Archive for March 2010
I'm a HimmelfanGematria didn't quite flip my switch the first time I heard it in 1988, but after a few more listens, Peter Himmelman's music seeped into my head and heart, and I've been a Himmelfan ever since. And while his studios recordings are by and large a treat, he's truly an experience live. I saw him play twice while I still lived in Chicago, once at the bowling alley-shaped Lounge Ax, then at the historic Schubert Theater. He showed up for the former at the front door, making his way though the crowd carrying a brown bag in which he carried a box of crayons and stack of letter size paper. Early in the show, he passed them out to the crowd, encouraging us to write poetry, create art, etc. that we passed up tot he stage as the show progressed. After he'd invited 20 people on stage and everyone else to move up to get closer to the stage, those on stage with him taped the art, crafts & poetry to the wall behind him while he played. Eventually, he improvised a few songs based on what we shared with him. He made the whole audience feel they were part of the show, a truly interactive, and personal experience: it was performance art, really, involving the crowd, whether they'd agreed to it in advance or knew it or not. A couple years later at a much larger venue, he employed similar hijinx, inviting those in the balcony to join him on stage. That didn't go over well or go very far with the union hands - so much for that; they were sent back to their seats. The show began with an old Jewish man with a thick accent in a long, shabby coat introducing the band. When it came time to introduce Peter, he dropped the coat and hopped on stage and introduced himself! I'm pretty sure many didn't know it was him 'til the last moment. He and the band covered some of his most blistering and biting rock tunes, as well as emotional ballads, sometimes wholly remaking a song with completely different arrangement than the studio version. He even stopped the band in the middle of one of the songs to discuss a particular arrangement with the pianist, Jeff Victor. "That's not how we practiced it, is it?" And judging from the many live recordings of his shows I've heard, he brings something unique to every show. A couple years ago, he began streaming a live show online, one hour on most Tuesday nights, Furious World. Unfortunately, I've never had the chance to catch it, what with busy nights helping the kids with homework, etc. But this past week I discovered all the past shows are available for viewing as videos at his web site. I'm kicking myself I didn't happen upon them sooner. So I've got a lot of catching up to do, planning on watching a new episode each week, with older episodes in between, 'til I'm current. Himmelman's music has been a staple for me for over twenty years, as he's continued to release studio albums, a handful of albums for kids and six volumes of Himmelvaults, outtakes, live tracks and assorted cuts that didn't make an official album, but which contain many songs which easily could have. Lyle Lovett's music.
The ConfessionsMy long-time pal and comics collaborator, Brian Augustyn has recently begun his own writing blog, The Confessions. The first few posts have been thoughtful and insightful, and well worth a read and regular visit, as I'd expect nothing less in the future, as well as the occasional hoped-for piece of short fiction. I've known Brian for over 25 years, and would like to think I know him better than most. With his over-six-foot frame and strong personality, he can be an imposing figure. But don't let him fool you. Inside, and within the blog lies the soul of this li'l kid.
Please do check out The Confessions and give him a read.