seen and heard

seen and heard: supper studio

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

As a food writer, most of the time, my job includes avoiding open nights. Even in the better, faster, stronger culture of social media, the most serious critics still give new food businesses 4-6 weeks (and 2-3 visits!) before writing a first review.

On the flip side, in the music industry, there has long been an appeal of being the person to "discover" a band. While heading to a new restaurant is often a major risk on opening day, a great many music stories revolve around being present at the first public performance of a song, or even getting a sneak peak of a band's studio time.

Preparing the duck prosciutto and polenta fry appetizer.

Preparing the duck prosciutto and polenta fry appetizer.

At the brand-new venture, Supper Studio, these two worlds—music and food—delightfully collide, with all their disparate quirks and appeal. The event's organizers, Laura Leebove, Tracy Candido and Ben Wygonik, are no stranger to this mash-up, as Laura's longtime blog, Eating the Beats, features recipes inspired by various musicians.

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Such was the format for Supper Studio, with local band Pearl and the Beard as the inspiration for the evening's ambitious eats. As Pearl's guitarist, Jeremy Styles recalls, the group actually met Laura through her blog, when she featured their Bon Iver cover of "Stacks" alongside a fanciful stack of pancakes.

This seasonal dinner series launched on a humid night near City Hall. Curiosity ran high, as well as excitement. $35 for dinner and a concert certainly seemed like a bargain rate, so I was both anxious and excited to see what the night would bring. A glass wall was all that separated us from the kitchen—an exciting detail, from my perspective, but certainly one that raised the stakes for the kitchen crew.

Laura Leebowe explains the inspiration for the first course.

Laura Leebowe explains the inspiration for the first course.

We were promptly served small cups of polenta fries with duck prosciutto, roasted asparagus and horseradish mustard. It was a tasty, indulgent snack, if a bit difficult to eat. Upon hearing the dish analyzed by the cooks, Pearl's Jocelyn joked, "Our voices have never been compared to prosciutto—that's some expensive meat!"

As the band geared up to play their first set, the kitchen served a second appetizer of smoked almond tart with eggplant, vine tomato and ricotta. My co-diners especially liked this course, which we savored, settling into the intimacy of watching one of our favorite bands from 3 feet away.

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As someone who regularly hosts a supper club, I was impressed that the kitchen was accommodating for food allergies (a generous, but time consuming move, in my experience). The decision to serve the three final courses seated also created a significant delay, given the event's limited staff.

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Despite the delay, the other courses were well prepared—a refreshing watermelon radish and butter lettuce salad, creamy macaroni and cheese with salmon and zucchini and a sweet vanilla tapioca with strawberry rhubarb and shortbread cookie crumbs.

During dessert, Pearl and the Beard performed a second set, and any disappointment caused by the dinner's delay instantly faded. The band played a brand new song—so new, in fact, that they had yet to agree on the name. It was in that moment that I recalled how different the value of "newness" is in music and food. We forgive the experimental among musicians—the false starts, the jokes when they do mess up—in ways that we do not forgive cooks.

Pearl and the Beard's sultry cellist, Emily Hope Price.

Pearl and the Beard's sultry cellist, Emily Hope Price.

Which is why I would recommend Supper Studio to other fans of music and food. For a first event, the food was well prepared—an ambitious feat, especially given the team's small, makeshift kitchen. To boot, unless you work at NPR's Tiny Desk, it's nearly impossible to see a band (especially a great band!) in that intimate a setting. So keep an eye out for Supper Studio this fall. I'm sure they'll return with tastier timing.

seen and heard: superhuman happiness, poor remy, morgan o'kane, milla brune

By Carly DeFilippo
Photos by Jose Camargo and Yana Gilbuena

Oh, early summer. That time of year when we dance ’til we drop at outdoor music festivals, stay up way too late on weeknights and question if we ever could leave NY. Newly infected with sunshine-induced optimism, we Sofar NY’ers scaled the steps to a fifth floor Soho walk-up, squeezing in with 60 other newly tanned music fans, for a chance to hear the very best up-and-coming bands.

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First up was the aptly named Superhuman Happiness, featuring futuristic bleeps and bloops that faded into tinny guitar, muted horn and upbeat vocal lines. This curious mish-mash of musical talent was a literal juggling act of instruments and techniques, on one hand featuring a certain island sway, on the other sounding like the perfect band for an 80s houseparty. But within the group’s remarkable range, there was one consistent element: seriously catchy intro & outros, no matter the song’s particular style.

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Next came Sofar second-timers Poor Remy, a bit more twangy than when we saw them last. The trio’s energy is distinctly high—in their own words, they “yell about [their] feelings.” But rather than an angsty teenage sound, their charmingly peculiar movement and gravely tenors meld in a modern folk style—and we’re loving watching this young band come into their own. 

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Morgan O’Kane was slated next, bringing along NOLA cellist Leyla McCalla as a special guest. She kicked off their four song set with a beautifully arranged and moving setting of Langston Hughes’ “Girl.”

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From there they launched into O’Kane’s signature style, with the help of guitarist Ezekiel Healy and spoon-player Liam Crill. In O’Kane’s hand the banjo becomes a mode of transcendence, accompanied by a rocking foot stomping that mesmerizes any onlooker. The addition of Crill’s unusual spoonwork brought an additional level of authenticity to the group’s homespun style, a sort of secular seance for a simpler place and time.

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As for the finale, we were graced by Belgium’s own Milla Brune, an established European talent just breaking into the American music scene. If her voice is soft, it doesn’t lack for power—with an agility and soulful depth that most pop singers would envy. Brune shared the inspiration for one song in particular, “Precious,” inspired by a little girl who Brune struck in a came-out-of-nowhere car accident (Happily, the little girl recovered.) Touching in its recognition of the fragility of our day-to-day existence, the song demonstrated the best of Brune’s storytelling, reflective wisdom written into each line.

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seen and heard: beaty hearts, aabaraki, firehorse, seryn sounds

By Carly DeFilippo
Photos by Jose Camargo

Beyond featuring amazing live music, Sofar Sounds is a veritable tour of NYC’s real estate, from high-end lofts to low-fi warehouses. Among the most exciting places we’ve been hosted of late was the Cole Haan design studios in the Flatiron district. Inside an unassuming corporate building, we discovered a spacious, high-ceilinged living space, with snacks, giant pillows, couches…and a man painting the wall?

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That wall was a canvas—a very large one at that—and the man was none other than Chicago artist Joe Miller, who had volunteered to live-paint a background for the evening’s artists. As we moved from indie pop to soulful, singer/songwriter and bluegrass sounds, his canvas evolved in drizzles and waves of warm color.

First up was Beaty Heart, sent to us from Sofar’s home base in London. Looping melodies and lyrics, they layered organic sounds including their own vocals, animalistic cries and instruments such as a “gourd piano”. The effect was almost that of an indie-pop chant, with songs that ended suddenly, never quite where I expected it.

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Next came Aabaraki, a local, soulful quartet with witty, sexy lyrics and resonant sound to spare. From the hilarious lyrics of “Karate” (your booty, your body/it hits like karate/the kung-fu, the come thru/jiu-jitsu, i need you) to the deeper grove of “Girl”, they readily expressed their interest in the lovely ladies. But even when those feelings bordered on edgy, the wink in Aabaraki’s signature style won us over, song after song.

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Then we were on to Leah Siegel of Firehorse, a longstanding favorite of our NYC organizers. Leah, whose style has been compared with that of Jeff Buckley, claims she’s not used to playing stripped-down sets, but her mastery of echoing electric guitar and tension-building vocals suggests otherwise. With a storytelling lyrical style and incredible control of her vocal range, you could easily have heard a pin drop anywhere in the expanisve Cole Haan space.

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Topaz Jones, who had played earlier this month at our gig in Williamsburg, surprised our MC, Jodie, with a surprise performance of their hip-hop and symphonic band blend. It was a downsized sound from their prior performance, but their energy and creativity were still running high.

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Last but not least, the Texan troubadours of Seryn. This six-piece newgrass band harnesses the power of both sudden silence and layered vocal harmonies. They also demonstrated an impressive range of instrumental skill. One member of the band, for example, jumped from playing a xylophone with a bow to percussion, followed by a finger-picking banjo solo. Evoking both hope and nostalgia, their mature lyrics were as resonant as the band’s multi-layered sound, and it’s safe to say we all can’t wait for their next trip to NYC.

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And to end on the right foot – a huge thank you to our hosts at Cole Haan. Not only did they provide a beautiful space, but all of the artists took home a pair of snazzy new kicks!

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