Category Archives: friends

A Hard Day’s Night

Note: Everything having anything to do with The Beatles has been and will continue to be combed through hair-by-hair and painstakingly studied under a microscope, so it’s fair to say that in some ways this post is more about me than it is about the film. I don’t claim to be an expert.

Last night, we all went to the seven o’clock showing of the recently restored A Hard Day’s Night at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge. I’d seen it a few times before–once in probably 7th grade, when along with my friend Nora I was a latter-day Beatlemaniac, and then a few more times over the years–always on video. Never having seen the film in the theater before, I was just happy to finally see it on the big screen–restoration or no.

This viewing reaffirmed some of my longstanding opinions.

#1: My regard for Ringo. Nora’s favorite was George. That was a solid choice. John (whose talents and intellect I probably respect the most) and Paul (who is really nothing special at all on film) were too obvious. But I was honestly drawn to Ringo. Particularly in those early days, he was sort of cute and funny and unintimidating. A Hard Day’s Night shows him as the life of the party (love that scene–anyone who dances like that automatically gets my respect), and also as a sensitive, simple sort of person–a bit goofy, not at all infallible, able to comfortably connect with a wandering youth (whose wild freedom he no doubt envies). From an outsider’s viewpoint, the fame seems to have affected him–who he was as a person–the least of the four. He really was Richard Lester’s pick as the most story-worthy and perhaps even the best actor of the bunch (see Help!, in which Ringo is also at the center of things). His natural charm and humor translate well on screen.

#2: My love for the song “If I Fell.” Of all the remastered music in the film, this is the song that stands out for me–again. This sort of links up with my respect for George Martin (who, bless him, is still alive, in case anyone was wondering). It’s a lovely song, and his production work really makes it more than the sum of its parts.

Not sure that clip even quite does it justice. Last night in the theater, for the duration of that song, I was transported. </gush>

But beyond all that I sort of knew before, there was more. I always knew what the film was–what it was about on a surface level and maybe a little deeper if a viewer wanted to go there. But seeing it in the theater and with the benefit of the restoration (and maybe the benefit of my own experiences since the last time I saw it) yielded for me an increased appreciation of the sort of theme of the film. At the end, when they’re playing for the theater full of frenzied, mostly female teenagers, the shots from behind, where we see the crazed audience through the spaces between Ringo and his drum kit, are poetic. The slow tracking shot effectively contrasts the relative steadiness of their performance on stage with the hysteria looking back at them. So much of Beatlemania was wanting more of them, looking at them, asking things of them. Here we get their perspective–the absurdity of the interviews and the charm and good humor with which they approached them (at least, in those days), the many levels of their entrapment. The film is nearly all fun, all humorous, but underlying it there’s that constant need to get away. The film starts with them running, and ends with them flying and leaving a trail of promotional photographs–their image–in their wake. That the last song they play is “She Loves You” seems a very deliberate, meaningful choice. “She loves you”–all these crazy girls are mad for you and force you to be closed up in cars and hotels and to wear disguises and have scarcely a minute to yourself, whatever that would look like (you hardly know anymore)–“and you know you should be glad.” Right?

30 Posts About Movies #4

Post #4:  Your Favorite Horror Movie

The obvious choice for me here is The Shining.  My friend Nora introduced me to the horror genre when we were wee pre-teens.  It was through her that I first saw some classic 70s/80s horror films, including this one.  It was, in fact, probably the first horror film I ever saw.  Might as well start with the best, right?

So much has been studied and written and examined about this film, and with good reason.  So this is just me, talking a little bit about the place it occupies in my world.

Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick on the set of The Shining (in that bizarre red bathroom)

I don’t know about how other people experience horror movies, but when I see one that genuinely freaks me out, I have a vivid sensory memory of the place where I saw it.  The first time I saw The Shining, we watched it on VHS in a dim, slightly damp, simply furnished basement room with dark walls and carpet.  The television was situated against the front wall of the house, under one or two small ground-level windows.  If my memory serves (and sometimes it doesn’t), behind us were an unused fireplace, and a dark, possibly less-finished room.  So, there was plenty of scare-space… plenty of area for us to worry about someone or some thing lurking up behind us.

When I think of Stanley Kubrick, I can’t help but think of this film first.  The strange spaces and sense of disorientation that are hallmarks of a certain segment of the horror genre feel like Kubrick-isms to me. There are those seemingly endless labyrinths of hallways with their oppressive geometric carpeting and sometimes densely patterned floral wallpaper, vast open ballrooms with tremendously high ceilings and bright natural light versus tiny claustrophobic rooms crowded together with small doorways and stairways and incandescent light… And the bathrooms!  Two major scenes in this movie take place in two very different, creepy bathrooms.  The scene with Delbert Grady and Jack in the red bathroom immediately struck me as just completely bizarre the first time I saw it.  They go from a warmly-lit dark-toned bar into a brightly lit and very strangely contemporary, geometrically designed duochromatic bathroom.  So weird.  Then there’s the tiny bathroom in their little apartment (with its own assortment of strangely mis-matched rooms) where the film’s iconic climax takes place.  Wanna feel trapped?  That’s a helluva tiny window, and if Shelley Duvall, reedy and toothy as she was, couldn’t fit through it, neither could you.

The first time I watched the film, I remember talking with people about how the hotel was messing with Jack (and at times with the other characters).  Some of the little tidbits that Kubrick throws in feel designed to mess with the characters and the viewer.  When this next image flashed quite unexpectedly on the screen, it freaked the heck out of me.

Party guests from the past in the Shining

For one thing, what are these two supposed to be doing, exactly?  Not only are they clearly out of the past, with those strange probing gazes on their faces, and that disturbing costume, but the man in the tuxedo appears to be sitting on the bed while the other person kneels on the floor and embraces him… Have we stumbled upon some illicit activity?  Is this a symbol of how the hotel is f*cking with the Torrances–and how the movie is f*cking with us, the viewers?

The Shining is well made.  It is a good film, full stop–not just a good horror film.  It works on a psychological level, and though there’s some blood, it’s not a slasher flick.  The best parts of the movie are the crazy parts and the battle of wits among the possessed hotel, Jack (who’s rapidly losing his), Wendy, and Danny.  The hedge maze at the end of the film (which in some ways mirrors the maze-like feel of the hallways within the hotel, the confusion the possessed hotel is imposing), was Kubrick’s idea (the end of the book is different–I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it). It’s hard not to love Danny’s cleverness at the end of the film–outsmarting his father and, perhaps, the hotel.

There is all sorts of wonderful lore surrounding The Shining, and a nice chunk of it is collected at the IMDB.  From there, we learn that Jack Nicholson added a lot to his character.  At the film’s climax, he ad-libbed the “little pigs” bit (which to me seems very Nicholson-ish), and it was his (in my opinion, perfect) idea to throw a tennis ball in that cavernous room where Jack Torrance is supposed to be working.  When I look at Lloyd the Bartender, I think, “Gee, the way he’s made up, he kind of looks like Harry Dean Stanton, but with bigger eyes and a little shorter.”  Funny thing, that.  Harry Dean Stanton was originally slated for the role, but had to bow out because he was previously committed to working on Alien.  Young Danny Lloyd, who plays Danny Torrance in the film, added the little finger motion when speaking as Tony.  It was Danny Lloyd’s first film, and due to its subject matter he was told that it was a drama and was only allowed to see the full, unedited film many years later, when he was 17.  I’ve never seen the documentary Room 237, which examines some of the many ways people have interpreted The Shining, but it’s easy to understand why a small cult has sprouted up around those various interpretations.

Kubrick’s film prompted me to read Stephen King’s original novel, and it’s just as good as the movie–if not better.  If I’d never read The Shining, I might never have known that it’s possible to be frightened for the duration of the time it takes you to read a book (it does tend to make you read faster!).  I also might never have known that Stephen King is a genuinely good writer.  I read The Shining in high school, and because I liked it so much I later read The Stand, which I also enjoyed.

Dang.  I guess I have a lot more to say on the subject of horror movies than I realized.  Beyond The Shining, for now I’ll just throw out some honorable mention horror films that I may return to here on The Shy Turnip at some point in the future.

  • Repulsion (1965 Roman Polanski film with Catherine Deneuve)

Catherine Deneuve in another psychological one, Repulsion

  • Mark of the Vampire (1935 black and white spook-fest with Lionel Barrymore, Bela Lugosi, and Jean Hersholt, directed by Tod Browning)
  • Carrie (The original 1976 Brian DePalma film starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, and John Travolta)
  • Faust (1926 Murnau masterpiece starring Emil Jannings)
  • Nosferatu (Another Murnau masterpiece from 1922)
  • Evil Dead 2 (Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s 1987 camp horror schlocksterpiece)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (This is another film I watched on VHS with friends.  Not a perfect film or a favorite by any means, but notable because it’s still the only movie I’ve ever watched that, in order to reassure myself in some way, I had to immediately watch it again the next day.)

I don’t watch a lot of horror, and I haven’t seen many of what are considered to be the classics of the genre, but one I still very much want to see is the original 1973 version of The Wicker Man.

Sunday at the Museum

Our friends Jen and Simone stopped at our place over the weekend on their way to Vermont, and on Sunday we all went to catch the last day of the Amy Sillman exhibit at the ICA.

The Egyptians, 2003, oil on canvas, 72 x 84 inches. © Amy Sillman, 2013

The Egyptians, 2003, oil on canvas, 72 x 84 inches. © Amy Sillman

We don’t get to see Jen…                                                     Or Simone

Simone, also photographed in the wild

Simone, also photographed in the wild

Jen in the wild (OK, the Mediateque)

Jen in the wild (OK, the Mediateque)

…very often.  So this was good.

First, we ate here:

The Water Cafe (I had the soup.)

The Water Cafe (I had the soup.)

Then we explored the museum.

Thing I Saw

Thing I Saw

Museum Explorer

Museum Explorer

Then Ez and Rainer took advantage of the weekly Make/Made program at the Art Lab.

Free with admission, kids!

Free with admission, kids!

Here’s their final creation:

Origami paper and glue on canvas

Origami paper and glue on canvas

Jen and Simone, both artists, were good enough to do some coloring projects with Rainer.

The House that Jen & Rainer Built

The House that Jen & Rainer Built

Simone and Rainer's Sea Creature

Simone and Rainer's Sea Creature

I think this last one is my favorite.  If Simone ever publishes a coloring book, I’ll let you know.

Simone and Rainer's Flying Housecats

Simone and Rainer's Flying Housecats

Listen Up: Lower Dens

Two of Stereogum’s top 20 overlooked albums of 2010, from Buke and Gass and Crocodiles, were in my (premature) best of 2010 list.  I came to new music kind of late in 2010, and a lot of good music came out last year, so I give myself a pass for missing a lot of things.  If I were to revise my list today, I’d keep those records on it, and the Buke and Gass album would keep its high spot on the list.

One album I didn’t hear in full until after posting my best of 2010 list is Lower Dens’ Twin Hand Movement.  This is an album that definitely belongs among my favorites for the year.

Their press sheet describes Lower Dens as a Baltimore band, led by weird-fi frontwoman Jana Hunter, that plays post-punk drone pop.  Okay, I guess somewhere in that description I start to get a hazy picture of what they really sound like.

I first discovered Lower Dens when I happened upon their 9-21-2010 Daytrotter Session, so that’s where I direct you first.  In the session, they play some of my favorites, including “Tea Lights” (love that beautiful, lilting guitar line, and the tone on the album version is especially lovely) and the fabulously titled “Two Cocks Waving Wildly at Each Other Across a Vast Open Space, A Dark Icy Tundra.”  After that teaser, you have to hear the whole album, on which you’ll be treated to gems like the glimmering, infectious “Hospice Gates,” and “Holy Water,” one of the first songs I’ve ever heard that I can compare with The Smiths’ “Oscillate Wildly” in that it’s so good that I didn’t notice on the first few listens that it’s an instrumental.

Twin Hand Movement was released in July of 2010, and Lower Dens have just released a new single, “Batman.”  They’re currently playing a handful of support dates in the Southeast with The Walkmen, and they hit SXSW this March.  They’re at the top of my list of bands to catch.

Lower Dens-“Tea Lights”

Lower Dens-“Hospice Gates”

Lower Dens-“Batman”

I have been busy

Yes, yes I have been busy.

I’ve covered a bunch of shows for the good folks at QRO Magazine including:

Autolux at the Middle East
8/27/2010 Autolux w/This Will Destroy You at The Middle East Downstairs

Interpol at MHOW

9/10/2010 Interpol w/Cloudland Canyon at The Music Hall of Williamsburg

School of Seven Bells at the Middle East
9/11/2010 School of Seven Bells w/Active Child at The Middle East Downstairs

Basia Bulat at TT the Bear's Place
9/21/2010 Basia Bulat and The Acorn at TT the Bear’s Place

The day of the Interpol show in Brooklyn I was invited in to the Matador Records office to help moderate a live video chat with Interpol guitarist Daniel Kessler. It was all a bit off-the-cuff, and it was a lot of fun. The chat is archived here. I got a little tour of the Beggars Group office (I guess you’d call them Matador’s parent company) and met some of the very cool people who work there, too.

In amongst this hectic schedule of city hopping, picture taking, late nights, and hanging out with friends mixed with happy home-life and work work work, I joined friends Amy, Teresa, and Tomoko a few weekends ago for a couple breezy, decadent days at Top Notch Resort and Spa in Stowe, Vermont. Ah Vermont… We drove up on Friday night and stayed at Teresa’s friends’ ski lodge at Killington, and then drove up to Stowe on Saturday. Saturday afternoon we each indulged in Mount Mansfield Sauchas. What are those, you ask? From the Top Notch site:

Purity and simplification were the inspiration for the creation of this truly unique treatment. Drawing from the Sanskrit term to purify, our Mount Mansfield Saucha session allows you to experience an uncomplicated but completely luxurious three-stage herbal body service. To begin, a sea salt exfoliation removes tired skin and improves circulation. Organic lavender buds are added and then crushed with the salt to provide a sweet aromatic explosion. We use hot towels to remove the salt, leaving your skin velvety soft. Then, you are wrapped in thick linen sheets that have steeped in our detoxifying blend of indigenous Vermont herbs and flowers. In conclusion you may choose a 25-minute, 50 minute or 80-minute full body aromatherapy massage. We have developed a custom blend of sage, lavender, cedar and sandalwood essential oils for a completely soothing experience.

Now that I think of it… somewhere I have a small vial of the sage oil that my therapist gave me at the end of my saucha! That evening we had cocktails by the firepit and enjoyed the view of the mountains as the sun set before heading into the dining room for dinner–homemade local tempeh, anybody? The next day we got our pedicures and manicures, went into town and picked up sandwiches and a few gifts for our loved ones, and then set off on our return to Massachusetts. It was a lovely getaway, and just the beginning of our celebration of Amy and Doug’s upcoming nuptials!

Last weekend my darling friend Sarah came down from Portland and we had a girls’ night out on Saturday. I had a hunch that the bar at Gargoyles would be a good spot for drinks after dinner, and it was. This coming weekend we’ll have family visiting from Pittsburgh (yay!), and on Sunday night I’m covering The XX, Warpaint, and Zola Jesus at The Orpheum. Phew! Good things are happening. Stay tuned!

AND… if you’re so inclined… you can now follow me on twitter: @terkitty. Yep!

Warpaint with Javelin and Beach Fossils at Great Scott, 8/15/2010

I should have written about this show right after it happened. I’ve been playing catch-up. But anyway… Warpaint!

I first heard about Warpaint from a couple of my New York Interpol friends. They described Warpaint as an all-female band that comes out on stage looking really pretty, and then rocks really hard. Another friend mentioned them shortly after that. After our trip to Pennsylvania, I was going through a bit of show withdrawal, and when I heard that Warpaint were playing at Great Scott the night of our return, I wanted to go. We got home just in time for me to pull together my camera and batteries and get to Great Scott before the show sold out.

The first opener, Beach Fossils, sounded very poppy to me–jangly 80s-conscious stuff, which is apparently all the rage at the moment. It didn’t do too much for me, but they weren’t atrocious. What they looked like (silly and 80s conscious) struck me about as much as their music… not much –AND their whole vibe made me feel old.

Javelin made me feel old in a different way. With Beach Fossils, I could get why people would like it. Javelin just seemed totally foolish to me–like they were getting away with something by pretending to be musical, cool, or even interesting. The first thing they brought on stage was a tower of big old broken (except for one, I think) neon spray-painted boom boxes. Oh boy. Their sound was just a mish-mash of samples and knob-twiddling and falling-apart (literally) percussion. Samples and knob-twiddling and percussion can result in something good, but this did not. It felt sloppy. Like Beach Fossils, I guess Javelin are considered up and coming. I thought they were embarrassing and pretty terrible.

Warpaint at Great ScottWarpaint

After those two openers, I might have expected Warpaint to be a disappointment, but they weren’t at all. I think the evening’s line-up was a real mis-match. Warpaint are going out with The XX in the near future, and that tour makes more sense to me. The vocals and the music come from a much deeper, darker place than anything that Beach Fossils or Javelin offer up. My friends who told me I’d be impressed by their musical chops were right on. These chickies can play. They’re really pretty badass. At least a few of them are multi-instrumenatalists. The bassist and drummer switched places after the first song, and at the end of the encore three of the four band members went at it on the drum kit–and what resulted was a controlled chaos, not just mere chaos.

Their first full-length, The Fool, is set to drop October 26th (October 25th in the UK). I’m looking forward to seeing them again at the Orpheum October 3rd.

SXSW… and me!

2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the SXSW Music Conference and Festival in Austin, TX. I am going. I am SO FLIPPIN’ EXCITED! Ezra seems slightly confused as to why I’m so excited, but he is on board because 1) Houston–home to Simon, Frances, Eva, and Gia–is a mere two hours away, 2) Austin is supposed to be a pretty cool town, 3) March is the perfect time to get the heck out of Boston, and 4) some of his old college pals live in Austin and San Antonio. When all of this dawned on me–that all of those things come together with SXSW and that we could do it… Did I mention that I am SO EXCITED? The fest is 3/16-3/20. More on that later…

Interpol with Twin Tigers and The Postelles at Northern Lights in Clifton Park, NY 8/6/2010

The Clifton Park show was bittersweet for me. I had SUCH a good time at the Interpol shows this summer, and I knew Clifton Park would be my last for a while. Even more than that, I knew that it would be my last time seeing Twin Tigers on the tour, and I feel like we became friends. I know when I’ll see Interpol again; with Twin Tigers I’m less sure. They’re a band with a lot of potential and they’ve done a lot of touring, so they’ll get up here eventually… But anyway, I knew it would be weird to say goodbye to everyone and it was a bit.

After the late night in Boston on Thursday I was pretty wiped out on Friday and had much to do. We would be heading down to Pennsylvania for a family visit immediately after the Clifton Park show, and in addition to needing to get myself ready for the show and to take pictures I had to pack and try to get the house together for our trip. It was a little bit of a struggle, but I managed to get on the road in time to make it to the venue just after doors opened.

I was on the guestlist in Clifton Park, and my photo pass for the night was actually labelled an all-access pass—though there was a note with it that specifically forbid me from photographing Interpol’s set. Alas. Northern Lights is a weird venue. It’s in what looks like an old strip mall kind of in the middle of nowhere. The stage is back in a corner and seems like it was just sort of dropped in the space. There’s a large bar that takes up almost half of the venue, and the whole place has an odd atmosphere (or lack thereof). There was a bathroom attendant—at least in the women’s room. My memory of the place is that all the walls were painted blue, there were glass doors at the back through which we could see the bands and crew walking past in between their sets, and the place was really cold. Whereas at some shows I end up sweating and frizzy, at this show I was very glad I’d grabbed a cardigan at the last minute. They had the a/c cranked the whole night. It just added to the weirdness of the night for me.

Some of Interpol’s gear was off to the left of the stage in crates and I could see labels on various drawers… things like “Paul’s strings,” “Daniel’s strings and cords,” and then a drawer labeled simply (if I’m not misremembering it) “Shite.”

The Postelles The Postelles at Northern Lights.

The PostellesThe Postelles at Northern Lights.

The Postelles
The Postelles at Northern Lights.

Even in this relatively little venue there was a tiny photo pit. I managed to photograph The Postelles’ entire set. I think I was only supposed to do three songs, but there was another photographer shooting them and he just kept going, so I did, too. The reception for The Postelles was a sharp turn from the reaction they enjoyed the previous night. People clapped politely but briefly after each of their songs, and their perky singer seemed to be almost apologizing for everyone’s lack of familiarity with them and with their music. Before launching into one song, he said, “This is a new one,” and then paused and said “but everything is new to you.” They played with their usual verve, but it was clear that they had to work for it.

beerTwin Tigers, running with the devil (a.k.a. Hoo-ray beer).

When Twin Tigers came out on stage, I wonder if I was the first person ever in the history of the world to feel a tiny bit sad to hear the opening notes of Van Halen’s “Running with the Devil.” They played well, and while it wasn’t as amazing as the previous night in Boston, I think they sounded good and a decent portion of the audience got into what they were doing. I photographed the first three songs of their set and then took my spot up front behind the barrier.

ForrestForrest Hall of Twin Tigers.

AimeeAimee Morris of Twin Tigers.

TTTwin Tigers.

Interpol’s set was really tight, but seemed to go by so quickly. My friends agreed that it felt short. The band played very well, but it felt business-like. During the encore, one song blended right into the next. The setlist was a good one. We got “Mammoth” instead of “The Heinrich Maneuver” and a beautifully played “Leif Erikson,” which I had not yet heard on this tour. During “Leif” I exchanged a nice little look of recognition with Daniel. I tried to take some pictures with my phone. It was kind of pathetic, really. Their lighting was pretty easy as far as concerts go, and the stage was on the small side so I could have managed a lot of nice shots. After the encore as they were leaving the stage both Daniel and Sam nodded, smiled, and waved at me. That was sweet! It was like they knew that this would be my last show for a while.

Afterwards my friends and I went over to the merch table to say hi to the Twin Tigers people. They were busy with merch boxes and stuff, but we chatted a little bit. As the venue was kind of out of the way, they were trying to figure out where to go to do something. I couldn’t hang around long as we were heading out for Pennsylvania, so I couldn’t help them with their plans for the night. I bought a copy of their album, Gray Waves (on blue vinyl!) and had them all sign it for me. Matthew wrote me a little message, signed the inner sleeve, and then signed on Aimee’s behalf since she had once again disappeared.

I looked up and through the windows at the front of the venue and saw Ezra standing there. I thought I was supposed to call him, but it was going on midnight and I can’t blame him for running out of things to do at that hour. I went outside and asked him if he could wait while I went to say goodbye to a few people. When I got back inside, it seemed like everyone had scattered. I headed back toward the stage and saw Matthew holding a box and talking to one of Interpol’s crew. While I was waiting for him, Sam’s drum tech came up to me and said he’d seen me at a lot of shows. I said that I’d been to a bunch and introduced myself. He asked how many shows I’d been to, and when I said twenty-something he said I won the prize. He dug into a black sack, pulled out three of Sam’s well-used (during the show, presumably) drumsticks, and gave them to me. Yay! He is really nice. I have heard people rave about what a good guy he is, and it was great to finally meet him after all this time.

CliftonParkstuffSam’s drumsticks, my pass, and signed Twin Tigers vinyl

A minute later, I got Matthew’s attention and he came over. He seemed a bit surprised and disappointed when I said that my ride had arrived. We hugged and I told him to keep in touch with me if he thought of it, and he said to do the same. Then I headed back to the merch table to see if I could find any of the others and ran into Forrest. He was kind of all over the place and asked where my friends had gone. He wanted to party! We said farewell. Unfortunately I couldn’t find either Aimee or Chris.

And that was the end of my Interpol/Twin Tigers/sometimes Postelles Summer 2010 adventures. I had such a great time and met so many cool people. I would do it all again right now if I could. My next planned Interpol show is on my birthday in NYC. And maybe… maybe… I will see some more shows in the UK in December. Twin Tigers… you need to get your southern butts up here. I’ll see you guys later.

St. Vincent with tUnE-yArDs and Basia Bulat at Central Park Summerstage, 8/1/2010

The Interpol show at Toad’s Place in New Haven was great for so many reasons, not the least of which is that the photos that I took got picked up by and led to my being asked to cover St. Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, and Basia Bulat for them at Central Park Summerstage a week later. The show was on a Sunday, and I’m a fan of St. Vincent anyway–especially live. I’d photographed her once before, back in 2008 at the Middle East with none other than Basia Bulat. tUnE-yArDs was new to me, but came with my good friend Doug‘s endorsement, so the whole thing was really a no-brainer.

We’ve decided that it’s much nicer to approach New York by car from the North than it is to approach it from the South. From the North you pass through Scarsdale and that whole area, whereas from the South it’s all Jersey and tunnels. We arrived in time to pick up my pass, scope out the food and drink offerings, and generally get the lay of the land. We got a reasonable deal on parking in a garage practically across the street from Summerstage as well. There was a pretty cool booth set up–it may be there for all the shows–where you could buy custom silk-screened t-shirts. I realized once I got home that Merrill Garbus, the woman behind tUnE-yArDs, was purchasing a shirt when I was photographing the booth.

Merrill Garbus buying a shirtThe fabulous Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs) buying a custom-silkscreened t-shirt at Central Park Summerstage before her show with St. Vincent and Basia Bulat. Merrill, I promise that I took better pictures of you that day–see below!

There was a big photo pit, and quite a few other photographers were working the show. It was supposed to rain, but nary a drop fell all afternoon.

Basia Bulat exudes a genuine sweetness. She’s the kind of performer that you can describe as refreshing and not feel cheesy or cliched for saying it. I’m not positive, but it looked to me like she was playing with the same group she had assembled when we saw her back in 2008, including her brother on drums.

Basia Bulat at Central Park SummerstageBasia Bulat at Central Park Summerstage. Photo by Terri Wise,

Highlights for me were “In the Night” and “Before I Knew,” both from the album Oh, My Darling. The rest was good, too, but I admit that my previous familiarity with those two songs made them stand out for me.

Basia Bulat at Central Park SummerstageBasia Bulat. Photo by Terri Wise,

Next up was tUnE-yArDs. I think it would be fair to say that she pretty much stole the show. That’s saying something, because both Basia Bulat and St. Vincent played well.

tUnE-yArDs. Photo by Terri Wise,

People say she ratchets everything up a notch for her live performances, and now that I’ve heard her recorded material, I can vouch for that assessment. It’s not that the recordings aren’t enjoyable, but the live performance has significantly more kick, more fire. She drew in the crowd almost immediately and had everyone dancing, at one point jumping up and down, and cheering for more. When she sang “throw your money on the ground” in “Yes You,” I swear a few people were probably emptying their pockets.

tUnE-yArDstUnE-yArDs at Central Park Summerstage. Photo by Terri Wise,

Her set left me wondering what we can expect from her new record, which I believe she is finishing up as soon as she wraps up her current tour. If she captures half of what she showed live, the record’s going to be awfully good. Good friend Doug (mentioned above) pointed us to a live recording of a show she did at The Rock Shop in Brooklyn the next night. I HIGHLY recommend it.

It was a long afternoon, and though I was honestly starting to feel a little wiped out by the time St. Vincent got started, her set did not disappoint. What did disappoint a little bit was the sound. From where I was standing for most of her set–kind of off to the side–I couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong, but people were calling out for the sound guys to turn down the bass. It was a bit distracting, but I didn’t notice it after a while.

St. VincentSt. Vincent at Central Park Summerstage. Photo by Terri Wise,

Every time I see her perform I am struck both by her cuteness and by her seriousness as an artist. She assembled quite an impressive backing band–including, I realized toward the end of the show, Ian Hendrickson-Smith, a guy I knew briefly in school back in State College.

St. VincentSt. Vincent at Central Park Summerstage. Photo by Terri Wise,

I’d seen her on one of her first shows in support of her second album, Actor, and at that time the songs sounded perfectly fine to me–but just fine. As I would expect, the songs sound much better now that she’s been playing them live for a while. As before, the one older tune that she pulled out was “Your Lips Are Red,” which includes one of my favorite lines: “Your skin’s so fair, it’s not fair.” I know Actor was only released last year, and it’s a good album, but I find myself ready for new material from her.

The show wrapped up slightly early–just in time for us to get back to our car before the garage rate went up. On top of the show itself and the experience of photographing it (outdoors, in the daytime, which was good practice since I’m used to shooting in smaller, darker places at night), it was nice to just be in New York on a Sunday. I look forward to doing more of this sort of thing when the right opportunities present themselves.