Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Driving in the Wrong Lane With the Windows Down and the Stereo Blasting Eating a Fried Chicken Wing: Stories for the Distracted

This is my book of short stories about nuns, freaks, daredevils, sluts, suburbanites, wannabes, hound dogs, truck drivers, lovers, manics, virtuosos and other colorful baggage. Readable in the time it takes to microwave a wiener. Buy here for $5 + postage!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Staring Down the Barrell of the Wrecking Ball at Freddy's

Last night a bunch of us got together to sing and dance and celebrate the printing of this book. I threw a big bash at Freddy's Backroom in Brooklyn, a legendary dive where I've spent many magical musical evenings since moving to NYC. As a matter of fact, I played one of my first gigs in the city there a few years back. I remember so clearly that first performance and how it felt completely relaxed, just like being in someone's warmly lit living room with big wooden tables and chairs. I've always found it to be amazing how much the lighting and general vibes of a place can affect your ability to deliver a good authentic show, and it's always so easy to open up and feel free when it's cozy and comfortable around you.

For that reason and many others that do not include the amazingly bad sound system, I love Freddy's. Unfortunately it happens to be located in the cross hairs of a neighborhood-and-culture-assassinating development known as Atlantic Yards and soon will be torn down for a comically egregious basketball stadium complex. So, armed with banjos and guitars in our shitkickers we set out to rage against the dying of the light. When my band and I arrived, the Talking Heads song "This Must Be the Place" was coming through the speakers. As we loaded in, I sang along. Home is where I want to be but I guess I'm already there/ I guess that this must be the place/ Hi yo, we got plenty of time...

The show was absolutely fantastic if I do say so myself and I am so grateful for all of my brilliant and cool friends who came to support me and celebrate the Freddy's legacy. First the adorable duo Boom Chick blasted off the seal with a firehose of electric blues, including a version of Please Mister Postman that made me want to pinch their cheeks and feed them cookies and milk. Luckily just then butterscotch brownies, mexican chocolate cupcakes, ginger cake and cowboy cookies started arriving! Somehow, my half-assed prodding of people to bring some goodies managed to turn into a full-fledged bake sale! I shoved my face with vegan frosting while the acoustic bluegrass-inspired trio known (as of last night) as Boner Plantation took the stage resplendent in a red mustache and other questionable fashions. You could hear a pin drop as they began their pervert anthem "Work that Foot" that had all the closet fetishists squirming in their seats in feigned discomfort. Luckily Sean Kershaw showed up just in time to restore order in the room with some honky tonk hits.

By the time my band The Peabodies took the stage, the back room was a cup runneth over with liquid love. As we launched into our semi-hastily prepared set (living in different cities takes its toll!) attention was rapt. When we ditched the shitty sounding mics and stage to finish the set acoustic, practically in the laps of people at the tables, a communion of souls occurred right there in the dusty dim light under the Freddy's sign. I just can't bear to close my eyes! we warbled in 3-part harmony. In my bed I just can't stay/ I miss you so at the close of day went Dan Fram's lyrics to our last tune of the night.

From there I couldn't help myself and launched into a spontaneous chorus of Andy Friedman's tribute song-- They're gonna tear down Freddy's/ they're gonna tear down Hank's Saloon/ Like crickets under rocks/ we're all gonna hop/ to Bennigan's backroom! At some point a semi-random guy from Chapel Hill jumped up to play drums from the audience and we even did a few rounds a capella at the end just to really send it home!

When we finished Stephanie Katz (visiting from Worcester, MA!) jumped up on stage and surprised us all with a tune she wrote in tribute to me and Dan. I can't remember all the words, but it was about the days when Dan and I were roommates at Peabody Place and we'd all stay up all night and sing together. It had our names in it. Mimi play another one, I think it went. Daniel play one I can sing on too... I got a little choked up and I must have nearly snuffed the life out of her with the hug I gave her when she finished.

Next up was another surprise, this time a birthday song for Keren performed by me, Jaymay and star shredder Aaron Dugan. A ridiculous version of "I'm Alright" by Augustus Pablo which actually sounded pretty amazing with Doog's authentic reggae stylez and Jaymay's gentle croon. Last year we did "Ah! Leah!" by Donnie Iris and called it "Ah! Ker!" Not sure where we can go from here, as we've set the bar just way too high for ourselves at this point.

Jaymay did one more of her awesome tunes, "One May Die So Lonely" for Keren and me which was an awesome moment of world's colliding for me. Brooklyn Lowbrow country pickfest meets classy Lower East Side literary singer songwriter chanteuse. Emerson says that the best thing you can do to change the world is to introduce people to one another. Shake hands now everybody, and hug it out.

Just when you thought the love fest could not get more out of control, Alex Battles took the stage and performed his hit song "You Live in Queens" as well as a sultry baritone cover (complete with wrong lyrics) of Kristin Andreassen's "Your Ex Life Calling" as Kristin blushed and chuckled from five feet away. Lastly he blew everyone's mind with a song which featured heavily the refrain "Mimi LaValley is the Polka queen of Pennsylvania" and alluded non-subtly to the tattoo in one of my bathing suit regions. I've never been so speechless, about to urinate on myself and tempted to karate chop someone in the crotch with glee in my life. If you weren't there, you really just should have been! That is the bottom line folks.

Lastly, my favorite old time dance band The Piledrivers stood up on some chairs, beat the back of a fiddle like a choking baby, hollered like trapped hyenas and most importantly, made the movement-deprived city slickers stomp their feet and shake their asses like gangbusters. This band is sex and violence and winning at blackjack all at once, all on a back porch under the stars somewhere in Kansas. The temperature of the room soared into facemelting range. We made the floor undulate and flex. A brief square dance broke out and quickly dissolved into something like a mosh pit. We were young and confused. We shouted for more. We swung each other around and bumped into walls. We harmonized. We waltzed. Somewhere near the end, David the bandleader made a very sweet plug for the book saying something like, "let's all help to reward Mimi's hard work."

But everyone already had! I sold a whole bunch of copies. I hope to sell a few more so I can pay off the charges I had to put on my credit card. But mostly, I hope everyone had fun. I hope someone somewhere is reading that little book or thinking about the songs we played and feeling inspired. I hope somehow the people reading this post get a little of that too!

I'm so excited to see where this project takes me next. It's certainly off to a gloriously distracted start!