Park Avenue Armory, Wade Thompson Drill Hall
643 Park Ave. at 67th St.
June 3-9, $40-$95
German composer and artist Heiner Goebbels constructs, deconstructs, and reconstructs the last hundred years of European history in Everything that happened and would happen, making its American premiere at Park Ave. Armory through June 9. Reconfigured for the armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall — it was originally staged in a former railway depot in Manchester — the multimedia, polyphonic spectacle starts as soon as the doors open, so be sure to get there early. The audience sits in rising rafters on the west side of the hall, watching a team of dancers in black (Juan Felipe Amaya Gonzalez, Sandhya Daemgen, Antoine Effroy, Ismeni Espejel, Montserrat Gardó Castillo, Freddy Houndekindo, Tuan Ly, Thanh Nguyễn Duy, John Rowley, Annegret Schalke, Ildikó Tóth, Tyra Wigg) carry seemingly random objects onstage — long tubes, metallic seashells, a gold sun, large cloths that they hang from above — position them carefully, then remove them.
Various people read passages from Patrik Ouředník’s 2001 Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century, a tragicomic, stream-of-consciousness look at the twentieth century, exploring war, racism, colonialism, collective memory, liberal democracy, the Holocaust, Barbie dolls, and more. Sentences are occasionally projected on hanging sheets designed with trees, maps, and architectural structures, in addition to unedited footage from Euronews’s No Comment, with no narration or context; the night we attended featured very recent live, often violent images from Syria, Colombia, and other nations. (The video design is by Rene Liebert.) In one corner smoke oozes out of a cave, creating a face. Rocks storm down in an avalanche. The dancers roll column-like plinths across the stage, pedestals without busts; later, one performer climbs on top of one and reads from Ouředník’s book.
The dissonant score, from John Cage’s Europeras 1&2, is played by Camille Émaille on percussion, Gianni Gebbia on saxophone, Cécile Lartigau on ondes Martenot, Nicolas Perrin on guitar and electronics, and Léo Maurel on several specially built, unusual instruments. (The props are from Goebbels’s 2012 production of Europeras 1&2.) Willi Bopp’s stunning sound design has music and words emerging from numerous speakers throughout the hall, as if a choreographed sonic dance. Goebbels is a master of deception; while you’re watching one element, others will sneak up on you, offering surprises galore, evoking life itself — and war, specifically, but without the immediate threat. A long, narrow beam becomes a mobile trench. Black monoliths creep up out of the darkness. At one point I felt as if Birnam Wood was stealthily approaching; another reminded me of George Washington crossing the Delaware (even if it’s not from the last century). The dancers and musicians improvise, furthering the anything-can-happen atmosphere.
Perhaps what’s most invigorating about the 135-minute-plus intermissionless show — Goebbels’s third project at the armory, following Stifter’s Dinge in 2009 and De Materie in 2016 — is that despite the serious topics that are broached, abstract and not, Goebbels leaves it up to us to interpret what we are experiencing; he gives us the building blocks from which we can form our own narrative. “Everything that happened and would happen doesn’t participate in all the attempts to have yet another opinion as to the meaning of what has happened; quite the opposite. Guided by a deep mistrust in the transmission of a one-directional message, I don’t even try,” Goebbels explains in his director’s note. “Everything that happened and would happen seeks to open up a space of images, words, and sounds generous enough to avoid the impression that somebody on stage is trying to tell you what to think. It is a space for imagination and reflection, in which the construction of sense is left for everyone to assemble.”
It can be slow going, and several members of the audience did not make it to the end, which is too bad, because Everything that happened and would happen proves to be a provocative durational exploration of the past, present, and future fusing together, a multimedia barrage on the eyes and ears that demands our attention even as the mind wanders. Even when not much appears to be going on, something is, of course, mimicking life and the choices we make as we go about our day; Goebbels metaphorically hands us the controls and we watch and listen to what we want to, self-curating the presentation. Ouředník writes, “Historians said that historical memory was not part of history and memory was shifted from the historical to the psychological sphere, and this instituted a new mode of memory whereby it was no longer a question of memory of events but memory of memory.” On opening night, at the close of the show, Goebbels himself was helping the ushers steer the audience to the exits on the far side of the stage, forcing everyone to march along a battered landscape and take stock of where we are at this very moment in time, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. It’s a fitting finale to an adventurous evening of intoxicating, memorable theater.
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Peter Jay Sharp Building
230 Lafayette Ave.
June 6-8, $30-$60, 7:30
The controversial work of the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe has been undergoing a renaissance over the last few years, with documentaries, gallery and museum shows, and, perhaps most influentially, Patti Smith’s award-winning memoir about her life with Mapplethorpe, Just Kids. Now comes composer Bryce Dessner and librettist Korde Arrington Tuttle’s multimedia Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), playing at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House June 6-8. The sixty-minute theatrical oratorio is divided into three sections based on Mapplethorpe’s XYZ portfolios, which explore sadomasochism, flowers, and African American male nudes, respectively. The first part centers on Smith’s poem “The Boy Who Loved Michelangelo,” set to a Monteverdi madrigal; the second on Dessner’s personal reaction to the 1990 Mapplethorpe obscenity trial in Cincinnati, the composer’s hometown; and the third on poet and performance artist Essex Hemphill’s “The Perfect Moment,” which was critical of Mapplethorpe’s depiction of black bodies. “Aesthetics can justify desire, / but desire in turn / can provoke punishment. / Under public scrutiny / the eyes of one man / are focused on another. / Is it desire, equality, / disgust, or hatred?” he writes. Meanwhile, in a program note, dramaturg Christopher Myers asks, “Is it possible to imagine these men who are photographed with the impersonal intimacy of flowers, or bronze sculptures, as full human beings, with desires and pleasures of their own? Can we read the desire of the photographer, his conflicts and self-denials, in his steadfast commitment to a classical language that recasts leather daddies and daddy’s boys into upper middle class living room fantasies? Where in this thorny bramble of gazes, objectification, outrage, and intimacy do our own wants and expectations as an audience live?”
The production, which features giant projections of rarely shown Mapplethorpe photographs, is directed by Kaneza Schaal, with music performed live by Roomful of Teeth (Cameron Beauchamp, Martha Cluver, Eric Dudley, Estelí Gomez, Abigail Lennox, Thomas McCargar, Thann Scoggin, and Caroline Shaw), joined by soprano Alicia Hall Moran and tenor Isaiah Robinson; Brad Wells is the music director and conductor, with Jessica McJunkins on violin, Tia Allen on viola, Byron Hogan on cello, Kyra Sims on French horn, Ian Tyson on clarinet and bass clarinet, Laura Barger on piano and harmonium, Donnie Johns and Victor Pablo on percussion, and James Moore on guitar. The set and costumes are by Carlos Soto, lighting by Yuki Nakase, and video by Simon Harding. On June 7 at 6:00, the talk “Mapplethorpe in Performance with Bryce Dessner, Kaneza Schaal, and Korde Arrington Tuttle” will be held in the BAM Hillman Attic Studio.
Park Avenue Armory, Wade Thompson Drill Hall
643 Park Ave. at 67th St.
June 3-9, $40-$95
In 2009, German composer and artist Heiner Goebbels brought Stifter’s Dinge to Park Avenue Armory, a work for five pianos, sans performers, an architectural, musical, kinetic collage with the voices of William S Burroughs, Malcolm X, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. In 2016, his multidisciplinary De Materie featured a lighted zeppelin and a flock of sheep. His latest spectacle to come to the Wade Thompson Drill Hall is Everything that happened and would happen, running June 3-9. Originally staged in a former railway station in Manchester, the 160-minute intermissionless piece, reconfigured for the armory, combines unedited footage from Euronews’s No Comment, music from John Cage’s “Europeras 1&2,” and text based on Patrik Ouředník’s Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century. “Heiner Goebbels is an artist who defies classification. Composer, visual artist, theatrical pioneer, philosopher, and poet of the stage, he has for decades created compelling productions using a wide variety of performers,” armory artistic director Pierre Audi said in a statement. “The Drill Hall thrives on art forms flirting with each other, teasing us, provoking us, challenging us. Goebbels is the ring master par excellence who offers us a production especially inspired by the armory space. The result is an immersive experience that leaves each of us, the spectators, with our own experience and interpretation.”
The work, which was co-commissioned by Park Avenue Armory, 14—18 Now, Artangel, and Ruhrtriennale and explores a century of world history, is conceived and directed by Goebbels, with lighting by Goebbels and John Brown, sound by Willi Bopp, and video by Rene Liebert, with five musicians (Camille Emaille, Gianni Gebbia, Cécile Lartigau, Léo Maurel, Nicolas Perrin) and twelve performers and dancers (Juan Felipe Amaya Gonzalez, Sandhya Daemgen, Antoine Effroy, Ismeni Espejel, Montserrat Gardó Castillo, Freddy Houndekindo, Tuan Ly, Thanh Nguyễn Duy, John Rowley, Annegret Schalke, Ildikó Tóth, Tyra Wigg). On June 6 at 5:30, Goebbels will take part in an artist talk with Gelsey Bell.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, June 1, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum honors Gay Pride and the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots in the June edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, Linda LaBeija, Amber Valentine, and Madame Gandhi as well as teen staff members presenting an intersextions variety show inspired by “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall” and artists Morgan Bassichis, TM Davy, DonChristian Jones, Michi Osato, Una Osato, and special guests celebrating the updated edition of The Faggots & Their Friends Between Revolutions; a book club talk with Jodie Patterson discussing her latest, The Bold World, with Elaine Welteroth; a curator tour of “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow” led by Lindsay C. Harris and Carmen Hermo; a hands-on workshop in which participants can design buttons based on LJ Roberts’s The Queer Houses of Brooklyn in the Three Towns of Boswyck, Breukelen, and Midwout during the 41st Year of the Stonewall Era; a community talk on radical queer histories with Audre Lorde Project; and an “Archives as Raw History” tour focusing on the museum’s LGBTQ+ histories. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Garry Winogrand: Color,” “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall,” “Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room,” “Liz Johnson Artur: Dusha,” “One: Egúngún,” “Something to Say: Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine, Deborah Kass, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Hank Willis Thomas,” “Infinite Blue,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” “Kwang Young Chun: Aggregations,” and more.
Nearly twenty years ago, I worked a day job with singer-songwriter and freelance journalist Jim Allen, a gracious and friendly man who has a never-ending thirst for music old and new, obscure and popular, with a vast knowledge of his chosen discipline. Allen is a solo artist in addition to being leader of the country band the Ramblin’ Kind and the rock outfit Lazy Lions; this month he has released his first solo record in sixteen years, Where the Sunshine Bit You, a tasty confection of eleven tunes that showcase Allen’s sweet-sounding acoustic guitar and trademark turns of phrases.
Recorded live, the album opens with the swampy folk-blues instant classic “All the Way Down the Line,” in which he sings in his deep baritone, “Yeah, the sign said stop, it was only a suggestion / The dead end sign was really meant to be a question / Where’s that map when we need it most? / Are we christening a country or following a ghost? / Well, the train’s on time all the way down the line.” Jerry Garcia would be proud of “The Day After Tomorrow” (“When the worst of all your dreams decides to call your house a home / Then the arctic freeze is just a breeze compared to where you roam”), while Leonard Cohen would get a kick out of “Wedding of the Dead” (“Here comes the groom all dressed in doom / He’s got a bloodstain on his tie”), Richard Thompson would be honored by “Going Under” (“This hole has got a boat in it, it’s all that I can do / To find a way to float in it till something else comes through”), and Hank Williams is smiling somewhere at “What I Deserve” (“Oh, I was high and dry but now I’m low and drowning / I only hope God’s grading on a curve / When the cotton meets the clay underneath the milky way / And the time arrives to get what I deserve”). Among Allen’s other influences are Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, and Johnny Cash. It all concludes with the foot-stompin’ “High.”
A DIY effort, Where the Sunshine Bit You was recorded live in the studio and mixed by Magic Mike Jung; it features Matt Applebaum on guitars, Joanna Sternberg on bass, Steve Goulding on drums, and Libby Johnson and Jung on vocals. On June 2, Allen will be hosting a record release party at the Treehouse at 2A with a litany of special guests. Below he explains some of his process, his collaboration with his son, and his love of LPs.
twi-ny: What made you decide to do a solo album at this time? Your last one was 2003’s Wild Card.
jim allen: After that album I concentrated more on being in bands than doing the solo singer/songwriter thing, but I would never abandon it. Maybe the singer/songwriter-type material eventually reached — or more accurately, surpassed — critical mass and I felt like I had to do something more concrete with it. Also I began to realize how alarmingly long it had been since I’d last put out a solo album! So I started to envision a predominantly acoustic album of these songs. I think hearing Joanna Sternberg playing standup bass helped spark my imagination of how the songs could work in that setting. Fortunately, Joanna was available for the session.
twi-ny: You are also a singer/songwriter for the Ramblin’ Kind and Lazy Lions. What is your songwriting process like? Do you set out to write songs specifically for one of the bands or yourself, or does the song just come to you and then you figure out where it belongs?
ja: I never start out with any particular direction in mind; it just goes where it goes, not to get all hippie mystic on you or anything. There’s some overlap between my solo stuff and the Ramblin’ Kind, but a lot of the songs will obviously not fit in a country-oriented band. And the Lazy Lions stuff is much more separate; it’s an entirely different set of blocks we’re playing with, so there’s rarely any confusion about which belongs where with them. Occasionally I’ve tried out songs with them that we determined were more Jim Allen songs than Lazy Lions songs.
twi-ny: You have two kids who look like they’re a lot of fun. Are they into music? What do they think of Dad’s albums?
ja: Yeah, they’re possessed of an almost unnatural amount of joie de vivre. They like to hear music, and they love to have ad hoc dance parties at home, with me or my wife playing DJ. But they haven’t made a lot of their own specific preferences known yet. They love to hear my music, though. When I first got copies of this album, my son, who’s seven, wanted to hear it right away and just sat in rapt attention staring at the speaker for the entire thing, which was pretty damn adorable. Actually one of the songs, “The Day After Tomorrow,” began from something he said to me one day, that’s why you’ll see his name co-credited on it. Not that I’d necessarily be so magnanimous as to extend that same courtesy to a non-relative in the same situation.
twi-ny: You recently wrote that you have a “strategic approach” to the WFMU Record Fair. What does that entail?
ja: I’ve been a crate-digger since my teens, but I’ve always taken an open-ended approach to it. I figure if you’re only looking for a specific set of things, you’re gonna have a hard time finding what you want and you’re gonna miss out on a lot of other stuff in the meantime. So I just gravitate to whatever looks good, and inexpensive.
twi-ny: Is there a specific LP you’ve been on the hunt for and have been unable to find?
ja: If I ever encountered the first couple of Butch Hancock albums in the wild for a reasonable amount, I might begin to weep.
twi-ny: We often see each other at shows, by Steve Earle, Richard Thompson, and others. Who have you seen live lately that you love, and what’s coming up for you as a spectator?
ja: Let’s see. Well, most recently I saw my buddy Wes Houston play; he’s been performing longer than I’ve been alive and he sounds better than ever, so I find that inspiring. The last thing before that was Chick Corea in an all-star trio with Christian McBride and Brian Blade, which was blindingly good. I’m never sure exactly what I’ll wind up making it to see, but the next few shows on my docket are Barre Phillips, the jazz bassist, and the Masqueraders, an old-school R&B group that’s performing again, and my old friend Simon Joyner, a great singer/songwriter from Omaha who’s playing at Alphaville in Brooklyn. That’ll be five dollars for the plug, Simon.
twi-ny: In addition to being interviewed about your own records, you have been writing about music for several decades. Who are some of your favorite subjects?
ja: I always say the nicest person I ever interviewed was Jimmie Dale Gilmore; the guy just oozes genuine sweetness and conviviality, even over the phone. Recently I got to talk to Jon Anderson, which was huge for me because I’m an enormous Yes fan, and it was all the more enjoyable because he turned out to be a super-nice guy; he really is the sort of twinkle-eyed hippie prince you might imagine him to be.
twi-ny: If you could choose to write the liner notes for any album or artist, new or old, what/who would it be?
ja: Very interesting question. I got to write notes for some great records. I guess the ultimate would be Leonard Cohen, because he’s had the biggest effect on me.
twi-ny: Who would you most want to write the liner notes for your next record? Feel free to choose a writer no longer with us.
ja: As far as someone to write notes for my album, let’s see. This is a dangerous question because I have a lot of great music journalist friends, you know. So I’ll play it safe and go with someone I’ve never met instead, the British writer Allan Jones, just because he’s so howlingly funny.
twi-ny: On June 2, you will be hosting a record release party at the Treehouse, with such guests as Mike Fornatale, Emily Duff, Libby Johnson, Wes Houston, and Pete Galub. What can you tell us about the show?
ja: I’m taking over the joint for the night. We’ll be playing two sets, from 8:30 to 11. The first set will be the new album in full. And the second set will be some of my old songs plus a bunch of surprise covers and special guests, including the people you mentioned. Matt Applebaum, Paul Foglino, and Steve Goulding, who also happen to be in the Ramblin’ Kind with me, will be playing with me. The Treehouse is above the bar 2A on the corner of Second St. and Ave. A, where Tom Clark, who’s a great musician himself, has been running a great Sunday series for a good while now.
twi-ny: You were born and raised in the Bronx. What did that instill in you?
ja: I guess on one hand, growing up as a weird, arty kid in the midst of the very blue-collar, kind of conservative neighborhood where I lived, I developed a sense of otherness pretty early on. But at the same time, growing up in one of what Manhattanites charmingly refer to as the “outer boroughs,” I also developed an inclination towards lurking around on the periphery of things and sort of observing the hullabaloo from a safe distance. Unfortunately, it did not instill in me the ability to smoothly segue from that into the shameless hucksterism of reminding people that my album, Where the Sunshine Bit You, can be found in both download and CD format at www.jimallen.bandcamp.com. Alas.
I first saw Ian Hunter perform on July 5, 1980, at the famed Malibu nightclub in Lido Beach, a memorable show and a formative part of my teenage existence. Last month, nearly forty years later, I was in awe as Hunter, who I’ve seen play many times over the decades, led Mott the Hoople ’74 through a blistering set at the Beacon. Sinewy and lithe, he was as active as ever, making his way all over the stage, posing at the mic, playing electric and acoustic six-string razors, and teasing the crowd, ever the glam rock star in his trademark shades and curly golden locks. During the show, original Mott guitarist Ariel Bender made joking comments about age — “I’m happy to be here. . . . I’m happy to be anywhere,” he declared more than once — but with Hunter, it was as if time had stood still. He has never rested on his laurels, relentlessly touring while carving out a prolific career as a solo artist in addition to his time with Mott.
On June 3, he’ll be turning eighty — he’s also been married to his wife, Trudi, for nearly fifty years — and he’s celebrating the occasion with a four-night residency at City Winery, joined by his longtime backing group the Rant Band. On May 31 and June 2, they will be performing Mott the Hoople tunes; on June 1, the focus will be on Hunter’s solo work, which includes such outstanding albums as 1979’s You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic, 1983’s All of the Good Ones Are Taken, 2009’s Man Overboard, and 2016’s Fingers Crossed. And on June 3, there will be a gala party where anything can happen. In honor of the milestone, I asked the members of the Rant Band what impressed them most about Hunter’s remarkable youthfulness.
Paul Page, Bass
“I always love seeing Ian at the baggage carousels after a long flight. While the rest of us are scattered, maybe a couple of us are in the restroom, or someone’s on the phone or out getting some fresh air. There’s Ian, right up front, picking bags and guitar cases off the belt, lining them up and nodding ‘Is this yours?’ ‘Here’s another.’ He puts us all to shame.”
Steve Holley, Drummer
“I have had the distinct pleasure of playing drums with Ian Hunter for over thirty years and can say in all honesty that everything he does at the moment is beyond the reach of most people his age. However, age really has nothing to do with it; he just continues to write and perform at a level that we can only dream of.
“Happy birthday, Ian! And here’s to many more!”
Dennis DiBrizzi, Keyboards
“What continues to amaze me is Ian’s integrity and dedication to rock and roll. He’s still relevant because he’s still passionate about singing, songwriting, and performing. Age is no issue when you still have that.”
James Mastro, Guitar, Saxophone, Mandolin
“Centuries from now scientists will be studying the genetic makeup of an anomaly that straddled the twentieth and twenty-first centuries known as Ian Hunter and try to figure out what made him rock so well for so long. I wish I knew. Put him in the category of the Grand Canyon, the Nile, the Acropolis, the Cyclone at Coney Island: all wonders of the world that never cease to amaze or disappoint. I’m just glad I’ve gotten to witness this force of nature up close.”
Fifth Ave. and 25th St., Brooklyn
Saturday, May 25, $80 (twenty-one and older only), 7:00
Historic Green-Wood Cemetery kicks off its second season of the Angel’s Share classical music concert series and summer with the inaugural Burgers, Bourbon & Beethoven Festival. On May 25 by the Gothic Arch, you can sample sliders from Harlem Public and Madcap Café and vote for the winner of the Golden Spatula, enjoy tastings from Angel’s Envy, Blackened American Whiskey, Five & 20, NY Distilling Co, Van Brunt Stillhouse, Widow Jane, and other distilleries, and listen to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony performed by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn, conducted by Eli Spindel. The evening is presented by Death of Classical and the Green-Wood Historic Fund and will be hosted by Matt Abramovitz of WQXR. In addition, there will be a preconcert sunset reception with a view of New York harbor and the Manhattan skyline.