Monday, March 30, 2009

West Side Story

Published: March 20, 2009
Even when they’re flashing switchblades and kicking people in the ribs, the teenage hoodlums who maraud through Arthur Laurents’s startlingly sweet new revival of “West Side Story” seem like really nice kids. When a pure-voiced boy soprano (Nicholas Barasch) shows up to perform the musical’s banner anthem, the aching “Somewhere,” it feels like the manifestation of some inner angel who always lurks beneath the surface of the angry adolescents onstage.

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About New York: Under Broadway, the Subway Hums Bernstein (February 21, 2009)

In the production that opened Thursday night at the Palace Theater, which lovingly replicates Mr. Robbins’s balletic choreography, what prevails is a tenderhearted awareness of the naked vulnerability of being young and trapped in an urban jungle. Half a century ago middle-class adult theatergoers were shocked and appalled by the brutality of the ethnic gang warfare of “West Side Story.” (The first sentence of Brooks Atkinson’s review in The New York Times said that “the material is horrifying.”) This time audiences — the grown-ups, anyway — are more likely to respond with feelings of parental protectiveness.

Age would seem to have brought a new detachment and gentleness to the famously feisty Mr. Laurents, now 91, who last year triumphantly reconceived (in a less forgiving vein) “Gypsy,” another show for which he did the book. He has said that with “West Side Story” he hoped to achieve an authentic grittiness that the theater of the 1950s didn’t allow. (He has also had many of the lines and lyrics translated into Spanish, an only partly successful experiment.)

Yet the show seems haloed in a softening mist of compassion, turning its sidewalk Romeo and Juliet — and most of its young characters — into imperiled babes in the woods. And as designed by James Youmans, the mean streets of Manhattan exude a rainbow lyricism, even in inky darkness. David C. Woolard’s costumes, as Peter Marks previously observed in The Washington Post, bring to mind the color-coordinated peppiness of Gap ads. Mr. Laurents has exchanged insolence for innocence and, as with most such bargains, there are dividends and losses.

The best news is how newly credible and affecting the show’s central love story becomes in this context, with Matt Cavenaugh and Josefina Scaglione as the doomed Tony, an idealistic Polish-American, and the virginal Puerto Rican Maria. As Mr. Sondheim has observed, “There are no characters in ‘West Side,’ nor can there be.” They are by necessity, he said, “one-dimensional characters for a melodrama.”

This has been particularly and irritatingly true of Tony and Maria, who, despite being given some of the most gorgeous love songs ever, have usually registered as a pretty pair of tear-stained paper dolls. (Exhibit A: Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in the wildly popular 1961 film adaptation.) For me revisiting “West Side Story” has always meant tolerating the woodenness of its lovers to get to the good stuff: the score, the kinetic fireworks of the dancing and the brash vibrancy of Maria’s best friend, Anita (played here by Karen Olivo, who delivers big-time).

But this “West Side Story” is most enthralling when Tony and Maria cross the ethnic divide to pursue the pipe dream of happiness together. Mr. Cavenaugh (on Broadway in “Urban Cowboy” and “Grey Gardens”) and Ms. Scaglione (a 21-year-old newcomer from Argentina) fulfill the starry-eyed obligations of playing young folks struck by a love that arrives like a lightning bolt, propelling them into an enchanted, oblivious world of purple declarations of passion. But they also provide specific and surprising shadings of character that make Tony and Maria at least partly responsible for their fate instead of passive victims.

Mr. Cavenaugh’s Tony, a former member of the territorial Jets gang, has a goofy, woolgathering and slightly shy side that helps explain his subsequent ill-advised behavior. His singing is more tender, wondering and introspective than that of most Tonys, with less of the regulation leading-man virility.

And Ms. Scaglione’s stunningly natural Maria — freshly arrived from Puerto Rico for an arranged marriage with a member of her brother’s gang, the Sharks — has the confidence associated with young women who are beautiful, willful and unacquainted with sorrow. Her voice may be as golden as honey, and she may be as naïve as her boyfriend, but this Maria is not exclusively sweet. You sense that she’s the one who’s really in charge, and for the first time I could imagine what Tony and Maria’s marriage might be like.
Mr. Cavenaugh aside, it’s the women who rule here. Ms. Olivo’s worldly Anita, the girlfriend of Bernardo (George Akram), Maria’s brother, is a stunner, full of citrusy zest and acerbity. The role of Anita (created on stage by Chita Rivera and on film by Rita Moreno) has always been the show’s most fully drawn, and the right actress can steal the show whenever she steps onstage. Ms. Olivo obliges, but without overdoing the Latin spitfire clichés. And leading her fellow Shark girls in the rousing “America,” that great sardonic hymn to living in the United States, she takes the production to a level of pure physical exhilaration it never quite achieves otherwise.
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Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
The cast of the musical “West Side Story,” with, in front, George Akram, left, Karen Olivo and Cody Green (pointing). More Photos >

Slide Show
‘West Side Story’

Slide Show
Telling a New ‘Story’

Slide Show
Playing It Cool
Same City, New Story (March 15, 2009)

Dance: Rekindling Robbins, a Step at a Time (March 8, 2009)

ArtsBeat: Officer Krupke, You're Historically Precise (February 26, 2009)

Spring Theater Special | Faces to Watch: Josefina Scaglione (February 22, 2009)

About New York: Under Broadway, the Subway Hums Bernstein (February 21, 2009)

Times Topics: Jerome Robbins | Arthur Laurents | Stephen Sondheim | Leonard Bernstein

Movie Trailer: 'West Side Story" (1961)

Original Review: 'West Side Story' (Sept. 27, 1957) [pdf]

The execution of that number embodies what Anita says about how the Shark boys dance, “like they want to get rid of something quick.” Yet it’s only when the male ensemble members are joined by their female counterparts — most notably in the electric “Dance at the Gym” sequence — that they come fully to life.

Joey McKneely, for the most part, has reproduced Mr. Robbins’s original work with reverent exactitude. Anyone who knows the film, on which Mr. Robbins served as choreographer and co-director, will recognize the celebrated street ballet of a prologue. Here the gang members, led by Cody Green (as Riff, the head of the Jets) and Mr. Akram, make all the right moves, but you feel no internal combustion going on, no hormone-fueled hostility forever on the verge of eruption.

These guys are like suburban kids slumming in the city for the day, and you expect their parents to show up in station wagons to take them home at the end of the rumble. (Reactions to this approach are sure to vary. “They’re cute,” I said sullenly at intermission to the woman I was with. “They’re cute,” she cooed dotingly in response.) It’s a sensibility that deprives both the finger-snapping “Cool” and the satiric “Officer Krupke” of their necessary anger. And whenever Ms. Olivo appeared to mingle with members of either gang, I would think, “Oh, good, a grown-up.”

The real grown-ups in “West Side Story” (there are four) have always been stick figures — villains or well-intentioned, uncomprehending fools who make the parents in the “Rebel Without a Cause” seem like Eugene O’Neill creations. This production does not make them any more believable. Though Mr. Laurents has tinkered with his original dialogue, a lot of it retains the stiff signboard poetry of socially enlightened mid-20th-century American movies and plays.

Having the Sharks speak to one another in Spanish effectively underscores the sense of cultural estrangement that the show demands. But since music is supposedly a universal language (and since the Jets and Sharks often sing the same melodies), do we have to have key, plot-propelling songs translated (by Lin-Manuel Miranda) into Spanish as well? It’s fine for those of us who know the show inside out, but English-speaking newcomers may have difficulty following the second act. On the other hand, the deliciously girly body language in “Siento Hermosa” (“I Feel Pretty”), performed by Maria and a giggly set of friends, requires no bilingual dictionary.

Bernstein’s score, gloriously rendered here under the supervision of Patrick Vaccariello, remains a ravishment of modernist dissonance and smashing schmaltz, as irresistible as Puccini. When Mr. Cavenaugh and Ms. Scaglione sing the duets “Tonight” and “One Hand, One Heart,” it’s hard not to melt into sweet, empathetic adolescent agony. First love may ultimately be only a matter of biologically programmed impulses. But the emotions it inspires, as this Tony and Maria remind us so poignantly, can transform the erotic into truly Edenic innocence.


Based on a conception by Jerome Robbins; book by Arthur Laurents; music by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; original production directed and choreographed by Robbins; directed by Mr. Laurents; choreography reproduced by Joey McKneely; music supervisor/director, Patrick Vaccariello; sets by James Youmans; costumes by David C. Woolard; lighting by Howell Binkley; sound by Dan Moses Schreier; wigs and hair design by Mark Adam Rampmeyer; makeup design by Angelina Avallone; associate director, David Saint; associate choreographer, Lori Werner; associate producer, LAMS Productions; translations by Lin-Manuel Miranda; orchestrations by Bernstein with Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal; music coordinator, Michael Keller; production stage manager, Joshua Halperin; technical supervisor, Brian Lynch; general manager, Charlotte Wilcox Company. Presented by Kevin McCollum, James L. Nederlander, Jeffrey Seller, Terry Allen Kramer, Sander Jacobs, Roy Furman/Jill Furman Willis, Freddy DeMann, Robyn Goodman/Walt Grossman, Hal Luftig, Roy Miller, the Weinstein Company and Broadway Across America. At the Palace Theater, 1564 Broadway, near 46th Street, (212) 307-4100. Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes.

WITH: Matt Cavenaugh (Tony), Josefina Scaglione (Maria), Karen Olivo (Anita), Cody Green (Riff), George Akram (Bernardo), Curtis Holbrook (Action) and Nicholas Barasch (Kiddo).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Boy Accused Of Flatulence, Banned From Bus

Boy Accused Of Flatulence, Banned From Bus
Alleged Flatulence Made It Hard To Breathe, Says Bus Driver
Posted: 6:44 am EDT March 20, 2009
Updated: 3:50 pm EDT March 21, 2009

LAKELAND, Fla. -- A 15-year-old Lakeland, Fla., boy is looking for a new way to school after his alleged flatulence had him kicked off the bus.
Eighth-grader Jonathan Locke Jr. was suspended from riding the school bus for three days after being accused of passing gas.
"Jonathan passes gas on the bus to make the other children laugh and it is so stink [sic] that you can't breathe after he does it," the bus driver wrote on a misbehavior form.
But Locke said he wasn't the culprit.
"It wasn't even me," Locke said. "It was a kid who sits in front of me."
Jerome Corbett, senior director of specialized services for the Polk County School District, said there is no specific rule that prohibits students from passing gas on the bus.
"There's a rule against disturbing the bus," Corbett said.
If the flatulence becomes excessive, then Corbett said the bus driver has the responsibility to report it to the school administrator.
Fred Murphy, assistant superintendent of support services, directed calls to Corbett but said he told reporters with a Lakeland newspaper, The Ledger, that "if it (passing gas) caused a disruption on the bus, that would be an issue to deal with."
Trouble for Locke started Monday afternoon after school when a student sitting next to him started making noises with his mouth. Then, students smelled a pungent aroma.
"I started laughing," Locke said. "It was a bad smell."
On Tuesday when Locke walked onto the bus, the bus driver handed him the suspension form.
Distributed by Internet Broadcasting. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

celebrity sighting

Randy Newman in Laguadia Airport.... he was coming in and I was going out.

Capricorn Week of March 11

I decided to call my cable TV company to inquire about a mistake on my bill. From past experience, I suspected this would be a visit to the suburbs of hell. My expectations were soon fulfilled. After being cycled through three phases of the automated system, I was told by a machine that I'd get to speak with an actual person in 16 minutes. Then I was delivered into the aural torment of recorded smooth jazz. But a minute into the ordeal, something wonderful happened. The muzak gave way to a series of great indie rock tunes, including three I'd never heard before. A song that I later determined to be Laura Veirs' "Don't Lose Yourself" became my instant new favorite. By the time the billing consultant was ready for me, my mood was cheery. I predict a comparable sequence for you, Capricorn. An apparent trip to the suburbs of hell will have a happy ending that exposes you to fresh sources of inspiration.

Capricorn Week of March 19

Study the following terms: refuge, sanctuary, bunker, asylum, fortress, haven, shelter, safety zone, storm cellar, hideaway, retreat, halfway house, cloister, cell, ashram, clubhouse, lair, foxhole, nest, pit, inner sanctum. Now use some of those words to formulate descriptions of actions you'll take to enhance both your freedom and security. Example: "When I'm longing for privacy and renewal, I'll retreat to a haven, not a bunker." Another example: "If I need to seek refuge from the unnameable insanity around me, I'll make a pilgrimage to a sanctuary, not to a foxhole."

Capricorn Horoscope for week of March 26, 2009

Capricorn Horoscope for week of March 26, 2009

I'm definitely not encouraging you to go to Youtube and watch the music video of the hamster eating popcorn on a piano. You've got more important things to do, and shouldn't waste your time on trivial diversions. So get down to business! Commit your whole being to the crucial work you have ahead of you! Don't waver from your laser-focused intention! APRIL FOOL! The truth is that if you want to succeed in the coming days, you will have to stay loose, indulge in at least a few blithe diversions, and not be a stern taskmaster demanding perfection. So go watch the hamster. It's at

Want more help in exploring the Great Mystery that is your life? I discuss your coming week in greater depth in your EXPANDED AUDIO HOROSCOPE.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Stipe, Patti Smith, Others Play R.E.M. Tribute in NYC

Stipe, Patti Smith, Others Play R.E.M. Tribute in NYC
Spin Magazine Online - March 12, 2009 8:24 AM

Last night, Hootie & the Blowfish singer Darius Rucker and folky Kimya Dawson proved that they had at least one thing very much in common: a love for R.E.M. They, along with 19 other artists -- Glen Hansard, Marshall Crenshaw, and the great Patti Smith among them -- came together for a benefit concert at New York's Carnegie Hall to pay tribute to the legendary Athens, GA, quartet with their own versions of R.E.M. classics.

Of the bands who gave birth to the '80s indie-rock explosion, R.E.M. are one of the lucky few to have made it through the '90s alive. The event was about celebrating R.E.M.'s many moods -- the strange mutability in their music that has assured the band's survival over a nearly 30-year career. There was the baroque pop of "At My Most Beautiful" and "Night Swimming," courtesy of Dar Williams and Ingrid Michaelson, the Top 40 balladeering of "Everybody Hurts," performed by Vic Chesnutt and Elf Power, and the jangly guitar rock of "Fall on Me," courtesy of New York power-pop legends the dB's.
R.E.M. Tribute Show in NYC

Jack White's Dead Weather

A Year with Metallica


With few exceptions, each artist turned in a performance worthy of the honoree. Calexico came through with a countrified "Wendell Gee" (from 1985's Fables of the Reconstruction), and as the evening's backing band, they brought warm harmonies and an easy-going lap steel guitar to a Keren Ann's gorgeous "Man on the Moon."

Still, the evening's best moments were often its most intimate. With his masterful acoustic guitar playing, Fink -- a UK DJ turned singer-songwriter -- pulled off a tense, soulful performance of "The Apologist" (from 1998's Up). On "Night Swimming," Michaelson -- accompanied only by an upright bass -- used a loop pedal to harmonize with herself, creating what seemed like 50 Ingrids swirling above the delirious audience.

The event also served as a tribute to the countless bands formed in R.E.M.'s wake. Some of the evening's biggest applause was reserved for Bob Mould (who with his beard and bald head looked eerily like Michael Stipe himself), Rhett Miller (of Old '97's fame), Throwing Muses, and New York's briefly-reunited Feelies -- all artists whose musical exploits owe a big debt to the Georgia quartet. "I love you R.E.M.!," Miller blurted, before rushing off the stage after his blistering performance of "Driver 8."

For Patti Smith, the connection ran even deeper. Before she and R.E.M. closed out the night with a casually brilliant performance of "E-bow the Letter," Smith offered a personal tribute to a beloved band and a lasting friendship. "R.E.M. the band has offered me much inspiration and joy," Smith gushed. "But Michael Stipe the man brought me up when I was down and I ain't never been down since!"

The db's -- "Fall on Me"
Fink -- "The Apologist"
Keren Ann -- "Man on the Moon"
Calexico -- "Wendell Gee"
Rachel Yamagata -- "The Great Beyond"
Bob Mould -- "Sitting Still"
The Feelies -- "Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)"
Ingrid Michaelson -- "Night Swimming"
Glen Hansard -- "Hairshirt"
Apples in Stereo -- "South Central Rain"
Guster -- "Shaking Through"
Marshall Crenshaw -- "Supernatural Superserious"
Rhett Miller -- "Driver 8"
Kimya Dawson -- "World Leader Pretend"
Vic Chesnutt with Elf Power -- "Everybody Hurts"
Kristen Hersh & Throwing Muses -- "Perfect Circle"
Dar Williams -- "At My Most Beautiful"
Jolie Holland -- "Rockville"
Darius Rucker -- "I Believe"
Patti Smith -- "New Test Leper"
R.E.M. with Patti Smith -- "E-bow the Letter"
Read the full story from Spin Magazine Online -

Friday, March 13, 2009

REM tribute according to NY Mag....

American Idol Losers to Be Humiliated Twice Now
Vampire to Steal Liz Lemon From Don Draper?
R.E.M. Tribute Concert at Carnegie: A Reckoning
3/12/09 at 11:15 AM
Comment 5Comment 5Comments
Vic Chesnutt rehearsing before the show.

Vic Chesnutt rehearsing before the show.Photo: Getty Images

One downside to being a lifelong R.E.M. completist (besides Around the Sun) is the compulsion to buy R.E.M. tribute albums. We own Athens's finest as reinterpreted by a cheesy classical guitarist, some bluegrass opportunists, a self-debasing Royal Philharmonic, and finally, in a collection called Surprise Your Pig, a bunch of early-nineties indie rockers who clearly hate R.E.M. So we had our fears about last night's "Tribute to R.E.M." concert at Carnegie Hall, which entrusted some of rock's hardest-to-improve-upon tunes to everyone from the Moldy Peaches' Kimya Dawson to Darius Rucker, a.k.a. Hootie. The result was, for the most part, shockingly decent; the individual song-performer pairings are graded below, with no pretense of objectivity.

1. The dB's, "Fall on Me": A close facsimile of the original (no big shock, since pretty much everyone onstage had played and recorded with R.E.M. at some point), with a countryish breakdown. Fidelity: 9 (out of 10), Added Value: 1

2. Fink, "The Apologist": Solo guitar and a pseudo-bluesy vocals in the Chris Cornell vein turn the Radioheadish number from Up into a kind of NPR funk. Fidelity: 2, Added Value: 0

3. Keren Ann & Calexico, "Man on the Moon": A languid, folky take. Keren Ann, mercifully, forgoes an Elvis impression on the "Hey baby / Are we losing touch?" part. Fidelity: 6, Added Value: 2

4. Calexico, "Wendell Gee": A no-brainer (this is R.E.M.'s most Calexico-like song) with a touch of extra drawl. The night's first performer to get all the lyrics right. Fidelity: 8, Added Value: 3

5. Rachel Yamagata, "The Great Beyond": A lazy, loungey piano version of one of the band's few good post–Bill Berry rockers. Fidelity: 3, Added Value: 1

6. Bob Mould, "Sitting Still": Calexico, playing the house band, finally gets a chance to rock out; Mould's catholic re-creation of Stipe's phonetic non-lyrics betrays a genuine fan. Fidelity: 7, Added Value: 4

7. The Feelies, "Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)": How painfully indie, to reach back to the band's very first EP for material; that said, unlike many performers tonight, the Feelies have clearly played, or at least jammed on, this song before. Fidelity: 8, Added Value: 5

8. Ingrid Michaelson, "Nightswimming": Cutesy-wutesy "The Way I Am" singer pairs up with an upright bass and a digital-delay pedal; her flawlessly executed real-time self-sampling saves the song by gradually amassing a choir of herself. Fidelity: 3, Added Value: 3

9. Glen Hansard, "Hairshirt": A properly boring mandolin rendition of R.E.M.'s most boring mandolin song. Fidelity: 10, Added Value: 0

10. Apples in Stereo, "South Central Rain": "This song changed my life," exclaimed Robert Schneider, before launching into a wholly reverent cover, complete with a Rickenbacker. Fidelity: 9, Added Value: 1

11. Guster, "Shaking Through": A banjo lead is the only deviation from the original — Adam Gardner even copied Stipe's unusually flat notes. Fidelity: 9, Added Value: 2

12. Marshall Crenshaw, "Supernatural Superserious": Done in half-time and in an organic, "Automatic"-era arrangement, this is the night's first song to clearly, indisputably improve on its source. Fidelity: 4, Added Value: 9

13. Rhett Miller, "Driver 8": Almost too easy a pairing — the erstwhile Old 97's singer was born to do this chiming Southern number. Next time try tackling "Airportman" or something. Fidelity: 8, Added Value: 1

14. Kimya Dawson and some furries, "World Leader Pretend": The night's designated WTF moment sees Green's dark anthem reduced to a glockenspiel ditty, with dinosaurs and cops gyrating in the background. Fidelity: 0, Added Value: 7

15. Vic Chesnutt & Elf Power, "Everybody Hurts": R.E.M.'s slickest ballad reborn as a swampy, throaty lament; watching Chesnutt strain to reach the mike from his wheelchair on the line "Don't let yourself go" is almost too powerful for words. Hope someone rolled tape on this. Fidelity: 4, Added Value: 10

16. Throwing Muses, "Perfect Circle": Somehow janglier than the original (!), but Kristin Hersh sounded downright bored. Fidelity: 5, Added Value: 2

17. Dar Williams, "At My Most Beautiful": Someone took the Carnegie Hall thing seriously: Williams delivers the band's Beach Boys tribute in a ballgown, to a solemn piano-and-cello arrangement. Her lovely, plaintive head voice is ill-served by this — you'd expected an operatic soprano. Fidelity: 8, Added Value: 3

18. Jolie Holland & TV on the Radio, "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" Twangy, faithful, and ultimately dull; TVOTR's backing-vocal contribution remained completely inaudible, but Tunde did rock a sharp blazer. Fidelity: 9, Added Value: 1

19. Darius Rucker, "I Believe": Hootie nails it! Rucker, whose terrible old band actually started out doing R.E.M. covers, is the only performer of the night to do proper Stipe Hands (a kind of malaised "Voguing") while on the mike. Fidelity: 7, Added Value: 4

20. Patti Smith, "New Test Leper": Smith, who'll take her love of R.E.M. literally anywhere (she recently sang "Everybody Hurts" in a duet with Russian pop star Zemfira), tries this song, forgets the lyrics, apologizes, begins anew, makes something up. Michael Stipe then joins her onstage for "E-Bow the Letter"; this time, she changes her chorus lines to "Thank you / Michael / for being my Valentine / Thank you / Michael / baby / honey." Stipe looks equal parts touched and embarrassed. Which, in the end, happens to be the perfect reaction to the quixotic undertaking of the entire tribute concert. Fidelity: N/A, Added Value: N/A

Thursday, March 12, 2009

rem tribute

Patti Smith, the rock goddess of punk, just about levitated off the stage last night at Carnegie Hall during the final number in a tribute to REM. The event was an annual charity fundraiser produced by Michael Dorf in which an eclectic gang of famous performers sing the hits of one act.

In this case, the honoree was REM (Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills), and the performers ranged from Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish to Marshall Crenshaw, Bob Mould, Rhett Miller, Guster, Dar Williams, Vic Chestnutt, Glen Hansard (of the movie Once), and the sublime Kimya Dawson, wrote the music for the movie Juno and was accompanied by a performance art troupe The Moldy Peaches. Read about them on their Web site or Wikipedia. Amazing.

Anyway, each artist did an REM song, and really, Crenshaw got it the most right with “Supernatural Superserious.” No one tried any of REM”s big hits, though, so it was mostly a night of obscure musicians playing cult music.

Thus into the fray jumped Smith, who first tried “New Test Leper,” forgot some of the lyrics, started over and finished well. But then she was joined by the real REM on stage, and sang another song from the same 1996 album, “New Adventures in Hi Fi.” This one is called “Ebow the Letter.” I hope someone got it for YouTube. Something happened, and in the middle of it, Smith just levitated. She was magnificent, and sang better than ever in her vaunted career. Stipe must have thought so, too, because he crouched down next to her while she sang it, and looked like he was praying. The audience went, as they say in rock, berserk.

Just as a note: I remember “New Adventures.” It had no hits, came in an expensive box, and was a dud. No one liked it. Thirteen years later, two tracks from it stole the show. Go figure.

A plug: Proceeds from the evening benefited the American Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Hollands Opus Foundation, and the Church Street School of Music and Art in Lower Manhattan. …

Sunday, March 08, 2009

daylights savings time

the david byrne girl

Friday, I stopped into Whole Foods before the Nields show and there she was standing there eating carrots. The David Byrne girl was there. She was waiting for a date and invited me to Sunshine theater on Monday nights. She works there and can get me in.

She had a really good time at David Byrne, Danced, told me her friends were jealous because they read about the show in the paper.

surprised she wasnt going to Phish

Suzanne write for NY TIMES on Melody

March 6, 2009, 10:00 pm
What’s a Melody For?
By Suzanne Vega

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime.
Didn’t you?
People’d call, say “Beware doll,
You’re bound to fall,” you thought they were all
Kidding you.

Remember that song? I’ll bet you do. What’s the melody? Pretty much one note from the beginning to the end of the phrase, with a lift at the end. Is it a cool song? Yes, very. It’s Bob Dylan — “Like A Rolling Stone.” A classic. As classic as “My Way” by Frank Sinatra or anything by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

How about this one?

Holly came from Miami Fla
Hitch-hiked her way across the USA
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, hey babe
Take a walk on the wild side
Said hey honey
Take a walk on the wild side.

That’s Lou Reed, “Walk on the Wild Side.” It’s another classic. What’s the melody? A couple of notes here and there in close proximity to each other.

Imagine either of those songs with wide intervals and sweeping melody lines. I don’t think so. Both are served up the way they are meant to be. And they are great songs. So a great song does not need a well-crafted, “memorable” melody to work. There are a million examples of this — blues songs, folk songs, three-chord rock songs, rock poetry, rap music.

So what is a melody for? I used to think of a melody as a kind of serving tray for the lyrics and the story within the song. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been moved by a gorgeous melody.

I still remember hearing “Changes” by Phil Ochs for the first time. I was at sleep-away camp and one of my counselors was singing it in her room. Suddenly I was filled with a deep sorrow, the reasons for which I couldn’t pinpoint or place. I began to cry. My counselor looked at me through the door, and asked if I was homesick.

“No!” I said.

“Did somebody say something mean to you?”

“No!” I said.

Eventually we figured out. “Is it the song? We can sing another one!” She did, and the mood lifted and sailed away within minutes. The melody was like a code of emotion, that worked directly on my — what? brain? heart? soul? A combination of all three. But later on, as a songwriter, I still thought of a melody as a serving tray of sorts, or a bed that the words lie down on.

The first songs I wrote that really felt original had almost no melody. “Cracking” is a song I wrote when I was 20. In school we had been studying the opera “Wozzeck” by Alban Berg, and talking about the use of sprechstimme (spoken-voice) in the works by Bertolt Brecht. Melody? What was it for? To express big sweeping emotions like love. But it felt more modern, if you were writing songs to express shock or stress or madness, to just do away with it. Later in life, around the time of my first marriage and the birth of my daughter, I felt the desire to explore melody again. Bigger emotions demand wider expression.

Some of my favorite melodies are: “You Took Advantage of Me” (Rodgers and Hart); “Birdhouse in Your Soul” (They Might Be Giants); “Almost Blue” (Elvis Costello); “The Art Teacher” (Rufus Wainwright); Mozart’s 40th Symphony; many songs by Laura Nyro. Sting’s melodies like “Roxanne” and “King of Pain” are elegant jewels. The Jason Mraz song “I’m Yours” is a good melody. “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder still fills me with joy.

Melody is its own idea, like sculpture. You don’t look at a piece of sculpture to see what is resting on top of it. A great melody has its own design, a beautiful combination of intervals and rhythms usually expressing the emotion of the song. Somehow a melody is connected, like the sense of smell, to memory, so when you hear a song it connects you in a flood of emotions to the time and place of that song. I am sure there are reasons in the brain for this, but as a songwriter I don’t need to know how the brain does it, only that it does. Here, for example, is one article that puts it succinctly. There are so many articles and books about what music does to the brain that I can’t list them all here.

One thing I noticed after the birth of my daughter, Ruby, was that melody engaged her attention in a way that lyrics did not. I suppose this should have been obvious, but it hadn’t occurred to me that she was preverbal, and so a 7-minute song with complex lyrics would make her attention wander (unless it was a song containing farm animals), whereas a clear melody would make her turn her head towards me and would hold her attention completely. Much of our early time together was spent in my holding her in the rocking chair, inventing little melodies for hours, with nonsense lyrics and made-up phrases, anything to soothe her colicky belly and stop her shrieking.

Now Ruby is a vocal major in high school. Recently, she sang a song she was practicing for a test in school, a vocal line of an Italian art song from the late 1800’s. I didn’t need to know the story or what the words meant to feel the impact immediately — hearing her sing the melody line moved me to tears. (At which point she clapped her hands delightedly! Wicked thing.)

Speaking of what a melody can be used for: Last month I attended a hearing in Albany to protest the $7 million that was cut from the New York State Council on the Arts budget. I found it to be a fascinating process. I am on the advocacy committee of National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) and write letters or go to Albany from time to time to lobby for or protest against various bills. This was a joint hearing held by Senator Jose Serrano and assemblyman Steve Engelbright. Men and woman in groups of three came forward and addressed the dais — a stage on which a few state senators and assemblymen were, well, assembled, in a hearing room at the Legislative Office Building.

Each person testified about how the cuts would affect them and their businesses personally (Sen. José M. Serrano, for instance).

This got me to thinking about the word “advocate” (invoke, vocalize) — in other words, “speak forth” to an audience that “hears” you. After all, it’s called a hearing. Some of the speeches were impassioned, some dry; some long-winded, some to-the-point. All of them were moving, and frequently the assemblymen and state senators were sympathetic. (In spite of this sympathy we learned at the end of the day that the money was cut.) The hearing went on for a couple of hours, so when Tom Chapin presented his testimony in the form of a song he had written for the occasion, it was a welcome moment, and a relief from what had gone before.

You can see his performance on YouTube.

The song’s impact in this moment was thunderous — it had a simple melody, and yet to hear all the issues of the morning put succinctly into song moved everyone in the room to a standing ovation. Not to mention it was a welcome break from the hours of testimony — a little levity and entertainment. For that one moment, Tom Chapin might have been Bruce Springsteen, and Hearing Room A (2nd floor) Madison Square Garden.

His song is called “You Can’t Spell Smart Without Art” and it makes the point eloquently. The right combination of words and, yes, melody at the right moment can have a powerful effect. The latest news is that $50 million has been allocated to the N.E.A. as part of the recovery package, in part because of the organized lobbying efforts of arts advocates across the country.

Just think of a world without art, without song — how would we celebrate? What would we dream of? What would set our imaginations free? How could we express our emotions for our husbands and wives and children? Celebrate a birthday? A melody is for expressing emotions: delight, passion, sadness. It reminds us of what we have felt and experienced before, in our own personal code of emotion and history. Priceless!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

celebrity sighting

Richard Barone was walking up 3rd Ave near St Marks on Sunday.

Byrne interviews Rosanne Cash

I first listened to Rosanne Cash with both ears when her self-produced Interiors record came out in 1990. I was not alone—a lot of people got turned on to her writing (and performing) as a result of that record—but she’s been writing great lyrics a lot longer than that; in the ‘80s she had 11 number one songs.

Interiors was a bold step in that it broke away from what most business insiders would call a winning formula. That recording was a turning point for her as a writer and it introduced her to an audience who didn’t always listen to country stations. It “crossed over.” Lucky for us. It’s brave and honest writing of the sort one doesn’t hear much in a universe where most popular music seems contrived or calculated. Her new recording The Wheel continues in this direction. The best songs communicate without artifice—although the performance and musicianship are uniformly strong, they become invisible—it’s the songs themselves that speak to us.

I met Rosanne at a songwriter’s forum at the Bottom Line where four of us: Lou Reed, Luka Bloom, Rosanne and myself, performed solo acoustic versions of songs—our own and others. Needless to say, our writing is real different, hers and mine. I suppose I’m inspired, intimidated, and in awe of someone who seems to be able to tap into and communicate things in songs that sometimes seem to be missing in my own work.

David Byrne Do you think the instrument that you play affects the kind of writing you do? I’m not talking about the brand name…

Rosanne Cash ...yeah, the guitar.

DB Guitar? I tried writing songs on the piano for a while, but they came out real different.

RC Same here. 94 percent of the songs I’ve written have been on guitar, 95…96. But the ones I’ve written on piano have been completely different. The melody structure and the chord sequences tend to be a little more melancholic too.

DB Could that be technical? Because the notes on piano chords are closer together?

RC There’s something about going into a one to two minor. Those little ascending and descending things. Yeah, I wrote one song called “Paralyzed” on piano, and it was brutal, emotionally.

DB Would you say that the sound of the instrument, the sound of the chords have an effect on the content of the song as well as the melody?

RC I think so. But I am not a great guitar player so sometimes I get frustrated by how limited I am. And when I get frustrated I tend to fall back into folksy sweetness which makes me even more frustrated. I want to try to break through that. But, you know, the limitations are as much a part of the style as anything else.

DB When we did that forum at the Bottom Line I felt that you and Lou and I were somewhat limited in our guitar playing. And then Luka Bloom starts playing and I looked over at him, my jaw dropped, I felt like: “I’m never going to catch up!”

RC (laughter) I know! I felt the same way! Every time he played it was so discouraging.

DB It just sounded so huge and beautiful and I thought, I’ve been working so hard to learn some new chords and improve my playing a little bit in hopes that it would open up my writing some. So to compensate, I said to myself, maybe when people are writing, limitations can be an asset.

RC There comes a point where it becomes moot. My boyfriend is a brilliant musician. Listening to him play the other night, I said, “I really wish I could play like you.” And he said, “Well, you could. You just have to commit that you want to do that” I said, “I don’t think so. It’s too late.” Even if I committed, it’s like a lifetime thing. He learned that when he had all the free time in the world, and I don’t have that anymore.

DB So he would practice five hours a day, and play in…

RC ...And play in 20 bands and spend his whole entire youth playing guitar. I don’t have that to do anymore. Steuart Smith who has played guitar for me a lot and is a fucking brilliant musician, would drink a pot of coffee every day, and play eight hours, every day. I just can’t drink that much coffee, I’m never going to be that good!

DB Have you written a lot in New York?

RC Yeah, a lot. Even before I moved here.

DB People ask me if my writing reflects New York, or they assume that it does. I am really suspicious of that. I think that wherever you are, you’re going to write the same thing. You carry it inside you. Although the musicians who interpret it might be different…

RC I’m not sure about that. I know a writer who takes excursions to inspire himself to write. He’ll go to Paris and park in a hotel room for a month so he can soak up Paris and write. It definitely affects me, where I am. I’ve written in hotel rooms on the road. I think it’s both, you carry it around with you, and you can be stimulated by your environment. Just the idea of going to Paris made me write “Sleeping in Paris.”

DB (laughter) I thought that was from being on the road.

RC Really?

DB Yeah. That’s the way I took it. Are you teaching a songwriting seminar?

RC Workshops.

DB I don’t know how to make this a question.

RC What? How do you teach something that can’t be taught?

DB Yeah, how do you teach something that can’t be taught? Do you feel you’ve learned from friends and family or from song books or lessons?

RC I had the benefit, when I was starting out as a writer, of being in a group of writers. It was very intense, we’d trade songs all the time, and examine other people’s songs, and talk about what worked and what didn’t. That was the most beneficial thing: You put 16 writers in a group and start examining each others’ songs, what’s powerful, what’s focused. That in itself is an amazing experience, intimate and really deep. The first thing that I say in my workshop is that I can’t teach them how to write. I can give them some of the tools that I’ve learned to connect with my own inner voice and to disengage the internal critic so that something can come through.

(A banging of doors, footsteps…John Leventhal enters.)

John Leventhal: Hi!

RC What’s up?

JL My shrink bugged out. (laughter)

RC Isn’t it supposed to be the reverse?

JL I know. Well, actually, she was just arriving. We had a brief argument. She won, obviously, I’m back here. (laughter)

RC Anyway, what happens to people in the workshop is that they cultivate this deep listening to each other and to themselves. And that is the most powerful thing of all.

DB So they learn pretty quickly not to expect little tricks.

RC Right. There are no tricks. I taught this all—women’s group, and gave them a simple A\B A\B rhyme scheme and said they had to write two verses. The subject was sleep, but they couldn’t use the word “sleep” in the verses. I was blown away by what they came up with. It was so descriptive and moving, and deep, and dark, and, oh man, it was wild. So what happens is that I end up learning more than anyone else. That’s why I do it. Have you ever done anything like that?

DB Not formally like that. But with friends. I have a few friends who are songwriters.

RC And you guys sit around and trade?

DB This guy, Terry Allen. He lives in Santa Fe. I play him stuff when I’m working on it and we visit once in a while. Play stuff in progress.

RC I do that with my friend, John Stewart. We talk on the phone all the time and stage ideas. It’s so good.

DB Sometimes nothing ever comes of it, but it allows me to open up or expose what I’m doing in some way. It’s not part of the recording process, I’m not playing it to an engineer or producer.

RC Exposing it gives it respect automatically. If it’s just an internal thing, you tend to doubt it.

DB Do you think about who the audience is?

RC I try not to. I find that very…it undermines what I do.

DB But in a closer sense, are there friends or family whose acceptance means a lot to you?

RC Yeah, yeah. John Stewart being one of them since I respect him as a writer. And John Leventhal. I think about how they would react sometimes.

DB Do you think you do unconsciously…?

RC I find myself singing to a sort of faceless person, it’s probably an amalgamation of people I respect. I had a dream once about confronting art, personified, as a human being, and him telling me that he didn’t respect dilettantes. This dream was about eight years ago and it changed my life. I knew that I had to strengthen my concentration and really focus on what I was doing and commit to this work in a really deep way or else give it up. There’s no in-between. That presence is still with me. I want to please him. It’s off the wall, but it was really powerful.

DB Do you ever think about what the function of songs, in this case popular songs, is to people’s lives? I don’t mean just yours.

RC I actually think about that a lot.

DB An awfully broad question.

RC Well, I think of it in even broader terms. I think about what art is meant to do in people’s lives. Partly it’s to express feelings that people have trouble getting in touch with or concepts they can’t quite put together in their mind.

DB Do you think that it’s a replacement or substitute for mythology or religion, which isn’t as strong for some people as it was in the past?

RC There seems to be a lot more intensity and passion infused in art and music. Because there’s very few places for ritual or for the sacred to be manifested. Or for something outside of yourself that speaks about transformation, human progress, those things. The church doesn’t really fulfill that role anymore. So you’re probably right. Art and music take a huge part of that. It’s a tremendous healing force. More healing than religion.

DB Does that seem like an impossible burden to put on popular songs?

RC Yes. It is an impossible burden. But don’t you think that’s why people become obsessed with the people that make the music?

DB Absolutely. It’s a balancing act. Because if it’s popular, it’s just a commodity that goes into the record stores and marketplace. And it gets marketed and prostituted in every kind of way. And yet, this commodity really has deep meaning for people. In our economic system, culture and soul is bought and sold. And we often see something that means a lot in our lives, changed, bent out of shape, and prostituted as it is marketed, advertised and promoted, and that can really hurt us.

RC There’s a piece from The New Yorker that I carried around in my purse for many years. It talked about what was happening with art now. In ancient Greece, someone would bring their piece into the marketplace, and people would come and see it and be inspired by it, and they’d go home and their lives would be changed. And now, people first look to the marketplace to see what’s out there, copy it, and take it back to the marketplace. So that all people see is their own reflections over and over and over again while this great unexamined world just drifts by. And sometimes it seems the shallower the reflection, the greater the obsession. Like with these mega-pop stars. There’s not much substance or dimension there, but there’s a tremendous obsession with them.

DB I guess that when there’s shallowness, there’s more room to project your own…

RC ...Right, to fit your self into the picture.

DB Yeah, to fit yourself into the picture because all of the pieces of the puzzle aren’t there…

RC It’s not complex.

DB Yeah. And there’s usually more ritual present. Whether it’s the rave scene, or a Metal concert or whatever, there’s more mass ritual that can be real cathartic. What I don’t understand is that those situations seem real cathartic but they also seem borderline fascism. The concerts seem like fascist rallies, but obviously it’s a real release for people as well.

RC But many times it’s not channeled in a very positive way. It’s like all of this energy is provided but not in a very constructive way. I mean managing group energy is…

DB Really tricky.

RC Yeah. Very tricky.

DB Do you get inspiration from other art forms?

RC I go to the opera, I go to museums. All art forms. I did love the opera, but it was a challenge.

DB I’ve never gone to a traditional opera. I’ve gone to some of the contemporary ones.

RC You should go. We went to see La Boheme.

DB I want to see one of the ones with lots of catchy tunes and lots of scenery.

RC Just going to the Met in itself is remarkable. I get inspiration from all of it. Do you paint or anything like that?

DB I take pictures, photos. I have for a long time and I’m just trying to figure out what to do with them. What about you?

RC I paint.

DB When you paint, is it a way of doing things you can’t in a song?

RC There are things that don’t have language attached to them. It’s really satisfying to free myself of language and just work in color or shape. I found once I started painting, my writing got deeper, better. Just accessing the same energy at a different place can open a lot of new doors. It’s extraordinary. But, I also find it equally as frustrating.

DB Do you think of your painting as private? Or, living here in New York surrounded by galleries, do you think, well, should I show these?

RC That becomes a career. I have shown. I was in a group show, and a small other show, but not in the city. I let them out in little bits. Maybe I would if I gave up writing for a year and was just painting, painting, painting. The first time I showed my work, I was so vulnerable. Much more vulnerable than writing. I couldn’t believe how scary it was. Have you shown your photos?

DB Sort of in the same way. In dribs and drabs. Group shows and things like that. There’s just an awful lot of stuff piling up. As you said, I feel really vulnerable about it. I do it without thinking about what it’s for, where it’s going to end up.

RC That’s really freedom though. That’s great. I’m also writing prose. I really love that.

DB With a typewriter or computer, or tape recorder?

RC Well, I write it long-hand…

DB None of the above.

RC And then transfer it to my computer. I’m not quite fast enough to write it out on the computer. But it’s a book. I’m writing these short pieces, and I’ve got a publisher.

DB Is it wholly made-up?

RC No, but I pretend it is.

DB Writing is, in a way, like divination or an oracle, at least when it’s really successful, you feel like you’ve foretold the future.

RC Yes! I feel that all the time! That’s one of the most remarkable things about writing. That it is many times, my subconscious leaving messages for me about the future, and after some time I go, “Oh, man, this is what it’s about!” Sometimes it’s just a few weeks lapse, sometimes it’s a few years. Sometimes I feel like I’m just taking dictation. Some of it you really work and bring all of your skill to it and all of your stuff; and sometimes it’s just dictation. I’m not saying that to sound lofty, it’s not like I have anything special. Every other writer I know…

DB (laughter) I’m just thinking of songs being written in shorthand.

RC Yeah, well some of them are that too. People in the workshops think it’s such a great deal to say, “Oh, I wrote it in five minutes, it just came through me.” I say, “Yeah, but if you don’t bring any skill to it, then, so what? It came in five minutes, but it’s still garbage.” But this thing about divination, and alchemizing your own life with your writing. I love that idea.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Victimizing the Victim

Daughter of Orthodox rabbi tells court of father's sexual abuse

BY Scott Shifrel

Tuesday, March 3rd 2009, 12:03 AM

Rabbi Israel Weingarten listens as his daughter testifies during his federal trial for allegedly sexually abusing her starting when she was 9.
Related News

* Rabbi held on molest charges

The 27-year-old daughter of an Orthodox rabbi tearfully described in Brooklyn Federal Court the day 18 years ago when her father began sexually abusing her.

"I felt alone, scared, confused," the woman said as her gray-bearded father sat on the other side of the cavernous courtroom shaking his head.

She said her mother was heating chicken soup and the family was gathering in the kitchen when her father, Israel Weingarten, called the girl to a bedroom and assaulted her.

She said she felt "confusion, deafening silence" after the initial incident, which she says was followed by years of abuse.

Wearing a bright orange scarf and a pants suit, the woman said music, books and long dresses were forbidden in the home and the tight-knit community she has now left.

Weingarten, defending himself against charges that he brought his eldest daughter between homes in Belgium and New York for sex, wore the traditional black leggings and long jacket of a Satmar as he gave a rambling and bizarre opening statement.

"I'm not used to talk to people like you," he said in heavily accented English. He praised his daughter, but said she changed after an alleged affair with a neighbor.

And he repeatedly tried to show that religious Jews are not that different, once even parting his jacket and exposing leggings he said are similar to those worn by George Washington.

"You see these pants, it remind you of something?" he said holding his jacket open during what was surely one of the strangest sights seen in a federal courtroom. "I'm not that much different when it comes to our forefathers ... the only thing is, we didn't want to change."

The testimony continues Tuesday, to be followed by Weingarten's eldest son and his ex-wife.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Some one else replies

Here's some tips and an perhaps a better explanatin of what happened.

To begin with, your PC probably wasn't set to exactly the same time as the Ticketmaster server. So at 10am on your PC it may have only been 9:59:59am on Ticketmaster's servers.

Tip 1 - You should have just refreshed the Leonard Cohen / Paramount Theater event page.- - You wasted valuable seconds navigating back to the home page, through the search pages and then back to the event page.

At the same time you were looking for tickets, so were a couple of thousand other customers. Lets assume that the Paramount Theater holds 3000 people and that all 3000 seats were available for sale at 10am

If you assume that most people wanted to go with a friend to the show, that means there were 1500 people that were going to be successful in purchasing 2 tickets each.

At exactly 10:00am on Ticketmaster's servers, 2000 people refreshed the page and asked for the best 2 seats available. 1500 people got 2 tickets each and 500 people saw 'no tickets remain, try another section or price range'

That whole process took less than 5 seconds. In 5 seconds 1500 people got what they wanted and everyone else got shut out.

You were offered 2 seats in Balcony Row D, but in a split second you decided they weren't good enough and so put them back in the pool. Seconds later someone who had tried again and was offered those tickets. Knowing they had been shut out the first time, they immediately took thosetickets and completed their purchase.

And thus, is a matter of seconds many of the people trying to get tickets for that show succeeded while many others, including you, didn't.

Tip 2 - what you should have done was try and try and try again. For at least another 20 minutes. You see, one of those customers put 2 tickets in their cart and started to complete their order. Ticketmaster gave them 3 minutes to complete their purchase.

Tip 3 - Create an account in advance and make sure you're already logged in.

Those who had been successful in obtaining tickets entered their billing information and clicked submit - BOOM!! Credit Card Declined! They frantically searched for another card. BOOM!! Declined also (shut out by the credit crunch)

So they gave up. 1 minute later, those 2 tickets were returned to the pool.

That means that at 10:04am tickets were once available again. But you had given up at 10:03am !! Doh!

The same thing might have happened to a couple of other customers too. What about the customer who puts tickets in their basket at 10:03am? His card is declined and his tickets get put back into the pool at 10:08am

Many people like you give up at the first try, when in fact you should keep trying again and again. With declined cards, changed minds and other distractions even a small show can take 15-20 minutes to truly sell out.

Ticketmaster's system can sell over 10k tickets per minute. As with most Leonard Cohen shows, I'm sure, there were more people looking for tickets than there were tickets available.

So, 1 minute after tickets went on sale is a long time in ticket buying land. It only takes seconds to put tickets in your shopping cart. You lost valuable seconds navigating away from the page.

It used to be a bit easier to get good seats to hot shows, because you had to get out of bed an trudge down to the local Turtles and stand in line. Not everyone wanted to do that on a Saturday morning. Nowadays with the internet, its easy to try and buy tickets online while still in bed, so everyone's trying.

Next time - be prepared!

1. Make sure you're already on the event page.

2. Make sure you've already created an account and are logged in.

3. Have your credit card handy

4. Keep refreshing the page until tickets become available for purchase.

5. Decide ahead of time which seats you're willing to take. Don't decide on the fly.

6. Even if you get bad seats, you can always sell them!

His Date with Ticketmaster


My Date With Ticketmaster

Posted on Monday March 2, 2009 at 05:30 PM 8 |

There’s been a lot of griping and cussing from fans lately about the difficulty of trying to buy tickets for a show through Ticketmaster. So in the interest of journalism (and because I’m a huge Leonard Cohen fan), I tried to do just that myself this morning.

And guess what? I’m pretty sure I had the same experience that’s been enraging people all over the country.

The show I wanted to take in is April 13 at The Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Calif., and tickets went on sale today at 10:00 a.m. PST.

You’ll notice I said wanted. I won’t be seeing Leonard at The Paramount Theatre. Unless, of course, I want to pay a lot more than face value for the tickets. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here’s a minute-by-minute account of how my attempt to buy tickets went down.

10:00 a.m.: I cruise over to and type in Leonard Cohen. I click on the Oakland show, ready to score my prime seats. Looks like I jumped the gun though, because tickets aren’t available yet.

10:01 a.m.: I navigate back to the homepage, type in Leonard Cohen again and hit enter. Select the Oakland show again. Bingo! I ask for two seats at any price with the best available section and location option.

I type in the captcha and we’re in business. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Score! Two seats. Where? Balcony Row D, Seats 1 and 3, priced at $129.50 each (plus service charges of course, but that’s a discussion we’ll have some other time).

Wait a minute! You’re telling me that one minute after tickets went on sale, the best seats available are in Row D of the balcony? Uh huh.

I’ve learned from experience that sometimes if you hit the “search again link” you can come up with better seats. So right away, I try it. Big mistake.

10:03 a.m.: I hit the “search again” link. Waiting, waiting, waiting. What do you think I see next? You guessed it. “Sorry, no exact matches were found, but other tickets may still be available.” That’s Ticketmaster-speak for sold-out. Curses!

To ease my pain the nice people at Ticketmaster have helpfully provided a link for Ticket Exchange Marketplace, where I can buy tickets from someone who was lucky enough to get tickets, but in the space of three minutes, has decided they don’t want them anymore. How thoughtful.

I resist the temptation to see just what I’ll now have to fork over if I want to see Leonard in the Bay Area. After about 8 minutes, the pressure is too much and I cave. Sooo…

10:12 a.m.: I click the link for Ticket Exchange Marketplace, where I see there are now 65 people selling tickets for the Oakland show at a significant markup. The top price, for Orchestra seats, is around $800 for two tickets. Wow. That was fast.

Now I’m a devoted Leonard Cohen fan. I realize he doesn’t tour very often and this is probably the last time he’ll do a tour of this scale. I was even prepared to pay $251 for Orchestra seats. After all, we’re talking about a living legend.

There is no way, however, that I can justify forking out $400 a ticket. Especially not in this economy. I’m not saying I couldn’t afford it; I can - although it would mean sacrifices. (Eating is overrated anyway.)

What I’m saying is when I weigh the merits of blowing that kind of money for something like this, they don’t add up. (Plus if my parents ever found out, I’d never hear the end of it – some things never change.)

I love all types of music, which means I’ve seen plenty of shows over the years. Heck, I’ve even purchased the majority of my tickets through Ticketmaster. I’m sure I’m dating myself here, but I remember camping out in front of a record store to score choice seats when tickets went on sale. Ah, the good old days.

But things change, and when it became possible to buy tickets online, I adapted and started buying them that way.

Admittedly, a lot of the bands I make it a point to see aren’t the ones whose tickets sell out in a matter of minutes. That’s probably why I’ve never had this experience with Ticketmaster before.

Of course, I also haven’t gone to that many shows since Ticketmaster went into the business of secondary ticketing. I’m sure there are plenty of people inside the industry who would argue that there’s no connection between this and not being able to get tickets. I’m just not one of them.

(Update: As of 2:30 p.m. PST, Orchestra seats at The Oakland Theatre were topping out at $1254.02 on Ticket Exchange. Guess I should have jumped on them when they were only $400 each

Monday, March 02, 2009

Ticketmaster Presales -UGHH

Step 1. Preparation- do your research. keep presale codes available. ensure account is up to date, credit card expiration dates are good and you are logged in.

Step 2. Check the prep. Log into Ticketmaster before designated time. Periodically check and refresh before designated time. ( You can call too and keep people on the phone with inane requests until designated time- says Grateful dead girl who gets comped into concerts) Refresh, refresh, refresh,
expect heart rate to increase, anxiety to raise, and ready set go.... when the screen appears for sales.

Step 3.....register number of tickets, price range or Best Available and hit the search....ticketmaster asks you to type in words, type as written, comma, periods, etc... tickets will search... 2 minutes to keep tickets or search again, anxiety get worse, heart racing.. If you keep them, you may have passed on better seats, if you give them up, you may not get any.... decision... decision... you can do this with multiple browsers to see two tickets at each time.... let them go... get more by repeating seatch.. if you forget a step... ticketmaster will tell you.. type in the codes, search, search,

Step 4... decide, decide and hit the buy button.... continue to shipping methods or will call... standard mail is free and then hit the button, continue... confirmation confirmation confirmation... tickets are bought and verified by email notice.. Print your receipt..

Exhausted for the pressure and stress of playing the game but you have tickets to that show you want to go to... ..

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Happiness is cliche at Lincoln Center.

HAPPINESS, a new musical about a disparate group of New Yorkers caught on a subway train under unusual circumstances, was commissioned and developed by Lincoln Center Theater. The production will reunite director-choreographer Susan Stroman and book writer John Weidman, whose last LCT collaboration was the Tony Award winning Best Musical Contact and will mark the LCT debuts of composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie.
HAPPINESS unfolds the stories of a dozen or so New Yorkers stuck in the morning rush of a stalled subway car and required by the spectral trainman to recall and re-enact the happiest moment in their lives before they can continue their travels... and travails.

HAPPINESS celebrates those fleeting moments in everyday lives -- typically unanticipated, largely overlooked, always ephemeral -- that upon reflection become people's fondest memories.

HAPPINESS has been scheduled for a 14 week engagement at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater starting previews on Friday, February 27.

Ana Maria Andricain , Fred Applegate , Sebastian Arcelus , Holly Ann Butler , Miguel Cervantes , Patrick Cummings , Janet Dickinson , Hunter Foster , Joanna Gleason , Alan H. Green , Samantha Maza , James Moye , Alessa Neeck , Ken Page , Robert Petkoff , Jenny Powers , Eric Santagata , Robb Sapp , Alexander Scheitinger , Lina Silver , Phyllis Somerville , Pearl Sun , Idara Victor , Matt Wall
John Weidman
Scott Frankel
Michael Korie
Susan Stroman
Thomas Lynch
William Ivey Long
Donald Holder
Scott Lehrer

david byrne

David Byrne Brooklyn Vegan

David Byrne photos from Brooklyn Vegan site