Monday, February 13, 2006

"LO" AND BEHOLD! THE PERFORMING ARTS. IN "MANSTATEN" ISLANDS

UP FRONT News Feb. 10, 2006
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham

"The paper that can't be bought and can't be sold."

It is not possible for me to write about all the 100+ performers at the 32nd Annual Marathon Reading, last January 1, sponsored by the Poetry Project at St. Mark's in-the-Bowery Church in Manhattan, which actually features, aside from poets, musicians, actors, and satirists. Once again, Anselm Berrigan and his colleagues at the Poetry Project, did what, to my knowledge, no big-time producer as ever done, i.e. to put on a 12 hour show that was interesting every step of the way. (Could you imagine sitting through 12 hours of, for example, "American Idol.?" That would be bringing torture from Abu Ghraib to prime time.

Among the performers who made a very strong impression on me is singer/song- writer/poet Lo Galluccio, who traveled with her band, consisting of guitarist Will DiMar- tino and Lou Rossi, from Boston to appear. They performed a haunting piece called "Grand Failed Experiment", about "psychic/supernatural voices from a statue of the Hindu deity Ganesha, the elephant-headed God." I've exchanged some e-mail corres- pondence with Ms. Galluccio, and, despite the reference to "voices", I would urge any psychiatrists who happen to read this article not to jump to conclusions – something the psychiatric profession is notable for. Lo Galluccio, a political lady, and apparently a new UP FRONT News-introduced fan of the great Johnny Cash-related country gospel Native American rights rocker Marty Stuart, seems to function on a very spiritual level.

And so, of course, does the L.O.C.O.- (Ludlow Orchard Community Organization) founder, singer/songwriter Rebecca Moore, whose contribution, in which she accompan- ied herself Iris Dement-style on the piano, was a song, "Conscientious Objection." Per- haps unintentionally, Ms. Moore acknowledged Johnny Cash by including what she des- cribed as her "best shirt" in her all-black performance finery. But she is leaving it to lis- teners to interpret her at least politically titled song.

Patti Smith, although coming to fame as an often harsh punk rocker, is a very powerful folk singer and poet, who, like Lo Galluccio, has something special going with Hindus, like, for example, Mahatma Gandhi, he of the statue in Union Square Park. And, courtesy of some brief face-to-face and e-mailed contacts, Ms. Smith makes known her eloquent poetry on, for example, the Dalai Lama of Tibet and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

There was only one performance while, not without some artistic merit, left much to be desired from the standpoint of taste. I don't really the names of the performers, and while I don't have any problem with people's sexual preferences (although I draw a firm line when it comes to pedophilia, incest, and bestiality) there was one lesbian ensemble that came across – to me at least – as a bunch of gynecologists having had much too much pot and liquor, hanging out late at night discussing their day's work.
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When in 1977 I moved to the neighborhood that is now Tribeca, a no cover charge multi-level nightclub known as Garris' used to feature the Joy Ryder/Avis Davis Band. Once husband Avis (lead guitar) and wife Joy (vocals), they are no longer together. It didn't take but a minute, when I heard Joy Ryder's name mentioned by a musician per- forming at The Muddy Cup, in Staten Island, for me to recall a singer, who while not at all derivative, certainly evokes both Bessie Smith and Janis Joplin. Joy Ryder, who des- cribes herself as possessing a "honey and whiskey voice", is a blues-belter who, as she points out in her mini-autobiography, (the content of which could form the storyline for an opera, perhaps starring a diva from La Scala or possibly the operatic band Queen) is very lucky to be alive, after an aneurism-created brush with death. She and her band, the NY Rhythm All Stars (Jon Spector, Everett Boyd, Dave Dawson, and Danny Ray), per- formed recently at CBGB's Gallery. She is putting together a CD which, I hope, includes "In the Pines" (a mournful blues dialogue written by Leadbelly), "Sally Go 'round the Roses" (originally recorded in the last millennium by the Jaynettes, and her original, "Minnesota Strip", about girls from the Midwest who wind up abused in New York City.

And speaking of The Muddy Cup, in my home borough of Staten Island, this coffee house/beer/wine nightclub in Stapleton, features much live music and poetry. Tuesday evening poetry open mikes, emceed by poet Jack Friedman (sp?), whose subjects range from anti-war to anti-depressants, are, (as distinct from some "hip" Manhattan venues), very democratically run. And, for example, local poet Pia Garber's future probably, at some point in time, will include the St. Mark's Marathon.
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