In New York City, one often fails to be a regular. With so many bars, restaurants, clubs, events, etc. to choose from, we often hop from place to place, bereft of the acknowledging nod of a familiar bouncer or bartender (let alone a fellow regular).
But as one ages in NY-years, there is a certain appeal to deciding upon a few worthy establishments to frequent, safeholds in the swirl of the city’s never-ending orgy of frenzied innovation.
For those who fear the commitment of becoming a “regular”, Rockwood Music Hall is a delightful solution. Within the confines of a single locale, it serves up an ever-changing menu of worthy musical acts (on the hour, every hour).
It was there that I found myself on Sunday eve, to see singer-songwriters Rosi Golan & Ari Hest - a couple of Rockwood regulars themselves. Having just enjoyed their intimate evening set, I was preparing to leave, and that’s when the floodgates opened. Concertgoers of all shapes, sizes and ages filled the room (on a Sunday night!) so - with the enthusiastic orders of a photographer “No, you have to stay. Freddie will change your life” – our curiosity peaked, we decided to linger (at least for one song).
“Freddie” Stevenson did, in fact, change our lives that night (or, at least, our mood and perspective) – from the moment he and his band, the “Midnight Crisis”, hit that first smooth groove.
“I’m in some kind of boutique clothing store/Nothing makes sense to me no more/I’m headed for the door/Everything is more than I can afford”
From there, a waxing & waning 1 to 10 man band (from guitar, to baby-grand, sax, electric mandolin…) filled the smallish Rockwood stage, as we sat mesmerized in the haze of a beautiful, mystical time warp.
Yes, I said “time warp”. We stayed glued to our seats for a good two hours, while Stevenson’s singer-songwriter/busker/camp rock wooed us. Nothing short of entrancing, these are anachronistic - yet uncannily relevant - songs for the 20 or 30-something set that plays Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens on beat-up record players, seduced by the lyrics and the crackly sound. Born in 1980 himself, Stevenson’s lyrics are marked with the profundity of a wise, well-worn sage :
“May I pay for my sins in installments?/Sell the keys but save the ring/In the end everything comes to depend/On a few inessential things”
And if Stevenson’s lyrics are of an eerie eloquence – the foot-stomping groove of the Midnight Crisis is nothing but a good ol’ time.
For those of us with a day-job, Stevenson’s repeated midnight Sunday set at Rockwood is nothing short of depressing. Luckily, he can be found busking in Central Park or performing with The Dirty Urchins at the 11th Street Bar or The Tippler.
You can catch The Dirty Urchins tomorrow (November 30th) at The Tippler, a bar worthy of regular-status itself.