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working through it

September 16, 2015

We’ve got just a few days to go.  We’ll rehearse three episodes tomorrow and then take Friday off.  It’s kind of funny, it seemed like this one was right on our home turf, but I’ve realized Jersey City is close and not close at the same time (props to Paul, who crosses the Hudson & the East River all the time like it’s no big deal).  Turns out, this is all very hard to do!  And it seemed like we had a good jump on this, but there’s always a million things last minute.  The more we do Perfect Lives, the more elaborate it gets.  In Pittsburgh & the Catskills, we were all under one roof, but here, we’re spread out, and we’re all doing other work at the same time (including thingNY getting ready for another massive piece next week).

I think we’re really getting to new heights artistically though!  I was at a place of very low energy today (and have been all week, trying to work on it & work through it), but hearing the strings & synth play the Living Room, along with my fellow three brilliant narrators, was really inspiring.  And sitting in the middle of the cemetery that will function as a Backyard of sorts for us, surrounded by these stalwarts friends & the great Woody Leslie on tabla, under the shade of a nice tree, was heaven.  There was no place I’d have rather been, no where at all, than playing Bob’s music under that tree on a clear morning in Jersey City.

I also have to use this space to call your attention to the amazingness of Zach Herchen.  Zach is our rep from Con Vivo Music, who do great things in Jersey City.  I first knew him as the baritone sax player in New Thread Quartet (with our thingNY pal Erin Rogers).  Zach is a saxist par excellence, as well as a killer sound guy.  But these past few weeks, he’s been a reassuring, patient, kind, helpful presence at rehearsals, whether he’s on his horn holding together the band  in the Supermarket, manning the board, or being a huge asset in helping think through things.  If you need a wonderful guy in this music scene, look no further than Zach!

– Dave


September 8, 2015

We have some really lovely programs all printed up for 9/19, the centerpiece of which is a sleek map, showing you where all the action takes place.  Unlike in Pittsburgh & the Catskills, everything will be nice & walkable in Jersey City.  Here it is:

And the Bank makes 7

August 26, 2015

Okay, we can now reveal the location of the Bank!  At 1:30pm on Saturday, September 19th, we’ll be performing inside the Provident Bank on the second floor of 239 Washington St in Jersey City.  This is definitely the situation for us which is most clearly playing INSIDE a bank.  We’ve been outside, and in lobbies, but this is the real deal.  FYI – no pictures or videos allowed in the Bank, for real.

pardon our appearance

August 17, 2015

Just wanted to acknowledge that our site is down at the moment, it’s just giving you a redirect to Con Vivo’s page about PL:JC.  We’re working on it and should have something back up shortly.  In the mean time, here are links to the sites where we’ll be in Jersey City on September 19th –

11am – The Park – All About Downtown Stage
1:30pm – The Bank – Location TBA
3pm – The Supermarket – Key Food
5pm – The Church – St Paul Lutheran Church
7pm – The Backyard – The Historic Jersey City & Harsimus Cemetery
9pm – The Living Room – Barrow Mansion
11pm – The Bar – Brightside Tavern

And nb the Bank is gonna start a little late, more like 1:30.  We’ll let you know the location when everything’s all sewn up!

line breaks

July 19, 2015

When we did Perfect Lives in Pittsburgh last year, I took on the Supermarket for the first time.  The Supermarket is the episode I listen to the most just to listen to – it’s not uncommon if I’ve got a long train ride and it’s late in the day for me to pop it on and zone out.  For a point of comparison, I don’t think I listened to the Church or Backyard from the official recordings in years, much as I love the originals.  For the Supermarket, a lot of what I love is in that recording, for instance:

– the very quiet drum part in four that goes against everything else in five

– on the second page of the libretto, where it starts “It is different being old alone…”, when all you’ve heard up to there is the off beats and you suddenly get the wash on the downbeats, that’s like “damn” for me every time

– I like the consistency of Bob’s voice in this recording, it’s not like the Church where there’s all this variation in his voice.  I don’t perform the Supermarket this way, but I really like listening to it

Anyway, the point is it’s a brilliant recording.  Something I did incorrectly last time was try to dig into the language at the ontological unit of the phrase.  More like an actor than a musician.  I was taking slices of meaning and presenting them as a series of thoughts.  This works great for our arrangement of the Living Room, which is never really about synching up with anything in terms of beats.

This go round, I’ve re-approached the Supermarket at the unit of the line.  It’s going much better.  This change started when we were rehearsing Crash this spring.  Tom Hamilton remarked that he thought that particularly in the “Crash” and “Journal” sections, we weren’t adding enough emphasis on the first word of each line.  Tom was providing performance practice advice, gained from decades working with Bob & co.  While such first word/syllable emphasis isn’t in the directions or score for Crash, Tom points out it’s not in the score of anything per se, but it’s part of the style.  This thought really changed my reading in Crash, to my mind for the better.  So coming back to Perfect Lives this summer has meant bringing this new thought in the mix.

When you read Bob’s texts this way, you get a steady amount of his characteristic unexpected emphases.  Maybe “the” is the most stressed word in a sentence, or “in”.  Once you start doing it, it feels natural in its own way.  Another thing it’s opened up to me is that previously, I was very tied to looking at my book for the Supermarket, making sure I was going slow enough that I kept up with the band (not going too fast is always the challenge in this piece for me, it’s so much better when there’s more space!).  When I begin to emphasize the first word of each line, it makes memorizing the line breaks much easier.  I think all told, this one little change is going to have a huge impact on how I tackle this episode.

One net effect of this is that my reading is quiet different from the recording.  After memorizing some text the other day, I put on the recording just to see what that would do to my brain.  It was good, I knew the punchlines to all the set ups, but I was very aware of structural, phrasal, rhythmic, and melodic choices I’d make that are different from what Bob does.  Not that I questioned his decisions, but I feel like the more we do this, the more information we arm ourselves with, the less we’re limited to direct imitation of the original (much as there are moments that I’ll always drop into a direct imitation because it’s beautiful and iconic).

– Dave

did we mention?

July 10, 2015

Did we mention that we’ve got most of the sites locked down for Perfect Live Jersey City?  And that it’s on Saturday, September 19th?  Cause that’s a big deal.  Here’s what we’ve got:

11am The Park – All About Downtown Stage
1pm The Bank – TBA
3pm The Supermarket – Key Food
5pm The Church – St Paul Lutheran Church
7pm The Backyard – The Historic Jersey City & Harsimus Cemetery
9pm The Living Room – Barrow Mansion
11pm The Bar – Brightside Tavern

More info to follow, but that’s the basics!  We’ll be updating this blog more as the date approaches.



More words on Crash

April 22, 2015

There’s a nice review of Crash up at Hyperallergic, as well as a great conversation with Paul over at Culturebot.  And as the Culturebot interview states, to let the cat out of the bag, we’ll be doing Perfect Lives once again, in Jersey City this coming Fall.  More details to come!