Saturday, March 29, 2014

Amy Helm and her BAND burn down THE house in Patchogue!

3/29/14 16:11 Home…

It’s my son’s birthday and he has some friends over for a party.  It gives me time to jot down a few sentences into this blog and I hope not to bore you with a report of the weather (it’s raining) or a public display of displeasure or the assorted bitch session.  No, this is another report of another musical event as well as a description of yet another impressive theater on Long island.  The Patchogue Theater hosted its fifth annual folk festival last Saturday.   The seats in the balcony were very comfortable, lots of leg room and for $20 the price was right for this family man.  The theater opened in 1923 as per the web site and had vaudeville shows as well as, “the best in burlesque.” The theater has a grand lobby with a bar off to the left.  I expected to have my ticket scanned, but my friend Jeff and I walked up to the entrance to the balcony and handed our tickets to an usher who didn’t rip them, instead he waved his hand and smiled.  Up we went.  As it turned out everyone who worked were volunteers.   Under a large hanging chandelier the orchestra looked sparsely attended.  It was Jeff’s idea to move down and only after Caroline Doctorow opened.  She had Russ Seeger on guitar and violin.  Their set was crisp and I was impressed with the various songs she performed as well as a Seeger original.  That man can play guitar and as a local artist I hope to see more of his performances.  Like Caroline we are lucky to have these national talents in our area.  Second on the bill was Amy Helm who I saw performing with Ollabelle as an opening act for her father Levon Helm at Central Park Summer Stage a few years ago.  Her and her band (The Handsome Strangers) walked onto the stage and she looked confident and smiled to the cheers from the audience.  Dan Littleton took a seat and in simpler terms, kicked ass.  They opened with Roll the Stone and Jeff and I were blown away.  Now, I wouldn’t classify Amy Helm as folk, instead she’s a hard edged blues which shredded any resemblance to an acoustic performance.  Think of a voice that belts out like a Janis Joplin, but a naturally attractive woman with curly summer blonde hair. On lead guitar was the incredible Dan Littleton, Brooklyn’s own Byron Issacs on bass, and I apologize I did not get the drummer’s name.  From what I learned, this is a new band for her.  During one song of the set, the three of them (Amy, Dan and Byron) came down off the stage to sing a spiritual song a capella.  “Let’s see how the acoustics sound,” Amy said.  They filled the room with their perfect harmony.  To some disappointed fans there were no songs from The Band in her set, but I will stand corrected if you heard something different.  I assumed we’d hear The Weight?  Look for her first solo album which is expected to be released soon.  Amy said she appreciated opening and always admired Suzanne Vega, but honestly the brimming energy left the room when Helm walked off the stage.   Vega came out with her top hat and Gerry Leonard who stunned us with his guitar playing.  For all you guitarists check out his blog…the room filled with various sounds which emanated from various electronics through tapping on pedals and his fingertips.  I’ve always appreciated Vega’s clear voice which sounds as perfect as when I first heard her… thirty years ago…longer?  She played her hits, Luka, Left of Center as well as songs off her new album which I bought after the show.  The songs are spiritual in nature and I listened to her interview on  I had waited in a short line to have it signed and have to tell you…Suzanne Vega is not the warmest of sorts, actually appeared bothered and signed the album without asking who I was.  She noticed my t-shirt and mentioned seeing or knowing Levon, her voices was a monotone cool drone. But wait, most artists would personalize the album or CD or book.  Who should I make this out to?  It was as if she waved me off after her scribble - off you go… fan who paid… $20.00 for my LP.   At least a thanks?  Nothing.  In direct contrast was Amy Helm and her band who were approachable and down to earth.  Amy saw the Levon Helm T-Shirt I wore and smiled.  Jeff and I had some dialogue with Dan and Byron and eventually moved to Amy.  She asked who I was and the three of us discussed the Midnight Rambles at the barn as well as our children.  She was very warm and I hope to see her full set in the future.


Thank you for reading this.   



Training the Mind: Verse 1 | The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Training the Mind: Verse 1 | The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Delayed at the Airport and watching an irate woman take on US Air

3/16/14 16:49 Home

One hour delay due to mechanical problems or some other excuse…

While I was delayed in Philadelphia; waiting for my flight back to Islip, I watched an irate woman, who although delayed was dressed impeccably in a business suit with a beautiful black leather hand bag.  She had long straight brown hair, and an expensive watch.  I imagined her to be more composed most of the time, but this time - it was different.  The extended delay was a problem for her.  She missed an important meeting and she was pissed.  She was letting everyone know how pissed off she was.  She yelled at a US Air representative who stood behind a counter and he appeared stoic and resolute.  I knew by watching his passive face and restrained response, this was part of his job.  He’s been through this before, perhaps been through professional training of what to say, and not to say when a passenger was this upset.  He was trying his best to calm her down, but he lost her - she was too far into her anger to see past anything.  Most eyes were watching how the scene developed.  “I was bumped off my flight and I have waited here since ten AM!  This is unacceptable! This is poor customer service!”  She actually waved her finger at him, as if scolding him.  A small crowd formed, he asked if he could help some others who needed his immediate assistance, she flung her arm out (giving him her reluctant approval to help the others) and then this older woman; let’s refer to her as the grandmother in the scene, tried her best to listen to the irate woman and seemed to convey some sympathy, by shaking her head and making a pouty face.  “Oh, you poor dear.”  But when another woman appeared things switched.  The other woman wore a big NY Giants T-Shirt and was clearly disabled, perhaps born with the defects which made her arms, lifeless; her face hung loosely, her tongue jutted from wet lips.  When she overheard the commotion; the public display of irritation; she too looked with sympathy at the professional woman who was beside herself, brimming with anger.  The disabled woman sensing the other's frustration and anger repeated, “I’m sorry…I’m sorry.”  The professional woman’s tone changed.  She looked at the disabled woman, and tried to tell her how...she waited...and was told she’d get credit, but that wasn’t happening… all of a sudden the shift we waited for…which we hoped from the US Air agent…occurred.  The professional woman looked at the disabled woman and I saw her shoulders slouch and she sighed.  Peace was restored.  A lesson learned for us.  

Sure, the delay was an inconvenience…but it was only a delay.

Thank you for reading this.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

What if Iggy Pop sang for Joy Division or Don't Take Pictures in Carnegie Hall

3/12/14 16:44 Philadelphia Airport waiting for a connection to Pittsburgh

Last night, I saw Iggy Pop for the first time. I’d like to see him again since the performance was a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall for Tibet House, the cultural capital in the US for Tibetan culture as expressed by Dr. Robert Thurman.  I bought the ticket since Iggy is the grandfather of punk and there’s nothing in the horizon that gives the impression that he will play in the New York area anytime soon.  I expect another year will pass.  I’ve been to the Tibet House benefit concerts before, I recall Michael Stipe kissing Mike Mills on the lips after they performed a song together.  Allen Ginsberg reciting his poetry while Philip Glass played solo piano as the poem progressed the music...glistened in our ears.  I’ve seen Patty Smith who closes each show with People Have the Power.  She sang a Lou Reed tribute, Perfect Day and then came back with her band to perform Land which merged into a voluminous chant…Gloria.  Her sways and hand gestures are timeless, calling out to the the sedated crowd in the orchestra...demanding them with her powerful voice to get up!   But before Patty...seeing Iggy perform with New Order was a truly rare experience, as well as a pure shock - the artists on the stage performed three songs, two were Joy Division, Transmission, and Love Will tear Us Apart as well as a New Order song, California Grass which was the first time it was performed live.  Iggy’s baritone voice was strong.  The experience was like watching a black baggy coat phantom rise from the dead...rest in peace Ian Curtis...but if he was alive he'd feel the hairs tingle - Iggy was chilling - so fucking close to perfection.  Dance....dance...the crowd was close to hysterics...as Iggy's jerky dance moves were like split fire lightening.  And I wondered - how old is this guy? 66…How could I complain of these aches?  Was he born with a limp?  Never knew it…some guy behind me said it was part of his shtick.  That is what makes New York great; some guy uses a Yiddish phrase to say Iggy has balls.  The National played as well, performing a song for the first time with a string quartet and accompanied by Sufjan Stevens.  Never heard of him, but he received a good response from the audience.  No crazy stories to share.  Well one.  There was a guy who kept taking pictures and it was a huge distraction since he was a couple of rows ahead and below me.  No one was stopping him.  I thought, where the bleep were the fucking ushers?  I had to keep this event in perspective, using the F Bomb there would not be acceptable, you know this was a benefit concert for the Tibet House after all.  Buddhists don’t go for F bombs at their concerts.  I'm furious and I know from getting caught at Carnegie, oh those red uniformed ushers in Carnegie Hall have a fierce reputation for pouncing on anyone who tries to take a picture.  This guy had free reign, not a care, like he was like a photographer at a hockey game, and he kept taking pictures, almost as if it was a nervous reaction. I imagined what sparks were flying off in his brain; I must take this fuzzy picture, oh…this one as well. Oh, there goes The National.  I need to take more fuzzy pictures.  There goes the stage hand; he looks interesting from up here.  I will take FUZZY picture.  So, I think – heck, maybe they changed policies at the venue?  Maybe, I too can take a picture? A moment I can share with you. Why not?  I pull out my phone and click and…CRACK...BAM….a flashlight is blaring, blinding me and my shocked face.  I hear from the aisle, “No pictures!”  Wait, I’m telling the usher…yeah, I know what you're thinking and you’re right…I’m telling on the photographer in front of me… the shit head who’s clicking away two rows…down there… in front of me, who does not stop!  I took one.  ONLY one fuzzy picture…she tells me, "I didn't see him, I saw only you."  I stress, he is there.  Look...I watch her peering over the heads in the last row and she catches him and tells him to stop.  Yes!  Vindication is alive.  She goes back to her post.  The guy didn’t stop.  She catches him again, and she stormed down to him four more times.  Each time she leaves, he shrugs his shoulders.  Does not give a shit.  I say, yeah, sure, you can try to stop us - you usher in red – try to stop the shit-head photographer… and me too... we go on taking more faint and distant pictures…all images were fuzzy in this historic venue.  For the record, I took two.  Check em out.  I copied the clear close-up from the web.  I saw my brother, Dave afterwards and met Ali and Amanda on the corner of 56th and 7th since they went into the city to see Brian Cranston in All The Way.  Dave drove back to PA.  And afterwards we ate at Carnegie Deli…Amanda and I spit a pastrami sandwich… it was the best pastrami sandwich I ever had, the meat was so lean it disintegrated on my tongue.  We drove home and I was up less than five hours later to begin… a new day of work…


Thank you for reading this   




Sunday, March 9, 2014

We Were Promised Jetpacks concert review and interview Webster Hall 3/8/14

3/9/14 16:32

I just woke up from a nap.  There has to be a good reason for me to take a nap.  Exhaustion or sickness, I’d give into the boredom nap once in a while.   This morning we came home close to 1 AM.  I made a tea and slurped it in our dark bedroom while Ali snored.  I kept an eye on the clock with a strange anticipation sort of like waiting for the New Year’s Eve ball to drop.  I assumed at 1:00 the clocks would magically jump to 2:00.  I am here to tell you - it did not happen.  Not sure when the magic happens, but I put my head down and slept on my side facing my wife, even as she had her back turned towards me.  I knew in a few hours I’d be up and drive Emma to church, dropping her off to watch the kids in the nursery.  I thought I was deacon for the 11:00 which I was not.  In a delirious state of mind I attended church and for the life of me I’m trying to recall what Reverend Diane said in the morning message.  You’re not reading this to hear about my naps or the message anyway.  I understand.  Talk about the concert.  First, we picked up Amanda in the city and spent a couple of hours in the city…Strand Books…OK to the concert.  Well to start, did I tell you about the time when I was kicked out at The Cramps concert when Webster Hall was known as The Ritz?  True story, but for another time…Opening up for We Were Promised Jetpacks were a strong Scottish two piece all-girl band, Honeyblood whose songs varied, sort of power pop with a snarl.  They are Stina Tweeddale (vocals, guitar), Shona McVicar (vocals, drums) who with full blonde hair and fists pumped pounded on the drums, ala Moe Tucker from Velvet Underground.  They don’t have an album out as yet, but come the fall Fat-Cat- Records will release their debut.  I’d like to see them back in the area headlining.  Both musicians were hanging out at the merch table and were very grateful for the recognition as well as the opportunity to open for We Were Promised Jetpacks.  Promoting their live album EREY (live in Philadelphia) At 21:00 We Were Promised Jetpacks were on the stage, opening with a new song for their forthcoming album.  In all their set consisted of five new songs from their forthcoming album.  Quiet Little Voices was next and the set was scattered with the new songs mixed with their staples like Roll Up Your Sleeves, It’s Thunder and Lightning, Ships With Holes Will Sink, Boy in The Back Seat.  From our perspective on the balcony, the crowd swelled from the sides to the back of the venue, including those of us in the safe distance on the balcony.  I don’t recall as many crowd surfers or even an all-out assault of slam dancing at any of the previous shows.  Last night was the seventh time I’ve seen the band.  I saw one kid whip his elbow across the head of someone he crashed into.  There were only a few in the mist of the hits and the pent up male macho aggression, but their antics I have to say - distracted from the performance.  I'm all for slam dancing at a punk show.  I get it.  It's part of the show - at a punk concert.  Even Adam Thompson, singer for WWPJP made a comment the wanna-be punks were stealing some of their thunder.  The surfers lasted till eventually slipping and crash landing onto their bony shoulders and soft heads once the crowd got tired from keeping them up. There were no bodies left on the floor when the show was over.  To their credit, the band played throughout their set - not taking breaks and kicking last night’s performance to a new extreme.  Adam said thank you a few times and how the band looked forward to coming back to Webster Hall after a couple of years.  The band is playing with an additional musician, Stuart McGachan, who is an old friend, he plays keyboards, guitar and backed up on the vocals.  After the show, what else, but we waited to see who from the band would come out. Stuart was at the merch table soon after the show ended, and told Amanda and Emma the rest are still back stage.  The band now has roadies who take down their instruments and equipment which was different from the previous shows; normally it was Mike and Sean and one roadie breaking it down.  Let’s face it, they are getting bigger, more popular and will be playing in larger venues.  So, after waiting for quite a bit, eventually Mike and Sean came out.  I spoke to Mike for a couple of minutes, but only after Ali left me to retrieve her coat from the check.  You see I was not allowed to talk to the guys from the band.  I was told to let Amanda be in her element.   Anyway, Mike said the show was close to a sell-out.  Webster Hall holds 1,400 and they sold 1,200.  Most of this tour has been sell outs…and yet Webster Hall was the biggest venue so they were very pleased with the turnout.  I sensed there was some concern about the ticket sales there since they were a little slow.  They were surprised how empty it was at 20:00 and yet knew most wait for the headliners to come on.  I told him there was a different energy, they came out and kicked ass.  It was true he said, they were not stopping for anything and wanted to give New York everything they had.  Look out for the shows in Austin which they’re going into with a storm.  I asked how long the band has been together, 11-years…has it ever got tired?  Any in- fighting?  No…Mike said they’re all good friends.  And if you were there last night, you witnessed the bond which only friends can have when they are having a great time; the way they looked at one another with smiles and bumped into each other a few times…they were in the element…maybe I will get them to play at my fifty-year old party - which I discussed with Mike and Sean.  I’m not sure Amanda or Ali would allow it to happen.


Thank you for reading this.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sharing the JOY even when Losing the competition

3/2/14 16:34


On Friday, Joe performed in music idol at his middle school - which is sponsored by WBLI and the aquarium in Riverhead as well as an entertainment company which offer DJ’s and that sort of thing.  Let me tell you I am not one of the fanatics who feel my child is God’s gift to the world and he can do no harm.  Oh no, I am somewhat more rational when comparing my children to others.  Well, for the most part.   So when Joe took the stage he belted out the song, and fair enough during one part I heard a slight fumble of the words, his voice drifted off but he finished strong.  He was not one of the finalists; there were three; all girls and all great singers who deserved to be chosen.  Some were professionally trained and I sort of believe it will be a good idea for Joe to get some lessons. But the idea of my twelve-year-old taking voice lessons conflicts with a few ideals.  He is on the school choir and has been in school musicals, but most of us seek professional intervention which we hope can make our children perfect in sports and perfect in a performance or an exhibition.  I was struck by how poised some of these performers were.   Sure their parents pay for coaching, pay to get that extra step which can make their children the dream player, singer, actor, artist we may believe or want them to become.  Are we creating professionals?  Are the children losing the joy in the performance?  Do we nurture the love of the sport or the art or is all of this about the competition?  Joe’s voice will eventually change and he will continue to sing and perform since he loves to, but he was very disappointed with the results.  Not to suggest he didn’t think the girls deserved to win, but he really was one of the best.  I wanted to hold him and tell him there was nothing to worry about; it was just a crappy competition with an MC who always dances and kicks to Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, but that’s teaching my son how to be a sore loser.  I wanted him to know he should feel happy for the winners and congratulate them.  I also wanted to tell Joe…we will pay for the lessons.   And maybe we will - as long as he wants to pursue something he likes to do.  On Friday, I watched a mother, sitting forward in her seat and looking at her daughter on the stage.  Mother had a bright smile on her face and there was no direction or coaching, she was proud of her daughter.  I am proud of my son and am amazed how confident he is each time he takes the stage.  He loves performing.  He is in his element…I will look into lessons, they can only help.  Amazing to think this is the way of life out here in the suburbs…the kids getting private lessons, tutors and such; I guess it is all about the competition…I have to share something, On Saturday I brought Joe and one of the winners to the mall.  She told Joe when she woke up that morning, she didn’t know if she was dreaming, she reminded herself, it was real…she actually was one of the winners and we felt happy for her…we really did - since we  could share in her moment of joy.