The city is looking for a new tenant for a nearly 10,000 square-foot, publicly owned commercial space on Crown Street, with an eye toward bringing in a new music club sized between the College Street Music Hall and clubs like Café Nine.
“I love everyone in this room, even if I don’t know you, because this is a room full of love,” Ben Mikula of the Alpaca Gnomes told the crowd right before the last song of the set he was playing with two other members of his band at Pacific Standard Tavern on Sunday afternoon. “I’m so glad to see people helping each other.”
Mikula was there along with a long roster of others to help raise money for the American SIDS Institute at the fifth annual Graceland benefit, held in loving memory of Grace Margaret Pimenta Fernandez, daughter of Hannah Pimenta, the founder and organizer of this event.
Right before beginning his song “Sweet Embrace” at Cafe Nine on Wednesday night, Hnry Flwr explained that the song was about “embracing our mistakes, because we live in chaos.” The area had been experiencing the aftermath of a chaotic storm that brought tornados, macrobursts and much destruction to many of the surrounding towns, but in New Haven that night two acts from New York, Hnry Flwr and Shilpa Ray, brought a respite and a sort of controlled chaos in the form of music to those who came in from the rain and chose another way to get back on their feet.
“I’ve always been into political music that pushes for social change,” said singer-songwriter Seth Adam before his final song on Friday night. “But for seven or eight years I was told to not get involved. Now I write about what I see. I look at song as a means to unify and create change.”
Adam spoke for the general sentiment of a show called The State of the Union, organized by musician Nancy Tatspaugh and musician and Best Video program director Hank Hoffman as a follow-up to last year’s Should We Talk About the Government show. Though this year’s theme and layout was slightly different.
Drummer Ches Smith started with a groove built from rim shots. Shahzad Ismaily’s bass rumbled beneath it. They made a beat that surged forward as Marc Ribot unleashed an arc of notes from his electric guitar, like a lasso capturing all the ears in the room. The packed house at Cafe Nine on Thursday night was full of New Haven’s musicians and others who understood that this wasn’t a night to chat in the back. They were here to see guitar icon Ribot — here with his trio Ceramic Dog — in a rare New Haven performance that let the band rip through folk, jazz, punk, Latin, funk, and hip hop, all brought together by a musical sensibility that came out fists swinging and was full of surprises.
“Goodbye Sky,” from the New Haven-based Head with Wings’s latest album, From Worry to Shame, starts with the dynamic that drives the song: Joshua Corum’s and Brandon Cousino’s guitars weaving their lines together. Andrew Testa’s drums come in, spacious and crackling, Joe Elliott’s bass rumbling underneath. And then the vocals, direct and honest, electric with emotion.
“Find me underneath,” Corum sings. “Her body lies still. / The findings are impure as hell. / Goodbye sky. / You’re so far from here. / When lights go out, / you’re darkening all that I fear.”
“When I started out, it was a big question mark: Is this going to be possible?” jazz bassist Jeff Fuller recalled. “I declared my major as music at the end of my sophomore year … and then I realized: ‘Oh my god, I’m not preparing myself for anything else than music. Is this going to work?’”
That was in 1965 at Yale College. Since earning a master’s degree from the Yale School of Music in 1969, Fuller has become a prolific jazz composer as well as an internationally renowned touring and recording artist.
While tuning her guitar MorganEve Swain of The Huntress and Holder of Hands thanked opening act Sam Moss and his band, including bass player Michael Siegel, for letting her use his upright bass to play with second act Daphne Lee Martin.
“We love those harmonies,” she said with a smile. It was a night of great harmonies and good company this week at another “Manic Monday” show at Cafe Nine, where audience and bands found a balance of kindness and kinship.
The original plan this week was to see singer Manny James perform on Friday as he has been doing every other week at the Anchor Spa, but the day before I found out the night had been changed to Thursday.