Tuesday, July 15, 2014

TONIGHT: Queen Esther at Bushwick Burlesque!


Yep, that's right: yours truly will be performing -- singing, folks, not stripping (!!!) -- at Bushwick Burlesque tonight, in a bar called Bizarre. The show starts at 9pm, there's a $7 suggested cover and it will be way, way too much fun.

I love this hot little gig. It makes me feel like I finally ran away and joined the circus.

Hosted by Fancy Feast and Scary Ben (with Dick Jones taking care of pick up!) the line-up includes:

DJ Johnny Horrible
Chris McDaniel
Rosie 151
Apathy Angel
Charlene
Witti Repartee
Cherry Typhoon (Japan/ Canada)
Baron (Japan)
Leena Vie (India)
...and yours truly!


Here's Pearl Noire, going for broke at a Bushwick Burlesque a few months ago...

Monday, July 14, 2014

If this doesn't sum it up, nothing will.


“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”  -- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Sermonette: Pops Staples -- "Serve Somebody"

 Bob Dylan wrote it but Pops Staples simply owns this song. His version is so good, the original doesn't cross your mind at all when you listen to it.  That's what's supposed to happen when you hear a cover song.  A great artist makes it their own so completely, it obliterates any other version.

Who's thinking about Bob when they're listening to Jimi Hendrix's cover of All Along The Watchtower?  Is anyone thinking of Otis Redding when Aretha Franklin sings Respect?  Does anyone even know that it was his song first?

Here's Pops Staples version of that gospel song/secular favorite, Serve Somebody. Listen in and be blessed.



Sunday, July 06, 2014

Sunday Sermonette: Bob Dylan -- "Serve Somebody"

I had a real chip on my shoulder ever since I can remember about Bob Dylan because everybody talked about him like he was some kind of almighty but whenever I listened to his voice, it went through my head like a nail.  He's not a vocalist, he's a poet, everyone would say. I just couldn't hear the words. His voice was in the way.   And then I tripped up over Tangled Up In Blue on Napster a million years ago when everyone was listening to Napster and couldn't stop clicking repeat. Actually, I still can't hear that song without fighting the urge to hear it again and again.  It's like I'm overhearing this jagged, random, scattered conversation with someone else that's so full of feeling and wonder and his voice, it moves me so. And then it's over. And I don't want to be over.  So I click repeat.

That's how I found Manu Chao, too. Napster! And I'm still crazy about him. I have dreams about writing music with him, collaborating with him, running away to South America with him to make beautiful art. But that's another story.

So now that I can hear the poetry inside of the sound of his voice, I don't hump his leg feverishly like the rest of the world does but I have to admit, there are moments when I hold him in my arms.  This is one of them.

Contrary to popular opinion., there's a lot of beautiful gospel in secular music. I'll be featuring some of it here in the next few weeks. I quite like this song because it's a complex subject (for some) and yet his delivery is so nursery school simple and straightforward, it's almost sing-songy.




You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Might be a rock'n' roll adict prancing on the stage
Might have money and drugs at your commands, women in a cage
You may be a business man or some high degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a state trooper, you might be an young turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody's landlord you might even own banks.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be working in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody's mistress, may be somebody's heir.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may call me Terry, you may call me Jimmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say.

You're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Don't Miss This One: 'Charles James -- Beyond Fashion' at The Met

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978)
"Butterfly" Ball Gown, ca. 1955
Brown silk chiffon, cream silk satin, brown silk satin, dark brown nylon tulle
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Fund, 2013 


Maybe it's because of Ted Turner's 24 hour fledgling station Channel 17 and how he flooded the airwaves with 1930s screwball comedies and all kinds of classics when I was a kid, but when I imagine what a gown is supposed to look like, I can't help but think of a Charles James creation.  Many of the vintage cocktail dresses I found at Domsey's when I first crash-landed in Gotham looked a lot like this and embodied everything I wanted to be as a performer and a woman -- structured, solid, dramatic, overtly yet delicately feminine, beautiful.

Imagine stumbling onto a darkened room full of these gorgeous dresses, along with a display that delves into the man, the myth, his work ethic, his sketches -- and yes, even videotaped conversations and notes and personal touches. This exhibit is breathtaking, in part because it allows you to take each dress apart architecturally and explore them from the inside out.  


This exhibit closes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on August 10th. Don't miss it.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

bye-bye, piano mine


I'm getting rid of my beautiful old upright piano by the end of the summer. No need to donate it to a church or anything like that. The action is busted and it'll cost more than its worth to fix it.  Needless to say, it hurts a lot to let it go. For all of the songs it pulled out of me. For the songs I could have written on it and won't. For the intervals I learned and the ones I didn't.  For the chords I dug up and dissected for a melody that wouldn't leave me alone. For all the weeks that went by when I didn't touch it at all.  For the one who gave it to me in the first place -- God bless him, where ever he may roam.

Believe me, I'll keep plunking away at this piano until it's all the way out the door. I'm still smoothing out all the wrinkles on a new song cycle for the next Black Americana album. I don't know the chords I'm hearing in my head and the only way I can find them is if I sit at a piano and feel my way through them. Until it goes, here's to the next piano I get.  Hopefully, it'll be another wooden upright.

And yes, that whole declutter the apartment extravaganza is going quite well, thanks for asking.