If you’re in a band you aspire to one day play a gig in New York City: that’s just the way it is. And once you play that first gig you realize that all the hype and anticipation can’t really touch the reality. The energy in the city is just too damn thick…anyone that is in the business of harnessing and focussing energy has almost too much to play with in this town. So you never get jaded about a NYC gig; whether it’s the first, the second, the fiftieth, it’s always a challenge and the payoff when things go right, indescribable. We had two very good (bordering on excellent) shows at The City Winery in downtown Manhattan. It’s a very comfortable space for us and allows us to relax and go about our business. Our older sister Suzanne and our Mom was in town for the second show.
The real difficulty of an NYC gig is simply getting in and out of the city. A forty-five foot bus with a fifteen foot trailer is not the easiest vehicle to manoeuvre around these streets. Then there’s the day to day of just going about your business; the noise and general insanity on the streets takes its toll, especially when the temperatures are pushing 90 degrees. I took it easy for most of my two days in the city. I took advantage of us being downtown and went to take a look at the World Trade center site. This was our first time in the city that the “freedom tower” (or whatever they are calling it these days) could be seen above the skyline. The activity and bustle down around the site is pretty intense. Between the office workers, the construction workers and the tourists there is not a whole lot of room to move on the sidewalks down here. Once the construction is finished and the memorial park is in place this could become a welcome and needed place of reflection. Only the years will tell.
Well that was quite the four days. There is no question that this is the best city in the world. I know that it’s a boring choice but it is what it is. Sometimes you just got to give it up and strive for #2. We started the week off with two sold out shows at the City Winery: which is a nice way to start a week. Monday night was a bit dusty. We haven’t played live since November so the set might have been a little careful. Tuesday night we let it out, and remembered why we like doing this so much. During the afternoon I did a bit of browsing at The Strand, which is always a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. Rich Wallach attended both shows and very kindly gave me a copy of Kerouac’s, The Subterraneans. As always, it was good to see him. Wednesday we taped the Jimmy Fallon show. It was one those classic TV days. Lots and lots of waiting and then BAM you’re on and BAM you’re off. All of the folks at the show from the stage hands to the backstage staff to the band to Jimmy himself, were exceptionally welcoming. On Wednesday night Al, Pete, I and a long time friend of ours, Mia, went to see Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye perform at St Mark’s Church. It was a benefit for the Poetry Project which has been running out of St Marks for 45 years. The sanctuary has quite the amazing vibe. It has heard the voices of Ginsberg and Corso and Carroll and Burroughs and Ondaatje and of Patti Smith, who 40 years ago to the day (less one), along with Lenny Kaye appeared on its stage, her live debut, in front of all the hip cats of the early 70’s New York scene . She blew them all away and the rest is RocknfucknRoll History. Tonight she blew us all away. She recited some of her early work; read a bit from her book; paid homage to a handful of mentors, most of them dead, many of whom were at that event 40 years ago; and said goodbyes to a few friends recently departed. She even sang a number of songs, just her voice and Lenny on guitar. It was astounding. That gig could not have happened anywhere else in the world but downtown Manhattan (I don’t care how hip Brooklyn gets it will never be home to the ghosts that inhabit the East Village). A wonderful sidebar to the night was the audience. The Old Guard, with their perfectly worn leather jackets, their scraggily grey hair, and their air of belonging, all sat in the first eight or so rows: along the walls sat the next generation, with their perfect skin, their teased, dyed hair, their unknown, exciting futures stretching out before them (god how I envy them and envy is not an emotion that is easily evoked in me). A perfect New York City happening.
Thursday night we participated in a concert at Carnegie Hall. In the afternoon I went for a walk through Central Park. It was cold but sunny, with high blue skies. The park was pretty much deserted and so beautiful. The show at Carnegie Hall tonight was a celebration of Neil Young’s music: twenty or so musicians and bands each performing one song and then getting the hell off stage. These things are always awkward, from both a performance and social point of view. I’m sure that there are some people that really enjoy the socializing backstage, being part of a fraternity, but I hate it. The biggest drag is you don’t even get the opportunity to let off steam on stage because you are limited to one song. But I think there was a lot of good music played tonight (Patti Smith and her daughter Jessie did a very delicate version of Its A Dream) and I hope that they raised a lot of money and that the money gets to where its suppose to go.
I love this city. It an inspiring and invigorating place. Friday we go home and on Monday and Tuesday we’ll continue to work on Sing In My Meadow. I’ll be letting you know how that is coming along. Keep in touch.
It’s been our experience that the best time of year to visit any city in the North East is February….so we have a little jaunt planned to NYC for the second week of the month. We’ll be performing full shows at the very intimate City Winery on Feb 7th and 8th. We’ll be performing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on February 9th and we’ll be part of a much larger celebration of Neil Young’s music at Carnegie Hall on February 10th. So if you love those bleak, grey, cold as heck, deep-winter months as much as we do, plan a trip to NYC and put us on your itinerary. Bring your woolies.
Also, remember to pre-order your copy of Demons…the pre-order sales end on January 18th.