Friday, July 28, 2017

C.W. Stoneking @ Mercury Lounge

C.W. Stoneking; Moist Paula's Bliss Station
@ Mercury Lounge
New York, NY - July 27, 2017

One of the genres attributed to being performed by C.W. Stoneking is "Hokum". And that is apt. There's a definite act to the otherwise authentically executed blues and rags by this Australian enigma. Like many a white boy before him, CWS wants to live of the life an American Southern Blues Man, at least on stage. If he can pull it off without being cringe worthy then hats off to him. And he pulls it off. So hats off to him. With a fine backing band and a repertoire of delights, C.W. turned an early show that could have been done in 40 minutes into a full peak-of-the-night event.

Fellow Australian Moist Paula brought her baritone saxophone to lead her Jazz combo Bliss Station for a serene set chock full of stories and a cover of the Seekers.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Of Pancakes and Baseball

It started out fine enough. Another night in the reliably friendly confines of minor league baseball even in this most cosmopolitan of American cities. The OLD time part of town still gets its moments and minor league baseball is one of the few left that not only serves to entertain that old time set, but bring a slight mix of the newer ilk. It’s all a bit corny and full of shtick (and if you’re a baseball purist, the shtick is a distraction) but it’s fun.

In fact, the shtick had seemed a bit toned down this year. It wasn’t as loud as it used to be, certainly nothing like previous years when fans were asked to scream at the top of their lungs to celebrate that a popular low to mid-price chain restaurant now served as one of their frozen pretend-to-be-homemade dishes a quesadilla, and to scream to the sound of the “Gangam Style”, even well after that song’s sell-by date had expired.

The crowd was the usual sort on a relatively off night. More old timers than gentrifiers. More baseball “experts” and wannabe comics than…just about anyone else. A few birthday groups. One church group led by a priest. I particularly enjoyed one self-styled expert who looked like Bug Eyes in Do The Right Thing who had a whole row to himself while he coached the visiting team, paying no attention to the professionally paid ballplayers being officially managed from their dugout. Later it turned out the group of fans behind him were his family, which was a relief since a couple of the home team fans in the row in front of him did not enjoy his hands-on approach to fandom and thought him a loner maniac.

A particularly notable moment occurred when a visiting team player failed to make a cool catch and the crowd, who should have been generally unsympathetic gave him their support for his effort, because after all this is minor league ball, in a division particularly designed to bring up rookies on their way to the majors so the stakes are low for the club standings but high for all individuals involved. It was a heartwarming piece of American baseball beauty.

Then came the pancakes.

Unprecedented to seasons past that I have observed, the home team’s promotions department (generally considered to the best in its field) came up with an idea that one visiting batter would be the “Free Pancakes Batter of the Night”.  Punny now that I am writing it down but I don’t even know if they intended that. What they did intend was to rev up the crowd with the possibility that if this randomly selected up-and-comer strikes out three times, the whole crowd is going home with vouchers for free pancakes at the newly opened nearby location of yet another chain restaurant popular with the Common Man.

As it unfolded over the course of the night, a couple of things became apparent. First it was not immediately clear to the crowd that there would be vouchers. At least some of the crowd thought there were hot pancakes ready to be whipped into existence for distribution pending a third strike out. This no doubt amped up the tension. Second, as the visiting team was the “rival” team from across the water, there was a sudden vested interest in seeing a batter from this particular team go down in the name of free pancakes. The earlier support for individual success was smashed to bits.

The player struck out once without notable observation. But this did cause the proverbial “blood in the water”. Now the free pancakes were all the more possible and the crowd could sense it. The next at-bats now had stakes. The crowd had skin in the game. Pancake skin. The second strikeout occurred with a few pitches that all seemed legitimate but one had to wonder now that maybe some of the pitches would have been called balls instead of strikes elsewhere but this is not provable and I don’t want to accuse the umpire of conceding to increasingly angrier mob (nothing had happened to cause an angry mob, it was the notion that the prize existed at all gave the crowd a sudden bit of menace).

Then came the next at-bat. Late, late in the game. And it was a close game too. A chance for this kid to shine for his team and boost his prospects. The crowd wanted none of it. They just wanted pancakes. Old time louses who before were cracking one liners now were hurling profanity-less invective (this is still a family friendly place, meaning, at least in America, as long as the vulgarity is low and the nudity is non-existent, any sort of moral position is acceptable, including and especially the chance for free gluttony). The batter was clearly affected. And sure enough, he went down looking and that never goes down smooth in baseball but it certainly looked bad now. And the player let the ump know it. A rare occurrence in this level of pro ball. A Major League style dispute. But it had to end quick as the kid had no standing, especially with the crowd now at fever pitch celebrating the victory of the earning of the free pancakes.

With the struggle over and the free pancakes assured, the crowd resumed its interest in the overall game and in the night out in general. But a little later, a couple behind me, who could best be described as each sounding like Edith Bunker (including the man), had a moment of clarity. Before we get there, it should be noted that these folks do not necessarily represent the entire crowd who wanted those pancakes. They were just the ones in earshot and by earshot I mean speaking everything very loudly no matter the topic. They were only rivaled in sound by the aforementioned Home Plate Coach Bug Eyes. Earlier in the night, they felt a personal connection with the Beer Man vendor several rows below them. The vendor made it known to all which beers he had. The lady in this couple shouted “Don’t talk about beer. I want a Coke. Do you have Coke? Come on I wanna Coke!” He waited her out, finished his beer sell (still being tasked with stopping to let the world know whether or not he also possessed Coca-Cola), and went up to her and yes indeed he had Coke. This came at a price so uttered. The price shocked the woman and she turned down the Coke. I was surprised at her surprise as I had gathered from their general disposition that the couple was no strangers to professional sport outings and professional sport outing prices. Sure enough she changed her mind and bought the Coke. One had to wonder if this was some kind of ritual like at movie theaters where similar samples of the Common Man remark with outrage at concession prices only to then pay them, as if they had no agency in the matter, specifically the ability to change their mind about acquiring said concessions.

The couple was heavily invested in the affair of the pancakes and so was particularly celebratory in the minutes after the acquiring of the pancakes was confirmed. They also were of the camp that believed the pancakes were imminently to be delivered. But then spoke the man:

“Hey wait a minute. Maybe I don’t want pancakes. This is a baseball game. Maybe I want hot dogs.”

The woman: “Yeah. You’re right. I don’t want pancakes now. I want hot dogs. Come on we want hot dogs!”

This last utterance reminded me of her earlier whiny “come on” when she was in need of the carbonated cola drink.

At this I was at my emotional last. The game was ruined. I was already perturbed having earlier been accused by a little child of having cursed. I was waxing on to friends about the above referenced toning down in “shtick” which the child heard as “shit” and told me as such: “You said SHIT and you can’t say that!” I feigned concession at the state of affairs as the child appeared to be about to burst a blood vessel which I chalked up to excitement at their first sporting event which they had screamed about earlier, or due to a consumption of sugar (perhaps one of those much desired Cokes), or some kind of hyperactive condition, or a combination of some or all of these possibilities.

Now with the blood lust for the pancakes having not only decimated my “toned down shtick/shit” observation but also the very fabric of what it means to enjoy a professional sports outing, including and maybe even especially such a low wattage one, I was feeling low.

Then came the fireworks show with the patriotic numbers of all kinds…including a very vengeful country one of some kind that appeared to call for violent retributions…also came Hulk Hogan’s “Real American” theme song which didn’t bother me as much and certainly must have pleased the fan with a Hulkamania shirt who I witnessed walking around earlier.

Something was amiss. Something IS amiss. Is it me? Is it the pancakes? Is it the outside world? Recent current events? Am I really going down the path of “the current wanna-be despot in the White House and his ravenous and depraved supporters have ruined my night out”? Am I seeing that gold-plated fascistic hatemonger in the words and cries of working class types yearning for free pancakes? Did the shallow patriotism at the end of the night seal that deal (The level of patriotic display in American sports after 9/11 has never come down and some of the earlier displays in the night are perfectly fine, especially in this town and the aim of those particular displays)?

Maybe. Maybe not. One thing is for sure. Give the people their free pancakes. Or else.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Spring 2017

Jamie Wyatt - Wishing Well
Sleaford Mods - TCR
Split Single - Untry Love
Teksti-TV 666 - Silmät kiinni ja kädet ristiin
Hiccup - Teasin'
White Reaper - Judy French
Future Islands - Ran
Chuck Prophet - Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins
Ryan Adams - Do You Still Love Me?
Old 97's - Good with God
Lo Tom - Overboard
Chemtrails - Deranged
Bash & Pop - Not This Time
Alex Lahey - Wes Anderson
Father John Misty - Total Entertainment Forever
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Go Robot
Low Cut Connie - Dirty Water
Dude York - Black Jack
Jens Lekman - Evening Prayer
The Weeks - Talk Like That
The Paper Kites - Electric Indigo
Charly Bliss - Percolator
Aimee Mann - Patient Zero
Los Colognes - Flying Apart
Coco Hames - I Don't Wanna Go
Spiral Stairs - Trams (Stole My Love)
The Buttertones - Matador
Hoops - Rules
Nikki Lane - Jackpot
Surfer Blood - Matter of Time
Scott H Biram - Long Old Time
Fink - Boneyard
Conor Oberst - A Little Uncanny
Benjamin Booker - Witness  (ft. Mavis Staples)
Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life
DJ Premier X Miguel - 2 Lovin You
Hater - Mental Haven
Mipso - Coming Down the Mountain
Ron Gallo - Young Lady, You're Scaring Me
BNQT - Restart
Waxahatchee - Silver
Hanni El Khatib - Paralyzed
Pokey LaFarge - Must Be a Reason

White Reaper - The World's Greatest American Band
Bash & Pop - Anything Could Happen
Future Islands - The Far Field