Lucid Culture


Four Headliners for the Price of a Beer at the Parkside 11/28/07

It was Freddy’s Bar night at the Parkside. Since Freddy’s is doomed – failing an intervention from some deus ex machina, the encroaching Atlantic Yards luxury condominium/arena monstrosity is scheduled to engulf and demolish the building that houses the venue– several of the bands from what’s left of the scene there have started playing other places. This is the latest. One of the ways you can tell if a scene is real is if bands share musicians, and this crew takes that concept to an extreme. Lead guitarist Ross Bonnadonna played with Paula Carino, Tom Warnick and John Sharples. Sharples himself drummed for Warnick and then fronted his own band at the end of the night. Bassist Andy Mattina also did double duty with Carino and Sharples.

Carino has made a name for herself by writing heartwrenchingly lyrical janglerock songs, but tonight was her fun set. She has a thing for weird time signatures and did four of them in a row: the caustic Rough Guide to You (“Just take me home,” the narrator sighs at the end, exasperated); the crunchy Discovering Fire; the hilariously punk Old People (“Old people must go/Set them all on an ice floe/Make room for the new old people”) and the quirk-rock hit Robots Helping Robots. She and band burned through the rockabilly-inflected yet mournful Saying Grace Before the Movie, a potently metaphorical tale of a woman alone in a theatre in a No Exit situation, knowing the villain always returns. They dusted off her classic, victorious Venus Records (“You’re my alltime favorite lucky find”) and encored with the scorching Coming To Your Senses, one of her most slashing numbers. The crowd was ecstatic: for once, the sound here was excellent, Carino’s vocals like velvet cake with creme de menthe icing. She would prove a very hard act to follow.

But Tom Warnick was up to the challenge. He’s simply one of the most dynamic, effortlessly hilarious frontmen in all of rock. Marcellus Hall is a good comparison: both like their retro styles, have a great sense of melody and an equally sharp sense of humor. Waving a hammer at the audience and pounding his keyboard with it – from the back of the room, it looked like the real thing, not a prop – he gave his completely off-the-wall, stream-of-consciousness songs just enough menace to give the crowd pause. Warnick does the evil-eye thing as well as Johnny Rotten in his prime: it’s never certain whether he’s just goofing around or whether he really means it, and he clearly gets a charge out of messing with his bandmates just as much as he messes with the audience. His best song was a very funny chronicle about playing a gig later on a Monday night at a club where the promoter expected him and the band to bring at least forty people. He closed the song with a brief quote from the Mission Impossible theme.

He and band also ran through the fast, noir City of Women, which dates back to his days as a guitarist, along with a gut-bustingly funny, twisted travelogue through the south and back: “You always hit the bullseye when I go in the donkey tank,” he mused. Since it was Randy Newman’s birthday – “If it wasn’t for Randy Newman I wouldn’t have written a lot of these songs – it’s true,” Warnick told the crowd – they did one of his songs, a 6/8 number where the narrator gets “some whiskey from a barman, some cocaine from a friend” and sinks into something approaching wry despondency.

After Carino and Warnick, the Erica Smith Jazz Odyssey (as Carino playfully called them) should have been anticlimactic to the extreme. But Smith, radiant in a shimmery black dress, grabbed the crowd and they latched on for the ride. She and the band may play mostly rock, but jazz and soul is where her heart and especially her voice are at, and the band gamely played along while she delivered a goosebump-inducing Cry Me a River along with sultry versions of The Very Thought of You, Ain’t Misbehaving and One for My Baby. They also ran through several of her originals, ranging from the bossa nova soul of the soon-to-be-released Tonight, the backbeat-driven 31st Avenue and a practically heavy metal cover of the obscure Judy Henske classic Snowblind (the title of the band’s forthcoming album).

The evening closed with John Sharples, who as he told the audience is “the anti-songwriter” since he doesn’t write his own stuff, opting to cover his friends’ songs. Good taste is his trademark, as he and the band (with Smith playing rhythm guitar and singing harmonies) launched into the excellent, tongue-in-cheek Blow This Nightclub hit When Amy Says, along with a surprisingly good, bluesy, minor-key Dan Killian song and eventually something that sounded like Minor Threat at halfspeed which Smith sat out (just as well, considering how much louder Sharples was than any of the other bands: he’s pretty punk rock). They closed with Smith bringing down the house as usual with a blazing, passionate cover of the old Beatles tune I’ve Got a Feeling. What a treat for everyone who filled the back room here on a weeknight: four headline-quality acts for the price of a beer, arguably the best lineup in any club this year all year.


November 30, 2007 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, philosophy, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. “It was Freddy’s Bar night at the Parkside. Since Freddy’s is doomed – failing some intervention from some deus ex machina, the encroaching Atlantic Yards luxury condominium/arena monstrosity is scheduled to engulf and demolish the building that houses the venue”

    No deus ex machina is necessary. Freddy’s is a plaintiff on a federal eminent domain law suit, so no god intervention is needed, just a few judges.

    Comment by huh | December 1, 2007 | Reply

    That is REDICULOUSE!! I am the manager of Freddy’s, Donald Fu*^#ing O’Finn! The scene @ Freddy’s is happening better than ever and is getting ONLY stronger, the bar gets busier every week, with 52 bands or events booked per month. Recently the village voice said “Freddy’s hosts some of the city’s most original readings and performances.”
    I personally know all individuals mentioned, and because they play someplace else (which every band that plays @ Freddy’s does as well, no band worth anything ever only plays one venue) does NOT mean they have jumped ship, or are not in for the fight. they are among our strongest allies in the battle.
    Law suits are happening, and no one believes this is over, or even close to being over, or expecting ANYTHING to happen soon, and I (along with the community that is Freddy’s) started this show @ another location (O’Connors), and if I must I’ll take it to yet a third location, Freddy’s is an idea…a social sculpture, not a building for Christ sake!
    Thank You
    Donald O’Finn
    Esquire Mag: voted ESQUIRE’S BEST BAR’S IN AMERICA. Freddy’s Bar and Backroom. (2006)

    Time Out NY: “It’s possible that Freddy’s is as near a perfect saloon experience as you’ll ever encounter.”

    New York Mag: “Greatness lies behind these doors.”

    N.Y. Gamble Guide: Voted ONE OF N.Y.’s 10 BEST DIVE BARS: “A Brooklyn classic worth the trek from Manhattan. Freddy’s is like taking a day trip away from the city – the place is so darn welcoming. …and there’s much to love about this place – it’s a spacious, beautiful old bar with friendly bartenders, polite patrons…… Also one of the best bars in N.Y. City for Sunday afternoon drinking.”

    The Brooklynite: “Freddy’s is one of the borough’s most vital cultural hubs.”

    Village Voice NYC Guide: “Freddy’s hosts some of the city’s most original readings and performances.”

    New York Mag: (Best Of) “The great Freddy’s…seems to sizzle with life.”

    NY Post: “While Crane-Swizzle, wasn’t the first to turn his local watering hole into something trendworthy – that honor could go to Donald O’Finn, manager of Freddy’s Bar & Backroom ( who began creating “an adult playground” with events like Cringe Night, Board Game Night and Quiz Night at his bar over 10 years ago – he’s certainly taking advantage of New Yorkers’ thirst for fun.”

    Shecky’s Bar Guide 2006 “This worn-in classic….a delectable dive…best known as a fringe art space.”

    NY Times: “Freddy’s… a friendly barkeep, good beer on tap and a generous backroom …. it’s an exceedingly comfortable joint. Some of Freddy’s clientele publish a literary ‘zine, Lurch, out of the bar, and it decorates the walls …The staff likes to keep things low-key… Freddy’s is a little bit blessed…..”

    Zagat: (2007) ”loads of atmosphere”…. “this place oozes Brooklyn pride.”

    N.Y. Sun: (on Diva Night) “…raucous and sublime… un-elitist, imperfect, and fun…”

    Time Out NY: “This is the perfect neighborhood bar.”

    SOMA: (South of Market Arts-San Francisco) “Freddy’s Bar waits patiently with a warm Brooklyn vibe … Freddy’s is mellow while still being interesting…. but most of all the place is comfortable.”

    Village Voice – BEST VIDEO ART IN A BAR: “Donald O’Finn’s feverishly edited encyclopedically strange video collages are lively rivers. …his editing is so hyper-intuitive that the culture shocks and time warps gel into a state of half vertigo and half trance. Catch his videos at Freddy’s.”

    Village Voice: BEST BROOKLYN BAR WITH A SMALL TOWN VIBE: also “Most comfortable hang.”

    CitySearch – Freddy’s is a great bar, all the beer you’d expect on tap, weird stuff on the walls, TVs showing bizarre sleazy movies, it’s got it all.

    CARA, Aerlingus Travel Mag: “undiscovered treasure…classic dive”

    Spin Mag: (on Cringe night) “The funniest night out in N.Y. City.”

    ESPN: “Freddy’s is one of the great dive bars in New York city….a far nobler institution than you are likely to find in proffesional sports” “Hip…yet unyuppified” “a Mecca for artists and writers with no stomach for hipster poseurs or overpriced drinks. “This storied speak easy represents the best combination of dive bar and underground cultural Mecca.”

    NY Magazine’s New York’s best of nightlife: “The best spelling bee for Adults”

    No Tourists Guide Book: (Best OF) voted Best Backroom.

    NOB (Not Only Brooklyn) Arts: Freddys…is both wondrous and free, presenting a diverse selection of artists simultaneously down home and excellent.

    Continental Air Lines Travel Mag: “Freddy’s…casual, free swinging atmosphere.”

    AM NY: “One of the Cities most popular Dive Bars”

    Metro (Mix): Freddy’s is all you would want (and more!) in a dive bar. The beer is cold. Their calendar is chock-full of interesting and offbeat events, including tons of live music, a diorama/craft night and something called “strip club.” There is always something interesting on the TV sets, including amusing B-movie footage that you’ll have to see to believe.
    Freddys Bar & BACKROOM
    485 Dean St. @ 6th Ave.
    Brooklyn, NY 11217
    (718) 622-7035

    Comment by Donald O'Finn | December 1, 2007 | Reply

  3. What a dumb lead-in just to talk about a few good shows…it’s people like you that help Ratner’s cause in your uninformed apathy. FYI, regardless of the court outcome for Ratner’s debacle, Freddy’s still has a healthy 4 years on their lease…so why not get off your blog and go check it out before you help “doom” it with your negative publicity. In any case, Parkside is certainly no contender! Long live Freddys!!!

    Comment by Nancy Drew | December 1, 2007 | Reply

  4. I doubt the bands are playing at Parkside are “jumping ship” because Freddy’s “is doomed”. Aren’t bands allowed to play multiple places? Also! I would think that the bands would be more loyal to Freddy’s in light of it’s current situation…I mean come on! THINK ABOUT THIS, what kind of person would say, Oh, this great place that we’ve played at an created a “scene” is going to be knocked down. Let’s not play there anymore”.


    Comment by Lisanne | December 1, 2007 | Reply

  5. Donald – thanks for the update and long may Freddy’s remain what it is and where it is.

    Lisanne , huh and Nancy – nobody is jumping ship or encouraging anyone to jump ship. As Donald has explained, the ship is still afloat. Relax. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn is also fighting the good fight in the courts,

    Comment by delarue | December 1, 2007 | Reply

  6. dear delarue:
    Many of us are fully aware of the situation ion all its details…The point was not what Donald explained here, but that he had to.
    “Relax? ” Save your condescending remarks for “Lucid Culture.”

    Comment by Nancy Drew | December 2, 2007 | Reply

  7. I think we’re all on the same page here. Nobody wants anything bad to happen to Freddy’s. Or to Hank’s. Or any of the few remaining oases of decency amidst the plastic-and-cardboard highrises. Let’s fight against gentrification instead of fighting amongst ourselves, huh?

    Comment by delarue | December 2, 2007 | Reply

  8. Nobody wants anything bad to happen to Freddy’s.

    But there’s a contingency plan: if anything bad happens to Freddy’s, we just move over to Ross’s apartment.

    Comment by Paula | December 4, 2007 | Reply

  9. The sound there is way better anyway. And you can smoke.

    Comment by delarue | December 4, 2007 | Reply

  10. wow; you defensive a-holes slay me.

    So the author got it wrong, and there is still a legal challenge to ratner’s — excuse me, *Brooklyn’s* — plan. Big deal.

    I knew he was wrong the minute he complimented the musical acts.

    Comment by hootenanny | December 6, 2007 | Reply

  11. Ratner is from New Jersey, you moron. He represents Brooklyn just as much as Saddam Hussein represented Iraq.

    Comment by delarue | December 6, 2007 | Reply

  12. Gee, douchenozzle — I didn’t realize that New Jersey Ratner could exercise eminent domain over land in Brooklyn. But gee, now you’ve set me straight.

    Wait — now you’ll call me a moron and explain to me how Brooklyn represents Brooklyn just as much as Saddam Hussein represented Iraq.

    Ratner may be the ultimate scumbag Saddam-Hussein-like beneficiary of “The Plan,” but I believe that Freddy’s is threatened by: Brooklyn.

    I shouldn’t have insulted the musical acts; I should have saved it for you!

    Comment by nannyhoot | December 6, 2007 | Reply

  13. Sorry — I should have read this before responding:

    Let’s fight against gentrification instead of fighting amongst ourselves, huh?

    Oh, wait; that was posted by the correspondent who called me a moron, wasn’t it?

    Ratner’s looking better and better.

    Comment by nannyhoot | December 6, 2007 | Reply

  14. Now we know how Republicans win: they save this shit for AFTER the election.

    Comment by delarue | December 7, 2007 | Reply

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  17. Thanks for the nice write-up!

    A couple of fact-check items: the titles of the Paula Carino songs are (I believe) “Robots Helping Robots”, “Saying Grace Before the Movie,” and “Coming to My Senses.”

    The Tom Warnick original is “40 People” and the Newman cover was “Guilty.”

    In my set, the Dan Kilian song was “The Worst Thing You Have Done”, the one you say sounded like Minor Threat was “I’m from Brooklyn” by Box of Crayons, and “I’ve Got a Feeling” is actually from the Beatles’ album LET IT BE, though I suppose it could be argued that is it a standard, and soulful. It is undoubtedly “old.”

    Everything my friend Don O’Finn said here is true, but I think I can speak for Paula, Erica, and Tom that we appreciate the thoughtful, insightful review.



    Comment by John Sharples | December 18, 2007 | Reply

  18. […] Paula Carino and her band were hands-down the stars of at least this part of the show, following with a blistering, upbeat, abbreviated set including the tongue-in-cheek Robots Helping Robots, a lickety-split version of the wrenchingly lyrical alienation anthem Grace Before Movie, and the spirited, Latin-inflected, sarcastic Rough Guide to You, a travelogue through a relationship where the road runs out, leaving the narrator wishing for a guidebook that obviously doesn’t exist. With its big stage and powerful sound system, the acoustics here are generally marvelous and they were tonight, Carino’s casual low soprano cutting through strong and clear. As a lyricist, she’s unsurpassed; one could also say that of the crystalline craftsmanship of her songs and the tightness of her band, Filosa doing what was probably sextuple duty this evening. Beefstock usually features a lot of jamming in the wee hours, with predictable focus and tightness issues, but Carino hit the ground running and burst through the finish line seemingly without breaking a sweat. […]

    Pingback by A Bucketful of Beefstock « Lucid Culture | March 10, 2008 | Reply

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