Category: Music

The New York Dolls @ The Seaport

Friday, August 18th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, Music

I had planned to visit the South Street Seaport Museum for the “Monarchs of the Sea: Celebrating the Ocean Liner Era” exhibit, but didn’t manage to leave the office until late. When I arrived at the seaport, I saw that the buskers were out in full force. At the museum entrance, I came upon two familiar scantily-clad forms performing amazing acrobatic feats for a crowd of appreciative onlookers. Hey, it’s the Aussie English Gents from the Absinthe show!

I’d wandered in towards the end of their routine, so the pinstripe jackets and breakaway pants were already in crumpled heaps on the ground. Their feats seemed even more impressive for being performed in broad daylight, on unforgivingly hard, uneven cobblestone, with only a towel as cushion. Ouch.


Farther in, the usual silver-painted human “statues” and a juggler. I would have stuck around for his dangerous-looking finale (juggling an assortment of sharp and flaming objects while balancing on a rolling board), but just then the music was starting up on the Seaport Music stage on Pier 17.


Opening act Brooklyn-based Tralala performed, fresh off their Scandinavian tour. The band is comprised of four rocker grrrrls, backed by three rocker boys on guitar, drums and bass, playing an energetic mix of punk-inflected pop. After a half-hour set of respectably catchy, danceable tunes, they cleared the stage for the main event: The New York Dolls.

Seaport Music Baby

The Dolls formed in New York City in 1971. Their seminal self-titled album was released in 1973 and went on to influence a generation of bands, including, KISS, Blondie, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, AC/DC, Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses. In 2003, the editors of Rolling Stone magazine named it the 213th greatest album ever made. The Dolls followed-up with the prophetically titled Too Much Too Soon in 1974, and broke up the following year. In a recent profile, New York Magazine called the Dolls “more a legend than a band.

Despite their brief recording career, the Dolls maintained an avid cult following, which included among their diehard ranks a certain Steven Patrick Morrissey. In 2004, Morrissey, former president of the official U.K. New York Dolls fan club and sometime Dolls cover artist, made the request that reunited the three surviving band members for the Meltdown Festival he was curating at the Royal Festival Hall in London: singer David Johanson, guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane (who succumbed to cancer a month after the festival.) The one-off date ignited such a resurgence of interest in the band that it spawned a full-fledged tour, and ultimately a third studio album, over three decades after their last: One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This.

It was almost 8 before the Dolls took the stage, and by then the pier was packed with concert-goers (no doubt fortified by the prominent mentions in both Gawker and Gothamist.) As the sun set, I could only manage a couple of blurry shots, but the experience was worth far more than the photographic evidence. They played several tunes off the new album, interspersed with classics like “Pills” which had the crowd going wild, and a nice cover of Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart.” There were also tributes to fallen band members – no shortage there: Morrissey once referred to the Dolls as “the unluckiest band in the whole world” – as in Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Round A Memory.”

Near the end of the concert, I headed back up to Botanica to meet SYB, AB and her boyfriend LB. The three of them had been imbibing there pretty much since work let out, so I felt a bit like a latecomer to the party. We set out for late-ish night bites at Café Habana, but after being discouraged by the line forming out the door, ended up at French-Moroccan Café Gitane, a cozily chic, if slightly Eutotrashy, alternative. The slices of pita provided with the hummus I ordered were nicely warmed, and I did like the fact that my iced mint tea came accompanied with a simple syrup dispenser. Such a nice touch that is too often overlooked.

And each time I tell myself that I, well, I think I’ve had enough,
But I’m gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough.

I want you to come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby. (Break a…)
Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah. (Have a…)
Hey! Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, yeah.
You know you got it if it makes you feel good.
Oh yes indeed.

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Leigh Nash release party

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006 | All Things, Events, Music

After the weekly vegetable pick-up, I stopped in at Sucelt Coffee Shop for a mango batida. Traditionally, it seems these tropical fruit drinks are often spiked with cachaça, the potent sugarcane liquor from Brazil, but the ones served up at this decades-old hole-in-wall are served sin alcohol. Love their Cuban sandwiches, but it was a bit too early for dinner and this night, I had plans to attend the release party and showcase for Leigh Nash at the Housing Works Used Book Café.

Nash is best known as the lead singer of the now-defunct Sixpence None the Richer. Blue on Blue, her first solo album since the group disbanded in 2004, hits stores today, August 15.

Sixpence was one of the spate of crossover Christian rock groups that came to the fore in the late 1990s. (See: Creed and P.O.D.) The band’s name was a reference to a story in C. S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity. Their mainstream popularity was sealed with the mega-hit “Kiss Me,” which was featured on two episodes in Season 2 of Dawson’s Creek (even landing the lead-track position on the Songs From Dawson’s Creek soundtrack. Yes, I own it. So what?) Live sports fans, of course, mostly hear the tune nowadays when it’s played to entice spectators to kiss for the Jumbotron.

Years ago, I had seen Nash perform at Madison Square Garden when Sixpence opened for the Barenaked Ladies. Don’t remember much about their set list that night other than the aforementioned “Kiss Me” and a nice cover of The La’s “There She Goes” (which they later recorded and released as a single.) In the much humbler setting of the book café, Nash seemed sweet and at first, tentative… shyly introducing the acoustic set inspired by her achingly earnest musings on love and motherhood. (Nash has a toddler son, Henry, who was born just as she and longtime Sixpence collaborator Matt Slocum parted ways.) That angelic voice – instantly recognizable – was in fine form, though to my ears, the tunes didn’t venture so very far from the Sixpence formula. Nash quickly warmed to the audience, making self-deprecating jokes, and seeming genuinely grateful for the second-act opportunity, though this time without the backing of a major label.

Leigh Nash

Leigh Nash

Leigh Nash

Leigh Nash

The evening was awash in blue: from the glowing blue Hpnotiq drinks (garnished with branded glowsticks) to the goody bags containing the Blue on Blue album, a blue fizzy bath bomb and a bottle of pale-blue Essie nail polish.

Through September 1, would-be remixers can download the stem tracks from the first single “My Idea of Heaven” to “re-create, re-edit, re-configure and remix” at will.


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High style @ MCNY

Sunday, August 13th, 2006 | All Things, Arts, Eats, Music, NYC History

Visited the Museum of the City of New York this morning for “The high Style of Dorothy Draper” exhibit. Once a household name, Draper’s influence as a decorator continues to reverberate as fashion moves away from stark minimalist spaces towards her signature explosions of exhuberant color, oversized accessories, vivid cabbage roses, bright stripes and baroque flourishes. A true style icon and pioneer in interior design, she dominated the field from the mid-1920’s until her retirement in 1960, when she was named America’s most influential tastemaker. The exhibition at MCNY is the first-ever major restrospective of her life and career.

Born Dorothy Tuckerman in 1889 to a prominent and wealthy family – her great-grandfather was a signer of the Declaration of Independence – Draper was raised in the affluent enclave of Tuxedo Park, one of the first gated communities in the United States. (The tuxedo was invented there by Pierre Lorillard in 1886.) Draper was a six-foot tall debutante with an outsize personality to match. After marrying George (Dan) Draper, a doctor from a similarly prominent family, she started up a fledgling decorating business in the 1920’s – essentially creating a new market for packaged style in the heretofore male-dominated construction industry. Her marriage eventually foundered, though, and after three children, her husband asked for a divorce. (Ironically, he married another decorator five years later.) Once freed from the bonds of marriage, the 40-year old Draper’s ambition took off: she renamed her company, and through her society connections (particularly, real estate magnate Douglas Elliman) and distinctive style, was able to score several highly visible commissions: the Carlyle Hotel lobby, a row of Sutton Place tenements (which resulted in the quadrupling of their offer price), and the project which put her on the map: The Hampshire House (now a coop) on Central Park South. She designed the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s cafeteria, the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, the Arrowhead Springs Hotel and Spa in Southern California and the Camellia House Supper Club restaurant at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.

Far from limiting herself to commercial contracts, Draper lent her design sensibilities to projects as varied as the 1952 Packard, a fleet of airplane interiors and the International Hotel at Idlewild (now JFK) Airport. By the 1940’s, her name had developed such cachet that she expanded her empire to make interior design more accessible to the post-War generation of American housewives through the publication of (ghostwritten) books like “Decorating is Fun!“, “Entertaining Is Fun!” and “How to Be a Popular Hostess.” She lent her name to a line of household products, wallpaper, textiles and furniture. She had a nationally-syndicated advice column entitled “Ask Dorothy Draper” — also ghostwritten — that ran in 70 newspapers, 3 times a week.

The company Draper founded is still in existence — over forty years after her death — and her “modern baroque” sensibility has enjoyed a recent renaissance of sorts. Towering achievement for an Edwardian era woman with no formal design or business education.

Draper Foyer

Draper Panels

Afterwards, I stopped for brunch at Itzocan Bistro, a wonderful (and well-reviewed) French-Mex restaurant at 101st and Lexington. The limited brunch menu — a terrific deal at $8.50, including coffee — offered a few intriguing options. I had difficulty deciding between the “Omelet with huitlacoche mushrooms, jalapeno & brie” and the “Baked Eggs with chorizo, poblano peppers & mushrooms.” When in doubt, ask the server; a man who appeared to be the owner (Anselmo?) advised me that while both were good, he personally preferred the baked eggs, though they did entail a bit of a wait. No worries there: I was in no rush to be anywhere else. Overhearing our exchange, a diner at the next table enthusastically seconded the recommendation. He would be in the position to know: I saw remnants of the dish on his plate.

No salsa and chips here: I was tided over with slivers of warm, crusty French bread and butter. Twenty minutes later…
Baked Eggs

The “baked” eggs were in fact just barely set atop a bed of roasted potatoes with buttery mushrooms and wonderfully spicy chunks of chorizo. C’est si bon! (Or is that: Qué bueno!)

Brooklyn’s Outernational at Summerstage in Central Park:



Sheep’s Meadow on a lazy Sunday:

Sheeps Meadow

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