SuperDee's House

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Eating Books is Indie-Fabulous

[Thanks to Susie Martinez for the photos.]

The summer begins to wind down and another school year is about to start. For us 30-somethings, we may not be buying pencils and books but there is a lingering memory within all of us that comes up with the approaching season. Were you inspired to learn and create as a child? Many of us were lucky to have a supportive and stimulating early education but there are tons of kids running around that don't. Enter 826NYC - "a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write." It's also a kick-ass Superhero Supply Store in Park Slope.

On a balmy Sunday evening in August on the Upper West Side, indie-rock darlings gathered together at the Beacon Theater to perform a benefit concert for 826NYC - Revenge of the Bookeaters. Daily Show contributor, comedian Demetri Martin was our irreverent host for the evening, "sprinkling jokes" in between musical sets. First up was A.C. Newman (New Pornographers) who was accompanied by the warm sounds of violin and cello. He sang "Come Crash" (with the "Christine come crash on my floor" refrain) and then told us how he just met a girl named Christine a couple of weeks ago which he thought was pretty f*cked up. Dreams really do come true (for indie-pop stars anyway).

The second act was my favorite pleasant surprise of the evening - Grizzly Bear. They've opened for many bands I admire and Jeff Tweedy put them on his list of new favorite bands. I tried to listen to their albums a couple of times and I just didn't quite get it yet. But now I do - seeing them live was like the much-needed lightbulb. Grizzly Bear is four very talented and slightly creepy guys (especially the impish Chris Taylor with his mind-blowing falsetto) blending perfect vocal harmonies and odd instrumentation (oboe, whistling, accordian) with just a dash of reverb giving it that other-worldly quality. Their songs gave me the sense that I was looking in a crystal ball and seeing a fuzzy image of the past and the future all at once. There was one song called "Marla," originally written by singer/songwriter Ed Droste's great aunt in the 1930s, that was stunning and dreamlike with an old-timey circus-esque organ melody played by drummer/keyboardist Chris Bear. In-house superstar Feist joined the boys for a beautiful number giving a little potential foreshadowing to their show together tomorrow night at McCarren pool. (Demetri Martin later said they should be Feisty Bear - cute!) The song that made my jaw drop was guitarist Daniel Rossen's deconstructed cover of Paul Simon's "Graceland" which became wistful and spooky. When he sang "losing love is like a window in your heart," I could almost actually feel the wind blow.

After a great joke by Demetri about jello shots ("I like virgin jello shots. I guess I just really like to eat jello really fast"), and some heckling from and to some jerk in the crowd, it was time for my true love, Jim James. He began with an out of tune guitar, unfortunately, on a song I did not recognize but gave me goosebumps on goosebumps at the end with gorgeous falsetto oooooooooooh's. A beautiful "Bermuda Highway" followed. He then traded his acoustic for the coolest thing ever, the Omnichord (thanks to Dindas for the research), with which he synthesized a band for "What a Wonderful Man." "A lot of people think that song is about G-d, but it's not," he said. Jim, looking like a preacher man in a three piece suit, always likes to comment on his surroundings ("You are all ponies!" - High Sierra 2006) and he told a story about his church growing up that had a big eyeball in the ceiling which was supposed to be G-d looking down on them making sure they were all being good. Where is he going with this? Well, the chandelier at the Beacon kinda looks like a giant drill bit so he said this was Satan's house and he was drilling down to get us. He's such a weirdo and I love it. "A lot of people think this song is about G-d, but it's not," he repeated and then sang "Gideon." During the end of the song when he was rocking out, he turned around to headbang with his band that wasn't there like an amputee. He played "Anytime" to finish his set and comically recreated the changing drum beat at the end with the awesome Omnichord. Oh, please don't go away Jim.... Ok, ok, more music to be had ahead.

Journalist, humorist, and 826NYC board member Sarah Vowell took the stage to talk some more about the organization. They presented a few hilarious trailers of movies created by the kids during their summer film workshop. The best was a Scream-like trailer for "Death Is Calling" with the tag line, "your life is on the line." Bwahaha! Sarah then mediated a skit acted out by comedians Leo Allen and Eugene Mirman who both portrayed a character named George Washington (no relation) who was tutored and not-tutored (respectively) as a child. Obviously, the non-tutored adult played by Eugene ended up being executed by lethal injection and his last words were, "Ice cream!!!!!" Hilar.

Next up was the seductive Leslie Feist who read two stories written by the kids of 826NYC. The first was written by an 8-year-old about a lonely boy named Paul who lived in iCity (run by Mac). Paul met Steve (who was in a punk band called Black Luster) who showed him how to use iChat to communicate with other people and all was well. The second story, written in tandem by a group of kids at the center, was about a peanut named Mystic Water who was a model, lived in a jar, and had a wife named Jellytaker. Ya gotta love the limitless imagination of the youth... Feist then sang "The Water," a hauntingly beautiful song from her album The Reminder.

After Feisty was Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene who's got his own solo project at the moment called Spirit If.... He was accompanied by his BSS brother, Brendan Canning, and the two played a few songs including Kevin's "F*cked Up Kid" and BSS's "Superconnected." The final performance of the evening was by Spoon's Britt Daniel who started his set with "I Summon You" from Gimme Fiction followed by "Black Like Me" from the new album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Britt's got great stage presence and the Spoon songs were delivered with fury. AC Newman popped up to sing a song with Britt and that closed the show.

It was an amazing night of music for a wonderful cause. Kudos to Bowery Presents for their insightful booking. They no doubt raised a good deal of money for 826NYC, helping tons of kids to unleash their imaginations, use their superpowers for good, and to be ever vigilant and ever true. Learn more here:


Blogger Treetops78 said...

Sound's like a great night. I guess this was why they all showed up on Letterman to help create an amazing version of "1,2,3,4"! See it here:

11:19 AM  

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