Thursday, April 30, 2009

Come on in: Doors open on some of the most fascinating homes in Brooklyn

An example of a Victorian style home. Photo: Judith Angel
By Helen Klein

(Published in the 4.30.09 issue of 24/Seven)

The doors of stately Brooklyn homes will be swinging open in welcome, as house tours in historic neighborhoods around the borough get underway in May.

In all, eight neighborhoods will host the popular annual events, which give prospective homeowners, as well as interior design junkies and the merely curious, the opportunity to peek beyond the curtains of borough houses with a pedigree. In addition, glorious gardens in Brownstone Brooklyn will be open to view during a tour in the communities of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights.

First up is the Clinton Hill house tour, scheduled for Sunday, May 3rd, from noon to 5 p.m. Sponsored by the Society for Clinton Hill, the tour features an inside look at some of the neighborhood’s glorious residences, dating to the 19th century, when the neighborhood was the borough’s esteemed Gold Coast.

This year, the tour includes three mansions, as well as several other venerable homes, and the Queen of all Saints Church, at Vanderbilt and Lafayette Avenues. In addition, there will be an organ concert at the church, as well as a chamber music concert at the Charles Pratt Mansion, 232 Clinton Avenue, and a beer tasting courtesy of Kelso Brewery, a microbrewery located in the neighborhood.

For the first time, tour-goers will be able to download an audiotour from the society’s website ($10.00 additional) onto their MP3 players.

Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 on the day of the tour. For further information, including how and where to purchase tickets, email, call 917-292-8042, or log onto

On Saturday, May 9th, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., the Brooklyn Heights Association will hold its 23rd annual house and garden tour, which offers tour-goers the opportunity to enjoy an inside look at some of the area’s Greek Revival homes, including one on the neighborhood’s prestigious Mansion Row. The oldest home on the tour dates was built around 1839 and is replete with period details.

Tickets cost $30, and can be purchased in advance through the Brooklyn Heights Association, or on the day of the tour at 129 Pierrepont Street. The price includes tea and pastries at the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, on Orange Street, between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. For further information, call 718-858-9193 or log onto

A week later, the scene shifts to Park Slope, where the Park Slope Civic Council hosts its 50th annual house tour, from noon to 5:30 p.m.

Tours start at the Poly Prep Lower School, 50 Prospect Park West, and include a bevy of the neighborhood’s distinctive late 19th and early 20th century rowhouses that display a variety of architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Neo-Grec, Neo-Georgian and Neo-Classical, as well as a Victorian villa dating to 1878. Also included in the tour is a slide show, “The Architecture of Park Slope,” narrated by Francis Morrone, scheduled to begin at Congregation Beth Elohim, Garfield Place and Eighth Avenue, at 6 p.m.

Tickets cost $20 in advance; $25 on the day of the tour. For information on purchasing, call 718-832-8227 or log onto

On Sunday, May 31st, from noon to 5 p.m., the 39th annual Prospect Lefferts Gardens house and garden tour will be held. The event, sponsored by the Lefferts Manor Association, provides an overview of the neighborhood’s varied architecture. Included in the tour’s 11 stops are a 1905 brick home, a 1907 limestone, a 1915 neo-Tudor rowhouse, as well as an apartment and a Southern-themed garden complete with waterfalls. There will also be complimentary refreshments.

Tickets cost $20 in advance; $25 on the day of tour. For further information, call 718-284-6210 or 718-462-0024, email or log onto

Urban oases are the highlights of the Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District Garden Walk, which will take place on Sunday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Among the highlights of the tour are a double garden that has been designed to mimic a Roman ruin, and another double garden, shaded by flowering trees, designed in collaboration with jazz singer Betty Carter.

Tickets cost $15 in advance, $20 on the day of the walk. For further information, including details on purchasing tickets, log onto

The large, free-standing homes of Victorian Flatbush -- replete with details galore -- are featured on the Victorian Flatbush house tour, organized by the Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC), which will take place on Sunday, June, 14, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Ten homes in Prospect Park South, Albemarle-Kenmore Terrace, Ditmas Park, Ditmas Park West, Beverley Square West, Beverley Square East, Caton Park, West Midwood, Midwood Park, Fiske Terrace and South Midwood will be open to view on the tour, including examples of Colonial Revival, Tudor and Greek Revival architecture, built around the turn of the 20th century to appeal to urban dwellers who craved a country-in-the-city lifestyle, complete with spacious interiors, broad front porches and over-arching trees.

Tickets cost $20 in advance; $25 on the day of the tour. For further information, call 718-859-3800, or log onto

There will be three house tours held in the fall.

The first, on Saturday, October 3rd, from noon to 5 p.m., will be the Crown Heights North house tour.

Sponsored by the Crown Heights North Association, the event will feature a variety of structures that exemplify the diverse architectural heritage the neighborhood enjoys including Neo-Grec, Italianate, Queen Anne, Renaissance Revival and Romanesque Revival.

The starting place will be St. Gregory’s Church, at Brooklyn Avenue and St. John’s Place. The goal, according to organizer Suzanne Spellen, is to include properties from the portion of the neighborhood now seeking landmark status.

Tickets cost $20 in advance; $25 on the day of tour. For further information, call 917-748-4664, or log onto

Next up is the 31st annual Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant house tour, which will take place on Saturday, October 17, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There are “typically 10 buildings” on the tour, noted organizer Crystal Bob-Semple, who said that this year’s tour would start with the annual home-buying workshop. The structures open to view generally exemplify the community’s diverse housing stock, mostly dating from the 1880s through the early 1900s, including brownstone and limestone townhouses as well as buildings in the Romanesque style.

Tickets cost $15 in advance; $20 on the day of the tour. For additional information, call 718-953-7328 or log onto

Rounding out the house tours for the year is the Prospect Heights House Tour, scheduled for Sunday, October 18th, from noon to 5 p.m.

Sponsored by the Prospect Heights Association, the event will start from 659 Vanderbilt Avenue, and is expected to include about 10 Victorian-era brownstones -- many with original details -- that feature the styles prevalent in the neighborhood such as Neo-Grec, Neo-Romanesque, Italianate, Eastlake, Queen Anne and Second Empire.

Tickets cost $20 in advance, $25 on the day of the tour. For further information, call 718-393-7653, or log onto


Art that keeps 'Hope' alive: BWAC showcases optimism in a time of crisis

By Meredith Deliso

(published in the 4.30.09 issue of 24/Seven)

Dawn Robyn Petrlik initially was going to go with “Black and Blue and Art” as the Brooklyn Waterfront Artist Coalition’s spring art show, but given the political and economic events of the past few months, she thought a better color to go with was “hope.”

In the show, “Color of Hope,” up May 9 through June 14 at the coalition’s Red Hook gallery space, over 300 Brooklyn artists are exhibiting over 1,600 new works that react to the uncertain economic climate but offer optimism in their interpretations of hope.

“Almost every piece of art [in the show] could be considered hopeful,” said Petrlik, a Windsor Terrace-based artist and chair of BWAC, and the curator of this year’s spring art show. “The act of creating art could be hopeful, and the act of sharing in that statement is still hopeful.”

In addition to being forward-looking, the pieces range from the provocative to statement-making. One of Petrlik’s own submissions, hand-painted trillion dollar bills, which each feature a different version of what or who may appear on the face of this currency, simultaneously question the value of money.

“It’s all tongue and cheek,” said Petrlik, whose works are $1 bills painted over with the faces of figures like President Barack Obama, John Lennon and even Bernie Madoff. “I’m making a little bit of light of it, but also questioning the value of money, which is seeming somewhat arbitrary these days. I think it’s impossible for most people, myself included, to actually understand how much money that is. I had to look up how many zeros that was” (it’s 12). “It’s beyond comprehension.”

The show’s featured artist, Renee Radenberg, takes inspiration from her natural surroundings for her assemblages and playful, light-catching mobiles, made from recycled materials, namely sea glass collected from Brooklyn’s beaches. Other pieces in the show include Russell Mehlman’s painting “Memorial Day,” depicting a family scene, Bill Storoniak's "Brooklyn Bridge" (pictured)Gary Heller’s “The little things in life,” a fuzzy, murky photograph of flowers, and Sandra Taggart’s “Double Dutch,” an almost unfinished-looking drawing of the children’s game.
“People are really responding well to the theme,” said Petrlik. “I think it’s important for artists to focus on their own feelings of the economic crisis and the larger crisis our country is in.”

Viewers can contemplate their own feelings and reactions, with more than 1,300 pieces to take in, in all mediums, ranging from painting and photography to multi-media and sculpture.
“There’s always something to discover because there’s so many,” said BWAC Arts Administrator Jane Gutterman, of Cobble Hill. “All members [of BWAC] are invited to exhibit with us. We’re a very democratic organization.”

While viewing the numerous submissions, gallery-goers will also be serenaded by a New Orleans street bands and a jazz guitarist, with The Loose Marbles playing the opening day, joined by swing dancers, and Ron Jackson performing on Sunday, May 10, during the opening weekend.

Each week of the show will also feature more musicians and free screenings, including Brooklynite Dawn Scibilia’s Emmy award-winning documentary “Home” on May 16, which examinations immigration and the idea of place in New York City. May 16 also sees the performers of Parallel Exit bringing to life the book “The Museum Trip” for a family-friendly afternoon titled Making Books Sing.

For more information on these, and other programs happening on the waterfront through the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, go to or call 718-596-2506. The gallery is located at the end of Van Brunt street, along the waterfront in Red Hook.


'Found' right here in Brooklyn

For their latest project, Found Magazine, the collage-like collection of letters, notes and insightful receipts readers have submitted after finding them discarded on the street, went to some of their favorite people for inspiration.

In "Requiem for a Paper Bag," we hear about dozens of writers, comics and actors about their own experiences with "finds," and quite a few of them are right here in Brooklyn. There's Jonathan Lethem (writing not about an item found in Brooklyn, alas, but in Berkeley), Amy Shearn, New Yorker writers Tad Friend and Ben Greenman, and singer-songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs. (For more on the book, and the tour in support of it, coming to Brooklyn May 6, see after the jump.)

The cartoony cover art depicting all these characters in the midst of finding their items was created by Brooklyn graphic artist Michael Wartella.

With Brooklyn such a treasure trove of finds just waiting to be found here, what's something you've found on the borough's streets?

Davy Rothbart of Found Magazine

Found Magazine: 'Trashy' Brooklyn fun that's anything but disposable

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.30 issue of 24/Seven)

Tons of garbage litters the city’s streets, but it takes a true artist to find the hidden gems – the receipts of curious purchases that leave much to the imagination, the love letters that are no longer with their intended paramour.

Davy Rothbart and Jason Bitner are masters at finding such items, and since 2001 they have been compiling them, with the help of reader submissions, into a collage-like magazine called Found (Bitner also oversees the more risque Dirty Found). Each year, the material is brought to life, with Davy reading the found materials out loud, and his brother, Peter, playing Flight of the Conchords-esque songs based off of them as well (see Davy on David Letterman here).

This month, the Ann Arbor-based duo brings the uproarious live act to Brooklyn, with a show at the Gowanus venue The Bell House on May 6 (and, in case you miss it, a second, Manhattan show on May 8 at the I.C.E. Auditorium).

In addition to spending the show reading found items, the two will also pull material from their new book, “Requiem for a Paper Bag,” comprised of personal stories of people and their found items. Davy was inspired to start the book by intriguing letters he would get from readers along with their found items.

“Sometimes, the note they wrote – where they found it and what it meant to them – was as interesting as the found item itself,” said Davy. “I thought it’d be fun to collect stories people had told me about things they’ve found.”

So he reached out to some of his favorite artists, writers and musicians to submit stories of their own, including Andy Samberg, Miranda July, Seth Rogen, Sarah Vowell, Patton Oswalt, Chuck D., Dave Eggers, Andrew Bird, and David Simon (creator of The Wire), among dozens more.

Those who couldn’t think of something themselves chose an item from the book and wrote pieces inspired by that.

“Each note is like a riddle,” said Davy. “It sparks your imagination. It’s up to you to piece together what the story is behind it, to fill in the blanks.”

Also taking inspiration from the Found project is The New York City-based arts education program/sketch comedy group The Story Pirates, which has been creating pieces based off their favorite Found items. They will perform a few of their pieces at The Bell House show.

Some favorites that have made their way into Monty Python-esque sketches includes what they call “What I Know About American History,” a verbatim retelling, in a big opening musical number, what a junior high school boy has written down as fact what he knows about American history, such as George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree with an ax his dad gave him for his birthday, to information on hot rods.

Another item, that Peter also wrote a song about, involves a women on the hunt for the man she met the night of her bachlorette party by leaving notes under the windshield wipers of parked cars. The Story Pirates look at the situation from the point of view from the fiance as his girlfriend breaks the new to him.

“We tried to have the show be as schizophrenic as possible,” said Story Pirates Artistic Director Lee Obertree, of Sunset Park. “It will be pieces that range from rock opera-style musical theater to sketch comedy to bizarre Monty Python-esque sketches and scenes, all of which are adapted from things that we pulled from the various issues of Found Magazine.”

Those who plan on attending the show are encouraged to bring their own found items, which The Story Pirates might incorporate into their show, or make its way into Found’s live act, magazine or Web site.

“[New York’s] probably the one city that’s the most fertile territory for found stuff,” said Davy. “The stuff people bring to the shows will be fascinating.”

With 100 to 200 mailed or e-mailed submissions a week of found items, the project succeeds because it’s a community art project.

“There would be no magazine or books if there wasn’t thousands of people sending it in from all over the country,” said Davy. “You don’t have to go out hunting for this stuff. If you see a piece of paper floating, pick it up and take that one second to see it, then share it with us.”

Found Magazine comes to The Bell House (149 7th St.) May 6 at 8 p.m., joined by The Story Pirates as well as The Main Squeeze Orchestra. Tickets are $7. The show will also be at the I.C.E. Auditorium (345 E. 15th St.) in Manhattan on May 8 at 7 p.m. (tickets $10) also with The Story Pirates.


Pretty in pink: Sakura Matsuri returns

Photo: Barbara Alper, courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s peerless collection of cherry trees — the largest and most diverse outside Japan — creates a canopy of blossoms in the spring that is most worthy of a major celebration. Over the course of its 28-year history, Sakura Matsuri (to be held this year May 2-3) has evolved into one of the city’s most anticipated weekend events, as tens of thousands of visitors come to experience not only the breathtaking beauty of the cherry tree’s fleeting blossoms but also to learn about Japanese culture — both traditional and contemporary — with two days of music, dance, martial arts, food, film, workshops, demonstrations, and guided tours of the Garden’s plant collections.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden will be the number one springtime destination for anime, cosplay, manga and Japanese pop and rock from the 1960s to the present. For the first time ever, three programs at Sakura Matsuri will be presented in collaboration with the hugely popular NY Anime Festival, bringing the finest in Japanese anime and manga talent to the Garden, which devotees and the simply curious can enjoy.

The all-new Manga & Anime Artist Alley is part of the expanded Sakura J-Lounge, which features more music, more dancers, and the addition of several famed Japanese comic artists signing their colorful works. In addition, Samurai Beat Radio will be broadcasting live from the J-Lounge to several stations in Japan.

Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All activities take place rain or shine, with indoor locations provided for all activities in the event of rain. Tickets are available through; for same-day ticket information, visit or call 718-623-7200. A detailed schedule of the festival is available at, and information is available by calling 718-623-7333.

Admission is $12; $6 for students and seniors.

Sakura Matsuri: Event Highlights

Visitors to the Garden enjoy traditional Japanese music performed with authentic instruments as well as contemporary music by leading musicians. The Sakura J-Lounge returns with an expanded lineup of DJs spinning a wide variety of Japanese pop and rock old and new to give extra punch to the festivities.

Other musical highlights include a Japanese pop concert by star Ai Kawashima, who has gained national renown in Japan; Minami Kuzuki, singing and playing shamisen J-pop melodies inspired by the folk songs of her home in the Amami Islands; and a performance of traditional koto and shamisen music by Misayo Ishigure and the Miyabi Koto Shamisen Ensemble.

Brooklyn favorite Kagero will bring the house down with its border-crossing Japanese gypsy rock. A Children’s Suzuki Recital features kids ages four to 13 performing string versions of Japanese folk songs.

Traditional music lovers will be enthralled by an ethereal shakuhachi flute concert and a classical koto and shamisen concert. Enjoy the adrenaline-pumping sounds of taiko performances by Taiko Masala, Soh Daiko, and the all-child Genki Daiko — then try this ancient art of drumming in two hands-on taiko drumming workshops for families.

Dance and MartialArts
The J-Lounge features fabulously attired dancers throughout the afternoon rocking to Japanese group sounds, Shibuya-kei, ’60s pop rock, and anime-themed J-pop. Samurai Sword Soul returns with another original piece, Bushido: The Soul of Samurai, showcasing the mastery of these sword-fighting professionals.

Enjoy works by the legendary dance troupe Sachiyo Ito & Company, which performs in the expressive tradition of Ryukyu Buyo, Okinawan dance, and graceful Nihon Buyo, Japanese classical dance. Experience vibrant Japanese folk dance with the colorful Hanagasa Odori (Flower Hat Dance) parade and minbu dance, performed by the Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York. Witness a moving performance of butoh, a Japanese style of dance that emerged after World War II, performed by Dean Street FOO Dance.

Traditional Arts
Explore Japanese art forms and creative disciplines with special workshops and demonstrations of ikebana flower arranging, origami paper folding, mataro ningyo wooden doll making, and washi ningyo paper doll making. BBG’s own curator of the CV Starr Bonsai Museum, Julian Velasco, shares his expertise in bonsai pruning techniques.

Other highlights include a traditional Japanese tea ceremony presentation, and a whimsical soft sculpture sushi display and photo op. Plus, enjoy the New York premiere of the film “Transcending – The Wat Misaka Story,” which recounts the story of the first Japanese-American basketball player in the NBA.

Manga and Anime
With the NY Anime Festival, Sakura Matsuri presents the most exciting manga and anime activities around. During NYC’s Largest Cos-Play Photo Shoot, thousands of festival-goers in costume will gather together under BBG’s peerless flowering cherry trees for some unforgettable image-making. The Funny Voices: Anime Voice Actor Roundtable features the city’s hottest talents in anime cartoon voice talent talking about, and as, their legendary characters.

At the AnimeNEXT Manga Library, children and adults can partake of the global phenomenon of these exquisitely illustrated Japanese comics and read nature-inspired manga. Plus, renowned manga illustrator Kensuke Okabayashi presents a fantastic character-sketching talk and demo and signs copies of his book “Manga for Dummies.”

Manga mania will continue with Misako Rocks! A Crazy Comic Life, during which illustrator Misako Rocks!, known for her works “Rock and Roll Love,” “Biker Girl,” and “Detective Jermain,” will guide visitors through her colorful childhood in Japan and other sources of inspiration for her manga.

Children’s Activities
Children’s activities include a special session with manga illustrator Misako Rocks!, and the AnimeNEXT Manga Library’s display of nature comics is a must-see. Other kid-friendly events include Samurai swordplay performed by Samurai Sword Soul, a hands-on workshop all about haiku and papermaking, an entertaining origami paper-folding workshop, plus taiko drumming for the whole family. Kids will love watching their peers star onstage in a kimono show, a suzuki recital, and a taiko-drumming performance.

Visitor entrances to the Garden are at Flatbush Avenue, at the parking lot gate at 900 Washington Avenue, and at Eastern Parkway. Parking is available at 900 Washington Avenue for a fee. For more, call 718-623-7200 or visit


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Talkin' bout a (r)evolution

The Moth, the acclaimed story-telling organization, and PEN, the acclaimed literary organization, join forces to present “You Say You Want a (R)evolution: Stories about Change,” this Thursday, April 30, as part of the PEN World Voice Festival of International Literature.

The event, fittingly, will be held at the DUMBO-based Galapagos Art Space (16 Main St.)

While most of the Moth events that occur on a regular basis include anonymous New Yorkers with an interesting story to share, participants at the DUMBO event include such literary heavyweights as Salwa Al Neimi, Jonathan Ames, Petina Gappah, László Garaczi, and Salman Rushdie.

Tickets are $30 for the 7 p.m. show.

The Moth next comes to Brooklyn on May 4 with a StorySLAM at Park Slope’s Southpaw (125 Fifth Ave.). At a StorySLAM, audience participants share a story without notes based on a theme, and judges pick the winner. This event’s theme is “Falling.”

Doors open at 7:30 p.m., with the stories starting on stage at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Have synth, will trip: Psychic Ills jam their way through sound

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.23 issue of 24/Seven)

The synth-heavy sound that defines the Psychic Ills has taken a few years to take shape.

When first formed six years ago, it was just two people, no drums or synth. Slowly they added bodies and instruments until it became Elizabeth Hart on bass, Jimy SeiTang on synth, Brian Tamborello on drums, and Tres Warren on guitar.

“I would say it has evolved quite a bit,” says Hart. “We’ve been together for quite a while. We’re really comfortable, like family. When we play together, it just seems to come pretty organically. We can get on the same vibe.”

After spending 2007 working on other projects (Hart is also the bassist for Effi Briest and is a member of the improvisational dance and music collective Skint; Warren is one half of Messages, the other being visual artist Taketo Shimada; and Tamborello occasionally plays with Mike Wexler), the group spent 2008 worked on their follow-up to their debut, “Dins.” “Mirror Eye” came out earlier this year on Brooklyn’s Social Registry, eight tracks of otherworldly sounds and sonic experiments where you can happily get lost in the drone.

The ambient, rock-lounge hybrid, with its loose form and near non-existence of vocals, was the product of much improvisation.

“We just jam, and if we feel like something’s going somewhere, we’ll expand on it,” says Hart. “So that’s how that one was made.”

Their method leaves it open to further explore things live, and the band has three shows coming up in the next couple of weeks to do just that, starting with the Mercury Lounge on April 26 and Death By Audio in Williamsburg on April 29, both with London DJ Spectrum, as well as (Le) Poisson Rouge on May 8.

“It feels good to play in New York,” says Hart, who lives across the water on the Lower East Side, while Tamborello and SeiTang reside in Greenpoint and Warren in the East Village.

The band is in a constant state of playing, it seems, whether it’s with their frequent live shows, or in the studio. In addition to their latest album, the Psychic Ills also have a mini-LP they just finished with Social Registry that will be coming out in July, as well as a 12” coming out in Australia on the native label Spring Press.

“We already play songs in the set that are going to be on the next, next record,” says Hart.

Hear these tracks for yourself when the Psychic Ills play Mercury Lounge (217 E. Houston St.,, 212-260-4700) on April 26 at 7 p.m. (tickets $10), Death by Audio (49 S. 2nd St., on April 29 at 8 p.m. (tickets TBD), and (Le) Poisson Rouge (, 158 Bleecker St., 212-796-0741) on May 8 at 11;30 p.m. (tickets $12).


Rock4rorz: Indie artists turn it up at the Bell House for a special pal

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.23 issue of 24/Seven)

Brooklyn may be known as the borough of churches, but it is also the borough of benefits. Each week it seems, people are coming out to support one another – in good times or bad – at venues ranging from its churches to popular concert halls.

On April 29 at the Gowanus venue The Bell House, Brooklyn’s music community is banding together for Rory O’Sullivan, a Bedford-Stuyvesant-based artist diagnosed with brain cancer last year, in an event billed as rock4rorz.

Chandra Ratner, a cousin of O’Sullivan of Ditmas Park who works for Simon & Schuster, and friend Jacques del Conte, a Vanity Fair photographer who lives in the East Village, felt impassioned to organize the event, bringing together acts that have a personal connection to O’Sullivan and his family.

A graduate of Bard college, del Conte also pulled from bands he knew or as a photographer in the Williamsburg music scene while living in Greenpoint.

“Through the power of Brooklyn’s small world, most of the performers also know Rory, and were passionate to contribute to this project,” say the organizers.

Several of the bands are also related to O’Sullivan, making this a family affair as well. His brother, Shawn O’Sullivan, makes up one-half of the Brooklyn-based electro-pop group Further Reductions, and their cousin Michael Guggino plays in the punk soul band Mount Olympus (hailing from Brooklyn, not Greece). DJ Alex Ratner, aka Alex Dirttt, is also a cousin of O’Sullivan’s performing at the benefit.

Other bands on the bill make for a range of genres and generations, including a rare performance by the 1960s New York City poet-rock band The Fugs, with original members Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferburg, as well as lead guitarist/vocalist Steven Taylor, who is O’Sullivan’s uncle, as the band shares the same stage as many they have influenced.

Emerging Brooklyn artists on the bill include Amazing Baby, who seem to be playing everywhere right now after playing with MGMT over the past year (when will they headline their own show here?), as well as Acrylics, who came out of the same circle as Amazing Baby, MGMT and Chairlift and have a highly anticipated album coming out this summer.

Other bands on the bill that night include White Williams, Golden Triangle, the rappers George Positive & Spiderfang, and DJ Ben Brunnemer.

After seeing The Bell House, Ratner and del Conte knew the venue would be perfect for their benefit.

“With its easy access from the F train, its beautiful open performance space, and it’s cozy lounge, it was everything we envisioned. [It’s] high class Brooklyn style,” say the organizers.
The benefit also gives the duo a chance to raise awareness about brain cancer, which is increasingly found in young adults ages 20 to 39. O’Sullivan was only 23 when diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, less than one year after moving to Brooklyn to pursue a career in film after having graduated from the Vancouver Film School. A filmmaker, DJ and visual artist, O’Sullivan has worked on everal major films and commercials in New York City including the critically acclaimed documentary Wild Combination by Matt Wolf, about the late avant-garde composer Arthur Russell.

“Rory is a role model for us. His creativity and courage facing brain cancer inspires so many people,” says Ratner. “The support we’ve received from artists has been overwhelming. The collective energy of so many creative people will help Rory and raise awareness about brain tumors, which, according to experts, will reach epidemic proportions within the next decade.”

Rock4rorz is April 29 at 7 p.m. at The Bell House (149 7th St.). Tickets are $20 in advance, available for purchase at, or $25 the day of the show. A limited number of VIP tickets for $75 include a tote with a custom screen print by the artist Sarah Maher made exclusively for rock4rorz, in addition to other items. A raffle will also include donations from photographers Daniel Gordon, Reka Reisinger and Coley Brown as well as jewelry artist Kristen Baganz.


Black Water Rising: Yankees bending southern steel

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.23 issue of 24/Seven)

Black Water Rising may sound like a southern band – in both the gothic name and their bluesy rock sound – but the rock and roll band is bona fide Brooklyn.

“We’re not like Lynyrd Skynyrd or anything, but our sound has a southern swampiness to it and blues-injected riffs,” says drummer Mike Meselsohn, a Sheepshead Bay native who now resides in Park Slope. “[The South] really takes to our music. They dig our southern flavored rock. They say, I wouldn’t think a bunch of Yankees could play like this!”

Since forming a little more than two years ago, BWR has gained fans from all corners of the United States (and even a High Times award at this year’s South by Southwest). Started by Meselsohn, formerly of the rock band Boiler Room, he was looking to do something new and recruited his long-time friend, Coney Island-based singer and guitarist Rob Traynor of the metal band Dust to Dust.

“Rob went into the studio and wrote new tunes with a different direction. Dust to Dust was more atmospheric,” says Meselsohn. “I heard the stuff and was really impressed. We then set out to look for the other members.”

Those came from Long Island, with Johnny Fattoruso of Stereomud on guitar and Oddie McLaughlin, an old high school friend of Johnny’s, on bass.

Since forming, the band has been churning out heavy, head-pounding melodies with impressive riffs, like the explosive “Rise” and the commanding “Brother Go On,” with its soaring vocals and driving guitars.

The band was all set to release its self-titled debut album themselves this month, but as of press time they were negotiating a deal with a record label.

“With this band, we’ve been independent. I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot on our own,” says Meselsohn, who’s excited to see what possibilities the future may hold with the support of a label.

Fans of Trash Bar in Williamsburg, the band returns there May 2, though this time for more than just a rocking good time.

Part of a benefit for muscular dystrophy, BWR will be one of six rock bands to play that night, invited by the show’s organizer, Jay Scorpion, founder of Rock Against Dystrophy, or R.A.D., who himself has the illness.

“I’m happy to be a part of it,” says Meselsohn, who met Scorpion while doing his show, The Scorpion’s Lair, on Brooklyn College Radio. “Anything we can do to help.”

The R.A.D. show also features Odd Zero, Borgo Pass, Misery, Martyred and Gods Green Earth.
Blackwater will next be found on stage at Manhattan’s Blender Theatre, opening for legendary stoner rock act Monster Magnet, as well as Bang Camaro.

Beyond that, the band can be found on social networking sites like MySpace, connecting to fans and uploading videos. One recent add is a commercial for Ed Roth, which features the band’s single “The Mirror,” another a music video for “Brother Go On,” which finds the band with a ‘68 Firebird out in the woods of Warren, NJ, with their instruments.

“That too has a very southern, outdoorsy feel to it,” says Meselsohn. “I would have rather done it in Prospect Park, but [the director] thought we should go out somewhere more secluded.”
And, of course, there’s the pending album, which will bring the boys from Brooklyn out of the South and to a wider audience.

“We’re excited about the possibilities for the future and getting our record out,” says Meselsohn, “going around the world and spreading the music of Black Water Rising.”

Black Water Rising play the R.A.D. Benefit show at Trash Bar (256 Grand St.) on May 2 at 10 p.m. (the benefit kicks off at 8:30 p.m.). Tickets are $10.

They can also be found at Manhattan’s Blender Theatre (127 E. 23rd St.) with Monster Magnet and Mang Camaro on May 15 at 7;30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and are available through For more, go to or call 212-777-6800.


Get your ping pong on

Ping pong seems to be all the rage lately, and tonight, enthusiasts can really go for the gold with a Ping Pong Championship at The Bell House.

The Gowanus venue will have four tables set up for tournament-style ping pong, first come first serve.

The winner of the Brooklyn crown will be flown to Vegas (courtesy of sponsor Bud Light) for a chance a national title and $100,000 at the HardBat Classic June 26-28.

For players and spectators, the event is free, and begins at 8 p.m. And, naturally, Bud and Bud Light will be on sale that night for $3.


Friday, April 24, 2009

The Colonists: unconventional puppets speak volumes without words

By Greg Hanlon

(Published in the 4.23 issue of 24/Seven)

The creators of the smash-hit puppet-show “Jollyship the Whiz-Bang” are back with their next zany and wonderfully imaginative visual fantasy, replete with the music, pyrotechnics, and electrically enhanced puppets.

“The Colonists,” produced by Terrible Baby Theater Co., premiered at Williamsburg’s Brick Theater on April 26 and runs twice every Sunday through May 24.

If the description at the beginning of this article does not paint a clear portrait, it is because the whimsical show is all but impossible to encapsulate in words. Perhaps this is because it doesn’t have any words itself, having been originally conceived for a puppet-show festival in Bangkok, where much of the audience was not likely to understand English.

Rather than words, the show uses the movement of the puppets and an eclectic blend of music directed by Raja Azar to achieve a surprising emotional power. Its somewhat incidental plot revolves around an earthworm with dreams of flying, and a forest overrun by an alien insect force (the titular colonists). It is played out in a series of vignettes in the style of a nature documentary.

“It’s like a ballet with puppets,” described Nick Jones, a founder of Terrible Baby Theater Co. who developed the show with Azar.

Punctuating the show are numerous flash paper explosions, along with a “swordfight” between bees with electrical stingers powered by car batteries and motor-powered mechanical flapping wings. The puppets, constructed with a combination of foam and plastic molding, were made by renowned puppet designer Robin Frohardt, and are operated by puppeteers in beekeeping suits.
“I can’t exactly say it’s high-tech, but we’re trying to take puppetry from the most basic and have some nice effects,” said Jones.

Jones and Azar also collaborated on “Jollyship the Whiz-Bang,” the smash-hit that premiered last summer at Manhattan’s Ars Nova and received widespread critical praise.

Like “The Colonists,” “Jollyship” eludes conventional explanation. In his review of the show, Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times wrote:
“Merely describing what goes on in this show pirate-themed concoction is difficult, because unless you’ve seen the precursors by this troupe you’ve probably never seen anything like it. But the next step for a reviewer, analyzing why it all works so perfectly – well, time to fall back on the old ‘you had to have been there.’”

“The Colonists” will run every Sunday from April 26 through May 24 at the Brick Theater 575 Metropolitan Avenue. Shows are at 3 and 7 p.m., and tickets are $15.

To order tickets, go to, call 718-907-6189, or email


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Brooklyn's for bocce lovers

Photo: sssuzun

Augie Visocchi of the Detroit-based rock band The Hard Lessons is a big fan of bocce.

That in part explains why, when the band comes to Brooklyn for a three-day residency April 27, 30 and May 1, they'll do so at Park Slope's Union Hall, known as much for its bocce ball courts as its strong offering of indie rock bands each week (read more about the residency after the jump).

Union Hall isn't the only spot in Brooklyn you can hit the courts in Brooklyn with a bocce in one hand and a beer in the other. There's also:

FloydNY (also owned by the people behind Union Hall)

Marine Park (where things can get pretty old school)

Leaving anywhere out? Let us know in the comments section.

The Hard Lessons: rocking you straight outta the 'Arms Forest'

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.23.09 issue of 24/Seven)

When Augie Visocchi and Korin Louise Visocchi are not on stage at Union Hall as the rock band The Hard Lessons, they can be found on the venue’s bocce ball courts.

“I love it there,” says Augie of the Park Slope bar and music space. “I look for pretty weird things when I fall in love with a venue that we play. Usually, they have a bocce court.”

When the band was looking to play a few nights in New York, they immediately thought of Union Hall, and not just for the lure of the bocce ball courts.

“It immediately appealed to me on a weird personal level that had nothing to do with music,” says Augie. “When I went downstairs, I totally loved the vibe of that room. There’s a great audience in Brooklyn.”

On April 27, 30 and May 1, the band will hold a residency there here in Brooklyn, one of the few places the band can imagine living besides their home base of Detroit.

“Every once in a while when we fantasize about moving somewhere, we’ll think about Brooklyn,” said Augie.

For now, the band – whose members are also recently married – find themselves content to be living in what they call the “Arms Forest.” What’s the Arms Forest? You may be living in it right now. One night, late at night, in Detroit about a year ago, Augie and some friends found themselves at an abandoned building called “Forest Arms,” which, at 4 a.m., looking up at the wrought iron of the entrance, he misread as “Arms Forest.” The dyslexic moment, in the end, was a revelation.

“I got a chill and thought, that’s the perfect metaphor for Detroit, for any city, for youth,” remembers Augie. “Forest in literature is a place of freedom. That’s our artistic goal – to maintain that freedom. We feel our goal is to maintain our time in the Arms Forest.”

That moment, that feeling, inspired the recording of the band’s third album, which, naturally, they called “Arms Forest.”

Formed in 2003, the band was informed much by the garage scene happening around them in Detroit, resulting in a raw rock sound. In the years since, they’ve tried to move from that defining sound and evolve.

“We spent the next few years deconstructing that sound,” says Augie. “We just didn’t want to be boxed in to that, so we went in every different direction we could go, exploring pop or country influences.”

The resulting album is a distillation of that process, a rock and roll record that incorporates all of those new influences.

Live, the duo’s joined by a drummer for a three-piece that wows audiences with its full sound despite the lack of a full band – all thanks to the musicians’ multitasking.

“When people hear that we’re a three-piece, they assume guitar, bass and drums – that sort of sparse rock sound – and that’s just not the case at all,” says Augie. “We have our hands full.”
Specifically, Augie has his hands on the guitar, his feet on effects pedals, and sings, while Korin has one hand on her micro keyboard to produce a bass, another on her keyboard, set up for synth and organ sounds, and is the lead vocalist.

“It’s definitely rewarding when people come up to us and say they can’t believe that amount of sound came out of three people,” says Augie.

Brooklynites don’t have to blow off one or two nights of the band’s three-day residency, as for each set the band will be mixing it up a bit, doing some more rocking acts and pulling together the slower numbers for another for a slightly more acoustic set.

Audiences may also get early copies of “Arms Forest” on vinyl and CD, not officially out until May 27.

“We think we’ll let our friends in Brooklyn get a sneak peak,” says Augie. “It’s a good reason for celebration. Me hopefully winning at bocce, another reason.”

Catch The Hard Lessons on the bocce ball courts and on stage at Union Hall on April 27 an April 29 at 7:30 p.m. and May 1 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Curious, and so compelling

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.16.09 issue of 24/Seven)

Sexy sword swallowers. Rubber-like contortionists. Scaly green lizardmen.

They’re all curious sights, and this month you can behold them all when Coney Island USA hosts its 3rd annual Congress of Curious Peoples, featuring such talent as The Lizardman, the Painproof Rubber Girls, and The Torture King (names should be self-explanatory), at the Sideshows By The Seashore.

The celebration of all things freaky kicks off April 17 with an opening night party where you get to vote in the newest inductees into the Freak Hall of Fame. Hosted by ringleader Dick Zigun, the founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, with special guests Reverend Billy and the Savitri D, five inductees will be picked for the categories of Showmen, Working Acts, Self Inflicted, Attractions, and Born Different.

But that’s just a warm-up for the freaky fun to come.

Alumni weekend, from April 18 to 19, will feature Tyler Fyre and Thrill Kill Jill of the Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow, The Great Fredini, and other special surprise guests, for a weekend of unbelievable fire-blowing and sword swallowing (we’ll warn you now – don’t try this stuff at home).

Monday, April 20, head on down to Coney Island for the battle of the strongmen, as rivals John Strong the Third and Boston Billy of California’s John Strong Sideshow duke it out.

The Lizardman then entertains on April 21. Covered with more than 700 hours of tattooing to effect reptilian scales over his entire body, with subdermal implants creating horned ridges over his eyes, teeth filed to points, and a surgically forked tongue, The Lizardman blends stand up comedy, spoken word, and sideshow stunts both old and new for a one-of-a-kind experience, for sure.

Flip out over the Painproof Rubber Girls on Wednesday, April 22, as they twist and turn their bodies into seemingly impossible positions, mixing in knives and fire for good measure, in a reunion show that includes The Great Throwdini and Ekaterina, with MC Lady Rizo.

April 23 sees Albert Cadabra’s Skullduggery & Skin Show, a part-magic, part-burlesque routine that brings in performers from around the world for this sexy sideshow.

Those with weak stomachs might want to avoid Tim Cridland, aka Zamora The Torture King’s show on April 24. Through his knowledge of martial arts techniques, hypnosis, Middle-Eastern techniques, science and anatomy, he is able to overcome dangerous situations – fire-eating, sword-swallowing, body-skewering, electrocution and more -- to emerge, thankfully, unscathed and unharmed (again, don’t try this at home).

From April 25 to 26, London-based performance artist Mat Fraser, Koko the Killer Clown, Ravi the Indian Rubber Boy, and other “curiosities” will be coming to Coney to end the freaky festivities with a blowout. With dozens of acts over the course of these 10 days, there’s definitely something for every taste.

Showtimes and costs vary. For more information, go to or call 718-372-5159. All shows will be held at Sideshows By The Seashore, 3006 West 12th St. Tickets are available the day of the show.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rocking out, for the kids

Photo: Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls

This summer, rock stars-in-training, used to practicing their roll & roll tendancies on Guitar Hero, will converge upon Greenpoint for the first ever Rock Camp.

The week-long program looks to impart songwriting and instrumental tips to tweens and teens. To do it, they just need a little help from you (see more on a benefit this April 26 at Galapagos Art Space after the jump)

The camp isn't the only game in town. Since 2004, the Willie Mae Rock Camp has been teaching eager girls the rock & roll ropes, most recently with sessions at the Urban Assembly School of Music & Art in downtown Brooklyn.

And women, too, are able to get in on the fun, with the Ladies Rock Camp, so Brooklynites can fulfill their karaoke dreams of being Pat Benetar (or whoever your reference point is).

Applications are currently being accepted for all three, so don't delay (volunteers are also sought from both those musicially inclined and those who can't carry a tune).

Acclaimed artists tune up so youngsters can rock out at camp

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.16 issue of 24/Seven)

This summer, boys and girls can rock out at Rock Camp, a week-long crash course in music composition and performance that will help kids fulfill their dreams of being the next Jonas brother or Miley Cyrus. The creators just need your help in making those dreams come true.

On April 26, Brooklyn Emerging Artists hosts a benefit show at DUMBO's Galapagos Art Space for the organization's first-ever Rock Camp, to be held this summer at the Greenpoint Reformed Church.

Taking a nod from the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, a five-year-old summer rock camp currently housed in the Urban Assembly School for Music and Art in downtown Brooklyn, as well as the Portland, Oregon-based Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls, Brooklyn's newest rock camp is opening its application process to aspiring Mick Jaggers and Steven Tylers, as well, as they empower the city’s male and female youth through musical collaboration.

“For 8-15 year olds, it’s important for them to feel like they created something that’s their own,” says Park Slope resident Katie Blankenship, a general manager at the Brooklyn Academy of Music who formed the camp with friends Beth Price and Rachael Benjamin. “They can go from never playing an instrument to playing on stage in a band.”

Indeed, the camp encourages musicians of any level to sign up, they only need the ambition.

“It’s not pie in the sky,” says Price, a Greenpoint-based musician and founder of Brooklyn Emerging Artists, a support network for the city’s many musicians, of the camp’s aspirations.

“Rock Camp is about empowerment,” adds Blankenship. “It’s the spirit of rock and roll. It’s fun, there’s nothing stiff or formal about it.”

To make it happen, the organizers, who also make up the all-girl country band The Havens, have been pulling from their friends in the New York City music scene to lend their skills as teachers for the completely volunteer-run camp, held this August 10-15, as well as play at benefit shows. BEA's first fundraiser, at Southpaw this past February, featured indie acts Honne Wells, Analog Transit, Jeffrey Lewis and Final Outlaw, as well as The Havens.

This all-ages Galapagos show mixes things up a bit, featuring some rock acts, as well as chamber music, with prominent contemporary composer and viola player Kenji Bunch, acclaimed pianist Monica Ohuchi, Kevin Gallagher and the rock quartet The Elektrik Kompany, and Shelley Nicole's blaKbüshe, a Brooklyn-based soul rock band, on the bill. Price will also debut a new piece at the show.

Rock Camp itself will be equally diverse, with an eclectic mix of genres including rock, country, hip-hop and chamber music.

“We want the kids to be exposed to as many different genres of music as they want to,” says Blankenship. “We offer a place for them to express themselves in any medium they can find.”

Of course, to do that, they need instruments, from drums, guitars and brass to violins, banjos and cellos, as well as turntables and equipment.

“Everything is DIY,” says Blakenship of the camp. “[Instruments] are one of the great needs.”

Another need? Volunteers, from “band managers,” or camp counselors, to administrative assistants, security, on-call nurses and doctors, and extra hands at the benefit shows planned leading up to the camp.

And, of course, donations in the form of money are always welcome. If that’s something families interested in sending their kids to rock camp don’t have, B.E.A. is also providing scholarships at half and full cost to those who need it.

“We really want to stress that this is for anybody,” says Price. “These are tough times for a lot of people. I feel very strongly about representing all of New York City.”

As musicians themselves, Blankenship and Price know how important the role of something like a rock camp can provide to budding guitarists and singers.

“It would have been nice to have had an environment that was empowering,” says Price, a classically trained bassist who grew up in a competitive world.

“It took me a long time to get confidence,” says Blankenship. “I would have died for a rock camp.”

Brooklyn Emerging Artists Rock Camp Benefit Show will be April 26 at Galapagos Art Space (16 Main Street) from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $12. For more information, call 718-222-8500.

For more on Rock Camp, e-mail, or call 347-599-2769. The camp runs from August 10 to 15.

Admission is $200, with scholarships available. Early registration, which waves 25 percent of the fee, ends May 30. The last day to register for both campers and volunteers is August 1. As these things ten to go, the sooner you register, the better.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Just the jazziest 'Odyssey' you'll ever go on

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.16.09 issue of 24/Seven)

The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey are used to packed shows. Two years ago, when the band last played Southpaw, the Park Slope venue had a full house. Earlier this year, when the Tulsa, Okla.-based jazz band debuted their new, four-piece lineup, they did so to a sold-out crowd during the NYC Winter Jazz Festival.

When they return to Southpaw this April 15, expect no less than lines around the block, as this time around, the band – comprised of Haas, drummer Josh Raymer, upright bassist Matt Hayes and guitarist Chris Combs, will also have Peter Apfelbaum in tow.

So far, 2009 has been quite the year for the band, led by pianist Brian Haas, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. In addition to adding a new member to their lineup and that debut show, the band released “Winterwood,” their eighteenth album.

JFJO’s creativity is in full force on their inventive new album, 13 tracks that start at one place and pull the listener along on the band’s, wait for it, odyssey. A track like “Songs of a Viper,” for instance, goes from old-timey pickin’ and piano riffs that jump off the track to being interspersed with synth and furious piano for an unexpected tug of war between the old and the new (the victor seems to emerge on the electronicy track “Oklahoma Stomp,” which is nothing like what you’d hear at a hoedown). “A-Bird” sounds like a B-side to Radiohead’s “Amnesiac,” just minus any vocals. Simple prettiness isn’t lost in all this experimentation, such as on oddly charming “Walking Before Daylight.”

Sitting on the album for a while after a disagreement with their record company, the band decided to release the record themselves on their Web site, all 13 tracks for free.

If Griffin had any doubts about releasing the album at no cost online, they were immediately squashed by the response in the week following the release. In just four weeks, the band’s e-mail list went from over 5,000, the total in the band’s decade-plus existence, to over 10,000. And they’ve seen an increase in their audience attendance as well.

“From our standpoint, it was the most successful capitalism we’ve ever engage in, ironically,” says Griffin. “We’d had a lot more people at shows, and more interest in the band in general. We got way more people listening to our music for free than if we tried to sell it. We just want people listening to the music and getting them out to the live shows.”

Haas was so impressed by the results, he followed suit and decided to release his own solo project, “Petting Sounds,” for free on his own Web site. Beach Boys fans will recognize the play off their album “Pet Sounds.” An improvised symphony for solo piano, Haas’ album was made using the same mixing board that was used for “Pet Sounds.”

“I thought ‘Petting Sounds’ was a catchy title,” says Haas. “It’s also soothing, beautiful music.”

And while we’re on the subject of names, Haas was inspired by another musical project in the anointing of his band (which has no one named Jacob or Fred), pulling from Spinal Tap’s “Jazz Odyssey” and the made up name Jacob Fred, one he was obsessed with as a kid, to get JFJO.
While in Brooklyn, the band will be joined by a big name in the contemporary jazz scene – saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum.

“He’s one of our heroes,” says Griffin, who’s also looking forward to the Brooklyn show to just be in the borough. “It’s such a vibrant music scene all unto itself over there. I always look forward to being in the city, especially Brooklyn.”

Once their back home in Tulsa, there’s more work to be done for the band, which is getting ready for a gig later this fall with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, a performance of Beethoven’s Third and Sixth Symphonies together but rearranged by the jazz quartet, as well as finishing a new record of jazz standards with vocalist Annie Ellicott.

“It already feels like I did a whole year. Is it 2010?” jokes Griffin. “There’s so much going on, I can barely keep track.”

The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey play Southpaw (125 Fifth Ave.) on April 15 at 9 p.m. (doors at 8 p.m.) Tickets are $10 in advance, available for purchase at, or $15 the day of the show. To hear more of Brian Haas, go to


Roll 'em: It's the Great Picture Show

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.16.09 issue of 24/Seven)

When she strolls around Williamsburg with her Border Collie mix, April Smith jokes that more people know her dog than they know her.

“She’s really cute,” says the musician. “I’ll be walking her and people will say, ‘Hi, Scout!’ and I’m like, ‘How do you know my dog?’”

Smith won’t be staying under the radar for long. After songs in the TV shows like “The Hills” and “Newport Harbor” and a string of successful shows at South by Southwest, Smith is poised to have even more exposure this year with her band, The Great Picture Show.

On April 17, you can catch the tiny songstress when she plays Park Slope’s Southpaw with PT Walkley, a match made up by their managers.

“I thing they thought we’d be a good fit, which I definitely agree with,” says Smith. “PT has that sunny, upbeat vibe, and that’s what we have. I think it’s going to be a really great match. I don’t want to be playing before a band called Kitten Vomit or something.”

Smith and her own band’s sound falls into the retro pop vein, composing compulsively listenable songs, like the jaunty single “Colors,” which won a 2008 Independent Music Award for best song and blogger Perez Hilton described as “the kind of tune you’d hear on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or in the next iPod commercial.”

It doesn’t hurt that Smith’s playful powerhouse of a voice is backed by some of industry’s most sought-after musicians, with the “players” including Stevens on bass, Elliot Jacobson (who also plays with Ingrid Michaelson, Bess Rogers and Jenny Owen Youngs) on drums, Marty O’Kane on guitar, and Brandon Lowry on keys.

“I really love the guys that I play with now,” says Smith. “They’re incredible musicians, very intuitive. They know exactly what I want on a song.”

She has also worked with producers Adam Schlesinger (Fountains Of Wayne) and Dan Romer (Ingrid Michaelson, Jenny Owen Youngs) in developing her sound.

When they play Southpaw, the band will pull from material off their debut release, 2005’s “Live from the Penthouse,” and last year’s EP “Live from the Penthouse,” as well as some newer material that Smith has been working on, cooped up in her Williamsburg apartment.

“I’m kind of a loner,” says Smith. “Lately I’ve been just trying to write and keep being creative. A lot of the time when that happens, I’ll just stay in at night and really just try and work on stuff that I’ve had in my head.”

When not in a music mindset, Smith has her focus on living a sustainable, environmentally friendly life. Though it’s not one an aspect that makes it into her music, Smith’s van, Mr. Belvedere, rivals Scout in popularity. The band’s famous tour bus, Mr. Belvedere runs on vegetable oil, and they have taken him to Chicago, and meant to get to Austin for SXSW though mechanical issues got in the way.

“I’m pretty sure my bus is possessed and it’s just hell bent on sabotaging every trip that I have,” jokes Smith. “It might be time to convert a different vehicle to run on vegetable oil. It’s not going to stop us.”

In addition to the van, Smith likes to also recycle clothes, taking a bottom of a dress, say, and turning it into a skirt, instead of buying new outfits. She looks to incorporate sustainable methods into her own merchandise.

Musically, Smith’s exposure continues this year, as beyond the Brooklyn show, you can next hear her tunes in the Rob Schneider film “Wild Cherry,” as she has two singles, “The Bells” and “High School Memory,” in that film, set for release later this year. The singer couldn’t be more excited about the chance to get her music out to a wider audience.

“I really hope it comes out soon,” says Smith. “I can’t wait to see it.”

You can see April Smith & The Great Picture Show when they Southpaw (125 Fifth Ave.) on April 17 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased in advance at The show is 18+.


Hebrew School is now in session

As a member of the klezmer rock band Golem, and the leader of Hebrew School, a indie rock band that pulls from hymns you might have sung preparing for your Bar or Bat Mitzvah, David Griffin is busy. He still has find to blog about the music goings-on in Brooklyn, though, and document his newest project.

"There lots of talk about what it's like to live in Sunset Park, the goings on and culture in Boroklyn, too," says Griffin, who's preparing for a CD release this April 14 at Public Assembly (see article after the jump).

Recent posts talk about Passover and friends Las Rubias del Norte, and, of course, his album release party.

Hebrew School calls this rockin' class to order

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.16.09 issue of 24/Seven)

As a freelance musician, jumping from the klezmer punk band Golem to The Murrays, as well as having played in the faux French pop band Nous Non Plus, David Griffin hasn’t had a project to call his own, until now.

Last year, a grant from the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists enabled the musician to create Hebrew School, an indie rock band that takes inspiration from the sings Griffin grew up learning in, you guessed it, Hebrew school.

“I was always the guy who was in the band who would be told to show up at this time,” says Griffin. “My goal in getting the fellowship was to get my solo career off the ground.”

A partnership of Avoda Arts, JDub Records, and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the two-year grant enabled Griffin to get what was an idea – a mix of low-fi multi-instrumental indie rock, experimental music with contemporary and traditional Jewish covers – to a reality, putting a band together (comprised of Griffin on guitar, keyboard, vocals, trumpet, Taylor Bergren-Chrisman on bass, Timothy Monaghan on drums, Giancarlo Vulcano on guitar, and Julia Barry on vocals), do research and going into a studio to record an album.

Ironically, growing up in Malden, Mass, Hebrew School was the last place Griffin wanted to be.

“I would always call my mom and tell her I suddenly got sick at 3 o’clock,” says Griffin. “It actually worked out that I appreciate it later in life.”

As a musician, Griffin works out most of his music by ear, and the Hebrew songs he learned as a pre-teen have remained ingrained in his subconscious decades after needing to recite them, reincarnated today for the nostalgia factor rather than the religious.

“The band is definitely secular,” says Griffin. “I think that what we try to do is bring in these religious elements as fodder for creative containers for this kind of music.”

Pulling from popular Hebrew hymns, other musical influences coming of age in the early 90s, including Air Miami and Uncle Wiggly, and current sources of indie inspiration, such as Animal Collective and Camera Obscura, Griffin has created a ‘60s psych-esque album that, when listened closely, will reveal its sources to other Hebrew school graduates. The Shabbat hymn “Hinei Ma Tov” becomes a leisurely, loungey tune, while another popular hymn, “Adir Hu,” is reincarnated as the melancholy, subdued “Ancillary Devices (Adir Hu),” which hardly makes a peep compared to more robust performances of the hymn until the horns come in midway.

When the 10-track album drops April 14, Hebrew School celebrate with a release party at Public Assembly. After a “coming out” party at Park Slope’s Union Hall earlier this year, near Griffin’s Sunset Park neighborhood, the band wanted to branch out into another Brooklyn area, choosing the Williamsburg venue for the show.

“My goal here is to expand my reach into other parts of the city,” says Griffin, who will be joined on the bill by Will Daily, Mappa Mundi and the solo project of Hebrew School vocalist Julia Barry.

Buoyed by the opportunities the fellowship has granted, Griffin looks to use it as a springboard for his solo career, involving Jewish themes or otherwise.

“I see Hebrew School doing more for sure,” says Griffin. “I need some other sort of song project that’s separate from Hebrew School but shares some of the musical elements.”

With enough material for a second Hebrew School album, that may be in the music scene’s near future, when Griffin’s not bouncing around from one band to the next.

“I took some nice things from the other music projects I work on,” says Griffin. “I think Golem is a good example of that – we’re taking material that is thought of as serious and making it into something where hipsters go to rock club and let themselves go and dance, and maybe even smile.”

Hebrew School celebrate the release of their CD April 14 at Public Assembly (70 North 6th St.) at 9 p.m. Joining them on the bill are Julia Barry, Will Dailey and Mappa Mundi.


Beware! These poems come with strings attached

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.16.09 issue of 24/Seven)

While living in Los Angeles, Rick Reid was told that his work, which spoke of the visual art process, had a “New York” vibe. Having never lived in the city before, he had no idea what that meant, but he eventually did find his way to the East Coast, moving to Greenpoint three years ago.

On April 14, the conceptual artist and writer celebrates a work of his that, in the same vein, speaks to the verbal art process, when his book of poems, “To be hung from the ceiling by strings of varying length,” is released, with a launch party at Greenpoint’s Word bookstore.

Though the book cover says “Poems by Rick Reid,” the author himself isn’t so sure if it should be read as one long poem or individual ones.

“It’s not necessarily what you’d expect when you open a book of poems,” says Reid. “I imagine superimposing them on each other.”

If that sounds vaguely like an art process, it’s because Reid was inspired by the act of layering and re-layering paint on a canvas, one the artist started on a painting several years ago. Retracing a shadow that fell on a canvas and would move each day as the sun did, each image was repetitively superimposed upon the other, and helped Reid look at the process of painting in a new way.
“The way in which the light hit that canvas and started to go off the canvas – I started to challenge my normal process of painting,” says Reid. “I would approach the canvas as a frame which then was being cracked open, which was really exciting to me, to be able to lose a singular understanding of the way a painting should be, or a way a book should be, or a way a poem should be, and create a new being.”

While Reid never finished that painting, the poems partly inspired by that thinking became “Strings,” as he looked to challenge, not the painting process, but language itself. In this, Reid looked to “Rose is a rose is a rose” writer Gertrude Stein for further inspiration.

“She’s somebody I always return to,” says Reid. In particular, one text of Stein’s Reid would return to while working on these poems was the long serial poem “Stanzas in Meditation.”

“What struck me about that text is that when I picked it up and started reading it, I didn’t have a clear understand of what was going on,” says Reid. “The text was teaching me a new way to read, a new way to listen, a new way to create meaning. I was having these moments of complete obscurity and disconnection and then these moments of a really strong connection. The text wasn’t so much about understanding and knowing but more about a kind of urgency, a tension in my relationship to language that normally I would take for granted.”

Reading “Strings” can be a similar process. The name itself, says Reid, is an invitation to take the book apart and decode this familiar yet wholly unfamiliar language, as he looks at memory and perception, piecing together words and imagery, seemingly like pieces picked randomly out of a hat, that was produced out of Reid’s own desire to develop a new process of writing, as he did in painting.

Going to the Ph.D creating writing program at the University of Southern California, Reid met Chris Albani, the creator of Black Goat, an independent poetry imprint of the Brooklyn-based publisher Akashic Books. Albani was the ideal match for Reid as he looked to publish “Strings.”
“Akashic and Black Goat were more than willing to do artistic jumps,” says Reid, who retained much control in the look and layout of his book, including the brevity of the pages, which in some cases contain no more than four words (see page 39: “not this in fingers”).

“Reading tends to be a suffocating experience – we shut down our senses, close up our bodies. We have this very visually focused relationship with the text,” says Reid. “Creating attention in that space as well is important to me. It’s not like the book jumps out and bites you, but you are having to read a lot of pages a lot faster than you normally would” for a “more physical relationship with the book.”

Living just a couple blocks away from the bookstore, Reid saw Word as the perfect spot to host his book release party as he culminates his work, which has traveled with him these past 10 years, in his Brooklyn home.

“It’s wonderful to have a bookstore like Word,” says Reid. “It’s important to have not only a place to have access to uncommon materials but also as a venue to experience people’s work who might not be experienced, people who are dealing with smaller presses, people who are doing work that’s under the radar.”

Rick Reid celebrates the release of “To be hung from the ceiling by strings of varying length” on April 14 at Word (126 Franklin St.) at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 718-383-0096. The book is available on Amazon.


Fronting: Photography book looks at the city in transformation

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.16.09 issue of 24/Seven)

Storefronts have a certain captivation for photographers – both amateur and professional alike. Last year saw the publication of “Brooklyn Storefronts” by Paul Lacy, an avid bike rider who captured hundreds of images of places he wanted to remember while he rode around the borough.

This year brings us “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York City,” out on Gingko Press this year. In addition to presenting the vibrant images of barber shops and liquor stores, the book’s photographers, James and Karla Murray, documented generations-old stores in the city, places that have persisted for years as Starbucks and other chains cropped up around them (though now, in this faltering economy, seem to go the way they came), places that give a neighborhood its charm.

The initial seed for the project was planted when the Murrays were scouring the city for graffiti for a completely different project. What they increasingly saw were the quick changes that occurred on a block, completely changing its character as these staples disappeared or were forced due to zoning regulations to modernize their signage.

“Despite the short time frame between visits...we noticed that some blocks looked drastically different. Many neighborhood stores had closed, or we would come across ‘old’ stores, still in business, but somehow different,” say the two in the book’s introduction. “They were either refaced, remodeled, or original signage had been substituted with new, bright and shiny plastic awnings. The whole look and feel of the neighborhood had changed and much of its individuality and charm had gone. The result was unsettling.”

It was then that the pair made it their mission to document these stores, covering the five boroughs and breaking up the shots by neighborhood.

As of publication, one-third of the documented storefronts had closed, and the numbers are sure to be rising. In Coney Island, a part of the borough that’s been disappearing with each passing summer, wide shots reveal the carnival aspect of the boardwalk, with storefronts shilling frankfurters, Italian sausage, cold beer, cotton candy and hot pizza. The stretch at West 10th St. is equally bittersweet as it captures (cica 2005) the Astroland Park sign – rocket and all – that was dismantled late last year.

Another example of change is the Long Island Bar and Restaurant on Atlantic and Henry, which put up a “closed” sign in 2007 and has remained such since (published reports at the time say the move was only a temporary one, as the owners were taking time off for personal reasons). In “Store Front,” the beloved diner was captured in 2004, alive and well, an American flag in its window. An interview with the owner informs us that the restaurant opened in 1951, back when Brooklyn was considered part of Long Island (a statement no Brooklynite would utter today).

Other interviews with owners reveal fascinating facts about the city’s recent history. For instance, the birthplace of the teddy bear, next door to Jimmy’s Stationary & Toys in Bedford-Stuyvesant, had President Theodore Roosevelt’s personal blessing. Cobble Hill’s Court Pastry is one of the last places in the city to get a cannoli made the old-fashioned way – by hand.

“We roll out each cannoli individually by hand and that’s what makes them taste better,” says second-generation co-owner Gaspar Zerilli. “We don’t use a big sheet of dough with a cutter like most bakeries. It’s the individual attention we give to everything we make.”

One of the challenges posed to photographers trying to shoot storefronts is dealing with bustling city streets, full of people, parked cars and locked up bikes. To capture their exquisite block-long views of storefronts, with lines of hair stylists, lunchonettes, laundromats and pastry shops unobstructed, such as on New Utrecht Avenue at 72nd Street in Bensonhurst, the two took multiple photos of stores using their 33 mm cameras and combined them digitally to preserve the street view for posterity.

“The neighborhood store has always been a foothold for new immigrants and a comfortable place where familiar languages are spoken, where ethnic foods and culture are present,” reads the introduction. “These shops are lifelines for their communities, vital to the residents who depend on them for a multitude of needs. When these shops fail, the neighborhood itself is affected. Not only are these modest institutions falling away in the face of modernization and conformity, the once unique appearance and character of our colorful streets suffer in the process.”

“Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York City” (Gingko Press, $65) is available for purchase on Amazon.

James and Karla Murray will be in Brooklyn on April 16 at Book Court (163 Court St.) for a lecture, signing and Q&A beginning at 7 p.m. While in the neighborhood, hop on down to Court Pastry (298 Court St.) beforehand for a hand-rolled cannoli.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Civilians @ Eye Level

On April 17, New York-based theater company The Civilians host a benefit at DUMBO's Galapagos Art Space.

Does that name ring a bell? Last winter, the group put on "Brooklyn @ Eye Level" at the Brooklyn Lyceum, a performance piece tha gave voice to the different interests surrounding the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

If you missed the weekend of performances, or want a refresher, clips can be found here.

More on the benefit after the jump.

Join The Civilians fo a special night in DUMBO

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 4.9.09 issue of 24/Seven)

There’s no place like home at Galapagos Art Space on April 17, when The Civilians host their annual benefit at the DUMBO performance center.

The theme of home was an apt one for the New York-based theater company, whose most recent productions include “Brooklyn @ Eye Level” and “A Beautiful City,” where the company investigated the idea of community in Brooklyn and Colorado Springs respectively.

In addition to performing excerpts from those two shows, the night will also feature an original Civilians piece put together from the audiences’ personal insights on what home means to them.
Soliciting responses as people purchase tickets for the benefit in the weeks leading up to the show, the Civilians will be putting together a mix of cabaret, theater and music based on the responses at the DUMBO space.

“Galapagos has a really wonderful nightclub atmosphere,” said The Civilians’ Artistic Director Steve Cosson. “The performance space is big enough to hold all the various performers we’re going to bring but still has that intimate nightclub feeling, which is great for a special one-night event like this.”

Brooklyn was another ideal location for the company’s benefit, following their production of “Brooklyn @ Eye Level” at the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope this past winter, as they explore the theme of “home.”

“We’ve been spending a lot of attention the past few years looking at community, looking at how people live with each other, next to each other with varying degrees of success,” said Cosson. “For our benefit, we wanted to open that theme up to our patrons.”

The company will take inspiration from the sentences, quotes and pictures that patrons submit, creating an original piece, as well as performing excerpts from “Brooklyn @ Eye Level” and “This Beautiful City.”

Traveling to Colorado Springs, considered the evangelical capital of America, the company interviewed residents and created a show performed in New York, as well as in Kentucky, Washington, DC, and Louisiana that investigated the Evangelical Christian Political Movement through the complex mountain town that is its headquarters.

Closer to home, the company also put their lens on the residents and community affected by the proposed Atlantic Yards project, working with composer Michael Friedman, blues musician Michael Hill, the dance company Urban Bush Women, and the playwrights Lucy Thurber and Carl Hancock Rux to explore the changing face of Brooklyn from all sides and interests.

“I think I was certainly drawn to the idea largely because I live in Brooklyn and have been aware of how rapidly the borough is changing,” said Cosson, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “In terms of public attention it’s looked at in a certain way, largely in terms of real estate and the economics of it all. As a theater company, we wanted to look at what was happening in Brooklyn on a much more human scale and to really hear from the people who live in these neighborhoods what these changes mean to them.”

After a week of sold-out performances at the Brooklyn Lyceum in the first phase of the production of “Brooklyn @ Eye Level,” The Civilians are currently finalizing a commission of a playwright for a play to be produced in a couple seasons. They are also putting up clips of the initial performance on their Web site.

Proceeds from the benefit will help The Civilians in their next endeavors, only works in progress at the moment, but including project on divorce, another interviewing people working in the porn industry in Los Angeles, and a collaboration with Princeton University on climate change.
And as “Brooklyn @ Eye Level” evolves, the Manhattan-based company also has their eye on a Brooklyn home.

“If we can we’d like to relocate our offices to Brooklyn,” says Cosson. “As we move into the future we hope to have a more regular relationship with the community.”

“There’s No Place Like Home,” The Civilians’ annual benefit, is April 17 at Galapagos Art Space (16 Main Street). Complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres start at 8 p.m., followed by an original performance by Civilians associate artists at 9 p.m. and an after party at 10 p.m. Tickets range from $75 to $1,200, with $25 ones for the after party only. Audience members can submit their ideas of home on their RSVP card or the blog at The Civilians’ Web site. To RSVP, call 212-730-2019.

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