LIC Bar and the Queens of Queens

This is unashamedly an LIC Bar edition. There are lots of audio files and video clips – so check them out.

The boundaries of “Long Island City” are indistinct. Originally an actual city, covering much of Queens, the area is bureaucratically unclear, and colloquially variable. If you look on the New York City district map LIC is labelled as separate from Hunters Point and Ravenswood yet local businesses, aware that LIC is becoming “the place to be” are labelling their Astoria cafes and galleries as in LIC!

Roosevelt Island is not, nor has ever been, Long Island City. It is a longish island, but only in shape not real length. It used to be called “Welfare Island” and was the depository of New York’s sick, destitute, and mentally infirm. These days it’s the home of  two hospital complexes (complices?) and apartment blocks that are the homes for a wide range of families, a few community facilities, churches (some quite characterful) and a general windswept, almost eastern bloc feel. You can walk over the bridge from Ravenswood, or take the cable car from 59th Street on Manhattan, or the F line. I run around it and, the other day  took the cable car for the first time (not an easy thing for me to do, but I have to “feel the fear….” etc etc).

Here’s the view:

A view from the Roosevelt Island Cable Car

May is going to be a busy month at LIC Bar. Each Wednesday at 10 pm the Royal Standard will fly and the Queens of Queens will be in residence. For those of you who haven’t read my previous posts the Queens of Queens are Shelly Bhushan, Michele Riganese, Jeneen Terrana and Little Embers –  individual voices who meld together to create great harmonies and special interpretations of their own, and others’, songs.

Music at LIC bar ( has developed over the past four years under the wise and energetic counsel of Gus Rodriguez.

Silbin Sandovar

Gus is a good musician in his own right, supporting others on stage and playing with a band (“Brian and Silbin” – catch them at Rockwood on April 22nd) as Silbin Sandovar. He’s a left hander who can play  his guitar both ways up (or down, whichever way you look at it). He seems to know every song that’s been written since 1950, and perhaps even earlier than that. He’s also a self-effacing promoter and encourager of local musicians. Listen to my interview with him, recorded in the carriage house, as he talks about the LIC bar music scene and the Queens of Queens.

AUDIO FILE       Gustavo Rodriguez – Interview at LIC Bar

Rory Sullivan

The other night I checked in at LIC Bar and heard four sets from local musicians, three of which involved Queens of Queens in other guises. The only non-Queen was Rory Sullivan, an intuitive singer who is a good guitar player and has a great feel for music. I’d heard him perform at the Van Morrison tribute, his renditon of  “Sweet Thing” showing a great sense of timeing, and a soulful voice. He played some interesting songs, mainly his with some covers. Like a lot of singer songwriters he sang with his eyes shut most of the time (caution: old fogey moment coming up) and I felt that this constrained his connection with the audience. It’s as if there has been too much practising in the bedroom at home and not enough singing to people and wanting them to sit up and listen to what you have to say. To connect you have to look at people.

This was quite different approach to that from Jeneen Terrana, who offered an early evening solo acoustic set, using the occasion to introduce some new material. You’ll often find that here, artists will use the venue as a test-bed for performing new songs as well as an opportunity  for increasing their performance hours – as they move towards the classic 10,ooo hours that seem to be one of the keys to success.

Jeneen Terrana

Jeneen is a competent and confident artist who connects with the audience from the very start. She looks around, smiles and catches eyes.  Her classically trained, voice rings out as clear as a bell, whether she’s singing her own songs or classics like “O Sole Mio”. Some of her songs betray her Sicilian heritage, and you can hear an Italian influence in some of her compositions. Watch her performance of “Time” a new song in its first airing at LIC bar.


Of course this is a rough, home produced video that doesn’t really do Jeneen justice. Check also an audio clip of a  song from her latest album “See the Light”:

Raise your voice

( and also on itunes)

Little Embers is an interesting and complex singer. Unclear whether she is a band or a singer she carries a tradition that varies from honest American country/folk, through punk rock to her own personal styles that carry all that background plus a kind of raw physicality that comes across the more she gets into a performance. I suspect that she prefers to perform collectively, whether with her husband Anthony Rizzo as a duo; as a band with him and others; with the Queens of Queens or, as she was at LIC Bar the other night, as one of the duo “Darlin’ Clementines“, ( with Danel Verdugo. This is a quirky outfit; spoof country? yes, but often with some serious thought, and classy music making. Check out their song “Boobs all up in your face” on their myspace site. ( and you’ll get a sense of what they’re about.

Danel Verdugo and Little Embers: The Darlin' Clementines

The evening rounded off with a top class performance from Shelly Bhushan. It’s amazing that just three musicians can offer such a strong musical experience. Backed by John Celantano on drums and Harry Cordew on bass Shelly delivered a diverse range of soulful and rocking songs to a very apprecative audience. Shelly plays piano and guitar, but doesn’t hide behind these when she really wants to belt it, leaving the guys to play the music whilst she just out-and-out performs. Keyboard man Benjamin Hoffstein joined the band for a couple of numbers and Shelly was able to let go of the wood and metal and just sing her heart out. It’s this kind of talent that makes LIC bar a very special little venue.

Shelly Bhushan and her Band - letting it rip

A special mention here for bassman Harry Cordew, who provided more than just a bass line. His playing used all the potential of his 5 string electric bass, from slap to intricate counter melodies that made for a very full musical experience.

Harry Cordew

Check out an audio clip of Shelly performing “Picking Daisies” from her 2008 album of the same name:

Picking Daisies


Queens of Queens

I’ve already mentioned Shelly, Little Embers and Jeneen. Michele Riganese has been wowing audiences on the West Coast (California that is) before returning East for her more local commitments, including the May residency at LICBar. Before talking about the four as a whole  I’d just like to point you in the direction of Michele’s latest EP, “Kaleidoscope”


Here’s a song from it:

Back To You

Michele Riganese

I had the pleasure of attending a Queens of Queens rehearsal in a tiny practice space on 8th Avenue in Manhattan. These are strange places, rusty old elevators, dark paint-worn doorways behind which mixtures of music beat out a concurrent mix of styles that Charles Ives would have loved. It was like a time capsule: rock and roll, Beatles covers, strange electronics – all billowing around the dimly lit hallways. “So this is where the magic happens?”

Here’s a recording of our interview, in which they talk about themselves as a collective, about LIC bar, Gus and their plans for the residency – all against the background of a rehearsal of Shelly’s song ” I’ll never let you go”.

AUDIO CLIP   Queens of Queens Interview   

And here’s a perfomance video the four singing Michele Riganese’s  song ” Learn to Love”, at Spike Hill last year.


The Queens of Queens will be performing at LIC Bar every Wednesday throughout the month of May, 10pm.

Put that in your diary, they won’t be playing the same set each week so if you want it all, you have to attend them all!!


First ever Sometime in Long Island City Blogcast available on:

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)


Poetry and a little Jazz

A touch of Jazz and some poetry this week, including some experiments in sound and video.


It’s so good to hear jazz artists who have great affinity for each other and play together without printed music, just concentrating on each other to produce that mix of improvised and written/arranged music that sets makes jazz stand out as a great art form.

Sam Trapchak and Adam Lomeo

I heard bassman Sam Trapchak playing at LIC Bar ( on Monday April 2nd with guitarist Adam Lomeo in an hour long set that consisted of a range of pieces that allowed each artist to express their individual skills to a high degree as well as show off their attunement to each other. Regular readers of this blog will know how high I rate Sam Trapchak as a player and writer. I haven’t heard him in a duo setting before and recognise how this combination of guitar and bass can be exposing of skill, imagination and creativity. This was a set that combined intimacy with intricacy, Lomeo’s subtley amplified1940s Gibson standing well with the big, but unassertive double bass. Whenever I see a  bass I’m reminded that it is not a bass violin, it is in fact the last remnant of the ancient viol family of instruments, built to play in domestic environments, generally in a consort or supporting instruments such as recorder, crumhorn, virginals and rebec; that in themselves are not loud. So it’s nice to hear it played in this way. LIC Bar isn’t always the easiest place to play intimate music, catering as it does for regular drinkers, sports watchers and random dogs. Fortunately Monday night was not too noisy and the attentive audience were treated to a form of subtle jazz that relied more on intricacy of playing and expresssion than volume and excitement. However, this was not introverted performance. I have been to some jazz sessions where I felt that the presence of an audience did not matter, such were the players concentrating on themselves. Here the two players were definitely aware of their audience and played a range of new and more well known pieces and arrangements, some of which had great energy and movement that engaged you as a listener. Foot tapping if not head banging.

Check out this video of Charlie Parker‘s classic “Moose the Mooch” –

I’m still learning how to use photo software and sometimes I get results that surprise me, so I thought I’d show this one of Adam Lomeo:

Adam Lomeo

In Manhattan

I took an excursion across to Manhattan the other week and caught the reunion performance of the band Nonononet at Drom (, in East Village. Nonononet ( is a brass group of nine players (hence “nonet”) who play a range of well arranged music that spans a range from Duke Ellington, through the Beatles to Led Zeppelin, via some of their own compositions. The band consists of leader Robert Susman on trombone, two saxes (one doubling flute and clarinet), two  trumpets, tuba, French horn, drums and percussion.

Nonononet playing at Drom

There is something about brass, that combination of lips and reeds, rich harmonies and strength. I used to enjoy brass band competitions when I lived in the North of England and used to catch my nephew’s brass group “Fat Lips” in clubs around London. Nononononet had a great sound, with lively and skilful ensemble. I love the use of tuba as the bass line, the characterful Dale Turk underlining the ensemble with real aplomb. Though not all were members of the original (and quite youthful) band from the early1990s I imagine that they faithfully reproduced their energy and skills. They played two sets, a good chance to really listen and to allow the planned performance to spread across a couple of hours and to offer a good spread of fast/slow, traditional and new: all music that is designed to entertain. This was real music, real arrangements with real instruments; and played by real people. A very satisfying night.

Drom is a bar/supper club so there was a small cover charge and expectation that you buy food at the table – not unlike other places in Manhattan. In return for this I hope that the band were paid. A nine-piece is an expensive proposition. Here’s a video of one of Nonononet’s own pieces “Aloneness” featuring original member, French Horn player Jeff Scott.

Check out some more photos on:


It’s apparently National Poetry Month, who would know it? Where is the  spread of posters across town, on every street corner, in bus stations, on subway walls and tenement halls. Where are the poets competing to be heard across Times Square, in gated Florida communities and, just as you’re about to fall asleep, grabbing you by the heart, flying screaming from the TV?

There’s, and but would you know about these if you weren’t already into poetry?

I’ve met a few poets around LIC and I want to give some of them an opportunity to share their work on this blog. So asked them for some written examples of their work and some have offered audio/video recordings.

Click on the links to hear the readings.

Three are represented here: Lee Goffin-Bonenfant, Audrey Dimola, and Robert Bell Burr

Lee Goffin-Bonenfant is an LIC-based actor, poet and musician. This is her tribute to Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and George Starbuck.

Lee Goffin-Bonenfant


soothing, seducing
into the Ritz with a dirty martini

Each one, in turn
looks past the first, beyond the second
and into themselves again
convinced they are someone else’s Different

And Everyone is staring at Anne
exuberant, forceful, loud
constantly the center of attention
accidentally intellectual
like the gaudiest ring in the jewelry shop –
not what you came here for –
a ridiculous thought in the first place
bu so jam-packed with precious stones and eye catching glints
that you can’t help but stare at and long for her
forgetting that a ring is nothing but a beautiful circle around
a gaping hole

(And she is every one of us
setting off all our bells and whistles
because she is more aware than anyone
of the emptiness pressing against her insides
constantly threatening to escape
and expose the nothing she always knew she was)

Little Sylvia
perpetually separate
in a slightly darker shade of burgundy
standing behind herself
with her hand on her own shoulder
giving herself some sympathy or empathy
or the friendship she so desperately needs
and can’t let herself have

instead of letting them find out for themselves
she wears her insecurities like chain-mail
sinking (slumping) slightly under the weight of them
and arming herself with a set of goals
and forced, if objective, confidence

And the spirit self
that watches her body interact
like watching an old TV with the lights on
and your reflection
flickering in shadow behind the players heads
takes constant notes
and reports the minutes to the physical self
for comparison
and conclusion

And where is George in all of this?
The libra holding the scales
The intellectual diving block
from whence these two launch themselves
The Man Overlooked.
While the women stare at each other
through the large hanging mirror on the opposite wall
and cleave to his elbows
in hopes that one of them will win
the prize that loses all (glamour)
once won.

Robert Bell Burr is a poet who lives in Hunters Point


I see the rainbow where the century ends,

the gold where it begins: a turned frail, white-backed

dinosaur in leg irons astride a world cracked

by famine and drained reserves (that now depends

on quick money schemes). Writhing with loss, it sends

its flame-filled screech out over waste drums long stacked

on desert sands, its arteries and veins part-placqued

from what it daily consumes, feeling “the bends.”

The rights of people, too, seem less than real,

while that same dragon sleeps beside its pile,

guarding its wayward stocks — its vacant smile,

long unctuous, come out of all it doesn’t feel —

there, just dozing, awaiting its finest deal

to top its many all too foul ones. All wile

and no play works its way through its dreams. And vile,

it’s true then, are contracts wearing its seal.


And when he’d stand to take in our applause,
He’d first bow briefly, noting then our joy,
Before he’d sit again, the room grown quiet.
Nor did he seem to tire of the strings,
Each piece so brightly conjured in his hands,
“Recuerdos De La Alhambra” brought tears.
An artist (only) does this, I think.  Tears–
Wondrous surely, gauged by the fierce applause,
Not Pavlovian drops atop clapped hands–
Were there because of some exquisite joy.
The “little orchestra,” so called, six strings,
Our Maestro says, needs fingers that are quiet.
A month has passed.  I’m in my room.  It’s quiet.
No yelling in the hall.  The shouts with tears
My neighbor’s daughter makes, followed by strings
Of curses, then by laughter, and then applause,
That quick-smart kind that means now let’s have joy,
Have stopped.  I take my guitar in my hands.
Artless thick-set fingers, a fat-cat’s hands,
That turn their pages, crispness cutting quiet,
Have flipped to find their favorite, “Jesu, Joy…”
Time was, my proud attempts brought me to tears.
For praise, oh well, my head could make applause.
And yet, as now, the thrill was in the strings.
Once threads of gut, not temperate nylon strings,
They would require much tuning, extra hands,
Applied with swift elan during applause
(Nor can the timpanist tune when it’s quiet).
But I digress.  To get back to my tears,
Or ours, or theirs, they don’t just come from joy.
My waxing here, didactic?…That’s called joy.
But when you’ve heard the bell-tones of the strings
Just before they melt into bright tears,
Nothing’s more pure in all the days of hands.
No other solace matches them for quiet,
Or better lends itself to grand applause.
Are tears in the applause not tears of joy;
Who would know the quiet blush of strings
And suffer his two hands to find such tears?


The light came in upon you while I read
a page or two and wrote enough to fill
a sheet torn off the hotel notepad. Still,
the way it crossed your leg, your hip, your head,
then continued with a gentle pulse to spread
itself, as though its source above the sill,
below the blind, a bright square hole, might spill
forever, got me up from my own bed.
Like a voyeur from some peep-holed realm, I thought
but felt quite differently, in fact. What rocks
or sways the mind to find such fiction where
there’s no intent to startle or to scare?
That morning early, while you slept, I taught
myself merely to be a camera box

Audrey Dimola describes herself  as “an editorial acrobat and lifelong lover of words whose mantra is:

burn bright, never regret it. She writes, sings, reads, and dreams her way through life in her native Long Island City and Astoria, Queens, usually wearing leopard print and always rediscovering the magic of everyday. Audrey is best known around town as the former Managing Editor of LIC’s only glossy arts magazine, Ins&Outs, and she has helped to promote and support the arts and culture in Queens for years. Recently, the Queens Poet Laureate selected her for inclusion in the inaugural Queens Poets & Poems exhibition in Queens Borough Hall for National Poetry Month. You can find her portfolio online at, and the wild multimedia blog she edits at”

Three poems from Audrey:

for always

For Always audio file

forked tongues in careless mouths
and the tempers rise again.
frivolous arguments
and apologies murmured
through gritted teeth.
how far will it go tonight?
or how deep will the subsequent
silence be
when time again we’re faced with the fact
that we’ve said all we can say?
our paths converged what seems like
forever ago
and still we cannot quite figure out
where to place this
that burns us at the stake
yet comes to salvage the charred remains.
we get older and we stay
to sling the stones of words
we’d like to – but can never –
ever –
trying to force your words
to fade away
was always the problem.
you never fade.
and if you start to –
one strand of recollection
ignites your memory
and floods my soul with color
the way you always do.
you were all the good things i had lost –
the unapologetically alive.
just being near you
made me more than myself –
and amplified.
yet still
i could look at you
and not know what to do.
only now it seems we do know
and are afraid to act on the truth.
you’ll be what i think of –
like our old gravel-voiced friend sings –
when i’m dead in my grave..
because even then i’d wish for
another chance
to fly too close and melt my wings.
in another lifetime, perhaps,
we’ll be what the other needs –
or, perhaps, we already have been
and all this time
have been chasing that dream.
i can only remember you
and being whole –
and finding my place.
seeking the solace and affirmation
now regressed to the point
where no words can express
the bottomless disappointment
in one defeated breath.
you were everything –
that stubborn archaic hope
that drives men to build
waxen wings
and keep dreaming
what they were never meant to dream.
you were, are, will be –
that one last riddle
between the sphinx’s paws
i’ve always wished i could solve.
somehow –
the futile hope never dies in me.
another time, another place
another life, another plane –
i’d still be waiting,
wishing for you.
and perhaps,
in another guise
in some time beyond my reach
i’ll feel that familiar hope
that electricity and madness
so breathtaking and infuriating
so perfectly alive –
and all at once
for now and ever
i’ll know –
i’ll know it’s you –
and i’ll love you
just as endlessly
as every time before.

this is for you,
for always.



Validation read by Audrey Dimola

it seems to me


is the muse’s silent killer..

you write

and stand on a street corner

holding a sign,

or shouting from a mountaintop,

or thrashing in the sea,

waiting for someone to notice.

we writers have to ask ourselves

over and over –

does it matter?

in so many ways

the greats, and others like them,

have said – write not for an


the purest writing comes from you,


praise or criticism may come

afterwards –

or alternately, you may

have only silence.

but whatever you are faced with,

i tell you –

picking up the pen is your


you have realized

the grand illusion –

created something

out of nothing.

and do you know what else?

have you considered

how much of your audience

is invisible –

simply part of the pen and ink,

the walls of your heart,

the fragments of memory..

spirits of the past,

circumstances of the present,

possibilities of the future –

star-trails and planets

and the universe all one –

it all moves to an


luminous bloom

when you take that breath,

that step – to create.

how much more validation

do you need?

four pieces

Four Pieces read by Audrey Dimola

still learning
i worry about you.
you’re tied to me on a thinning string –
i know you grow so weary of the world
you can feel your immortality.
you traverse the streets at night
in your thoughts you wander, too –
but you’re a step ahead of me
because i’m too afraid to leave my head.

such a pure soul
loving wholly, truly
clinging too tight.
stay little –
i only wish i could control my temper
(sometimes it’s hard to know what to say).
you’re afraid, but just like i am
your anxieties always get to you
but i hope they don’t keep you from sleeping
like mine still do.

restless spirit
i wish you could believe.
you fight tirelessly against everyone,
against yourself.
take those hands that mend the world
and know how much they are needed –
i wish i could alter your alchemy
to free you from your own mind.

beautiful mother
walking paths i hope to follow –
the light that illuminates your spirit
colors the soul in me too.
undeserving shackles and clipped wings
cannot subvert your hunger for knowledge
you know the things in books before you read them
– you always do.
your calls for inexistence – an end to this – pain me
because no one shines with the light of god like you do.
see yourself the way i see you
because even when you are gone
i will wander endlessly to find you, wherever you are.

the self
my self
the heart in me is clenched –
a volatile soul
watching for the prism of light
splitting through the cracks in the darkness.
intuitions spark
and only confirm what is already inherent –
i only wish i could be the being
i know we all have the potential to become.

four pieces
of this heart to push and pull –
it’s been so long, this back and forth
my spirit almost cannot know another way.
chaos and normalcy walk hand in hand
in this house so weighted by its energy
i cannot leave any piece behind –
or bear to be the one that is left.
all those years ago i was the little girl
just wishing for the pieces to fit.
but through time’s graying lens
it seems i simply want
each piece to find their own peace.


“Disassociative” read by Audrey Dimola

and i can’t write to save myself
because the words don’t rhyme
and the feelings don’t flow
like they used to.
i feel like ever since november
i’ve laid to rest the part of me
that could feel pain–
the part that fought
the part that believed
but most of all
the part that survived.
now one day fades unintelligibly
into the next
and sometimes i don’t even remember
falling asleep.
i lose myself
and my thoughts and my words
are mangled and pieced apart
by the train rides and the late nights
and the girl in the mirror
who knows she can’t feel anything at all.
i’m drifting, but so violently
that i seem to destroy everything i touch–
and sometimes i wish i had
a bottle, a drug, a cigarette light
to help me drag this soulless body
through the night.
i burn my bridge to the outside world
and let the embers settle in my throat
until i can’t breathe
and it’s a relief–
because it’s my only chance to get
myself to go away.
every time i close my eyes
the grenade goes off and i see him–
my angel with his secret heart sewn shut.
his halo flickers like a fluorescent bulb
and paranoia sparks a fire in my blood
as i watch him catch a light
on a pair of smoldering eyes
and he savors the smoke
and her smile
without ever knowing i was there.
constellations of
scars and doubts and memories
stare down from the heavens,
laughing in my face
and i wonder
if you ever really know anyone at all.

Boundless Tales Reading Series, founded by Aida Zilelian, is one of the only reading series in the borough of Queens. Readings run the third Thursday of every month at Waltz-Astoria (23-14 Ditmars Blvd), and Audrey Dimola is excited to be hosting for the summer months. Come out to support local writers and submit your work (fiction/non-fiction, poetry, plays, novel excerpts) if you want to read! See:


A Spirit of Musical Community

There are a many singer songwriters in LIC, folk who perform solo or with a band. It’s not unusual to find them doing a solo gig at one place and then being joined by others later in the night at a bar or club in the next district. There are some, though, who have regular collaborations with other singer songwriters and where you see a great chemistry develop between the artists. One of these collaborations is that between Michele Riganese (, Shelly Bhushan (, Jeneen Terrana ( and Little Embers ( These four women are talented artists who all live in the Queens area and who play regularly at venues like the LIC Bar, Spike Hill in Brooklyn and Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan. They each have their own bands, but you’ll frequently see one or other of them supporting each other on vocals.

The Queens of Queens at the Living Room Dec 2011

This group have played together as the “Queens of Queens” for gigs at the Living Room in Manhattan ( and Spike Hill in Brooklyn. For these appearances they built on their experience of supporting each other to perform “in the round” and perform each others’ songs, providing mainly vocal support to the writer of the song.

Jeneen Terrana and Michele Riganese

Jeneen Terrana

Little Embers

Shelly Bhushan

…………………………The Queens of Queens are coming together for the third time to present a series of five “residency” shows at the LIC Bar during May, every Wednesday at 10pm. I have had the pleasure of interviewing these women; to produce both a series of “Artists Portraits”to be available in a few weeks time, and in the production of a brief promotional item. This is a group of four individuals whose characters differ in ways that prompt lively creative cooperation. Watch out for future blogs featuring audio interviews, and perhaps even podcasts!

Good luck to Michele Riganese on her trip to the West Coast, where amongst other gigs she is playing at the Viper Room in Los Angeles on April 1oth.

Little Embers are appearing at Arlene’s Grocery on Friday April 13th and Jeneen Terrana is currently recording.

Congratulations to Shelly Bhushan in doing so well to get into the final group of 5 in the competition to represent Queens in the “Battle of the Boroughs”. You can still catch her performance in on

Shelly and her band will be appearing at LIC Bar on Wednesday 11th April, don’t be surprised if there are other singersongwriters in support.

Another great combination of singer songwriters is Warren Malone and Niall Connolly. Both hail from the other side of the Atlantic; Warren from the North of England and Niall from Ireland. You can catch more of the Irish in Niall than the Lancashire in Warren, who has more of a North American feel to his songs. Both Warren and Niall have distinctive voices and clear guitar picking styles that lend themselves to collaboration. I caught them both, in duet, at the LIC Bar’s first venture into the open air the Sunday before last. Two out three of the acts were able to perform outdoors before the drop in temperature caused the declining audience to clutch their beer glasses for warmth and we went indoors for the final act of the day. I’ll write more about Warren on another occasion, and review his album (“The Ants ate the Bee“). Suffice it to say that he has great talent and an attention to detail in his guitar playing which makes for beautiful music.

Niall Connolly and Warren Malone in the open at the LIC Bar

Niall and Warren are part of the musician collective “Big City Folk“, who run sessions at LIC Bar on Sunday evenings in the winter months and at Ceol ( in Brooklyn – as well as appearing at various other venues around New York, including, famously, Niall playing a very early Wednesday morning spot at the Red Lion on Bleecker Street ( at which the artist formerly (and now formally) known as Prince is rumoured to have been seen. Niall sings a range of finely crafted songs with intelligent lyrics that demand attention – whether for their sharp political comment, philosophical musings or their stories of relationships, won and lost. His voice is instantly recognisable, a real advantage in this world of copycat, almost karaoke performers, and his stage manner direct; self assured yet unassertive. He lets his songs speak for themselves.

Recently members of the Big City Folk collective released an album of  Niall’s songs as a birthday tribute; such is the respect he has earned on the local music scene. The album aNiallated” features artists like Warren, Casey Black, E.W.Harris and Don Paris Schlotman (Sky Captains of Industry), and Magic Bones (who are Brandon Wilde and Len Monachello). Bones”. Check it out (and buy) on

This is a good introduction to Niall’s music as well as being a tribute to the collective musicianship that surrounds him. It shows that his songs stand tall in others’ interpretations. This is not a collection of bland re-interpretations, each musician embeds their own talent and style on the song they have chosen to present to Niall on this album.

Brandon Wilde

Brandon Wilde ( and Len Monachello are freelancers on the local music scene. Brandon plays Bass in Niall’s band, has a recording studio and plays frequent late Saturday night gigs at the LIC Bar ( Len as the Magic Bones, a “cover band” that is a duo with an in depth knowledge of the  songs they perform to the late night crowd. You’ll catch Len as a drummer in Niall’s band, or as a guitarist – in Magic Bones he alternates guitar and bass with Brandon. On “aNiallated” they offer a classic cover of Niall’s song “Skin and Bones“, a anthem that has developed into a crowdpleaser and crowd involver in bars everywhere that he plays. Being superb musicians enables Brandon and Len to present a cover that is a true to the original, not just in its notes and lyrics but also in its public bar appeal to simple philosophising that “We are just skin and bones and blood, without love, without love”.

Don Paris Schlotman, E.W.Harris and Casey Black as a trio comprise most of the band “The Sky Captains of Industry” (; regulars on the Big City Folk scene. They’re a skilled band who sing sometimes cutting, sometimes offbeat, and occasionally highly comedic songs. On this album they each get a chance to give individual tribute to Niall.

At the end of Sky Captains gigs Don offers a brilliant spoof of early rock songs that is reminiscent of 60s group “The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band” , known best for their “Death Cab for Cutie” on the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour movie,  but see: . Usually Don is the bass player, but in this final act of craziness Don hands his bass to Casey, usually the drummer and takes the stage in virtual drainpipes and a relationship with the microphone that is acrobatic, yet verges on pornographic. On “aNiallated” he offers “Summer Dress“a song which is easy to think of as a sideways look at adolescent male fantasies, especially hearing Don singing it, with memories of his teen idol antics still fresh in my mind. This is Don in a Lou Reed meets Johnny Cash mode, with the banjo and reverberating whistling adding to a sense of understated, yet mysteriously present, anarchism. It’s a kind of mix of Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Perfect Day”, with a bluegrass ketchup. But, it might be completely straight and I’ve just coloured it with my own trickster mixer.

Casey Black

Casey Black (make sure you get is well established locally as a powerful singer and songwriter. I have written about him previously and you will know how much I respect his professionalism. On this album he offers his interpretation of  ‘You’ve got to look in to look out for yourself’, a highly personal  song from Niall’s book of most-well-crafted songs. This is taken down to its heart by Casey, his strong deep voice giving the lyrics an intensity that squeezes every bit of meaning from the lyrics.


E.W.Harris is the third member of “Sky Captains”. In many ways he comes across as the leader on their gigs, although I hesitate to talk about bands having a leader in this collective context. He is the singer most of the time and plays  a beautiful retro guitar. If not leader he is certainly the man up front. On this album his version of “99 cent dream” is inbued with his liking for scifi effects, ironic statement and the generally offbeat (check out his album “a waste of water and time” This song suits him, in its ironic turns and goes well with the sound effects produced by Harris for this tribute to Niall.

Warren Malone’s contribution to this album is “Inland to Mercy”, a travelling-to-love song  that is actually typically of Warren’s own style and thus suits him well. The line “Oh little bird without a footprint, a measure of the strength of your tiny wings” exemplifies the poetry in Niall’s lyrics.

Other artists on his tribute are Diana Jones, Chris Mills, Chris Michael, Colin Campbell, Justin Storer, Ryan Morgan and David Rynhart. All contribute well in their own ways, only one, Justin Storer, managing to sound a lot like Niall himself when he sings “America”. This is what used to be called a “protest song” :

“In the name of all the chapters, Torn from your history books. America, I love you,won’t you tell me the truth.”

Niall Connolly contemplates driving the Snakes out of America