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How the Gretsch Stole Brooklyn: Street Sounds Hosts 2012 Music Event

Fountains of Wayne Headline Gretsch Guitar Day at Brooklyn's Street Sounds

Stole Brooklyn? Well stole our hearts certainly. Die hard BKLYN flag wavers like myself always appreciate and support home town heroes who return to their roots. The Gretsch Musical Instrument Company has made a point of celebrating the place of its origins (in 1883) by making Brooklyn’s Street Sounds an annual stop on their road show events. The “Fred and Joe Show” features company owner Fred W. Gretsch and Guitar Product Specialist Joe Carducci along with a troupe of Grestchites who offer up an afternoon of musical treats, giveaways, and signings. I thought the 2011 extravaganza (see it here) could not be topped but I was happily proven wrong on Saturday June 2, 2012 when proprietor Rocky Schiano and his family welcomed the Gretsch family – and the music community at large – to his Bay Ridge music outlet. Schiano has built his business into one of the leading Gretsch instrument depots on the planet.

Miles of Styles…
Last year the focus was on the reverently researched and replicated George Harrison DuoJet model. This year the show highlighted the breadth of styles played by Gretsch musicians. A full stage was erected in the midst of Street Sounds’ well stocked shelves and the show was broadcast live worldwide via the internet. In addition to the musical acts Ms. Kim Falcon, Gretsch’s very own pin-up gal, helped choose the winners of two beautiful guitars and signed copies of her newest poster.

Like a revival meeting preaching the soul of Rock n Roll, Fred and Joe introduced talented players from Austin, Nashville, Canada, another “outer-borough”, and just around the corner (literally.) The audience got a dose of fiery rockabilly from The Octanes, dazzling fingerpicking from Paul Pigat with his band Cousin Harley and some sparkling country harmonies from sisters Nik and Sam. The next generation of Gretsch players was represented by local gang The Foxy Studs who opened the afternoon with the iconic licks of The Beatles’ “Daytripper.” Performances were framed by fun 1950’s news clips decrying the awful effect of “the beat, the beat, the beat” on the youth of America. Oops, too late.

Headliners (and personal favorites) Fountains of Wayne powered up the proceedings with their signature style of bright pop melodies and witty word play. I’d call ‘em The Kinks of Queens. I was happy to hear them do “Red Dragon Tattoo” from the super Utopia Parkway album. Can’t get better than a tune that references the N Train, Coney Island, Basil Hayden Bourbon, Easy Rider, .38 Special and William Blake’s titular iconic engraving. It is that Red Dragon, right – or am I projecting? The compact set included crowd pleaser “Stacy’s Mom”, FOW’s 2003 radio hit, which had everyone singing along to its undeniable chorus. They clearly had fun extending their final tune “Radiation Vibe” with a medley of bits and pieces of everything from Frampton to Foreigner.

OK-Go Member Damian Kulash Personalized His Photos for Fans


OK-Go’s Damien Kulash signed autographs and chatted with fans while his band’s always unique videos played on the big screen. OK-Go used 300 Gretsch Electromatic CVT III guitars in the making of their wacked-out promo for “Needing/Getting.” Many of those actual instruments, battered but collectible and authenticated, are available via Street Sounds while they last. Check out the video and the story behind it here.

Have It Your Way…
Master Luthier Stephen Stern gave attendees a technical tour of the company’s wares. He detailed aspects of fit, finish and hardware and pointed out how the Gretsch Custom Shop can make the instrument of your dreams. In turn Stern got an up close and personal look at some vintage models brought out by local collectors.

Joe Carducci, Vincent Ottaviano and Fred W. Gretsch with Harrison DuoJet

Full Circle…
A very special surprise this year was a visit from Mr. Vincent Ottaviano. “Vinnie” was a driver for the Gretsch company in the heyday of its borough tenure and spent part of the afternoon reminiscing with Mr. Gretsch. He delivered Gretsch products; guitars, accordians and drum kits from the Williamsburg factory to music stores and distributors. In 1957 on one such trip to the legendary Manny’s music store on 48th street in Manhattan Vinnie delivered Gretsch Duojet Serial Number 21179. Sold to a merchant seaman, the guitar eventually found its way to Liverpool England and into the hands of teenage rocker George Harrison. You know the rest. It’s the kind of “butterfly effect” story that makes you realize how a simple everyday task can go on to change the world. You can read all the details here.

SkeletonPete Says… Eat To The Beat
Once again Gretsch and Street Sounds offered up an amazing get together.As if all the musical goodies were not enough to sate appetites, abundant trays of delicious culinary creations from the folks at Artisan Food Valley (conveniently located right next door to Street Sounds) were passed through the crowd. The tempting sandwiches of grilled vegetables, fresh mozzarella and sausages put the shoppe on my short list of must explore places. It was also great to see the always jubilant Joe Carducci beaming at the chance to savor a classic Brooklyn chocolate-covered cannoli.

A special thank you to Ken Pierce, of PiercingMetal.Com who graciously got me a singed Fountains of Wayne set-list, something I’m much too shy to attempt myself. His videos of the afternoon’s performances can be viewed here.

Nigel Hall Band @ Bowlive III

Nigel Hall @ Bowlive III : Night 5


Keyboardist/Vocalist Nigel Hall, who took the stage as a special guest during the early Bowlive III shows, also took a turn as opening act on night five of the ten night Soulive Brooklyn Bowl residency. Joined by Soulive members Neal Evans and Eric Krasno (on Bass guitar) Hall got the room percolating with a super energetic set. Backed by a stellar group of players including Adam Smirnoff of Lettuce, drummer Louis Cato and a full horn section (James Casey, Jennifer Hartswick, Matt Owen) Hall engaged the audience with smooth soul jams like “Too Sweet” and “Never Gonna Let You Go”. Singers Alecia Chakour and Mel Flannery added harmony and response vocals to the headline worthy set. Hall returned to Bowlive on night 10 (which I watched streamed via iClips) for a version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” sung with Ledisi.

Photos of Soulive’s night 5 performance (Saturday March 3, 2012) can be found here.

Hold the Pickles, Hold the Lettuce: Cibo Matto @ Japan Society

Miho and Jared Rap the Bossa Nova @ Japan Society


Good things often come in three’s and on the evening of October 20th, 2011 those three things came with a savory and sweet Japanese flavor. It was a great thrill to be able to cover the reunited Cibo Matto, be introduced to the music of Yu Sakai, in a sold out show under the roof of the Japan Society.

Japan Society incorporates a lovely concert space in its confines which are located near the United Nations Building in New York City. It’s lobby, with indoor waterfall and live bamboo garden, conveys the restive essence of Japanese architecture. I was lucky enough to see Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, AKA Cibo Matto, do excellent solo sets there a number of years ago. That show was followed by a Q&A session in the lobby where the main query was would they ever return to the stage as a duo. At that time it seemed unlikely the ladies, though clearly still friends, would work together again. Times change and after a couple of benefit show get-together’s this year a reunion tour was booked.

On the surface Cibo Matto is a melange of disparate sources and influences. Hip-Hop, Jazz, Samba, Bossa Nova, New Wave Synthesis and Sampling all play a part in the unique pastiche. In the creative hands of Yuka and Miho those components become a musical “umami”; a nearly indescribable listen that once heard is not easily forgotten.

Special Orders Don’t Upset Us…
Yuka and Miho started the set offering up “Apple”, “Beef Jerky” and “Le Pain Perdu” before bringing the rhythm section onto the stage. Bassist Jesse Murphy of Brazilian Girls and drummer Yuko Araki (Mi-Goo) turn Cibo Matto into a funky stage outfit punctuating the urban swing and sway of tunes like “BBQ” and “Know Your Chicken”. I’ve been impressed with Yuko’s tight, articulated, drumming style since first seeing her on stage with Cornelius. It was an amazing feat to keep synched to his video backdrops throughout the show. Her playing at Japan Society was highlighted by a superb mix through the exceptional sound system.

Future Kombucha
It’s great to report that the group will be releasing new tunes soon. They treated the audience to “10th Floor Ghost Girl” and “Check In” as part of their set. “10th Floor” has a slinky tribal tom-tom groove that places it somewhere between 80’s Talking Heads and Peewee’s Playhouse retro.

SkeletonPete Says…
Having seen their show at The Bowery Ballroom early in the reunion tour, it was interesting to note the difference in the tenor of the two audiences. While the Bowery show was fully participated in with everyone singing along and boogying non-stop, the Japan Society show – though no less appreciated – was more of an observation and veneration of what the duo have created artistically. Miho did get the audience out of their seats on the encore, a rapped out version of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Aqua De Marco”, which brought onto the stage guitarist Nels Kline of Wilco, Sax player Doug Wieselman of Antony and The Johnsons and vocalist Jared Geller. Jared and Miho traded lines as the band percolated along on the Bossa Nova groove. The only disappointment of the evening is that they only presented the single encore tune with the guest line-up. Considering these players’ co-mingling in several other projects it seemed strange that they did not spin up another couple of songs together.

I’m working up a separate piece on pianist vocalist Yu Sakai, who wowed the crowd with his opening set.

Do yourself a favor and check out the up coming events at Japan Society, it’s a gem of a venue.

What Me Worry? Ace Frehley @ BB Kings Oct. 25, 2011

Full Photo Gallery is Here

Ace Frehley, KISS’s beloved Space Ace, has a new biography coming out on November 1, 2011. It’s titled “No Regrets” and I got a sneak peek of it at Comic Con. It promises to be a really good read beyond the ranks of KISS Army stalwarts. To promote the bio Ace booked two nights at New York’s B. B. Kings Blues Club and Grill and filled the room.

Advance, signed, copies of the biography were available in the B.B. King’s lobby at the end of the show. Frehley is pictured on the cover in full Kiss regalia. “Did you see the cover?”, he quipped from the stage at the opening of the first show. “Someone might think it’s Tommy Thayer.” To which an audience member shouted “There’s only one Ace.” He went on to prove that statement true by wowing his hometown fans with a smokin’ (literally) set of mostly KISS tunes, backed by a rock solid band including Bassist Anthony Esposito, Drummer Scott Coogan (Lynch Mob) and Guitarist Todd Youth (Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Danzig).

Ace's Autographed Les Paul and Bio @ NYCC 2011

KISS aficionado, and ruler of the PiercingMetal universe, Ken Pierce’s coverage, including the setlist, can be found here. He is also hosting my photos of show openers The Biters who played my favorite Cheap Trick song “He’s A Whore” as part of their energetic set.

Purchase Ace’s Bio on Amazon:
No Regrets

Photo Gallery: Ace Frehley @ B.B. Kings 10.25.11


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