Glen Hansard @ Housingworks 6.12.2012

Let’s come up with some new rules for attending concerts.

1.  As we’ve discussed before, be respectful with your camera.  Don’t be an asshole.  If its an SLR, don’t be snappin’ all up in someone’s ear.  If its an iPhone, make sure the light is not on when you’re taking video.  Simple enough.

2.  If you’re going to yell things in between songs, be cool about it.  Do it once, then back off.  The performer is not there to have a conversation with you.  That’s what they have friends for.  And their friends don’t exclusively see them at paid events.

3.  If you must sing along, do so at appropriate times, at an appropriate volume.  Don’t hold out your notes longer than the performer.  Don’t do harmonies with them at full volume.  Don’t add vibrato to said longer notes and harmonies to get attention.  Because it will certainly get you attention.  But it may be far more rage filled than you would hope.


I say these things, in order of increasing importance, because we experienced all of them last night.  Glen Hansard played an intimate benefit performance at the Housingworks Bookstore in Soho.  A beautiful little bookstore, which donates all of its proceeds to charity.  What a lovely guy that Glen is.  Too bad his number one fan came to the show straight from hell.

Let’s talk about some positives.  Hansard has a voice like no other. He means every note, there is no hint of BS.  At one moment he can be joking with you, the next there are tears in your eyes, and you fight them back with the force of a thousand tiny Bono’s (which I guess is just regular Bono) just to look like you’re keeping it together.

He’s had well deserved astronomic success recently, he won an Oscar and a Tony, and is just a Grammy and Emmy away from an EGOT.  Let’s make that happen.  He has a new solo album coming out which I have not heard, but the songs he played from it were promising.

Glen 1

We won’t get too much into song specifics though, because there was a greater issue at hand. This terrible person in the front row.  Lets call her “Sheebaz; Queen Of Evil” or just Sheebaz for short.

Man, this girl knew how to get right in there.  There were maybe 20 seats, the rest standing.  She must have waited in the pouring rain for 2 hours.  We were outside in line for quite a bit, and had to stand.  There was no one in front of her.  People surrounded the stage, but there were no direct eye lines to give her a death stare.  And clearly, her powers of supreme evil fought off all the collective dirty looks sent her way.

It started simple enough…she was singing a bit too loud when the crowd was asked to sing along.  “Who is doing those annoying harmonies?”  Who’s holding out the notes a little too long?  Man, that’s just not cool!” But we all figured it was a passing incident.  Oh no, oh god no it was not.

It just didn’t stop.  It was clearly coming from one source.  A brunette with “The Crazy Eye.”  You know “The Crazy Eye”…it’s unmistakable.  That look someone gives you, which clearly says “I’m going to kill you, then eat your hair*” The look that makes you think “Wow, I have to get out of here, wait, where did everyone else go?  Oh no, they already left.  FUCK.  How do I get out of this one…….NOOOOOOO”  but by then it’s too late…she’s already started talking about the independent theater productions she has acted in.

Glen 2

Between each song, she would respond to anything Hansard said.  Like a full on response, not just “Woo!”  woo is ok, you’re supposed to do that.  This is a direct quote:

Hansard:  “So I got this new record coming out, I’m gonna play some of these for the first time

Sheebaz Queen Of Evil:  OHMYGOD Glen I heard the new album today and I love it I just had to tell you that I’m such a big fan and it sounds so great SO GREAT!!!

I’m not exaggerating that in any way.  She went stream of consciousness on him.  Someone yelled “You were great on Fallon!”  a nice little note, and she chimed in!  Giving a full rundown of what she liked about it!

We looked to Hansard for guidance.  The man was a busker on the streets of Ireland, this must look like amateur hour compared to the characters he’s seen.  But honestly, I think he was a little thrown off at the crazy this queen of evil was throwing his way.

After a few comments, he finally addressed her head on.  Hansard donned his armor and was going into the cave of supreme darkness.  “Oh ‘tanks, ‘tanks.  You’re very sweet.  You can yell whatever crazy crap you want, but ya know, I feel like you might be affecting some people’s joy by doing that.”   The first dagger was thrown.  He had calmed the dragon in the way only he could.  He didn’t punch her in the head, like Jeff Tweedy, although maybe he should have.

He turned to the guy with her and said “Is this your boyfriend?”  she says “HUSBAND!”  oh wow, someone help that guy.  I didn’t hear what the guy said, but Glen echoed “NOT AFTER THIS?????”  Clearly the man had been through hell.  We all wish him the best.

For the most part, it quieted down after that.  She continued to sing her annoying harmonies, but only when the crowd was prompted to sing.  There was no more chatter. I had to position myself in such a way that the head of the person in front of me was blocking Sheebaz: Queen Of Evil, so I would not be distracted by her writhing about during the songs.

What brings a person to do this? To have complete disregard for those around them, and pretend the show is happening just for their own enjoyment.  We came to the conclusion that she had one of the following professions:

1.  Works with animals (they can’t tell her to STFU)

2.  Theater Manager who everyone hates

3.  Degenerate Gambler (I just made that one up, it has to be one of the top 2)

That must be the ultimate challenge for a performer.  Not that a crowd hates you, because then you just want to try harder, or just say fuck you.  But when someone loves you to such a degree, that they’re ruining your show out of pure love and admiration.  That is precisely why some famous people have handlers or bodyguards.

Glen Marketa

The show was still fantastic.  Marketa Irglova showed up, and they played some Once/Swell Season hits.  The two have such beautifully matching voices, and everyone could clearly feel it.  Even Sheba kept quiet, well, only during their first song.

I think we need to start a committee.  It will be way more organized than the Occupy movement. Lets call it “People For Ethical Behavior at Shows”  or PEBS for short.  It should probably be a .org.

(*credit to J Aptman I for that line)

The Music Of The Rolling Stones @ Carnegie Hall March 13 2012

Hang in kids, this might be a long one.

Big giant tribute type shows are always risky. Put many artists on the same bill with a house band, doing songs written by someone else, and things are bound to be treacherous.  Equally, there are bound to be some great moments.  Its like a sandwich where you’re surprised/terrified with each bite.

Michael Dorf, creator of the original Knitting Factory, has been doing these type of shows for a while now.  They benefit various childrens music charities, and I think we can all get behind that.  Unless you want to get political, and instead of supporting music in schools, have a tax cut or some shit for wealthy job creators.  Anyway.  They pick an artist, a bunch of people do a song.  Its a classic formula, don’t mess with it.

I saw one of the first of these, a tribute to Bob Dylan.  There were some beautiful moments, Alan Toussaint doing “Mama You Been On My Mind” and Ryan Adams going way over his allotted time on an “Isis/Love Sick” binge.

Last night, a varied roster took on the Rolling Stones classic collection Hot Rocks.  One artist for each song, 21 in total.  Let’s talk about some highlights and other things.

Before the music, we have to talk about the crowd.  This venue was basically a living Portlandia sketch, with Fred Armisen playing every character.  There’s the dude with the hilarious spiked hair and the tye dyed “No Security” Stones shirt, wearing binoculars and a backpack, moving seats at every chance he got.  There’s the 50 year old guy with a braided pony tail, moving to the end of the balcony, dancing and snapping along like he’s at a Flamenco show on acid.  There were the slightly-overdressed slightly too old to be dancing like a drunken college girl-woman, who could not resist the urge to flail about.  What do these people do during the day?  I would love to find out.

OK, on we go.

TV On The Radio opened the evening with Italian singer Jovanotti performing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” with a children’s choir. The band sounded great, but I’m pretty sure everyone got lost near the end of the song and just kept repeating the chorus, but that’s pretty much what these things are about.  You rehearse the verses and chorus so much, that you forget to come up with an ending.  It did teach me one important lesson – its all about the ending.

Ian Hunter best demonstrated this.  The Mott The Hoople front man played “19th Nervous Breakdown”  Which was not overly exciting, but his band was clearly well rehearsed, and looked like they spent lots of time coordinating outfits, which I also respect on this occasion, I mean, its Carnegie Hall, man.

The evening had 2 clear standouts.  First, you’re pretty much not going to top David Johansen on this bill.  Its an event made for him. He came out looking like every NY Jew’s aunt from Long Island who goes on too many island vacations.  White pants, white shoes, giant sunglasses, hair helmet.  “Get Off Of My Cloud” is as close to a NY Dolls song as there is in the Stones catalog…or it’s probably the opposite.

The frontrunner in all advance betting was Glen Hansard.  The man has more charisma than Obama, and is just so endearing.  He silences a crowd with solo acoustic performances. So hopes were high.  What we got was a lovely concise version of “Under My Thumb.”  With just upright bass and electric guitar, he might have owned the night.  After asking the crowd to snap along, then slowing everyone down saying “Come on guys, on the BACK of the beat, that was definitely a white snap”  the first half of the song was just bass and vocals.  He ended with a trademark segue into GLORIA, just for the hell of it.  His most insightful comment was “What kind of headspace do you have to be in to write a song like this?  This is definitely a Keith tune”

I don’t feel in the mood to dish any negative dirt, except for the fact that if you’re an actress who was in Natural Born Killers, that does not give you enough rock and roll street cred to do a Prince Style motivational breakdown in “Satisfaction”

An interesting dilemma arose about the Stones recently.  I was watching the fantastic documentary “Lemmy” about the Motorhead frontman, examining his life and approach to music.  He made the point, and I will paraphrase since I don’t remember the quote, that everyone was always arguing over who were the real “bad boys” the Beatles or the Stones.  He said there was no question, it was the Beatles.  They were from the much richer Liverpool, they played in the dangerous clubs of Hamburg, they were the real thing.  The Stones were from the suburbs, they went to art school, they were just faking it for image.  Now what impact this has on legacy, who knows, they wrote some amazing music.  But a little later on Dave Grohl made another point.

When people talk about the “Rock and Roll Lifestyle” or whatever bullshit you want to call it, they think of the Stones.  His point was, fuck that.  They’re off banging some supermodel traveling first class, while Lemmy is sitting at a bar in LA drinking Jack Daniels and working on his next album.  He doesn’t care much for image, he just is who he is.

Again, this does not dispute the fact that there was an abundance of amazing music written, it’s just something to think about.  How much do we like a legendary band for what they stood for (or what we thought they stood for) purely based on image?

Just something to think about.  Mull it over while listening to Its Only Rock And Roll.