Picture this: small, downtown club, brick wall, stage lighting. Onstage, a singer plays piano and banjo, singing cabaret-worthy songs about urban life and love. It's a classic New York scene, lacking only the low, smoky haze.
But, listen closer, and soon you'll hear a difference:
"We pulled over and bought some stuff
Bought some stuff, bought some stuff...
One of the things we bought was a kind of sandwich relish
It was super spicy, there was nothing like it
In the grocery store, I know
Because I'd always look
And yet I don't know why - it was because
Some dipshit threw out my bottle of it..."
This is "Craigslistlieder No. 7" by singer-songwriter-composer Gabe Kahane, who sounds like a sweet-voiced version of Randy Newman, with all his devilish charm. Gabe's got a lot going on these days: he's writing a new musical for the Public Theater, just released a new song cycle, For the Union Dead, and has two solo piano works premiering this spring, including one to be played by his father, Jeffrey Kahane. But somehow, he still manages to squeeze in small-venue gigs like the one last night at Rockwood Music Hall.
Not that this was just some run-of-the-mill show: in addition to his regular sideman C.J. Camerieri, Gabe managed to snag concert pianist Jeremy Denk to accompany him on a pair of Charles Ives songs, which he dedicated to the woman from Ohio who reluctantly gave him the cardigan he was wearing, in exchange for a CD. Denk, who writes the hilarious, dystopic Think Denk followed up the Ives with a solo "love song" by Paul Hindemith, which sounded more like the ravings of a madman than the sort of thing you'd serve your sweetie on Valentine's Day.
Rockwood was packed with an appreciative crowd including several familiar faces who seemed mostly clued into what to expect. But, as I said to Steve, I'd like to think there was at least one table of folks there for a random night out, who just happened to be blown sideways by the sort of thing you'd normally pay more than $5 in a wine bucket for. I guess that's pretty much how it starts. (More pics below.)