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Dresden Dolls Concert-Halloween 2010 Part 1

 It’s a breezy but sunny day as I ride the train to Penn Station in New York City for a very special concert, The Dresden Dolls are playing Irving Plaza. It is the bands 10th anniversary but also the reunion of the band after a three-year hiatus. Today is Halloween and there are more than a few 20 somethings on the train heading for parties in clubs and bars, maybe even a few are going to see the Dresden Dolls. For those of you that don’t know, I’ll tell you.

 The Dresden Dolls are Amanda Palmer; lead singer, keyboardist and songwriter and iconoclast and Brian Viglione; drummer, guitarist, bassist, pantomime/actor and everything Amanda is not. The pair make unique duo that serves up some of the best indie rock music you’ll ever hear while still maintaining the underground feel of a club band known only to a few. Amanda calls their music Brechtian punk-caberet, but that is only to dodge the label of Goth, punk is a term that could be a little mis-leading, since their music is nothing like The Sex Pistols or any other punk band. The lyrics are where the Dolls take a great turning away from the typical punk bands anger and violence. Amanda’s songs; some going back to her high school days, are about life, love and loss. Whether talking about how sex changes you or about a 17-year-old paraplegic girl in love with a 22-year-old german man she’s never met (based on a true story) , Amanda gives us slices of life, some are like cold pizza, hard and chewy, others are straight from the oven, hot and fresh, scolding hot but always good. This is definitely music that takes some thought to digest properly, while still being very listenable straight-up rock n roll.

 The Dolls attract an eclectic crowd of punks, Goths, hipsters, performance artist/circus types and others who like the whole concept of “dark-caberet”. This is a style  the Dolls along with other groups; most notably “Black Tape for a Blue Girl” have developed since the early nineties,  Brian has also played with them. During the last three years Amanda & Brian have been on a break, after seven years of touring together constantly the pair who had shared much passion on stage and off had decided they needed some space. So without actually going through the formality of a rock divorce the un-married pair who fought just like a married couple went to pursue other solo ambitions, but the band never officially split up. When I first became a fan in 2008 I never thought this day would happen, I was driving and listening to an interview with Amanda about her use of the internet and sites such as Twitter to promote her music, sometimes scheduling impromptu performances and announcing them on Twitter at the last-minute!

 I have all the cd’s and videos, heck I even have the companion song books the band put out for the first three albums, complete with pictures, history, photos, and the sheet music for piano, guitar and vocals. Most of the Dresden Dolls music is just piano and drums, but for a short time they had a guitarist and bassist and a few songs reflect this. I try to play along with my fledgling guitar skills and fantasize about playing live or being in a cover band. But at 48 that ship sailed long ago and I’m not on it.

 This past week has not been too good, my brother lost his job and my mom is in much pain with her hip which is probably bursitis, but we don’t know yet. My folks got stuck with the car and had to have it towed to the gas station and got a new starter put in-ouch dollarwise, and I had to put a new power steering pump in my car and lost a days pay in the process,. The early word is no Xmas bonus this year, not because my company’s doing poorly, but rather because the millionaires I work  for are building an eight bedroom house in the mountains, so the money got spent on their happiness. So I really need a good time out, I know I have to stop dwelling on the negatives, but at this rate the negatives are outweighing the positives three to one. But enough about me.

  Penn Station is like a giant costume party, you know when the guests have just arrived and are still trying to get their bearings and find their friends, right before diving in to the mini-bar (there’s a reference for the fans), dozens of young and older people are heading to parties and bars are out dressed as everything you can imagine. There are guys dressed like  Star Wars, Scooby Doo, Jack O’Lanterns, Cupid. A few girls are Zombie prom queens, Supergirl, Arabian belly dancers with  Zoot-suit wearing cool cats, prison inmates, and on and on. I come up from below to a cool city at dusk and start walking to Park Ave and then turn right to head downtown. I’m a little cold but still stop to eyeball a few menu’s along the way. I pass a place called Artisanal on E. 32nd between Park and Madison that features cheeses and wines but also boasts an eclectic French menu with Duck Bourgingnon for $29.50! That’s not bad really for New York but I don’t have the money or the appetite. Earlier at home I made some very nice crepes with mushroom, Goat cheese, and leftover chicken. They came out OK but the sauce was missing heavy cream and butter,which I left out for health reasons but they were at least tasty and filling.

 So I continue on my journey, offering to take a picture of a couple dressed as a sexy pirate and a murderous looking giant pumpkin headed monk who had been trying to take a shot themselves. I take a few pics and continue on checking out L’Express, another French place on E 20th & Park, a simple menu but old cafe style signage and a feel of old Parisian bistros. Then I see  just ahead is Irving Place and turning left I find Irving Plaza easily and see that the line stretches down the block and around the corner! By now I need a loo and it’s a little too cold to stand outside so a check of the local watering holes is in order, so I walk back the way I came to check out a few places I passed.

 There is an altercation going on between a cabbie in a white knit hat sitting inside his cab, and a European sounding man who speaks english but sounds French or rather Italian. The man is dressed in black leather and looks like a Jim Morrison type, he is yelling at the cabbie for some reason and starts to punctuate his words with repeated kicks to the door of the cab. Down the block I find a cool looking bar, but I am almost instantly driven out by the din of noise over the football game and the rabid fans watching it on TV, I move on to find a good spot but seeing none I walk back.  I guess it’s about 15 minutes later and this time I’m on the same side of the street as the loud spectacle from before. I pass the scene with new cast members including the police! They appeared out of nowhere apparently. The “Euro Man” is now in handcuffs, his very attractive girlfriend is remonstrating with the police, pointing out to them that the door of the cab looks perfectly fine (which I can vouche for) and her man should be released. Meanwhile, Euro Man seems perfectly calm at these developments and stands now chatting as if he could break free and fly away like Superman whenever he wishes. I continue on not wishing to see what the final outcome will be, besides I can already guess.

  But there is a lesson for you. Glen’s Rule Number Three: If your ever in New York City, don’t under any circumstances kick a cabbie’s door repeatedly! That is unless you like handcuff’s! So by roundabout ways I find myself sitting in a typical Irish pub in New York. It’s got the typical  wood floors and tables with shades of green walls, a loud mix of music and five TV’s showing sports.The bartender at one end is dressed like Zorro, and the girl at the other end wears only a football jersey, some people have no creativity. The crowd is loud, middle-aged and features mostly non-costumed people save for one girl at the bar. I sip a cold Stella Artois or two, savoring the rare treat of imported beer and write at a corner table, while I wait for the doors to open at Irving Plaza. I can remember when this type of place was a second home to me, and I spent lots of money and many hours carousing with friends and looking for love. But now the bar scene is different, the smokers leave to go outside and come back in to their drinks a few minutes later. When I was still hanging out you could still smoke in a bar! I still miss it sometimes, I guess it’s oral sensation or hand to mouth need. I’m starting to think it’s time to leave but it’s warm and cozy in here, but actually I need more money so I leave a tip and gather myself for the long wait on-line. I pass by the seated patrons who are here for the night and step into the chill night air and make my way back to the show.

Bonsoir Comrades


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Duffy Concert-Oct 22nd 2008

A cold night for travel but it’s my last concert of the 2008 and as I board my train I think how much I miss the warm weather of this most glorious summer. A quiet ride tonight with commuters, some reading books or newspapers, a few seats away an old black man reads a small bible. For the last two days at work we’ve been under siege and I need a night out badly, so I call Webster Hall to find out when Duffy is going on-9:15 good. That will give me time to get there and have some supper, once again I flew home and showered, changed and ran out the door. I can’t decide whether or not to eat in Penn Station or just get to my destination and eat there.

  What a contrast to the warm weather last week when I went to the Mercury Lounge and was uncomfortable in my denim jacket, tonight I’m cold in my three quarter length winter coat complete with my black beanie cap with it’s silver dragon on it, this my brother calls my Tom Warrior (of Celtic Frost fame) look, especially since he was teaching me some CF chords on guitar a few nights ago. I will be sick as a dog by the time I get home from work on Friday but right now I feel good and munch some fund raising chocolate that I bought from a kid in Hicksville Station with a coffee to warm me up. I wait to change trains at Jamaica Station to make a little more time, the platform is full of anxious people waiting to get to where their going and the train is a little late. Some pace back and forth, a girl flirts with her boyfriend (they need to get a room…fast), while others complain on cell phones to somebody who probably wishes they hadn’t answered and are figuring out an exit strategy, yet others just read the paper and wait-the veterans take it all in stride. The train arrives and whisks us off to Penn Station rapidly building up speed till we arrive-I’ve got two hours before the show.

 When I come up the stairs I immediately go up the Eighth Ave escalator and as I ride up I feel the air grow colder and I shiver as I walk out into the plaza, as usual the sights and sounds of the city rush at you like a freight train going by at full throttle, the cool breeze growing stronger as I walk to the taxi stand. The smell of exhaust is replaced by the vendor selling Gyro’s, Shish-Ka-Bob, and all manner of cooked meats and veg to go on Pita bread or hero, but I decide to eat in the Village instead, no Al-Fresco for me tonight.

 A short,quick taxi ride drops me off at Webster Hall, I haven’t been here in years so I head for the nearest main street where the glow of lights and neon promises a good but cheap meal is on the way. Here in this Asian part of the city you can find some upscale Sushi or Chinese food, and if you have the money you can enjoy what I’m sure is some of the finest dinning experiences money can buy (although I’m sure Anthony Bourdain could top these places) they look pretty good to me from afar-I’m not dressed for this and cheap sit down is what my tiredly cold body wants right now. I see across the street is a place called “Saint Alps Tearoom” and after looking at the window menu… I go in. The place is small and simple yet somehow elegant in a downscale college student sort of way, the tables are dark red laquered wood with small round stools to match, not made for large backsides I’m thinking as I’m directed to a corner table with my back to the wall and as I peruse the menu I scan the room. The place is packed and from my vantage point I can see that except for two Freshman girls-everyone here is Asian, a good sign. The menu is quite extensive for a fast food joint, they offer all sorts of deep fried goodness, Yakitori, noodle bowls, rice bowls and all sorts of tea to wash it down, hot tea, milk tea, bubble tea, a fascinating array of teas. I sit and watch with interest as college students hunch over flatscreens, and young couples cuddle or playfully tease each other and laugh their fingers intertwined like wrestlers-the playful power struggle that is love-testing each others waters, hoping for the calm seas of bliss but learning to weather the storms of each others personalities, I’ve been there before-I’m jealous but at the same time happy to be free of the struggle. Such is the duality of my nature.

 My food arrives and I’m impressed by the speed and the presentation, the Deep Fried Cuttlefish Balls are arranged on a piece of parchment with a little slivered cabbage as a garnish in the irregular Bakelite dish where one small square compartment at the end holds some fine ground salt-it is crispy and the sweet white fish is meaty and good, no sauce is present- it doesn’t need any. The Spicy Pork Rice bowl is another revelation, an Asian meat ragu spooned over sticky rice garnished with a half of a tea egg, a small steamed hand of Bok-Choy cut in half, a few slices of a bright yellow radish and some slivers of hot red pepper-all artfully arranged. The smoky slightly sweet spicy pork is a savory contrast to the mild sticky rice and the ginger mike tea is a very strong spicy opposite to the sweet fish and rice. It’s good and cheap and I’m really really glad I didn’t eat in Penn Station. I pay the check and for now it’s cash only so I have to hit a cash machine… I may want a drink later. The wind kicks up and I close my coat and walk back to Webster Hall warmed from my meal and pass by the upscale place I passed before and glance at the people paying twenty five bucks for a few pieces of Sushi and shake my head-you don’t know what your missing.
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