Revku XVI

A Friday night crowd
Though a lot of room to breathe
So the band breathed fire

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit/John McCauley (of Deer Tick), World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA, 2/27/09

Revku XV

Oh no! No Slo-Mo!
And a pretty sparse crowd, too
Not-so-happy hour

John Train, Fergie's Pub, Philadelphia, PA, 2/27/09


Hail to the Chief (and Diners and Canadian Musicians and Bowling)

I am of the mind that one should not waste a paid holiday. So, when I realized that Kathleen Edwards was playing a show in Connecticut on Presidents' Day, I shared this news with drummer extraordinaire and fellow music lover (and willing driver) Johnny Macko. Soon after, a road trip was formed, with both of us taking the next day off as well so as not to face a three-hour drive back after the show. Well, a three-hour ride for me.

But, like any good navigator, I started thinking about side trips on either the way there or the way back. So, I consulted my handy-dandy Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives book and saw what was around the area we'd be traveling to. And that's when I discovered TGIFriday's shill (shame on you!) Guy Fieri's declaration that the Eveready Diner in Hyde Park, NY, was the "Taj Mahal of diners." And, lookie there, Hyde Park wasn't too far off the route. Plus, the FDR Historical Site was in Hyde Park. And we could be there on Presidents' Day, dammit!

I love it when a road trip comes together.

The Eveready turned out to be pretty swell, even though they were inexplicably out of pot roast (a diner faux pas if ever there was one). But the chicken and biscuits served as a fine substitute. Plus they were willing to serve the potent combination of pastries and beer, as evidenced in the photo below. And they had t-shirts (and, hence, I have one of their t-shirts).

After the feeding had ended (and a temptation to order a piece of tiramisu cheesecake to place on top of a full stomach subsided), we sauntered over to the neighboring Rollermagic, which was closed. I just wanted a peek inside at the rink, but as I was trying to sneak one, the owner came out and apologized that they were closed. As I looked at the brochure he handed me, it occurred to me that he assumed that we, two grown men, were bummed that we had been denied a Monday-afternoon skating session. And so we have added another person to the long list of those who question my heterosexuality.

The FDR site was almost directly across the street from the diner, so we did a quick walk-through, stopping at the New Deal gift shop before walking the grounds for a bit.

We stopped outside an outdoor tribute to FDR and Churchill that also featured a big structure covered by a tarp. It was a sculpture that incorporated a piece of the Berlin Wall. I suppose it was covered up for the winter, and the gentleman who preceded us at the sculpture informed us that "the bastards have it tied down pretty good, too."

So we moved on to FDR and Eleanor's grave, stopping to pay some respects on Presidents' Day.

And then there was Springwood, FDR's boyhood home (and part-time residence in his later years).

And, finally, a badass tree.

Then it was back on the road to Norfolk, Connecticut, which, considering the decreasing light along the way, we actually did a pretty good job finding.

Infinity Hall is a really awesome venue, built in 1883 and recently lovingly restored. We had sixth-row seats, but there really isn't a bad spot in the place (which holds about 300 or so). If you ever get the chance, paid holiday or not, you oughta go. Hey, Gallagher's playing there soon (it's a "No Sledge" show, though, so leave the garbage bags at home).

As usual, Kathleen Edwards was great. You should also see her if you get the chance. Afterward, I had her sign a photo of the two of us taken at last year's Zankel Hall show (just before security shut down Mr. Macko's dream of a photo with her...a dream finally realized in Norfolk), and she was embarrassed to see that she was wearing the same shirt in the photo. So she signed "Nice shirt" with a photo pointing to her on the photo, making another fun keepsake.

After the show, we headed to our hotel in Torrington, where we were greeted by a dead mouse in the parking lot and one of the coldest hotel rooms I've ever been in. But I was happy reading my newspapers (a guy in Norfolk had expressed great surprise that I would buy two newspapers, first saying that I must know someone in the paper when he thought I was buying two of the same paper and then saying that I must be looking for a job...I broke the news that I just like reading newspapers) and watching Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel on Letterman.

The next day featured a diner breakfast of french toast (again, without even trying, our hotel was across the street from the Twin Colony Diner) before an unsuccessful record store-seeking excursion into downtown Torrington, where the only record store of note had the convenient hours of 4 to 6:30 and the rest of the town seemed pretty rundown.

But Torrington does have an awesome bowling alley (five minutes from the hotel...unplanned, I swear). It's old-school, but not in a rundown sort of way.

And what's truly old-school? No electronic scoring, beeyotch.

Bowling the way it oughta be. A beautiful thing.

And, every way you look at it, a beautiful trip.


Autograph Alley: The Conan Years

I am, as I have mentioned, a sentimental man. And that, of course, is a fancy way of saying I shed a tear more easily than your average 32-year-old man. If everything's lined up right, I've been known to get a little emotional when watching "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." I aint proud, but that's the way it is, you callous, heartless hipster ogre.

Anyway, while watching the last episode of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" last Friday night, I felt some tears welling up as the episode drew to a close. It's not that I have a strong emotional attachment to Conan; when I see the show, I still love it, but, to be honest, I've only seen a handful of episodes during what will lovingly be recalled as "The Working Years" in my biography (pre-order it now for 2048 delivery!). But I do feel a strong pull to those years I spent in the lobby of 30 Rock, wasting my precious late teens waiting for celebrities to sign autographs. I don't really miss the collecting all that much (and, based on the YouTube videos I see, I would sooner visit a friend who sleeps with an unstable chimpanzee than resume collecting in the NBC lobby), but those trips were my first real solo endeavors into the city and served as the beginning of my exploration and eventual love of Manhattan. And who knows if that would've happened if Conan O'Brien hadn't started his show 16 years ago? Well, OK, it would've likely happened anyway, but Conan's show certainly sped up the process.

I first went to 30 Rock, though, as an audience member (first time I saw a TV taping, I think), for Episode #14, where the guests were the stellar trio of Ellen Cleghorne, Ronald Reagan Jr., and Juliana Hatfield. And, to the best of my recollection, the guests never really got better in the five or six other times I was in the audience. And they certainly weren't great the day I figured I'd give autograph collecting a whirl, when I saw people waiting in the lobby after I came down the elevators after a taping featuring Dick Cavett, Dorian Harewood, and Hank Flamingo (though the lead singer of Hank Flamingo, Trent Summar, is still pretty cool). I figured that might be a fun thing to do. Occasionally, it was, so long as the celebrities actually signed and the collectors didn't get too obnoxious.

There was a lot of boring downtime for me at 30 Rock, and, as the years went on, that downtime turned from boring to maddening. I remember one early evening spent waiting for, hell, I don't even recall, in which a fellow collector grilled me about my opposition to the death penalty while popping out exciting hypotheticals that started like "So, you're saying that if someone killed your parents..."

But there were a few years where the conversations were lighter and more entertaining and the characters made the time pass. Plus, occasionally, the "Saturday Night Live" cast would be walking around, which is when I snapped this photo of Chris Farley.

After a few years, I was somehow anointed the official spotter for musical guests coming off the elevator, a job I did pretty well. But sometimes the music guests were so well known, my skills weren't needed. Such was the case when Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach were on. I was all about Elvis, and he was nicer than I expected, even posing for a photo.

I was ready to call it a day, but one of the other collectors told me he'd take a picture of me and Mr. Bacharach. I resisted, but the resulting photo is, I admit, pretty entertaining. At least to me. If Burt Bacharach sees it, he'd probably be less thrilled.

Another memorable music guest was Hank Williams Jr., who, as I recall, wasn't announced as the musical guest until late in the game. I would generally scour TV Guides and newspaper listings in advance so I could prepare accordingly. But when there was no advance warning, especially for someone I was as interested in meeting as Bocephus, well, I went into a panic. I recall that retired journalist Bryan Chambala was coming into town that day, so I hurriedly went to Academy Records and snatched up two Hank Jr. records before meeting Mr. Chambala at the Port Authority. I informed of what we would be doing with the next few hours and he gamely agreed to the mission (a noble action, though if he hadn't, I suspect I would've just bought him a bus ticket home and said farewell).

There was a decent-sized crowd of collectors around that day, though only a few who had any genuine interest in meeting Bocephus. One of them was Ronnie, one of my favorite collectors, who was always well dressed and well stressed about having everything go according to plan. He was a fun guy to talk to, but when it came time to being in charge of taking his photo with a celebrity, I didn't want to be in the area. He would get so revved up about the matter ("Wait 'til he's looking! And make sure I'm looking too! And we're both in the frame!") that I just didn't want the responsibility.

Anyway, as we were all staring at the elevators, waiting for one to release Bocephus, I looked to my right and spotted Hank Jr. coming out of the service elevator. Sneaky! But I quickly darted over, followed closely by Bryan, Ronnie, and the rest of the autograph lunatics, who commenced The Swarm. And, as you may have guessed, I wound up with Ronnie's camera in my hand. After several moments of panic, the picture was taken. I never saw how it came out, but I hope I did Ronnie proud.

I got my two albums signed (with a horrible scrawl), and, I do believe, Mr. Chambala snapped this gem:

And, of course, no discussion of my Conan years would be complete without mentioning what some my call my greatest Holiday Greeting photo, taken on August 14, 2001, before everything changed about a month later. I don't think there was even a split that year. How could there be? How could I deny sending anyone this photo?

So, yeah, even though I don't have any strong emotional ties to Conan O'Brien, it made me a little sad to see him signing off before making the transition to an hour earlier and a coast away. He was indirectly responsible for some of the more entertaining moments in my younger days (and I will forever love his shooting and drinking segment with Hunter S. Thompson and his first interview with James Ellroy, both of which are maddeningly not anywhere I can find on the Internets), so I wish him well on the other coast. Thanks for the memories.


Revku XIV

We took a road trip
Because the venue looked cool
Great show, awesome place

Kathleen Edwards/The Last Town Chorus, Infinity Hall, Norfolk, CT, 2/16/09

(I'll likely post more about the trip later this week, for those who prefer longer posts)


Revku XIII

A record store show
Makes Valentine's Day better
Fourteen new records!

Frankie and Kelly McGrath/Mark Linskey/Kim and Clay/The Sunday Blues, Curmudgeon Records, Somerville, NJ, 2/14/09


Revku XII

A day of sharp pain
An evening of soothing strings
Music: the healer

Abigail Washburn, Ben Sollee, Casey Driessen, and He Who Shall Not Be Named (who looked suspiciously like Béla Fleck), Joe's Pub, NYC, 2/11/09


I don't know who they think they are, trashing a perfectly good guitar

I've never been the type to go out on garbage night and see what people are tossing (though I can't help but notice that those who don't mind not-so-fresh doughnuts would do well to check out the Dunkin' Donuts on 32nd and 7th after hours...bags of them are tossed nightly). I already have a lot of crap here in Disgraceland.

But last night, after putting in some extra hours at the office and then grabbing food for the week at the supermarket, I saw what appeared to be a perfectly good guitar leaning against a garbage bag. Who throws out a guitar?

Well, it's mine now, and though I have no plans/time to learn how to play it in the near future, it will at least join my banjo as something I can strum tunelessly while trying to calm myself watching hockey and baseball.

It appears to be some sort of classical-style guitar, so look out, Esteban. Someone get me my sunglasses and bolero hat.


Revku XI

It wasn't the barn
Just an old Jersey theater
But the roof was raised

The Levon Helm Band, Wellmont Theatre, Montclair, NJ, 2/7/09


Revku X

Third show in three states
A chatty crowd in Philly
Stalking done for now

Amy LaVere, World Cafe Live (Upstairs), Philadelphia, PA, 2/6/09


Revku IX

It wasn't the same
But it never really is
Still, a good, fun show

Marah, Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ, 2/5/09


Who Wants Another One?

In my senior year, I came to the realization that I was probably not going to become a journalist when a class assignment found me at a meeting that seemed to never end and featured a significant period of time being devoted to reprimanding someone for going to the bathroom without telling anyone first. The mere thought that I would have to pay dues by sitting through these four-hour meetings and crafting some sort of coherent article about them made me think twice about the career I had chosen.

That said, there were plenty of entertaining things going on at these meetings in Ithaca. And, it turns out, they still are. And here's the proof. If you don't feel like reading the whole article, here's the best moment:

Peterson then told Palmer that his time was up, to which Palmer replied, "I know it is."

He then reached into a bag, pulled out two shoes and hurled one at Alderman J.R. Clairborne, D-2nd, and another at Peterson. The first shoe flew between Clairborne and Alderman Eric Rosario, I-2nd. The second fell short of the Mayor. Several Council members pushed their chairs away from Palmer while Clairborne and Aldermen Svante Myrick, D-4th, stood and began to approach Palmer. There were roughly 30 people in the city hall audience.

Palmer pulled another shoe from his bag and waved it at Council members, asking "Who wants another one?"

I fondly remember watching Mr. Palmer's public access show, which wasn't quite as great as the Saturday night call-in free-for-all but still quite entertaining, and it's good to see he's still flying the crazy flag. I hope you got your shoes back, buddy.

Helmet tip to the Roller Derby Diva for alerting me about the article.


Revku VIII

Shorter show at Joe's
Talk of earning cone titties
You had to be there

Amy LaVere/Joe Pug, Joe's Pub, NYC, 2/3/09


What I Liked About January

*Inauguration Day 2009, Washington, DC
*Bowling eight games at Hudson Bayonne Lanes, Bayonne, NJ
*Maybe Pete, The Saint, Asbury Park, NJ
*The Campbell Brothers, BB King's, NYC

*Amy LaVere, Concerts in the Studio, Freehold, NJ
*Tool Academy
*Beef stew, Chip Shop, Brooklyn, NY
*Rodney Crowell and His Acoustic Trio, Sanctuary Concerts, Chatham, NJ

*Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder/Tommy Emmanuel, BB King's, NYC
*Alex Meixner, Bell House, Brooklyn, NY
*A three-game winning streak for the Islanders
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places (such as the Metro station at 5 in the morning...thanks Jesse!)


Revku VII

A house party show
Thumpin' bass, then stuff your face
Watch her on Conan

Amy LaVere, Concerts in the Studio, Freehold, NJ, 1/31/09