Bartenders as book jockeys: memorable moments at recent NYC book readings

Joe's knows happy endings

There are some bars that fling open their doors in the fall to welcome football fans. I prefer to belly up to book readings. Here’s a selection of the most memorable moments from the last two weeks.

KGB Bar playing host to True Story Nonfiction night (September 27): I stumbled upon this bar awhile ago and it reminded me of another communist-themed bar I love, People’s Republik in Cambridge, MA. One Google search later, and I realized this bar features regular reading series, so I returned. The night I went authors Siddhartha Deb and John Gravois read. Gravois put on a better show, but that wasn’t the most memorable part of the night. I was sitting next to a foreign correspondent for the AP and we were talking about my less impressive journalism career. “What’s holding you back?” he asked. That’s like asking a subway driver what’s holding him back from becoming an astronaut. I don’t know, dude, NASA’s budget?

Happy Ending bar playing host to The How I Learned Series (September 28): The ads for this reading series have been chasing me for a while so I made the time to check it out. This was one of the better readings I’ve ever been to. The theme of the night was How I Learned to Survive and featured readings from Alexander Chee, Ed Gavagan, Melanie Hamlett, Jillian Lauren, and Joanne Solomon. And the most memorable moment award goes to Melanie who told a story about picking up a guy for a one night stand, but before she went home with him, she made a detour to her apartment to pick up essentials, like a phone charger, book, reading lamp, snacks and other items she might need. I think the lesson is it’s good to prepare for spontaneity.

Joe’s Pub playing host to The Happy Ending Music and Reading Series (October 5): Joe’s Pub just reopened after a three month renovation, and after have a great Happy Ending moment the week before, this reading seemed like a no-brainer to attend. The theme was frustration. Writers Seth Fried, Paul La Farge and Jesse Ball spoke, and musician Anni Rossi played piano and sang. Anni put in the best performance, but if I had to judge the writers, it would be a memorial moments tie. Amanda Stern, who hosts the series, asks the writers to do something new after each reading, and that’s where the best stories come out. So the most memorable moment is a tie between learning Barnes and Noble shop lifting tips from Jesse and Seth’s letter of forgiveness sent to a drunken friend who peed in his bed (while they were both in it) written as a parody of Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address. Nerd out, yo.

Fleet Foxes close out the season at Williamsburg Waterfront

Usually you hear people crying about the loss of summer when you go to the last outdoor concert of the season. This time I heard a guy saying he wished it was winter. I guess that’s just the kind of cozy mood Fleet Foxes brings out in people.

The band followed The Walkmen on stage to perform the last show of the summer season at the Williamsburg Waterfront.

Sensing the grand finale, the sky produced a fantastic sunset behind the Manhattan skyline. Either that, or Jersey went up in flames while all of Brooklyn snapped iPhone photos.

I’ll spare you a wordy review (you’re welcome) and let the video below illustrate the night (and yes, I’m aware that my film recording skills are radio quality.)

Guggenheim Lab mixes up some Warhol history

thinking caps and smarty pants

Kinda like a big tent circus for intellectuals, the Guggenheim Lab is parked on Houston Street in NYC until October 16. They bill their set up as “A mobile laboratory traveling around the world to inspire innovative ideas for urban life.” (Dream big, people.)

I went to a Sunday Salon Series, hosted by local artist Clayton Patterson, to hear playwright Jeremiah Newton discuss the life of Candy Darling, his late friend and the subject of his new play.

Never heard of Candy Darling? Me neither. But she hung out with the Warhol crowd and was a famous transsexual actress in the 1970’s.

Actually, I’ve heard references to her in The Velvet Underground’s song Candy Says and in Lou Reed’s song Walk on the Wild Side. So it was nice to make the connection to the real Candy.

The jury’s still out on the inspiration and innovative ideas I hatched at the Lab, but there are worse pop-ups to visit on Houston Street. Go while you can.

Wanderlust yoga assumes the position at the Music Hall of Williamsburg

probably discussing football stats

Wanderlust is a group of touring yoga teachers that hold classes with live music in interesting venues around the country. They also have a blog with how-to video clips in case you can’t make it to a show.

On a recent Saturday they were hosting sessions at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and being a fan of yoga and smaller concert halls I thought it would be interesting to check out. My friends all refused to go with me.

One friend asked, “Do you know what kind of people hang out there?”

The last time I was asked that question, I was in middle school and getting lectured about why it was a bad idea for me and my best friend to hang out on the roof of a parking garage.

This time, the people in question would be snobs or hipsters or some apocalyptic hybrid version, because that’s the only possible result when you combine yoga with live music in Williamsburg.

Either I’m turning to the dark side myself and didn’t notice the awfulness, or it really wasn’t that bad. Plus, we got a ton of swag, like a yoga mat and bag, and energy bars.

Our session was hosted by Schuyler Grant and Elena Brower, and the live music was from Garth Stevenson, Forro in the Dark and Karsh Kale.

So if they come to your town, check them out. It’s not that bad, I promise.

Virgin Mobile FreeFest @ Merriweather Post Pavilion

Abe Lincoln listening to Cut Copy

It doesn’t take much for me to catch a case of concert fever. When my cell phone carrier, Virgin Mobile, starting texting me about a free concert I jumped on the tickets.

Then I realized it was probably not the wisest move to go to an all day music festival a few days after getting off of a long ass flight from Botswana.

Eh. I went. Stayed with some friends in the area and had a great time visiting our nation’s capital.

It took forever for us to drive from D.C. out to Merriweather Post Pavilion where the Virgin Mobile FreeFest was happening because of bumper to bumper traffic.

When we got there, I made a bee line to watch Cut Copy who were already into their set. Not to be crude, but everyone in New York has a hard on for Cut Copy.

Watching them, it was easy to see why the Terminal 5 crowd falls for them. Maybe it was the hot sun getting to me, but I just wasn’t feeling them. The lead singer was doing the dance where you thrust your fists out in front of you like you’re pushing a shopping cart, then pull them back to your heart while you whip your head to the side. I could only manage about three or four songs before calling for an evacuation.

After spending a few hours waiting in line for the bathroom, then waiting for the world’s worst tasting burritos (and watching a fight break out among sloppy drunks who were calling girls cunts for not letting them skip to the front of the burrito line), we settled down to watch James Murphy DJ. Next, we were off to another one of the three stages to see TV on the Radio followed by The Black Keys.

We left before The Black Keys finished their set, but I’m on Team Denise, so it was fine by me.

who knew Che Guevara could dance so well? james murphy knew.

Band of Horses crawl away from Kings of Leon

new york city ordinance requires iPhone documentation of all concerts

About a week after Kings of Leon flaked out on their tour, openers Band of Horses pulled together to carry on and play a show at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Well done, boys.

The band started and ended the show thanking everyone and their brother for helping them arrange a last minute tour. (well, probably everyone but Jared Followill’s brother…)

Following the rounds of gratitude were gentle digs at KOL. After playing a song that name dropped North Carolina and Savanna, singer Ben Bridwell said you have to talk about the south if you’re a southern band, then turned to his band mates and said let’s be a mid-western band. By the end of the show, the allusions of grace were gone as he yelled LET’S END THIS WEIRD ASS TOUR.

Throughout the group played great music and were laughing and seemed to be having a great time among themselves and with the audience. This is what I look for in a band, great music and a sense of humor and perspective. Spare me your tour bus excess, please.

They also showed a nice amount of cheerful self-deprivation in a way that didn’t sound like they were just posing for Pitchfork. After playing their song No one’s gonna love you, Bridwell told the audience that a superior version of that song could be found on Ce-Lo’s new record.

Anyway, below is the video of the Evening Kitchen performance from the encore. Probably the quietest song of the night.

Band of Horses_Evening Kitchen @ Hammerstein Ballroom NYC 8.10.11 from ZsaZsa Balza on Vimeo.

Wanda Jackson & Imelda May @SummerStage in Central Park

Wanda Jackson telling Imelda May about Jerry Lee Lewis’s tips for shakin' it onstage

I was really hoping Jack White would be there. I guess that’s just me showing my age at a Wanda Jackson concert. He wasn’t, even though he produced her last album, The Party Ain’t Over. Instead, she was joined on Central Park’s Summer Stage by opener Imelda May.

All the little rockabilly girls and boys came out in their finest vintage gear and it was great people watching (although I’m still too shy and it feels too much like voyager behavior for me to do proper crowd photography).

I’ve never been to a twilight show by one of the old guard before, acts like Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis, and now I don’t feel so bad about missing them. Wanda’s backing band was great, and for the most part she can still belt out the songs, but I probably spent as much time thinking about grandmas as I did hard core rock and roll. No disrespect intended.