(This set list was appropriated from Robin Banks, the lucky owner!)
So we did it. We had six nights of rock (or pop) in seven nights. two in D.C., one at Maxwell’s, and three at the Bell House in Brooklyn, NY. it was total euphoria and ecstasy and emotional and all just completely great in every way. Mike from Black Tambourine tore off a finger in D.C., a few other BTs had stomach flu, many had terrible allergies, Pam had an ankle injury, and nearly everyone who attended all six shows lost their voices and had “retail feet” at some point! By Wednesday, April 11, I was nearly laryngitic. When I flew back home on Friday, April 13, I was so cloggy and allergic I lost hearing in one ear and I still have not regained it all! If it weren’t for all the dopamine we were hopped up on, we would not have survived.
Friday, April 6: Tonight was Stevie Jackson, Frankie Rose, Honey Bunch, Dot Dash, and special guest The Pines (featuring Black Tambourine singer / CF cofounder Pam Berry & the Foxgloves’ Joe Brooker). Watching the Pines with Pam’s daughters Ava and Lulu was a highlight in both D.C. and New York. They already have a hunch that they totally lucked out in the mom department, and now they got to see mom (er, mum) up there singing like an angel along with Joe. The Pines did a quickie special guest set in D.C. but it was just delightful. Dot Dash, featuring Terry Banks of Tree Fort Angst and glo-worm, was super great and sold a million T-shirts. Stevie ended up joining forces with Honey Bunch on their set and vice versa (he said it was like playing with the Velvets don’tcha know), and how great was that? Worlds collide. I don’t think I’d heard the chickfactor song live since 1998 at the Supper Club in NY! The only issue with the venue was that it never quite seemed loud enough, except during soundcheck. Frankie Rose did all the hits and closed out the night with her cool pop combo. Dan Searing (of glo-worm, Big Jesus Trash Can, Saturday People) was the charmingly loquacious MC and booze coordinator for both nights. I only wish I’d been in town earlier to attend a party at the Pines, where parties are legendary. The age group tonight ranged from age 5 to 78 btw. chickfactor attracts a diverse clientele. (food diary: lunch veggie mezza at Lebanese Taverna Market, dinner a big salad)
Saturday, April 7: Tonight was Black Tambourine, Lilys, Fan Modine, Lorelei and special guest LD Beghtol (backed by some guys from Black Tambourine / Lorelei). LD is the bearish gent out of Flare, who also was a guest singer on 69 Love Songs and chickfactor’s art director in the later years (when the photos started looking amazing). I had asked him to do some covers of songs by Crash, an amazing late-80s, early-90s pop group featuring singer Mark Dumais (who died 20 years ago) and guitarist Kurt Ralske (of Ultra Vivid Scene). I learned about Crash from Pam and Mike and the Black Tambourine/Slumberland crew 21 years ago and LD has a great voice for singing those songs. He did a few Crash tunes, a Flare song and a Jesus and Mary Chain tune, and oh my god “Everything Under the Sun” was one of the most compelling live music moments in years. Really was so great and so happy to see LD backed with a bunch of Crash fans. D.C.’s Lorelei made everyone swoon by covering the Pale Saints and being generally foxy, and while they were plenty loud during soundcheck in an empty room, I would have liked to hear them even louder (this was one of our main concerns with the venue all weekend). The Fan Modine came up from NC to play some hits and sounded super-rad, though I prefer hearing them when things quiet down more. Lilys mainstay Kurt Heasley played solo, which sounded pretty ace, even if I have to admit it would have been great to have him backed up with a band on a few of those classic tunes from his rich, rich back pages (why are these not all reissued? what is wrong with the world?). The first moments of the Black Tambourine show were just dead exciting. It just moved me to near-tears seeing them up there! I was one of the lucky few back in the day (1991 ish) to see them live, but tonight! you could hear the vocals! the venue was, well, basically an art gallery and wasn’t always ideal (too bright, not always loud enough) but I was more than chuffed to finally be seeing these guys play live again (set list above, natch). “Aggi” was a highlight for sure! (food diary: again! Lebanese Taverna with the family; dinner: salad and a giant iced coffee)
Sunday, April 8: Day off from rocking. I had not enough sleep, took Amtrak north and guess who randomly sat next to me? Stephen Lorelei’s mom! Crazy. She was telling other people on the train about the CF20 show! Along with my mom, she made it to the event, which was great. I got off the train in Newark, Gaylord Fields picked me up, we stopped and chowed on a few giant vegan sandwiches, and then we did his radio show together, with me getting to play all the records! What a dream come true! He seemed to enjoy what I played, which isn’t surprising as we have similar (um, perfect!) taste in music. (food diary: we went to Angelica Kitchen! Where I would have many meals this week and where Lupe Pipas met us and hung out too)
Monday, April 9: Tonight was Black Tambourine, Fan Modine, Rose Melberg and special guest Musical Chairs. Downtime became a rare and valuable commodity this week, we realized after not having nearly enough. Today we were out at Maxwell’s in Hoboken by 5pm or something, and the classic venue lived up to its reputation as being one of the finest venues in the nation in every way (apart from the food maybe). Once I had some superpowerfulmagic spanish ibuprofen powder (thanks to Lupe), I overcame my giant allergy migraine and had a spectacular night. We all sat down and had dinner together, which was really fun. We hadn’t seen Ian from Musical Chairs in ages, and he played a short set of jangly kinda pop! Rose melted my heart by doing Kirsty MacColl’s classic “They Don’t Know” which many people know from Tracey Ullman, along with doing a handful of Tiger Trap songs! Fan Modine and Black Tambourine fared better in this environment — this is the kind of venue made for this music! I was woo-ing like a crazy Beatles fangirl and just completely losing my voice, it was so fun to watch them with Lupe and Gaylord and all our pals. Really super fun. MC Gaylord Fields was just as funny and entertaining as he is on the radio! (food diary: lunch with Loops at Candle Cafe on the Upper East Side; dinner at Maxwell’s, I think I had a veggie burger, it was not terrifically memorable)
Tuesday, April 10: Tonight was Black Tambourine, Small Factory, Versus, The Lois Plus, Dump and Mark Robinson (last two were special guests). What a lineup, holy crap. I think I probably would have put SF & BT on different nights originally but Dave SF specifically requested this lineup, and I really wanted them to play so… Dump did a proper set of tunes including their stunning version of the Pacific Ocean’s “Last Minute,” Prince’s “Pop Life” and a few of their own classics like “Superpowerless” (or what Dawn calls “Pants on the floor” or something). Dump said if it weren’t for chickfactor they probably wouldn’t play live, which is crazy! Mark Robinson was going to be there anyway and Unrest couldn’t do a proper set but wowed the kids (and the oldies) with just two perfect tracks: “Isabel” and “Yes, She Is My Skinhead Girl” so so great, love that guy! Miss Maffeo played with The Would-Be-Goods’ Peter Momtchiloff and Bratmobile’s Molly Neuman on drums, and it was just so perfect. “Rougher” was a highlight, as was “Strumpet.” Lois, as always, delighted the audience with badinage and persliflage. One would never suspect this lady has stagefright issues! Versus gave it to you. Richard and Fontaine looked foxy in their suits and Margaret is near the bursting point; Richard joked that they were my third choice (which is true: Containe & the Pacific Ocean were asked first, and it’s pretty hard to conceal that information from Versus, it’s all the same people!) They gave us exactly what we wanted: a trip back to the early 90s! Oh god, my heart was already overflowing when Small Factory hit the stage, delivering nothing but their ultracharming pop energy, including “Suggestions,” one of the top pop songs ever. Black Tambourine played their third & final reunion show and it was mind-blowing, heart-warming, just amazing, so great. This venue was perfect for everything, especially being able to see and hear from anywhere despite your height. Just perfect! MC Gaylord Fields had nothing but witty, erudite things to say as always, I wish we’d had him properly miked up so we could go back and hear it all.(food diary: lunch at Angelica Kitchen, special no. 2; dinner: vegan panini from S’nice and I didn’t realize how walking over there would seriously cut into my duties as promoter; note to self: next time: hire more interns!)
Wednesday, April 11: Tonight was The Aislers Set, Pipas, Bridget St John, The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, and special guests LD Beghtol backed by some Lorelei/Black T types and John Lindaman from True Love Always. John TLA just came out and did “Mediterranean” the excellent pop track his group contributed to the chickfactor mixtape comp from 2002. LD & the gang did their Crash and J&MChain covers and Flare song along with a Ben Watt-sung EBTG tune, the first of many EBTG references this evening! The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, or the Jim Ruiz Set as they may now be known, just blew us away with their midwestern pop genius. Highlights included “Goodbye to All That” and “Valentine”, such a great set! Bridget performed beautifully and made a lot of people well up. We loved hearing “Mon Gala Papillons,” something she was inspired to write after hearing the name of our 2004 London festival of that name, which was inspired by a Jacques Lartigue photo. The Brooklyn/London duo Pipas haven’t played anywhere in years, and made the crowd so happy. They did so many hits. I really love those guys! The Aislers Set played a better set than I have ever seen them play, and I found myself wondering: Why, as a society, we ever allowed this fan-effing-tastic pop group to disband? What the hell? the Dubya era killed so many good things, and this was one of them. They did nothing but hits. Apparently they have nothing but hits! And they were just on fire tonight, ask anyone. The video doesn’t really even capture the greatness. But wow, wow. And Peter Momtchiloff commented how this music being played this week doesn’t feel like it’s just about the past, but also about the present and the future. So true. Professor / film critic / indie nerd Sukhdev Sandhu was the MC tonight and he was irresistible as always albeit a bit quiet in his subtle Britishness. (food diary: lunch at Angelica Kitchen; dinner at S’nice)
Thursday, April 12: Tonight was Stevie “Belle and Sebastian” Jackson, HoneyBunch, The Softies, the Pines, and three! special guests Franklin Bruno, Ladybug Transistor and Fan Modine. Someone noticed that all the special guests were, uh, boys! I did try for some ladies, I’ll have it be known that Mascott, Jennifer O’Connor, The Cover Girls, Laura Cantrell, the Naysayer were among those on the list but for various reasons they could not! The manguests were super anyway — Franklin did after all play at our very first CF party with live music in 1993. Ladybug did a few fine Nordic-tinged Brooklyn tunes, and Fan Modine did a couple ace covers. Again, watching the Pines with Ava, Lulu and Bix Madell may have been one of the festival highlights for me. The paparazzi could not get enough! It felt really special to see the Pines doing a proper set in a proper venue in New York — about time! The Softies hadn’t played in 12 years and that was hard to believe because they just sound so fresh! HoneyBunch and Stevie did their collaborative thing again tonight and it was bliss. Stevie ended up with a real interactive fun set drawing the audience in and making them love him even more. We were at a chickfactor show and we were all singing our hearts out to Stevie’s cover of “Rocket Man” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. MC Phoebe Bluesky Summersquash was on hand to keep the audience entertained, man, she is a good one. In case you didn’t know who HoneyBunch wrote “Hey Bluesky” about, now you do. The whole week just filled me with so much love, luck, dopamine, euphoria, pop love, friend love, I know I sound dorky but who cares. All that was missing was more time so we could all have spent more quality time together. Pam and I didn’t even get to go shopping like the olden days. In fact the New York economy would have fared better had she been able to shop instead of just rehearsing! (food diary: lunch at Angelica; hummus sandwich with the kids from S’nice)
I got thanked an awful lot and CF did and I did work hard but it took a village to pull this thing off. Next stop: Portland, Oregon! May 30 at Bunk Bar featuring The Softies, Joe Pernice, Lois, and Selector Dub Narcotic. Later this year: San Francisco, Los Angeles and London, and maybe Chicago! (Sorry, kids, Black Tambourine not likely to play those dates)
• Here is a piece about chickfactor in the Washington City Paper, where Pam and I met. WCP also had some post-show commentary and photos.
• And an interview with Black Tambourine in the Washington Post, Mark Jenkins’ review of the BT night, and another article here
• And an interview with Pam on Refinery 29 & an interview with Gail in Capital New York and one with NBC’s Nonstop Sound
• This is a photographic document of our D.C. shows in Paste
• The DCist writes up the Black Tambourine Artisphere night and they interviewed Dot Dash as well
• Brooklyn Vegan reviewed some bands and missed others, nice photos here (Bell House April 10, Bell House April 11 and Bell House April 12)
• Maura’s nice writeup in the Voice and her post-show technology commentary related to my attempt at getting people to put their cell phones away during the shows
• Vinyl District did some nice coverage here
• Brightest Young Things’ kooky Stevie Jackson interview and some nice post-show coverage
• Here are some items from Killer Femme, The L Magazine, Exclaim, Pitchfork, Reverb City, NPR Intern Edition, TBD, TimeOut NY, New York Times, Yale Daily News, Express Night Out, South County Music, Eardrum NYC and Orange Juice in Bishops Garden
• Photographs from Verbicide, Brad Searles, Shantel Mitchell, Erica Bruce, Andrew Bulhak, Kyle Gustafson, Frances Chung, Sean, and Caren Parmalee.
• Videos from Bleary Eyed Brooklyn, Rawkblog, Vimeo and Youtube here.