By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
For three years now, twee-lit fave Dave Eggers has posed a fundraising debate between writers and singers, and the crossovers in between: What's better—words or music? Hosted by The Daily Show's John Oliver, the latest "Revenge of the Book Eaters" took place last Tuesday night at Town Hall—the same night as that other debate, you know, between that one and that other one—raising money for Eggers's 826NYC, a not-for-profit organization that funds creative-writing programs for children. (But not music programs. Just to be clear.)
Impression #1: Oliver, a British comedian, is also funny in person, which was a happy discovery; he didn't try to upstage the guests even though he could have, which is the mark of an excellent host. Impression #2: This was totally a first-date event. I might have been the only girl there not accompanied by a dark-haired boy wearing glasses and a slightly self-satisfied smile. Impression #3: I have no idea what first-up Ira Glass's story was about because I was too amazed by Impression #2.
After Glass, Thao Nguyen was slated to perform a duet with Zach Rogue, but Zach wasn't there, so she sang a couple songs by herself—but not, unfortunately, "Bag of Hammers," which is one of my favorite songs this year. The hippest draw for the event was Department of Eagles, who performed next, and whose designation as an It Band bewilders me. I like Grizzly Bear as much as the next Brooklynite, but this album, In Ear Park? I find it completely underwhelming. And I've tried. Sorry, I don't know what songs they sang, because they all sound the same.
Much more impressive, of course, was the wonderful Paul Simon. He's written, what, like 10 million songs, and probably likes a lot of them better than "Mrs. Robinson" and "The Boxer," but he knows his audience wants to hear 'em, so he plays 'em. I love that lack of pretension. And apparently the third song he played was new, which made the audience feel happy and special and like maybe the $100 that they'd paid was worth it. (Besides, you know, helping the kids.) Also worth 100 bucks: Seeing Patricia Clarkson read at the end of the night as part of a very New York group of actors (including Parker Posey, Bobby Cannavale, and one of the guys from TV on the Radio) reading a very New York "play" by Jonathan Franzen. As for the big words-or-music question, I just want to know what she thinks. Because I would agree, regardless.
More news on the steady demise of Studio B (which, last year, I never would have seen coming): Former Motherfucker Justine D., who served as the club's events director and talent buyer for the past two years, resigned last week. She moves to (Le) Poisson Rouge, joining Brice Rosenbloom and Ronen Givony as one of three music directors for the new West Village venue, which this week hosts the much-anticipated two-night Baltimore Round Robin. Curated by Dan Deacon, the format follows a literal interpretation of the name: A number of that city's best bands will be set up simultaneously around the perimeter of the room—audience in the center—performing one song apiece per round, back-to-back, with no breaks. Friday is Eyes Night, featuring folksy, spiritual theatrics (Beach House, Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez); Saturday's Feet Night involves dance, electronic, and punk with Double Dagger, Future Islands, Adventure, and Deacon himself.
It's a good kickoff for the following week's CMJ clusterfuck (or a good excuse to avoid it, since Baltimore's buzz has been louder than New York's for a while now). I heard almost nothing but horror stories from bands, managers, and various other participants regarding the "corruption" of last year's music marathon, but everyone seems to forget 12 months later that they swore they'd never be back. Most important, I'm predicting that girls might actually be ruling the 2008 festival, which is reason enough for me to care about attending: Lykke Li's Bowery Ballroom show is already sold out (she's also guesting this Saturday at a new monthly Santos party, Bootleg); Marnie Stern is sure to be a big draw (This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That mania should reach fever pitch by the end of the month, if not before); and the Vivian Girls are everywhere (and, conveniently, playing with Stern). That's right. Boys drool.
If, by Friday, October 24, you just can't take any more of CMJ's flannel following, head to Webster Hall for Delicious Gutter Night Out, a celebration of the collaboration between Rick Ross (not that one, but the label head for L.A.-based Delicious Vinyl—Tone Loc, the Pharcyde, etc.) and Baltimore Gutter DJ Aaron LaCrate. The two have joined forces to launch a new club label called Delicious Gutter, which has already put out two releases: EPs from Parisian up-and-comer Don Rimini and Jamaican dancehall singjay Mr. Vegas. (They followed the much-publicized June release of Delicious Vinyl's remix package, Rmxxology, studded with versions of the label's classics by Peaches, Hot Chip, and Eminem.) Mr. Vegas performs live alongside hip-hop legend Masta Ace, frequent LaCrate collaborator Debonair Samir, and Illa J—the late J Dilla's little brother—in his New York debut.