Saturday, September 13, 2008

The New York Cool Archives

As you probably don’t know, I spent a decent chunk of 2007 writing for NewYorkCool. It was a pretty sweet gig, work-wise – Editor Wendy Williams always gave me full creative freedom and responsibility for arranging my own pieces, and I got a couple of nifty assignments I wouldn’t have learned about otherwise. If it wasn’t for this whole “making a living as a writer” thing that led me inevitably to higher-paid (read: paying) pastures, I would have been happy to graze in the verdant NYCool meadows for the foreseeable future.

I’m a little more financially stable now (as much as a freelance writer and tenure-free college professor can be) and should be putting out some more stuff with NewYorkCool pretty soon, so in honor of that I thought I’d do a quick retrospective:

Calling All Nerds: Williamsburg Spelling Bee @ Pete’s Candy Store
- This was the first piece I wrote for NewYorkCool. I still go to the WSB regularly, winning my first one a couple of months ago and finishing third in the mosr recent finals. Go me!

Alexi Murdoch @ Mercury Lounge 2/7/07 – The sheer brilliance (and overexposure) of his breakway single “Orange Sky” and his own reluctance as an artist for self-promotion – he took a year or so of being courted by record labels until self-releasing his first album to follow up the single – have probably destined Alexi Murdoch for one-hit wonder status. This was his first US tour, a good 2 years after Orange Sky’s popularity made his name for him. My response to his gig at Mercury Lounge was mostly “eh.” The opening act Midnight Movies was a revelation though, and they did a couple of songs with Alexi for the highlight of the show.

Beyond Race Launch Party 2/21/07
– When I was invited to this party, I really didn’t think Beyond Race Magazine would make it past their first year. First, there was the name – they’re not really about race, which I guess they were trying for with the title, but why put race in the title if it’s not about race? Also, the grammar nazi in me wanted to mark up the issue they were throwing the party for. And finally, they seemed so intent on promoting the print copy at the expense of a their website not even coming close to being interactive. But here we are a year and a half later, and they have a nicely designed website with plenty of links and a few advertisements, and they seem to have a copy editor now. Go Beyond Race! (Hey, a little double entendre action never hurt anyone.)

The Bowmans @ Joe’s Pub 3/3/07 – This gig was special to me for a number of reasons. For one thing, it marks the only known recorded instance of my voice online, as I included a pre-show interview with Claire and Sarah Bowman. Even better, it started a fun email exchange with the opening act, a folkie who accused me of slander when I compared him to Art Garfunkel. My response: “Hey, I like Art Garkfunkel!” But most importantly I got to finally write about one of my favorite acts, AND I got Claire into Nicolai Dunger, another of my favorite acts.

Langhorne Slim @ Southpaw 3/23/07 – In many ways, Langhorne Slim was my last shot at hipsterdom. He played his first gigs at Asterisk near my apartment in Bushwick, where my good buddy Domer has been rhyming for years now. He also tends to attract crowds at least 10 years younger than I am. But most importantly, he was most likely the last artist about whom I’ll be able to say, “I heard him before he was big.” That smugness is fairly evident in this piece.

Chris Smither @ Joe’s Pub 3/9/07 – The day after this show, Chris Smither called me from the road northeast of NYC. He couldn’t give me an interview the day of the show, but I pestered his publicist enough that she told me he’d call me the next day, but I never thought he really would. I absolutely loved talking to this guy. His knowledge of the songster tradition, his general intelligence, and just a good dose of that down home charm completely won me over. The show was pretty convincing, too – you can tell he’s been doing what he does for over 40 years now. If you’ve never listened to him, pick up Leave the Light On, which he released in 2007 shortly before the show. All acoustic, the album has a presence that actually makes me look forward to getting old.

Erin McKeown @ Southpaw 4/20/07 – In a lot of ways, Erin McKeown is like a younger, female Chris Smither – she does quite a bit of public domain material, is a first-rate guitarist, and probably feels most comfortable playing to a coffeehouse crowd. But se’s also firmly in the Lilith Fair tradition, with a hefty lesbian following and plenty of more personal songwriting to go with the songster material. I truthfully thought this gig might be a flop, as her material and persona aren’t necessarily a match for Southpaw’s wide-open sound and sometimes raucous, sometimes indifferent crowd, which wasn’t challenged when her publicist told me she only allows photographs for the first 30 seconds of the first 3 songs of her sets, with no flash. But she really rose to the occasion, with an energetic, fun set.

Punk Rock Record Fair 5/12/07 – Now this is what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. There’s nothing like spending a verdant spring morning and afternoon in a dimly lit music venue looking at musty old records and watching people compare their tattoos. There was no sarcasm in that statement.

That 70s Show @ PowerHouse Arena – This one was new to me – the only art show I’ve ever reviewed. I toured the collection with Melinda MacLean, who contributed the other half of the review. Really, though, it was more of a pictorial history than an art show, with lots of good shots of 70s punk rock acts at their unashamed best and, even better, some truly wondrous candid shots of NYC at a time during which I’m not ashamed to say I’m glad I didn’t arrive here. Check it out here.

Serendipitously, I recently wrote my first piece for NewYorkCool in over a year, a review of the Latin Alternative Music Conference in July. Enjoy.

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