The Lumineers Came Home to New York

The Lumineers

It took moving halfway across the country, from New York to Colorado, for Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites to draw a crowd in Brooklyn — well, that and some irresistible blues rock songs. But draw a crowd they did, when their band, The Lumineers, sold out the Music Hall of Williamsburg on April 21st.  The humble energy of the four members of the band (plus a friend joining on the opening songs) was colored with gratefulness. Schultz, ever earnest, commented “We’ve never sold out a show in New York before, so thank you.”

The Lumineers were preceded by Kopecky Family Band whose brand of rock folds in trombones, tambourines, a xylophone, an accordion and a cello. These six young musicians from Nashville sure seem to be enjoying the ride, but their sound gets a little blurry around the edges in a live performance.

Chris Pureka was slipped into the first opening slot at the last minute, resulting in some confused speculation from the audience. With her short hair tucked under a flat brimmed baseball hat, her androgynous appearance and deep, weathered voice didn’t help clarify things, but her sweeping melodies and stirring blues tempos piqued the interest of the mingling crowd…

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Lay Low Has Found Her Voice

Johnny Cash could be heard crooning in the background as Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir and I sat huddled in a dark corner at Webster Hall.  The coincidence was striking. Lovísa is increasingly well known as Lay Low and though she may be a shy, soft-spoken Icelander, the influence of classic American blues and folk music rings loud and clear in her songs.

“I had this phase where I just collected so many great old country records, like the ones that everyone knows like Patsy Cline, like Johnny Cash,” she says, acknowledging the song playing overhead, “They’re all very known in Iceland. And I just really liked the sound, the soundscape, the way, I don’t know, how it could sound so big and also so…quiet.”  … <<keep reading>>

GATZ.

The brilliance of the Elevator Repair Service’s production of GATZ– and it is a brilliant piece of theater- lies in its subtleties.  The subtle ways the ensemble of actors exposes the humor in the story; the ways that  Scott Shepherd, as narrator, highlights Fitzgerald’s magnificent language; the ways that the actors melt into the characters and the plot; even the subtle ways that the lighting and sound design lend a richness to the worlds being suggested onstage.  All brilliant. 

The production is seeing a return engagement at the Public Theater through May 13th, and as a member of the Public Theater staff, you may think I’m biased.  I promise I’m not; this is Elevator Repair Service’s show, after all, which we have the honor of presenting for the second time.  GATZ is a unique theatrical experience, in part because, yes, it runs for over six hours.  It begins as a story read aloud, straight from the worn book of The Great Gatsby which rarely leaves Shepherd’s hands, and almost imperceptibly morphs into an elaborate retelling of this, one of the most celebrated American novels.   Aside from occasional mumbles, all of the lines in the play are the words from the page.   The movement of the actors onstage and the pieces of dialogue they speak is carefully composed; nothing is taken for granted, nothing is arbitrary.  The scrupulous attention paid to the details is stunning.

With their notorious reinterpretations of classic literature, Elevator Repair Service have proven adept at enhancing an author’s original work, be it Hemingway, Faulkner or Fitzgerald, without compromising any of its splendid nature.  The conceit of GATZ allows the audience, even encourages them, to use their imagination to create the world of the story; to color inside the lines that have been drawn so vividly.  This is The Great Gatsby like never before (and likely never again), and it is truly thrilling to behold.

Video courtesy of The Public Theater.

Taking to the Stage for Planned Parenthood

“I think it’s okay to take it with beer… I don’t really remember,” Brenda Malvini remarked as she popped one of her birth control pills on stage at Highline Ballroom. Yes, this may seem like a strange thing for the lead singer of Brooklyn band North Highlands to do in the middle of a set, but this set was part of the 5th Annual Roe on the Rocks Benefit Concert for Planned Parenthood NYC  (it’s all coming together now, isn’t it?).

The evening on April 16th was hosted by comedienne Sara Benincasa, who seized the opportunity to make jokes about vaginas and feminists (they lose their luster pretty quickly). There was a raffle with prizes ranging from a $750 electric guitar to a gift certificate to Babeland, but ultimately the night revolved around the music. Though the benefit’s title refers to ‘rock’ (as in music), the three bands that filled the evening’s program all leaned more towards electronic and pop…

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