Category: Music

Skye & Matthew Herbert @ Irving Plaza

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006 | All Things, Music

I had tickets to a concert tonight, but on the way, I stopped in for the Friends of the High Line “Dinner, Drinks and Design Presentations” at Pier 63 Maritime. The pier is, in fact, a moored Lackawanna Railroad Barge; it was purchased in 1997 to be the permanent home for the historic lightship Frying Pan. Judging from the crowd assembled in the shadow of Chelsea Piers, the pier is the place to be these summer nights: lively chatter filled the air, intermingling with the smoke off the grill from the Tiki Hut Bar & Café. I wandered among the display panels and picked up some printed materials about the planned High Line promenade, but unfortunately, this night I had to leave before the design presentations.

High Line Design

High Line Panels

The pier offers historic maritime tours on weekend afternoons in July and August; I may have to check into that for this Sunday, the season’s last.

Pier 63 Statue

We arrived at Irving Plaza well in time for the opening act by Skye (Edwards), former voice for trip-hop band Morcheeba (whom I’ve described as Portishead-lite.) “Skye” is an acronym of her given name: Shirley Klarisse Yonavive Edwards. Her first solo album, Mind How You Go, hit stores yesterday, August 22.

Skye’s airy, beguiling vocals were an easy match for her chill mix of soul-inflected story-telling tunes — including one she penned about buying the dress she was wearing that night, while on tour with Morcheeba in New Orleans eight years ago. We were surrounded on all sides by couples pressed closely together and swaying dreamily to Skye’s music… but the most enthusiastic responses were reserved for Morcheeba’s “The Sea” (off 1998’s Big Calm album) and an acoustic cover of Gorillaz’ “Feel Good Inc.

Skye

Skye

Up next: Matthew Herbert, the influential and critically acclaimed British instrumental electronic artist, remixer (most recently Radiohead and Jamie Lidell), producer and collaborator (for artists as varied as Björk, R.E.M., Perry Farrell, Serge Gainsbourg and Yoko Ono.) Herbert, a classically trained pianist, uses digital samples and original orchestral and “organic” (i.e., noises, not instruments) recordings to construct his albums. On this night, he riffed off of live created samples of an aluminum can crumpling, and the audience singing a middle-C in unison. Really cool! The orchestrations on his latest album Scale (released in May) include keyboard, strings, horns… drums recorded underwater and in a hot-air balloon, coffins closing from the inside, a dozen different types of cars, recorded phone messages, jet fighter planes and a parrot. You get the idea. Somehow these disparate sounds, overlaid with smooth R&B vocals, melded together to oddly danceable, almost poppy effect that defied easy categorization. For this tour, Herbert had live musicians accompanying him; each had at least one opportunity to show off his dazzling virtuosity: on vocals, guitar, keyboard, saxophone and trumpet.

Check out four of the tracks from Scale here.

Matthew Herbert

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La Traviata in Central Park

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006 | All Things, Events, Friends, Music

Inspired by two recent meals (and the organic vegetables piled up in my kitchen), I made a late night trip to Fairway Market last night to pick up ingredients for a lamb-eggplant stew and a watermelon-feta salad. Luckily, the cheesemonger was still on duty, and pointed me to the store’s Greek feta behind the counter – fresher and far superior to the pre-packaged, pre-crumbled stuff in the refrigerated shelves, and a much better value at $6/pound.

A few quick runs of the knife at home, and within minutes, I was enjoying my own homemade version of Public’s salad (sans pumpkin seeds and artistic presentation): crisp, sweet, creamy, and filling without being at all heavy. Then it was on to the cooking: after browning the fresh lamb in some olive oil and butter, I tossed in a good portion of my CSA haul from last week: three varieties of eggplant, two varieties of peppers, onions and tomatoes. And then the spices — my best approximation of the Tanoreen blend: pepper, cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, cloves, allspice, coriander, cumin, dried ginger and lots of fresh garlic. No dried rosebuds in my pantry, though. The spicy smells permeated through my apartment well past midnight, but I ended up with a good-sized pot — enough for a few meals, at least.

Eggplants

Brought some of the stew into work the next day to share with SYB over lunch; he supplied the fresh bread from Parisi Bakery on Mott. Later, he returned there to pick up my favorite sandwich for our dinner picnic: paper-thin sliced capicola and sweet sopressata topped with fresh mozzarella and homemade roasted red peppers marinated in olive oil, oregano and thick chunks of garlic — all piled high on a prosciutto bread ring. Love.

After dropping off our CSA share after work (more eggplant and peppers!), we were off to enjoy one of the great NYC summer traditions: The Metropolitan Opera Parks Concerts. A cool and clear night for La Traviata, but wow, there were a lot of people on the Great Lawn. The Met officials later reported the police estimated attendance of 30,760 – which seems to me an impossibly specific number. That’s a full third fewer than five years ago (which is contrary to what I would have guessed) when 45,000 people showed up for the performance, but well off the 1990 nadir when, due to a combination of factors (rain date, early start), fewer than 500 were counted in attendance for the opening notes.

Great Lawn

We were joined on our blanket by DX and later, EH. (EB arrived too late to try hunting for us in the dark.) From our spots, we could barely see a sliver of stage, and certainly couldn’t ascertain what was happening on it, but we were there primarily to listen, not to watch, so it worked out all right. This performance featured two South Koreans in the lead roles: tenor Wookyung Kim as Alfredo, and soprano Hei-Kyung Hong as Violetta. The pair will reprise their roles at the Met in January 2007.

All in all, a fine night. I should have brought the insect repellant, though: I counted no fewer than a dozen maddeningly itchy bites when I got home that evening. The number surely would have been higher had EH not graciously offered me her blanket as a shield during the performance’s second half.

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Uncorked & Unplugged @ The Canal Room

Monday, August 21st, 2006 | All Things, Music

The Canal Room, where this evening’s event was held, is located in the 1898 building once known as The Rawitzer Building. More recently, the space housed live music venue Shine, but I hadn’t been inside since owner Marcus Linial reopened it as the Canal Room in late 2003 after a 3-month, million-dollar gut renovation.

This night, the Room played host to the Uncorked & Unplugged  concert: “an evening of new wines and new sounds.” Our tickets got us tastings from Moon Mountain Vineyard, Dynamite Vineyards and Solaris Winery, and spots in the audience for the two acoustic sets.

Canal Room Stage

Canal Room Bar

After a couple shots of mediocre wine, we kicked back with bottles of Stella to await the tunes. First up, singer-songwriter MoZella – in Google: “Did you mean: mozilla?” – a Detroit-based singer-songwriter with a sweetly soulful voice, and sound and lyrics suited for WB (soon to be CW) teen drama soundtracks. And indeed, I learned later that two of her songs – “Light Years Away” and “You Wanted It” – have been featured on One Tree Hill. She’s also provided the vocals for a Mercedes-Benz commercial.

Judging from tonight’s performance, MoZella has already started developing a hardcore fan base. Lots of flashing cameras, and at least one really intense (and borderline creepy) fan, up front and center, arms outstretched and swaying widely to the music.

“You wanted it, you wanted it, don’t lie to me / Don’t act like I wanted it more. / You wanted it, you wanted it, don’t cry to me. / It’s time that we settled the score.”

Mozella

MoZella was followed by Sierra Swan, a singer-songwriter of an edgier variety. She took the stage — except for the red hair, almost unrecognizable from her promotional photo — and launched into a series of growling, angry-sounding and very very loud songs, supported by what appeared to be an excessive number of back-up musicians. Ears ringing, M and I had to leave before her set was through.

I will say this for Swan, though: she has good taste in music. In an interview last month, she named The Cure‘s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (aka KM3 ) one of her top five “great albums.”

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