Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Guitar Rock: Mike of Dark Matter

Mike playing

Interview with Mike

Artist: Mike from the band Dark Matter
Medium: Guitar and vocals
Location: Washington Square Park

I was introduced to Mike by longtime drummer and Washington Square artist Tyreke. A testament to the potential intimacy among the anonymous millions of the city, Mike met Tyreke in Washington Square Park and the two became friends through music. Both regulars to the park, Mike and Tyreke began jamming together this past summer. Mike
points out, though, that while New York is a great place to find musical collaboration, there are plenty of artists in the park with whom he doesn’t click.

Mike is a guitarist and vocalist in rock band Dark Matter and plays gigs with the band as well as jamming in the park. Initially from Brooklyn, Mike taught himself to play guitar as a child and has been pursuing music ever since. Now a native of the village, Mike enjoys coming to the park to “meet chicks, get high and have fun.” Mike says that playing in public “keeps him off the street and out trouble” noting, with a wry chuckle, that he’s been coming to the park for “a few years, just a few.”

Currently Mike and his band Dark Matter are recording a CD of original tunes. When the CD is done the other guitarist in the group wants to get a permit to play on the Washington Square Park stage – Mike’s got his reservations. Although he admits the potential economic benefit of amping up on the stage, Mike explains “when bands play and they’re, like, loud and we’re over here trying to play we’re kina pissed off about it. I don’t wanna be one of those guys.”

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Regardless, Dark Matter’s music is good and if you like what you hear try contacting Mike and his band

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Puppet Show: The Puppet State Players

Puppet show

Interview plus extra scenes

Artists: The Puppet State Players – Noah Applemayer and Colin Hagendorf
Medium: Puppet theater
Location: Union Square by the Ghandi statue

And, in a thick Brooklyn accent, Barney says: “And so then, I’m standing there in my own living room and the repo man walks in and he just starts taking my stereo. And I was like, listen buddy, you can’t touch that. Next thing I know I wake up in a pile of my own blood and piss.” Can you imagine that? Well, you don’t have to because you can watch it (it’s in the middle of the show with an alternate version at the end of the interview vid).

This is the work of puppeteers and comedy writers Noah Applemayer and Colin Hagendorf. With little or no experience, Noah and Colin entered the world of comedy puppet theater during the 2004 RNC in New York. Here’s how it went down –

[a hotel in Italy]
*ring ring*
Noah: “Have you ever done a puppet show before?”
Colin: “No, I haven’t. I got no experience”
Noah: Well, okay, that’s good ‘cause we’re gonna do a puppet show together during the

Suprised that people actually stopped and watched, the duo stuck with their theatrical hobby. Now Noah and Colin have seven or eight different scripts under their belt along with a couple of hundred performances. Longtime veterans, the two can easily run off the reasons they enjoy performing on the street. For starters, they don’t have to solicit and audience, send out pamphlets, beg their friends to come all the time or any of that crap. Instead they say, “[our friends] come but we can get an audience of strangers which is nice.” For these reasons the puppeteers say working the street is “way more gratifying than performing in a venue.” Well, that and other things.

Noah and Colin also note that the street is better because it allows for feedback. In theaters, they explain, you don’t really get a lively response (compared to the street) and you don’t have to work for the audience. “If we bring a shitty show out on the street people split. The public is a fickle, fickle mistress.” Thus, when they first attempted their Guantanamo Prison Camp hot dog eating contest they thought they had a hit only to be met with the proverbial tumbleweed. Once they started throwing hot dogs at the audience, however, they really did have a hit. The growth and freedom the street provide are “addictive” in the words of Noah, and their benefits are only marginally diminished by the BS of permits and cops.

In case you were wondering, Noah and Colin do have real jobs and laughed at my question of whether street puppet theater is profitable. Noah, does a bunch of cool stuff but mainly paints houses for cash. Colin is a cook.

Noah Applemayer hails from Whitefield Maine and has been in New York for several years. Colin Hagendorf hails from New Rochelle and has also been in the city for several years.

Like what you see? Book a show

Really like what you see? Here are some of their influences
Pee Wee Herman, Mr. Shoe, Home Movies, Frisky Dingo, Venture Bros. (Cartoon Network, if you’re watching, pay me for my advertising)

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Matchstick Construction: James "the Matchstick Man"

James working

Interview with James

More photos at Flickr - just click the pic

More photos at Flickr - just clikc the pic

Artist: James the Matchstick Man
Medium: Matchsticks
Location: Washington Square Park

Most days James the Matchstick Man sits on a concrete bench in Washinton Square Park. In front of him are the tools of his trade – a desk which displays some of his work along with various newpaper and magazine articles about him, a card thanking him for allowing his work to be displayed in a museum of folk art, a box of matches, a small box for donations and a vice clamping in place his current piece. In his hands he holds an exacto-knife and bottle of wood glue. With these tools and memorabilia close at hand, James creates intricate patterns on wooden frames with burnt out matches.

In a slow, methodical voice James explains his story. As the son of a furniture maker/wood worker he was born working with wood. In his early teens he started working with wood and whittling. James only began his innovative work with matchsticks in the mid 70s. Although he enjoyed working with matchsticks, initially “it was nothing major, nothing big. Just something different to do.” His work was merely a jewelry box he made for a friend and he only worked in the medium for a short period of time thereafter. In 1995, though, James began making matchstick boxes in Washington Square Park and enjoyed it so much there’s barely a day that goes by where his unimposing shop isn’t set up in across from the fountain (weather permitting, of course).

Jame’s perseverance stems as much from his love of his craft as from his love of meeting new people and seeing new things. “I mostly just do it because…this is something I love to do.... It’s something worthwhile doing and people enjoy watching me do it and enjoy people watching me do it and I [enjoy] talking to people.” A fan of old movies, James muses over a fitting quote from a George Peppard movie – “’If you stay in one place long enough, the whole world will pass before you’… and that’s how I am.”

James is meticulous in his work, cuts and places each matchstick individually and makes everything from scratch, including the box frames and the designs. A medium sized piece like the one featured here takes between three and four weeks to complete. But while James’ hands are slow and steady throughout his work, his mind is envisioning a new concept or design. Thinking for a moment, James recalls an interview with Keith Richards where Richards noted that he could compose a new song even while performing on stage. “When I heard that, I go, oh wow, I can do that. I can be working on one piece and designing another piece that I have to do in my head.”

If you’re looking to acquire a piece of James’ work unfortunately you’ll have to go see him yourself. When I asked him about how he sells his work he said he works solely by commissions he receives in the park explaining that he’s afraid that if too many people ask him for a piece he won’t be able to keep up with demand. Besides, his message to everyone reading this is:

“Just keep coming by, saying hello and stopping to watch me. I enjoy you stopping by, keep up the good work and I socialize.”

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Like what you see?
There’s not really a way to reach James other than going to the Park. Leave me message at and perhaps we can convince him to open up a little.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Guitar Flamenca and Rhumba: Gimagua

A double header of Gimagua's music

Gimagua playing

Interview with Gimagua

Artist: Gimagua
Medium: Acoustic guitar
Location: Times Square station by the S train

Not that twins have to be the same, but Guillermo and Gabriel share a lot. As young boys both dreamed of having a career in music and of having a group together. What’s more, both fell in love with the same music – Flamenco and Rhumba. The brothers both took up the guitar at the age of 10 and, in 1986, left their home in Cartagena, Columbia to pursue music and a change of scenery in New York City.

Gimagua, which means twins in a Cuban slang derived from an African dialect, is still at it. Guillermo and Gabriel auditioned to be part of the MTA’s Music Under New York program and landed a spot. They say that the subway is an excellent place to promote themselves, generate business, and land gigs. The duo plays parties, weddings and other events. Guillermo also adds he enjoys playing in public (except when it’s too hot or too cold). “I like people, people like us, we get along well.”

Gabriel and Guillermo write their own music and both agree on their inspiration. When queried separately Guillermo said, with a grin, his inspiration included “memories of my land, women, sex.” Gabriel, a bit more modest said “what inspires us is our homeland.”

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Like what you hear? Contact

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Live Appearances In September '07: Pesu, Mecca Bodega, Break of Reality (this post is continuously updated)

Pesu's performance info below video

Every Thursday "Dejavu" @ Mannahatta
Sep 6 (Thu) at 10 PM - Sep 27 (Thu)
316 Bowery (corner of Bleeker St. in L.E.S. Manhattan)

Live Paint:
Yushi aka Pesu(Old-Souls)
Street Ball Freestyle World Championship!!!

September 15th @ SOL - 609 W29th street (bet 11th and 12th Aves) -


Come see the world's best street ball freestylers!!
1. Street Ball Freestyle - best freestyler from all over the world
2. Live DJ - DJ Envy (HOT97)
3. Live Performance - Red Cafe
4. Live Painting - Yushi aka PESU (Old-Souls)
5. Free Foo d.
6. Drinks all night.
7. Celebrity Guest Judges

You will get free give away T-shirts of Street Godz, which T.I wears.

$$$ FREE!!! $$$$


**** RSVP ONLY!!!

Sep 30 (Sun) at 7 PM at Sputnik 262 Taaffe Place , Brooklyn, NY

Yushi aka PESU(Old-Souls)


presented by Yume BKNY

Special guests of celebrities


FREE for Only RSVP!!!
e-mail to:

Mecca Bodega's performance info below the video

Saturday, September 15th
Peacesmiths International Folk Dance/Garden Party
6 Country Place, Freeport, NY
Live music, dancing and food 4-9p.m.
631-798-0778 for tickets

Tuesday, September 18th
Music Under New York - MTA Arts for Transit
14th St./Union Square 6-9p.m.
Wednesday, September 19th
Music Under New York - MTA Arts for Transit
Penn Station 7-9 p.m.
Thursday, September 20th
Music Under New York - MTA Arts for Transit
34th St./6th Ave. 5-8p.m.
Friday, September 21st
Autumn Cafe, Oneonta, NY
Ommegang Beer specials!
244 Main Street
Sets from 10:30p.m.-closing
Saturday, September 22nd
Electric Company
Utica, NY
700 Varick St.
10:30p.m.- closing

Break of Reality's Performance info below video

Monday, October 1st, 2007 - Break of Reality @ Luna Lounge, Brooklyn, NY. 8:30pm show. Tickets $8. Electric/Metal show.

Friday, October 26th, 2007 - Break of Reality @ Northwestern Connecticut Community College, Winsted, CT. 7:30pm acoustic show. FREE and open to public!

Friday, November 2nd, 2007 - Break of Reality @ LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, 31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, NY, 11101. 8PM show, tickets $15 can be purchased here.

Thursday, November 29th, 2007 - Break of Reality @ Eastman School of Music, Eastman Theater, Rochester, NY. 8PM performance as part of the Eastman PRISM concert, 75th Anniversary of NYSSMA.

Saturday, December 1st, 2007 - Break of Reality @ University of Rochester, Wilson Commons, Rochester, NY. 9PM-11PM performance. Acoustic and Electric performance.

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