Back in LIC – excited by the prospects of a summer of music.

I’m just back from a few weeks overseas and am catching up on the local scene. A new feature in  Hunters Point is a little gallery known as 10-10 Studios, at 10-10, 47th Road at Vernon Boulevard ( Last night I was just passing and was invited in by the host, offered a glass of wine and was able to appreciate some  very fine photos by Micah Rubin (, in an exhibition called “Uncommon Threads” featuring scenes from South East Asia. The exhibition is short-lived (15-17th June) but I hope that this new artistic venue will continue to flourish.

I note, too, that the studio is hosting a fundraising event for Queens Jazz Overground ( this Saturday, 16th June from 7-11pm featuring music by:
Josh Deutsch/Nico Soffiato duo
Brian Woodruff Quartet with Hashem Assadullahi, Amanda Monaco, Mark Wade
Mike Baggetta Trio with Zack Lober, RJ Miller

A visitor from Finland

The LIC bar ( occasionally hosts overseas artists, however, to my knowledge Saara Markkanen ( is the first singer from Finland to appear at this respected venue in  Long Island City.

Saara Markkenen (photo courtesy of the artist)

Saara is a singer of rare individuality. Originally from Finland,  she moved to Berlin last year and is touring the US for the first time in June, with her first gig at the LIC Bar on Wednesday 20th June, at 7pm, following that with a tour along eastern USA, ending with an appearance at the Nebraska Pop Festival in Omaha.

Saara has a pure, often unworldly, voice and accompanies herself on the guitar in a self-taught style that can sometimes seems as if she’s playing a harp. Her music has a European folk quality that  at times conveys a kind of chilly innocence. Her language is Finnish so, except for those in her US audiences who are Finnish ex-pats, she will offer what she calls “creative ways ” of explaining her songs, most of which are in her native language. She is touring with cellist Elise Mélinand and a Canadian filmaker who is making a documentary of the the tour.

Unable to meet her in advance of the gig I interviewed Saara using a skype connection whilst she was in a cafe in Gothenburg, Sweden – (so the sound quality is variable).

Check this out by clicking on this link:

Saara Markkanen – interview plus two songs

You can catch more of her music on her website ( and on youtube.

Saara’s tour dates are:

20.6. L.I.C. Bar, Queens, New York
21.6. The Space/The Outer Space,Hamden,Connecticut
23.6. The Barking Dog location in College Park Maryland
24.6. Epicure Cafe in Fairfax Virginia.
25.6. The Garage, Charlottesville Virginia.
27.6. Deep South The Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina.
26.6. Bottega Art Bar & Gallery, Wilmington North Carolina.
28.6. Underbelly, Jacksonville, Florida.
29.6. Dada, Delray Beach Florida.
30.6. Tallahassee Florida.
3.7. Neutral Ground Coffeehouse, New Orleans.
4.7. Artmosphere in Lafayette Louisiana.
5.7. Hopkins ice house, Texarkana,Arkansas
11.7. Nebraska pop festival, Nebraska

New Album from Ryan Roger’s “Amateur Blonde”

Amateur Blonde is a band put together by LIC-based singer songwriter Ryan Roger O’Toole. (Take care if you google “Amateur Blonde”, you’ll get a lot of stuff that is, well, rather different from the well crafted music that this album demonstrates!)

Well known on the Queens and Brooklyn club and bar circuit, Ryan is an energetic collaborator with local music projects and it is not surprising that a band and an album have emerged that celebrate both collaboration and Ryan’s talent as a songwriter and performer.

Amateur Blonde’s first, self  titled, album has sought funding through a local  funding group which includes Gustavo Rodriguez and Brian Meece – “Rockethub” ( It credits 9 artists: Ryan himself (Voices, Guitars, Drums, Pianos, Organs & Omnichord); regular Drummer Jeff Gretz, bassist Peter Brendler and pedal steel Philip Sterk; plus drummers Seth Fragomen and Brendt Cole; bass players John Lang and Matthew O’Toole (Ryan’s brother, who also plays the family Dobro), with another LIC regular Anthony Rizzo (of Little Embers) – on Lead Guitar. Of course they don’t all play on all tracks, only Ryan does that, but the mix of players does reflect the mix of styles across the whole album. This is a self-produced album, recorded mainly by Ryan in his home studio, with some help with drum recording from Brian Speaker at Brooklyn Tea Party in Bushwick.

Some time ago, in fact in 1968, CBS released the first ever “sampler” album “The Rock Machine Turns You On” to an eager European market. Half the price of a standard LP the disc featured tracks from a range of in-house Columbia artists including Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Spirit, The Zombies and Tim Rose as well as classically named bands like the “Peanut Butter Conspiracy” and “Moby Grape”.

Amateur Blonde’s first album reminds me of this in its variety of songs and arrangements. Ryan does not stick to one genre and the album benefits from this. There is a real mid-Atlantic 60’s and 70s feel to Ryan’s music, yet this is not retro rock and some of the tracks, such as “Sobriquet” have an Indie feel, even if it quickly moves on to echoes of Lennon rocking New York City in the 1970s. Anthony Rizzo (Little Embers) in his only appearance on the album offers nice jagged guitar work against waves of over-dubbed and overdriven guitars and makes this song a great start to an album that developes nicely from track to track.

Scaffolding” moves away with a not-quite-twangy-enough Duane Eddy-type guitar intro that leads into a drum driven insistent beat and simple guitar riff.  Ryan’s half-hoarse vocals, together with his la-la chorus give us a song that moves like an Chevrolet convertible driving through dusty cities early on a sunday summer morning and heading for the coast.

There’s strong heavy rock too, “Chills” features roaring vocals and a thumping beats with Ryan screaming into the mic in a rough distorted style that has a live late night basement club feel, (even if it does revert to another Beatlesque ending).

“Just Obey”, has a real 60s “Doors” feel, check out this live performance:

“In a minute” is a dreamy atmospheric track in which the harmonised lyrics take center  stage, with the next song:  No Worries”, proving to be another,  winding, atmospheric track that grabs you in its circling harmonies with  a catchy intermittent ringing guitar riff that takes you down subtle passageways.

“Airplane Mode” is, for me, the least memorable song on what is a very good album indeed, it starts with a Coldplay – esq keyboard arpeggio riff that reappears during the track, with soaring wordless harmonies that makes me think that it would suit a video or movie, as it generates a feeling that might better accompanying images. Ryan is, in fact, a  film-maker so this  may well be an appropriate comment! (later comment – this track actually grows on you and improves with repeated listening).

“Waiting Place” has over- and undertones of Pink Floyd with Ryan self-harmonising against a smooth-running river of nicely arranged and recorded guitar, omnichord and pedal steel. “Novocaine” is an effective, memorable track with a catchy riff that takes you through nicely put together harmonies.

The final track “Leaving Time” is a kind of fairground fantasy, with New York as the fairground; boys in leather jackets hanging round subway entrances glancing at skirt through the rain and steaming streets. The excellent mix brings out the strumming omnichord in a ways that urge nostalgia for hot lazy days, and the kind of seaside teenage love affair that, for most, ended up as “Leaving Time”.

This is a really good album, with good songs, great arrangements and production. It’s also an interesting album, worthy of close listening – especially late at night when the party is winding down, with its rocking tracks giving way to a smoother, almost ambient vibe as the mist drifts over your eyes and your brain. I really like albums like this, there is always something unexpected as you move from track to track. I urge you to  buy it!

Catch some pre-release tracks on: watch out for availability online ( and at live shows.

Ryan Roger (photo courtesy of the artist)

Gigs to look forward to:

LIC Bar is hosting, on Monday June 25th, three bands that are worth turning up for early to catch a seat. Leah Gough-Copper’s “Human Equivalent”; “Whiskey Spillers” and Mercedes Figueras’  avante garde jazz group Black Butterflies. I have written before about Human Equivalent and Black Butterflies but I don’t think I’ve mentioned Whiskey Spillers (, a duo of Corey Lewis and Patrick Ryan (from “Animal Pharm” – I’m impressed by Corey Lewis, he sings intelligent songs in ways that defy pigeon-holing and with an energy that radiates from his, not especially slender, form.

Corey Lewis

LIC Bar now have regular outdoor events on Sunday afternoons, from 4 until 7, when the  doors of the Carriage House open to create a stage and appreciative drinkers can sit in the sunshine on what usually proves to be a feast of brilliant music.


Sometime in Long Island City can now be HEARD on podcasts, featuring material from the blog and also a new series of Artist Portraits in which Eric Hathaway talks to local musicians about their life and their music.

Subscribe to these on itunes:

or directly from Podbean:

First edition: “LIC Bar and the Queens of Queens“:

Listen to this episode
Download this episode (right click and save)

Artist Portrait: Michele Riganese:

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Artist Portrait: Jeneen Terrana:

Listen to this episode
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Attist Portrait: Little Embers

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Artist Portraits in production include:

Shelly Bhushan, Warren Malone and Matthew Sucich.

Universal Life Church, ULC, We Are All Children Of the Same Universe

More and Even More Music

The last few weeks have offered great musical fare in LIC, some old favourites and some new discoveries. I’ve also had the chance to check out some new recordings. This will be my last blog for a while as I’m off overseas for a  few weeks, so it’s longer………….. .


Check out the first ever podcast of “Sometime in Long Island City” .:- or

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)


If you’re n New York check out an exhibition (until mid-June) of my photos of local and international musicians: “EarthSouNZ – A World of Diversity in Music” at Cranky’s French Creole Restaurant ( on the corner of Vernon Boulevard and 49th Avenue in Hunters Point.

Salif Keita – Great Malian musician and advocate for the rights of alibino poeple.





It’s been good to catch up with Anthony Cekay‘s saxophone playing at LIC bar ( ) for a couple of sessions recently. I’ve heard two late night improvisation sessions with Christian Coleman (drums) and Broc Hempel (keyboard) that I’ve really enjoyed. Readers of this blog will know that I am no expert on Jazz. I’m beginning to appreciate different types of improvisations having heard some that are very “free” to others which slightly free within modes and others which are around established melodies and/or chord progressions. I would put Anthony’s between the last two categories, but am open to contradiction (and education!). These two sessions (one just saxes and drums and the other saxes, drums and keyboard) were interesting and enjoyable. It’s was a pleasure to hear two talented musicians listening intently to each other and producing engrossing music that expressed a range of emotions, especially when you know that it is all improvised.

Anthony Cekay – Improvised jazz at LIC Bar

I’ve also caught Broc Hempel and Christian Coleman playing at Domaine Wine Bar (, with Peter Brendler on bass and Dave Scott on trumpet. This is a really good venue for this understated kind of jazz. Dave Scott came across as a thoughtful player of intricate music that matched well the playing styles of the other musicians. For those of you who do not know the Domaine Wine Bar (my University of Wine and Jazz) it is a small space that, at most, would house around 45 people (check out my “Jazz in Small Spaces” blog ( It is not somewhere where you would want to be blown to the back of the room by a pounding bass and tough brass section. As such it suits interesting and well played music in a range of styles,with vinicular accompaniments.

Dave Scott at Domaine Wine Bar

Christian Coleman, Broc Hempel and Peter Brendler

I’ve appreciated the Avalon Jazz Band ( playing at Domaine. They are a French-style Jazz group who I would hesitate to call a “Band”, which to me sounds like a “Big Band”, which is certainly not the case. They are  Violin (Adrien Chevalier), Guitar (Koran Agan), Bass (Eduardo Belo) and Voice (Tatiana Eva-Marie) a group who offer themselves as a nostalgic look at Paris in the 1940s, playing in a mix of styles that they describe as ” … a bridge between the old world and the new, between French charm and American glam, with just a pinch of burlesque and a spoonfull of swing”.  I liked the Django/Grappelli-style Gypsy swing Jazz, but not so much so much some of the sweetly sung romantic French songs. Fortunately there wasn’t too much of the latter and I enjoyed Tatiana’s singing of standards, with a little bit of scat that showed  off her vocal ability. The guitar and violin playing was very stylish and showed great skill. Bass players rarely come forward but I appreciated the solos that Edourdo offered in the sets that I heard whilst I gave in to the temptation of freshly shucked oysters and a glass of chilled Jurançon, a wine that matched perfectly the Blue Neck Oysters on offer that night from sommelier Chip behind the bar.

Avalon Jazz Band at Domaine Wine Bar

Occasionally in New York you meet people in unexpected places. As a follower of musicians around town I get to know those that have a really distinctive sound. One of these is the combination of Charlie Rauh (guitar) and Concetta Abbate (violin). I first heard them accompanying Ali Silva’s reconstruction of 1940s radio plays at the LIC bar winter “Fireside Ghost Stories” series (check out my blog “Live Radio in LIC” – ), where they produced improvised mood music (check Anthony Cekay’s Podcast of this on . Then I came across Charlie playing with Mossa Bildner in her musical adaption of T.S.Eliot’s “Four Quartets” (see my “Now and again in Manhattan” post ( A couple of weeks ago I went down to LowerEast Side to catch Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent ( in an early evening set at a hideaway little bar (the “Recoup”) and who should I hear playing in the Delauncey Street subway station – Charlie and Concetta.

Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate

A few days later I went on to hear them play at LIC bar. I think when I listen to improvised Jazz I’m listening for fragments to which I can relate, whether fragments of melody or mood. If the latter I think I those fragments have to fall on fertile ground. If they dont quite fit my mood of the moment then they fall on stony ground. Not they have to match, it’s great when music can lift me out of the moment. If they jar, though, whether in mood or tonalities or just in the sound the instruments make, then I might be distanced. The latter is not the case  with the music I have heard from Charlie and Concetta. It is interesting and does not jar. even  when the tonalities wander. The styles of the players, and the timbres of the two instruments match well; with Charlie playing with a muted amplified guitar that supports the flight of the fiddle as it winds around melodies, scales and arpeggios.

Queens of Queens

Readers of this blog will know that I have been enthusiastic about the Queens of Queens residency at LIC Bar Wednesday nights during May. So far we’ve had two sessions from Michele Riganese, Shelly Bhushan, Little Embers and Jeneen Terrana; the first where they sang all their own material and the second where they mixed their own songs with songs by other writers. The first was dogged by some technical hitches but the four women showed how much their good humour and obvious cameraderie would get them through. The second show presented them more as a cohesive unit, helped by their agreement to each wear black and not to overcomplicate their instruments by expecting too much from the small PA system: handling four vocal mics on top of guitars proved tricky in session one. In session two they only ever had one guitar, plus keyboard and mic-based instruments like the Melodica and harmonica. The more I hear these women the more I appreciate their individual talents and the chemistry of this combination. It was good to hear old favourites from the singers – including Michele’s “Learn to Love” – as well as classics like Dolly Parton‘s “Jolene” (this must be one of the most played American Country songs ever) and “You’re no Good”, written by Clint Ballard Jnr and associated in the US with Linda Rondstadt and as a hit in the UK for 1960’s Merseybeat band The Swinging Blue Jeans ( I’m slightly embarassed to say that I might still have a 45 of that back in NZ).

Check out Little Embers song from the first show:

Before your name  ( an audio file that should play in your default audio player)

And this video

Julie Kathryn

Regular LIC Bar singer/songwriter Julie Kathryn has just released a new EP of her music, “Broken Love” (   or She showcased this at the Rockwood Music Hall on 22 April in a superbly professional show which started an evening of LIC Bar- related musicians, with Brian and Silbin and friends and Toronto-based Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party ending the night with their mix of European style rock.

Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party. An exciting band from Toronto who rock the night with their blend of klezmer/circus rock and good time rolling.

On stage Julie shows great skill in relating to her audience and performing finely crafted songs in ways that  show an almost visceral sense of rhythm as she supports herself on guitar or piano and links with the group of fine musicians with which she surrounds herself. So we had cello and violin as well as the usual bass, guitar and drums. Check out this video from Carly Massey.

The EP “Broken Love” has just four songs, each of which is emotionally direct and disarmingly personal. Listen to all four at one sitting and you’ll need to sit back and process for a while. Julie sings with an understated intimate style and an exquisite sense of timing that makes you feel that only you and she are in the room.  “I don’t want you back”  is a  lovely subtle production and arrangement for a nicely crafted and performed song. “Not the Same” – presents a nice change of tempo and mood,  I like the lilting simple child-like rhythms and chorus. “Broken Love“, is a  gently rocking song  with spotlit  bass and sweet downward-flowing guitar arpeggios – a song that anyone who has had a broken first love will relate to, a song of lost, but not forgotten innocence that Julie’s singing so beautifully puts across. The last song, “Let this be” is my favourite, (being an incurable romantic and of a generally melancholic disposition). I challenge anyone to listen to this and not reach for the Kleenex! This EP is a gem that I hope will do a great job of taking Julie a long way in her career.

Julie Kathryn at Rockwood Music Hall, Lower East Side

Rachel Wolf

Now, Rachel ( a performer who will take you by surprise, especially if you have no idea what to expect. I saw her play at the LIC Bar in what, I believe, was her first perfomance there. She stands on stage and plays an Indian portable harmonium that has its origins in instruments carried by Christian missionaries and which were used to accompany those Victorian hymns that were a gift from the Queen to an Empire of cheap labour and raw materials. Not that Rachel sings anything like those often turgid and predictable tunes (not all, I should say). As soon as she opens her mouth you know that this is a young woman of great talent. She has a bluesy soulful sound which reminded me of Adele and Pink, with rich texture and accuracy that knocks you back. You just don’t expect this. It’s not just bluesy though, there’s a Joanna Newsom quality too, not just in the way she sings some of her songs but also in the ways she has crafted her music, a  story-telling aspect that also reminded me of 1960s UK folk group “The Incredible String Band”  especially when they incorporated the girl singers Licorice and Rose (not they had anything like Rachel’s quality of voice. At times I would  have appreciated a little more variety in the accompaniment – the portable harmonium isn’t exactly a Hammond and I think some of her songs could have used that  kind of sound. She sings quirky, original songs, check out “Murder Ballad” –

“I’d have been your lovin’ wife, right ‘til the day you died
But cross me and you’ll cross the river Styx.
I’m young and I’m sweet and I’m ripe as a peach,
But bite too hard you’ll get the bitter pit”

Watch out for this young woman, she has a great future!

Rachel Wolf

Kat Spina

Another bluesy voice comes from Kat Spina (, a who played a set at LIC bar recently. There she played guitar with a  partner Brian Forbes on nicely wrought and understated Fender Strat. Kat has a good accurate voice and takes care to carry the meaning of the words she sings, whether her own or “covers” such as Dylan’s “It’s all over now baby blue”. (When does a cover become a “standard”?). LIC Bar is not an easy venue at the start of an evening. There might just be a dozen in the audience, and some of those might be the supporters you’ve brought along. Some artists just get on with it and others, who look for affirmation from the audience might feel constrained in their delivery. I sense that Kat was a little restrained in this way. I dont think she’s naturally extravert and the sensitivity of her singing requires a steady confidence that for some is inner driven and for others is a product of audience response. Most singers like to get energy from the crowd, making early evening shows a hard road to take.

I enjoyed hearing Kat and have since appreciated her 2009 album “Engaging the Muse“. This is not an album that makes you go “wow!” It’s more of a sit down and listen, or put-in-the-background work. Kat’s easy singing style comes across as more bluesy than in her LIC Bar set and she has the advantage of a backing band that supports her in a range of songs, all of which (except for a Beatles song – “I’ve just seen a face”) she has had a role in writing. What comes across most with Kat is the quality of her voice, soulful yet not strongly so; accurate, yet not sterile; pleasant to listen to, yet not boring. The album has a rather old-fashioned feel, older than 2009 yet not really dateable in the styles and types of music put across by Kat and her band. The heritage is clearly 60s soul, with bluesy shifts; late night music when you need to relax, not get hyped for a night on the town. The track “Constant” is a nice example of Kat’s songwriting, and more in the style that I heard at LIC bar. It’s mainly guitar and voice, with a touch of sensitive violin from Gwen Laster and background keyboard bass; my favourite on the album. I also enjoyed Kat’s take on the Lennon/McCartney song – “I’ve just seen a face, I can’t forget, the time or place, where we just met” a superb example of their talent for lyrics – cleverly adapted slightly by Kat in a  way that reflects the way a pop song can wedge itself in your own life where the universal meets the personal. I also like the way she takes a new look at the rhythm of what was originally a relentlessly fast moving song from the movie “Help”.

Kat Spina and Brian Forbes @ LIC Bar

Quick Mentions:

Really appreciated Chris Michael at LIC Bar – looks as if he’s going from one bar to another if he passes his final exams!! (

Chris Michael in the Open at LIC Bar

And last but not least some photos from Brian and Silbin‘s gig at Rockwood Music Hall:

Silbin Sandovar, Brian Meece and Jeneen Terrana

Brian Reece, Jeneen Terrana and Jens Kramer, violin

Anthony Cekay on Sax

Jeneen Terrana, Danny Mackane and Jens Kramer

Rachel Swaner


 LIC Bar

Wednesday, May 16th

Thursday, May 17th
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 19th
Fiends and Fools

Sunday, May 20th
Big City Folk Sunday Social
Emily Mure, Kevin Goldhahn, and more

Monday, May 21st

Wednesday, May 23rd

Thursday, May 24th
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 26th
Magic Bones

Sunday, May 27th
Live music outdoors in the garden (weather permitting)
from 2-8pm

Monday, May 28th

Wednesday, May 30th

Thursday, May 31st
w/Stephanie Holmes

Live Radio in LIC

Remember radio? Sitting at home around the fire on a winter night? Remember how you were able create images of characters; how the actors, music and sound effects created dramas in which you were a participant by virtue of your imaginative powers?

Have you ever been to a live radio show, watched the actors with their scripts, seen how sound effects are produced?

I was fortunate to be invited to a rehearsal of such an event the other night, an event that takes place in LIC next weekend (Sunday Feb 26th, 8:30, LIC Bar). So this short blog is not such much a review, more of a preview of a scary event in the neighbourhood.

Local actor Ali Silva has been creating monthly, Sunday night “Fireside Ghost Stories” at the LIC Bar ( Halloween last year, performing them in the Carriage House annex; an ideal setting with its fireplace, rustic artifacts and cosy atmosphere. She extends this successful format this week with a live reading of 2 episodes of CBS’ radio show “Suspense” that will engage your imagination in a  way that is guaranteed to chill you and make you want to draw closer to the fire.

"Suspense" by the fireside in the Carriage House

This very popular radio series ran from the 1940s through to the early 1960s and was the highlight of many a listener’s week. At 8:30 pm on Sunday 26th February Ali will be joined by other actors and two musicians to recreate two stories, both by Lucille Fletcher; “The Furnished Floor“;  and the other, probably the most famous of these radio plays, the 1943 story “Sorry Wrong Number“.

This classic tale creates for us Manhattan in the 1940s. A lonely bedridden woman (originally played by Agnes Moorehead, and later by Barabara Stanwyck in the 1948 movie) is alone in her apartment; she attempts to phone her husband and gets a crossed line, overhearing what appears to be a murder plot. She panics but is unable to get anyone to take her seriously, frustrated by other’s perceptions of her as a lonely neurotic  woman who is just imagining things. Check out the audio excerpt: ” Hello Operator “.

Ali Silver - Actor and Director

New York apartment dwellers will identify with the play’s central character and perhaps also with the disbelief she faces as she tries to get help. Radio has a great capacity to enable our imagination to enter a frightening situation, more so than live theatre or movies. To stage a radio play “live” stands between live theatre and radio and as such offers us the advantage of real, seen, faces without the distraction of settings, costumes and make-up. It challenges actors to credibly change character with their voice, whilst standing there with just a script and minimal props.

James Reiser - Actor

The Carriage House context, being small and almost domestic in its ambiance, lends an intimacy to the performance. It is physically separate from the bar with no distractions from sport or customers’ conversations. The fire offers dramatic lighting and the physical immediacy of the actors brings an added dimension of intimate intensity in this genuinely scary play.

Ali Silva is a very talented actor and director. This is no amateur production, the actors: Ali, James Reiser, Sherri Quaid (also Foley artist and sound effects) and Gus Rodriguez and musicians Charlie Ruah and Concetta Abbatte are all expert in their craft. Gus also produced the event and the complete production will be available as a Podcast, engineered by Anthony Cekay (

Gus Rodriguez - Actor and Producer

Concetta Abbate (violin)

Sherri Quaid - Actor, Sound FX & Foley Artist

Charlie Rauh (guitar)

If you’re prepared to be scared on a dark Sunday night and to be chilled in front of a roaring fire, come down to the LIC Bar at 8:30pm on Sunday February 26th;

Performance to a packed audience


This was a very popular performance – the carriage house was full and people were listening  from the other side of the doors!

You can now hear a podcast of the performance at

Catch them again on Sunday 25th March :!/events/404776782884520/

Stretching out those “Sticky Fingers”

The Rolling Stones 1971 “Sticky Fingers” album was memorable, not just for its music but also for a Warhol-conceived record sleeve that outraged the more conservative elements of society by its blatant sexually provocative focus on Warhol-star Joe Dallesandro’s bulging crotch and real zip fly that hid white bulging briefs on the inner cover with “THIS PHOTOGRAPH MAY NOT BE–ETC.” stamped across the pale innocence of the tantalising elastic waistband. This was a triumph of LP sleeve design that stands as a supreme example of an artform that cannot be reproduced in a plastic CD jewel case, or an mp3 download. This was also a triumph of the Stones’ position as provocateurs, as symbols of rebellion, and reflected the not-too-hidden sexual messages in the R&B music they played. After all, what does “rocking and rolling” really mean?

Gus Rodriguez brought along his original copy of the album to display as a backdrop to a celebration of this classic album in a tribute show at LIC Bar performed on February 8th. Gus, together with Neil Nunziato have formed a new venture “Planet QNS” which gathered  a group of highly skilled musicians to perform the whole “StickyFingers” album along with a selection of other favourite Stones songs. The tightly-packed bar danced and sang along to tracks that most of the audience would have heard on their parents record players (perhaps sneaking the album cover in the middle of the night to play with the zip fly on the front?  – “does it really work?”)

Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo

This was the third tribute show that I have attended at this venue, “Ziggy Stardust” and “John Lennon” being the others. All have brought in a range of singers to perform with a kind of house band in support. In my view this was the most successful so far. Jefferson Thomas ( is a highly competent, thoroughly professional musician who has performed previously in LIC and is well known around the wider NYC area, as well as further afield. He acted as musical director for this show and pulled together a band that consisted of Neil Nunziato on drums, Anthony Cekay on sax, Anthony Rizzo on guitar, Tony Oppenheimer on Bass, Tim Lykins on percussion with Jeff himself on keyboard, guitars, harp and vocals. This was a TIGHT band that supported and performed convincing interpretations of the material that made you sit up and listen to intricate weavings of instrumentation and skilful playing, especially from guitarist  Anthony Rizzo.

This was not a night of singers getting up,  doing one song and disappearing. This was a community of performers who are well used to supporting each other, especially in this LIC Bar environment – a kind of “home” venue for many. So we saw singers like Shelly Bhushan, Silbin Sandovar, Billy Ryan and Little Embers in the spotlight and in support. We also saw talented singers Chris Campion, Meika Pauley, Natalie Mishel Martinez, Alice Texas, Kiri Jewell and P.J.O’Connor perform in a variety of styles that offered a range of personal interpretations.

I have not heard Shelly Bhushan enough. She has a great soul voice and energetic presence that would spark any musical setting. She sang by herself (“I got the blues”) and with Little Embers. These two perform regularly together and form part of a group of  four women (with Michele Riganese and Jeneen Terrana) who will be resident at LIC Bar for the month of May. (That doesn’t mean they will be living there! just every Monday night at 10pm).

Shelly Bhushan and Little Embers

I saw this  group of four women perform at the Living Room last year and there they called themselves the “Queens of Queens”. This is a group of performers who are rising stars in their own right as solo performers and writers. Check out Little Embers’ song “Beacon” in Mike Birbiglia’s new film, Sleepwalk With Me, which just won the Best of NEXT Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival –; also Shelly at “The Battle of the Boroughs at the Green Space on March 2nd; Michele’s latest EP, , a nice video of her song “Western belle” and her creative, and  brilliant project; and  Janeen’s latest album I was impressed at the Living Room (see my blog), look forward to their residency and sense that they have a great future as they perform more and take more risks with their musical arrangements.

Meika Pauley singing “Bitch”

Mieka Pauley gave a characteristically energetic and expressive performance of “Bitch”. Mieka was one of the first artists I heard at LIC bar in their summer Sunday series last year. I was impressed by her confidence as a singer, songwriter and performer. Watch out for her in the summer, with an expected release of her eagerly awaited album “The Science of Making Choices”.

I was also impressed by Natalie Mishell Martinez. She came on to front up a great performance of “Sympathy for the Devil”. (see I had recently seen Mick Jagger’s performance of this in the TV special-that-was-never-released “Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus”, also clips of the track being rehearsed. This performance by Natalie never tried to out-Jagger Jagger, an impossible feat. She added her own take on the track, never understating and, with the band and backup singers Mieka Pauley, Kiri Jewell, Silbin Sandovar and P.J.O’Connor offering what was really a high point of the show.

Alice Schneider / “Alice Texas”

“Sister Morphine” is a powerful song, deserving a  sensitive performance that will connect with the listener. I enjoyed Alice Schieder’s sensitive and soulful interpretation, moments of intimate stillness in a what was a highly charged rock and roll evening. Like some of the artists in the show Alice was new to me. I enjoyed her style and hope to catch her again.

Similarly Kiri Jewell, who sang “Wild Horses”, a song I seem to be hearing everywhere – from a memorial gathering (“lets do some living after we die”), to Megan Kerper at LIC Bar the previous week. Kiri gave a spirited performance of this song that gave it an intensity that underlined its highly personal lyrics.

Chris Campion opens the show with “Brown Sugar”

I’m aware that I haven’t said much about the male singers at this Stones tribute, and I wonder why. Is the comparison with Jagger too hard to pull away from when the cover is done by a guy. Who could move like Mick? Who could express with their body the way he does? As far as moving goes Chris Campion started the show well, performing “Brown Sugar”. He’s a guy who is used to fronting a band; he leads Knockout Drops, a New York indie rock band, as well as being the author of “Escape from Bellevue – A Memoir of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Recovery, and Redemption” (

P.J.O’Connor doesn’t move much. “Moonlight Mile”, doesn’t demand this. It’s a song that rolls along like a covered wagon and owes more to “Astral Weeks” than to “Exile on Main Street”.  This needed a straightforward performance with good support, and received it, especially when the song rises and falls at the end. A challenge to sing effectively and a challenge well met by P.J.

Jefferson Thomas “You Got to Move”

Jefferson Thomas gave a cool rendition of the only song on Sticky Fingers that was a cover: Mississippi  Fred McDowell’s “You Got to Move”, a classic blues song that has been covered by bands from Aerosmith to Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.

This was a highly charged and well produced tribute to one of the greatest albums of the rock and roll era. These tributes continue with a St. Patrick’s Day tribute to Van Morrison. Saturday 17th March from 7 until 9.

These are usually FREE performances by musicians who, for the most, try to make a living from their craft. Tribute performances like these involve a lot of preparation and many players. Usually a tip jar is passed around that often is not a lot of reward for the people concerned. If you’ve enjoyed the night remember how much you have paid for your drinks and compare that with how much you put in the tip jar, then just think about it…………….

If you really liked the music, check it on Spotify and then go somewhere like cdbaby and buy the tracks, or the whole album – in real plastic, or download.

Little did the Rolling Stones know at the time that one day you could download “Stick Fingers” as a Zip file ….. (sorry about that, “when it’s in you it’s got to come out” – John lee Hooker)

Stick Fingers House Band with Billy Ryan and Silbin Sandovar