Monthly Archives: June 2009

Fountains of Wayne at Maxwell’s

FOW Chris at mic

Chris Collingwood is the voice of Fountains of Wayne at Maxwell's in Hoboken, N.J., on Monday, June 29.

When you see the legend “Fountains of Wayne (Acoustic)” on your ticket, it means you get the same show from the amazing popsmiths that you’d get in a big hall, but with the band’s two guitarists playing acoustic (albeit amplified), guitars. Everything else is just as electrified as it would be in an “electric” show

The band, named for a now-defunct North Jersey lawn ornament shop, favored the sold out crowd at Maxwell’s with most of their favorites (they did Radiation Vibe but omitted Sink to the Bottom) and a few really good new songs.

Near the end of the set, they launched into a medley of Seventies songs, kicking off with a Michael Jackson tribute of sorts as Adam Schlesinger launched into the insistent bass line of Beat It. That segued into Yes’ Roundabout (with Chris Collingwood playing a mean guitar line), and thence into Kansas’ Carry On Wayward Son, followed by Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and wrapping up with Steve Miller’s Jet Airliner.

FOW Adam Hedshot

Adam Schlesinger played bass and keyboards.

FOW Chris and Jody

FOW's Chris Collingwood and the ever versatile Jody Porteron bass.

FOW Opener

Mike Viola and Kelly Jones opened the show.

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Beacon of hope!

There's something very hopeful about a rainbow. This one appeared over 9th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn, after a sunshower last Saturday. It stopped people in their tracks.

There's something very hopeful about a rainbow. This one appeared over 9th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn, after a sunshower last Saturday. It stopped people in their tracks.

Michael, we’ll miss you!

Michael Jackson performing "Billie Jean" in 2001.

Michael Jackson performing "Billie Jean" in 2001.

Michael Jackson was an amazing artist whose songs were often unbelievably awesome when he performed them, and were equally good when covered by all sorts of other artists. We have lost the artist, but his artistry and influence will endure.

Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian

Somehow, Belle & Sebastian’s version of Billie Jean comes to mind as a good example. I’ll leave you with that as my tribute to Michael. (Thanks to TheMusicSlut.com for posting.)

Belle & Sebastian — Billie Jean

Signal rocks Reich

Composer Steve Reich and conductor Brad Lubman take their bows. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Composer Steve Reich and conductor Brad Lubman take their bows. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Signal, one of the nation’s premiere New Music ensembles, celebrated composer Steve Reich‘s 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Music on Monday night with a special performance of Double Sextet, the composition for which he won.

Signal managed to sell out (Le) Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village so quickly that a late show was added, and that one appeared to be nearly sold out by the time it started.

The show opened with a rendition of Reich’s Sextet, an older piece. The crowd at the late show seemed to appreciate the performance by just six of Signal’s talented members, but most were really there to hear Double Sextet, which before Monday had performed only once in NYC, at Carnegie Hall by eighth blackbird, the Chicago-based ensemble that commissioned the work.Steve Signal performing

While the premiere performances featured six musicians playing against a tape of themselves playing the second sextet parts, Signal chose to play both sextets live, with 12 musicians onstage — two sextets consisting of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone and piano. (Steve intended the piece to be played either way.)

I enjoyed eighth blackbird’s NYC premiere of the piece last year, but Signal’s rendition brought out nuances and beauty in the piece that I missed the first time. Steve plays with dynamics and tempos in the piece, and even seems to dip into a bit of phasing, a technique that he frequently employed earlier in his career in which identical lines fall out of sync with one another, creating a kind of counterpoint.

Six of Signal's musicians performed Sextet, the 1985 predecessor to Reich's Pulitzer-winning composition.

Six of Signal's musicians performed Sextet, the 1985 predecessor to Reich's Pulitzer-winning composition.

It was a revelatory performance by an amazingly skillful ensemble, led by conductor Brad Lubman. Steve clearly gave his imprimatur to the performances, attending both shows and taking an emotional bow at the conclusion of it.

Coroner: Jay Bennett died of painkiller OD

Jay Bennett

Jay Bennett

A month after former Wilco member Jay Bennett was found dead at home in Urbana, Ill., a coroner has announced that an overdose of painkillers killed the 45-year-old multi-instrumentalist.

Duane Northrup, the coroner of Champaign County, Ill., said that tests showed Jay died on May 24 from an overdose of fentanyl, a drug prescribed to treat chronic pain, and that his death was being investigated as an accident.

Before his death, Jay posted a message on his MySpace blog saying he needed hip-replacement surgery, but was having diffculty paying for it because of a lack of insurance. He blamed the injury on years of “stage jumps and various other rock and roll theatrics.”

Jay, who was also a singer-songwriter, started playing with Wilco in 1996 and contributed to the albums Being There, Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot before he fell out with Jeff Tweedy, the band’s leader. Jay filed a breach of contract suit against Tweedy just weeks before his death, in what look a lot like a desperate attempt to raise money  to pay for his surgery.

Vieux Farka Touré at the Highline Ballroom

Vieux Farka Touré at NYC's Highline Ballroom. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Vieux Farka Touré at NYC's Highline Ballroom. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Vieux Farka Touré showed New York on Saturday night that you can maintain tradition and still rock. Vieux and his band played a tight set to an audience at the Highline Ballroom that was enthusiastic despite the remarkably early hour. (The show started before 7:30 and was done by 10:15, a time at which typical African bands would just be getting warmed up!

Vieux carries on the Malian blues tradition style popularized by his father, Ali Farka Touré, but adds a few more modern elements. The result was an incredibly spirited show that had the crowd moving all night!

The BLK JKS (prounounced Blackjacks) from South Africa, played a reggae-tinged fusion-style music. While their sound was very different than Vieux’s, the two bands managed to come together at the end of the night to play “Sarama,” a tune from Vieux’s latest album, Fondo, ending in a friendly guitar battle — plagued by technical difficulties — between Vieux and BLK JKS guitarist Lindani Buthelezi.

The music dances and so does the band.

The music dances and so does the band.

Vieux dressed for tradition, except for his footwear!

Vieux dressed for tradition, except for his footwear!

The Blk Jks open the show.

The BLK JKS open the show.

Vieux with members of his band and the Blk Jks.

Vieux with members of his band and the BLK JKS.

Stew and Heidi are working on a Passing Strange followup

stew-autograph

Stew outside the Belasco Theatre after the final performance of Passing Strange. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)Attention, Strange Freaks! Stew and Heidi are at work on a new show.

Attention Strange Freaks: Stew and Heidi are at it again!

Stew, who won a 2008 Tony Award for the book of the hit rock musical Passing Strange, and Heidi Rodewald, who co-wrote the music, have another show in the works!

Stew, who has repeatedly and vigorously made it clear in song and speech that he’s glad he’s not on Broadway anymore, never said he wouldn’t write another play. But his grueling Broadway experience made him realized that  if he did another show, he would not write himself into it. (Passing Strange is a fictionalized version of Stew’s coming of age, in which actor Daniel Breaker portrayed Stew under Stew’s watchful eye as narrator.)

Heidi Rodewald

Heidi Rodewald

Stew talks about the work in progress in a new interview with Theatermania.com, revealing that Joanna Settle will direct the show at NYC’s Public Theater, a venue that played a pivotal role in the creation and nurturing of Passing Strange.

Stew and Settle aren’t strangers. Stew recently composed the music for a site-specific outdoor production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream that Settle is directing for Shakespeare on the Sound in Connecticut.

Here’s an excerpt from Stew’s wide-ranging interview:

I had wanted to work with the director Joanna Settle, who is also going to be directing the new work at the Public that Heidi Rodewald and I are doing. And, of course, working with Shakespeare’s words is like a great vacation for me. I like nothing more than writing music. I don’t particularly like writing lyrics or books or prose, but music is a joy for me. I’m like a kid with a basketball; it’s not really work. I love that people think it’s work, but the truth is it’s fun. Making words, that’s a job. … [The new show in the works] has nothing to do with me. I mean, I’m writing it so it has something to do with me, but the subject matter doesn’t. We’re having fun with a few historical figures, and that’s about all I can say about it at this point except that it’s music-oriented. I have not cast myself in it because I now have the brains to know I won’t be able to get anything done if I am trapped in a play.

The interview doesn’t answer the question of when the show will be staged. So it’s likely that Strange Freaks — as members of the Passing Strange family are known — will likely have to wait awhile to see it. But, as with Passing Strange, Stew will almost certain try out the songs in his upcoming concerts. Passing Strange, for instance, was developed in part from his Travelogue shows back in 2004.

(For the full interview, visit Theatermania.com. Thanks to Bill Bragin (@activecultures) for bringing it to my attention.)

Luckily,  Strange Freaks won’t have to wait for that show to get another dose of Stew and Heidi. Keep reading for all the details. Continue reading