way it did.”

Here’s a clip of the report (you’ll have to watch a car-dealer ad before the report starts, but bear with it):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Struck a Chord“, posted with vodpod

Twitter taking the fore at the the Bang on a Can Marathon (Updated)

UPDATE: Here’s the lineup of members of the Bang on a Can Marathon Tweet Team (#bangonacan) this Sunday. Please check us out: @anastasiat @talkmusic @sethcolterwalls @espyem @ogiovetti @memilybk @cryfok @elimaniscalco and the father-and-son team of @dotdotdottweet and @forcetengale


Whether you can get to the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden on Sunday or not, stay tuned to Twitter for the event’s first-ever organized Tweet Team. Sure, people have done live blogging from the multi-act and multi-hour musical event. But this year Twitter rules!

I’m proud to be one of the Twitterers who will be weighing in on this wonderful musical event. Christina Jensen, who organized the Tweet Team for the 12-hour marathon, says:

The BOAC Tweet team will be at the Marathon at various times over the 12 hours, tweeting their impressions of the music & people.about 5 hours ago from web

Christina Jensen PR

Please follow us on Sunday and join in the fun with your impressions in response to ours!

With justice for all…

New Yorkers marching on 14th Street in Manhattan at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

New Yorkers marching on 14th Street in Manhattan at 6 p.m. today.

It’s a cliche, but it’s true. A picture is worth a thousand words. Pardon the interruption in the usual Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? discussion of music and other performing arts.

Meg White weds Jackson Smith — in Jack White’s backyard! (Updated)

Meg White

Meg White

UPDATE: According to a statement on the White Stripes web site: “The wedding was officiated by the most reverend Benjamin Swank.” Swank is believed to be Benjamin “Swank” Smith, former drummer in the Soledad Brothers, a band that worked with Jack White.

Meg White and Jack White of the White Stripes must have had a good laugh when Meg decided to wed Jackson Smith in Jack’s Nashville backyard on Friday.

After all, Meg and Jack, ex-husband-and-wife, for years kept alive a tangled myth about their relationship, insisting that they were brother and sister, not ex-spouses who have continued to play together as the White Stripes long after their divorce.

Jackson Smith and his mom, Patti.

Jackson Smith and his mom, Patti.

So it seems fitting that Jack would somehow factor into the wedding of Meg and Jackson, who’s the son of rock poet Patti Smith and the late MC5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith.

The other couple to marry in the double ceremony were Jack Lawrence — bass player in The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, Jack’s other bands — and his girlfriend Jo McCaughey, the Associated Press reports.

There’s no word yet on whether Jack played any active role in the ceremony or simply provided the venue.

Congratulations to both happy couples!

Say hello to The Last Goodbye

Damon  Daunno, left, as Romeo and Kelli Barrett as Juliet

Damon Daunno, left, as Romeo and Kelli Barrett as Juliet

My mind is blown.

Director Michael Kimmel and an incredibly talented cast of young singer/actors proved last night that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet works surprisingly well with the music of the late Jeff Buckley.

The place: Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in NYC’s East Village.

The time: 9:30 last night.

The event: The second of three concert readings of The Last Goodbye, billed as “an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet featuring music and musical compositions by Jeff Buckley.”

Strictly speaking, that description is not entirely accurate.  All of the show’s music is certainly associated with Jeff, but two numbers that figure prominently in the new show, aren’t his tunes at all. But Jeff’s glorious versions of “Corpus Christi Carol” and Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah,” that were included on Grace, the only album Buckley released before his death in 1997, introduced a generation of listeners to those songs.

Despite that small quibble, the show is remarkably strong.

The Last Goodbye got off to a slightly slow start, but picked up quickly. It was full of great singingand humorous, rapid-fire delivery of the Bard’s dialogue.

The cast, which was so big it could barely fit on the tiny Joe’s Pub stage, was consistently strong. Damon Daunno, as Romeo, acted and sang with great conviction. And while few, if any, singers could match Jeff’s otherworldly vocal style, Damon came closer than I ever would have expected. Kelli Barrett was delightful as Juliet. But Jo Lampert stole the spotlight when she stepped forward in her role as Mercutio, demanding attention with her sinuous physical comedy and stunningly powerful rock voice.

A rock quartet provides the instrumental underpinning, delivering Jeff’s music in arrangements that suffer from taking too many cues from Broadway’s Spring Awakening. Kimmel and Musical Director Kris Kukul, who did the arrangements, should set aside their Duncan Sheik crib sheets and revisit the arrangements with fresh ears.

There’s one performance left, at 9:30 p.m. next Monday. It’s sold out, but there’s a good chance there will be some seats available on standby, so don’t hesitate to stop by.

I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

ACME to play with Grizzly Bear at Town Hall

ACME Ensemble

ACME Ensemble

ACME (American Contemporary Music Ensemble) will be playing with Grizzly Bear on Thursday and Friday at NYC’s Town Hall, the indie New Music band’s Executive Director Christina Jensen announced via her Twitter account last night:


If you have tickets for either of these shows (both are sold out), you’ll find that ACME will fit perfectly into the vibe, as the ensemble, which played the string parts on Grizzly Bear’s latest album, Veckatimest (released today — get your copy now!), shares genre-bending proclivities with Grizzly Bear and their opener, Here We Go Magic.

ACME is no stranger to the rock stage, having been involved in Ronen Givony‘s Wordless Music, which pairs rock bands and classical ensembles on the same bill, with great frequency. The core members of ACME, which has been around since 2004, include violinists Miranda Cuckson and Caleb Burhans, violist Nadia Sirota, cellist and artistic director Clarice Jensen, flutist Alex Sopp, clarinetist Gilad Harel, pianist Eric Huebner, and percussionist Christopher Thompson.