If an acoustic night happens and no one’s there to hear it does it still make a sound?

Acoustic Night at Katmandu, Trenton

July 15

Oh, Lawdie. I am just back home from quite a comedy of errors. Some would call it a snafu, others, a waste of a night. I’m choosing to view it as an amusing exercise in absurdity.

Weeks ago I decided to hit up Katmandu tonight for its weekly live local acoustic show and I’ve been looking forward to chilling outside and listening to acoustic guitar for a while now. My car’s taking a three-week vacation from working, however, so I’ve spent the past few days trying to figure out how to get there. Should I invite someone and ask them to drive? Should I borrow a car? Rent one? Sign up for Philly Car Share? I decided this afternoon that I would take the River Line train, which picks me up at the end of my block and finds its terminus in Trenton, not far from the club. Cool.

I go online before I leave the house to check everything out. Yes, the show runs from about 7:30 to 11. Yes, three performers are scheduled for tonight. Yes, I can get the train at 7:01 and get to Trenton at 8:15. I’m determined to prepare myself for any eventuality so I bring my phone charger, camera battery charger and computer charger to plug in my electronics at the bar so I can use them on the ride home. I grab my laptop, make the train and settle in for a comfortable hour of writing time.

Everything goes so smoothly and pleasantly on the way up that I decide I’m going to ride the train to Katmandu for shows all the time. Sure, it takes twice the time of a car ride but I can do productive work this way. Yippee!

When I get close to Trenton, though, I realize that I haven’t remembered to check exactly all of the details. Like the correct train stop, for instance. Okay, no worries, I’ll just get off at the main train station and cab it. I don’t know how safe it would be to walk with my laptop anyway and I figure I can catch a cab there. So I get off the train and stop leisurely in the bathroom to fix my makeup. That’s when I remember that I forgot to check another, more important detail before I left home: the train schedule for the return ride.

Still unphased, I grab a timetable, get into a taxi and look for southbound train times back to Camden. That’s when I notice my critical ditzy mistake. Um, the last train leaves Trenton at 9:15. It’s now 8:22. Shit.

I’m such a doofus. I’m such a doofus! Okay, though, I’m not one to panic over such frivolity, so I recheck the schedule about six more times to make sure I’m not overlooking anything, and upon seeing that I’m not, instruct the cabbie to come back to pick me up at Katmandu at 9pm. Yes, I know that’s in ½ hour. Yes, I’m sure. No, I won’t call you when I’m ready. No, it’s not okay for you to send your brother if you have a fare at 9. Yes, I’ll see you back here in 30 minutes. Thank you.

Ugh, as long as I’ve come this far, I may as well order a very quick beer and a bite, catch half a set, chat it up with a person or two, then meet Mr. Cab Driver for my train home. Make the best of it, right? Yeah, theoretically. Except that when I walk hurriedly into the bar and ask for the acoustic show, the bouncer informs me the show … is … cancelled. Cancelled? What do you mean cancelled? Are you kidding me? But the lineup is on your website. Yeah, that’s a mistake. But I just spent an hour on the train to get here. Sorry. Why don’t you come back next week? We’re have some great musicians lined up.

So apparently, even when I look at a published schedule, this night is destined to flop. Alright, I shouldn’t say flop. I managed to rush to swallow a beer and a sandwich in the very quiet, very empty Katmandu and meet my cabbie to make the train on time.

Grateful that I at least have my laptop with me so that I can still make good use of the night, I open it up, write the first few lines of this post,

then

my

computer

battery

dies.

A little exasperated now, I call my boo to pass the time.

Then

my

phone

battery

dies.

So now I’m on the train, I’ve got no computer, no phone, no reading material, it’s too dark to look out the window and I have to pee.

Mercifully, I make it home to Camden a few minutes later, but this train doesn’t go all the way to my neighborhood, it leaves me off at the transportation center about ½ mile away. I won’t walk it alone at night so as I’m looking for a cab, I’m mentally tallying up the wasted $22 I’ve dropped on cabs and trains tonight and feeling aggravated primarily about that. I get in the only taxi I see, which has no meter, and tell him I’m going six blocks to my house. $6 he tells me. $6?? To go six blocks? Yes, Mami, he answers, they’ll all charge you that. F—k.

Next time I’m borrowing a damn car.

Tara Nurin is a freelance journalist being sponsored by Rolling Rock beer to cover the Trenton-area independent music scene.

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Trenton Musicians Foundation Benefit; Katmandu, Trenton; 7/12/09

Who needs the Shore when you’ve got riverside blues, beer and burgers right in … Trenton! My girl Lea and I checked out Katmandu’s deck for the first Trenton Musicians Foundation benefit, which raises money to give urban Trenton kids a scholarship to attend a music college and helps fund music programs (taught by member musicians) in the public schools. Prevention, prevention. I’m all for it.

So we got there at four and I meant to leave around six but instead I just got home about two hours ago. I dunno, when all the hot guys want to hang out with you because you’re buying them beers and you’re chilling with talented and on-the-ball bluesmen like Billy Hill, whose song “Easier Said Than Done” made it to #1 on the charts in 1963, and the breeze is flowing just like the tunes, well, like Joe Walsh says, “it’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door.” Oh wait, that’s a story from a different party.

So, foolery aside, the lineup was tight, complementary, and mainly comprised of rockers who would make Bob Weir comfortable at a party. Although we missed Kelly Fragale, who’s probably younger than most of the others by about 25 years, the word on the deck was that she was ethereal and artsy. She was super friendly and I plan to check her out later this summer, as you’ve gotta support the female artists, especially those who are not given to self-posturing. The rest of the bands – D.D. & The Divebombers, Hearts of Soul, Ernie White Band, Joe Zook & Paul Plumeri — mostly gave us straight-ahead electric blues — some originals, some covers – and sparked it up like acts you might catch at a well-produced brew fest.

As always, hearing Blues reminds me how critical it is to sustain them. Jerry Monk, one of the musicians, was telling me today that Trenton used to have a thriving music scene, with guys like Eric Clapton stopping through because it was on the circuit. But gangs and drugs started taking over the area and people didn’t feel safe coming into town anymore. Venues closed. Musicians still played but the circle became scattered. The Trenton Musicians Foundation is in some ways an attempt to combat that. It’s new, yet it brings together local musicians who have played together for decades. Many friends of the performers came to support them and the whole bar felt, as far as the music is concerned, like a communal and sharing space. One artist asked the audience who grew up in Trenton and a nice number of people in their 50’s clapped or raised their hands and I got the sense that for them, today felt like some sort of homecoming.

The closing act starred Duke Williams (front man for the Extremes), a serious looking white dude with a shock of white hair and a snowy beard who was wearing a white nylon-ish suit with black patches. He played the blues piano and everyone treated him a minor celebrity. Our new friend Scott Rednor, who backed up The Duke’s piano with his guitar, whispered after he got off stage that he’d asked The Duke before they went on what they would be playing. According to Scott, The Duke replied somberly, “Whatever God tells me.”

We hung out for a good deal of the day/night with Scott his friends Tony C. (who performed), John and Chris. John and Tony gave me a bunch of good suggestions for places I didn’t know where I can see some great music, and I had an engaging talk with Tony Buford, who’s doing the marketing for the foundation. Scott and his boys graciously asked us to come on their boat after the show but it was late and we had to jet. They were fun, though, and I thank them for showing us a good time.

Katmandu has a nice element to it in that at these types of events everyone interacts. There’s no pretention or separation. There is a small outdoor section where the players stage and wait around but it’s right next to the public deck so you can really talk to whomever you want. Plus, the musicians have to get their drinks from the bar, too.

The foundation should be getting its website up this week so I’ll post a link when it goes online. Yay future musicians from Trenton!

One Cool Yid

One Cool Yid: Matisyahu at Electric Factory, July 9, 2009

I wouldn’t ordinarily get so amped about crowd surfing. But I mean, Matisyahu basically gets a pass for just about anything he wants to do, on stage and off. The man pulls off his contradiction of Hadisdic Jew reggae/hip-hop star with such entrancing genius, he gets to claim cool even when and likely because he’s wearing a yarmulke underneath his trucker’s cap and tsitsit are dangling from his garage jumpsuit.

Religious Jews don’t normally get rock stars to look up to. But this dude rocks out patois, English, Hebrew and Yiddish in any one song, so much so that I more often than would care to admit have no idea what he was saying! He does sing prayers interspersed with the other lyrics and leads a service of swaying adherents who raise their hands in glory. I was overjoyed to join the minyan(s) and groove with the most ancient of my people’s spiritual calls. Sung in reggae and hip-hop and backed up with a jam band. Hellacious, like Adam Horowitz and Trey Anastasio getting together and jamming out with your rabbi.

Needless to say, I was spun around and called to take notice. I actually can imagine hearing the sounds of ripping conceived by the guitars. It had that element of sustained borderline frenzy that good jam bands have.

And in Philly, Matisyahu is home. So if he wants to jump off the stage into the arms of his fans, and compel the rest of his band to do the same, I say l’chaim.