Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Ashes of Vesuvius - The New New Beirut EP

Beirut is a spatial band. Their new Pompeii EP is only available digitally at EMusic helps us circumnavigate their short but illustrious travels. Their old new ep, Lon Gisland, presumably named in reference to the band's migration to Williamsburg BK from Albequerque NM, was a logical continuation of their Gypsy Folk stylings of my #1 album of last year, Gulag Orkestar. The "move to Brooklyn" has come to signify a band's immersion into the hipster capital of the universe, availabliity to a larger listening public and an fight for distinction of a unique sound in the polyglot of musical happenings. Ironically, just as Pompeii is a forgotten subterrean city, so is this album, devoid of any the eastern European, or Northeastern American flair. It's placeless. This two-song b-side, a digital 7", submerges the organic sounds the flittering mandolins and accordions of Eastern Europe under a ethereal synthesized piano gobblety-gook. Releasing an online only b-side has morphed their sound into a sterile "scenic world."

Zach Condon's wavery voice sounds more like Kid A Thom Yorke than ever before; you can actually tell he's singing in english, and the multiple recorded layers of his voice gives a haunting robotic overtones than the proletarian mumblings of his occidental influence the of string driven/horn bubbling/ accordion bellowing/ gems "Postcards from Italy" and "Elephant Gun." Excavations take a long time, and Beirut rushed this one. You have to admire Condon's proflicacy, but this EP probably should have stayed buried.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

New Music: Dinosaur Jr

Dinosaur Jr haven't released a record proper since 1997, although Rhino Rereleased Green Mind & Where You Been just last year. They haven't released a record with Lou Barlow(Sebadoh, Folk Implosion) on it since the 1989 Bug. Now with their original lineup erm.. in line? Dinosaur JR is back with a vengance. I expect you will start to see this album all over the muso-blogo-sphere pretty soon because 1) it comes out May 1st 2) its really good. Honestly this is the first Dinosaur JR album I've listened too all the way through (I was 12 the last time they really released something) , I'd say it kinda sounds like pavement and sebadoh but I guess its not really fair cause Dinosaur JR was around before either of those bands and spawned one out of its own members. You can check out the album opener over at fat possum records website.

mp3:Dinosaur Jr - Almost Ready

Ps. Nike is making limited Edition Dinosaur Jr skate shoe, I can't figure out where you can buy them but you can check them out here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Jon of the Atom's Life in Groton, NY

As promised last Wednesday, today's post is on Jon Fink's (of The New Wave Dirt) side project Jon of the Atom. I unexpectedly received this album is my mailbox in a sort of unofficial album swap that occured between myself and Jon, both mine and his being pseudo-side-projects of the bands we're currently in.

Similar sounding to NWD's "The Apple", Jon takes his solo project in a trippier and more electronic direction. His distinct voice is still there innocently creeping into your skull. The instrumental "The April Fool Song" is sort of Portishead-esque with a very synthetic drumbeat, and immediately following is "Bicycle", which my first description of was that it was a song that Jon would be singing to an adult who is tripping balls, laying in an oversized crib crying about his imaginary bicycle being stolen.

There's three cover songs on the album: Beck, Woody Guthrie and D. Johnson, and besides those self proclaimed influences I hear a little bit of the Olivia Tremor Control, a pinch of Pinback, and some Middle of Nowhere, New York country blues. The last two tracks are unlisted, "I'm a Hard Working Pearl Diver" (which was on NWD's first release "Elephants Tap Dance Recital (Cozy Home Records)" and a magnificent cover of The Microphones "I Felt Your Shape", another influence that can be heard: off time strumming, crazy panning, and fuzzy drum beats.

Most distinguishing for me is Jon's voice. On anything that's come my way from his direction the quality of vocal recording is just phenomenal. Almost in the way that Robert Schneider commented that he was most pleased with how we captured Jeff Mangum's voice for Neutral Milk Hotel, I feel that Jon's voice is recorded in such a way that absolutely captures the emotion that you would hear if you were spying on him while he was playing the song alone in his room. Sometimes it's off key, sometimes it's off time, sometimes there's two vocal tracks singing in matter what, its up front, its incredibly clear considering Jon's drawling sort of Thom York-ish drone; innocent, wanting, and sometime downright eerie. He is up there on my list of favorite distinct voices, including: Willy Mason, Jeff Mangum, Ramona Cordova and Thom Yorke.

I couldn't help but put four mp3s up, I know its a lot, but I could'nt choose between them. Other tracks I would highly recommend are: his cover of the Microphones "I Felt Your Shape", the instrumental "April Fool Song" and the 12th song of the seemingly 11 track disc, "I'm A Hardworking Pearl Diver".

Here's Jon:

Here's Jon and Megan Geiss:

mp3: Bicycle

mp3: Church Bell People

mp3: A Ride Without A Fair

Bonus mp3: I Ain't Got Nobody (Woddy Guthrie)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Roots, Nests & Limbs; multi-media is cool

Outside the old church doors you could hear a thumping sound. The kind of sound a hunk of wood makes when an axe has pierced it and won’t let go. The kind of sound when the arm holding that axe continually bashes the wood against floorboards trying to pry the tool free. I’d never heard the sound of chopping wood indoors before, but some things you can just sense.

The stained glass doors swung open, The Sanctuary for Independent Media was fuller than a church on Sunday. Behind the old altar a screen broadcast the scraggily branches of naked trees. The audio wind howled and groaned. Sara Worden and Ryder Cooley were already in motion, Sara moved in perfect rhythm with Ryder’s axe chops.

Roots, Nests & Limbs, a series of three performances put on at The Sanctuary on the 23rd of March included, along with Sara and Ryder’s Hoofprints of a Spooked Game, two other multi-media performance pieces conceived by Aryn Zev and Melle Dragon. It was my first time at The Sanctuary and already I was hooked.

I watched on eagerly as Sara disappeared behind yet more stained glass, relics of the former life of the building The Sanctuary for Independent Media is now housed in. She reappeared behind a backlit sheet, part human, part deer, as her title so foreshadowed. At the same time Ryder exchanged her hatchet for a saw, but instead of putting it to wood she made it sing while still clad in her lumberjack gear.

So mesmerized was I by Sara’s undulations intermingling with the shadows of antlers that I didn’t see Ryder leave, picking up her accordion en route, until she appeared like Pan’s shadow behind the curtain. Babies and children gurgled and cooed while the silhouette of this fairy evoked all of my childhood fantasies. The human form outlined on that sheer cloth, simultaneous with the melancholic poignancy of the instrument strapped around her, caused each eye in the house to twinkle with the same glory as all the babies’ who struggled to be free from their parents’ grasp. At show’s end parents hung their heads, lost in their own childhood memories, inadvertently loosening their grip on the straps of their children’s overalls, allowing them to dart to the stage and be close, if only for a moment, to the pixies.

None of my review has even included their “shadow dance of the game”, or Ryder’s haunting accordion lament sung to the deer head while the audience, like eavesdroppers at a cemetery, listened on secretively, or even the moment when Sara emerged on stilts and proceeded to take up the hatchet one last time in order to free herself from them.

Nor did it discuss Melle Dragon (who organized the show) and her orange faced insect buzzing around her three dimensional hive lairs, or the final performance, Recapitated by Aryn Zev and friends, which followed the life of a woman (mannequin) through the stages of womanly life as she literally loses her head to the expectations of society, perfectly in counterpoint with man’s anticipated obligations of construction and deconstruction. The captivating performance included actual flying saucers, top hats, and a head toss, all fully accompanied by live improvised electronica music.

If I thought the talent on the stage was impressive, it wasn’t until intermission that I realized how incredibly saturated with gifted artists the Capital Region is when I looked around and found myself sandwiched between band members of local acts zahnarzt, Evolution Revolution, and Scientific Maps, as well as members of The Federation of Ideas, and scads of other artists of all mediums that I as a novice to the place certainly didn’t recognize. All were out that evening to support the independent art scene we are very much a part of.

Growing up as I did in Albany, I always itched to leave this place in order to find the artists that at one time were lacking. I am seeing ever so clearly that the artists have come back to roost.

The Sanctuary for Independent Media:

Monday, March 26, 2007

Why The Casio Keyboard is Coming Back

(Full disclosure: I’ve never even touched a Casio Keyboard).

There comes a time in a songwriter’s life where they realize that more is more. They realize that an acoustic guitar and a voice, or a banjo and a voice, or two voices, two guitars, and a bass and drums, or even the wet rubber squeegee and acorn shell approach just doesn’t cut it anymore.

In the age of Do-It-Yourself music, a songwriter with tight pockets and a vision will often grow bitter trying to keep up with the lush arrangements of The Flaming Lips, Belle and Sebastian, Beck, The Beatles, the Beach Boys, Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned and Enya. The baroque orchestral arrangements of those musicians can seem like a dauntingly impossible hope when a songwriter's musical network consists of their-self, their girlfriend, their four-track, and the musically limited openmic’ers they’ve met who, just like them, only really play guitar.

If you’re a songwriter and have reached this point in your writing I suggest it’s time to turn to craigslist or yardsales to find a cheap used multi-instrumental piece of shit keyboard. You might actually spend nothing by doing a quick search beneath your bed or your girlfriend’s bed where that keyboard they asked for in ’89 is dustcovered and waiting.

Grab it, dust it off and plug it in. You’re about to add a dumpster full of sounds to your repertoire.

The keyboard I found in my girlfriend’s bedroom was a Yamaha PSR-300. I nicknamed her pisser 30-oh. Her hot red power button and even hotter yellow pre-recorded demo song button fired me up. As I poked around on the electronic interface I was filled with eighties anticipation. In no time I set to finding the perfect sounds to orchestrate the voices in my head.

Quickly I found that none of the guitar sounds were worth using, except maybe the bass guitar. The bass guitar, when used in conjunction with an actual plugged in electric guitar played at equal volume makes the bass sound almost real. The actual plugged in electric adds the sound of plucking to the clean smooth sound of the keyboard bass thus rescuing it from sounding like smooth Weather Channel jazz.

Highlights of the Pisser 30-oh include Pipe Organ 1. I’ve used this sound in many different songs and during live music jams. It has no drawbacks. Neither does the Glocken for that matter. The Glocken is awesome and is worth the 20 bucks you may have spent on the keyboard. All of the mallets are cool and have no trouble finding their way into songs. The accordion is great although in non-French sounding songs it has to be pushed to the background in order to sound realer than fake.

Other good for background sounds include the choruses, which sound nothing like choral music, the violins and the cello, which are best on the low end of the keyboard, and the trombone which sounds perfect in conjunction with actual trombones. Also note: the electric organs are a versatile mix between Reggae, Motown, radio soap operas, and 60’s retro pop. They’re good enough to use as front sounds when played right.

Some of the drumbeats are worth using too but they’re difficult to arrange and they sound pretty awful. On second thought the drums are amazingly bad. I did use the kick bass drum and the snare drum in one song but I hardly listen to that song anymore. I also like the robotic “One, Two, Three, Four” option.

The other major drawback of the Pisser-30-oh is the placement of the hot yellow demo song button. It sits exposed to the wind on the far right side of the keyboard. So when you place glasses of wine down on the keyboard, or your notebook falls over during an exciting piece, these things tend to land on the hot yellow button thus kicking on the worst eighties synthesizer song of all time. The song is so loud and fast and terrible that it immediately ruins whatever mood you might have been in and makes you wish you were willing to spend 30 minutes cutting the rubber yellow button off.

With all this said, if you can make multi-instrumental friends you’ll make better music. The keyboard is definitely a temporary solution, and don’t let a Yamaha keyboard stop you from using the Little Tikes xylophone you love to slam on, don’t let it stop you from learning the trombone and the violin, don’t let it stop you from doing the mouth trumpet.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tom Waits: Why Wasn't I listening to this Guy?

This is supposed to be an Albanian Music Blog. But unfortunately, I live in Pittsburgh. So this review is a little bit of stretch, but here's my hook: Tom Waits played Rudy in the filmic rendition of William Kennedy's Pulitizer Prize winning Ironweed. So first of all, this is a reccommendation to read Ironweed, a magical realist novel set in little old Albany, NY that documents a bum's travels from North Albany's St. Agnes Cementary to the hollows of past, to the spectral demons who punctuate his life, to the emptiness of death & friendship, and nearly to the shores of redemption. Not bad for a nearly 200 page book set in the 5-1-8, huh? Well, stop reading this blog right now and read it. Then, once your hooked on it come back and read some more of this blog, I guarantee that all of our reccomendations will be that good. Seriously, we have our finger on the button here people. Oh yeah, and check out the Ironweed Collective, I've never met them myself, but if they are cool enough to take on that name they must be awesome.
On to Tom Waits. His latest album is the three-cd epic Orphans (Anti 2006). The albums nearly sixty songs are arranged according to three different personas, Mr. Waits has embodied during his thirty-three year career: Bawlers, Brawlers, & Bastards. Tom is old. He's real old. Old enough to be my grand-dad.Hell, he's even old enough to be a depression era bum, convincingly. This guy's old, but he's still more badass than almost anyone on the music scene, especially major-labels. He's been called a drinking man's Billy Joel because of his penchant for ballads, but fuck that, he's the self-respecting man's Billy Joel. And we all know that a drinking man is a self-respecting man.
If you've never listened to Tom Waits, definaltey don't start on his disc "Bawlers" which mostly contains spoken word fables of lost love, existential gloom, and some covers of older songs mutilated by Waits's gnashing, curdling voice, that remains his most distinctive characteristic. The highlight of this album for me is a drunken barroom crowd cover of the old Leadbelly song "Goodnight Irene." If you're not singing along with the chorus when the blitzed bandleader cheers "EVERYBODY", turn off your cd player right then. You don't have an iota of passion left in your bloated body and don't deserve Tom Waits, let along Leadbelly. So i guess, you should listen to this disc even if you hadn't heard Tom Waits, but listen to Track 14 first.
So there's alot more to be said about this monster 3-disc album. But I fear I don't have time or authority to say it just yet. But stay tuned, next week's post will include a detailed textual analysis of the parallels between Ironweed and the Bastards disc. Or maybe Brawlers, I haven't decided.
Til then I'll give you a little help for your upcoming Choral Performance:
Irene, goodnight Irene. Irene Goodnight. Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene. I'll kiss you in my dreams.

P.S. Note the Ghosts on the Tom Waits's Cover...

This Week in Music: Cotton Teeth and If the Ocean Gets Rough

March 20th was a big music day with cd releases with Modest Mouse, LCD System, Panda Bear, Low and Andrew Bird. All over the internet bloggers raced to their keyboards to talk about the albums that pitchfork liked, and with good reason becuase they are all good albums. I haven't seen as much coverage for Willy Mason's sophmore release If the Ocean Gets Rough, his first on his new major label home at alstralwerks (which got a less favorable pitchfork review).
The story goes that Willy Mason was discovered by Connor Oberst playing guitar backstage at a Bright Eyes show and was subsequently signed to Oberst's Team Love where he released his first EP and the full length Where the Humans Eat. Both the EP and LP were beautiful stripped down fold albums, and all the tracks on Where the Humans Eat were recorded in three takes or less. I remember hearing the track Oxygen for the first time which was on both his first two records. Its such a simple but powerful song with some of the best protest lyrics that have been written by my generation.
The incredibly strong lyricism that was found in that song and a handful of others on his first two albums seems to be missing on his first major label release. The songs on If the Ocean Gets Rough seem to have a knack for rallying around just one line. The recording quality on this record has definetly taken a step up with a full band playing on all the tracks replete with shimmering guitars and a string section which works against an album that might otherwise be a folk album.
I now find myself halfway through this review trying to dig myself out of the hole I've dug myself into because although I am dissappointed by this album, I still like it. Willy Mason has a beautiful voice and there are some really good tracks on here, my favorites being riptide and the closer when the leaves have fallen. I would post tracks from the album here but 1) I am afraid of the RIAA and 2) The whole album is on his myspace @ .
I will post my favorite Willy Mason song of all time though which was on his first Team Love EP.

mp3:Willy Mason - Waiter at the Station

Another disc released this tuesday which hasn't gotten a whole lot of attention is Snake The Crown the Cross's second equalvision LP Cotton Teeth. This record marks a bit of a different direction for the TSTCTC with a simpler more direct alt countryish sound than their first record Mander Salis which could have been mistaken for a The Good Life album.
The Snake the Crown .... is a standout on its Equalvision a label known for Hardcore (BANE, Converge, among others), Coheed and Cambria, old Pop Punk (Saves the Day, The Stryder) and lately Screamo (Chiodos, Fall of troy). They did recently sign Dustin Kensrue of Thrice to do a solo album that has country roots not unlike TSTCTC.
The opening track of Cotton Teeth though lyrically simple and repetitive sets the soundscape for the album in with guitars that twinge, a clap track, and eerie synth someplace far in the background. The album also has a set of reoccuring characters Jim, John, Jack and Sue who tie the songs together almost as points of reference although I wouldn't exactly call this a concept album. Overall this album is pretty sweet, well recorded (by the cellist from the ataris), well thought out, fits together well but there aren't any songs here that really excite me. Here's one for you to check out.

mp3: The Snake the Crown the Cross - Behold the River

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The New Wave Dirt's "The Apple"

this 19 track disc (62 minutes) is the second album put out by guitarist/vocalist jon fink (of jon of the atom, see next wednesdays post) and drummer megan geiss. it takes you all over the musical spectrum, with about half of the tracks being instrumentals. there's chaotic and scratchy guitars, happy ukuleles, sad clarinets, jazzy 2 minute drum solos, pulsating synth parts, and jon's droning baritone voice (think thom yorke, but comprehendable).

in february, NWD travelled down to Binghamton, NY to play a house party with Snow Cave and the ol' Sgt. Dunbar. tucked in the middle of the bill, they absolutely stole the show. for the first time ever i was bracing myself to go crashing through the throbbing wood panel floor down into the basement below. during their opening song my freshly opened beer tumbled off the amp it was sitting on as the packed living room began to shake the house in time with the music. the mic was on a stand that wouldn't stay upright and plugged into a small crate amplifier, drastically underpowered, but luckily i was about a 6 inches away from jon in the hot, crowded, smokey living room; so at least i could hear him.

i remember them playing 'keep it moving' quite well. i paused the pathetic jittering that i call dancing to watch the crowd as megan led them from a little jazzy shuffle into an all-out-rock body spasm, and back again, and back to spasms, and then back down,....and yes, then back to chaos once more. the pauses they put between each section of the song left us wondering what was coming next, and i remember being kind of disappointed when i began clapping, knowing that the song was officially over. megan's drumming is impressive and entertaining and when you see jon (sometimes clad in a dress) violently smashing his pick on the strings its enough for you to lose control of your apendages and shake violently as we all did that snowy february night in upstate NY. i couldn't stop myself from thinking about their set for probably 3 days after the show. it'd been a long time since i had that much fun at a show and saw that kind of positive reaction from an audience towards a band that they had heard nothing of before that night.

"the apple" is put out by cozy home records, a fake record label/music collective similar to that of b3nson based out of utica, new york. NWD isn't actually signed to them, but cozy home has their cd's available on their fancy website and promotes their music to a larger audience then the two of them could do theirselves. CD's are only $4 on the website, and you can figure that at least 3 of that goes towards the shipping/production, done by some kid in front of his out of date PC. so i'd say it's a worthwhile investment.

they will be at The Warehouse in Syracuse at 8pm on April 20th and hopefully somewhere in Albany before then, but if not, then definitely sometime after that. if afterwards you want to tell jon how much you dug the set dont take it personally if he backs himself into a corner, he's just a little shy.

The New Wave Dirt's Myspace (

Cozy Home Records (

mp3: Ghost In A Photograph

mp3: Keep Things Moving

mp3: Solvanian Worker Bee

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Evolution Revolution and the International Women’s Art Show.

The fluorescent lights of the front lobby at 51 3rd Street were blinding, but I welcomed them because fluorescence is good, unless it’s employed by Skidz pants, but these were light bulbs, and it was warm inside so I took off the mittens my mom made out of old sweaters and shoved them inside my winter coat pockets wondering where the music was. It would be the first time I saw Evolution Revolution.

Art exhibits of mainly the video variety were scattered about the space, but the sound of an accordion swept my attention away from the loop of human flesh being tattooed, purple ink oozing from its pores. We found that the fluorescent lights were reserved only for the entryway, as we were soon enveloped into darkness. I was actually startled at the clarity of the air in such a dense and people packed space, I half expected to pull out my fins and swim through clouds of gray cigarette smoke, funny the things your brain associates with basement concerts. But cigarette smokers shivered in the snowy courtyard while a baby and a child, straight from a karate lesson from the looks of it, stared in awe at the pretty lady with antlers who played the accordion on stage. We caught only the last song of Ryder’s set, which was unfortunate because her tattered tutu told me it had been fantastique.

Having never witnessed Evolution Revolution I incorrectly assumed that the two folks dressed as bugs (a spider and a butterfly to be exact, or maybe it was a fly and a butterfly, humans in bug costumes can so easily be misconstrued) were members of Evo Revo just waiting to take the stage, but apparently there was more than one set of humans posing as creatures at the International Women’s Art Show on March 8th, and before the music kicked off we would witness what was either: a.) a poorly rehearsed skit where the two actors berated each other on stage for having not practiced their skit, or b.) a very well rehearsed skit, in which the actors pretended to be angry and berate one another for having not practiced their skit. Either way I was thoroughly fooled into believing their rage (as was the baby who squirmed off of its dad’s shoulders, frightened by the alarming, although meaningful, bit where the butterfly’s wings are torn off as the butterfly writhes and screams in agony.
The baby seemed to take it better than I did).

There was then the routine art-show-live-head-shaving-act and a reading about Britney Spears. I spotted a wolf in the crowd and I knew the music was coming. Well, sort of.

It’s incredibly unfortunate that there aren’t as many aspiring sound-gals and guys out there as there are musicians. I know more than a few bands that would really love to have one on board. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from performing it’s that I hate turning knobs and pressing buttons while also trying to remember to smile as I sing lyrics and play chords. That and never piss off your sound operator if upon you one is befallen.

So partly due to the fact that the crux of live-head-shaving-act came from the shock value of audience participated silence while the sound of the electric razor echoed off the brick walls, Evolution Revolution had to wait for their sound check. Therefore the sound check was a bit long, but that’s what happens when you’re trying to play the music and adjust the levels at the same time. In the mean time, the audience had a whole lot of costumes to grin at. A praying mantis mask? Come on, who doesn’t love that? And (by now you know I’m not very good at animal costume identification, so I’m not sure if it was a rooster or a chicken, but either way…) the rooster/chicken was totally styling, and that foxy lioness… Grrrr. I’m also a sucker for mopey-dog percussionists with glasses. I looked around for the kids to see if they were loving it as much as I was, but by that time they’d gone home to bed.

Maybe it was the free red wine I was drinking (man I hope it was free, because I didn’t pay nobody) but I appear only to remember them playing three or four songs, which does not include their dance party jam at set’s end, featuring Salt ‘n’ Peppa’s Push It. I was really impressed with the Rooster’s uncanny ability to sing the bit that goes “S-S-S-Salt and Peppa’s here.” But I do know that a large majority of the show was spent with the wolf on a wrestling mat, occasionally picking up the mic to croon out a freestyle while the rest of the band jammed along.

When the band did play their songs they were tight, obviously well rehearsed, and fit into concentric circles of both danceable toe tapping music as well as singalongalbe melodic tunes. My only complaint was that there wasn’t more. But that’s a good thing. Their music was high-class, and that made me want seconds. Instead I saw what Evolution Revolution’s regular show goers consider a priceless wrestling match, all accompanied by six talented musicians dressed in animal costumes. I guess that’s what the infamous Evolution Revolution is all about. You never know if you’re going to get a show chock full of well-written, meticulously rehearsed songs, or if you’re going to get a different type of adventure altogether. Hey, I’ve paid $40 a show to follow bands who night after night haven’t been as entertaining.

International Women’s Day Art Show, microrevolt:
Evolution Revolution:

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Closing of America’s Oldest Market

A Farewell To Arthur's Market

He pointed at the exposed brick wall from where he was seated at the table.
“Over there was the deli.
We used to come and get sandwiches. And they always had great big barrels full of pickles.” Jenny’s grandfather hadn’t been inside Arthur’s Market since he was a boy. He had come out this time to watch his granddaughter play the old piano that was tucked in alongside shelves of coffee, pasta sauce, loose rolls of toilet paper and cereal. The piano was adjacent to the old deli wall.
“We used to walk down here to get icecreams when Judy lived in the Stockade,”
Jen’s uncle added, recounting for us the arrangement of the old shop some thirty years after his father had bought pickles at the deli.
As we looked at it we imagined that past.
What we saw however was the quaint coffee shop and performance space we’d come to play at, skirted with just enough corner market products to officially hang on to the distinction of America’s oldest market.
Outside the sign reads: Arthur’s Market since 1795.
In all of my time performing music there are few places I’ve played at that are as comfortable and homey as Arthur’s Market.
Arranged more like a family living room than a café, Arthur’s inherently creates a sense of welcome relaxation for all artists who come to play on the throw carpet tucked in beside cozy couches and armchairs.
It’s the only café/market that makes me feel funny when my shoes are on inside.
Curling up on a couch or even crazy legged at the table I kick off my red corduroy shoes like I would at home.
I admire the art for sale that poses as the market’s décor, I pick up a book from off the coffee table, or I dance throughout the roomy market to the sounds of the Hobo Banned.
Saturday night March 17th, members of the B3nson Collective stormed Arthur’s Market with an eclectic mix of joyously melancholic indie folk. The show was bookended by B3nson Collective members Sgt. Dunbar and The Hobo Banned and We Are Jeneric, with a middle set played by country western yodeler Corey Hough.
The only place I’ve ever seen a bigger pile of instruments was in my middle school band room.
It was the third and final of the B3nson Collective’s monthly Arthur’s Market gigs.

Within a month the oldest market in America will be a restaurant as Arthur’s Market passes out of the hands of its current ownership.
Richard Genest,, who also owns the Moon and River Café just down the street, chose not to comment on the closing of the market.
I spoke to him over the phone, but instead of talking about the store’s closing he chose to pass along his personal compliments about the energy of the music scene he loves so much, the scene in which the B3nson Collective has become a monthly staple.
He was able to express only the joy that he sees in musicians that play at his establishments.
In my many casual conversations with Richard he always talks about the joy of music in grand statements.
He believes that music is what our country needs in order to heal. And you can’t help but agree and nod your head as if listening to a health practitioner prescribe for you your medicine. And it feels good to think that my love for music might be a remedy for the ills of our country’s postindustrial and postmodern psychological depression.
In his compliments for the musicians, I can’t help but think about Richard’s role in the music scene.
As owner of two coffee shops he built a nest for musicians to land at. He built a social center for people to flock to: a hub of music, comfort, food, and drink. He gave us the space to fill his prescription.
As a market, however, the Arthur’s Market we played at on Saturday was just barely hanging on to the old model.
Its small selection of fresh produce, its 2/3rds empty refrigerator, its three bottles of olive oil were displayed more to allow the Market to keep the title as oldest market in America than to serve the community as a corner market. And as it transforms into a restaurant we are made to watch the last breath of the way things were in this country.
Before the automobile drove the middle class out to the suburbs and into their single-family homes the corner market used to be at the heart of the vibrant cities of the past; cities where people worked and lived.
The corner market was where a community shopped, saw each other, passed rumors, cracked jokes. The city was full of neighborhoods where you could walk to buy anything you might need. This is what I imagine as I think about the end of Arthur’s Market.
To watch an eccentric music venue go is to watch one kind of community get the pinch.
But to watch America’s oldest corner market go is to be allowed one more time to contemplate the death of America’s cities. When Richard prescribes music as the cure for America I wonder if he really means to prescribe the old sense of community we’ve lost with the advent of suburbia. The joy of live music brings people back to the downtown for a night of celebration, but a city full of things you can walk to and from –full of middle class people spending their hard earned cash at family stores, where proprietors exchange stories with their customers who are also their neighbors, where the people live more intimately together –it seems to me that this was what Richard’s real prescription might be.
Thankfully, Schenectady’s Stockade District will not be void of live music after Arthur’s Market closes, nor will it be void of Richard who will continue to run the charming Moon and River Café just down the road.
The B3nson Collective and many, many other area musicians will continue to play the small coffee shop on South Ferry St.
I’ve only known Arthur’s Market for three months but I’ve come to love the place like a home.
To hear that it’s changing hands is heartbreaking. Like many of the musicians in the Capital Region I will mourn the loss of one of the area’s most charming venues.
Goodbye Arthur’s Market and thanks for the out of tune piano, the comfy retro couches, the house drum set, the bathroom in the kitchen, the table of fresh fruits and veggies, and the home away from home atmosphere.

Arthur’s Market, you will certainly be missed.

Arthur’s Market & Moon and River Café:
Moon & River Café Calendar:
Fortifying the Stockade:
I Spy Schenectady:
The B3nson Collective:


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