Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Citi Field = Shitty Field

First time at the new ballpark. The first thing that greets you – after the shock of seeing the parking lot where Shea (a dump, but it was OUR dump) used to be is the facade, striking in its cheap resemblance to a roadside stripmall or an ATM. It isn’t even worthy of a little league team, let alone a major league franchise, all paper-thin brick and metal overlay and spray-on faux-adobe. The cheapness is even more evident once you get inside. In an even more brazen display of cost-cutting while ratcheting up ticket prices, there’s vastly less fully enclosed space than there was at Shea, the sky visible from below decks upwards. Meaning that when it’s hot, you’ll be hotter, when it rains, you’ll be wetter and when it’s cold, as it was last night, you’d better bring a jacket or else.

The concessions at Shea were pretty nasty, let’s face it. The new stadium’s are even less inviting, several on the field level with their winding, labyrinthine lines roped off and therefore vastly more difficult to escape should you tire after standing in the same place for half an hour waiting for that $7.50 12-ounce plastic cup of beer (wine is $10). Instead of the anonymous Shea vendors, several national chains are featured along with a local pizza place and numerous bracciole stands. The bathrooms are no nicer than at the old place, although to the Mets’ credit they pipe the radio broadcasts in there now.

And that new rightfield overhang is a nightmare for outfielders, fans and umpires (more on them a bit later). Situated way up on the third tier, about 3/4 down the rightfield line, it was impossible to see anything happening in foul territory down the line, or for that matter about fifteen feet foul behind first base. Was it really worth it to design the place as a graveyard for their current rival Phillies’ lefty power hitters? Call it the House that Utley Built. And he doesn’t even play here more than nine games a year unless you (doubtfully, at this point) count the playoffs.

And about the game. Johan Santana started, a cold mist rolling in along with a nasty garbage-dump smell from somewhere between Flushing and the Rockaways. Although he struck out the side in the first and the third, it didn’t look like he was getting a good grip on the ball, perhaps an explanation for his unusually high walk total (six in six innings along with eleven K’s). The low point was the fourth inning where Johan came unglued after giving up a Strawberry-esque two-run laser shot by Adam Dunn deep to right-center. After walking opposing pitcher Jordan Zimmerman (batting average: .000) to load the bases, he then missed with a 3-1 fastball to the free-swinging Christian Guzman to force in a run and tie the game. He managed to get out of the sixth courtesy of two marvelous, sprinting catches by backup centerfielder Angel Pagan to get Dunn on a ferocious liner and then the pitcher, making an impressive attempt to make his first hit of the season a grand slam. Could have happened – anybody remember Felix Hernandez last year? Against Johan, no less?

Jordan Zimmerman is a star in the making with mid-nineties heat countered by a nasty slider. He made it into the bottom of the sixth in a 3-3 tie as the hapless Nats (a phrase that’s too apt to avoid copying from every other sportswriter out there) threw the ball all over the place. Catcher Wil Nieves dropped an easy pop fly but managed to throw to first to get Ramon Martinez, and Josh Willingham misplayed a Ramon Castro drive into a double that bounced on the chalk down the leftfield line. And then there was the incident along the other foul line, a shot by Daniel Murphy initially ruled a double with Gary Sheffield (a juicer, but he’s OUR juicer) being thrown out at the plate trying to score from first. Then an interminable wait while the umpires reviewed the play, which stumped us as well since all we saw was the bounce after the ball hit…somewhere. Didn’t look like it made it into the visitors’ bullpen, that’s for sure, as the umpires eventually ruled after an least seven-minute delay. But anything that’s good for the Mets is good with us.

The Nats’ bullpen is a joke, and the Mets capitalized, Nats manager Manny Acta mysteriously leaving righthanded one-pitch wonder Jesus Colome in to face the lefty-hitting Murphy with the bases loaded, even though he had Mets nemesis Joe Beimel available. Murphy predictably  responded with a liner that bounced on the warning track in center to drive in a couple of insurance runs. Which turned out useful when with two outs in the ninth, Murphy ably lunged for a Guzman grounder that Carlos Delgado wouldn’t have been able to get to, but then misplayed it. Guzman then stole second without a throw  -and what’s with the stupidest new official scorer fad, “defensive indifference?” The guy scored on Nick Johnson’s single. Guzman rightfully deserves credit for taking the initiative to get into scoring position. K-Rod finally got Ryan Zimmerman (no relation to the pitcher) to take a dubious slider for a called third strike and put Washington out of their misery, 7-4.  Go Mets.

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May 28, 2009 Posted by | baseball, Culture, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

CD Review: The Sweet Bitters’ Debut Album

A folk-pop masterpiece. If you consider that statement an oxymoron, give a listen to the Sweet Bitters‘ full-length debut. The cd features the absolutely unique and individual voices and songwriting of Sharon Goldman and Nina Schmir (formerly one of the sirens in Aimee Van Dyne’s harmony-driven band). Goldman, who’s got three first-class albums of her own out, is one of those rare talents who could write a catchy, fun pop song seemingly in a split second. Like her songwriting, her vocals are almost breathtakingly warm and direct, delicately nuanced but completely unaffected. Schmir is more complex and oblique, both vocally and writing-wise, with just a tinge of smoke in the voice, blending a contemporary urban folk vibe (think Dar Williams) with oldschool Brill Building charm. Both are poignant, very bright and can be very funny – humor is a function of intellect anyway. Over a terse, impeccably tasteful, un-autotuned and drum machine-free mix of acoustic and electric guitar, rhythm section and Schmir’s incisive piano, the two blend voices and offer up an indelibly New York-flavored mix of struggle, despair and triumphant joy.

For the most part, Schmir’s songs are the darkest here. The cd’s opening cut Vegas is a knowing Harder They Come update for the end of the decade: “It’s all going nowhere fast.” From the opening lines of Last Time This Way, as the narrator grabs a cookie and some wine and runs out to meet her boyfriend, you just know that this is not going to work out well. Tom Thumb (on Brighton Beach), a quintessentially urban tale, is visceral with regret and longing. But then there’s the playfully metaphorical Little Aliens, driving out the demons with a lullaby.

Goldman’s Secret Scar is a great, crescendoing rock anthem disguised as pretty acoustic pop – one can only wonder what the BoDeans (or Ninth House, for that matter) could do with it. Falling Into Place is another catchy urban tale, perhaps the only song ever to immortalize Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. “If I believed in god I would close my eyes and pray,” she sings in the imagistic, regret-laden acoustic Firefly. The somewhat tongue-in-cheek, upbeat Susie Sunshine, with its delicious layers of harmonies and lyrics, is less gloating schadenfreude than surprise that maybe things haven’t been so bad after all, in the years since Susie was in her prime (that was in college, Goldman wants you to know). But the centerpiece of the album, and one of the best songs released this decade, is Clocks Fall Back. If anyone is alive fifty years from now and wants to understand what New York was like at the end of the decade, let them listen to this, a towering, majestic harmony-driven anthem, vividly and unforgettably juxtaposing images of clueless excess and grinding poverty over a bittersweet, swaying 6/8 melody slightly evocative of Simon & Garfunkel’s Hazy Shade of Winter. The cd closes, something akin to sweet after bitter, with a love song: the guy can watch all the bad action movies he wants, but the girl’s not going to let him finish that pint of ice cream without giving her a bite!

The Sweet Bitters play the cd release for this one at Kenny’s Castaways on May 30 at 7.

May 28, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on CD Review: The Sweet Bitters’ Debut Album

Song of the Day 5/28/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Thursday’s song is #426:

Penelope Houston – Voices

Slow, haunting, 6/8 ballad from the Avengers’ frontwoman’s excellent 1986 acoustic solo debut album Birdboys (still available on cd and high quality cassette!). It’s an ominous meditation on getting old – which Houston seems incapable of becoming.

May 28, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment