Thursday, November 20, 2008


So Michael Dorf, founder of the is-it-closing-is-it-not-closing Knitting Factory, is launching a haute taute new venue in TriBeCa. Why their opening show is Joan Osborne is beyond me, but in all honesty the place seems promising. But for my money, the Knit is still the best place in the city to see a show. After seeing Tonic, Sin-E, The Contintental and CBGB all close within two years of each other, the closure of the Knitting Factory would be a heartbreak beyond reproach for creative music in this city. Three spots in one, The Main Space, Tap Bar and Old Office, we will be losing the home to some of the best shows I have personally ever seen since taking in my first gig there in 1998 (the name of which completely escapes me at the present moment). The Melvins. Mike Patton and the X-Ecutioners. At the Drive-In. Sixteen Horsepower. Marc Ribot. Skull Snaps. Slick Rick. The late, great ODB. Mixmaster Mike. The list goes on and on, literally.

Though City Winery looks promising in theory, with shows ranging from Boz Scaggs to Phillip Glass and winemaking downstairs in the basement, it doesn't seem to be catering to those of us who were in the price range of shows at the Knit or any of the other non-profit places Dorf has opened throughout the country. But you can be damn sure I'll be there so see my Facebook pal Mike Doughty in January.

Fore more about the opening of City Winery, scroll down for today's news off the wire. -Ed.

November 20, 2008 , 2:00 PM ET
Michael D. Ayers, N.Y.
City Winery, a new New York venue being launched by Knitting Factory founder Michael Dorf, will open on New Year's Eve with a concert by Joan Osborne.

Located in the Tribeca section of Manhattan, City Winery is a 21,000-square foot venue that, as its name implies, also serves as a winery where patrons can enjoy private tastings and take wine-making classes.

Amid in influx of new venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Dorf tells Billboard he's hoping to tap into a higher-end clientele that prefers seated shows over general admission. The extensive wine list should help too.

"There's an audience that is missing the Bottom Line in Manhattan," he says. "I think there are people that want to sit. The overlap between wine and that singer/songwriter style of music became very evident to me."

City Winery will operate under a somewhat exclusive format. Show tickets are only available to members of the VinoFile program, which costs $50 annually. Customers will get a $15 credit for their first bar tab, plus $35 off tastings or classes.

Following that, for every $100 spent at the venue, a $10 credit is awarded. And for every show, members have the ability to select specific seats in the venue.

City Winery will cap at 300 for seated shows. "It's intimate, but you can achieve some scale. At $50 or $100 ticket, you can gross some money that can allow for a bigger-name artist to consider doing the gig," Dorf says. Prices vary as to whether a customer chooses to sit at two different levels of reserved tables, a bar stool or in a VIP tasting section.

Dorf has booked unique artist pairings in the weeks to come, including Lenny Kaye with Suzanne Vega, Calexico with Keren Ann and Jesse Malin with Rachael Yamagata.

In related news, Dorf has announced that R.E.M. will be honored in what has become an annual tribute to influential songwriters that he organizes. The Swell Season/Frames' Glen Hansard, Guster and Patti Smith will perform, with Calexico serving as the house band for the March 11 show at Carnegie Hall.

Here is the initial lineup for City Winery:

Dec. 31: Joan Osborne
Jan. 8: Steve Earle & Allison Moorer
Jan. 9: Raul Midon & Sonya Kitchell
Jan. 11: Boz Scaggs
Jan. 15: Suzanne Vega & Lenny Kaye
Jan. 22: Mike Doughty & Tony Scherr Trio
Jan. 29: Jill Sobule & Julia Sweeney
March 4: Rufus Wainwright
March 10: Calexico & Keren Ann
March 15: Philip Glass
March 22. Philip Glass
March 29: Philip Glass
April 5: Philip Glass
April 9: Jesse Malin & Rachael Yamagata

Mike Patton Live at the Knitting Factory: New Years Eve, 2004:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jeff Klein: From Gutter Twins to Jerusalem

Interview by Michele Zipp

Jeff Klein is really busy. He’s currently on tour with The Gutter Twins after playing some solo shows with Ani DiFranco, and he’s got another super-group called Jerusalem with an album coming out next year.

But one thing I know about Jeff is that he’s always got time for a friend. That is, if he has time. The first time I interviewed him was in 1998 for a long gone college ’zine called Legitimate Beef. There were references of candy being eaten from a mannequin leg, autoerotic asphyxiation, and Neil Diamond. This time we talked about flesh hoodies, Lemonparty, and bacon. My how things have changed!

Michele Zipp: Where are you right now?
Jeff Klein: I’m at gate A14 in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. To my left is Danny Bland from the Dwarves and to my right is an honest to god real life dwarf. It’s a pretty surreal moment.

MZ: If you could be anywhere in the world, where would that be?
JK: That’s hard because I feel like in the last two years I have been everywhere there is to be, so I’d have to say in NOLA sitting on the dock looking out into the Mississippi River with my lady.

MZ: You just got out of a tour bus that were you in for eight hours. What did you do?
JK: Let's see...first I watched The Jerk. Always a classic. Then I proceeded to prank everyone by putting either Lemonparty or Goatse [NSFW] as their laptop desktop picture while they weren't looking. Then I shot the shit with Mark for a while. Somewhere in there were a few sweet Flying J moments. Then I watched an episode of Lockup that was about turning gay in prison as a means of survival. Something us touring musicians know way too much about...err...I mean. Nevermind. And then I learned that Iron Maiden had a singer before Bruce Dickinson who looked like a fat Ray Liotta in a headband.

MZ: What happened with your pinky?
JK: I got into an accident in a venue, which I shall not name. One of the security guys accidentally caught my hand in a huge thick metal security door practically severing the tip of my finger off and crushing the bone to powder. It took eight hours to sew my finger back together. It looked like a flesh hoodie. Worst experience of all time.

MZ: Did you think you would have to cancel your spot on the tour because of the pinky incident?
JK: For the first 24 hours I thought my life was over. Three days later I was out supporting Ani DiFranco with nine fingers and a bloody mangled bandage. It hurt, but it had to be done.

MZ: What was most affected by not having use of all ten fingers?
JK: Everything. Eating, opening doors, showering, masturbating, foreplay, piano playing. Everything became difficult.

MZ: Let's play a game: Fuck/Kill/Marry. Out of you, Greg Dulli, and Mark Lanegan, how do you think that will play out?
JK: That’s a hard one on many levels. Is there any way you could do all three to each? Though they are two of the sweetest men I know, they are also two of the dudeliest men I know. Answering this question could get me killed.

MZ: How did you get involved with The Gutter Twins and Twilight Singers?
JK: By accident. I was friends with Greg for a few years and he invited me to open for the Twilight Singers. Halfway through the tour they needed a new keyboard player and since I was there already, it was a natural progression. Ever since, if I’m around and free and Mark or Greg need me for anything, it’s my pleasure to be involved.

MZ: What about Jeff Klein music? Will there be another album soon?
JK: I actually have like 30 songs recorded and mixed. I’ve sort of split my personalities in half. Jeff Klein being the brand name for more stripped down affairs. And the other half, well.... I started a band with some friends of mine. It’s called Jerusalem. It consists of myself, Ashley Dzerigian (Great Northern), Cully Symington (Bishop Allen, Gutter Twins), Rick Nelson (Polyphonic Spree, St. Vincent), and David Rosser (Twilight Singers). It’s fucking brilliant. We have a ton of songs done and will be releasing a record in the New Year and touring a lot as well. I can’t explain how much fun it is to have a band right now. The music is scarily inspirational in contrast to my solo efforts.

MZ: Do you find time to write your own stuff while on the road with others?
JK: I’m always writing no matter where I am. On napkins, in hotels, in my head. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m not as methodical as most people. It all is random, whether it’s on tour or at home or in an airplane lavatory. I’m either writing or I’m not. But it never takes a situational back seat. It just randomly chooses its attack moments.

MZ: In that old interview from 1998, when I asked you to complete the sentence “In the future I will” you said, “play your children's Bar Mitzvahs for under $500.” Still true?
JK: These days I’m sure I can command a crisp $1500. Unfortunately, due to the economy and inflation it’ll be more like $25,000, but I’ll do a Bris for the sheer excitement of it.

MZ: What music do you like right now?
I think the new Walkmen record is great. I’ve also been revisiting the first two Tindersticks albums a lot since finally seeing (and meeting!) them this summer. Also Jesu. Mostly I’ve been listening to 4500 mixes of my own new stuff or my friends’ albums. There’s a great band from Austin called Frank Smith.

MZ: You hadn’t eaten bacon in years, but when I saw you last, you caved. Are you still at it?
JK: Hell yes. I would wear bacon as a scent if I could. I am actually sporting a bacon band-aid as we speak. It is amazing. I went so long without it, I felt like a mother who had just had her kidnapped child returned to her after 15 years. All hail bacon.

Photo courtesy of Jerusalem.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Let it be known, courtesy of Immortal Technique, Mos Def and Eminem...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

RIP Rudy Ray Moore

No other film actor in Hollywood history had more of an influence on me during my college years than Rudy Ray Moore.

Dolemite, The Human Tornado, Petey Wheatstraw, Monkey Hustle...

We would watch these shits blazed as mofos on the riz-neg.

But Avenging Disco Godfather was the one we always would return to time and again: a movie that will either have you howling with laughter or curling up in a ball of fright, depending on who you are as a person.

This is better than Coppola's Godfather in my estimation.

"Put yo' weight on it!"

Rudy Ray Moore died on October 19 at age 81 from complications from diabetes. He will be missed.

Listen to one of RRM's best comedy albums on this great blog:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


From President-Elect Obama's recent interview with Rolling Stone publisher, Jann Wenner:

“If I had one musical hero, it would have to be Stevie Wonder,” says Obama, who grew up on Seventies R&B and rock staples including Earth, Wind and Fire, Elton John and the Rolling Stones. “When I was at that point where you start getting involved in music, Stevie had that run with Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Fulfillingness’ First Finale and Innervisions, and then Songs in the Key of Life. Those are as brilliant a set of five albums as we’ve ever seen.”


In celebration of President-Elect Obama's historic win last night, please enjoy this brilliant essay from my former Editor-in-Chief at the New Paltz Oracle, Mr. Richard F. Restaino, which will also appear in the final print issue of IRT, due out before the end of 2008.

The Audacity of Pragmatism: How Studs Terkel Helped Me Vote for Obama

By Richard F. Restaino

Election Day, 2008, Austin, TX—This day belongs to Barack Obama, but my thoughts cannot help but turn to another adopted Chicagoan, Louis “Studs” Terkel. Studs died on Halloween, four days before America elected its first black president, something I’m sure he would have liked to see. He held on as long as he could, of course. A man dying at 96 is far from a tragedy, especially when that man’s life was rich and full and never given over to despair.

Studs, best known as an oral historian chronicling the lives of the everyday heroes among us in books like The Good War, Hard Times, Division Street—America, and Working, lived through the “American Century” and got a glimpse of what seemed like the beginning of the end. A lifelong progressive, supporter of workers and civil rights, and a fearless opponent of arbitrary authority, Studs held fast his faith in the basic decency of people, even as he maintained his distrust of the institutions they served. As a child of the Great Depression, a victim of the McCarthy blacklists, and the prototypical man of the people, you could imagine that such recent turns of history like the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, and the recent financial implosion probably felt familiar to Studs. He had the long view, knew the context of what we’re now experiencing, and in his writing and speeches always seemed to strike the right balance of moral outrage and faith in humanity. Reading one of his oral histories—conversations with regular people put down on paper—never failed to lift me out of the most serious of funks. Yes, Studs probably would have enjoyed talking to people on a day like today.

So many of my heroes, the people whose work has helped shape my life, have died during the Bush administration: Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter Thompson, Joe Strummer, Warren Zevon, Molly Ivins, Johnny Cash, Joey Ramone, James Brown, George Carlin, and now Studs Terkel. These are people to whom I have turned to help make sense of the world, and when you start to look at this group in the aggregate, despite better judgment, it’s hard for me not to imagine that the brutish, oppressive, and corrupt climate under which we have lived since 2000 had something to do with it.

Not to say that I believe an Obama administration will prove the panacea for all that ails us—hardly. My own feelings for Obama soured when he distanced himself from his preacher, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom I thought was, well, right—at least most of the time. For Obama, it was the politically expedient thing to do; it made sense. Most folks don’t want to hear about this stuff, and still others deny the essential truths behind Wright’s passionate rhetoric. Still, sometimes I wonder if I’m living in the same world as the majority of people. I simply don’t think there is anything particularly radical about any of the following statements, all of which were deemed incendiary and seditious by the mainstream press:

• “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.” (Sept. 2001)

• “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” (Sept. 2001)

• “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.” (2003)

• “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run…We [in the U.S.] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.”

Whenever a voice like Wright’s finds its way into the public consciousness, it is held up to ridicule and scorn—to be feared or dismissed. The system is set up so that people find it difficult to process information that does not conform to the official doctrine of this nation’s history and what we stand for. This is the “national Alzheimer’s disease” that Studs Terkel spoke of—the blow to the head that would have us believe that mass movements of everyday Americans united against an oppressive state amounts to treason, while we elevate men like Ronald Reagan to the status of latter-day saints:

“He’s perhaps the worst President until now we’ve had,” Terkel said of Reagan in a 2004 interview with The Progressive, “a man who knocked the hell out of the very thing, the New Deal, that saved his ass and that of his father in Dixon, Illinois. His father got a job on the WPA during the Depression. Ronald Reagan was the first President I know who was an acknowledged fink. He was president of the Screen Actors Guild at the same time he was informing regularly to the FBI on his own members he considered un-American or subversive. He even had a code name. That’s a fink.”

So, when Obama said that Rev. Wright’s views do not represent his own (despite him having been an active member of Wright’s church for 20 years), it was hardly a surprise. Obama, like all who believe they are suited for high office, is first and foremost an ambitious man. Ambitious people will do what they need to in order to fulfill their ambitions. His speech on race, meant to clarify his position visa vie Wright, did help restore some faith in me that Obama’s “post-racial” rhetoric was not simply stump-speech gold—that he actually did acknowledge and understand that this nation is far from achieving equity for all.

So, I voted for Obama. But I pulled the lever with a similar trepidation and joyless resignation that I voted for John Kerry in ’04, and Bill Clinton in ’96. There was a different sensation in voting for Ralph Nader in 2000 (yes, I was one of those Lefties who abandoned Gore, but I lived in Texas—Gore had no chance here anyway). Voting for Nader (as well as my past primary votes for Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean) felt more like righteous futility. All this is to say that I have never really expected to have anyone who truly represented my views make it to the White House. In America, we take what we can get—a choice that often is not really much of a choice at all—but it’s still a whole lot more than most of world gets.

I suppose this is where Studs Terkel and Barack Obama find kinship in my mind. Studs knew the score—he watched for years as America swung far away from where he stood. Yet, he still found meaning in participating in the process. A protest vote—a vote against what one finds more objectionable—is just as important, and certainly more pragmatic, than a hearty vote of affirmation, which too often is clouded by the cult of personality. Studs was a realist, yes, but he never became cynical or demoralized. Studs’ life and work represent to me the real meat behind that line Obama borrowed from his pastor before throwing him under the bus: The audacity of hope. The repetitive drilling of this line into our national consciousness aside, there still remains truth in what I sincerely hope does not turn out to be just another empty campaign slogan. But even if Obama’s historic victory turns out to be no more than a symbolic one—if none of the real problems this nation faces are handled any differently than they would be in a Hillary Clinton or John McCain presidency—there remains cause for solemn celebration. Symbolism matters.