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.

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 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 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, 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 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

Doveman at (Le) Poisson Rouge

Doveman LPR at piano

Doveman's Thomas Bartlett at (Le) Poisson Rouge's grand piano on June 18. (All photos copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Doveman, the band alter ego of pianist and singer Thomas Bartlett, always surprises.

In part the surprise comes from the band’s constantly changing lineup of musicians. And there’s always surprise in Bartlett’s decliately fractured Doveman songs.

Doveman close group

Aaron Dessner, Oren Bloedow, Sam Amidon and Bryce Dessner.

The show at (Le) Poisson Rouge last night was billed as “Doveman with Sam Amidon and members of The National.”

Thomas Bartlett and Nico Muhly

Thomas Bartlett and Nico Muhly

As it turned out, the unnamed members of The National (the Brooklyn art-rock band with which Bartlett sometimes plays) were guitarists Bryce Dessner and Aaron Dessner and drummer Bryan Devendorf — in other words, three-fifths of The National. But Thomas got help from even more players — Nico Muhly, Oren Bloedow of Elysian Fields, Sam and singer Dawn Landes —  to the point that he declared the ensemble the largest version of Doveman to ever appear onstage.

Doveman played a splendind set, mixing favorites like “Honey” with new songs from the upcoming album (click here for Doveman news from Brassland, the band’s record label). The band closed the set with pretty rocking cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’. The crowd, which was peppered with celebrities such as Josh Ritter and Justin Bond, reacted enthusiastically to every song.

For more on Doveman, plus videos from last night’s show, keep reading. Continue reading

Jonathan Richman — night 2!

Jonathan night 2 1

Jonathan Richman at NYC's Bowery Ballroom on June 17, 2009. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Here are a few shots, and a video, from Jonathan Richman‘s show on Wednesday night, June 17, at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC.

Tommy Larkins and Jonathan Richman. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Tommy Larkins and Jonathan Richman. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

The energy level was distinctly different than the night before. Even Jonathan admitted toward the end of the show that something wasn’t right, something was missing. (Jonathan mixes up the set every  time he plays, and doesn’t use a set list.)

But he fixed it by playing “Springtime in New York” as his parting tune.

Here’s a video I shot of Jonathan performing “Girlfriend” at the show:

Rock of ages: Babe the Blue Ox at The Brooklyn Historical Society

Babe the Blue Ox.

Babe the Blue Ox.

Babe the Blue Ox, a Brooklyn rock band that suddenly rejuvenated itself and started playing a lot of shows in the last year — after a long hiatus since its heyday in the 1990s — is kicking off its summer scheduled with an outdoor show at The Brooklyn Historical Society on Sunday.

The band just posted this announcement on facebook:

While we haven’t been around quite long enough to qualify as one of its exhibitions, the Brooklyn Historical Society seems a suitably odd place to play music, outside, without a real sound system to inhibit the “rock” from exploding off the sidewalk.

If you’re in the neighborhood or feel like taking a stroll down the fabulous Brooklyn Heights Promenade, we’ll be happy to do our best to fill your afternoon with mirth, and our formidable (musical) girth. – Tim, Eddie, Hanna and Rose

This will just be a short, free set. But BOX, which has been playing out quite a bit lately, has one more show scheduled. And I’m guessing there are more brewing.  The band is booked to play an Alt Cabaret show at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) on July 18, during the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at the awesome museum housed in a repurposed factory in Western Massachusetts. It’s a good distination for a weekend getaway. And if you’re wondering why the band is playing during a BoaC festival, here’s the answer: one of BOX’s founding members has a day job with the New Music organization!

Babe the Blue Ox performs at 4 p.m. Sunday at The Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street at Clinton Street, Brooklyn. (718) 222-4111 Free.

Also appearing at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 18, at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.    (413) MoCA1111. Click here for tickets and more information. $14 in advance.