Monthly Archives: January 2010

Music raises money for Haiti


The Young Peoples Chorus of New York City kicked off the evening at City Winery on Wednesday. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

John Wesley Harding

The Carolina Chocolate Drops

Michael Stipe didn't sing, but his mere presence got the crowd stirred up.

Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye are always there for a good cause.

Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, aka The Swell Season

Yo La Tengo

Joshua Bell and friends

There was a bit of irony in a crowd gathering at City Winery in TriBeCa to feast on great food and wine and listen to some of the most-loved bands around play to raise funds for those suffering in Haiti. But Wednesday night’s show, the first of four aimed at raising $100,000 for Haiti by charging $75 a head ($200 for VIP).

The irony quickly faded to the background once the part started Wednesday. There was a real feeling of joy from the performers and artists alike. This tremendous tragedy seems to have galvanized New Yorkers in gratifying ways.

The sets were all too-short, but consistently well-done. It was a very impressive effort.

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? didn’t have a prime spot for photography, but got some images that will help us remember the great night

Tim Griffin got some truly awesome photos, which you can check out by clicking here.

And please consider attending on of the two remaining shows. Mystifyingly, ticket prices are lower for the remaining shows than for the first. Rosanne Cash, Nada Surf, Tabou Combo and others are performing at 8 pm tomorrow (click here for more information and tickets at $50; $200 VIP), while piano-based singer-snogwriter Vienna Teng and guitarist singer-songwriter Ari Hest are two of the better-known indie artists on Monday night’s show, which also starts at 8 (click here for more information and tickets at $20; $75 VIP).

City Winery is at 155 Varick St. (between Spring and Vandam). Doors open for dinner at 5 pm. Seating is first-come, first-served, so if position matters, be early. Showtimes are pretty accurate.

Meanwhile, if the City Winery lineups do nothing for you, check out A Night of Comedy and Music to Benefit Haiti at the Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight. It’s presented by Bowery Presents and BrooklynVegan. It features short sets by: Zach Galifianakis, Britt Daniel (of Spoon), Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), St. Vincent, Janeane Garofalo, Wyatt Cenac (of the Daily Show), the live debut of John Shade (ex Dave Godowsky) & possibly more. Advance tickets appear to be sold out, but some may be available at the door for $40. The Music Hall of Williamsburg is at 66 North Sixth Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Beth Orton in the spotlight at The Bell House

Beth Orton charms at The Bell House on Monday night. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Beth Orton is always charming and has a brilliant way with songs. She brings new life to the tunes she resurrects and covers, and has a unique sensibility on her new numbers as well.

At The Bell House in Brooklyn on Monday night, Beth pulled off a strong performance despite battling the remnants of what she described as walking pneumonia. Despite her vocal challenges, Beth’s understated vocals reminded the audience of her amazing ability as a song stylist.

As a performer, Beth comes off as a perfectionist and a bit awkward at the same time. She started a couple of songs over because she wasn’t satisfied with the way they were going.

Early on in her set, Beth deadpanned: “Hi, I’m shy.”

Sorry to disagree, Beth, but no, you’re anything but shy.

It feels like Beth rarely tours here. This visit one was tiny — one show in Los Angeles, at Largo, and two in New York, the first on Sunday night at Manhattan’s City Winery. But she did five shows in NYC less than a year ago. As I recall, she was getting over an illness that time, too.

This mini-tour took advantage of a budding partnership between Beth and her opener, Sam Amidon. Sam is a Vermont-born singer who has come to specialize in quirky interpretations of traditional American folk songs. Sam’s spare, airy, almost stumbling version of O Death is one of my favorite takes on the tune. He and keyboard player Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett worked together in the opening set, with a bit of help from Sam’s brother, Stefan. Beth joined them for a bit, too. Sam and Thomas returned the favor during Beth’s set.

A full set list and some of my photos also made it onto Beth’s official fan site. Thanks to the great webmaster, Tim, for that!

More photos of Beth, Sam and Thomas after the jump.

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Passing Strange‘s Eisa Davis in song and conversation

Eisa Davis

Eisa Davis, who played the mom in Passing Strange, a musical play that probably needs no introduction to readers of this blog, and the equally awesome Angela’s Mixtape (Eisa’s autobiographical show that focuses on her aunt, activist Angela Davis) is a featured artist  at Manhattan’s Symphony Space next month.

On Monday, Feb. 22, as part of Symphony Space-New York Times “Speaking of the Arts” series, The New York Times’ culture writer Daniel J. Wakin will speak with five composers who work with very different types of music. Eisa will represent the singer/songwriter genre, while Joan Tower will talk about concert music, Arturo O’Farrill about Afro-Latin jazz, Henry Threadgill about jazz and Jeanine Tesori about musical theater. Tickets for that event, at 7:30, are $25 and available here.

Then on Friday, Feb. 26, Eisa will return to the Symphony Space stage to perform old favorites and new songs with some of her “favorite musicians.” No word yet on who those favorites are, but I’m sure she’s trying to line up some of her friends from Passing Strange. Showtime is 7:30, and tickets are $25 and available here.

Eisa has a warm and lyrical vocal style, a magnetic stage presence and a charming personality. Don’t miss either event, as they’re bound to be entertaining and insightful. Both performances are at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th Street, Manhattan. Call (212) 864-5400 or visit the web site for further information.

RIP Kate McGarrigle

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Canadian folksinger Kate McGarrigle, the head of a musical dynasty, who’s best known known by younger music fans as the mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, died last night. She was 63, and died of clear-cell carcinoma.

Kate, a Juno award winner and Member of the Order of Canada, was diagnosed with cancer in 2006.

Click here for a blog post on her death from the National Post, a Canadian newspaper, and here for the Toronto Star report.

Kate gave birth to Martha and Rufus, two gifted singers, during her marriage to singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III.

Kate performed for many years in a duo with her sister Anna as Kate and Anna McGarrigle, passing their folk-music traditions along to a large, extended family family of musicians, which, in addition to Loudon, Rufus and Martha, includes Maggie, Terre and Suzzy Roche who perform together as The Roches (the link: Suzzy had a daughter, singer-songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche, with Loudon). The family had a tradition of gathering annually for Christmas concerts, sometimes at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The last McGarrigle Family Christmas concert, A Not So Silent Night, was held last Dec. 9 at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Here’s a video of Kate singing a new song, “Proserpina,” at that show:

Last Friday, Rufus’ web site announced that he was canceling his February/March tour of Australia and New Zealand “due to an illness in the family.”  Martha’s site indicates she has no upcoming concert dates.

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? sends best wishes to Kate’s extended family at this time of loss.

City Winery’s four nights for Haiti relief

Patti Smith is just one of the artists who will perform for Haiti relief at City Winery. (Copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? will be at the first of four nights of fantastic Haiti-relief. I’d like to make all four, but I’m not sure I have the cash (it’s $75 minimum,  but it’s worth as it’s for an important cause!) or the free time to do that. But everyone who cares about music and about the tragedy in Haiti should try to make it to at least one of these shows. It’s a great way for music fans to make a contribution.

All four nights are shaping up to be amazing. Patti Smith, Yo La Tengo, John Wesley Harding, comedian Lewis Black, Vernon Reid, Corey Glover, Roseanne Cash, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Carolina Chocolate Drops and many more entertainers of all types. City Winery promises that more will be added.

The third night (Jan. 25) in particular, should be a great party given that U.S-based Tabou Combo (misspelled on the poster as Tambou Combo), one of the longest-running bands specializing in an irresistible Haitian dance music called compas (or konpa direk), is on the bill. I haven’t seen TC in years, but by all accounts it remains an amazing dance band.

City Winery’s goal is to raise $100,000 for Haiti relief over the four nights. Tickets ($75 general admission, $200 for Big-Hearted Donor tickets, which include a bottle of special wine) are tax deductible. Proceeds are being split among three charities: Wyclef Jean‘s Yele Haiti Foundation, Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health.

Click here for more info and to buy tickets. As of this posting, it seems that tickets are still available for all four shows. Showtimes vary slightly from 8 to 9 pm, so check the time when you buy tickets. Unlike many City Winery shows, these shows are all general admission — although the $200 ticket will get you into the VIP area. My advice to you is to ignore your New York concert-going instincts to arrive late. If you want a good spot, arrive on time. Or even early! The good people at City Winery assure me that the kitchen will be open for all four shows, so you’ll be able to pass the time until the show starts with eating as well as drinking.

City Winery is at 155 Varick St., New York, NY 10013. Call (212) 608-0555 or email for more information.

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Owen Pallet: He’s not Final Fantasy anymore

Owen Pallett performs with the Bang on a Can All-Stars at the 2008 Bang on a Can Marathon at the World Financial Center Winter Garden. (Photo copyright 2008, Steven P. Marsh)

It’s no surprise that Owen Pallet, the talented young violinist who’s been plying his trade under the band name Final Fantasy, would have to come to terms with his name someday. And that day is here. He released his first album under his own name on Tuesday, after finally realizing he was getting too popular and known to avoid a trademark battle with the makers of the popular game of the same name.

He announced the name change last month. Even if you’ve never listened to any of his CDs, you’ve probably heard some of his work. Read more here.

If you’re one of the smart and lucky ones, you have tickets to his sold-out show at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom this Monday (Jan. 18). If you don’t have one of those cherished tickets, you can still get a taste of what Owen’s been up to by listening to Studio 360 with host Kurt Andersen this afternoon on WNYC radio.

Here’s a video of Owen in the WNYC studio performing “Lewis Takes Action.”

Studio 360 airs today at 4pm on WNYC 93.9FM and is repeated at 2pm tomorrow on AM820. You can also listen live online at WNYC’s web site or get a complete show podcast, Check out the Studio 360 web site for more information. You can also download two bonus tracks from Owen’s Studio 360 performance by clicking here.

Spoon is stirring the pot

Spoon will headline a show at Radio City Music Hall on March 26.

Is Spoon getting too big for its core fans? Give a listen to their new album, out next week, streaming now at From what I’ve heard so far, Britt Daniel and company have made their sound tighter and better focused than ever, without losing its identity.

But with a headlining gig at Radio City Music Hall on March 26 (tickets go on sale this Saturday), I have to wonder whether they’ve really broken through or if they’re over-reaching.

I plan to be there at Radio City to decide for myself. See you there?

Asphalt comes indoors

Asphalt Orchestra debuted at last summer's Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival. (Photos copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Asphalt Orchestra, my very favorite avant-garde marching band — okay, I admit, it’s the only avant-garde marching band I know — high-steps it indoors tonight at Lincoln Center for a free show.

“We’re playing everything we’ve ever played — plus two new arrangements,” promises Asphalt saxophonist Ken Thomson.That means music by Frank Zappa, Meshuggah, Bjork, Tom Ze, Thomas Mapfumo, Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Goran Bregovic, Tyondai Braxton (of Battles), Charles Mingus and Conlon Nancarrow. Whew!

This is the only show the band — created by Bang on a Can for last summer’s the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festiva — will be doing in NYC until the summer. And, while Asphalt is probably best seen and heard outdoors, marching up and down bleachers and wandering around the Lincoln Center campus, it’s a big plus that tonight’s show is indoors!

The show is scheduled to begin at 8:30 tonight in David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, on Broadway between West 62nd and West 63rd streets, just east of the Plaza in the former Harmony Atrium space. It’s a perfect gateway to the arts center, with visitor information on all Lincoln Center tenants, a ticket office offering day-of-performance discounts, a performance space, a restaurant, free WiFi and restrooms.

Arrive early to get a good seat, as it’s first-come, first-served. For my part, I’m thinking about standing, just to remind me of my first experiences with Asphalt.

Asphalt Orchestra playing the world premiere performance of Stew and Heidi Rodewald's "Carlton."