The Stain Bar is a cozy little joint a block away from the Grand St. subway station in Brooklyn. On this night, they had a special on mulled wine, which was nice for the throat before singing. The courtyard is decorated with a giant sculpture of a quarter, with George Washington's profile fashioned from what appears to be old auto parts. To the left, various artists (or is it one artist with many moods?) have contributed to a graffiti mural (which may still be a work in progress) with fire-breathing monster men, sultry mermaids and more. The room itself is full of comfortable couches you can sink into. Behind the bar is a turntable on which the bartenders spin old vinyl by the Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, and Lou Reed.
Gradually, the place began filling with people: Beard friends, relatives, and sweethearts; and, most gratifyingly, strangers who showed up because they read about it in the listings. There was a good write-up in the AM Metro that helped bring the people in, though Daryl was disappointed that the writer used all of his least favorite interview quotes in the piece. That's a Murphy's Law of journalism one should always allow for: they will always end up using your worst quotes, so be as brilliant as you can to journalists (without trying too hard...that can bring on the lameness if you're not careful). With L. Cohen on tour right now, excitement about his work is running high, which makes it a good time for the Beards to be on the road.
We did a full set, including some smaller group pieces like "Suzanne", the arrangement of which was changed again, just before the show. (And what an arrangement it is, a quintet with Daryl himself as lead tenor and staggered wordless harmonies that actually sound like boats rolling along the river!) We also laid out while various small groupings did "In My Secret Life" (my first time hearing this) and "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On", a supremely ridiculous, rollicking potboiler from Death Of A Ladies' Man, Leonard's ill-fated, lush & lusty Phil Spector collaboration. Later after our set I brought up the over-the-top doo-wop ode to adolescent hormones, "Memories", my favorite song from that same album which is currently in rotation on Ear Candle Radio (there's also a very sparse voice/piano version by the Extra Glenns on their Martial Arts Weekend CD which we've played in the past) and was told more than once "You should do an arrangement! You can get some help from some of the others if you need it!" to which I said, "that'd be fun, maybe a ways down the road, when I feel ready." It would certainly bring down the house to have the Beards do THAT one.
Other than my dissatisfaction with my part on "First We Take Manhattan" (I'm switching from the low baritone part to the high one; there may more guts in my voice in that range, I think), the set went swimmingly. We had our first successful live version of "Land Of Plenty", and I think we're all feeling like we got over a big hump there. It was a sweet evening, and the subway got me back to Chelsea like a charm. Then my darling rang my cell phone just as I opened the door to my room. Perfect.
Woke up early this morning and jumped on the southbound E train to keep my promise to check out Ground Zero and videotape what's there now. What's there is a well blocked off construction site surrounded by blue fences and barbed wire to keep out the snoopers, while cranes diligently raise and lower themselves and cement trucks pass through the security entrance. The area is dotted with camera-wielding tourists, myself included, all seeking some sort of epiphany. Across Liberty St. is a museum devoted to 9/11, but the walking tour did not fit today's tight schedule. But being present there did conjure up the same "is that all there is?" feeling that ends Wim Wenders' Land Of Plenty, which I can now draw from my memory banks when the choir performs the title song. At least the scene hasn't been turned into a grotesque monument to patriotic kitsch yet. Overall impression: New York has moved on, thank you very much. And if you're gonna just stand there gawking, you might as well come in and buy some memorabilia already.
On to the Highline Ballroom, where the boys have an afternoon show. A nice mid-sized rock club it is too, perhaps analogous to Slim's in SF. (Maybe a bit smaller than the Great American Music Hall.) We share the bill with Peter Whitehead, a former Beard doing a solo set playing folkish music with instruments he created and built himself like a 10-string sort of guitar-mandolin hybrid. We performed two sets, served by a good sound system, which compelled us to lean towards subtlety. I did my best to blend and not stick out. There were some beautiful moments.
The audience was seated at tables, a bit polite at first, cheering and whooping by the end. (Do I need to tell you how good that feels?) They went wild for "Hallelujah". Of course, who doesn't love "Hallelujah"? I really appreciate that in our arrangement, we sing "do ya" and not "do you" in the first verse, unlike most interpreters of the song. (Jeff Buckley, please rise up from the grave so that you may receive your well-deserved spanking!) [UPDATE: Leonard himself sang "you" at the Paramount on April 15! I still prefer "ya", though.]
Next on today's busy agenda: the Bowery Poetry Club, followed rapidly by a loft party in Brooklyn. Zounds! I should know these songs pretty well by the time the night is over.