Hot and Heavy
The occasional brass band on the street is one of the perks of city life. But a band being carried down the street by hand in near-triple-degree weather well, you need to go to Brooklyn for that. Last Sunday marked the end of the 112th annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Paulinus, at which the big event is the dancing of the giglio, arguably New York's longest-running piece of performance art. The giglio (lily) itself is a five-story-high tower, decorated with religious iconography in honor of noted lily fan Bishop Paulinus's fifth-century rescue of a kidnapped child. (The statue of the bishop at the top eventually lost its staff to the wind.) It's set on a platform, along with a 10-piece band who oompah through Italian standards the festival mirrors one in Nola, near Naples plus the occasional chorus of "When the Saints Go Marching In." The whole thing, band included, is lugged by roughly 90 beefy guys along Havemeyer and North 8th streets, through a bustling neighborhood fair featuring fried foods of many nations, win-a-goldfish contests, and a fortune-telling booth.
An enthusiastic old-timer on the platform sang a few numbers and announced the capos the people who yell directions to the lifters. (Capo #1, Anthony Palma, has something of a cult of personality around him; dozens of people were wearing T-shirts with his caricature.) The "dancing," it turns out, consists of a couple of simple steps that 90 overheated men can do while hoisting multiple tons, like dropping the platform on cue and picking it back up again. (Enthusiastic old-timer: "EASY! EASY!") Jostled and roasted as it was, the band was unflappable, and the crowds that wandered in and out clapped along with everything. As the sweat flowed and the schlepps got shorter, the tunes kept cutting off midnote, but every march forward was a new cause for revelry; the musicians were playing for their families and fellow parishioners, elevated by their community's strength. Douglas Wolk
The morning of July 4 in Orange, California, Sonic Youth driver Bill Ryan got a nasty surprise in the Ramada Inn parking lot: the brand-new Ryder truck he'd left there around 1 a.m. was gone, and so was all the band's gear amps, tools, and their legendary collection of customized guitars. Borrowing equipment (which they restrung before retuning) from Sleater-Kinney, Superchunk, Guided by Voices, and others performing at the This Ain't No Picnic festival, they managed to bring off their headlining set. Where ordinarily they intersperse old and new material, they divided it into simpler chronological batches. Even at that, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo needed half a dozen guitars apiece.
Sonic Youth creates songs for individual guitars the way Duke Ellington composed for individual musicians. So beyond the pain of losing old friends that have been with the band forever, the cost of obtaining new stuff (which insurance will ease), and the many hours of labor that will go into removing standard knobs and pickups and building each guitar back up again, this means some recent repertoire will be transmuted or altogether lost. Still, once Ranaldo came out of shock he could see silver linings. "A line has been drawn for us in the sand. We'll have to find new instruments and look forwards instead of back." Also, the revised sets were exhilarating: "For some members of the audience it really made a lot of sense to see how we'd progressed."
It would be even more exhilarating, however, to get some gear back. The truck soon showed up empty in downtown L.A. But if anybody should run across a '60s Fender Concert amp with a hand-painted Jasper Johnsstyle target on it, or a '60s Fender Jazzmaster with its collectible stock pickups irreverently replaced, contact Aaron Blitzstein at 212-343-2314 or the band at Marcaras66@aol.com. No pranks, please. Really. Robert Christgau
Last Times at Coney Island High
Most of the rumors turned out to be false: Coney Island High did not suffer a massive drug bust, was not shut down because of fire-code violations or noise complaints, and is not (as far as anyone can confirm) going to be replaced by a tasty fast-food joint where you can "have it your way." The situation is an eviction, period. The initial shutdown occurred July 2, when a locksmith from the city showed up unannounced to padlock doors. The venue reopened that weekend, but is now closed permanently.
Jesse Malin says he and the other two co-owners were given a one-week ultimatum by bankruptcy judges find $125,000 owed in back rent to landlord Paul McGregor, plus another $25,000 as a deposit on future rent; find someone willing to buy the lease for $200,000; or get out. Sheer logistics made the feat impossible. "We've had some people offer money, but we just couldn't get anyone committed that fast," says Malin. Speaking for himself and partners Dean Richards and Lindsay Anderson, he mentions the vague possibility of reopening elsewhere. "We don't want to see it go down," he insists, "and we're real fighters." Still: "It's over."
Holding back tears, Christine Lenz a former sound consultant who has worked with the club for over three years of its four-and-a-half-year run says, "It's like a part of me is dying." The closing leaves approximately 45 employees scrambling for jobs, and dozens of bands without a stage for the next month. In the midst of the chaos, management has been working to relocate shows for already booked national acts at establishments like Tramps and Don Hill's. "It's a shame when the music scene in NYC loses any club," says Marc Yevlove, talent buyer for Continental, which has picked up Down By Law and Zeke gigs. "We're trying to help by taking whatever we can." Robin Rothman
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