Dogs, folkies, poets, acrobats, bomb Bush from poop deck
THE UNCONVENTIONAL CONVENTION
After Sunday’s humid march, ocean breezes and promises of eccentric agritprop lured me to Pier 63’s Frying Pan last week for the Unconventional Convention, a sprawling antidote to RNC freak-show indigestion.
Organized by filmmaker and Gorton’s fisherman doppelgänger Geo Geller, it wasn’t entirely a manifesto: Wearing a red, white, and blue dress with red go-go boots and her chihuahua, Jen Jr., in a side bag, troll-obsessed co-host Reverend Jen battled heavy tides with a puppet show plus a gangsta-rap about man breasts. The asthmatic, McDonald’s-born O’Debra Twins donned American flag hot pants and lip-synched a W-dedicated “Cold Hearted” (complete with manic air violin) before blaming their periods for a list of atrocities, including the defunct Patrick Duffy sitcom Step by Step. Self-described “dirty folkie” Jessica Delfino tossed off political slogans (“God hates war, fags, and long hair”) but dedicated her set to expanding upon “you don’t lick my pussy right.”
Still, amid the barnacles, brine, and fried things, there was plenty o’ the political, including Bushism fortune cookies (“Just remember it’s the birds that’s supposed to suffer, not the hunter”), two-foot missile dicks (on chicks), “huzzah”-shouting Billionaires for Bush, Michael Anthony look-alike Steel Neal rhyming Rollins-cum-“Hot for Teacher” couplets, antifolk yuppie-defilements by Brer Brian, accordionist Helen Stratford draped in a Nazi flag, and 14th Street arrest updates via MC Bob Holman’s cell.
Jonesing for a metal chaser, I made trips to the ship’s bowels but couldn’t find histrionic fear-suckers Haunted Pussy. So besides Le Tigre’s “New Kicks” video, which uses February 15 protests as a backdrop to DIY “no Bush” uniforms and a badminton tournament, the most hard-hitting performance arrived courtesy of a “vocal acrobat.” Wearing vertical stripes, Zero Boy’s Bobby McFerrin meets Negativland flip-flopped WMDs, dog-crushing SUVs, and an imagined scenario of a fighter pilot Bush blasting Mexicans. But with a helicopter overhead and circling Coast Guard spotlights, the evening’s raison d’être was best distilled by Holman, who after a boisterous recitation of Allen Ginsberg’s “Hum Bom!” (“Whom bomb?/We bomb’d them!”) reminisced about L.E.S. poet Pedro Pietri wandering with a begging can that read, fittingly, “Help Me I Can See.” BRANDON STOSUY
Antique comic and jazz trio go underground during RNC
PAUL MOTIAN, JOE LOVANO, BILL FRISELL, PROFESSOR IRWIN COREY
At the Garden, Zell Miller was inveighing wild-eyed against a “manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief.” One mile south on Seventh Avenue, a newly minted nonagenarian brought his own palette of manic obsessions to a bunker underground. “There is a great disturbance taking place in the heart of the city,” declared Professor Irwin Corey, index finger stabbing the air. “Cheney’s dick is in George’s bush,” he added, muttering a tagline about a colon as the half-full room convulsed.
Corey’s four sets, one for each night of the convention, were originally slated for the witching hour due to his Sly Fox commitment on Broadway. When that show closed on convention eve, he was reslotted for intermission. Evoking the floor shows of a bygone era, the resulting performance was nostalgic as well as topical. The extravagantly disheveled World’s Foremost Authority peppered his ancient act with audience heckling and double entendre. And he commented on the band that had preceded him: “Everybody plays by themselves. Why don’t they just play together?”
Though hyperbolic, Corey’s critique struck a nerve; at the back of the room, Bill Frisell chuckled and Joe Lovano guffawed. Their packed first set had featured soliloquies from both musicians, as well as leader Paul Motian, whose drumming eluded straightforward time. But their art is firmly dialogical. Lovano’s tenor saxophone cooed and cried on “Don’t Explain,” nudged along by soft Frisell guitar arpeggios. They played in chorus at the start and finish of Motian’s compositions, which have the pliant, patient certainty of folk songs. In between were innumerable fine details: Frisell’s spontaneous architecture of sampled zips and pings, the sizzle of rivets on Motian’s cymbal at a pregnant pause.
The trio had a few things in common with Corey. The Vanguard, for one. Intellect and improv too. And while the Professor’s no introvert, he shares with Motian the technique of winning ears through subtraction—evinced here by his refusal to use a microphone. His polished non sequiturs and the trio’s thoughtful tinkering hinted at obsession. And both left the more destructive species of mania to the pros. NATE CHINEN
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 31, 2004