By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
Murphy, a Ronkonkoma singer/songwriter (and Long Island Voice contributor) took scraps from a variety of sources and wove them together into a magic carpet ride that transported the audience to intimate scenes, embarrassing incidents and self-defining moments. While my impending death, which at that particular moment didn't seem so far off, is rarely a source of amusement for me, Sport's ability to mix the profound with the pathetic on songs such as "The Night Surrounds" had me smiling. Although his poetry is influenced heavily by his heroes Charles Ives and Stephen Foster, Sport never sounded derivative during the set, which included tracks from his impressive debut solo disc, Willoughby. The everyday brilliance of his work was enthralling, without being overwhelming. I simply leaned back in my chair and listened:
Kettles will be whistling to proclaim, with shrill insistence, an impending cup of Sanka
Someone will be hearing [and, presumably, enjoying] something written by Paul Anka
Dogs will be forsaken and taken to the pound on the day they lay your body in the ground
A rock band will be praying for that single A&R guy who appreciates true genius
Someone in love will croon to someone who's already leaving: "I hope nothing comes between us"
Flags the wide world over will fly high atop the mast when that day comes to pass.
Towards the end of the song I shimmied my way up front to see just who were the individuals producing this lush soundscape. Sport himself was a gentle giant on the postage stamp-sized stage. With a performance style that falls somewhere in between Jim Morrison and Joe Cocker, he acts out many of his scenarios using wild hand gestures and facial expressions, then suddenly switches gears and crouches down low with his back facing the audience. The opposing styles made for a perfect accompaniment to complex melodies that swapped Motown grooves and dissonant jazzy riffs with punk rhythms and pop melodies without missing a beat.
For numbers such as "The Dilettante Ball" and "Pulling Out of Amy," Sport's backing band, the Sound-Sations, contributed vibrant Moog undertones and wailing harmonica interludes that added accent to his compositions. Although I couldn't help wishing that they rocked with the intense power and emotion that Sport's songs deserve, the sextet played solidly, allowing Sport to concentrate on his raspy, rambling singing and sound effects.
While I tried valiantly to concentrate on what Sport was howling about on stage, I ended up slumped against the piss-poor, starving-artist canvases that line the wall of the club, passing in and out of consciousness. VA