On January 1st St Marks Poetry Project holds a marathon reading going from afternoon to night. My friend Steven Hall said he has been in this event every year since he was 17! I have done this with him several times, and recently with Arthur’s Landing. I guess I like the idea of starting the new year with performing, although this particular event is geared towards poets –stepping on stage and reading or reciting for just a few minutes then on to the next artist…which present a challenge for musicians who have increasingly joined the bill but there is no set up time for the equipment, and there is no remuneration for this venue so we have to cover our own transportation on top of that. This is a very popular event with many names spicing up the program (Patti Smith, Philip Glass sometimes, Taylor Meade, Elliot Sharp, etc.) and a chance to hang out in the back room with the downtown celebs, as there is no separate dressing room for the artists.
This year the event was tightened up to 5 minutes per act, and we found ourselves struggling with how much to cut from the tune! We walked in carrying amplifiers, guitars, keyboard, even an extension and power supplies so we could literally “plug and play.” This year there were very few chairs in the room, and there is usually a long wait between the time tentatively scheduled and the actual time when to go on. I eyed one empty chair with a coat on it and took a chance. A few minutes later a tall blond guy came up to me calling me by name. It took me a second to recognize him – Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth remembered me from the old days of the Coachmen and the double bills we used to do with Orchestre Modern and Sonic Youth since at one point we used the same drummer, Dave Keay. He kindly let me have his chair. Various foods and soft drinks were available for a few bucks while people were hanging out, audience and performers mixing. So we waited for a couple of hours and at one point, I thought, if this wait goes on any longer, I will be so tired, I am going to have to go home. And shortly after that thought, we were on…and gone. Somebody popped up from the audience and said “that’s the best music I’ve heard all night” which functioned as reward of the evening – talk is cheap! I am not sure that I will do the 5 minutes next year though… it used to be more like 15 minutes, and I can go for 15 minutes of fame, but 5 minutes is most definitely too short!