Rock & Rock and Vodka in Iceland, Magic Monday at Tammany Hall

Our post-BINGO Monday night crawl, which almost always ends up at Joe’s Shanghai, took a detour this week. Dana Dynamite, that Sailor Jerry Rum P.R., was intent on meatballs – and a man my age knows to never get between a gal and her cravings. Shoot, I ended up married a couple of times to women that could have done better following that advice for me. Amanda was a willing lemming as well, as we vowed to follow Dana off any cliff. Waylaid at the door of Tammany Hall by my old friend and newish manager Christine Jennings, my stop-and-chat had the girls wandering into Mission Chinese Food, 154 Orchard Street. I’ve seen the lines and heard the news about folks from Momofuku and Blue Hill Farm and the Mission Chinese San Francisco joint that the NYC spot was all the rage. It was 11pm on a Monday night and the dapper maitre d’ told us 20 minutes. Seemed like a plan.

It was red hot chili peppers meets Mean Mr. Mustard and Steve vs. the Volcano. Hot stuff! Dana was doing her thing and telling me all about this Icelandic Vodka, Reyka, and this rock and roll festival. I was all ears, as my mouth and nose were too numb to be of use. The Icelandic Airwaves Music Festival will whisk Dirty Projectors, Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Rós, and 70+ other bands to that fiery rock with those sexy people October 31 – November 4, 2012. They say it’s “the hippest long weekend on the annual music-festival calendar.” This is Reyka’s second year in a row sponsoring this thing and there has been an online screening process to choose the bands, called “Breakthrough at Airwaves.”

Today is the last day for bands to submit tracks to www.Reyka.com. "Two bands, selected by the festival will win a weeklong trip to Reykjavik, including travel and lodging, and get to perform alongside some of the most exciting and inspired names in music." They’ll announce the winners August 14th. Iceland in November gets, like, 16 hours of night – perfect for Goodnight Mr. Lewis. I’m just saying.

Anyway, after surviving the ridiculously delicious but way too spicy meal, we decided to pop into Tammany Hall to check out the infamous Magic Monday soiree. It’s been running six months now and Christine and Ky told me all about it:

"Breedlove performs every week, along with the guest bands booked by Ky. The party starts at 10pm, is always free, and there is an open Bud Light bar for the first hour, which happens to be Breedlove’s beer of choice."

Ky impressed me. She seems to have those musical chops that are so rare in this biz. Managers are a dime a dozen, door people maybe a quarter, and I wouldn’t go past two cents for a waitron or bartender. They are all replaceable in hours. A person who can book bands and get it right…now that’s a rarity. We’ll be back, but this time we’ll opt for the meatballs.

This Week’s NY Happenings: Downtown Music Festival, SakaMai, KTCHN

FRIDAY: Rock & LoHo At Downtown Music Festival
The Lower East Side’s music cup runneth over as Downtown Records brings a second year of the Downtown Music Festival. The venues are a greatest-hits package of below-Houston spots. Mercury Lounge hosts Teengirl Fantasy, Cake Shop has Beach Fossils and Trash Talk, and nine different acts will take the stage at Tammany Hall. Even swank event space Capitale is in on the groove, hosting L.A.’s Black Hippy. The spaces are all intimate, so get your tickets quick.

The Downtown Music Festival runs Friday, May 10th and Saturday, May 11th, at venues like Cake Shop (152 Ludlow St., Lower East Side). To learn more about the bars, click on the listings in bold above.

NOW: Shuck It
The Lower East Side is your oyster tonight, as SakaMai lays on a “Shell & Sake” tasting. Take a guided tour through six sakes, expertly paired with a dozen bicoastal bivalves.

Shell and Sake starts at 6:30pm, tonight, May 6th, at SakaMai (157 Ludlow St., Lower East Side). Tickets are $75. To learn more about the sake bar, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

WEDNESDAY: Killer Instinct
The Out NYC’s house restaurant KTCHN kicks off a monthly dinner-and-a-movie series with a screening of Basic Instinct. They’re injecting some Rocky Horror, too—when Sharon Stone deploys her ice pick, you’ll find a Jack & Coke in front of you.  

Basic Instinct at KTCHN (510 W. 42nd St., Midtown West) starts at 7pm on Wednesday, May 8th. Prix fixe dinner is $49; wine pairings are an additional $25. To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

Know every inch of this city by checking out BlackBook’s NY City Guides

Downtown NYC Festival Adds New Acts

With just under a month to go till the Downtown NYC Festival kicks off on May 10, two-day passes are already sold out, but $75 one-day tickets are still on sale. The event spans great venues including Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, Angel Orensanz, Pianos, Cake Shop, Tammany Hall, Element, Capitale, and Rockwood Music Hall—and features some of the hottest emerging bands.

New additions include Andrew Wyatt (of Miike Snow) and hipster-fried R&B pioneer Autre Ne Veut, as well as Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, who is likely worth seeing for the name alone. They will join such performers as Purity Ring, Earl Sweatshirt, d’Eon, Sky Ferreira, Ducktails, Beach Fossils, and the endlessly funky Teengirl Fantasy.

The festival will be hitting some other cities with modified lineups, but you know they won’t be as good. Though who knows? Some magnificent crooner might come aboard in the Vegas leg of the tour.

Miss Guy’s New Music Video Debut Tonight, Scott Hocken’s Bantam Birthday Bash Tomorrow

Tonight, Guy Furrow AKA Miss Guy will unleash her new music video of her new CD "Sometimes" at Tammany Hall. I’ve known Miss Guy since I was a misguided youth. She is a constant inspiration, amusement, and distraction – and what can be better than that? Tammany Hall remains a go-to spot for the eclectic downtown scene.

Tomorrow I will attend and even DJ a bit at Scott Hocken’s birthday bash at Bantam, which he has a piece of. Every joint has a defining night and Tuesdays at Bantam are just that. David Katz brings his show to the small-lish 17 Stanton Street spot and attracts a beautiful and hip crowd. They will come anyway – in spite of Scott’s birthday. Someone asked me how old he was and I replied that it was really a two-part question and then left it at that. Anyway, he is old enough to know better. I love listening to David Katz at his Electric Room gigs but haven’t caught his Skull Tuesday’s thingy at Bantam. He DJs, hosts, and lets guest DJs fill in. Elle Dee, one of my personal favorites, did 2 weeks ago.

Starting this Sunday and every Sunday, Lee Chappell will bring Cafe Panache: La Nouvelle Revue to the stage at The Darby. Performers like Shequida, Amber Ray, Dandy Wellington, David F. Slone, Gin Minsky, Topher, and Lady Circus will mix things up under the musical direction of Benjamin Ickies at this slamming restaurant. Lee is personally responsible for exploiting more mylar than any human in "herstory.”  The whole shebang has that champagne I adore and is hawking Beau Joie as its sponsor. It starts at 8:30 and I will be there, front and center.

Breedlove Brings Avant-Garde Performance Back to New York Nightlife

"It’s a circus… Breedlove’s our ringleader and we are all his freaks," said a 21-year-old shivering in a sequined jacket outside Tammany Hall last Monday. He exhaled, "Where should I put this button?" He pulled the large American flag-inspired circle featuring the face of Breedlove from his lapel. He moved it down, fastening it to his leather pants just above his crotch.

Those who’ve frequented Breedlove’s Magic Monday party throughout the past two years are well aware he’s terribly underrated. Moving seamlessly between host and star, he manages to excite the otherwise antiquated fashion of cabaret, a talent which has earned him a growing cult following who gather every Monday to see him perform. With his first studio album soon to be released and a single available on iTunes that’s seen raves from the likes of Lady Gaga and Perez Hilton, Breedlove is set to blow. He’s raw and incredibly unique, an avant-glam lounge act, if you will. Self-deprecation drives the laughter, and his staggering emotional transparency is refreshing in a world where any from of rock ‘n’ roll has been diminished to phallic guitar battles and orange chicks in very small Motorhead (or worse, Pantera) t-shirts attempting to pass-off as knowledgable of the scene.

I caught up with Breedlove after his set backstage at Tammany. The black room was small and full, with scantily clad go-go dancers lounging on black leather couches and more than one bouncer angrily eyeing the smokers in the room. Here’s what he had to say.

Where are you from?
I was born in San Leandro, California, but then my parents went on tour until I was five. Then we moved to the San Joaquin Valley of California to my family’s orange ranch for three years, and then we moved to Marin County after that. I lived there until I was eighteen and then I moved to New York.

You said your parents were touring… What was that?
My mother was a cabaret singer and my dad was an actor and a singer. They did a show together. Well, they did many shows together. They traveled around the country doing them, and I went with them.

That makes a lot of sense. How long have you been living in New York?
I’ve lived here for twelve years.

What was your scene when you first came here?
The scene that I was introduced to first was through Lady Starlight. She started bringing me to Josh Styles’s parties. I would go to his party called Smashed! Blocked! and Lady Starlight would go-go dance. I was studying theater at the time, and I saw her applying all these techniques that I was learning at school just naturally in her go-go performances. There was a party called Shout! at Bar 13 we would go to. Nobody in New York was dressing up at the time, so we had to plan out what events were going on each week that encouraged serious looks and played the various genres of classic rock ‘n’ roll that were into dancing to. We went out as many nights of the week that there was a party going on, which at times meant seven nights a week. Our little scene at the time was so important to us and we were all so consistent about going out that it would be strange to see someone missing at one of the shows or parties. I miss those days a lot, but it’s cool that now you can walk into almost any bar on the Lower East Side and see people in really great looks dancing to really great rock ‘n’ roll.

How have you evolved as an artist?
I started as a go-go dancer at a party Starlight, Anna Copa Cabanna, and I threw together called Freak Out! Then Josh invited me to dance at Smashed! Blocked!, which was a huge deal for me. Then Anna started her own show at Bowery Poetry Club and cast me as one of her four dancers. She would let me sing one of the songs I had just started writing in each show. I would write songs just to sing there and soon had a whole set of tunes completed. When my friends Semi Precious Weapons went on a tour between dates on The Monster Ball, they told me to remove my vocals from my demo recordings and open for them singing to tracks. That’s how I started singing karaoke to my own songs. Now I’m working with a producer, Chew Fu, who is bringing me into the dance world, which is really fun. It’s extremely magical to see people dance to your music.

How has the downtown scene evolved since you’ve been around?
It’s way more acceptable to look crazy than it was when I first moved here. I remember one time Lady Starlight and I wore very elaborate outfits to the Roxy Music show at Radio City Music Hall, and this very straight-laced couple walked up to us and said, "You’re gonna win. New York City will be what you want it to be again," and it has happened.

Your method of performance is very specific. You’re in the crowd, engaging the audience, and on stage very glam while maintaining a palpable emotional availability.
Cool! (laughs)

It’s very unique! Where did this concept come from?
My mom, because she’s a cabaret singer. And because I was in her womb when she was performing the music of Jacques Brel, for instance, and a lot of Stephen Sondheim… a lot of really intense story telling in music. And when I was born—from the time I was a newborn—I had to hear my mom sing these songs, and I would watch her really live within every song she sang. When I started writing my own music, it was just natural for me to write very dramatic story-telling music and perform it in a very earnest way.

One of the things I love about you on stage is that you’re so raw. You’re not trying to falsely project anything…
I just want to live in that song.

I can tell, it’s very cool. Your single, "I Never Had," is out on iTunes now. And your album… What’s your album called?
We actually don’t have a name for it yet.

Well, whatever it ends up as, it’s out soon?
It’s not finished yet; Chew Fu is still working on the production. Most of the songs we’ve already recorded the vocals on, so as soon as he’s done with the production we have just a couple more songs to record the vocals on and we’ll be good to go!

What can we expect from the new album?
Everything that I’ve been performing for the last two years at Magic Monday have been demos. The music that I’m doing with Chew Fu are the first songs that will actually be available for sale.

Quickly, who’s Chew Fu?
He’s this really awesome dude who’s actually born on the same day as me. He’s a Dutch DJ who has done a bunch of remixes for Rihanna and Lady GaGa and, like, everybody. I’m really excited to be working with him on his first full production project. It’s a really cool opportunity for us to both debut this aspect of ourselves to the world with each other at the same time.

Awesome. But back to the album, what can we expect?
All the tunes from my demos will be on there, but totally re-imagined by Chew, plus new tunes that he and I wrote together. We also wrote a tune called “Heart Attract” with Bootsy Collins that I’m really excited about. He’s gonna play on it! Our first single came out on iTunes on Valentine’s Day—it’s actually the first song I’ve ever had on sale. It’s called “I Never Had” and it’s a love song.

It seems that your music is deeply intertwined with the fantastic performative aspect of your live show. Was it difficult to recreate the energy, to isolate music from performance in the studio?
Somewhat, but what’s really cool about working with Chew Fu is he understands me as a performer. The way we record is he just loops the track over and over again and I sing it probably like twenty five times over and over again without stopping. Inevitably about the fifth time my emotions really give in and I really start acting the song. About the same time, vocally I just sort of let go, and he gets a lot more tones in the recording process. Repetition is the key, by then I get out of my head, let loose, and perform the way that I do on stage.

You’ve mentioned Lady Starlight a few times during the course of our conversation. Who is Lady Starlight and who is she to you?
Lady Starlight is who I believe to be the most inspiring person alive. She is responsible for the early live performances and fashion stylings of Lady GaGa, most notably. But there have been many people in New York City who she’s influenced, including me. She gave me my name, she helped me develop my personal style and taught me how to shop, and taught me about the kind of music that… not that I should be listening to from the standpoint of cultural importance, but the kind of music from the past that I should be listening to based on who I am as a person and as a performer. She has a gift in that way of pinpointing what somebody needs to know from the past in order to inspire them and create something that’s really relevant and actually futuristic.

Photo by Thom Kerr

Exclusive Video: Slowdance Reveal Their Origin Story

Earlier today, we took you on the road with Brooklyn-based indie rockers Slowdance as they traveled to DC for their first-ever show outside of Brooklyn. Now we’ve got an exclusive video of the five budding rockstars speaking about their origin story and creative process. Interspersed is some performance footage, in the background a docile New York waterfront, lending the whole thing a rather enticing air. Slowdance plays tomorrow at Tammany Hall in New York. Check it out after the jump.

Video by Joe Presser and Maya Tanaka.

Blank City, Tammany Hall, & Don Hill

Tonight will bring me to Madame Wong’s, that invite-only, pop-up hot spot at 3 Howard Street. It’s an Interview Magazine event for “Blank City,” a feature documentary directed by Celine Danhier. The DJs are JG Thirwell (Foetus), Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and Dan Selzer (Acute Records). The documentary tells the overdue tale of the disparate crew of renegade filmmakers who emerged from an economically bankrupt and dangerous moment in New York history. In the late 70’s and mid 80’s, when the city was still a wasteland of cheap rent and cheap drugs, these directors — Jim Jarmusch, John Lurie, Jon Waters, Amos Poe, and many others — “crafted daring works that would go on to profoundly influence the development of independent film as we know it.” So the synopsis reads.

The film, it is said, “weaves together an oral history of ‘No Wave Cinema’ and ‘Cinema of Transgression’ movements.” This is a great party, but beware you must be listed. Madame Wong says they hate saying no, but will if you have not RSVP’d. I’m looking for a date so let me know. The film opens April 6th.

On Saturday night I attended a “Good Life Concert Series” event at Tammany Hall. It’s a great place to see a show. I came to see Slick Rick. The event benefited the Fresh Air Fund and was sponsored by Christian Audiger Vodka, and no I wasn’t there solely for the gift bag. I have always adored Slick Rick, and I actually throw in his “Childrens Story” in my DJ set. It’s always a winner. Slick Rick performed 2 tracks, including that one, but hardly moved a muscle. He was anything but slick. Or maybe he was so slick that it went over everyone’s head. Sometimes people refer to me as a legend, and I always quip: “Every time I’m called that I check my pulse.” Slick Rick is a legend, and somebody should check his pulse. Although everyone loved him, he hardly broke a sweat, and then quickly exited through the crowd. He stopped to thank everyone for loving him, and he brought a smile of nostalgia to many faces. I just wish he had offered something new, and maybe swayed a little on stage. My friend, who had recently booked him, says he gets around $1500 for a show these days. He gets that, and my two cents as well.

The services sending Don Hill off to a better place are being held today and tomorrow. They will be for close friends and family, as space is limited. Many who want to attend aren’t going to be able to. There will, I’m sure, be a memorial event where the thousands he touched will be able to attend. I’m still in shock over the loss. There are a thousand Don Hill stories to be told. Facebook friends are offering sympathies and prayers. Eric Foss, artist and Lit owner, summed up this humble, talented, and wonderful man: “Don came to our 9th New Years party. His staff brought him knowing I would be stoked, and I was. He wondered if he could get in and my friends responded that ‘the owner is honored to open his door to you.’ I sure as fuck was! He inspired, employed, and kept the flame of downtown rock and roll alive. He will be missed. He was one of us. He was New York.” When Eric heard the news, he left dinner to get to Don Hill’s, where those who loved him were showing up to share and survive the loss. The dinner he left was with Zack Williams, who owns the gallery where Foss is having his first solo show on September 11th, 2011. At the dinner sat Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, and Billy Crystal. Everything and everyone stopped for Don. All our business, our troubles, our partying took a moment to remember a man who had no enemies, and brought so much to our downtown world.

The Gates Shutters, Tammany Hall Opens, & Facebook Remembers

Although I hadn’t noticed it myself, word comes that the Gates, an unbelievably boring and predictable place I didn’t believe in, has shuttered. It was off to the left, a little too high up, and not cool enough to survive. To close right before the holiday cash-in tells a tale of deep dark failure. The guys who brought people to the place, Redd Stylez and Michael James, seem to have taken their show on the road – Redd to Studio XXI and Michael to Chelsea Room. Gates was snobbish without reason and badly managed. Although they made changes to correct initial blunders, this isn’t a second chance town. Their door was a disaster, all attitude with little knowledge or experience. Making mistakes at the door at a venue off the beaten path ensures failure. There are plenty of other places in town that desire “B” crowds and their money. At best, that’s all it was – a B, C, or D crowd in a badly conceived place. They spent what looked like 20 bucks rehashing the formerly beautiful Biltmore Room. They lasted way longer than I expected, but then again, I hadn’t heard a whisper about the place for 6 months.

“As one gate closes another opens,” said a fortune cookie. (Or was it a fortune teller/ or some guy at some table spending a fortune and being philosophical? In all this Christmas confusion I fortunately have forgotten). I went by the new 152 Orchard Street hang Tammany Hall yesterday. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion had played there this past Monday. Tammany honcho Eddy Brady and Sailor Jerry Rum sweetie Dana Dynamite were texting me and e-mailing me to attend, but alas Monday is Bingo night for me and my clan. The new Sailor Jerry pin-up calendar release event was a smash I hear, and the early reviews for Tammany seem to be as well. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was on hand, and the press people sent me pictures to prove it. I toured the joint with Eddy and Dave Delzio. Purist rocker, man about town, and all around good guy Dave will be upfront on this project, which prominently features a stage, proper lights, and appropriate sound. As I was walked around, workers were painting things red, while old school posters and photos of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall were being unfurled. They will be plastered on the walls to add some panache to the place.

My old pal Arthur Weinstein, who passed a couple years ago, celebrated his birthday on Facebook yesterday. His contributions to nightlife, and to my life, have been chatted about here, and cannot be underestimated. It’s amazing how many people took the time yesterday to wish him a happy one on his still-active Facebook profile. Facebook founder and Time’s Man of the Year Mark Zuckerberg has not only changed the way we live, but how we pass. Arthur is remembered and visited. His friends still stay in touch with each other years after he’s moved on. A special friend talks Arthur’s talk, and we suddenly feel like he’s with us. We see new images often, as people upload them. He lives in cyber space, and although I miss him terribly, I find solace there. Facebook is a relatively new phenomenon, and I see our present use of it as just the tip of the iceberg.

I bought an old 1930’s era phone for the restored Nells phone booth, which is part of our design at Darby. Many of the young crew working on the downstairs yesterday had never seen a rotary dial before. They couldn’t believe there was a time before push button technology. I told them that as a kid in Connecticut, we lived in a rural area and shared a “party line” with our neighbor. If the phone rang once it was for them, twice for us. Sometimes you would pick up the phone and they would be chatting on it. You would say “excuse me” and they would politely wrap up their call in a few minutes so you could make yours. It was a time when we had two channels on the television, which was the size of a sofa. There were no cell phones, and the only computers were in the Pentagon or NASA. As we approach the new decade, it just doesn’t seem cliché to me at all to ask, What will they think of next? I miss my pal Arthur, but will find consolation and comfort after I wrap this up with a “Hey” on Facebook.