Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The One Woman Cello Orchestra

I have been waiting a very long time to write this blog post, approximately since the first day tickets for this show went on sale.  Many times when we have high expectations for something we are underwhelmed by the final result.  Watching Zoe Keating go up on stage at the Hiro Ballroom and fill the beautifully decorated dancehall-made-concert venue with music, however, I can honestly say that in the 3+ years I have been in New York I have never seen anything so fascinating.
With her cello, a laptop, and foot pedals, Keating creates an orchestra of sound, combining pre-recorded loops of music with the line she plays on stage.  Handling the cello as if she is caressing a human being, she masterfully transforms her own music and has it evolve significantly from the original recording.  The music I have been listening to on the subway every day, while recognizable, was like a parent of the development on stage.  Her application of technology is powerfully effective; not only does she incorporate colors and lights to help express herself, she also uses innovative effects with her music.   Whether she echoes herself with her laptop or uses the room's speakers to make the sound move from one part of the room to another, the listener feels entirely absorbed by an orchestra. 

Her stage presence is outstanding.  When she is explaining the inspiration behind a song, talking about her one-and-a-half year old Alex, or asking the audience for orchestra jokes as she tunes her cello, she demonstrates both humility and a genuine connectivity with the audience.   My videos were too large to post on this post, but I managed to upload one on my facebook page,  There is also more info on Zoe Keating's website,  However you learn about her, I highly suggest you do, as this concert tops everything I have written about in this blog.  Thank you Zoe Keating!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Through the eight years of mourning, not a breeze shall enter this house.

Last week I went to see one of Federico Lorca's most famous works, La Casa de Bernarda Alba, a play which throws under scrutiny the norms of 1930s Spanish bourgeois society.  Directed by Dean Zayas and presented by Teatro Circulo, the drama displayed the conflict between passion and tradition/societal roles.  Though it was my first exposure to Lorca's work, I cannot imagine finding a better introduction than through Teatro Circulo.  With its humble and unassuming set, its intimate proximity to the audience, and its skillful yet subtle actors, Zayas' production showed more with less.  I immediately experienced the powerfully somber mood from the onset and felt a closeness with the characters which one doesn't often find in theaters.   It is true that at times the actors stood only inches away from the audience and, on occasion, utilized the same entrance as the audience (there is a reason the company politely requests prompt attendance).  

The primary reason for the audience/character connection, however, was found in the actors' innate ability to speak and move extremely naturally.  It was if they were inviting another sibling to sit down at the table with them and listen.  Their gestures, though often small and discreet, were powerful enough to resonate throughout the room, making the show immensely successful and not to be missed. 

Fear not, all non-Spanish speaking viewers- there are English supertitles to keep everyone engaged.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Oh, What a Night!

Last night I finally went to see the famed Jersey Boys at the August Wilson theater.  I was not anticipating enjoying myself as much as I did.  It took me awhile to see this musical for three reasons:

1) I do not typically like the popular, mainstream attractions of New York, on the theory that there is enough of the Big Apple off-the-radar which gives a more accurate depiction of the city.
2) I am also of the opinion that while one cannot argue that the Four Seasons changed the history of music for many reasons, at the end of the day their sound can be narrowed down to good harmony and a whiny, high-pitched solo which has been played and replayed for decades.
3) I have more respect for musicals which create their own story and music than one which can rely on a storyline and/or songs which has already been made famous over years (see: why I will never see "American Idiot" or "Legally Blonde," and will strongly hesitate before seeing "the Lion King").

That being said, there are several distinguishing aspects about this play that make it worth seeing.  First of all, the theater itself is gorgeous and well kept.  Intricate in its design, it is both grandiose and regal yet accommodating enough so that no matter where one sits he/she has a view of the stage adequate enough to feel in the middle of the drama.

The director cleverly utilizes his stage.  I loved seeing the actors perform with large screen projections above them of either historically appropriate comic strips or recordings of fans from when the band performed.

I also found the well-known scene when the singers' backs are to the audience quite interesting, as I have never been part of an audience watching the audience from the performer's perspective.

With as many reservations as I had, admittedly I am glad I decided to see the show.
Tip: It is not as family-oriented as I thought.  If you are considering bringing your kids, please be mindful that there are a several adult themes as well as language used.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Turntable IRL Dance Party

Last night was the second "In Real Life" Turntable Dance party in NYC.  Held at the Canal Room, 5 Djs battled it out in front of a live audience.  For those of you who don't know, Turntable (TT) is an great way to discover, learn about, and play songs in cyberspace.  You are a little character (an avatar) who selects a room playing a particular genre and rates a song as it's played.  If the DJ Avatar plays popular songs it is rewarded with points.  It normally looks something like this:
Now imagine all of those bobbing heads being human and you get an idea of what the Canal Room was shooting for.  Anyone who cannot be there can also tune in to the room from anywhere in the world (but you miss out on the live action).  All of the DJs have a corresponding picture of their avatar hanging from the table and are seated in the same order as you would find on the online version, projected behind them.

Picture a club where the DJ truly has to listen and cater to his audience.  A club where rather than yelling over the crowd you can simply type the name of the song you would like played or vote/comment on the song currently playing (there is a real-time chat feed on the right hand side).  This is yet another example of how social media gives voice to the customer.  Very cool.

Canal Room was a much better venue for this concept than New Work City, the first host.  That being said, there were far too many technical difficulties and the crowd didn't seem as large/enthusiastic.  It would be great to see the two combine forces, because it really is an interesting concept that just needs a few details hashed out.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Voca People!

With Fashion Week, the U.S. Open, and the decadal anniversary of 9/11, there is certainly plenty going on in the city to keep New Yorkers busy.  That being said, if you have a spare moment between challenges, whether on the runway or on the courts, you should definitely check out Voca People at the Westside Theatre.
Think Blue Man Group except White.  And rather than produce sound with just about everything except their voices, they use only their voices to produce just about every sound (see: "Scratcher" competing with his big brother "Beat On").

I have seen my share of A Cappella groups.  I have seen my share of off-Broadway shows.  I have never seen anything with as much creativity and audience participation as this one- be prepared to warm-up, sing, touch your neighbor, have the music playing in your head broadcasted to the audience, and possibly even be serenaded on stage.  From history to cinema, love and even death, Voca people pretty much have every topic covered in very clever arrangements.  Be sure to bring your energia!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hopping up on Coffee

In a city where Tall, Grande, and Venti Frappuccinos are sold in two coffeehouses of the same company on the same block every block you turn, it can sometimes seem like the only option for Java.  Don't get me wrong, I buy into the franchise and I am a proud gold card member myself.  But I decided to take a day to explore the alternatives and go cafe hopping.

First stop was Cafe Grumpy in Chelsea.

While it is a chain which has recently expanded in Manhattan, its Brooklyn roots are evident.  Don't ask me to articulate on that point because I can't really put my finger on it, but it definitely has a Brooklyn vibe to it.  Cozy and quaint, it offers various unique coffees- I tried both the Guatemalan and Venezuelan (I preferred the former as the Venezuelan was a bit too strong/sour for my taste).

Next stop was Think Coffee.

The organic coffeehouse is right around the corner from NYU and, naturally, populated with several students.  It not only offers coffee and tea (the chai is really good), but also beer and wine.  

While significantly more spacious than Grumpy, both are equally conducive to a nice chat with your company, a relaxing time out from the day, or a cram study session with a book (Grumpy frowns on laptops).

We took at quick look at McNulty's Tee and Coffee which had a vast and beautiful array of coffees.

Sadly though, they don't brew any so we weren't there for long.  If and when I feel like brewing some of my own Joe, however, I now know JUST the place to hit up.

Bonsignour Cafe was next on the list.  The atmosphere was not as inviting, and it's more food-oriented, but the watermelon lemonade was amazing (ok, admittedly I had to take a break from all the caffeine- they do have some great coffee options though)!

Of all of these cafes, the number one spot has to go to Grounded Coffee Shop in the Village.  This cafe not only has a tranquil,  "homey" sitting area but an unusual and interesting selection of exotic tea and coffee to choose from, all of which looked fantastic.
I couldn't decide on what I wanted until I saw the Nutella latte.  I did not select poorly.

In short, if you're ever in the mood to go to a cafe that does not have the option to pay with your iphone, there is a lot to choose from!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Highlight of the week! Start Spreading the News...

Sit back, grab a cocktail, and relax.  Listen to the music of a simpler time, when hit songs weren't auto-tuned to death and when artists couldn't rely on youtube to become famous.

Cary Hoffman stars in his autobiographical off Broadway musical, "My Sinatra," playing at the Ha! Comedy Club.  I have been up on that same stage before, singing karaoke (something else the Comedy Club hosts).  Suffice it to say I think the microphone was happier in Hoffman's hands.

I wasn't quite sure of what to expect at first.  As he explains however, the point of the show is not to imitate Sinatra, but rather to describe what it was like growing up in admiration of the big band superstars of the 40s and 50s.  What is brilliant about the performance is that he intertwines historic events (about which we already know) with his personal life and Jewish family (about which we do not).  Even though it takes place half a century ago, he speaks to many challenges still relevant and relatable today.

Hoffman has an innocent but witty sense of humor, and interacts well with the audience (occasionally commenting on reactions he gets).  From the art of how to snap to how to walk the stage, he clearly lets you know of his passion.  Hoffman sings and speaks about how Ole Blue Eyes influenced everything he did, appropriately naming it his "obsession."  

We all have stories, we all have dreams.  He is simply telling us his with a tune and a microphone (held intentionally in his left hand).  

Of course, out of respect for the performers they didn't allow photos or videos to be taken, but I did manage to take a photo of the stage before curtain call:

If you'd like a sample, this is Cary singing Sinatra.  And while I can't speak for the bobby soxers' idol himself, those of you who have seen the show would probably agree with me that yes, Sinatra DID like the demo.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Crawling Around the Lower East Side

Kiseok Kim's Plastic (Woodward Gallery)
It's been one month since I started this blog and I can't believe how quickly it's flown by.  To celebrate, I thought I'd take a stroll downtown and check out the LES Art Crawl, featuring artists' work on display from various galleries in the neighborhood.
Slavka Kolesar's Phoenix (Woodward Gallery)

This was my first "crawl," and I was pleasantly surprised.  The event consisted of hopping from one gallery to the next, all within a few minutes of each other. With people providing maps at the check-ins, it was vaguely reminiscent of a scavenger hunt without the clues.  Oh, and with a glass of wine or champagne handed to you at each gallery while you gaze at the artists' work.

Michael Murphy's Iris (Gallery nine5)

Each gallery had a very unique vibe, which made the Crawl perfect.  With 10 galleries to choose from and two and a half hours to use, you could spend as much or as little time at the galleries of your choice as you please.  Paintings, photographs, sculptures- this is an indecisive adventurer's dream.  Or the dream of someone afraid of commitment.  Either way, there's something for everyone.

  Alben's Indien Inox (Gallery nine5)

In reality, the Crawl was just as beneficial for the galleries as it was for the artists.  For someone who is not familiar with what's what in the area, this is the perfect way to discover new places (and learn about their distinct personalities) in addition to new art.  The evening ended with an open bar at the underground Gallery Bar, one of two options (Hotel Chantelle was the other).  Not too shabby for a $25 outing!

 Candace Gaudiani's 0356 (Jen Bekman Gallery)

 Letha Wilson's Vertical Horizon (Jen Bekman Gallery) 

Thank you all for continuing to read my posts, I hope you've enjoyed thus far.  Let's see what next month has in store!  As always, please feel free to share feedback, comments, or suggestions.

Rebecca Chamberlain's …Wouldn╩╝t it be sublime…(Dodge Gallery)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Highlight of the week! What are YOU doing in your hotel room?

First off, my apologies for a rather quiet blog this week; I am attending the #140conference on the Upper East Side during my days off, so my time to explore the city is a little more limited than normal (by the way, if you haven't ever gone to this conference I highly recommend checking it out- there is so much to learn from such a diverse background of speakers!).

Nevertheless, I was able to make it to a very noteworthy event!  To all New Yorkers: I challenge you to find an opening party more creative and fun than Yotel's Festival 100 Under 2 (and if you do, PLEASE tell me about it).  It was an innovative premier event held Tuesday night at its new midtown property.  In order to make a tour of the hotel floors more interactive, there was an act of some sort in each room, er, "cabin," including but not limited to singers, DJs, dancers, comedy skits, and a pillow fight.  A fantastic way to engage the future guests, the evening created buzz for the hotel while increasing exposure for the featured artists.  I haven't had this much fun in a long time.  Typically I prefer to write more; this time I will let the pictures and video do the talking (I uploaded more on my FB page, - check it out!)


Friday, June 10, 2011

Highlight of the week!

This week was a no-brainer!  The most spectacular exhibit I have ever seen- Ryoji Ikeda's The Transfinite, displayed at the Park Avenue Armory.  Wow, simply fascinating.  As  you walk in, you see a huge screen with black and white lights corresponding to and interplaying with sounds heard in the background.  The worn-down warehouse-turned-art-gallery creates a safe-haven of peaceful tranquility and meditation with a single tone descant resonating off its walls and riding on top of Ikeda's intermittent sound effects.  The frequency/pattern of light corresponds with the sounds, and pictures simply do not do it justice- that being said, here goes:

I could have stayed there for hours, and would have were it not for the security guard.  There are two sides to the exhibit, one which seems more interactive (the one directly in the front), and one which seems more mathematic (in the back).  All Carrie Bradshaws be warned- they DO make you take off your shoes before stepping on the exhibit.  The best part is when the music stops and the room gets pitch-black, just before starting up again with a heavy bass sound that makes you tremble.  Hurry though, the exhibit is only up for 1 more day after today and you do NOT want to miss it!

Tip: If you check in with fourquare you save $2!