Monthly Archives: July 2009

Stew and Heidi are in good hands

Director Joanna Settle at the post-show talkback at the final Shakespeare on the Sound show. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Director Joanna Settle at the post-show talkback at the final performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream for Shakespeare on the Sound. Jesse Perez (Puck) looks on. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Director Joanna Settle says she first met Stew at NYC’s Public Theater in 2007, when she went to tell him to turn down the volume of the music for Passing Strange. She was in another theater in the building, working on what she called a “little genocide play” — aka the developmental production of Winter Miller’s In Darfur — and his rock music was just a little too loud to suit her at that moment.

Heidi Rodewald

Heidi Rodewald

bigstew

Stew

After they got that out of the way, though, it seems that a great working relationship was born.

Judging from the way Joanna has continued to work with Stew, commissioning him to compose an original score for A Midsummer Night’s Dream,  her first production as artistic director of Connecticut’s Shakespeare on the Sound, it truly is a great relationship.

The score for the Shakespeare production, which closed on Sunday, was vintage Stew, full of the lush pop sounds that characterize his appealing work. (You’ll be able to judge for yourself soon, as the Shakespeare company is releasing a CD of Stew performing the songs.) It was perfectly paired with the Bard’s words, and organically integrated into the structure of the show. That was a treat, as I’ve seen too many outdoor Shakespeare productions into which some pop songs awkwardly shoehorned.

And the production, played out on a serpentine boardwalk of a stage, was imaginatively conceived and directed. It gives me high hopes for Stew and Heidi’s collaboration with Joanna.

Joanna Settle continues her conversation with the audience.

Joanna Settle continues her conversation with the audience.

As I’ve reported before on this blog, Joanna will continue to work with Stew. She’s signed on to direct the next play that Stew and his longtime collaborator Heidi Rodewald are working on. There’s no date or title announced, but it’s slated to be presented at The Public Theater.

It’s a good bet that we’ll get more clues about the nature of the new piece when Stew, Heidi and The Broadway Problem take the stage at Lincoln Center Out of Doors on Aug. 19.  Click here for more information.  The show will be at the bandshell in Damrosch Park at West 62nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue at the southwest corner of the Lincoln Center campus. The performance starts at  7 p.m. Free.

On the road again: Satan and Adam tour rescheduled

Adam Gussow and Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee

Adam Gussow and Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee

As promised, Satan and Adam have worked out their scheduling issues and will be on tour in August. And this is a don’t-miss tour, because it’s probably the last time Adam Gussow and Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee will be able to play in the Northeast (or anywhere more than a day’s trip from Satan’s Florida home).

Here’s Adam’s explanation:

We have rescheduled three of the gigs from our postponed June tour, and added two new dates.  Although Sterling will still be able to play occasional out-of-town dates from this point on, the word from his sister down in Florida is that all future touring will need to keep him away from home no more than three nights.  This means that our dates in Philly, Portsmouth NH, and Piermont NY are the last time you will be able to see Satan and Adam in those areas, except for possible fly-in dates.  We hope you’ll take this opportunity to show up and pay your respects to the one and only Mr. Satan, guitar-man of Harlem.

Satan and Adam playing on the street.

Satan and Adam playing on the street.

So far, the tour is short and sweet:

8/12:  Virginia Beach, VA – Jewish Mother (9 PM)

8/13:  Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live (7:30 PM, with special guest Charlie Sayles)

8/14:  Portmouth, NH – The Press Room (9 PM)

8/15:  Piermont, NY – The Turning Point (8 PM)

8/17:  Atlanta, GA – “blue Monday” party for Atlanta Harmonica Enthusiasts and others (7:30).  For info, please contact Jim McBride: bottle.blues@yahoo.com.  This party is open to the public, but only if you purchase an advance ticket from Jim.  Space is limited.  Potluck + BYOB.

Stay tuned to Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? for updates and an in-depth interview with Adam. And check out Adam’s website for further information about Satan and Adam and Adam’s other endeavors.

An insider’s view of The Feelies

Glenn Mercer and Stanley Demeski.

Glenn Mercer and Stanley Demeski.

Katie Demeski

Katie Demeski

Katie Demeski, daughter of The Feelies drummer Stan Demeski, has come through as I hoped with a fastastic post on her blog about The Feelies’ Fourth of July Weekend shows at Maxwell’s. I’ll let her tell the story and try to get out of the way. Go, Katie:

So the Feelies shows came and went and, again, they were amazing. On the first night, three of my friends came. One of them, Matt, was even at the sound check. The sound check itself ran a little late, but in the first hour or so, Glenn started playing “Billie Jean”. Then Dave started singing in falsetto and playing his snare to the beat. It was absolutely hilarious and kind of made my day.

Anyway, so we ate at Maxwell’s and my other friends, Dan and Liebold arrived. It was pretty packed that night, but we were able to get pretty good spots. As for the actual show, this year the Feelies started things out with some more mellow songs like “When Company Comes,” and a cover of “Sunday Morning.” New additions to the lineup included “Egyptian Reggae”, “Moscow Nights”, “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey,” and “Invitation” (although, as mentioned in a previous entry, they added that song on New Year’s Eve). There was even one new song, “Bluer Skies” on which Brenda’s husband, Rich Barnes of Wild Carnation, even played keyboard on it while sitting on the little crate that is used as a step to get to the stage at Maxwell’s.

Friday night I went to the sound check with my dad because my mom and my brother were going to take the train after my mom got out of work. Anyway, Dave again started singing Michael Jackson when Andy the sound man told him he could sing into his mic if he wanted. So he sang “Thriller” and I felt the need to text Matt and inform him about it. I just chilled at Maxwell’s for most of the afternoon, reading Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer. The show was pretty much the same as the day before, except I was standing next to a particularly obnoxious tall drunk man who got more and more drunk as the night progressed. Regardless it was fun.

On the Fourth of July, I took the train to Hoboken with my mom and brother and it was pretty damn crowded especially for the Hawthorne train station. My dad had asked me earlier in the week if I would help Bill’s nephew, Ben, film for his Feelies concert movie. Ben and his friend (Nick, I think?) had attatched a camera holder-thing to a pole and I was instructed to put the end of the pole in my pocket and film from a little farther away than I had been standing, using the screen on the camera to keep track of the shot. Ben also had all of the Feelies go into the dressing room alone and he filmed each of them for five minutes, not asking them any questions or anything. When Bill came out he said, “I feel violated.”

Thanks, Katie. You are awesome. Click here to read the rest of Katie’s entry.

Two Guys and some classic rock songs

TWOGUYS

Dennis Diken

Dennis Diken

Ed Alstrom

Ed Alstrom

Whether you favor E.J. Korvettes or Two Guys — and even if you’re too young to know what those names once meant on the landscape of mass retailing — tonight is going to belong to Two Guys.

“Itinerant musician” Ed Alstrom and Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken have reached way back into the history of mass retailing for the name of their duo act — one of many in which these super hard-working players are involved.

I apologize for the late notice, but Dennis (on drums and vocals) and Ed (on piano and vocals) are bringing their good-time sound to the Smith Brothers Dining Saloon in Ridgewood, N.J., tonight.

Dennis Diken on drums.

Dennis Diken on drums.

Two Guys focuses on classic pop and rock. As Dennis explains it, “recent repertoire has featured plenty of Jive 5, most of the Beatles ‘Something New’ album, ‘Cast Your Fate To The Wind,’ Everly Bros., Gary Lewis & The Playboys, and Gene Pitney, of course.”

So you can count on hearing sounds like that, but, knowing Dennis, I’m sure there will be surprises. All in all, it will surely be an entertaining way to spend a Wednesday evening.

Two Guys perform tonight at 8 o’clock. Smith Brothers Dining Saloon, 51 N Broad St., Ridgewood, NJ 07450 (201) 444-8111. No cover.

The Feelies on the Fourth

Glenn Mercer, Stanley Demeski and Bill Million of The Feelies at Maxwell's on July 4, 2009. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Glenn Mercer, Stanley Demeski and Bill Million of The Feelies at Maxwell's on July 4, 2009. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

It would be easy to get used to making a tradition out of celebrating the Fourth of July with The Feelies.

Although their long-awaited comeback started at Maxwell’s in Hoboken

Bill Million and bassist Brenda Sauter.

Bill Million and bassist Brenda Sauter.

on June 30-July 2,  2008 (and those shows thrilled me) , they announced their return in a big way  two days later, opening for Sonic Youth in NYC’s Battery Park on the Fourth of July. The sun, sweat, humidity and the huge crowd just made the experience more intense. The band did not disappoint.

Percussionist Dave Weckerman seems content to stay in the background.

Percussionist Dave Weckerman seems content to stay in the background.

As you’ve probably read here earlier, The Feelies took over Maxwell’s for three nights this month, from July 2-4.

On that last night, thousands crammed the streets and waterfront of Hoboken to see the Macy’s fireworks, while dozens of true believers ignored the holiday hoopla and chose to watch the guitar pyrotechnics of Glenn Mercer and Bill Million instead.

I didn’t mind missing the fireworks outside, not at all.

Glenn Mercer

Glenn Mercer

The Feelies are a band that doesn’t offer too many surprises. Their shows are like your favorite jeans, well-worn, broken in  and perfectly comfortable. They feel good — and just right. They don’t throw many curve balls — even the multiple covers they did as encores over the three nights had little variation from night to night. But none of that matters to a true Feelies fan. In fact, curve balls might ruin the equilibrium.

At the July 4 show, I was positioned very close to the stage. That made for clearer shots of individual band members or pairings of players, but didn’t give me a chance to shoot an overview. So this will give you a very different perspective than the previous night’s shots.

Rich Barnes of Wild Carnation (and Brenda's husband) helped out on keyboard.

Rich Barnes of Wild Carnation (and Brenda's husband) helped out on keyboard.

My position made it tough to spot local heroes in the audience. But at the end of the night, I spotted Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo returning to the music room as the majority of the crowd was filing out. You can always count on them being at a Feelies show. The only other face I wish had been in the crowd was filmmaker Jonathan Demme, who featured The Feelies as “The Willies” in his 1986 movie Something Wild. I guess that was his payback for making  Stop Making Sense two years earlier about the Talking Heads instead of The Feelies!

Bunny in the back yard

Our bunny.

Our bunny.

Okay, this post has nothing to do with music. And it doesn’t have anything very obvious to do with theater or the arts. But this little brown bunny in our backyard has captured our attention like a reality show.

Where’s its mate or its parents? No idea.

Where does it hide out when it’s not hopping — or dashing like, well, a bunny out of hell — around the yard, nibbling on broadleaf weeds? Somewhere in the old stone retaining wall.

Tonight the bunny was in the driveway, just a few inches from the grass, but on the macadam in front of the garage. I drove in and it — he? she? — took off in a puff of fluffy white tail.

Friday night with The Feelies

Glenn Mercer rips into a Feelies song at Maxwell's on Friday, July 3, with percussionist Dave Weckerman keeping the beat. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Glenn Mercer rips into a Feelies song at Maxwell's on Friday, July 3, with percussionist Dave Weckerman keeping the beat. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

The Feelies were unbelievably tight at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, N.J., last night. They started almost on the dot of 9:30 (so if you’re going tonight, don’t be late or you’ll get stuck in the back of the room)  and played two solid sets, plus FOUR encores.

Since they reunited last year, the New Jersey quintet has gotten better and better, to the point that they as confident and assured as they did in their heyday. What an amazing night!

I was a little to far back to get many good shots, but here are some for those who couldn’t make it. I’ll get there earlier tonight and come back with better-quality images for tomorrow’s post.

P.S. Stanley Demeski’s daughter is a blogger. She wrote this about last year’s reunion show. I hope she writes about this years!

Sold out: Maxwell's music room was packed.

Sold out: Maxwell's music room was packed.

Glenn Mercer and Bill Million attack their guitars.

Glenn Mercer and Bill Million attack their guitars.

Brenda Sauter: Chill angel on the bass.

Brenda Sauter: Chill angel on the bass.

Freedy Johnston checking out The Feelies on Friday.

Freedy Johnston checking out The Feelies on Friday.