Paul Goodwin

Weiner - it's no big deal

Published on Mon 13 Jun 2011

How many of these things have I started with "I'm sitting in my favourite bar at JFK" now? Feels like a lot. I'm heading home after a lovely couple of weeks in New York which has, for the most part, been unnecessarily hot. Not sure what its problem is. It's almost exactly a year since I came here for the first time and from the first day I arrived I knew I wanted to come back for longer. I didn't anticipate coming back quite this often though. I've actually lost count. It's been a fairly action packed time but I'm not sure how much I can fit in before my laptop battery goes. It has the staying power of a Donald Trump Presidential tilt these days.

The day after I turned up we went to do some important shopping and then went to see some people play at a couple of Manhattan's most prestigious small venues. I'm increasingly convinced that nobody in the New York singer/songwriter scene has listened to anything by anyone outside of the New York singer/songwriter scene since about 1993. And that was the Ally McBeal soundtrack album. At least rip off Bright Eyes or something. I don't get it -  I reckon the majority of the music I like is made here. Somewhere. The only act out of 4 or 5 that was decent was Niall Connolly, an Irish guy, who I enjoyed a lot. It reminded me a bit of The Saw Doctors, which I'd imagine isn't a comparison he'd want, but I've always had a soft spot for them. Bizarrely, his guitar player was a guy called Warren Malone who lived in Cambridge for a bit, probably a decade ago. My friend Rob used to play guitar for him sometimes. I actually have his first CD. More weight to my theory that there aren't really that many people in the world.


The weekend I arrived was Memorial Day Weekend, though nobody I spoke to seemed to know what it's in memorial of. It coincides with a UK Bank Holiday that I don't know the reason behind, so I can't really criticise. Anyway, it meant that the Sunday was the same as a Saturday, so we got some incredibly expensive, but incredibly delicious ice cream (or gelato - anyone know what the difference is? It's all ice cream to me) then got drawn into the (second) weirdest open mic I've ever witnessed (if I'd have made a video of the guy playing Cannonball by Damien Rice complete with guy on out of time electronic drum kit in Paris the other month, I'd have been able to give up work on the youtube earnings) by a man of a certain age, wearing a sailor costume, playing a Bob Dylan cover on a tiny keyboard, completely deadpan. I still don't know if he was serious, but he had a real and actual show later in the day. You can get away with anything if you appear to believe in yourself.


Anyway. He paled into insignificance compared to this guy.

There was a bloke from Northampton on the table next to us who claimed his name was Simon Cowell and couldn't quite believe what he was seeing, but everyone else seemed to be really into it. I'm not sure if the whole event was a piece of performance art aimed at tourists. Except that one of our party, who went by the name Rhonda Diva, performed a couple of poems that were as sincere as they were carefully written, complete with random keyboard accompaniment, and got a bigger round of applause than anyone else

That evening we went to a bar on a boat, and I got a reminder of how many rich people there are here, and how rich they are.


We went to another show on Tuesday night - a guy called Greg Holden who is apparently the next big thing, and the audience was full of semi-known New York faces. He reminded me a bit of Frank Turner, but he only had the things that sometimes make me a little uncomfortable about Frank Turner and not whatever it is I like. Lots of aspirational songs about moving from England to New York to write songs. A bit calculated I thought. Presumably the next album will be full of songs about writing songs about moving to New York and writing songs. It's one of the awkward things about playing music that I feel uncomfortable expressing opinions about other people's efforts. So... he had a very good voice and seemed like a nice chap. His band (all of whom I'd seen playing with other people) made a really great sound too.


We went to an open mic on Wednesday, where I played Edinburgh and Muscle Memory, to general ambivalence. There were a lot of comedians who were, on the whole, very funny, which is unusual. Comedy tends to be much more awkward at a low level than music, I think because with music there's a definite place for the audience to show appreciation, even if it's insincere. Laughing on the other hand is a spontaneous thing that's very hard to fake. There was also a magician, which is something I've never seen at an open mic before. He had very impressive skills with the cards, but the thing I really liked about him was that he went to the trouble of putting a (presumably paid) stooge in the audience for the old $20 disappearing and turning up in a sealed cigar trick. For an open mic. Nobody cares about anyone but themselves at open mics. That is dedication.

My God American adverts are sinister. I just saw one for AT&T that was like something from 1984. Do people really fall for stuff that simple? I guess they must. It's only been a couple of weeks, and, as much as I like it here, I miss England a bit.

The country is currently gripped by a scandal that even makes the whole superinjunction thing look important. Not sure if it was big news at home. A congressman used his official Twitter account to send women pictures of "his bulging underwear". I suspect it wouldn't be nearly as big a thing (fnar) if his name wasn't Weiner (and if he'd not done that thing that politicians always seem to do of trying to deny it), but they've been having a field day with the headlines. I'm just waiting for "Weiner: I can take it" or "Weiner: they don't like it up them". Oh my goodness - there are TV pictures of people protesting about it. I'm confused about why politicians do such stupid things, but I'm also confused about what difference it makes to their ability to do their job, which is surely what really matters? Considering how massively corrupt America is, you'd think that sending random people pictures of yourself in a posing pouch would be the least of anyone's worries.

Dear Lord, someone is playing the guitar and singing in the departure lounge. That's even worse than people who think it's ok to play the guitar in parks. Which in turn is even worse than people who think it's ok to play the guitar at parties. He sounds like Jack Johnson. Well, not quite that bad, but, no need! Right, boarding the plane, so I'll leave it there and do the rest later. It's a double decker plane. I hope I'm on the top, but I suspect I'm not. You get a flight attendant between about 10 of you up there.