Banjos & Guitars at Pianos

The other night intrepid photog and I caught Alex Mallett and Dylan Sneed playing solo sets at Pianos on the LES. What was heard was awesome! What was had was fun!

I very much enjoy Alex backed by his band, but this night I was entreated to just the man and his banjo, and sometimes guitar. I’ve noted on this blog before that the banjo makes my favorite noise in this world. Better than the bird’s song it is. Better than the laughter of a child it is. Better, even, than a whispered “I need you” from a fine-ass lover who lays bare naked, biting her lip, and ready to go. Yes, better, even, than that.

When it comes to the ol’ banjo, I like it best when it’s up front and in charge of the show. I enjoy to a lesser extent when it is relegated to the background and its purpose is to harmonize and provide a little rattle. And when that ol’ banjo is front and center, I like it two ways. The first, when it’s a slow dripping pluck like Dock Boggs. Secondly, damn it, I like when that tinny li’l sumbitch is banged on. Alex Mallett is a banger. I may have been sitting but I couldn’t stop my foot from stomping in time.

Sammi, Alex’s newly wedded wife, sang a couple of numbers with her man. It was a sweet noise, I can swear to you that. It was a sweet sight, and Andreea’s photos will prove it.

Pianos 1 low res

Dylan Sneed seems to have won over everyone in the Roots Family scene. I met him as a barista at Roots Café. He’s a funny man. Supremely easy going. There is a profundity to the breeziness of his conversation, and the soft handed acceptance of all ideas put forth to him. The more I come to know him, the more of the Buddha I see in him.

Pianos 2 low res

His songs are uncomplicated. This is a feat that usually comes from the studious, and the obsessive. When I think of Dylan’s sweet, James Taylor-esque tunes, I think of the main character in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Blue Beard.” The main character, Rabo Karabekian, is an artist who in his early career could paint photo realistic scenes masterfully. The artist didn’t find fame and fortune until he started doing more abstract expressionist pieces. At a gallery a man approached him. The man was unnerved and asked why Karabekian bothered with such “easy” pieces, and that his five year old child could paint this abstract stuff. Karabekian agreed, and said but the child could not paint this, and drew to a wonderfully detailed degree a real life scene. He then referred back to his new work on display, which was just a couple of colored lines on blank canvas, and said he paints this simple way because he has options.

Dylan has options, y’all.

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Notes From The Underground Bluegrass Scene

Pianos

Deceptively huge venue inside.

This past Monday TRS went to Pianos on the Lower East Side to hear Alex Mallett and Dylan Sneed do their singer/songwriter thing. There will be a post on that later after intrepid photog, Andreea, sends me her pics of the event that as usual capture the inner rock star of her subjects, and lends this blog far more integrity than it has earned.

This story begins after the show. Dylan and Andreea, sleepy-bear photog, called it a night. Alex wanted to go to this bluegrass jam session. I was game. He, his wife Sammie, and I walked the small LES streets where rock and roll youngsters bustled and smoked cigarettes. Little hipster fashionistas sipped insanely priced drinks in the gastropubs. They’re probably all good people, just dressed like dumb kids.

This area is also old stomping grounds for me. I was living in Bushwick still, but worked at a Starbucks on Delancey & Allen. Yeah, Starbucks. Believe it or not, it wasn’t the worst job I’ve had in this city. That honor goes to Buffalo Wild Wings at Atlantic Center where patrons would jump managers over fifty cent wings taking fifteen minutes too long, where customers would brandish pistols causing a riot—where one night detectives showed up to ask me if I recalled a particular person dining the night before. I did. Just before sitting at my table he had beat a man to death with a baseball bat and immediately went to B-dubs for a meal with the dead man’s credit card. My reaction to the news was indignant because that murderous mother fucker didn’t even tip with the stolen credit card.

Be ye warned: If you come to NYC with less than a professional transplant and/or trust fund, you will be humiliated. You will be humbled. You will be broken way, way down before you are able to build yourself up. So, past the age of 30 I was mopping a bathroom in a Manhattan Starbucks when I finally snapped. Well, I had just finished cleaning the bathroom. This nice guy, I mean it, he was totally nice and respectful, came to me and asked to use the restroom, and that he would be quick and clean and apologized for the trouble. I wasn’t even in a bad mood that day. Up until that moment I was fine. I’M a nice guy, I’M friendly and respectful, but for no reason, I told him, no. I told him to go to a bar around the corner that is friendly to most interlopers in need of bladder emptying. He apologized again and stressed that it was an emergency. This actually infuriated me, and despite the fact that I believed him. He had been in the joint all night pounding shitty, watery Starbucks coffee while studying. I flat out said, no. Meanly. I squared up. He, baffled and feeding off my energy, became equally pissed. It became a shouting match. I don’t remember what all was said, but I remember seeing his eyes flash in hate and his body language indicating he was about to shove me or throw a punch. I remember thinking, yes, hell yes! I remember thinking it is important that I either beat this man’s ass, or get my ass beaten by him. That is a badass line, but it is a profoundly stupid and shameful way to behave. He wound up leaving in a huff. I assume a strong need to urinate and good reasoning that this was dumb and I am an asshole led him out the door.

Sometimes they get my name right.

Sometimes they get my name right.

A friendly regular came up to me and asked if I was alright, as what he had just witnessed was out of character for me. He said, nicely, that in NYC it’s a law that if you’re open and have a public restroom you can’t refuse anyone its service. Which I knew. His tone had told me that basic human curtesy should have been the rule. Which I knew. I felt terrible. I kept hoping I’d see Mr. Full-bladder in the days that followed so I could apologize, get him some shitty, watery coffee on the house. I never saw him again.

jamboreeAlex Mallett and his wife led me to Rockwood Music Hall. We were all here a few weeks back for the Songs of the South show with Trisha Ivy, B&B, and Dylan Sneed. The probably-good-people-that-are-dressed-like-dumb-kids peopled the main floor. The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love” welcomed us over the sound system. I’ve actually been having a Cure renaissance in my listening life, and was singing along upon entry. We went downstairs, below street level. Robert Smith could not reach, and just before I could lament not having closure with the favorable song, the doors to Stage 3 swung open and we were swallowed whole by the lively sounds of mandolins, violins, guitars, and banjos. It was a packed room, and everyone had a stringed instrument in their hand. On stage and off everyone in the room was playing along to old bluegrass standards. The scene was old, young, all colors, all creeds gathered up in a room. No one was left out. Everyone got a chance to pick a song, lead a song, and/or solo. Alex told me this isn’t even an nth of the country/bluegrass scene in NYC. There aren’t just scenes here, there are worlds. Comfort is not the reward of those early hard and humiliating days. Discovery is.

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Eat, Drink, and Be Married

A gang of Perfect Strangers

A gang of Perfect Strangers

Alex Mallett LThe other night I was at J’eatjets’s bar. I was minding my own. Then I spied a drunken band of merry-makers clad in the same t-shirt that bore the image of either Balki Bartokomous’s cousin Larry or Alex Mallett. I believe I saw Gypsy George in the shuffling gang, and know that I saw Justin Kilburn (of That Moon) because he stopped and saluted me. It turns out they were Alex Mallet’s bachelor party. I thought to myself, huh, I guess things go on in these musicians’ lives without me. Imagine that. It got me thinking that since The Trisha Chronicle I’ve not been commenting on BK Country as diligently as I should.

Firstly, let us congratulate Alex and Sammie on their upcoming wedding!

Alex & Sammie sittin' in a tree, hopefully not interrupted by Chris Murphy

Alex & Sammie sittin’ in a tree, hopefully not interrupted by Chris Murphy

Alex04A few weeks back, myself and intrepid photographer, Andreea, attended the Alex Mallett Band show at Hometown BBQ that was put on to support his crowdfunding effort for his new CD “Eyes Wide Open.” I’m happy to report he made his goal, and the album will be let out into the world. Alex is a swell guy, and he and his band are excellent musicians. This is a fine and fair thing that has come to be in a world notorious for how un-fine and unfair it can be.

JD Patch 2That night, TRS met Hometown’s GM, Mitch Rosen, and on his advice the intrepid photographer and I returned the next night for JD Patch. JD’s show can only be described as a big ol’ time! I heard the old honkytonk sound I missed from younger days when at the juke joint of ill-repute in my hometown, a place called Mudcats that no longer exists except in story. JD’s music is quite a bit more ribald than these other musicians and bands that I have followed on this blog. He sings about drinkin’, weed smokin’, and skirt chasin’. I think I heard references to hard-ons. He even covered degenerate redneck David Allen Coe. I met JD Patch after his show. He told me he grew up an army brat. He also said he came to his good ol’ boy sound by way of being a hip-hop producer. I know, I, too, was like, “the hell you say!” He was flipping through stacks of records one day and came across some country. The twang just lit him up. I would have guessed he’d been rocking country his whole life.

Alex and kid at Hometown

I’ve seen a few shows at Hometown BBQ now, and expect to see more. It has a most excellent country vibe by design. I’m not an advocate of slapping one’s own mama, but the food is such that, well, you might just slap yo’ mama on account of it’s so goddamn good! The joint doesn’t just get listed in top-tens of the city, but in the whole country, too. I’m also pleased by how diverse the patrons are. Everybody sits down to Hometown’s share tables. I like what good food does. I like what good music does. And whatever hard-edged concerns I have leftover, well, I like  what good booze does.

The Intrepid Photog marveling at Google Cardboard

The Intrepid Photog marveling at Google Cardboard at Hometown BBQ

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