Friday, February 27, 2009

Alec Gross @ The Canal Room

Just over 12 hours ago I was scrambling for an extension cord, trying to film a song or two from the set Alec Gross and his band had prepared to celebrate the release of his new EP. Now I'm sitting in the airport lounge, enduring diagonal, cutting looks as I drape my cords all over the place to try and import what I got. There were about 4 other cameras recording Alec last night, but I am sure this will be the first posted, as the rest were much more professional and therefore will require much more editing. Any editing at all will be much more. Despite rumors of Huey Lewis covers, the band played a very high energy show: the bulk of the material from the "Rose Tattoo," some new songs, and an Otis Redding cover that allowed Alec to flex his front-man muscles a little bit. This is a smash and grab video of Alec performing "Carver Spring Massacre" solo in the middle of the set. It was a haunting performance. The entire show was incredible, with just the right amount of all the elements of folk music that we love - pedal guitar, mouth organs, horns, slow songs, foot-stompers, girls called "Adelaide, etc.

More videos to come when I land.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Queen of Pumpkin Plukes and The King of Carrot Flowers

A free form poem inspired by two songs:

A mixed feeling stayed the Queen's head at the crest of a ripple in the sheets.
A fond but stabbing recollection swelled and filled the shrinking space that remained in her brain between the wall of her skull and the increasing tempo of throbs.

The King!

In a moment of sublime thoughtfulness, the guard turns his head against the friction of bolts and duty to fixate, thoughtlessly upon a bird, its wings at that moment pushing the air as it is rejecting flight, exiting from the grasp of its confused lover into a plane that renders it invisible, untouchable on the tip of the main castle mast. A stillness from fear of the first movement becomes stiffness. The painful hooked feeling of metal suspending itself by the flesh keeps the shadows of his men short, feet from the tower walls. The guard forces himself forward.

Enemies yesterday now split by a half meter of earth and some smashed trees arranged alike upright. Or possibly crisscrossed. Are they stronger that way? Everything seems bent by men. Men who are forced by other men - who owe something to other men. What exactly? The king is caught pondering in the ante chamber. Who exactly?

Mid-stride toward the gates, the guard creates melancholy for himself, as for this moment the nasty reminder of his body is stuck on him. It's a constant concern of his how his mind is tethered so, how his self is broadcast like an arrow from his body, which he must come down into now for the task of attacking that of someone else. What heavy business, descending into oneself, he thinks. How lightly the mind must flitter away, free of aches - he calms himself. Though his self is free, his body opens up its lungs and something automatic delivers air across his tongue. "Give us back the Queen!"

Closing her eyes forcefully and willing her mind to stay new-born, the queen rolls and glides in the first direction she recognizes to be open to her. Each step unravels her illusions, as though they were fastened to the bed. She puts two hands on the stones and leans her head out of the window, entering the wind and leaving the stale damp air behind her.

To be continued ..
"Queen Of The Pumpkin Plukes" by Dogs Die In Hot Cars Download mp3 (with permission)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sitcom Serf @ SXSW 2009

Sitcom Serf will be broadcasting some music during SXSW from the Canon Records / Sitcom Serf "BRING DOWN THE HOUSE SHOW" on Friday, March 20, 2 - 7pm. We rented a large house in SoCo for an all acoustic house-show / recording. There will be free beer and a BBQ at 5:30 pm. We will record and video the guys/gals playing, then quickly edit them and get them up on the interweb the next day - hopefully in time for you to see, hungover at work on the Monday. We will allow a small house audience to watch the taping and hang out.


1. "Marry Me" by Inner (Download mp3)
2. "We Talk Like Machines" by Savoir Adore (Download mp3)
3. "The Belgian" by Adam Arcuragi (Download mp3)
4. "A Fire" by The Boy Bathing (Download mp3)
5. "Hymn 101" by Joe Pug (Download mp3)
6. "Burgundy Red" by Tim Easton (Download mp3)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gomez: A New Tide? Well, Amy Milan singing can't be bad.

-Written Oct 23-
On October 22, Gomez emailed everyone and got us all excited, then nervous, then anxious about a new record entitled "A New Tide." Amy Milan is to appear doin' some hummin', and there are horns. That's all I know, folks. Why do I feel the need to blog about it? Not sure. I'll ruminate for a spell.

Prog rock. Who else hates that term? I remember the very first time I heard Gomez, on my 21st birthday, largely because I was courting a girl who lived in England. We exchanged letters every four days (snail mail, folks), and she mentioned that she listened to "Liquid Skin" on her 2 mile walk to class every day through the town of York. I was in Texas, home for the summer from college, scouring the malls for a Gomez record. Initially, all I found was "Machismo" on the Gone in Sixty Seconds Soundtrack. Not exactly a track that prepares you for the rest of their material! You can imagine what a shock it was when I finally found "Bring It On" and "Liquid Skin" while I was out buying supplies for my 21st that night. Gomez were small potatoes in the States at that time. I quickly put them on every mix tape I made. I saw them play in Austin a few times, thrilled that they actually came! At ACL one year they played the fest and the at La Zona Rosa later that night! When "In Our Gun" was released in 2003, I thought they couldn't get any better. "Split the Difference" was fine, but albums sort of fizzled for me after that. When I heard of Ian Ball going solo, I was convinced it was over.

-Written Feb 15-
BUT IT ISN'T!!! Enter "Airstream Driver" as a gesture to all of us on the mailing list. I have no idea what the rest of the record sounds like, but I am encouraged by the first single. I am not blown away, but I am pretty happy. I wish I was less nervous about the rest of the record. I don't know what to say. Fingers crossed. It is strange being so "on the side" of a band I have no real connection to. I feel like I am rooting at my son's football game.

"Airstream Driver" Download mp3 (assuming it's ok)

Photos from Gomez in Boston circa 2004.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dr. Douglas Brooks 1956-2009

Dr. Brooks came to the University the same semester that I did. He moved from Harlem to teach Early Modern Studies to the young Texas public university kids. Looking back now, I can't help but think he was crazy. Then again, those are hard spots to get. Either way, I was a math major, so what did I care? After my first semester and what was to be the last English class of my life, I discovered that I never wanted to stop. Maybe it was Keats, maybe it was the girl with the ivy tattoo, but somehow I ended up in Brooks' office to chat about my conversion. I hadn't taken his classes yet, though I would; we just became friends. During lectures, he would race around the room and say almost anything. Whenever he burst forth a joke about the Brits, he would apologize to me with a "british" gesture aimed at my seat. During a particularly spirited sprint in celebration of Swift's "excremental vision," Brooks lost his footing and tumbled down the stairs in the center aisle of the lecture theater. He sprang up and continued, despite having broken his foot. He showed up two days later with crutches and a cast! I recorded his more amusing outbursts in the margins of my notebook, and I wasn't the only one. Every semester the kids would compare notes and print off a one-sheet of the best tangents, malapropisms etc. from the course and post it on his office door. He was a marvelous teacher, a crazy bass player (though hard to play with), and a huge fan of music, namely Early-Modern period music, Yes, and The Residents, who I saw the very night I decided to start this blog.

I last saw him at the University in 2008. I was there to see a show, and to offer the use of my apartment for him to visit his son. I believe his ex-wife had moved with the boy back to The City. Anyway. I found out he was ill through a friend a short while later. I tried to see him, but I couldn't get in touch. I guess he didn't want to say goodbye to everyone. I understand that. Goodbye can only mean death in today's culture, with phones and internet to keep people connected - and to know that you have a limited time left is the worst thing for a formidable mind to endure. I knew this day was coming, and that is precisely why it is so sad. Brooks would take on this discussion with me, I know, but he also said once during a lecture, "Beautiful writing gets me every time. Beauty in general gets me every time. If people want to live in a world of ugliness, that's their problem. But not me." This is from Lycidas. I know Brooks loved Milton, and this poem definitely got me.

Weep no more, woful Shepherds weep no more,
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watry floar,
So sinks the day-star in the Ocean bed,
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled Ore,
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
Through the dear might of him that walk'd the waves;
Where other groves, and other streams along,
With Nectar pure his oozy Lock's he laves,
And hears the unexpressive nuptiall Song,
In the blest Kingdoms meek of joy and love.
There entertain him all the Saints above,
In solemn troops, and sweet Societies
That sing, and singing in their glory move,
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.
Now Lycidas the Shepherds weep no more;
Hence forth thou art the Genius of the shore,
In thy large recompense, and shalt be good
To all that wander in that perilous flood.

Thus sang the uncouth Swain to th' Okes and rills,
While the still morn went out with Sandals gray,
He touch'd the tender stops of various Quills,
With eager thought warbling his Dorick lay:
And now the Sun had stretch'd out all the hills,
And now was dropt into the Western bay;
At last he rose, and twitch'd his Mantle blew:
To morrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new.

His memorial service at the University is Feb 20th. I wish I could go. Instead, I scoured my closet and found my notes from ENGL 390: The English Bible. I went through the whole thing so that some of you ex-students could enjoy some vintage Brooks one last time:

"Moses had the equivalent of a tupperware crisis."

"I don't use the black marker because it makes me look like a street urchin in France."

"Now that Kmart's gone bankrupt, I feel compelled to offer cheap discount notes on knowledge."

"When Christians try to be the people of the book they feel the need to kick the Jews in their scrotes."

"God's like Santa Claus times five - he's REALLY been watching you."

"So, the nice guy in the Pope-Mobile, does he hold the keys of life and death?"

"Sounds like one of those crazy books you'd read in California."

"He couldn't believe I recognized him! When in doubt, stalk!"

"We are two geeks with text. We're pigs in shit here."

"I'm not gonna take on the world today. I'm gonna take on two ways of writing an essay."

"This guy says, "Off with your head." This guy says, "But there's something in my head."

"Any new brushes with fame? My dog sniffed Billy Joel's dog last summer. It was all very exciting."

"Keep in mind the 'obedience' stuff. I've erased it in a moment of blackboard wizardry."

"Humor me for an hour. Act like I know what I'm doing."

"None of these numbers are correct, but I'm doing them to make a pattern."

"The king has two bodies, you have one. Michael Jackson has at least two bodies - he's the king of pop (followed by a slightly insane laugh)."

"You've read the Faerie Queen! I knew there was a reason I liked you. I mean, other than that you're really nice."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Inner @ The Living Room

The Living Room on the Lower East Side is my favorite venue in the neighborhood, and they were very kind to let me video record Jen's performance. Jen Turner played a jaw-dropping set last night in front of a packed house, which I am told included more of less her entire family! There were some brand new songs, some Inner fav's, and some of the material from her next record, which I believe has the working title "icantheartbuthelpyou". I have featured two of those songs here. For anyone who wasn't there, the entire show should be up on youtube at some point soon. I can't wait for this freakin' record to come out!

Also, there is an annoying pretend INNER myspace page. Here is the real one:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

David Hurwitz @ Spike Hill Pub

This from the same show with Bryan Dunn and Kevin So. I am having trouble finding the Bryan Dunn tape. I think I left it someone's apartment after the show. Sorry, B-Rye, I am hunting it down. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Alec Gross' New Tattoo

photo by: Michael Files

During a strange jaunt deep into Brooklyn, where I experienced racist street soliloquys and a questionable fish pizza, I found my way to a bar filled with a new, alarming sub-culture of ex-pat Brits, glued to televisions featuring "Man U," pointing and demanding channel changes from the recent barmaid arrivals from the middle states, who fondle the remotes unknowingly while seeming to experience a very real fear at just how alien "New York City" has proven to be for them. Ahh, Bedford. A true wilderness.

The situation seemed bleak, and I considered getting right back on the "L". After 5 minutes in the bar, screaming at the top of my lungs, I still had no idea if I was in the right place. I saw no stage, and having come to see a gig, I became alarmed at the thought of the singer playing while all of this was going on. A degrading experience that I had no intention of being a part of. Thankfully, as I was forced to escape, I noticed a little stage through a separate door, which couldn't have been more pleasant in comparison. I strolled in, did the obligatory hellos, and then noticed a very sweet voice on the stage.

At the end of his set, Alec Gross came to hang out a little bit. I was instantly fond of him. He gave me a download card to get some of his music, and that was that. I put it on my playlist, and it never really came up on iTunes for the next six months or so ("Genius" my ass). Once it did, it was one of the tracks that forced me to take note. I got up to go and see who was singing etc. and I was so pleased that it was Alec, singing "All The Pretty Women." I instantly had to hear his new record ROSE TATTOO, which will be released this month.

Alec Gross' new record ROSE TATTOO will be released with much hoo hah at The Canal Room, on February 26, 2009.

Rose Tattoo has been on my playlist non-stop for a fortnight. Alec is one of the most beautiful singers I have heard in a long time, with a distinct tone, and the innocence that he can convey through his songwriting makes him my favorite folk singer performing right now. If any of you out there miss Tim Buckley as much as I do, please listen to "Lady Roses" below and tell me that it couldn't be straight off TB's first record! He can do the civil war ballad, he can do the love song. Where is the love song right now? Where did it go? Sometimes the classic unrequited love song is so refreshing next to the indie rock version in which the lovers cut each others legs.

It's the tale of the troubadour who looks longingly upon the women in his audience, inspired by him, wishing the one he loves could share their adoration versus the tale of a lover who, rather than pining after a woman, finds a companion in rejection to hate-fuck for revenge. The latter doesn't evoke the same reverence for the creative beauty of loss. Different audiences, I suppose.

When I need to indulge my Folk / Blugrass itch, I generally have to go to bands like Crooked Still, who do it as well as anyone. With Alec we get all of the pure sensibility and the tradition of the genre, but with songs that aren't from the public domain! "Carver Spring Massacre" reminds me of cruising in my old truck with only one folk tape in the dash - some Irish singer I've never heard of - but the song creeps inside as though it's been in the air for a century. It's very impressive. I can already tell that "Rose Tattoo" will be on my best of 2009. Well done, Alec!

1. "Lady Roses" Download mp3 (with permission)
2. "Hey, Hey Adelaide" live from

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Kevin So @ Spike Hill

"Brighter Day" by Kevin So.

I found myself in Williamsburg last night, watching The Boy Bathing's set at the Bryan Dunn show (video to come), and I saw that Kevin So was on the bill. I'd seen him play in Texas about 9 years ago with Mary Gauthier and Ruthie Foster above a pizza parlour. What a trip! I've been on his mailing list all this time, and I just never could make it to any of his NYC shows. Well, I finally saw him, and he has become really polished over the last decade. Cheers, Kevin.