There was a New York City that I dreamed of when I was growing up. It was a mixture of Greenwich Village during the Beatnik era and the Lower East Side of the 1980’s. It was full of punks, dreamers, activists and artists. The dangers that might have been lurking there were more aesthetic than real. Poverty and hunger were stylish accouterments. All who were there possessed the ability to transform the urban environment. While obviously this political, arty urban paradise existed only in my imagination some lived it in all its gritty, dangerous, complicated, hungry reality. Patty Smith lucidly captures it in her recent book Just Kids. Gary Indiana’s new compilation out from MIT Press, Last Seen Entering the Biltmore, collects his poems, prose, short plays and works of art from the late 70’s to the present, chronicling through his artistic production his time in this environment after he made the decision to “not to do anything he didn’t want to do” and to become a writer. Last Seen Entering the Biltmore captures Indiana’s sense of absurd and also his strong artistic integrity. I wrote a full review for NYFA’s online magazine for artists, NYFA Current, and would be honored if you checked it out here.
I have been writing for the website the Feminist Review for several years now, reviewing books, movies, and music from a feminist perspective. The site recently rebranded and relaunched itself as Elevate Difference and it looks great! Honestly, at first I wasn’t too sure about the new name. I thought Feminist Review said what it needed to say. However, once I took a look at Elevate Difference’s snazzy new design I got it- it’s wide reaching, broader ranging, and sophisticated, while never loosing its feminist perspective.
I’ve been listening to Seattle-based singer-songwriter Jen Wood since I was in high school. At that point Jen had already been making feminist and indie oriented acoustic music for years, notably with the riot grrrl related Tattle Tale (which also featured Madigan on cello). I remember being so inspired by Wood’s song writing that I painstakingly typed out the lyrics to her song “Bullet Box” and taped them onto the cover of my math folder, along with the photo from the cover of Wood’s album Getting Past the Static. When I got the chance to see her play live (I think at 17 Nautical Miles in Portland, if memory serves? How’s that for the 90’s! That’s old-skool Todd P. right there) and dorkily had her sign her CD for me.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Jen Wood has a new album out and excited that I got the chance to review it for Venus Zine. It’s more full band oriented than her older albums and she’s reduced the length of her songs from about 6 minutes average to 4 minutes. These are both very positive changes! Read the full review of her album on Venus Zine’s website here.
I am so happy to report that Venus Zine is back in business, which means that I will now be reviewing shows and writing about music, art and culture for them more regularly. My first review after a long hiatus was the Magnetic Fields’ performance at Town Hall on March 10th. It was a very nice and stately show and had the feeling of a reunion of friends who are all in someway connected to the Magnetic Fields. You can read the full review here.
Dominick and I took on our biggest challenge yet, covering the three day All Points West music festival, held in Liberty State Park in New Jersey. While covering music festivals is daunting anyway, this one was made more so because of two days of rain (and lightening) that turned the festival grounds into one big mud pit that smelled like a cow farm. Dominick was a super sport and even wrote some up some of the show to cover while I had to work. Read our review and see the pictures for Venus zine here.
After you’ve soaked in the music coverage, let me point out this: I was miserable, and I got in for free! I have no idea why people who live in or near NYC would pay so much for a muddy music festival when they can see most of the bands who played in NYC fairly regularly and for that much money they can even sit down!
I think that if All Points West is to be successful with a New York audience they need to really give people an added value to their ticket. It’s not enough to book top acts in a city that’s saturated with them. Here’s my suggestions to make All Points West better:
Put it in the city proper. How about Flushing Meadows/Corona Park? At least it’s not Jersey and you can get there by bike!
If it must be in Liberty State Park, how about providing a FREE ferry service from lower Manhattan, instead of asking concert goers to shell out an additional $25 or suffer on the light rail to path to subway.
Set up the stages so that sound from different bands doesn’t bleed together.
Value your journalists! The press tent felt like a refugee camp at times, the ground was soaking wet like the rest of the festival grounds, and sometimes we weren’t even allowed to walk on a path behind some bleachers to get there. When I first got to the festival no one told me where the press tent was and most staff members didn’t even know there was one.
You can see more (amateurish) photos on my flickr stream.
It was a perfect beach day last Saturday and Dominick and I spent it at Coney Island covering Siren Fest. We were thankful for the shade of the VIP tent and the free drinks, as well as the close views of the bands. Highlights included Frightened Rabbit, The Ravonettes, Built to Spill, Grand Duchy,and in a strange way, Thee Oh Sees. Please check out my review for Venus Zine here and Dominick’s lovely photos.
I’ve been going to some great shows lately and Dominick has been taking some great photos! Just this week we saw Camera Obscura at the Bell House and they were breath taking. They were much better than the last time I saw them in New York at the South Street Seaport. They’ve really grown as a band and their new album “My Maudlin Career” illustrates this very nicely. Check out my review and Dominick’s photos here.
We also saw the French Kicks not too long ago and you can read that review here.
Now that the holidays are over (!) and 2009 has begun (!!), I thought I would share my last two reviews of 2008: Bon Iver and Ingrid Michaelson, both at Town Hall. The Bon Iver show was one of the best shows I’ve seen in 2008 and Ingrid Michaelson wasn’t bad either, but her voice and the screeching of her fans did tend to wear on me. Dominick did a great job of taking photos under challenging conditions, so please do take a look!
I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about the Swedish group Love is All for the past few years and I was excited to check them out when they opened for Of Montreal in October. I was even more excited when I got the chance to review them properly when they were headlining at the Bowery Ballroom this past Sunday. Dominick and I were talking about our top five shows of 2008 and Love is All’s set are definitely on my list. They are legendary for bringing an intense amount of enthusiastic energy to their live performances and this one was no exception, even though it clocked in at just over 40 minutes! You can read my full review for Venus Zine and my thoughts about the Crystal Stilt’s opening set here and see more of Dominick’s lovely photographs.
On a freezing cold Monday I walked half-way across Manhattan to see Blitzen Trapper and Iron and Wine play at the cavernous Terminal Five. I had not heard of Blitzen Trapper before, though they hail from Portland, Oregon, a city close to my heart. For anyone who loves classic rock from the 1970’s, murder ballads and American roots music, they are a compelling new band. They were opening for Iron and Wine, who, while he certainly writes novelistic lyrics, is not that interesting. I honestly don’t see what the big deal is, and besides, it turned into a big, sickening swoon fest for the couples in the audience. To read what else I have to say and to see Crissy Lush’s photos, check out my review here on Venuszine.com!