Category Archives: History

Suzanne Vega keeps Carson McCullers alive

Suzanne Vega onstate as novelist Carson McCullers.

Suzanne Vega onstage as novelist Carson McCullers.

New York singer-songwriter Vega has ‘rewritten’ her intimate one-woman portrait of the novelist and is recording the songs

Good news: New York singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega’s one-woman musical play about Southern writer Carson McCullers is getting a second life.

I’ve rewritten the entire play. Recording the songs today,” she told me Wednesday in response to a Facebook inquire about the show. The album is expected to come out in the Spring. 

That’s just the latest fantastic news about Vegas efforts to push her talent into the world of theater — efforts that I feared she might have abandoned.

Vega showed the world a new face in 2011 with her one-woman play “Carson McCullers Talks About Love.” She wrote and starred in the play, which featured music co-written with pop artist and “Spring Awakening” composer Duncan Sheik.

Someone who knows Vega well told me she was urged to do an out-of-town tryout before staging it in New York. But she apparently ignored the advice and launched it at the small, well-worn Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in downtown Manhattan.

As predicted, didn’t get the results or critical response she had hoped for.

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times described the show as a “funky ramble through the life of that Southern writer,” but assessed it as a “messy” project.

Joe Dziemianowicz, the longtime New York Daily News theater critic who was unceremoniously dumped by the tabloid earlier this year, was a bit kinder, but didin’t offer glowing praise:

Vega traces McCullers’ life with great warmth, but at times the play’s matter-of-factness chafes. Vega isn’t fully comfortable acting a role, which is also an issue.

I saw the spare production and was delighted by Vega’s transformation into McCullers — who was only 50 years old (a couple of years younger than Vega was during the Rattlestick run) when she died in 1967 in Nyack, where had lived off and on for 30 years.

The story was fascinating and the music was full of life and told the story of the writer quite well.

Vega’s not the only artist inspired at least in part by McCullers at the  time. Gabriel Kahane’s well-received musical “February House,”  staged in 2012 at The Public Theater, was based an the book of the same name that featured McCullers and a cast of early 20th century arts icons — from Gypsy Rose Lee to W.H.Auden — who lived in a house in Brooklyn Heights for a short, intense time in the 1940s.

But Vega’s show seemed to vanish when the run ended.

While it dropped off the radar, I certainly didn’t forget about it.

I rarely respond to calls for audience requests at concerts, but even have to admit I called out for “anything from the Carson McCullers show” when Vega asked for requests at The Bell House a few years later.

She laughed and politely declined. I figured she just wanted to forget about it.

But it seems I was wrong.

Vega is performing some of the songs from the show  in concert Jan. 15 at Joe’s Pub on Jan. 15.

She rewrote the title, too, while reworking the play. It’s now called “Unjoined: An Evening With Carson McCullers” — a title that appears to be influenced by the final moments of the writer’s 1946 novel, “The Member of the Wedding,” which describes 13-year-old motherless character Frankie Addams feeling like “an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid.”

For a little more from Vega about the show, check out this interview with Richmond Magazine.

“Unjoined: An Evening With Carson McCullers” is on track to return to the stage in 2016. I, for one, can hardly wait to see what Vega’s done with it.

 

 

 

Langhorne Slim buys little pink house for a song

Langhorne Slim and Kenny Siegal at City Winery. (© 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Langhorne Slim and Kenny Siegal at City Winery. (© 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Langhorne Slim is a homeowner.

And it’s not just any home, but a little pink house on a street with a history in Nashville, where he’s been living for awhile.

“It’s magical,” Slim (born Sean Scolnick in the suburban Philadelphia town that comprises the second half of his stage name) said Tuesday evening.

Talking is something Langhorne Slim does well. He rambled and free-associated through a lengthy introduction of the his friends in the band Twain, who opened Tuesday night’s show, the second of a two-night stand at City Winery. And all his talking ultimately led to the story of his new house

Slim, like the majority of working musicians, didn’t exactly have the funds at hand to buy a house — even in Nashville, where prices are much lower than in the NYC metro region — on a whim. But when somebody in his life sent him a photo of this house, it was pretty much love at first sight.

Like any would-be suitor, he stalked it at first.

Langhorne Slim at City Winery. (© 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Langhorne Slim at City Winery. (© 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

“I sat in front of it,” he explained. Then, in what would have been a massively embarrassing moment for most people, but not, apparently, for Slim, a man came out and asked him if he had any questions about the house.

“Are you the owner?” was the first thing Slim said he asked.

With that question out of the way, Gary, the owner, invited Slim inside to show him around. During the tour, Gary asked Slim if he was a musician, because “we have a deal for musicians.”

Given that they were in Music City, Slim figured that was just a come-on, but quickly learned that it was for real. And that the neighborhood has a long list of resident musician. Slim even mentioned something about a Mariachi band that used to play on the house’s porch.

Basically, the way Slim tells it, Gary, who has put the house on the market for the first time in 30 years,  decided that Slim and the house were made for each other.

Money, in this case, was an issue. But love has a way of conquering all, so Slim kept at it, trying to win the house. He even wrote a song about the house, and sent it to Gary.

When he didn’t get an immediate response — the owners were in Belize at the time, but had been very quick to reply to his flurry of emails during negotiations —  he says he figured he had lost at love, and that the song sucked.

Lucky for Slim, there was just a delay, and it all worked out., in part because of the song.

So, his house is, literally, a little pink house. Well, maybe not so little, at least by New York Standards, as I believe it clocks in around 2,000 square feet.

It’s in one of Nashville’s hippest, quirkiest neighborhoods. And while Slim didn’t reveal the address, he did, by the end of the evening, provide enough clues in his delightful ramblings and in his love song to the house that it wouldn’t be hard to track down the address.

Out of respect for Slim, I won’t help him further erode his privacy by posting a photo, address, or even name the neighborhood. But believe me, it’s a pretty cool place. Almost makes me want to move to Nashville.

Speaking of privacy, Slim noted that somebody told him he should install privacy fencing around his newly acquired yard. But he refused, noting that “we all have penises and vaginas” and we might as well get used to seeing them occasionally.

It’s no surprise that Slim would buy a magical house. It seems like everything about Slim seems magical.

He’s uncomfortable having his photo taken — he politely shut down a camera-phone user sitting stageside at his show Tuesday night at City Winery. He wore a broad-brimmed hat and had the stage lights dimmed — making photo-taking difficult at best. And he even announced that while he would pose for photos with fans at the end of the show, he’d really rather skip that part and just give fans a hug and talk awhile.

Twain at City Winery. (© 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Twain at City Winery. (© 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

But now, about the show. After a remarkable set by two of three members of Twain, a fantastic band whose lead singer evoked Roy Orbison, among other ethereal vocalists, Slim took the stage.

He played some of his best-known tunes, reaching back to some of his earlier material, but giving plenty of attention to his most recent album, 2012’s The Way We Move.

He also brought that album’s producer, Kenny Siegal, whose Old Soul Studios in Catskill, N.Y., was where that album was recorded, onstage to accompany him with a 12-string on a few songs — some of them from the album Slim will start recording with Siegal in Nashville in short order.

 

 

 

One night only: Dave’s True Story reunites tonight

dts 1

Dave’s True Story: David Cantor, guitar, Kelly Flint, vocals, Jeff Eyrich, bass

It’s been years since the band Dave’s True Story broke up.

And tonight (Thursday, June 6) they’re getting back together in a living room on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Sultry singer Kelly Flint tells us it’s a one-time thing. No prospect of a reunion tour or anything. It’s just Kelly, guitarist and band namesake David Cantor and bassist Jeff Eyrich (Kelly’s ex-husband) getting together once for old times as favor for friends who run a little music series called Music on 4.

If you aren’t already booked to attend, prepare to cry in your beer, because you won’t be able to get in. That’s what we’ll be doing along with you tonight.

And if you feel bad about missing a great show you didn’t know about, think how we feel — missing it because we hesitated too long before trying to book tickets.

This show has special meaning for Marisha and Ihor, the couple who run Music on 4 (a lovely, intimate house concert series) in their comfortable living room just off Central Park West. Marisha explains in the invitation to tonight’s show:

Dear Friends,
Of all the amazing bands who have passed through our home, this is THE band closest to our hearts.
No other group has ever inspired Marisha to write the invitation!
They have been there since the very beginning; DTS shows were our date nights – remember the Howard Johnson’s in Times Square?
As a couple, we followed them to the far-flung reaches of the state (where was Middleburg?)
Once Ihor finally said, “Yes”, DTS played at our wedding.
When Music on 4 was born, Jeff Eyrich was our midwife, making those early shows possible when we were still twisting our friends’ arms to make up an audience.
Now, five years later, we could not be happier that they’ve come together again to play for you. If you’ve heard them you love them already. If not, come prepared to fall hard.

It seems like DTS, once a vital part of the New York City music scene, has been gone for ages. It has been more than half a dozen years.

By the time the trio won a Vox Populi award in the Independent Music Awards in 2007, it had pretty much given up the ghost. Flint (a Westchester County resident) had fully immersed herself in a return to her roots as a singer-songwriter, leaving the loungey sounds of DTS behind.

We love what Kelly’s done on her own — working in media, doting on her wonderful son Ben (talk about memories — we remember a pregnant Kelly performing in heat aboard the museum barge in Red Hook) and still creating  interesting music. Jeff and David also have gone on to do their own things, too.

But none of their separate projects has caught the wave the way DTS did. In 2000, critic Terry Teachout did a full-page piece for The New York Times that some would say really helped the band take off.

Now, 13 years later, we have three solo careers and a bunch of recordings, most of which are available from the usual outlets, and possibly from the band’s website (although it’s not clear that the site is maintained).

If you’re lucky enough to attend tonight’s show, please send us a photo or two, or a few lines about it. We’re sorry to miss it.

Stew, Heidi & The Negro Problem to play the final Weeksville Garden Party in Brooklyn on Saturday

Stew & Heidi Rodewald of The Negro Problem. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone‘s favorite band, The Negro Problem, is playing a gig in Brooklyn this Saturday, July 28. They’re in the hood for the fourth and final installment of the Weeksville Garden Party, a July tradition of free weekly performances at the Weeksville Heritage Center at 1698 Bergen Street between Rochester and Buffalo Avenues in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood.

The Weeksville Heritage Center itself, dedicated to the unique history of the 19th Century village of Weeksville, founded by free blacks, is worth exploring. We’d recommend arriving early — doors are at 4, with The Negro Problem set to perform at 6 — to check the place out.

Remember, it’s free. But if you like the show and the museum, they’ll gladly accept donations. We know WYMMWIG‘s readers are generous. Don’t let us down.

Quite an event with Antony and the Johnsons

Antony Hegarty with his 60-piece orchestra on the Radio City Music Hall stage. (Photos © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

What can we say about the wonderfully strange singer Antony Hegarty, who on Jan. 26 managed to transform Radio City Music Hall into his own special dreamscape?

Antony, who often performs with a band as Antony and the Johnsons, had some members of his band as part of a 60-piece orchestra for this light-and-music show dubbed Swanlights.  He attracted a sold-out crowd that included celebrities such as Tilda Swinton, Jenny Shimizu, Rufus Wainwright, Lady Bunny, Michael Stipe and many more.

Lady Bunny in the lobby of Radio City Music Hall.

(Check out The New York Times review of the show here.)

The show, commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art and originally designed for presentation in the museum’s atrium, reached so far that it was doomed to fall a bit short. But even so, the evening was stunning and engaging, as the transgender Antony, dressed in a simple, flowing gown, came out an sang a selection of his marvelous songs with lush accompaniment, a visually stunning set, and, for the most part, well-done lighting.

New Music Bake Sale: Music, Conversation, Beer and, yes, actual baked goods!

Arturo en el Barco's Bake Sale table featured cupcakes and particularly tasty flan de queso. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

The 2nd Annual New Music Bake Sale took over the decrepitly beautiful Irondale Center’s space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, on Saturday, Sept. 25 for more than six hours.

The concept was pretty simple: Bring together a bunch of people who make new music — performers, producers, record companies and the like — in a place where they can make music, talk about music, drink beer and sell sweet and savory baked goods to raise money for their efforts.

Kathleen Supové at her Bake Sale table.

We don’t know how successful the financial part of the evening was, but the place was constantly full of people and activity throughout the event. We sampled the food, beer and music and found it excellent — especially the Sixpoint Sweet Action!

Many of our favorite New Music folks were there throughout the evening, including, but hardly limited to, Todd Reynolds, Matt Marks, Mellissa Hughes, Courtney Orlando, Ken Thomson, Jessica Schmitz, Ted Hearne, David T. Little, Steven Swartz, Glenn Cornett, Franz Nicolay, Caleb Burhans, Kathleen Supové and Oscar Bettison.

Todd Reynolds and Ken Thomson perform Ken's "Storm Drain."

We can hardly wait for next year’s event.

But enough words. Let’s get to the images. Click through to the jump for more photos. Continue reading

Free staged reading of High Tor on High Tor premieres today

Julie Andrews and Bing Crosby in the 1956 TV version of High Tor. The new production of High Tor on High Tor uses music composed for this teleplay.

The free staged reading of Maxwell Anderson’s thought-provoking play High Tor starts today (Saturday, Aug. 21) at High Tor State Park — the patch of open space in north New City, N.Y., on the mountain from which the play takes its title.

The 1936 comedy-fantasy, written by a resident of the High Tor neighborhood along South Mountain Road, helped fuel an interest in land preservation in the area that is going strong today.

Click here for a video interview with Terri Thal of the West Branch Conservation Association, Rockland’s land trust, which is producing the play to call attention to open-space preservation issues that persist today and here for a LoHud blog item and photo gallery related to the show.

The free show is being staged at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Parking is free. Seating is provided. Come early and have a picnic in the beautiful mountainside park. Click here for directions and more details.

Click here for a fun item about the vineyard that once occupied part of High Tor, and some details of the West Branch Conservation Association’s successful battle to save it from development.