Monday, September 21, 2009

Music, friends and love in Williamsburg (NYC)

And to think that I was contemplating not going to this shindig because I'd have to go to work on two hours sleep. Well, like I said, I've had to go to work on too little sleep for many worse reasons. This was well worth the jet-lagged mindset that I'm still experiencing (alas, an 8pm bedtime is nigh....).

As most of you probably know, Melissa Rich, an all around sweetheart, friend, lovely lady and wife of Mark Mulcahy, passed away unexpectedly a year ago this month, leaving all who knew her wallowing in shock and sadness. We'll all miss her as long as we live.
In the aftermath, our concern focused on her life mate, and our friend Mark Mulcahy, who was left with two darling twin daughters to raise, and the blackest of holes in his life; and whether you're a fan, a musical partner, a friend or all of the above, you just wanted to see him get through it all ok.

The past several months it's been great to see Mark at shows, at cookouts, etc, exuding the inimitable grooviness which has endeared him to those who know and love him. It was great to see him put on an amazing third musical theater production with Ben Katchor this past spring at the NYC Public Library, and to witness his stage presence and hear his voice again.

A year ago he said he'd like the anniversary of Melissa's passing to always be marked by some sort of musical event/party, reflecting the importance the rock scene played in their lives.
Enter a guy named Nathaniel Smalley, a UWV student and fan of Mark's, with a tenacious sense of pursuing his dreams. Last year he dreamed up a Mark Mulcahy tribute album that would feature Nathaniel's favorite artists, some (much) more well known than others, covering songs from Mark's 20+ years as a recording artist: from Miracle Legion's days on Rough Trade, to the Nickelodeon Pete and Pete soundtrack, to Mark's self-released Mezzotint masterpieces.
Would this kid really get Thom Yorke? Michael Stipe? Frank Black? Members of Wilco?
Yes yes yes and yes.

Just this past week, Shout! Factory records released Ciao my Shining Star

Take a look at those artists and you can see the heavy hitters (and no-less-talented local pals) who admire Mark's inimitable songwriting and singing style. The album (particularly the deluxe edition) is WELL worth adding to your music collection. iTunes has it as well.

So the next step was to put on a show....Nathaniel proposed the idea and some folks with some music biz pull took the reigns and made it all happen.
With somewhat short notice, only some from the album were able to attend, but this still made for a stellar evening.

Ok, enough background, I'll make it a first hand account from here.
My lady Karen and I picked up our friend Matt downtown Northampton at around 1pm on Sunday and I drove the length to Brooklyn. iPhones were both navigation systems and a source of music. Smooth ride. Got a spot on the same block as the theater. The area looked real familiar, but I'd never been to this exact location (the Music Hall of Williamsburg, north 6th st Brooklyn). Approaching it, we may as well have been in front of the Sierra Grille in Northampton. Look! It's all the Winterpills! But also, LOOK! It's (Senator) Adam Greenberg, and Kevin O'Rourke! Former Northamptonites I used to play with and never see any more. And of course! It's Henning and Lesa....and oh there's Mark Mulcahy himself looking hip as ever.
Then some blasts from the past--Chris Harford? No! Yeah! Haven't seen him since we finished the Slugbeaers of Kayrol Island theater run at the Kitchen in, what, '05?
And Matt Sutton of the Malarkies, at whose Greenpoint apartment I stayed during said theater run.

All my musical world coming together. What's that, Harford, do I wanna play drums on Micon the Icon? Fuck yeah! That song made me cry when I heard it on the tribute record.
Who's familiar scream is coming from behind the theater doors? Frank Black's soundchecking? Sounds amazing. Looks like I'll have to walk in and drop off my stuff and watch it for a minute.

So then, Karen, Matt, Senator, the Winterpills and I get an outdoor seat on this picture perfect September afternoon at Sweetwater down the street. Salad, fries and a beer for me and the lady. Others get others.
But we still have a couple more hours to kill. Vintage clothes? Used records? Well, then I went in the theater but the non artists had to stay out, so I hung in the green room with beer, tequila, bourbon and hummus.

The punters started filing in and I flitted between watching and hanging. Karen and Matt had scored a sweet table just above the stage. I had to keep one eye on the schedule at all times because the 4 acts I was in were all pretty evenly spaced. Plus, I needed to run through the Lo Fine song at least once, since the four of us had never been in the same room together.

I finally met Nathaniel Smalley, who, for the past two years, I've had a Facebook/Myspace correspondence with. Lovely chap. We talked for about 20 minutes about all sorts of things.

So now I'll recount what I remember (and please,if I didn't see your set it was just because I was a busy bee):

--First thing I think I saw was the Of Montreal-related act. It brought me into the here and now.

--Senator: oh, those pipes of Mr. Greenberg. He just played bass, sang and had sparse keyboard accompaniment. It was holy.

--Lo Fine: like I said, this was a never before, probably never again version of Lo Fine: Kevin O'Rourke on vocals and guitar; Erik on loan from Cat Power on bass; Matt Sutton of the Malarkies on pedal steel; JJ O'Connell on harmonies and triangle; and me on drums (really, just some cymbal swishes and light kick drum).

--Spouse: the originals! Dan! Naomi! wow! Love those kids so so much. How do you do it, Jose? And they rocked the house off of the house.

--Ben Katchor: Ben did two separate presentations. He'd prepared some animated slide shows, which he narrated. My favorite concerned the men who go around the city collecting the crumbs from the millions of toaster oven crumb-reservoirs. What becomes of these crumbs? Oh, everything from Chicken McNugget breading to bird food. It was great to hear his voice narrating the stories. A rare treat (for me, at least).

At this point I had some socializing to do, and soon it was time for School For the Dead. This too was an odd version of the band, because it featured Lesa Bezo (of the Fawns) (on guitar, vocal and melodica) and Jason Bourgeois (on bass). We did one original (Omnivore) and one Mulcahy (I Just Shot Myself in the Foot Again). It went over quite well.

Thom Yorke's video was screened for everyone and we all dug it a bunch.
Later on (at this point I start losing my sense of time) Vic Chesnutt's video, filmed at his house the night before, was screened. It was awesome. Just him in a room in front of the camera.

Then what? Chris Harford and Band of Changes. It's called thus because it's never the same lineup twice. But it's always Chris, with his resonant voice and commanding stage presence. Love that guy. Speaking of old Slugbearers folks, out on the street I saw none other than Dave Dreiwitz! (you may know him from Ween, I know him from Ween and the Slugbearers. He's such a fun and friendly guy to hang with. Unfortunately, we had a hug, a brief exchange, a promise to meet up in a bit and that was that.

So yeah. Band of Changes. Micon the Icon. I sez to Chris "what you want me to do on this? Since you asked me to play on it out of the blue?" He said "do whatever, you know the song". That was all I needed. Mr ray made good eye contact with me to let me know when I indeed played when I needn't have. Oh well. There goes my career. One bell of the ride stray beat can be a lifetime.

The Autumn Defense, lead by founding Wilco member John Stirrat, played a very enjoyable and groovy set. They have two songs on the Ciao collection, both obvious highlights.

Winterpills, of course!! How can you go wrong with them? You can't , is how. Nuff.

Umm....things getting fuzzier....hour getting later, people to talk to....

I go back in and oh my Christ, Mark Mulcahy's on stage singing I Have Patience with Butterflies of Love! It's the rockingest, happiest, grooviest thing all night! I'm bouncing up and down, I am.

I go in the stairwell....Frank Black's there with his band, ready to rock. And do they rock. I take a seat with Karen and Matt to watch. His version of Bill Jocko is a pounding beast. Then...then...two of my top 10 Pixies all time faves! Cactus and Gouge Away! Gah! So damn good! With Mr. Ray on guitar!

And now I get to sit on the drums because we're doing (of all things....) "Free Fallin'" by Tom Petty, with the whole damn cast and crew on stage. Mark asked Henning and me to be the rhythm section. S here I am, half buzzed on the free green room refreshments and the excitement and quite tired, with Frank Black sitting 2 feet away from me on the stage, playing Free Falling along with 30+ other people. somehow worked. Mark and Jose I think sang lead? By then I was convinced this was really a fucked up dream and I was in the back seat of my car on the way home.

But no it was the here and now.
We all packed up, hugged, shook hands, were given copious amounts of unopened bottles of bourbon and tequila to take home and that was that. Nathaniel was asking me if he should go to the bar with the Wilco guy or the Of Montreal guy. I had no idea they were both in the room, so I was probably embarrassing him not to mention myself, by going over the possible pros and cons of each choice. Eh. I embarrass myself a lot without noticing.

Matt drove all the way home while I talked to keep him awake. We listened to the remastered Beatles, early live XTC and 70's Grateful Dead.
Karen tried to, but couldn't sleep. Even through the 2/13/70 Dark Star with the 3 minutes of absolute silence followed by gongs and dissonance. For me, it was a dreamy soundtrack to the late, late night.
And with a 4:15 bedtime and 6:45 wake up, work was a blur. But the Indian dinner I just had woke me up enough to do all this.

Thanks to Mark, Nathaniel, Myles, Rich, Ray and everyone. And you just know Melissa dug the bejeezus out of it.

thanks to Karen for many of these pictures. The good ones.
Good night.


Anonymous said...

Great review :-)

J. Johnson said...

A great night indeed. School for the Dead was particularly rock'n at the show. Lisa's guitar was huge and I really dig your MM cover. Nice going all around!

Scott Brodeur said...

Sounds like an incredible night. Thanks for posting this, Brian. I have been looking for days and days for a recap of the night, and this is the only one I found. But it was worth the hunt! I wish I could have been there.