On Thursday I went to the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn for the first time, to see three solo artists: Marc Ribot, Matana Roberts, and Cian Nugent. The show was part of the Issue Project Room’s tenth anniversary concert series, “Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain.” (That’s got to win some kind of “best concert series name” award, no?)
I hadn’t been to the Issue Project Room before, and I really liked it – a very laid-back vibe with a serious art-appreciation atmosphere. It was in a building that had obviously been repurposed – it could have been an old bank or post office, there was a lot of marble and faux-classical detail, some of which was in disrepair (which only added to the atmosphere, I thought). The marble made for interesting acoustics (not ‘interesting’ as a euphemism for ‘bad,’ just a little different than what is typical – I liked the sound a lot). I would definitely be happy to see more shows there. And I will probably like it even better next time since I (hopefully) will not be soaked to the bone after being caught in an apocalyptic thunderstorm on the way there!
You’ll undoubtedly have heard of the show’s headliner, Marc Ribot, if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time – I’m a big fan. He’s a versatile guitar player who has played with everyone from John Zorn to Tom Waits to Elton John, and touches on genres including jazz, classical, rock, punk, Latin and surf in his own projects. On this night he stuck exclusively to acoustic guitars, playing his usual stream-of-consciousness medleys – mixing his own compositions with a variety of other tunes and improvisations.
I’d been rather intensely looking forward to this set for a few weeks, my subconscious brain somehow picking this one over the incredible list of upcoming shows I have lined up (reviews coming soon – don’t touch that dial!). I think because I’ve been unusually stressed lately and his last solo album, “Silent Movies,” is such a masterpiece of tranquil (yet focused) introspection, it seemed like the exact thing I needed. He played fairly restless and intense music for the most part, but a couple of times he slowed things down (including a performance of one of my favorite pieces from “Silent Movies”) and those beautiful, sweet, delicate moments of music really cured everything that was ailing me. (Disclaimer: The FDA has not approved Marc Ribot’s solo performances for the treatment of any illness.)
The audience was very appreciative of his performance and called him back for two encores, the first of which he dedicated to the late Suzanne Fiol, who founded the Issue Project Room back in 2003.
Here’s a video I took which encapsulated just about all of the diverse styles he played that evening:
He is playing quite a lot of shows in Europe and the eastern U.S. in the next few months; you can see his tour schedule here.
Matana Roberts (who played second on the bill) is a New-York-based, Chicago-born saxophonist. I’d seen her one time before, playing a short opening set at Le Poisson Rouge, and I really liked her, so I was looking forward to seeing her again. And even though I’m a huge Ribot fan and had been looking forward to his set for weeks, I have to say she stole the show a bit, in all the best ways. Her set was beautiful, and passionate, and warm, and human, and creative… I absolutely loved it. She brought some real magic to that room. She used the audience as an instrument and as a chorus, and the crowd seemed to adore her. We were treated to a welcome extra helping of her music when Mr. Ribot brought her out to play a duet during his second encore:
Ms. Roberts has a new album coming out in a few weeks (check out more information here). I’m hoping she stops by Boston metro sometime soon so I can see her again! If you get a chance to see her perform, I really highly recommend it.
The first performer of the night was Cian Nugent, who is a guitarist hailing from Dublin, Ireland. I hadn’t heard him before and didn’t really have any expectations going in. I liked his set, he is obviously an excellent guitar player and has the charisma to make you enjoy his time on stage even during a lengthy recounting of a bout of food poisoning. (I cut that part out of the video – you’re welcome. 😉 )
On a more meta-blog note: I’m planning to see 16 concerts in the next 16 days… I can’t promise I’ll be able to blog every day or every concert, but you may want to subscribe or check back frequently so you don’t miss anything! Upcoming shows include more Ribot, Bill Frisell, David Hidalgo, Sylvie Courvoisier, Sam Amidon, local Boston favorites Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys, and more John Zorn concerts than any sane person should attend, with the usual array of ultra-talented musicians he surrounds himself with (I can’t even begin to list all of them). It’ll be quite a ride!