Monday, June 30, 2014

“Hey, Fred!” (It’s the Fourth of July…) Nights Out 06/30-07/06/14

This title disclaimer will run until I’m sick of it.

A Sanford-eye view on stuff that's got my attention for the next week.  It's not comprehensive, it probably won't even include every show I go to (I always reserve the right to call an audible that just piqued my interest).  The title is based off talking to a good friend of mine about a great show I'd seen that he missed and A. joking, "Rick's going to start a new blog called, 'Hey, Fred, here's what's coming to town!'".  I should note appearance here does not necessarily constitute an endorsement by Fred – this is my mess alone.  Big inspirations are Steve Smith's Agenda posts at Night After Night and especially amigo Andrew Patton's weekly column on Mark Subel's Jazz Columbus.

This runs Monday-Sunday of the following week; I intend to post it on Sunday or Monday.  This is not intended to be comprehensive, Joel Treadway's Cringe does a great job with that and has since I was sneaking into shows as a teenager.  These are things I feel pretty confident giving my stamp of approval to.  See my Best Of lists from past years for a barometer to my tastes.  Like with those best ofs, everything is in Columbus, Ohio unless stated otherwise.

For whatever reason – I’d speculate routing to and from Fitzgerald’s annual festival in Chicago but I haven’t checked – there is an abundance of shows this year in what’s usually a sleepy week, particularly of the Americana stripe.

July 1, 2014

King Buzzo with Emma Ruth Rundle; A & R Bar, 391 Neil Ave.  The legendary Melvins frontman comes through town supporting an acoustic record I’m honestly still processing but expect the same biting lyrics and howl that launched a million scenes and have been oft-imitated but never equaled only from a slightly different perspective.  Emma Ruth Rundle from The Marriages opens who also put out a very fine, shimmery solo record this year.  Doors at 8:00, $12 tickets available at Ticketmaster.

Mac Blackout Band with Gamma World and Will Foster; Cafe Bourbon Street, 2216 Summit St.  I saw the Mac Blackout Band in Chicago at a day show around the HoZac Blackout fest a year or two ago and they were the band that stood out.  A mélange of drugged out synth-punk weirdness reminiscent of later Lost  Sounds but with a two-guitar attack that recalled the punkier years of Iron Maiden and big Buzzcocks hooks.  The records are a little slower and I’m given to understand the lineup’s a revolving door but I feel comfortable saying this is a must see.  Doors at 9:30, $5 cover.

July 2, 2014

Bria Skonberg Quintet; Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St.  Skonberg’s part of the heavily buzzed trad-jazz revival with the Hot Sardines, the Tuesday jam sessions at Mona’s, Duchess, etc.  Last in Columbus for a Benny Goodman tribute with the CJO alongside other guest Ken Peplowski, she returns with her own quintet supporting a really fine record Into Your Own which merges some of that material (“Winin’ Boy Blues”, “Three Little Words”) with some more modern rhythms and that luscious, warm trumpet tone.  Starts at 9:00pm, $15 tickets available here.

Radioactivity, Bad Sports, Vacation, and Nervosas; Ace of Cups, 2619 N High St.  If there’s a show that rocks harder this summer I’ll be pleasantly surprised.  Radioactivity is the new project of Jeff Burke from the Marked Men and it’s in that same catchy, crunchy vein.  Bad Sports, the Denton three-piece fronted by Orville Neely, are one of the best bands I ever saw at a Gonerfest which is saying something.  Snarling punk with searing guitars and a throbbing rhythm section.  Nervosas are one of the most consistently exciting Columbus bands, combining influences like Wire, the Wipers, X, and the Cramps into something that always feels fresh and new.  Vacation, from Cincinnati, I’m not familiar with yet but if there was confidence they can hang with this bill I can’t wait to see them.  Doors at 9:00pm, $8 tickets available at Ticketleap.

July 3, 2014

Sarah Borges with Girls Guns and Glory; Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St.  I remember the first time I heard Sarah Borges and her “The Day We Met” (still my favorite of her songs).  Came out of nowhere at a particularly low ebb in alt.country or Americana or whatever you want to call it and she was writing standards and brilliantly picking covers with a white-hot perfectly simpatico band behind her.  The level of songwriting and the mastery of so many different strains of American music reminded me immediately of Greg Cartwright (whose “Stop and Think It Over” she’s covered).  She writes hooks that are in your head the first time you hear the song and songs that hold their own on records alongside bona fide classics like NRBQ’s “It Comes To Me Naturally”, Smokey Robinson’s “Being With You”,  and Clive and Christine’s “Yesterday’s Love”.  Her onstage act can get a little “Moot Davis” for me but the minute she starts singing and lunges into that big Telecaster rhythm all is forgiven.  Girls Guns and Glory I didn’t know at all until Eric Ambel produced their newest record, Good Luck, but it smokes.  That Buddy Holly sweet spot but with just enough dirt thrown on it.  So I’m looking forward to seeing them live both opening and backing Borges.  Starts at 9:00, $20 tickets available here.

July 5, 2014

4th and 4th Fest; Seventh Son Brewing, 4th St and 4th Avenue.  Bobby Miller’s been booking shows for almost 15 years and he has a particular knack for festivals going back to the Slum-B-Qs at Little Brothers (with my old pal Phil Goldberg and built around their website The Vertical Slum).  Last year he took advantage of the absence left by the Parking Lot Blowout (run by the Columbus Music Co Op next to Surly Girl Saloon for 6 years) but did something different more focused on out of town bands and it was one of the more fun nights I had all summer.  This year’s a little smaller in scope but maybe more ambitious with the out of towners including R. Ring (with Kelly Deal), Autumn Defense (with Pat Sansone and John Stirratt from Wilco) and Operators (with John Boeckner from Wolf Parade and Divine Fits and local hero Sam Brown).  For me, the can’t miss band is Wesley Bright and the Hi-Lites, making their second trip down from Akron, a phenomenally entertaining soul band.  Other things I have no intention of missing are The Randys doing their ‘50s-‘70s pop and the Ron House/Jared Philips project Counter Intuits.  Add in a couple bands I’m going into blind and this should be a great day.  Starts at noon, $10 tickets available here.

Blueprint with Count Bass D and Zero Star; Brothers Drake, 26 E 5th Ave. One of my favorite rappers and producers, Blueprint’s Respect the Architect record continues and bolsters his winning streak.  One of the most charismatic people I’ve ever seen on a stage, seeing him rock this stage in this smaller room should be an experience not soon forgotten.  Starts at 9pm, no cover.

July 6, 2014

Chuck Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys; Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St. Chuck Mead’s old outfit BR549 was one of the finest dance bands I ever saw anywhere and making anyone else trying to do classic honky-tonk work just that much harder (notably, one of only two acts positively mentioned in Robbie Fulks’ call to arms “Fuck This Town”) and now that he’s gone solo he’s put together a crack band including Mark Miller on bass and backing vocals, Carlo Clave on pedal steel and mandolin, and Martin Lynds on drums.  Expect sharp originals and classic covers.  Expect some ballads that’ll smash your heart into a million pieces, some heavy shuffles and a little rockabilly. And expect to be dazzled.  Starts at 8:00pm, $15 tickets available here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

“Hey, Fred!” Nights Out 06/23-06/29/14 (Comfest Edition)

This title disclaimer will run until I’m sick of it.

A Sanford-eye view on stuff that's got my attention for the next week.  It's not comprehensive, it probably won't even include every show I go to (I always reserve the right to call an audible that just piqued my interest).  The title is based off talking to a good friend of mine about a great show I'd seen that he missed and A. joking, "Rick's going to start a new blog called, 'Hey, Fred, here's what's coming to town!'".  Big inspirations are Steve Smith's Agenda posts at Night After Night and especially amigo Andrew Patton's weekly column on Mark Subel's Jazz Columbus.

This runs Monday-Sunday of the following week; I intend to post it on Sunday or Monday.  This is not expected to be comprehensive, Joel Treadway's Cringe does a great job with that and has since I was sneaking into shows as a teenager.  These are things I feel pretty confident giving my stamp of approval to.  See my Best Of lists from past years for a barometer to my tastes.  Like with those best ofs, everything is in Columbus, Ohio unless stated otherwise.

This week is the Community Festival (ComFest), traditionally one of my favorite weekends of the year.  The line-up seemed a little scant to me, but there’s still plenty of things I enjoy or things that have been on my list to check out.  And maybe I’ll find something new to love.  If you’re reading this, drop a comment and let me know what you think I should check out.

Leading up to the fest itself:

Tuesday June 24, 2014

Snarky Puppy; Park Street Saloon, 525 N Park St.  Jazz/instrumental R&B juggernaut Snarky Puppy return to Columbus playing one of the larger rooms in the Woodlands empire.  Expect a barn burner.  $20, doors at 8pm.  Tickets available at Ticketweb.

Thursday June 26, 2014

The Rad Trads; Brothers Drake, 26 E. 5th Ave.  This very young NYC band dedicated to small-group rollicking jazz in the style of Louis Jordan, with a helping of classic JBs mixed in, are making another trip through Brothers Drake and it’s always a party when they come through town.  Might as well start your ComFest hangover early!  Starts around 9pm.  No cover.

Comfest

Friday June 27, 2014

12:00, Offramp Stage: Quiet Pepsi.  Starting the day off with a dash of the weirdness that, near as I can tell, is sorely missing from this year’s ComFest.  A noise assault with found texts turned into lyrics by frontman Nate Reynolds, accompanied by guitarist Adam Fleischer (Swamp Leather, AS/US), man about town Matt Bush, and Ryan Jewell (projects too numerous to mention).

12:50, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Tom Davis Quartet.  Recently returned to Columbus after some time in Scotland, Tom Davis’s guitar and compositions are a breath of fresh air.  Having seen him with this quartet and in Aaron Quinn’s quartet recently, this should be a perfect first-beer-and-fishboat-of-the-weekend ease-in set.

1:45, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Patrick Overturf Quintet.  Vibes player Overturf is writing some really interesting tunes that I expect to shimmer in the damp heat of late June the same way they do in a smoky bar, helped by his crack band with Aaron Quinn on guitar and Elliott Scozzaro on reeds.

2:15, Offramp Stage: Swarm. I haven’t seen this thrash band yet, but friends of mine into the genre rave about them and they've been on my list to check out for a while.  Part of the great joy of ComFest is taking a chance on something without a cover charge.

3:40, Bozo Stage: Angela Perley & The Howlin’ Moons.  Perley’s writing some of the most beautiful alt.country songs in town right now, with a voice you could pick out in a thunderstorm.  And while the band can get a little corny for me on stage, when everybody locks in together – Chris Connor’s David Gilmour-influenced guitar with Billy Zehnal (of too many jam and jazz bands to name) on bass and Steve Rupp (son of masterful jazz drummer Jim Rupp) on drums – it can be an inspiring, moving thing to watch.  Has the potential to be the best thing I've seen on the main stage since The Rackets played a similar Friday mid-afternoon years ago.

4:05, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Liver Quiver.  This collective trio is composed of three of my favorite jazz players in town.  Alex Burgoyne (who I just saw do a phenomenal set of Ornette Coleman and other tunes at Brothers Drake a week ago) on sax, Aaron Quinn on guitar, and Seth Daily on drums create a massive sound but without sacrificing any sense of surprise or nuance.

4:15, Offramp Stage: Raw Pony.  This is not a band you go to looking for subtlety and it’s certainly not over-rehearsed.  The only song I’ve managed to see (I’ve had some scheduling issues with trying to catch whole sets) makes me comfortable saying this is a safe bet to get a dose of raw, snarling rock and roll into your pleasant good-time Friday.

5:45, Offramp Stage: HMOOC.  Donovan Roth (possibly my favorite bass player in town)’s take on King Crimson through a hard punk rock lens should bum all the right people out.  While the songs are more structured, this is a similar refreshing breath of weirdness to Quiet Pepsi at noon and the kind of thing I wish there were more of this year.

7:00, Live Arts Stage: Is Said and The Advance Party.  For my money, legends in Columbus don’t come much bigger than Is Said – a poet who laid the groundwork for spoken word in town in a way that’s still reverberating out through the great work done by Scott Woods, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, and William Evans; a riveting playwright; a tremendous entertainer.  His Last Poets-style configuration here is a ComFest staple I think there will be riots if they ever stop inviting back, and I’ll be leading the charge with a pitchfork.

7:50, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Tonky De La Peña with Sean Carney.  Sean Carney’s burnished-to-a-shine guitar tone never fails to make me smile, a blues guy who can solo but has more to do with Eddie Lang and Charlie Christian than SRV.  This collaboration with Spanish blues singer Tonky de la Peña (who previously worked with Mick Taylor) should be a delight.

8:00, Offramp Stage: The Worn Flints.  The last time I saw this band they weren’t quite there yet, but I love the terrain they’re plowing, that fertile ground where The Gun Club meets Dead Moon, and if they’ve improved and tightened the songs, I can’t wait to see what they’ve grown into in the last 6 or so months.

10:15, Offramp Stage: Lo-Pan.  If you made it this far, you’ll be richly rewarded with one of Columbus’s preeminent hard rock bands.  Thick grooves and interesting arrangements wrapped around tight songs made tighter by all their time on the road opening for bigger acts of late.

Afterparty Action:

  • Angela Perley & The Howlin' Moons, Nick D' & The Believers; Rumba Café, 2507 Summit St. See above for write-up of Perley.  Rumba’s usually the home for prodigal son Tim Easton, and folks looking for some of that rootsy dance party charge this year (when both he and Megan Palmer are not returning to Columbus) are likely to find it here.  $8.
  • KOAL; Dick’s Den, 2417 N. High St.  Some kind of tribute to the legendary Ronald Koal, who I was too young to see before he passed away, but many folks I respect, including A., call him one of the great frontmen and I know those songs from the records inside and out.  At Dick’s Den, I expect this to be a wasted mess in the best possible way.  $4.

Saturday June 28, 2014

5:30, Offramp Stage: Damn The Witch Siren.  Krista Botjer from Matte Black Silhouettes and Nathan Photos from Town Monster team up for a weirdo disco band.  A couple fantastic songs and a band that’s really swinging for the fences – see this now because if everything gels, your friends out of town will be talking about them in a year or two, and if everything doesn’t, their legend will grow in town tenfold.

6:05, Bozo Stage: Mojoflo.  This band I first saw with Wiley and the Checkmates (one of my shows of the year in 2008) and they get better, funkier, and more interesting every time I see them.  One of my favorite party bands in Columbus.


8:00, Gazebo Stage: Slick Andrews & the 3C Drifters.  Slick Andrews is the real deal, a honky-tonk singer devoid of any pretense or conceptual trappings, doing the songs he grew up loving as well as you will ever see them done live.  Helped by a nigh-perfect roots band including guitar hero Matt Newman and Jon Coleman.

8:50, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Dan White Sextet.  Newly transplanted to New York, this sextet sheds their eager-student skins a little more every time, helped a lot by their sponge-like listening and the frontline (Dan White on reeds, Jon Lampley on trumpet [who may not be here as OAR is mid-tour], and Chris Ott on trombone)’s constant gigging as a horn section for hire. The harmonies are as sophisticated as you want and they really connect with a crowd.  Sometimes you want to cheer on a band doing everything right even if the music’s not all the way there, but they get better every single time I see them and I want to cheer that on too.

Afterparty Action:

  • The Randys; Dicks Den, 2417 N. High St. One of the most entertaining bands I’ve ever seen – covering everything from Del Reeves to Johnny Burnette to Joe Tex to the Velvet Underground in the most joyous, accessible way – playing in my favorite place to see them.  Expect this to be a righteous, packed, sweaty dance party spilling out into High Street.  $4.
  • Mojoflo; Brothers Drake, 26 E. 5th Ave.  See their write-up for ComFest proper above.  This aftershow in a great, tiny room a 20-minute walk north of ComFest should be a dance party to rival The Randys.  If you can find a cab or the bus timing works out, I’d advise attending both.  No cover.
  • BB and The Timelords, Dirty Biscuits; Ace of Cups, 2619 N. High St.  Dirty Biscuits have, over the last few years, turned into one of my favorite rock and roll outfits, channeling Billy Childish and the Hoodoo Gurus with catchy songs and one of the best rhythm sections in town.  I haven’t yet seen frontwoman Beth Hunter’s other project, BB and The Timelords, but she fronted one of my favorite and much-missed bands, Thee Pistol Whips, and the rest of the band are players I’ve loved in other projects.  Alas, Righteous Buck and the Skull Scorchers (another band that overcame my reservations and turned into a band I couldn’t wait to see), who originally held the end of this bill down, have called it quits. $5.

Sunday June 29, 2014

11:20, Gazebo Stage: John Mullen.  A longtime co-worker and friend, Mullen has a rich, resonant voice and is very appealing on stage. I haven’t heard him do a set of his own work yet so I can’t speak to the songwriting, but as long as I can drag myself out of the house in time, it’s a very safe bet you can find me under a tree, drinking a lemonade and hoping my regret flows out with the toxins.

12:00, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra.  Wiester’s a Columbus treasure and an opening-ComFest-Sunday tradition. Even though the jazz stage is no longer the first to start and the last to end, watching him lead his big band with his trombone is the kind of thing that does a heart good.  Always has great players, always plays classic charts.

1:10, Offramp Stage: Surf’s Up Hose Down.  One of my favorite bands to see and as much fun as you’ll have seeing live music in town, an avant-garde/jazz supergroup (Brett Burleson on bass, Larry Marotta and Aaron Quinn on guitars, Joe Nelson on drums) in the service of killer, catchy surf tunes.  If there’s any kind of a poll, can I put in the suggestion box that Bob Starker (“hardest working man at ComFest”) sit in on sax for a number or two?

3:40, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Honk Wail & Moan.  Also featuring Larry Marotta, this avant-swing big band is one of my favorite institutions in town and they’re never more on their game than playing a ComFest.

4:00, Gazebo Stage: Barry Chern’s Radical Mood String Band.  I haven’t seen Chern play in many years, but friends who saw this configuration open for Michael Hurley said great things, some healthy doses of Jansch and Incredible String Band getting stirred back into the Charley Patton and Mississippi John Hurt.

5:00, Gazebo Stage: John Turck Trio.  If you like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you’ll like.  A trio with Turck on vocals and keys, Danny Cashin on bass and backing vocals, and AJ Barnes on drums and percussion.  The songs can get a little soft for my usual taste, but the playing is impeccable and Turck knows his way around a glowing melody.

6:00, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Brett Burleson Band with Steven Wood.  Brett Burleson, one of my favorite guitarists and bassists, always brings something special to ComFest.  One of my favorite ComFest memories ever was a Stones-y set from The Bygones (a band Brett played in) featuring Wood on B3.  Steven Wood led the soulful jazz band Postal when he was in town and has been much missed since making his way down to Atlanta, so this reunion should be a treat.

6:25, Offramp Stage: Los Gravediggers.  Quinn Fallon’s been making music here in town for almost 25 years, but for my money this is easily his best band.  The songs and the playing are stripped down and delivered in a more lived-in way than his long running X-Rated Cowboys.  The good songs they do are as good Americana as anyone’s writing right now, working the pop-inflected terrain of John Wesley Harding’s early records, and really reflect his time spent working with Dan Baird – particularly “Vacancy Sign,” which almost sounds like a Bob Starker tune, “Soundtrack to My Life,” and “Family Tree.”

6:55, Bozo Stage: Nick Tolford & Company.  One of my favorite writers and singers in town, Nick Tolford released his second record this year at one of the most packed local shows I’ve ever seen, and judging by both that and his performance at the Wexner Center’s Off the Grid, his band is a well-oiled machine ready to do justice to his best set of songs yet.  The rare show worth braving the main stage crowd for.

7:00, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Tony Monaco Trio.  One of the great Columbus masters of the organ taking up where Hank Marr left off (along with a few others like Bobby Floyd), it’s a Columbus tradition to see Monaco close that stage and it’s never less than heartwarming.

7:25, Offramp Stage: Colin Gawel and the Lonely Bones.  Colin Gawel, one half of Watershed’s singing/songwriting duo, in a rootsier configuration closer to his much-missed League Bowlers, with Dan Cochran (of Big Back Forty and Feversmile, now perhaps as much known for his fantastic Four String Brewing line of beers) on bass and backing vocals, Rick Kinsinger on guitar and keys, and original Watershed drummer Herb Schupp on drums.  One of the most charismatic frontmen around and bringing a sack full of great songs, I expect them to make the most out of this festival-closing set.

Afterparty Action:

  • Dan White Sextet; Brothers Drake, 26 E. 5th Ave.  See my write-up in the ComFest Saturday section.  Look for the DW6 stretching out in ways they couldn’t in their limited ComFest slot; maybe the last time you’ll get to see these lads until they’re back in town for their album release sponsored by the Jazz Arts Group.  No cover.
  • Postal with Steven Wood; Dick’s Den, 2417 N. High St.  First Postal show in a few years with Wood back in town (see the above write-up of the Brett Burleson band).  If you’ve got any energy left, this is the place to be.  $4

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Field of Gemstones Reflecting a Far-away Flicker - Leaving the Atocha Station by Matt Slaybaugh adapted from the novel by Ben Lerner; Available Light Theatre, 06/14/14

“And it looks like I’ll be losing myself again tonight
Caught between what’s real and what just rhymes”
-Eric Taylor, “East Texas Moon”

“I asked the painter
Why the roads are colored black.
He said, ‘Steve, it’s because people leave
And no highway will bring them back.’”
-Silver Jews, “Random Rules”

If I had to pick one reason I go to see art it’s because I want to be set on fire.  Sure, I don’t want it every night – I’m a big proponent of Kafka’s only looking for books that crack you like an ice axe, but I like popcorn and I like a Pabst Blue Ribbon, so I never fully committed to that – but it’s very sweet to get to dig into something that’s not comfort food.  Something that reminds you what can be at the end of all those nights.  While not perfect, Leaving the Atocha Station, is one of those somethings.  One of those shows that makes you see stars.

The plot could be a million first novels – a writer, Adam Gordon (played by Ian Short) screws his way – or tries to - across a foreign country (in this case, Spain) and tries to hone his talent into art while ostensibly studying.  The juice here is less about the story and more about what the play says about the shifting faces we all wear, how hard it can be to gain perspective, the risk of not engaging with the world, and the difficulty of getting out of your own way to make some damn art.

The structure is fascinating.  Adam presenting a sardonic look back at his travels presented in the form of giving a lecture or perhaps delivering a paper at a conference but told like a man sifting through his past to try to make sense of it.  As the lights dim and he starts, we’re greeted with Adan (played by David Tull) in a long wordless sequence we’re told is how he begins his days: coffee, weed, pills, the museum.  Through the next two and a half hours, including one intermission, we follow Adan’s blithe trip through a panoply of astonishing scenery and meeting but not ever really connecting with a variety of people (astonishingly played by Rudy Frias and Amy Rittberger).

His constant foil is Eleni Papaleonardos playing, alternately, Isabel (his occasional lover) and Teresa (a translator and poet working with him) in the best performance of the show.  Papaleonardos packs a tremendous amount of nuance and contradiction into these roles.  There are two distinct inner lives suggested and while the casting brilliantly hints that, to the character, they’re variations on “hot Spanish lady” neither the performance nor the play gainsay the character’s subconscious take there.  There are so many fascinating subtleties, such a sure hand with joy and knowing here, that her performance goes a long way to fleshing out the world here and providing some perspective without which the taste of being in the principal character’s head for almost three hours could turn sour.

Rudy Frias and Amy Rittberger play everyone else Adan meets, of greater (the man weeping in the Prado whose potential “profound experience of art” is the inciting incident for the whole piece; Isabel’s flirtatious mother; the woman in charge of the foundation that brought Gordon to Spain; the gallery owner who lets Adan stage a reading) and lesser (a waitress; a security guard; the other poet giving the reading) importance to the narrative.  They’re both terrific.  Frias in particular has a succession of quick change moments, not just costuming but age, class and emotion, and he pulls them all off with ease; I’ve liked him in everything I’ve seen him in and he delivers again here.  One of the actors I most want to see what he does next.  Rittberger not only provides that glue that adds verisimilitude to the proceedings but does it with an incredible amount of charm, she’s not showy but she never just fades into the background.

Tull and Short as shades of the same character are a joy to watch.  Short is clearly the more adult looking back but also, it seems, the version in America and so tethered to his own responsibilities.  Tull is adrift, questioning, everybody (including myself) I  knew in my twenties who thinks there’s talent there but is finding the process of doing the work harder and less immediately gratifying than he thought.  There’s a frenzied energy I remembered to an extent and an almost cartoony quality that definitely jibed with the way I remember my 20s but also a very clearly delineated darker edge under the surface.  Short’s more nuanced portrayal is the perfect counterpart here – with an economy of movement he suggests that mania and comments on it in a way that avoids seeming too judgmental or too forgiving. 

The moments where we see Adan breaking rank with his far-away self or addressing him directly and conspiring with him are a joy and contain a lot about the way memory shifts on us and even the nature of free will.  The creation and the creator are linked but each is just a little different than the other thinks.  There is also one shocking moment where Short steps into the “as it’s happening now” narrative and the audience realizes it’s because he’s calling home – he picks up his home-voice – and the heavier realization (for the purposes of watching the play): the two actors playing “one” character isn’t a gimmick, it’s not going to be shifted willy-nilly.  There are some glimpses of Short in a photo montage that again echo the transitive quality of memory.

In addition to how well this play speaks to the youthful difficulty of making art as good as what you’re absorbing, it also handles mental illness as well as anything I’ve ever seen.  And it does it without direct comment.  We watch Adan self-medicate and self-adjust and as it shifts into a mildly destructive manic episode the line between “this is a great party” and “holy shit” is pretty clear but just like many friends I knew growing up, you notice that in hindsight.  Obviously for a play you notice it minutes after, not months, but it also does a good job of showing how perspective gets lost and how you are having fun until you’re not.  Until there’s just guilt and cover up. 

There’s also a provocative link between that zone where you’re making something and the art is clicking or the zone where your brain is demanding more energy and pumping more chemicals than you know what to do with.  This is, perhaps, clearest when the backdrop used for the rest of the show drops away and beneath a projection of a night sky all of the cast speak overlapping fragments of sentences and move in a cycle of small movements.  A cut-up half-sensical aria that’s hands down the most beautiful moment I’ve seen in a theater the first half of this year. 

The trouble is, there’s more plot business to wrap up so the show goes on for another 20 minutes after that jaw-dropping sequence. Those remaining minutes just can’t match that glowing, glittering energy and the remainder feels too long a dénouement so restlessness sets in.  That’s the biggest flaw of the piece – it feels too long and the plot detail isn’t as interesting as everything else.  The attempts to recreate the pacing of the novel (what Sheila Heti called, in her review for London Review of Books, “like childhood summers, or stretches of unemployment, those times when one day seeps languidly into the next coloured by the awareness that this time will eventually run out”) sometimes succeed beautifully and sometimes feel stretched out by force.  Matt Slaybaugh’s adaptation keeps so much language in and is brilliantly done and most of his choices as director work so well that the moments when the whole thing feels slack are doubly disappointing.

This is a remarkably ambitious piece covering at least six locations in Madrid and brining in huge protests and the terrible Atocha Station bombing, so the technical aspects are key and executed amazingly. 

Carrie Cox’s lighting doesn’t draw attention to itself but is so perfect it’s almost a character in the story – the light of a dingy apartment and the light of a well-windowed apartment and the light of a party and the light of a gallery and just the light of youth and the light of experience are all distinct enough they do a large, large amount of the work in keeping the audience from getting lost in the more convoluted moments.  Plus, it’s beautiful – everyone looks even more beautiful than they usually are; sometimes it mimics that perfect summer day walking through the park where everyone is suffused with light and it rains down on them like Joyce’s line about sun being flung like coins through the trees.

The projections (by Video Director Matt Hermes with Dave Wallingford, Brad Steinmetz, Matt Slaybaugh, Michelle Whited, and Ben Jones) also do a lot of heavy lifting and do it in a way that the audience doesn’t realize how strong it is until afterward.  It’s so convincing that you just assume you are there.  A. and I talked afterwards that when we saw the Sunday in the Park With George Broadway revival right after we were dating it used very similar digital effects and it’s amazing to see these techniques deployed just as beautifully on a smaller scale a number of years later.

So while I had a couple of quibbles, this was a fine capper on a fantastic return-to-form season from Available Light.  Onward to 2014-15.  Runs through June 28th.  Tickets available:  http://www.avltheatre.com/

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

“Hey, Fred!” Nights Out 06/16-06/22/14

This title disclaimer will run until I’m sick of it.

A Sanford-eye view on stuff that's got my attention for the next week.  It's not comprehensive, it probably won't even include every show I go to (I always reserve the right to call an audible that just piqued my interest).  The title is based off talking to a good friend of mine about a great show I'd seen that he missed and A. joking, "Rick's going to start a new blog called, 'Hey, Fred, here's what's coming to town!'".  Big inspirations are Steve Smith's Agenda posts at Night After Night and especially amigo Andrew Patton's weekly column on Mark Subel's Jazz Columbus.

This runs Monday-Sunday of the following week; I intend to post it on Sunday or Monday.  This is not expected to be comprehensive, Joel Treadway's Cringe does a great job with that and has since I was sneaking into shows as a teenager.  These are things I feel pretty confident giving my stamp of approval to.  See my Best Of lists from past years for a barometer to my tastes.  Like with those best ofs, everything is in Columbus Ohio unless stated otherwise.

Music

Tuesday June 17, 2014

Bucky Pizzarelli and Ed Laub; Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St. If you’ve got an interest in guitar playing at the absolute heights of the form, this is a good week to be in Columbus.  88 year old master Pizzarelli plays the style of Les Paul (and even touches on Django Reinhardt) with a conviction and depth of feeling you just aren’t going to find anywhere else, accompanied by perfect foil guitarist and vocalist Ed Laub.  I caught Pizzarelli once in NYC and it was mind-blowing, playing a room like Natalie’s is going to be a treat.  Starts at 8:00pm, $15.

Wednesday June 18, 2014

Richard Thompson Electric Trio; Southern Theatre, 21 E Main St.  Speaking of guitar players, in the rock world they don’t get much better than Richard Thompson who keeps finding fresh things to say and interesting angles to approach in his playing.  His current trio with drumming powerhouse Michael Jerome (John Cale’s band) and bassist Taras Prodaniuk might be the best, most flexible rhythm section he’s ever had, which is saying something from a guy who always has great rhythm sections.  One of my favorite songwriters to ever walk the earth, this will blow the walls off maybe Columbus’s best sounding room.  Chris Porterfield’s solo project Field Report opens. Starts at 8:00pm, $23-40.

Saturday June 21, 2014

Ghost Wolves with D-Rays and The Hexers; Ace of Cups, 2619 N High St. Austin’s Ghost Wolves are putting a fresh spin on the guitar drums duo doing blues-based rock laced with thick dance beats and a psychobilly twang with ferocity and an uncommon swing.  It helps that the bill is stacked with Dayton surf-rock band The D-Rays about whom I’ve heard nothing but good things and maybe my favorite band in town, The Hexers, really growing into their new lineup.  Doors at 9pm, $5.

Theatre

Leaving the Atocha Station by Matt Slaybaugh adapted from the novel by Ben Lerner.  This opened last week, I saw it Saturday – a full review will follow by Wednesday but let me say Available Light Theatre is closing out their fantastic 2013-2014 season with a home run.  Slaybaugh continues his streak as the pre-eminent adaptor of hard-to-adapt novels following triumphs like Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Skyscrapers of the Midwest. The cast smokes making the absolute most of every moment, including David Tull, Ian Short, Rudy Frias, Amy Rittberger, and Eleni Papaleonardos. Dpn’t fucking miss this. Opens on June 12th and runs Thursday-Saturday with one Sunday Matinee through June 28.  Tickets available at http://www.avltheatre.com/

Betrayal by Harold Pinter. Shepherd productions is presenting the play that got me into Pinter, a deceptively simple structure stripping the layers away from an affair and dealing with what betraying someone really means.  Great cast including Travis Horseman and Melissa Batt. June 12th and runs Thursday-Saturday through 21.  Tickets available at http://www.shepherd-productions.com/

Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
Columbus's mostly-Shakespeare in the park company Actor's Theatre is a venerable institution I make it to at least once a season even if the people who are mostly there for wine in the park annoy me a little and the sound is spotty.  There are still some remarkable triumphs and the early word I've heard about this production directed by John Kuhn and Nick Baldasare is that it ranks up with their best.  Especially recommended for out of towners, Schiller Park and the German Village neighborhood are well worth spending a nice afternoon wandering around in topped off by a show.  Opened on May 22nd and runs Thursday-Sunday through June 28.  Donations encouraged.

Monday, June 9, 2014

"Hey, Fred!" Nights Out - 06/09-06/16/2014

I've been meaning to do this for a while.  A Sanford-eye view on stuff that's got my attention for the next week.  It's not comprehensive, it probably won't even include every show I go to (I always reserve the right to call an audible and that just piqued my interest).  The title is based off talking to a good friend of mine about a great show I'd seen that he missed and A joking, "Rick's going to start a new blog called, 'Hey, Fred, here's what's coming to town!'" and I thought this week, with at least one show I fully expect to see that friend at, was a good place to start.  Big inspirations are Steve Smith's Agenda posts at Night After Night and especially amigo Andrew Patton's weekly column on Mark Subel's Jazz Columbus


This runs Monday-Sunday of the following week; I intend to post it on Sunday or Monday.  This is not expected to be comprehensive, Joel Treadway's Cringe does a great job with that and has since I was sneaking into shows as a teenager.  These are things I feel pretty confident giving my stamp of approval to.  See my Best Of lists from past years for a barometer to my tastes.  Like with those best ofs, everything is in Columbus Ohio unless stated otherwise.  And away we go...

This is Origins week which is one of those times of the year that makes my heart sing.  The convention's meant a lot to me over the years. I worked it either volunteering, at a booth or one summer as a paid employee for the first seven or eight years it was in Columbus; I started an annual drinks off-site tradition with folks that's persisted to this day (even two years I couldn't go); and I met some of my best friends in the world at it and surrounding it.  Looking forward to laughing and raising a glass with some very dear people I don't see nearly often enough. I know in the years when I traveled to a lot of conventions, at least a couple days I wanted to get out and do something else - so maybe there's one or two of you who are like me - down for the con but want to see what else is going in Columbus and you stumble on this via Google.  There are more "standing exhibit" recommendations for lack of a better word with an eye toward that hypothetical gaming traveler.

Music

Tuesday June 10, 2014

Diarrhea Planet with Herzog and Comrade Question; Skully's Music Diner, 1151 North High St.  Nashville winking-rock 6 piece (featuring four guitars) comes through Skully's on their tour back from the Governor's Ball festival.  It took me a little while to warm to these guys but the jokes are more than held up by the giant riffs and intensity, I'd lay money on this being the rare show that makes you glad you're out rocking on a Tuesday night.  Openers are Cleveland hooky pummelers Herzog and one of my favorite new-ish Columbus bands, Comrade Question (if the Velvet Underground were reimagined as a surf band). Doors at 7:00pm, $10.

Wednesday June 11, 2014

Stan Smith and friends; Dick's Den, 2417 N High St.  Venerable Columbus bar Dick's Den has been doing monthly Wednesday night residencies this year and they've all been full of delights. This is the second week of the residency for one of our finest guitarists, Stan Smith, in a relatively straight ahead mode with sax player Jay Miglia and the swinging rhythm section of bassist Dave DeWitt and drummer Jim Rupp. Starts at 9:00pm, $4 cover.

 Magik Markers with Psychedelic Horseshit; Ace of Cups, 2619 N High St. Elissa Ambrogio's noisy rock project with drummer Pete Nolan (currently augmented by John Shaw) coming back to town after an extended absence and to a venue with a real PA is a treat. Snaking songs to burn the cataracts off, embracing their classic psych rock forebears over the last three or four records in ways that were only hinted at obliquely in the classic days of I Trust My Guitar Etc and A Panegyric to Things I Don't Understand they grow more into themselves with every record.  Local tricksters Psychedelic Horseshit open and I can't wait to see what skin they're wearing this time.  Doors at 9:00, $10 tickets available here.

 Thursday June 12, 2014


King Khan and the Shrines with Red Mass and Bummers; Ace of Cups, 2619 N High St. King Khan is one of the greatest frontmen I've ever seen, a supple voice and endless charisma deployed in the service of righteous songs and while I first came to him in his duo with Mark Sultan, King Khan and BBQ, this bigger band is the perfect vehicle for his flights of wild fancy. Guaranteed dance party, let's just say I've already taken Friday off. Montreal punk collective Red Mass opens along with local radio-friendly rock Bummers.  Doors at 8:30, $10 tickets available here.

Friday June 13, 2014 

Wanda Jackson; Rumba Cafe, 2507 Summit St.  Rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson makes a special appearance at Rumba, I believe her first since she played Thirsty Ear with Rosie Flores' band.  That show blew my hair back and she's made some great records in her comeback since so I naturally bought tickets for this early.  No opener.  Doors at 7:00, $20 tickets available here.

 Sunday June 16, 2014



Mark Flugge Memorial Concert; Mees Hall at Capital University Conservatory of Music, 1 College Ave. Columbus lost a giant as a composer, piano player and teacher when Flugge passed away this year and it's not surprising there's been an outpouring of tribute events and of course the biggest is at Capital where he dedicated so many years.  Performers include the Dave Dewitt Trio (a frequent rhythm section for Mark), legendary big band leader and trombonist Vaughn Weister, pianists Erik Augis and Richard Lopez, singers Kelly Crum Delavaris and Jody Mancini, and more special guests yet to be announced.  A chance to come out, share some memories, and see the best cross-section of straightahead jazz in Columbus.   Begins at 2:00pm, donations accepted.

Theater


Leaving the Atocha Station by Matt Slaybaugh adapted from the novel by Ben Lerner.  Available Light Theatre is closing out their fantastic 2013-2014 season with a new work that hits many of the company's sweet spots including the difficulty of living in the world, the concurrent struggle and necessity of fulfilling your promise and living a creative life and just what identity is made of.  I had the pleasure of seeing a workshop reading earlier this year and if they execute it with the potential I saw there this might be the best play of the year.  Helped by a cracking cast including David Tull, Ian Short, Rudy Frias, Amy Rittberger, and Eleni Papaleonardos, expectations are high. Will Slaybaugh continue his streak as the pre-eminent adaptor of hard-to-adapt novels following triumphs like Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Skyscrapers of the Midwest?  You better believe I'll be in the audience on Saturday to find out. Opens on June 12th and runs Thursday-Saturday with one Sunday Matinee through June 28.  Tickets available at http://www.avltheatre.com/


Betrayal by Harold Pinter. Shepherd productions is presenting the play that got me into Pinter, a deceptively simple structure stripping the layers away from an affair and dealing with what betraying someone really means.  Great cast including Travis Horseman and Melissa Batt. June 12th and runs Thursday-Saturday through 21.  Tickets available at http://www.shepherd-productions.com/

 Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Columbus's mostly-Shakespeare in the park company Actor's Theatre is a venerable institution I make it to at least once a season even if the people who are mostly there for wine in the park annoy me a little and the sound is spotty.  There are still some remarkable triumphs and the early word I've heard about this production directed by John Kuhn and Nick Baldasare is that it ranks up with their best.  Especially recommended for out of towners, Schiller Park and the German Village neighborhood are well worth spending a nice afternoon wandering around in topped off by a show.  Opened on May 22nd and runs Thursday-Sunday through June 28.  Donations encouraged.

Visual Art


Cuban Forever.  Pizzuti Collection, 634 N Park St, Friday and Saturday 11am-5pm; $10.  If you have a spare afternoon for some visual art do not miss this.  It closes on June 21st and I'm definitely making at least one more trip before then.  The other of the inaugural exhibitions is a very fine, well-selected survey of contemporary art, selections of a damn fine collection, but the Cuban exhibit is world class and eye opening and invigorating.  I know a number of writers and artists in town for Origins and I feel confident saying any of you would benefit from seeing this.


The Wave: Japonisme and the Evolution of Modernism in America (1870-1925).  Keny Galleries, 300 E Beck St, Monday-Friday 10am-6pm.  Keny Galleries is a hidden gem on the Columbus scene, secreted away on a quiet residential street next to a beautiful pocket park, that does museum quality shows and traffics in the creme de la creme of the newer work in town in more traditional (often landscape) modes and their historical shows are always breathtaking.  This is a look at the Japonisme movement and includes works by Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, Whistler all in a tiny space.  If you've got a weekday off and you're near to German Village, I promise this is rewarding.  I know a lot of folks coming to town who take a side trip to the Book Loft, Schmidt's, Katzingers... well, I'd encourage you to include this in your rotation.  Maybe do yourself a favor and have a shot and a beer at the Beck Tavern a couple doors down to discuss the art you've just seen or (on the other side of the spectrum) have a perfect martini at G. Michael's at the corner of Beck and S 3rd St.


Modern Cartoonist: Daniel ClowesWexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N High St, Thursday-Friday 11a-8p, Saturday 12-7p; $8.  I know there are some comic book fans in town for the gaming fest of Origins and I'd encourage you not to miss the spellbinding Clowes show at the Wex and its satellite exhibits, Comic Future (about the use of comic imagery in modern art) and Eye of the Cartoonist (classic art from the Billy Ireland library selected by Clowes), as well as the Bill Watterson retrospective in the Ireland right across the courtyard.


All right, for a first try this could have been worse.  More next week.