Friday, December 24, 2010

The Rooftoppers at Bklyn Rod & Gun

Simon Chardiet (left) & Dave Dreiwitz
On Kent St., across from the East River is a club that desperately does not want to be found. Even if you have the address, you will only know it's number 59 because 57 is painted in 5' high numbers on the door next to it. Inside, the decor is 1970s fishing club--fishing posters, rough hewn tables constructed with saw horses (I think, didn't look that closely), handmade shelves deep enough to support LPs--and a record player. That's the club. One room.

You can buy tickets at $10 each. They are worth two drinks at the bar, which is narrow, and mainly for use of the barman and a place to put the free bratwurst sandwiches. The musicians set up in the back, on the floor.

The reason I found this place, which I felt at home in immediately, was my quest to see some good jazz in New York City. I had been in a quandary about where to see good jazz in NYC for some time. I want to stay away from the fake scene that is primarily a tourist attraction. My musician friends who play mostly rock feel the same way I do, except that their dislike for bad jazz is even more paralyzing for them than it is for me. Incorrect. I think we're equally paralyzed. I don't know what is more embarrassing--being in the NYC scene for so long and not in the know, or perhaps showing up at something bad and having to leave.

But I got an invitation on fb for an event from Simon Chardiet (Simon and the Bar Sinisters, Rancid, Heavy Trash) that he would be playing jazz at this club with Dave Dreiwitz (everywhere, most famously of Ween). I have known Simon for 15 years, and I have to say all his music is the real deal--certainly not for tourists.

I found the atmosphere cozy, but not artificially so, and the regulars/workers friendly and considerate.

The show itself was just great. Simon played one of his Les Pauls and Dave played an upright bass, sometimes with a bow. They played mostly jazz, with a few blues tunes and an occasional 50s rock n' roll tune like "Suzy Q." Simon's guitar playing always edgy, partly from his hard attack on the strings. His classical practice also adds precision to his playing, giving each note a sharp edge. Dave's fluid solos were a good counterpoint to Simon's playing.

After hanging around and listening for a while, I got into some 1940s style dancing--nothing too athletic--just like they did in the movies, arm in arm and having a little conversation. 

Sooner after that I left out of fatigue. Great show. I highly recommend The Rooftoppers and Bklyn Rod & Gun. But don't tell anyone about Rod & Gun. The bar does not want to be found.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Lennon, Karate, My Mother and Me

So much on John Lennon everywhere today. I have to say he was in heavy rotation in my house growing up. When he died we happened to be in NYC. We went to his funeral with thousands upon thousands of others.
 Being 10 years old, I couldn't see much of what was going on, so my dad thought it would be okay if I moved about 10 feet away, and get a better view of the stage.
Not much was happening on stage. I turned around to look for my parents. The crowd had shifted and I couldn't see them. Some hippies took me to the police, whom my parents had taught me to never, ever trust. I was terrified.
 While I was in the single-wide trailer the police were using as a base of operations for this gathering, my mom was terrified because she couldn't find me. My mom was 5'10, wearing all black leather and short wavy/spikey blond hair. She walked across the empty stage because that was the fastest way to the police-trailer. When she got on stage, everyone applauded. I guess she seemed like someone who might say something. She broke down crying. And everyone applauded again. 
She found me at the police station. I demanded to learn karate because I didn't want to be in that position again.
I left karate about 6 months later, sometime after my orange belt. I left because I was the only girl in a class full of 14 year old, metal-head crusties. I held my own in sparring matches (no helmets then!)  As an animal lover though, I couldn't bare to be around people who were so interested in biting heads off bats, and other animal torture. I don't know if those stories are true, but the way their eyes lit up when they told them was really disgusting.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Scott Byrne, Instant Death

l to r: dave dreiwitz, me, scott byrne, cartoon characters
Scott Byrne was a fantastic drummer and composer and electronic musician. I met him at a Barbecue Bob gig. He was a working drummer, meaning he played out up to 4 days a week with different bands, but he worked primarily for Bob and on his own project "Instant Death."

He studied a lot to be a great drummer. He had been studying the drums his whole life. In his teens he became a fan of John Bonham, who was a great influence on his sound. He also went to the Percussion Institute in California and studied percussion at Rutgers University. What made him a great drummer, other than having great swing and great time, was that he would play the notes of the song on the drums and cymbals.

He was able to feature that talent and his songwriting in his bass-drums duo, "Instant Death" with Dave Dreiwitz. Dave is such a great bassplayer, I kissed his hands once. And I don't like touching people.

Here they are doing one of their most popular songs, "The Enabler."

Scott and I really connected because we were both mellow people who shared a sense of the demented. If there were any two people who could just walk through Manhattan and laugh at almost everything we saw, it was us. And we did it all the time. We also connected because I thought he was a genius of a certain level, and I believed in his career. After we got married, I didn't ask him to go into something "more stable" like the family business because I wanted him out there, playing, where people could hear him.

Things went downhill, for a hundred reasons the way marriages can. The job situation sucked as well, and we were both in and out of shitty jobs. I tried all kinds of remedies, including having us move out to his sister's house in Pittsburgh.I wanted him to be out playing, I wanted the marriage to work out. I guess the whole thing just wasn't meant to be. I feel bad that I pushed us to move out of town, away from our friends. At that moment, it seemed like a fresh start would help us stay together and accomplish our goals. I was wrong.

Everything tanked as soon as we moved out of town.

We split up in 1998. He died in July 2005. When he passed on, I felt like people wanted me to say things...I was still angry and not ready to say them. I feel very sorry for that too.

Scott was a fantastic drummer and composer and electronic musician. He was a working drummer....

You can learn more about Instant Death and their ties to Ween and the Fab Faux here:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From Rock n' Roll Tribe to Rock n' Roll Mayor

Home Depot, Manhattan
I have been enjoying, a social network for veteran rockers. It has smaller groups, discussions, it's own mail. The people on this social network are very knowledgable and involved. I asked for help in composing a sleazy playlist, and have received about 20 replies. Every time I want to think the discussion is over, someone has uploaded an mp3 or youtube for a song. If you love rock, I strongly encourage you to join.

One of the discussions is whether New York City is cool anymore. I think the cool factor has severely declined under the leadership of Michael Bloomberg. Since he's started, he's done is best to move in people like him: the very rich. This has not only driven out the middle class, but the artists and musicians as well.

I am not going to lie and say I haven't enjoyed a few things since Bloomberg has been in office. When I lived on the Lower East Side in the early-mid 90s, there were no stores there, except for a few drug fronts. When you needed something, you had to leave the neighborhood. Now there are plenty of stores, restaurants and bars. The chocolate and wine bar seems a little swank for me, but I guess a lot of the customers live in the neighborhood. It must be what people who pay $2000 and upward for a walkup that is constantly filled with grit from the traffic on the Williamsburgh Bridge like. At least it's in Manhattan.

NYC 1980 and 1972. By Arlene Gottfried.
From New York Magazine.
Other than some new stores and more people to spend money on them, things have gone  downhill. The interesting people that these rich people wanted to rub shoulders with are gone, taking their "scene" with them. There are plenty of public arts projects that cost thousands of dollars, but they seem out of touch with the city or any deeper meaning or politics. People wonder why they are there. Probably the last great city art project was the dung thrown at a brick wall painted with Giuliani's face.  The air of lawlessness and Gotham craziness has been replaced with the air of homelessness, as spending has gone up on police protection, and gone down on keeping the insane institutionalized and properly medicated.

Mom and Pop stores are mostly gone, and have been replaced by mall stores, especially in Manhattan. It was okay to have a few of these mall stores in the city. Every once in a while, hitting "Home Depot" may be necessary. The Mom and pops gave the city a homey, neighborhoody, down-to-earth feel. They knew their customers and were stable in their community. Now nothing seems stable. Stores come and go every time the landlord feels he can raise the rent. And so do store owners and employees. This also takes the anchors out of the neighborhoods.

There is very little in the way of authentic New York neighborhoods anymore. Little Italy is probably about a block and a half now. Chinatown has expanded down the N,R, and Q lines into Brooklyn, and keeps moving that way. The East Village and much of the coolness of St. Mark's Pl. has moved over to Ave. B, but it is broken up at Clinton St. That is where the swanky places begin.

I could go on and on with examples, but the main answer is to elect a much cooler mayor for a few terms. Joey Ramone would have made a great choice. According to people who knew him, he could balance a budget. People would have recognized his name and elected him. You may think I am being funny, but I am dead serious. Rock n' roll is part of the establishment now, and I think the freethinking, nonjudgmental values of rock n' roll are more important than ever, and are more needed in New York City than ever. If you want proof that rock n' roll is establishment, I just saw a Disney film with my son in which the soundtrack was made up of AC/DC. You can't get more establishment than that. We're awakening kids to those values, and adults are enthusiastic about that.

There have been musicians in politics before, the main one I can think of being Alan Greenspan, who was a bebop guy. And there were lots of drugs in bebop bands. Though I don't think drug use (or not) has entered into New York City politics much.

A rock n' roll mayor is certainly what this city needs, as this city's character follows that of its mayor so closely. I hope someone will step up to the plate.

Friday, November 5, 2010

50 Reasons I Love NYC

50. NY1--24 hour news station, just for 1 city
49. The Doll Man who hosts NY1 in the mornings. Fascinating

48. Great overheards like, "Shut da fuck up! I'm watchin' da fuckin' fireworks!"
47. Watching Tai Chi classes in the playgrounds and parks
46. My kid is fully aware of world news because he has 2nd gen Chinese and Arab friends
45. You can find at least one other person with at least 5 of the same interests as you.
44. Great dates. Dinner/theater/dancing--all in the same night
43. Seeing the people from CW TV shows eat yogurt on the streetcorner
42. Wild life on Coney Island in the summer

41. Wild life in Brighton Beach all year round
(these are in Gravesend Bay, but we check them out on Brighton Beach too.)

40. Rich white kids with Jamaican accents from their nannies
39. You still see Bobby Steele from the Misfits around.
38. You realize supermodels look scary in real life.
37. There's always a new bar or restaurant to try but...
36. the people at your regular deli always remember you and what you like
35. Taking naps with other hungover office workers in Central Park in the summer
34. Just because you have a degree in English doesn't mean you have to be a teacher: publishing companies are here.
33. Delivery liquor...and pretty much anything else
32. The Joe Strummer Memorial wall
31. Poem installation in the Times Square station (see it on the beams?)
30. You can pay a dollar and get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History
29. European tourist couples in matching outfits.
28. The sheer number and different flavors of all the playgrounds. Your kid will never get bored.
27. If you get in a fight with a lover you can cool off with a free, hourlong ride on the Staten Island Ferry
26. No inspirational posters as art in offices. Ever.
25. Rockabilly night at Otto's Shrunken Head aka Bettie Page night, b/c many, many women dress as Bettie Page.

24. Vegetarians can order a main course at most restaurants.
23. You don't have to buy a fashion magazine to make sure you are up to date and looking good. Just look at the people walking down the street.
22. Post-punk, post-protestant beggar signs, like "Gimme a dollar--I'm a drunk"
21. You don't have to know where you are going to be somewhere interesting.
20. My kid has been to so many museums, zoos, etc., he just wants to scrabble up and down the granite rocks in Central Park.
19. A good excuse for being late back from lunch is that you got lost in Central Park.
18. You can get lost in Prospect Park for about 2 hours, and not see or hear a car.
17. You can take the A train out to Rockaway Beach, rent a board, find an instructor, and learn to surf.

(Yes, that really is surfing in Rockaway Beach in NYC. Yes, if you are there long enough, you will find there are surfing gangs.)

16. If you don't like the scene at one bar you can walk a few blocks away and find a completely different scene.
15. If there is something you want, there is probably an entire store in Manhattan devoted to that specific item:, cigar store, chess set store, sex toys, dollhouses, cowboy boots, etc. but...
14. If you are in a pinch, you can run downstairs to the corner pharmacy, and they'll have everything from bed bug spray to cheap clothing.
13.Deep fried Macaroni and cheese croquettes at that Japanese automat on St. Mark's Pl. I've never had one. Just glad they exist.

12. If you are not standing next to someone who did something pretty amazing, some pretty amazing things happened right where you are standing in the last 100 years or so.
11. Annual film fests at Film Forum: B movies, noir...foreign, no matter what you like, you can probably see it on the big screen there once a year.
10. There's a full blown, working farm on Staten Island, with pumpkin picking and hay rides and historical buildings from the 1700s, proving NYC really does have EVERYTHING.
9. At McDonalds the other day, every table there was a conversation in a different language.
8. The excitement and costumes in the long lines opening night of science fiction movies.
7. Great conversations with strangers that you will never see again.
6. Someone you know always has a plan, and is working on implementing it.
5. Someone else you know has a completely insane plan, and wants your help with it.
4. I really can't say about the women. But the men here are intelligent, talented, fascinating.
3. Public sex. Anyone who says they haven't done it in NYC is either lying or not trying hard enough.
2. You know you are living "where it's at"--the cross roads of the world. All those people keep staring from the tour buses so it must be true.
1. Knowing that you are part of the backdrop of someone else's New York.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tell Us the Truth

Tell us the truth/ Don't let us down/ You're a fool if you do---
Rock n' roll does emotional truth really well. When it's positive and upbeat, and a truth everyone wants to believe, it's pop, top 40 material easily. Calm down! That doesn't mean bad...

Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" expresses a subtle ache before a date...with power chords! But when you start talking about the real truth, that no one wants to hear, you are talking punk rock or hard core.

Probably the opposite of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" is G.G. Allin's "You Hate Me and I Hate You."

I love this song, because this is how all my high school pain started, really. I think it's where a lot of pain for a lot of people begins. I never heard these kinds of lyrics anywhere else.

You know, you know that you don't like me and I don't like you
You never listen to my point of view - I'm telling you
Why don't you all drop dead, you fucking fools - It's you who lose
You never wanted me so I say fuck you
You know, you know that you don't like me so I say fuck you

More on letting loose or now that we live in a mentally hygenic world,"acting out"

Telling Them by Social Distortion

Some of my favorite truth songs are simple. One was only 12 bars "I GOT THE JOB I GOT THE JOB I GOT THE JOB I GOT IT"

This is a little more traditional--

Iyiyiyi wanna fuck Annette! Wowowow!
Maybe the most basic truth of all...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Punk Rock Love Song Set List

Yesterday I was confronted with a punk love song set list that included Oasis from the 90s. I think I vaguely remember Oasis coming out with a good power pop song or two back then. But it wasn't punk.

I have to say I'm a purist when it comes to naming things in general. Punk is 1950s rock n' roll played much faster and much drunker, with a whole lot of attitude. And it wants to be loved or hated. The most insulting thing you can say about a punk rock band or song was "eh, it was alright, a little schmaltzy." If the music is anything else, it should be called something else. Emo, screamo, power pop, no wave, new wave and hardcore are all great things to be, but they are not really punk rock--perhaps nephews or cousins of the genre.

Here is my punk rock love set:

Johnny Thunders "I love you"

The Ramones "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"

The Clash "Janie Jones"
Is there love in a rock n' roll world? Is there love in a Janie Jones world?

The Buzzcocks "Love You More"
It's in my blood to always love you more

The Cramps "Like a Bad Girl Should" risque video
I love your ass for bad or worse (now that's love!)

Motorhead "Love Me Like a Reptile"
You know I've got my eyes on you,
You're petrified, gonna stick like glue,
Love Me Like A Reptile, shock you like an electric eel

MC5 "Borderline"
I'm at my borderline/ I love you girl but I don't know why/ I have to love you so

Stiff Little Fingers "Barbed Wire Love"

The Senders "My Baby Glows in the Dark"

New Rose
I got a feelin' inside o' me/ It's kinda strange like a stormy sea....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Your Fortune for October. From The Rock N' Roll Singer's Survival Manual

Biblioscopes are the union of bibliomancy, divination through opening books to random pages and pondering the meaning of the phrases, and horoscopes, in that each sign does share certain commonalities, including planetary transits. Once a month I ask the Universe to lead my hands in opening the book to the right page for a month’s worth of good advice for each sun sign. My comments are in italics.

This month I am using "The Rock N' Roll Singer's Survival Manual," written and illustrated by Mark Baxter.

Aries (Mar. 22- April 21)
You should make your voice louder by  thinking volume instead of push. Your larynx has  reflexes to respond to the thought.
Fame: Being positive will draw people to you.
Money: Ask for some.
Love: Attract rather than chase.
General: Intention creates events.

Taurus (April 22-May 21)
It's not a good idea to use the type of sprays that numb the throat or drink syrup type liquors. You need to remain sensitive to the irritation to know if you're causing damage.
Fame: You will probably need more alone time than usual.

Money: A good time to monitor your habits. If you go drinking, spend cash, and don't bring your atm/credit card with you.
Love: Take it easy.
General: Your feelings are your guide this month. Do not run from them. Listen to their messages, and act accordingly.

Gemini (May 22- June 21)
Pendulum: A swing is a pendulum. a sound wave or vibration that has the same characteristics as that of a pendulum.
Fame: It comes and goes. If you pay too much attention to it, you may get overly stressed.
Money: Binge-spending on payday anyone? Anyone?
Love: It's only a rollercoaster if you want it to be. (see general)
General: That running to/running from swing you go on is about one thing: fear. If you can't conquer it, at least be aware.

Cancer (June 22-July 21)
Before you fix something, it helps to know how it works. In this section, I have simplified the process of breathing as much as possible.
Fame: No one really knows how this works. Meditate.
Money: Re-evaluate your spending.
Love: Look at what you are doing on your side of the relationship. Is it working?
General: You may meet someone who tries to teach you something you already think you do well. Pay attention, even if this person annoys you at first.

Leo (July 22-August 21)
"Belting": Forcing your voice to extend the chest register higher than it should be  by singing loud. (You are vulnerable to vocal damage by doing this.)
Fame: Yes, but it is exhausting.
Love: If you have to make someone show up, do you really want them to there?
General: Forcing issues will harm yourself and others.

Virgo (August 22-Sept 21)
Goals, both long and short term, are vital. You can get in a car and drive as fast as you want, but it doesn't mean anything until you know where you're headed.
Fame: Once you know what you want, talk it up. It'll come.
Money: Attainable.
Love: Talk about what you want out of your relationship, if you are in one. If not, talk about what you are looking for in a relationship, someone may know the right person for you.
General:'Nuff said.

Libra (Sept. 22-Oct 21)
Play around with different length phrases in the same manner. Whatever the length, if you move your finger along the gauge while singing, your finger should pass zero when your [sic] half way through the line.
Fame: You have a long way to go.
Money: Balance your checkbook, then decide.
Love: Do not take anything too seriously for a little while.
General: This month is going to be a lot about experimenting with things and finding out what their value is to you in your life. If you can, put off committing to new projects until you feel more settled.

Scorpio (Oct 22-Nov. 21)
Each muscle, when isolated, has a simple function.  However, activated simultaneously, they begin to work against each other.Control is lost to a battle of tensions once you can no longer separate one muscle's job from another's.
Fame:Do not tell every single person your plans. Too many people may try to "help" at cross purposes.
Money: Keep your money close till things sort out.
Love: Sex. Perhaps some intimacy.
General:You will have to be very organized when delegating work or working with others, or there will be chaos.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21)
Usually singers smoke a little pot to get loose and uninhibited. I think there is a better way to deal with your nerves than placing such a burden on the larynx...

Fame: Don't worry about it. Honest.
Money: Peace, my brothers and sisters.
Love: Rose colored glasses look good on you.
General: Your fun can end up being a burden for yourself and others. Not that I'd want to stop you.

Capicorn (Dec. 22- Jan 21)
There's nothing more powerful than your opinion of yourself. In the end that statement makes or breaks every singer.
Fame: October will be a prime month for working on your image. If you need help, definitely ask a professional. It will be worth it.
Money: Eh.
Love: In love, water seeks its own level...meaning the people we love are the same emotional age as we are, who feel as good about themselves as we do. Fortune-wise, if you have someone and you want to criticize, you probably have the same issues. If you are looking for someone new, think about the best qualities in yourself, and start your search there.
General: To repeat--your self-esteem will make you or break you this month.

Aquarius (Jan. 22-Feb. 21)
With an "oo" vowel, vocalize a continuous sound, starting in a middle range and sliding down gradually to your lowest note. This will sound like an old siren winding down or a bomb dropping.
Fame: Definitely go for Halloween all the way this year.
Money: Don't invest.
Love: Unlikely. Go for laughs.
General:You are going to scare some people create some chaos, just by being yourself. But you know, you are special that way. Boo!

Pisces (Feb.22-Mar 21)
Any sport you can think of that combines quick blasts of energy with stretching, jumping, bending and balance becomes a good cross trainer for singers. They build your endurance and lung capacity and sharpen your reflexes which are all pluses.
Fame: You have to go out and find more people to follow you.
Money: If you have money sitting in a savings account, look into investments.
Love: Go for the sex.
General:Being active is crucial for you right now. If you are just starting out, start slow and encourage yourself.