March Music Treats at LIC Bar

March treats at LIC Bar:

LIC Bar, on Vernon and 46th Avenue, is the foremost LIC music venue; a place of character, good cheer and great musical talent. You can hear live music 5 nights out of 7, and DJ music on friday nights from 10pm – 2am.Whether you like country, jazz, rock or sounds indescribable, you are sure to find entertainment that will bring you back week after week, day after day….even if you travel over from Manhattan!!!

Apart from the excellent range of music, LIC Bar is also establishing a credible record for performances featuring actors, the spoken word and classical music, for both  adults and children (by the fireside in the carriage house, across from the bar).

March offers a mix of all these attractions so “Why go to Manhattan?” when so much is in LIC! I’m off to the southern hemisphere for a while so will miss most of March in NYC  so here’s the highlights of what will be a great month as Spring leaps into gear.

Residency

Wednesday night is residents’ night. March 2013 is Jefferson Thomas month. JT is a supremely talented rocker who can turn his talents from straight country, through folk/rock to gutsy/rocky/blues that will shake your pants off. His sets will be at 10:00pm every Wednesday thru March. Be prepared to stay late, JT sucks up the energy of the crowd and performs until his seeds have run dry. Check out http://www.jeffersonthomas.com

Jefferson Thomas

Jefferson Thomas

Mondays is often a jazz night (although not always) and free food is served at 9:00pm. I’m pleased to see that some one of my favorites, Tammy Scheffer, is also resident in March. She has a versatile, accurate voice that rides high around the skills of her band; jazz with with real vocal flair with intricate arrangements that span traditional Hebrew melodies and classic jazz standards. (www.tammyscheffer.com)

Tammy Scheffer

Tammy Scheffer

Jazz

Monday jazz also sees Sam Trapchak, (www.samtrapchak.com)an LIC-based bass-playing jazz composer on the rise to stardom (March 11, 8:00), another LIC resident, sax-man Anthony Cekay, whose late night improv sessions are becoming quite the cool place to be in LIC (March 8, 9:00). Another jazz favorite, Emily Wolf, plays on March 25th (8:00). She is a classy jazz singer and writer who pulls together a fine group of musicians. (www.emilywolfmusic.com);

LIC residents Sam Trapchak and Anthony Cekay

LIC residents Sam Trapchak and Anthony Cekay

Emily Wolf

Emily Wolf

Newcomers

I should say here that I am only mentioning people I have heard before. The joy of LIC Bar is hearing people who are new to me, like Zoe Sundra, who I heard on March 3rd and so many others who delight with their talent.

Zoe Sundra at LIC Bar March 3rd

Zoe Sundra at LIC Bar March 3rd

The Talent Spotters

Musical organizing is mostly curated by Gus Rodriguez, with the Sunday events hosted and organized by Niall Connolly of Big City Folk. Both are musicians in their own right with a great eye for local and international talent. Niall is an intelligent, astute and sometimes acerbic songwriter who is one of those singers who can make my spine tingle. He has a new single, Samurai, that is making great waves on both sides of the Atlantic and which will feature on an album, “Sound” to be released in April (CD release party is at Rockwood Music Hall 2 on April 13th), catch this before it catches  you by surprise and you  wish you had heard it before your friends. Tickets from http://rockwoodmusichall.tickets.musictoday.com/RockwoodMusicHall/moreInfo.aspx?event=154241&outlet=2315.

http://niallconnolly.bandcamp.com/track/samurai-3

Gus Rodriguez and Niall Connolly

Gus Rodriguez and Niall Connolly

Punk hero

March 13th sees a 9pm solo acoustic show by Andy Shernoff of the legendary punk band The Dictators. This is typical of LIC Bar; just when you think it’s safe not to go, a star will choose to play and blow all your laziness out of the window and drive you back to this fundament of music making, just up from the 7, across from the G and down from the E. (sounds bit like guitar chords!) check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dictators

Late night Bones

If you haven’t caught Brandon Wilde and Len Monachello you have to get down on Friday March 15th 10pm-midnight to hear cover duo “Magic Bones” in a set that will entertain, enthrall and amaze.

Saint Patrick’s Day

There may be a new Pope, or maybe not, but the weekend on March 16/17 will be as green as you can get here in NYC. Saturday night, March 16th features another great LIC celebration of the music of Van Morrison. These tributes are a strong tradition for the musical family that surrounds the venue. Singers of the caliber of soul icons Shelly Bhushan and Arthur Lewis mix up with Xavier Cardriche, Little Embers, Julie Kathryn, Silbin Sandovar and Chrissi Poland to create their own interpretations of one of the great Irish musicians of the rock era, supported by a class house band that will feature talents like Neil Nunziato on drums and mystery guitarists and keyboarders, as well as wind artists yet to be confirmed as members of the church of Van the Man.

A crowded LIC Bar from last year's Van Morrison Tribute

A crowded LIC Bar from last year’s Van Morrison Tribute

That night you can be sure of a good feed with a free gourmet style corned beef brisket for our customers that is out of this world, courtesy of Parnell’s Restuarant, (www.parnellsnyc

Later that night, in the traditional LIC Bar midnight slot (well, from 11 ‘til 1:00) you can hear Brooks Wood and Cameron Mitchell. An upbeat acoustic duo, real crowd-pleasers.

March 17th features another in Ali Silva’s popular “Fireside Ghost Stories” evenings in the Carriage house, across the courtyard from the main bar. Not to be upstaged by Van Ali is presenting an evening that will be imbued with Celtic magic and dark green fear, with live musical improvised mystery from talanted duo Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate.

Fireside Ghost Stories in the Carriage House

Fireside Ghost Stories in the Carriage House

The session starts at 8:00 so be sure to arrive early to get a seat. That means you have to get in straight after The Locksmiths, a fun local Queens band led by bassist Pete O’Neil that will play a mix of Irish rock and traditional songs as well as a nice serving of their own original tunes from 5 until 7pm.

Peter and the Wolf

March sees the welcome return of Peter and The Wolf in the Carriage House on March 23rd at 2pm and 4pm. This has proved to be a popular event; a performance for families with children, featuring puppets, Ali Silva and The Washington Square Winds. The last show was so packed they were turning families away. This time they are performing two shows back to back so more folks can see it.

Guitar Porn

Sunday March 24th from 5 ‘til 8 sees the first of what might become a house standard. Silbin Sandovar presents: Guitar Porn! A big neighborhood jam featuring some favorite local guitarists including Anthony Rizzo, Danny MacKane, Anthony Lanni, Dennis Del Gaudio, Andy Stack, Mark Marshall, Jefferson Thomas and more! This will be a great afternoon of amazing and blazing guitars!

This is the time when opening up the courtyard to music becomes a real possibility, so if it’s a warm sunny day bring along your shades and sip the cocktails of pickers and thrashers.

Little Embers

March 27th, popular local singer/songwiter Little Embers returns with guitarist husband Anthony Rizzo (and maybe some special guests) for a late night mix of country and rock at 9pm.

Check this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgCv8XgQ1O4

LIC  Bar is open 7 days a week 4  until 4am, with earlier opening at the weekend for daytime shows.

Check out the full calendar at:

http://www.licbar.com/eventcalendar/evcal.html

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Long Island City Rocks to LIC Bar tribute

Long Island City rocked on Saturday night to the sound of LIC Bar’s big “Thank You” to British rock band The Who for their donation of new equipment after hurricane Sandy flooded the bar’s basement. Tribute band “Who’s Next” treated a capacity crowd to a string of songs from nearly 50 years of music history; with hits from albums like “Tommy”and “Quadrophenia” as well as classic rock songs, including Who favourite, Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues”.

"Who's Next"

“Who’s Next”

“Who’s Next” bear uncanny resemblance to the band they have been mimicking for the past 15 years. They performed with all the trademark gestures of The Who in their late 60’s and ‘70s heyday, before the death of their drummer Keith Moon and well before the more recent passing of bass player John Entwistle. So this was a trip back to a time when a fair number of the audience would have stood in line, bought the albums and absorbed the words of songs; singing along last night as the band rocked the house down with hits like “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Sing Together (with the band)”.

(For me I have to admit to a sense of excitement, seeing the band members walking around before the show, a kind of suspended reality that this could actually have been The Who as I remember them in the early days, playing my local church hall in Harrow and calling themselves the “High Numbers”.)

Capacity Crowd under the Marquee

Capacity Crowd under the Marquee

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Godfrey Townsend

Godfrey Townsend

A real treat as a support act was singer guitarist Godfrey Townsend; once again a superb interpreter of classic tracks; with songs by artists like Eric Clapton, the Beatles, Jack Bruce (in whose band he played) and Dave Mason. This was a solo performance with Townsend (no relation and different spelling) displaying his mastery of a repertoire that is rooted in the blues, with expert guitar picking and an easy, confident style. Townsend played with John Entwistle in his band and in homage to the night’s theme played a few Who songs, giving them an individual spin that contrasted well with the intensity and theater of the band to come.

Long Island Music Hall of Fame - DJ and producer Denis McNamara

Long Island Music Hall of Fame – DJ and producer Denis McNamara

The evening was MC’d by legendary WLIR DJ and long time stalwart of The Who, Denis McNamara. He took the stage for the raffle draw, along with LIC Bar music impresario Gus Rodriguez, and LIC Bar regular Rob Basch, who first contacted The Who after their Sandy concert at the Barclays Center. The occasion was also graced by an appearance from local council member and music fan, Jimmy van Bramer. One lucky patron walked away with no less than 3 raffle prizes, including the headline Gibson SG guitar, signed by Pete Townshend.

Winner of the signed Gibson SG - Albert Short of Long Island City

Winner of the signed Gibson SG – Albert Short of Long Island City

Teen Cancer America, The Who’s official charity, will benefit from $7000 from the night!

Rob Basch and Gus Rodriguez

Rob Basch and Gus Rodriguez – the energy behind a great night!

Thanks are due to all the sponsors who provided support, equipment and raffle prizes:

The Who (www.thewho.com)

Gibson Guitars New York (http://www2.gibson.com)

Universal Music ( www.universalmusic.com)

Parnell’s Restaurant (www.parnellsny.com)

Alobar (www.alobar.com)

El Ay Si restaurant (elaysi.com)

Manducatis Rustica Restuarant (www.manducatisrustica.com)

Bobby Vans Steakhouse ( www.bobbyvans.com)

Pranavah Yoga (www.pranavahyoga.com)

Domaine Wine Bar (www.domainewinebar.com)

Molly Pitchers Alehouse (www.mollypitchersnyc.com)

Brewers:

Radeberger Pilsner, Heineken, Guinness and Brooklyn Brewery

And those others who gave their  gifts anonymously.

Brian Porter - Owner, LIC Bar

Brian Porter – Owner, LIC Bar

Walking for Pennies

Walking for Pennies with Pauline Pisano and (hidden) Neil Nunziato

Walking for Pennies with Pauline Pisano and Neil Nunziato

Walking for Pennies are LIC- based duo, Neeley Bridges and Andy Jobe. They released their first album “Forget About Wonderland” in October last year after years of making their way as actors and musicians around New York. Credits include: Les Miserables in Vermont, A Christmas Carol at MSG Paramount Theater, The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, the Living Room in Lower East Side and LIC Bar  (www.licbar.com). Their name refers to the times when they have been literally walking for pennies as dog walkers in order to get money together to pay rent; a thankless, poop-scooping task recalled in a song, “Who am I Supposed to Be”, penned by Bridges, on the album.

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Next week the duo expand to a band, with Neil Nunziato on drums, Pauline Pisano on piano and harmonies and Craig Akin on bass, to appear in their first show at the famous Rockwood Music Hall at 4pm on Sunday 17th February.

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Neeley Bridges, like her partner, studied musical theater at NYU and has been on the local music scene since then, with involvement in musicals, writing, performing solo and with bands. She is a talented multi-instrumentalist: guitar, mandolin, flute, oboe, piano and clarinet. These days she most often sticks to guitar and mandolin, which shines on the album, prefering mandolin: saying “guitar is really a guy’s intrument, it’s big!” Her voice is clear and accurate, offering strong interweaving harmonies with Andy’s distinctive higher-register vocal offerings. In 2008 she released a solo album “Devil on my Shoulder” and has written four of the songs on the Wonderland album.

Neeley Bridges

Neeley Bridges

Neeley describes herself as always having been a singer; able to remember melodies and lyrics since she was a small child. She remembers singing along with music on the radio and then reproducing the songs by her herself, including mimicking the vocal styles of singers like Cindy Lauper and Elvis.

Although her parents were not musicians they recognised her abilities and enthusiasms, allowing her to study opera enrol her in a “Magnet” school for “gifted and talented children” in their home town in Northern Carolina, a school which concentrated on teaching the performing arts and in which she was able to develop her voice and acting abilities, as well as her instrumental skills.

Writing

An immersion in music has allowed Neeley to develop her song writing using both traditional and original structures She finds, however, that simple structures are often more memorable, commenting that “People like to know where a song is going”. She usually writes using a guitar, but is finding that she will often develop melodies in her head and will know how they should be accompanied. Her memory for music means that she doesn’t need to sing or play into a recording device and can just hold it in her mind and develop it later.

Unlike her partner Andy she prefers to write whilst moving; whether walking or just around her LIC home. Andy prefers to sit, concentrate and just work it out. They don’t write together, suggesting that their contrasting writing styles militate against that; but they do contribute to each others’ arrangements both in vocal harmonies and instrumental parts.

Andy Jobe

Andy Jobe

Vocally the couple have contrasting voices. Ohio-born Andy has a distinctive high register and tone, with Neeley offering a range of vocal tones for which her formal vocal training, and her childhood mimicking talent, has been excellent preparation. The addition of Pauline Pisano (http://www.paulinepisano.com)as a regular contributor to Walking for Pennies band shows offers a richer, lower register contrast which allows for some beautiful harmonisation. Neil Nunziato, an unstintingly loyal drummer, well known to LIC Bar musicians is also a regular supporter of Neeley and Andy.

Craig Akin (http://www.slapfiddle.com/), too is regularly seen on the New York music scene. in demand for both upright and electric bass.

A background in the theatre has given Walking For Pennies a gift for presentation, which makes for polished and well prepared shows.

Andy and Neeley, like most musicians in New York, have to mix a range of employments in order pay the rent. They are fortunate in that they can offer themselves as a duo, not just in performance but also in children’s educational programs such as LIC Kids (http://lickids.com/),  at a local yoga studio, Pranavah Yoga (www.pranavahyoga.com), and, soon, at the gym at the powerhouse, a local condominium. Together they offer musical enrichment programs for young children in the LIC area as well as providing instrumental and vocal tuition to budding musicians of all ages.

Whilst less involved with musical theatre these days, their training comes to good use with a commitment to “A Christmas Carol’ performances in Denver, Colorado – a semi-regular holiday employment that means that they don’t have to spend long periods apart, often a burden that couples have to bear when they are both entertainers.

The Album

Andy Jobe wrote the title track to their album: “Forget about Wonderland”, an album that demonstrates the talent and real attention to detail of these two musicians. It is a carefully crafted selection of music of different genres, with a country/folk – pop/R&B thread; a mix of guest musicians make for a satisfying mix that sustains repeated listening, both as an album and picking tracks to match a mood. As solo singers they contrast; with Neeley offering  sound which mixes soul with country, whilst Andy pays his respects to a big influence, James Taylor, supported by some nice guitar picking. His voice can be compared to Michael Jackson in its high range and flexibility. As duettists their voices have a combined strength and consistency which shows well in live performance, no auto-tune here!

Check out a perfromance of their song “Nashville”:

In December 2012 Walking for Pennies played at LIC Bar, in a benefit performance for victims of Hurricane Sandy, debuting their single “Hurricane”; the proceeds of which go to Sandy relief.

Check out their website www.walkingforpennies.com for downloads, and take a trip down to Rockwood for their show on 17th.

The Return of the Queens

Wednesday night, January 23rd, is a special night at LIC bar, (corner of Vernon Boulevard and 46th Avenue, www.licbar.com). Local stars Jeneen Terrana and Little Embers offer new and old favorites in a night of music which starts with Astoria resident, the very talented singer/songwriter Michael Zuko (http://www.myspace.com/michaelzuko) in a return visit to this iconic LIC venue.

Jeneen Terrana (http://www.jeneenterrana.com) is almost as well known as a TV cook as she is a singer, from her recent appearance in “Home Made in America”, the Food Network showcase for down-home American cooks. In this show she demonstrated her four layer chocolate cheesecake (absolutely delicious!), and describes how she used her abilities as a pastry chef to raise money for her last album. Parts of the show were filmed at LIC Bar. You can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-SxDY4Qx7M

Jeneen Terrana with Neil Nunziato (Drums), Anthony Lanni (Guitar), Gus Rodriguez (guitar and Voice), Michele Riganese (voice) and Dan Ke'enthaahal (Bass)

Jeneen Terrana recording for The Food Network at LIC Bar with Neil Nunziato (Drums), Anthony Lanni (Guitar), Gus Rodriguez (guitar and Voice), Michele Riganese (voice) and Dan Ke’enthaahal (Bass)

As a singer Jeneen has a pure, accurate voice and writes memorable and lyrical songs in a folk/country style with a tip of a hat to her Italian roots. She will be playing with a full band that includes talented guitarists Antony Lanni and Charlie Rauh, together with violinist Concetta Abbate this week in a session that starts at 9:00pm, with Michael at 8:00 and Little Embers at 10:00.

Little Embers and Anthony Rizzo at LIC Bar

Little Embers and Anthony Rizzo at LIC Bar

Little Embers (http://www.myspace.com/littleembers) last appeared at LIC bar in August, in her last show before the birth of a baby daughter, Lucianna in November. This week’s show, like the previous one, will be an intimate performance with her husband, Anthony Rizzo on electric guitar. She sings a mix of country/rock songs in an individual style that can sometimes evoke tears and sometimes rock the house down, especially when she plays with a full band.

Together with other local singers Shelly Bhushan (http://www.shellybhushan.com)and Michele Riganese (www.micheleriganese.com); Jeneen and Little Embers have collaborated as the “Queens of Queens” in performances in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as a residency at LIC Bar last May. Don’t be surprised if there is more creative collaboration this Wednesday night.

The shows are free, with an expectation that you buy drinks and offer donations to the tip jar for each performer. If you haven’t been to LIC Bar you are in for a treat!

For more on Jeneen and Little Embers check out my podcasts on itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sometime-in-long-island-city/id523786622?mt=2

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 (www.licbar.com) 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.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2GU2Tolz8Y&context=C435fabeADvjVQa1PpcFMezaDO8tw95GDrZqtYjfH6QNdjIrt7YAA=)

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

(http://www.jeneenterrana.com/ 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“, (http://www.myspace.com/darlin39clementines) 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. (http://www.myspace.com/darlin39clementines/music/songs/boobs-all-up-in-your-face-75237350) 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

(http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bhushan2)

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”

(http://micheleriganese1.bandcamp.com/)

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.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62tCYcbWY1Y&feature=youtu.be)

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!!

UPDATE:!!!

First ever Sometime in Long Island City Blogcast available on:

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)

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 (www.micheleriganese.com), Shelly Bhushan (www.shellybhushan.com), Jeneen Terrana (http://www.jeneenterrana.com/) and Little Embers (http://www.myspace.com/littleembers). 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 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWxi-r7oRKI) 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 http://vimeo.com/37955065.

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 (http://www.ceolpub.com/) 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 (http://www.redlionnyc.com/) 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 http://niallconnolly.bandcamp.com/album/aniallated-a-big-city-folk-tribute-to-niall-connolly.

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 (http://www.brandonwildemusic.com/) 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 (www.licbar.com)with 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” (http://www.reverbnation.com/theskycaptainsofindustry); 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hcZ4s9cvpw . 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 http://www.reverbnation.com/caseyblack) 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

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”  http://www.amazon.com/Waste-Water-Time/dp/B003XE6OTG). 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

Mainly Asian with a touch of Mexican spice

Sunset over Manhattan

Hunters Point is well served by Asian restaurants, whether Sushi, Malaysian, Chinese or Thai. There’s a nice range – from smart Shi to mid-range Tuk Tuk and cheaper BANY. There are others I haven’t tried yet and then there are the delivery specialists who slide their menus under your apartment door and you wonder how far they are prepared to bicycle in order to sell their wares.

I’ve talked about Tuk Tuk (http://www.tuktukny.com) before so won’t spend long on them today. I was there last night, having been tempted by their current “special” of Salmon with Lemongrass Sauce. This was a generous portion of Salmon, it could easily have been half a pound, covered with a spicy deeply flavoured dark mushroom, lemongrass and chili sauce; all on a green salad with Jasmine rice, for $15. So, with a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc this came to a bit more than my “cheap meal” standard of $40 for two, with drinks. The salmon was tasty and the sauce rich and spicy. Placing the fish on top of a green salad provided for a nice contrast, the fresh clean leaves providing a good foil to the richness of the sauce; which itself set off the texture of a perfectly prepared piece of grilled salmon. Once again I enjoyed the warmth of the welcome and the relaxed, yet smart ambience of the restaurant, which was busy on a friday night, but not noisy. They do well in placing a board with their “special” on the sidewalk so that you are tempted to enter on your way past from the subway! Just when you are thinking “what shall cook for dinner?”, Tuk Tuk makes a suggestion that you make other plans! The power of advertising to hungry people cannot be underestimated!

It was a while after moving here last year before I ventured towards Jackson Avenue. It’s a busy thoroughfare and has a dustier, not-quite-so-well-cared-for feel. I’ve loved Manetta’s family Italian restaurant and have tasted the French style “Macarons” from the Little Oven (http://www.littleoven.com/). I’ve drunk the excellent coffee in “Sweetleaf”,  which is the only local barrista that offers flat whites (great coffee but a really awkward place to get a less than comfortable seat); but had yet to try some of the other cafes in the neighbourhood. Last week turned out to be an Asian week and we came back late from an evening with New Zealanders in Manhattan and needed food. Having found the kitchen  closed at Cranky’s we ventured to BANY (http://banynyc.com), an unassertive Japanese/Malaysian style restaurant on Jackson Avenue, just next to the Chase Bank at the Jackson Avenue entrance to the 7 subway.

Although late we were greeted in a friendly way and offered a table, only three other people in the place after ten o’clock, and we were the last to leave. We only needed a simple meal so ordered examples of what I refer to as “hawker” food – classic noodle dishes that, are often the quickest to appear and are usually well cooked and flavoursome. So we had Pad Thai and and Malaysian Flat Rice Noodles (chicken prawn, egg and soy). Both compared well with the kind of dishes we had eaten on a trip to Malaysia a few years back – unpretentious but well cooked and at $9 each a good alternative to 45 minutes at home over the wok. With a Sapporo beer, our check before the tip was only $28 – well below our $40 standard and a good option for a spontaneous meal late in the evening. BANY has a simple, pleasant ambience. Not quite as stylish decor as Tuk Tuk but certainly better than your average deli/cafe. I’d certainly go there again.

Shi (www.shlic.com), on Center Boulevard is our closest restaurant. As style goes it is probably the most sophisticated of the neighborhood restaurants, with a pleasant cocktail lounge area, a bar and restaurant seating that offers spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, especially at night. It’s a place that changes as the evening progresses and becomes a gathering place for groups who want to meet up for late night drinks, when the music gets louder and the place has more of a night club feel. In warm weather there are also outside tables. These, however, were not to be used on one of my first visits. That night the party with whom we dined were greeted to a display of thunder and lightning over the city; a vivid and entertaining spectacle which made me think of the “Restaurant at the End of the Universe” in Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” series, where the meal is paid for by the interest accumulated over a few million years on the dollar you invested in your own time. Check out the original BBC radio series on http://hggbbc.podomatic.com/.

Shi  is a pleasant and relaxing place to go for a cocktail in the evening. Although there is sports TV projected onto a large screen above the bar this is no sports bar. The sound is off and the captioning is on. Of their cocktail menu I particularly enjoy their Ginger Mojito and Tamarind Margarita, as well as other nicely prepared and presented cocktails. The have a reasonable wine selection with the usual beers and spirits from the bar. You can eat snacks from the menu at the bar or in the lounge, including some delicious pot stickers and satay sticks offering temptation if you are not there for a full meal.

As meals go, Shi offers well prepared and imaginative dishes that have their origins across South East Asia: including Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese,  and Thai. Their menu is long and the choices are difficult. One thing I  find with Asian dishes is that their menu descriptions are often very little help to what will actually arrive. It’s not that anything is misrepresented, it’s just that titles like chicken w/ garlic sauce really tell you very little about what you are about to receive (and for which you may be truly thankful). I’m not sure about prosciutto wrapped prawns, not that I’ve tried them – it’s just that the sound of the combination of flavours doesn’t appeal, much like scallops wrapped in bacon. They may be “fusion” but I think fusion should be something that builds on the finest of traditions and not one that randomly mixes and confuses tastes and textures.

Shi deserves its Michelin recommendation (that’s not a rosette, just a recommendation). It isn’t highly priced and fits well in the moderate range with very few dishes over $20. It’s a popular venue, especially at weekends. I’ve had mixed experiences with trying to book ahead but have never found it hard to get a table as a “walk in”. They’ll also do take-outs and deliveries, and even have their own separate counter off the sidewalk.

Low Clouds across from Shi

Three new eating establishments have recently opened in Hunters Point – Petey’s Burgers, Corner Bistro and Casa Enrique. We tried the latter last week and came away pleased with the experience.

Casa Enrique (apparently an offshoot of Cafe Henri – corner of 51st and Vernon), on 49th just next to the children’s park, is a modestly presented Mexican Cafe in a space which, in my time here, has been distinguished only by a large tantalizing yellow awning with “Bistro” in big letters, that advertised an empty premises. The awning has gone and the premises are now occupied by a team that is taking great care with a simple presentation that does not overwhelm its clientele with fake Mexican “authenticity”.

Casa Enrique offers a range of dishes that tempt from the very start and are served in a plain white painted environment where the staff is pleasant and easy going and we are not thrust into an artificial “Mexican” set up that owes more to Hollywood than Oaxaca. This small restaurant offers a selection of ordinary tables at the rear and a large community table at the front. I often walk past this place and have never actually seen anyone sitting at the community table and wonder whether they would do better to place this at the rear, for large groups, so that the smaller tables, and their occupants, can be at the front, visible from the street and thus attracting those customers who, like me, are not attracted inside empty places.

We had a good meal at Casa Enrique. I chose a Chicken with Mole sauce and rice, with PJ chosing a Poblano Pepper stuffed with Chihuahua cheese and covered with tomato sauce. My chicken was well cooked and smothered with a tasty sauce that had that clean kind of spicyness that one expects from fresh chili. The chicken was well flavoured and tender, the rice was a mix of white rice and diced vegetable – plain and simple – and both our dishes were accompanied by plain freshy made tacos, which were useful for soaking up the sauce that remained on the plate after the chicken leg had been cleaned of meat. PJ (unlike me, is someone of few words when it comes to food) described her poblano as “nice”.

We were going to leave after our main dishes but were tempted by the offer of a complimentary dessert, this being the restaurant’s first week. We were glad that we did. PJ is an aficionada of creme caramel and has compared these simple but yet complex desserts in restaurants around the world. The Flan that was offered at Casa Enrique was “really nice”; the chef there should take that as a great compliment. I had a layered cream sponge cake that was laced with some kind of alcohol and was light, creamy and delicious (also a compliment),

The restaurant is in its early days; they didn’t have any electronic payment options and did not yet have a liquor licence (hence a limited selection of Mexican sodas and water as drinks). They don’t have a website and their printed menu is still in transition.  I imagine that the payment options will be available soon but that the liqour licence will depend upon the vagaries of the city council. They do, however, offer take-outs and are likely to do deliveries – all you need is the menu.

I will definitely return to Casa Enrique. Try it –  it’s a welcome addition to the range of eating places in the local community.

One last excuse to include another photo:

It has been good to be able to see Jupiter and Venus in the clear evening skies earlier this week.

Jupiter and Venus over Manhattan