Puttin' On The Ritz

More sophisticated by the second, etc.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Crack You'll Take The Lead, etc.

Hear ye, hear ye. Or something like that. I know it has been a bit cold, but we've been busy warming the spirits with some pretty killer performances of your favorite, timeless, Christmas carols.

December 18, 2004 -- 904 Bedford Avenue 6A, Brooklyn
Well, that address actually corresponds to my home. For the lucky few who managed to turn up, we performed in what normally functions as my kitchen and living room. I was a little disappointed that more people did not come, but I was pretty psyched about the people that did. We played what was perhaps our longest set of all time. Actually, no perhaps. It was our longest set ever, and it might be the longest set we ever play. Who knows what the future holds? Rock stardom? Drug addiction? Girlfriends? It remains unclear, as of press time. In any event, Kevin showed up with Tianna and Jolie and a snare drum. He quickly requisitioned the use of my roommate's conga or whatever kind of drum it is (that was reputedly used on a grammy award winning record, although I cannot seem to recall which one) and we went to town. We have a bunch of weird musical instruments lying about, so people kept picking shit up and playing along with us. I believe there was even a brief cameo made by a french horn, but I could be wrong. We played some Christmas songs, then some of our nightclub bit. People kept screaming for more songs of the holiday variety, so we kept them coming. I think Todd put a cymbal on his head for a bit, I've seen humans used for many things outside their nominal purpose, but I don't think I'd ever witnessed a human cymbal stand. It was a night of many firsts, maybe. Kevin even got to sing a number, but I'm not sure even he knew what it was. It was nice playing in the comfort of my own home, I highly recommend it. One of the added bonuses was that the crowd was not terribly hostile, which was a nice change of pace. This is not to say that we generally play to universally hostile audiences, but there is usually an element of that. So we got a break from people wanting to beat us up. We put out six copies of our Christmas album which were all quickly snatched up by our adoring fans, if you can call them that. As soon as we finished everyone left save myself and my roommate, both being residents. Bill put on a Love and Rockets record and then threw up all over our bathroom. I made some rice and beans and then passed out, only to be awoken the next morning by a crushing hangover.

December 20, 2004 -- Tommy's Tavern, Brooklyn
We played with The Weeds and Hope and Anchor. Quiet time stuff, which we fit in with by sort of being acoustic. Maybe. We played first and last, because playing multiple sets makes sense, somehow.

1st set: When we started playing there were three people in the room. This is the back room, mind you, where we had never actually played before. We've played at Tommy's many, many times, but never back there. A few more people drifted in, and by the end of the set there were three people watching us, as they all drifted out again. We weren't what they were expecting, apparently. I love playing "Jingle Bells" so much, I don't know why. Maybe it is because the song has a ridiculous number of verses than no one really knows about, it is like they're some really well kept secret. We try to let that secret out as much as possible, although I think we are limited by the fact that not that many people tend to watch us very closely. It doesn't matter. I'm still rolling around on the ground and screaming, and Kevin is still going apeshit or whatever it is he does on the drums. Todd brought us, like, three shots each during our set. I think everyone in the room was impressed with our ability to drink, which is one of our strong suits. I decided before the set that Kevin was going to sing "Frosty the Snowman". He was a little rattled when I started playing the drumbeat for "We Will Rock You", but he made it through the song mostly unscathed. The set ended with Kevin carrying me around the room, upside down, while I was trying to inform people that despite appearances, we had CDs available.

2nd set: Right before we went on, I realized Kevin was drunk. I realized this because he kept making up fake gangs that were going to beat us up if we played. Why he did this, I have no real idea. Kevin Shea is an enigma even to himself, I think, sometimes. We set up in the front room, where we feel a bit more comfortable. We dispensed with the holiday charm in favor of screaming the hits, if you can call them that. Well, they were hits for someone, anyway. We did attempt to take people down to Brazil (that is to say, we performed our glorious interpretation of "Girl From Ipanema", which Kevin seemed confused about for a second), where it is summertime and not so fucking cold. So cold! Monday Night Football was distracting a few members of the audience, and one dude got tossed out for being too drunk by another drunken woman. People were cheering, and then we sang a song about preferring ugly women to attractive ones. What that means, exactly, I forget. I will say that there was not a dry eye in the house for our moving rendition of "Rainbow Connection", although my own eyes were closed for most of it so I can't really say for sure. Where were you, on that cold winter night? If you are not Stephanie Wakefield, Alice Cohen, Mollie Lauffer, or Todd Patrick, then I either don't really know you or you weren't there. Well, Bridget (last name omitted because I don't know it) was working the door and seemed to enjoy herself as well, I suppose. Tommy was floating around, somewhere. I never change names to protect the innocent or the guilty, what sort of protection are you looking for from us? We're a bunch of lunatics! Take that, evildoers!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Brown Moles, etc.

December 10, 2004 -- Free 103.9, Brooklyn
Warren and I rolled over to see the closing party of something I don't really know all the details about. I do know that Tianna was mostly responsible for it, and she is leaving town shortly. I wanted to pay my respects, so to speak. I worry about Tianna sometimes, and I want to make sure she feels loved. Apparently Kevin feels similarly, as he showed up completely independently, and quite drunk to boot. He started screaming about how we were going to play a set. It didn't sound like the worst idea I'd ever heard, so I agreed. The only thing in the room resembling a drum was a pot. It wasn't even a very big pot. We were going to start playing when we were informed by the DJ that he had to play a Boston song first. As soon as the song started I realized that I had some serious business to attend to. Thus, as the song came to an end (and we were to begin playing), I found myself taking a pretty serious shit. Kevin was yelling into the mic about how I should turn up, and I was yelling back at him through the door that I was sort of in the middle of something. I tried to get him to bring a microphone into the bathroom so I could sing whilst I was, well, expelling waste. He did not seem to understand, so he continued rambling until someone put another song on. I knew I had to make some sort of grand entrance, and moreover I wasn't wearing our usual uniform. So I quickly washed my hands and removed my shirt before running up to the front of the room and grabbing the microphone. I announced that this was to be the best Puttin' On The Ritz set ever, and did my best to make it so. It certainly was the least planned set, and that is sort of saying quite a bit. Kevin was playing a small pot with his hands and I was screaming and rolling around with my shirt off. Please note that we opened with "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", despite the fact that it is Hannukah. About 75% of the people who might have watched us had wandered away whilst I was indisposed. What do we care? It's not like we were getting paid or were even asked to play. So we played two songs and decided to call it a night, or so we thought. Laura and Hannah were downstairs for our abbreviated set, and when they came back in they demanded that we play another one. We consented, although I left my shirt on for number two this time. I did make sure to become tangled up with Hannah on the floor whilst screaming "But Not For Me", as it seemed like a good idea at the time. She kept trying to stand up, although I can't say I was that interested in letting her. We quickly segued into "Strangers in the Night", which left me without much of a voice because I apparently screamed extensively. Alas. We five then went downstairs to continue drinking and discuss classic literature and Kevin's love life. I wore a funny scarf and Hannah complained about our fake failing marriage. Kevin tried to be serious but was too drunk to really be convincing. I was, of course, as charming as always. Don't you forget it, bitch.

I am so fucking tired right now. If you examine the hour at which this was posted, you might see why. It has been some sort of long, strange trip, or something to that effect anyway. It is well after 5am. Do you know where Kevin Shea is? I hope someone does, as there is still work to be done. Err, yeah.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

What's So Amazing That Keeps Us Stargazing, etc.

Today has been quite full, boys and girls. I'm still in that mode, a little bit.

December 4, 2004 -- Tank Annex, Manhattan
So we play La Suprette, this big (well, not as big as it sounds) cheap art bazaar sort of deal. We played ridiculously early, for us anyway. A full twelve hours before we are used to performing, in fact. So there was a dearth of drinking, which we are not entirely used to. As the whole event was advertised as being kid friendly, we played a set the consisted entirely of childrens songs and christmas tunes. We are playing christmas tunes all of this month, after all. Kevin was really into the idea, and who I am to argue with genius? Kevin, of course, turned up at the last possible second. The high art dance troupe was getting uptight with us, as they were scheduled to go on at 2:30pm on the dot and could not deal with any possible delays; they were not at all concerned with certain drummers forgetting their wallets at home and thus turning up later than they were supposed to. We were allowed to perform, and were in fact allowed to play more songs than we intially intended. I guess our songs aren't actually all that long, despite the fact that jingle bells has far more verses than you could possibly imagine. The kids seemed a bit perplexed, but didn't seem to be having a bad time. The parents especially seemed to enjoy it, as it was a set that was friendly to children of all ages. I only wish that I knew the songs a bit better, you'd be surprised how little of these songs you know beside the chorus, and we only had one practice to get it straight. Towards the end of the set Todd comes up to me and whispers "You know you're playing for Bjork right now, right?" So the first show we ever played for anyone famous was early in the afternoon and consisted of songs we didn't know very well, tis the season or otherwise. We were not daunted, and I didn't even inform Kevin of the fact until later. He very quickly embellished the story, apparently. Bjork will be sitting in with us before you know it. Here is how I see the exchange:

"Hey. We're in this band that you totally dig already. How would you feel about sitting in with us? We can't pay you or anything, and we need, like, two rehearsals. We can maybe split subway fare or something with you, if you need it."
"Cool. I've been wanting to play at Tommy's Tavern at 2am super bad, so that sounds great."

That wasn't really how it went. I don't think she walked over and watched us at all, but she couldn't help but hear us. We would be less excited if we were used to pop stars being at our shows, but that really hasn't happened so much. We don't get a lot of press. But we do have fun. I tried dancing with one of the little girls up front during one of our songs and apparently scared the shit out of her. She wasn't quite ready for it, I suppose. She seemed to warm up a bit when I was rolling around on the ground, reputedly she was even laughing. I'm that easily amused, as well. Todd talked us into doing one of our regular tunes, which I introduced as being a part of our regular nightclub act, like we are professionals or something. I mean, we are pretty good at what we do, but being professional implies that you make some amount of money off it. We have not so far, according to my accounting anyway. In fact, Puttin' On The Ritz still owes me $15. But I had the great pleasure of getting to sing Rainbow Connection, which might be my favorite song right now. It seemed to go over well with children and parents alike. You can't really fuck with Kermit the Frog, methinks.

After our set we went and recorded our christmas album. It is totally killer. It will not be widely available, so get in touch if you want one. Happy Christmas from Puttin' On The Ritz, indeed. Sleep well, my friends.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Apologies And Salutations, etc.

I am quite tired, my friends. This often happens the morning after a show. Perhaps I should take it easy on the sauce and the stress, but I suppose that should go without saying.

November 30, 2004 -- Trash, Brooklyn
Well, it was supposed to be at Tommy's Tavern. Cop on Fire made it through their set, but then Kylesa went on and the cops turned up. They said if they came back, they were going to seize everyone's gear. Todd made a phone call, and the show was quickly moved to Trash. Somehow, about 75% off the attendees made the move, although several Puttin' On The Ritz fans abandoned ship. A few more did turn up later, however. I managed to make a bit of an ass of myself. Why do I always stress out so much about our shows? It would appear that I am stressing out about having a good time. It is easy to be rational about these things after the fact, but much more problematic when it is all happening live and in person. I snapped at Kevin Shea and Sophie Churchill, but I think it was because they caught me right in the height of my hysteria. I sincerely apologize to them and anyone else my brief bad mood might have incovenienced. I managed to calm down, somehow. Of course, it wasn't until after I had failed to enjoy myself because I was so worried about everything being perfect, when in fact part of our charm is that we often fail to even approach perfection. We work with what we have. So, we waited for Cheeseburger, Kylesa, and Big Business to play before we began our set. This was somewhere in the neighborhood of 2am or so, give or take a few minutes because I had been drinking. We played in the front room, but somehow it was not nearly as friendly as the front room at Tommy's. Maybe it was because the owner didn't like us so much, whereas all the Tommy's employees do. To prove just how much he disliked us, he kept the music playing throughout our entire set, going so far as to actually turning up the volume towards the end. What did we do? We soldiered on, even taking a request (we took two for the night, I guess our modus operandi of not taking requests has been forgotten), lengthening our set for the believers. It was a bit intimidating, playing so late for a mostly uninterested crowd, but what can you do? I looked out and saw Kristy and Joe and Joel and Tianna and probably some other people and they all looked pretty stoked, they all had smiles on their faces. For some reason, the people who really love us (and we love you too, believe you me) enjoy our sets more when the atmosphere is a bit hostile. Joel remarked that he always feels like he is going to have to get in a fight with someone whilst we are playing, that they are going to get so pissed off at us that it will come to blows. His words were, I believe, "What, you got a problem with 'It Had To Be You'?" Before we began our set, some dudes were about to rack up a game of pool. The pool table was conveniently located some inches from where we were performing. I tried to tell the dude that he might want to wait until after we finished to play his game, and then he started telling me to be cool and asked why a young gentleman like himself was not entitled to a healthy game of pool. I informed him that he could do whatever he wanted, but that his game would probably be interrupted. At one point I started rolling around on the table and knocking their balls all out of place, and I think he eventually got the point. As soon as our set ended they set the balls back up, and calmly began a new game. He was warned, wasn't he? Hadn't he ever heard of us before? This is what we do! But we are not all about bragging and moxie. We are humble men, mostly. Well, I am neurotic, mostly. Kevin is on another planet, mostly. We occasionally meet at The Hub, as that is where good friends meet, after all. Be afraid, be very afraid, or something to that effect. More on that later, etc.

A little note to all of you out there who choose to read this. Hello. That is not the note, however. The note is that I occasionally go back and edit posts. You may or may not have noticed this, I cannot tell. I like reading over them once some time has passed, and sometimes I will remember some details that I had forgotten, or find a mispelled word, or a grammatical error. If I feel like it, I might fix it. That is to say, the text might change from time to time. I feel no shame in this, as I am trying to compile an historical record here. It is not about sentiment, it is about sex (although there has been a dearth of that), drugs (well, alcohol in large quantities anyway), and rock and roll (if you can consider jazz standards rock and roll, which we may or may not do). Then again, maybe it is about sentiment. I can't really tell anymore. Suffice it to say that we are slightly out of our heads, one way or another, a good deal of the time. You can make of that as you will, my dear and gentle readers. Do not read too deeply into things, or else.

Special thanks for this show go out to Sophie Churchill, for trying to calm me down; Paula Zaslavsky, for actually calming me down; and Todd P for letting me use his car and his mic and just generally helping us out, as he has extensively throughout our career. Without him, we would have played nowhere near our now staggering 35 shows nor would we be enjoying our current level of success (if you can call it that). So I guess you can say Todd gets extra special thanks, if you want. It doesn't really matter that much to me what you want to call it, but if it means that much to you, go ahead. Thank you to all our friends who came to Tommy's even if they didn't make it to Trash; thank you to all our friends who came to Trash even if they couldn't stay until we played; and to all of you who stayed, a hug and a kiss from the member of your choice, should you so choose. Use of tongue is discretionary on the part of Kevin or myself. To those of you who didn't make it at all, we still love you, although we'd like to see you making a bit more effort. Simply reading the blog is a poor substitute for seeing Kevin and I in the flesh; you miss out on all the things I'm forgetting and/or lying about. I'm not quite sure what award I just accepted, but I hope it sounded heartfelt. Thank you, goodnight.