Monday, December 24, 2007

Vocals and keyboard: Midnight Mass

Brother Lee and Jillian playing

Segment on Brother Lee and Jillian

Jillian's interview old school Concretebeat style

Brother Lee's interview old school Concretebeat style

Merry Christmas from Concretebeat. Enjoy the gospel stylings of Brother Lee and Gillian Bennett.

Artists: Brother Lee, Jillian Bennett
Medium: Vocals, keyboard
Location: West Fourth Street Station

It was one-thirty on a Sunday. Traffic in New York’s West Fourth Street station was low and, for my part, I was just getting over a cold and just wanted to get home. When I heard Brother Lee and Jillian, though, I knew I had to turn on the camera and for nearly half an hour I filmed the duo’s non-stop, freestyle gospel.

Brother Lee and Jillian are two of a kind. Both converted to Christianity in their 20s and have decided to share their experience through joyful street performance. Like street performers who make their stage wherever they are, this pair considers whichever ground on which they sing their church and bring the energy of a full choir to the subway.

A native Brooklynite, Brother Lee is a software consultant for Fortune 500 companies. An ex-Marine, the GI Bill allowed Lee to attend college where he majored in Computer Science. He then pursued an MBA in Finance but when the market collapsed he left the program to teach and ultimately ended up consulting. You might ask how a seemingly straight laced guy comes to be singing in the subway.

Brother Lee has been singing and playing the piano in churches since he was about eight. Even so, he says he wasn’t religious until he was saved by “a couple of champions” when he was in the Marines. Lee’s ensuing religious devotion convinced him to become active in his faith and, recalling the Bible’s call to “go among the hedges and highways” took his evangelical singing to the subway.

Like Brother Lee, Jillian was converted to Christianity by “a champion” but other than that she has a very different story. Jillian started off in Maine but, after playing Peter Pan in a school play, her passion for performance took her to the exclusive Walnut Hill School, an art high school in Boston.

Although the school was rigorous, with professors drawn from Harvard and the top of the performance field, Jillian excelled. But much of Jillian’s success is due to her bold spirit. On the day of her graduation rehearsal, for example, Jillian snuck out to audition for Boston Pop Idol. While everyone at the school was sitting around wondering where Jillian was, she was busy making her way on to the next day’s Boston Globe (so if Jillian looks familiar maybe she is). Although she didn’t win the contest Jillian did not give up and, with the encouragement of her peers and fans, rented a PA from a street performer and busked for money so that she could attend the 2005 American Idol auditions in Washington, D.C. Of the thousands of people who attended, Jillian was one of the rare gems who actually made it on TV and into the Washington Post (so if Jillian looks familiar, maybe she is). While Jillian did not make it to L.A. she not disheartened and, in retrospect, is thankful. After returning to Boston, Jillian was invited to sing the National Anthem at Fenway Park (so if Jillian looks familiar, maybe she is) and it was on the commute to the ballpark that she was first introduced to her new faith. Now Jillian is thankful that she has found something which grounds her so that when fame does come she won’t be “so caught up in vain glory” and lose her way like celebrities such at Britney Spears.

Brother Lee and Jillian are committed to their faith and have hopes of starting their own church someday but the two are also committed music and are happy to play secular music at secular locations. But most of all they enjoy playing in the subway. Perhaps Brother Lee puts it best: “When you know the lord you know it’s not about you, it’s about people, because God made people. And God made people for us to enjoy. We are to enjoy one another…I love God first, and God says, in the word, to do like Jesus did…and touch people…and it could be about yourself to do that.”

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Live Appearances In December '07: Pesu, Greg Patillo and Eric Stevenson, Max ZT, Melissa the Loud

Pesu's performance below video

Dec 15th. (Sat) 2007
Old-Souls, Voodoo Ray, Danny Castro, Daudo & Mariyam present:
flow @ Chanto (133 7th Ave. South)

" PESU's Birthday Bash!"

Door: 11pm - 4am
Entrance: FREE (Just mention our name)

Greg Patillo and Eric Stevenson’s performance info below video

Most days at midnight at the Broadway-Lafyette station going downtown. Tell ‘em Concretebeat sent you.

They also perform regularly at the night club The Box

Max ZT’s performance info below video

Friday December 7th
Bowery Poetry Club 8-10pm
308 Bowery, Manhattan
$8 cover
(F train to Second Ave, or 6 train to Bleecker)

This show will feature my group, NAYA:
Moto Fukushima (bass)-
Luke Notary (percussion)-
Rich Stein (percussion)
myself (dulc)
Josh Geisler (guitar, flutes)-

Melissa's performance info below video

Every Wednesday, 7:00-10:30pm
Je'Bon, 15 St. Marks Place

Monday, December 10, 2007

Vocals, guitar and drum: Susan Cagle

Susan playing in the subway

Interview with the band

Susan playing at Rockwood Music Hall

Interview with the band

Artists: Susan Cagle (vocals, electric guitar), Will Flint (bass guitar), Ainsley Powell (drums), Renzo Jimenez (techie, fro’), Travis (techie, red hair)
Medium: Vocals, electric guitar, electric bass guitar, drum set
Location: 42nd Street Times Square Station by the S

Artists: Susan Cagle (vocals, electric guitar), Caroline Cagle (bass guitar), Peter Barr (drums)
Medium: Vocals, electric guitar, electric bass guitar, drums
Location: Rockwood Music Hall, Allen St. Between Stanton and E. Houston (that’s How-ston for you tourists)

What’s going on, why are there two entries? Don’t worry, I’ve got an explanation. I initially met Susan Cagle at the first location with the first band maybe a year ago…meh, more like 8 months. This was in my early days, note all the footage of the audience, and I wasn’t sure the chaotic interview was going to work. As a result I figured I’d do a follow up. Yeah, she’s hot but I honest, I just wanted to know a little more about her. In any event that didn’t happen and I put the project on indefinite hold since I wasn’t sure Susan wanted the videos up after we lost contact.

Then, a few weeks ago I ran into Susan in the second location with the second band while they were packing up. She said she was cool with the videos and I did an interview with the new group. Of course, if I were going to have an interview I needed musical footage. Susan invited me to tape them at the Rockwood gig and the rest is history.

The First Band
The way I was told the band was put together on a bet. Susan dared all the guys to take their clothes off and, since they did, she let them be in her band. You might ask where she found guys willing to do that but it’s pretty simple – in New York.

Susan herself started playing for large audiences in the subway. Around 2001, after having been into music for a long time and having been brought up in a musical family she decided to get serious, start composing and start playing in public. Once out there, she met other musicians, started her band and, eventually, got picked up by Columbia records.

Susan has had an interesting life. She traveled around the world with her family as a child and, as a result, has been mostly home schooled or self-taught. She did attended formal schooling in both Germany and Holland, though, and is fluent in German. Although Renzo mentioned she’s from Aruba she actually isn’t, a common misconception. In reality her parents were just passing through when was born – she’s actually American.
Ainsley Powell, the drummer, is also from a musical family. His father is a musican and it was “kind of natural for me to start playing with all the instruments in the house.”

Like Ainsley and Susan, bassist Will Flint also finds doing the family thing. “Following the family dream,” as he puts it.

Travis, the redheaded CD pusher is also a musician but prefers to be a techie in public and just plays music for himself.

Like Travis, Renzo also plays music even though he plays techie for the band – and it’s not a family thing. Instead, Renzo said he picked up the guitar by accident. His brother, Jonathan, bought a guitar so he could hang it on his wall at college to pick up chicks but never learned to play. As a result Renzo took it upon himself to make use of the instrument. As for teching, Renzo says he found the Susan Cagle gig on Craig’s List.

Like what you hear? Check out the band's

influences - Bob Dillan, Lauren Hill, Sheryl Crow, Dave Chappelle
website -

Really like what you hear? Contact

The Second Band
Caroline Cagle, the bassist, is Susan’s sister, so that explains that. Peter Barr met Susan at a mutual friend’s gig after having seen her playing in the subway. He ended up playing with her at Rockwood and now, as he puts it, they’re “like best friends.”

Peter himself has been playing since he was 12 and always wanted to be a musician. Peter is a street veteran and, before New York used to play in the streets in Boston, Europe and Canada whenever he had some spare time. He enjoys playing in public saying “I like playing so any place can be a nice place,” adding “it’s a really good way to get people who otherwise wouldn’t hear you if you were just doing gigs. They might not make into a pub or some place you were playing live.”

Peter's inspirations: Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Coltrane, as well as his own band composed of Jo Jo Quo, Tony Sedras, Dimitri Yushenko. He also gives prop to a lot of older music of the rock and jazz genres.

Caroline, Susan’s sister, is an ardent bassist. “It’s funny because everyone in my family has played an instrument but I just kind of wanted to play bass. I thought…it was my thing.” True to her passion Caroline, with the support of her musical family, taught her herself to play the bass at a young age and has been playing music ever since.

Caroline enjoys working with her sister is “easy” since she knows her sister’s style and they mesh well. She also cites Susan as an important musical influence. However, she says that playing with Susan in the subway is fun, it’s not easy – lugging the gear, dealing with the people, “it’s crazy”.

While born in Miami and raised in Germany Caroline says New York has always been a home and it’s a place to which she’s always come back; “it’s just not the same as anywhere else.”

Really like what you hear? Contact

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Poetry: Donald Green

A reading by Donald Green

Interview with Donald Green

Artist: Donald Green
Medium: Poetry
Location: University Avenue right off of Washington Square Park (but I’ve also seen him right outside West Fourth Station)

A poet of the utmost urbanity, Donald Green pedals his wares on the sidewalks of the great Manhattan byways. Seated at his folding table, with large mountings of his favorite poems flanking Mr. Green is more than happy to engage passing pedestrians in manner that is anything but. In his worn jacket and rumfled shirt you would not suppose that the man before you is anything less than poetic and that his regular manner of speech would have your forget your place and believing you were in the middle of a spontaneous theatrical dialogue. Such are the ways of Donald Green.

Such are the ways of a man who, as a young boy in Harlem, living just near the former house of Langston Hughes, felt different and turned to writing as his sanctuary. Such are the ways of a man whose father was standard working class but chose to work at Columbia University’s Library by day, study writing by night and sell poetry on the street.

Mr. Green has had a truly interesting career. After studying briefly at Columbia he began publishing his work. His work has appeared in books alongside such illustrious poets as Robert Frost, Langston Hughes and Donald Hall. He wrote The New York Times Millenium Poem in 2000 and was the lead off article in a New York Magazine spread on writers. Richard Rueben’s article “For a Pushcart Poet Life is Getting Verse and Verse” in 1997 was followed by articles on Patti Smith, Jim Carol, Mia Farow and more. Mr. Green also has a recorded reading with the Columbia School of Journalism on permanent archive which you can find at the school’s website.

In the midst of all this Mr. Green was persistently pursuing a career of poetry in his unique way. After saving up a few thousand dollars, Mr. Green left his job at Columbia to commit himself to writing. After quickly using up his savings, Mr. Green decided not to accept an offer to return to his previous job, but to persist while staying with his twin brother in Brooklyn who is “very traditional in his way of life”. Then, as Mr. Green tells it, recently (that is, a decade ago) he got the idea to try selling his poetry on the street in Brooklyn. “And the first person I asked bought a poem from me, and I was on my way.”

Today, Mr. Green sells collections of his poetry, some typed some hand written, in hand made anthologies on the street. He is also unafraid of the challenge to create spontaneously and will write a personalized poem upon request. However, as much as Mr. Green enjoys this life and feels it has contributed to his abilities, noting, “it’s given me a lot to write has helped me a great deal with writing,” he says his time on the street is drawing to an end. Now he hopes be a more traditional writer and publish books of his poetry as well as a musical he has been working on.

Some poems by Donald Green:

Blue Joy
Out of gray
came a bright blue
He sat upon my window sill
and for and instant - no
more than a ray of sun
in the whirl of time – we
stared at one another

He then lifted his blue wings
and gently returned to the gray

I combed my hair
I brushed my teeth
I dressed
I then had my morning lemon
and went off to work

And when the gray had
gone to yellow and from
yellow to a soft mellow
brown, I gathered my things and rushed home.

I wanted to see if he had
come again with evening time


I could not really say.

Perhaps this is what
loneliness can come to

When the Friend is You - Written by Donald Green on the spur of the moment
And a friend,
begins in
my mirror,
Not Alone in one
I can encounter.
For if the friend is not in my mirror,
how is it possible
to join
with someone
Is it possible even
to look with
beauty consistent
at the wonderous
All that’s about us,
Without ever at first
To relish the self,
can God be company without
What bond, connection,
celebration can there honestly be
without the ONE before

Like what you see? Order a manuscript or a poem or just leave some love