Ithaca Blog

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Year's Eve, Party?

Ithaca Blog gets a lot of hits in December by people searching for "New Year's Eve party."

It's hard to accommodate these seekers of seasonal fun, because NYEve is an amorphous time in Ithaca.

All bars and clubs are open, of course. For the most part, however, they don't have A-list entertainment.

A-list entertainers want pay, and there is no incentive for bars and clubs to pay large coarse notes on 12/31, as patrons will come out anyway.

Even if the pay were good, it is a hard night for musicians, as people are listening to them even less than usual. The people are howling for beverages, as it is a night when, shall we say, giddiness, is not a source of opprobrium, in a public that is less than observant.

Against the odds, anyway, local big guys The Sim Redmond Band will have a show at Castaways, and it will be the largest event of the night. Opening is Sunny Weather, old Ithaca favorites in reunion.

SRB does it every year, so it must work for them, and one and all. It also sells out, so if interested, you should get ticketed by Castaways soon.

Overall, the party line is this: anyplace will do tonight, if you are interested in being among the drunk, disorderly, and disoriented. Every place you can think of will be packed.

Personally, what we like to do on New Year's Eve is meet some friends and eat sushi and drink champagne. Then, even if nothing else good happens all year, at least you had sushi and champagne.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not Much Christmas Spirit At The Mall

We have the kind of lifestyle where we are not obleejed to do much Christmas shopping, just a little, so we planned just one trip for the season to the malls in Lansing.

We went on Monday, in the afternoon, when we figured it might not be too fierce, and maybe actually friendly. Wrong.

For one thing, the weather is bad up there, in a hilltop micro-climate, and driving turned from safe downtown to slightly treacherous, with light snow turning to squall, and very poor seeing-action.

The traffic was nuts, with a convoy of cars trying to make a left at the Triphammer Road exit, and the exit lane on Route 13 was not lane, but line, a good ways down the highway.

Inside the mall, I can tell you briefly, I did not find a good quality in any of the things I wanted. It was also, not vaguely, harried and grim. So I sure split.

But the splitting was rough, indeed, with all roads clogged, and any semblance of driving civility subsumed, by people refusing entry to the roads to mall-leavers; running signals and signs; cutting and blocking, honking and glaring and mouthing stuff, etc.

What world is this, I wondered?- trying to keep my cool, and my spirit of giving, which was my reason to be there in the first place.

I came downtown and went to the Commons. I mean, all along, I had intended to patronize both venues, as a generous Santa and a guy trying to spread the money action around. But I can tell you, next year I don't think I'll bother with the mall.

I am partisan, as an owner of a business on the Commons (Small World Music, CD's and LP's, shameless plug; hello to all our fans who still don't know we have moved from our old place to the basement of Autumn Leaves Books, joining Angry Mom Records there).

I found the good-quality things I wanted at Benjamin Peters clothing store. I also found some nice things at Now You're Cooking and Ten Thousand Villages. That's the main thing. But another thing is that I had a pleasant time.

The traffic downtown was busy, but easy, and not heated with hate. I parked for free in the Green Street garage. My fellow shoppers were relaxed and smiley. The store people were cool and nice.

I can tell you, as one of those store owners, we are nice because we really appreciate your business, and if I did not think it was hokey, or bad reading, I would insert that word "really" four or five times or more.

At the mall, God bless the workers there, but they really have no incentive to be nice. The small business owner, on the other hand, thinks of you as great sweetness.

The clerks at the mall don't care if they never see you again - and actually, as you simply represent more work, without attendant compensation, they'd prefer not to. But independent business owners and workers consider your very presence a success, an event, and a blessing. If you think I'm overstating it, ask one.

So: I wish you luck with your gift-giving. This is really a great time of year, an affirmation of humanity, when people give and act for each other, and say charmingly nice things even just in passing: "happy" this, "merry" that. "Merry" - you know? That in itself is a great idea and goal.

In the dead of cold and dark, we strive to bring joyful life to our loved ones and the world. Not bad.

Local First Ithaca and other community groups are doing a great job emphasizing how important it is, economically, to shop at home-grown businesses. I guess here I am trying to note how much easier and more fun it can be.

All the best - and much merriment! - to you and yours for the season.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog
and Small World Music/Angry Mom Records

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Captain Beefheart, Christmas Music, 2010

Captain Beefheart, the singer and composer, died this past week, and due to social media, his music is all around, at least among my facefriends.

It is a pointed counter to the seasonal music one hears all around at Christmas, which even if well-meaning, is mostly insipid and pretty bad. Beefheart's music can be pretty bad, too, but in a different way: interesting, if not actually crazy.

He always seemed to me a few steps from living in a lot. But he was lucky, as well as talented (he probably earned more life-time from his paintings than his records), and he had a productive career, and seemed to live as he wanted.

We presume his music is available all over Youtube; but haven't checked. See if you can find "The Dust Blows Forward" from the "Trout Mask Replica" LP of 1970 or so. It is a poem, or a lyric unaccompanied by music; and it is funny.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Monday, December 06, 2010

Benchwarmers Restaurant Closed

We were scheming a semi-promptu meeting with some friends who, like us, are big fans of the New York Jets football team, which meets its arch-rival NFL club, the New England Patriots, in a large, nationally-televised contest tonight.

Benchwarmers Restaurant on the Commons is generally an excellent venue for such a meeting: a sports joint with lots of TV's, a sports-and-TV-appropriate menu, and swell crowds when big games are going.

But we walked past yesterday, and saw sheets of brown paper covering the windows, and a small sign that said, "Closed For Rennovations."

Well, maybe, if "rennovations" is a synonym for "evver." That was our immediate wise-guy thought.

Our second thought, or maybe first feeling, was sympathy for a good business that we guess hit hard times.

We're sorry to see them go and will miss them. So will downtown in general and the Commons in particular.

Good luck and best wishes to the Benchwarmers crew.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Weekend Out, 12/3,4,5

The weekend is supposed to be relatively warm, or warmer than subsequent weekends will be, so it is a good weekend to go out, also before you get too busy and all. There is good music in town all weekend.

On Friday, David Bromberg returns to the State Theater. Bromberg was one of those young hotshots - though always a funny, self-deprecating one - who now is an elder statesman of American acoustic music. 8 pm.

On Saturday, the Suffer Jets roller derby team joins No Radio Productions for a "Derby Disco" night at the lounge above Delilah's (formerly Wildfire's), 106 S. Cayuga Street. No doubt it will be funky. 9 p.m.

Also on Saturday, Johnny Dowd presents his new program, Songs For Lovers, at Castaways. With alt-country rockers, Hubcap. 9:30 p.m.

On Sunday, Jennie Lowe Stearns plies the intimate confines of Felicia's, from 7 - 9 p.m. Then, at Castaways at 9 p.m., Langhorne Slim, a singer-songwriter out of Brooklyn with some grit.

have fun
Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog