Musician and Actor Levon Helm (Born Mark Lavon Helm), best known as the Drummer for The Band, has passed away on April 19, 2012 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 71 years old. I was fortunate to see Levon play drums once, during a taping of the the short-lived Sundance TV Show, Spectacle, which was hosted by Elvis Costello. Levon appeared on the Build a Band episode, where he was joined by fellow musical legends such as Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson and Allen Toussaint. What an amazing set those guys put together! The East Portland Blog has an excellent Obit and remembrance of Levon’s life at This Link that’s both heartfelt and extremely compelling. Worth checking out even, or perhaps especially, if you didn’t know much about him. RIP, Levon. You will be missed.
A couple of weeks back, a FaceBook friend posted the innocent-but-completely-clueless observation, “What happened to summer?” into her newsfeed. And I was like, “(Friend’s Name) summer has been over for awhile now.” Because, fall. Fall! It’s not hot out anymore, but it’s also not really cold yet: it’s just time to unpack all the comfy sweaters and light outerwear from wherever you store it (me = the closet). Wearing shorts and flip flops is heretofore declared inappropriate!
If you are one of those folks who must be dragged kicking and screaming into the seasonal weather transitions, you can try keeping summer alive for a bit longer by visiting a fun and rather “hidden away” venue that I experienced for the first time just last night, called The Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club. Located on the north side of the Pier 17 mall, this unique outdoor establishment, which opened in June 2011, has maintained the “sandy beach” motif of its predecessor (the confusingly named Water Taxi Beach), and it also features a covered area where you’ll find long communal tables for dining and drinking, Pool and other and games. But let’s get real: the beach is where it’s at.
Photo By Anne Raso
Grab a beer, cocktail or glass of wine from the recycled driftwood bar (they also have a delicious hot apple cider with rum that I will recommend), find a place to sit, and just relax from your long day. Views of the Brooklyn Bridge are spectacular and you can even keep track of how long you’ve been drinking courtesy of the digital clock attached to the glowing red Watchtower sign just across the river. Convenient! Now that a wee chill is in the air, clusters of illuminated, white plastic love seats (quite sturdy, and not entirely dissimilar to this thing here) have been strategically arranged around crackling fire pits to keep you warm and smelling like a campfire once you head home. We enjoyed a variety of passed party snacks courtesy of our host that included burger sliders, gooey cheese puffs, mini bratwursts, tiny crab cakes with mango salsa and something involving puff pastry, warm brie, toasted almonds and apricot jam that was just out of control. You can view the full menu of Beekman’s traditional beer garden favorites at This Link.
Close Up of Those Illuminated Love Seats
While I am not much for hanging out in the bright sun, the beach at night is magical. And the beach at night in NYC on the edge of the river is like another world. I mean, how cool will you sound when you tell your friends that in the middle of October you went to an outdoor bar/restaurant with a little beach where you sat around a campfire on chairs that lit up like lamps while drinking hot spiked cider, eating delicious snacks and looking at all the pretty lights reflecting on the water. You will sound so cool! As an aside, I also really enjoyed the Classic Rock Radio soundtrack which took me way back to the good times with gems like “Baby Don’t Do It” (!!!) by The Band and the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” – a song with an insane saxophone solo that just takes off on its own little journey. Holy cow, I love this place. Treat me right, and I’ll bring you along next time. Because there will be a next time.
Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club is located at 89 South Street (South Street Seaport at Beekman Street) on the North Side of Pier 17. Be advised that you will actually be walking through a back alley and an employee parking lot before you arrive at your destination, so don’t freak out. Beach Club Hours are 11:30 AM to 3:00 AM Daily. Phone (212) 896-4600 for any further information.
Elvis Costello Hosts Spectacle On The Sundance Channel
A few days ago – actually it was the night I returned home from my whirlwind trip to Reunionpalooza in California – I got an email from my friend Jamie inviting me to go see Elvis Costello with her at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. When I first read her email, because I was delirious and not really paying attention, I thought this would be a standard Elvis Costello concert performance. But it turned out that the show we went to last night was a taping for this program called Spectacle, which runs on the Sundance Channel. It’s a regular weekly TV series, hosted by Elvis Costello, where he interviews and performs with various iconic musicians and celebrities. Elton John is the show’s Executive Producer, which explains so much.
Photo By Jamie Moroni
Last night was the “Build a Band” show, where an impressive selection of different musicians were introduced over the course of the two-hour taping (I believe the show runs for an hour), each one chatting with Elvis about his musical career and then performing one or more of his songs with Elvis and his longtime band, The Imposters. Elvis’s guests were singer Nick Lowe, who produced Costello’s first five albums, prolific songwriter/guitarist Richard Thompson, legendary pianist and songwriter Allen Toussaint – who has evidently written every song known to man – and the fabulous Levon Helm, drummer for The Band. Songs that I actually knew the names of included “Blame It On Cain,” which Elvis performed with the Imposters as a warm up, Allen Toussaint’s “Fortune Teller” and “Certain Girl” (popularized by the late Warren Zevon), Nick Lowe’s “The Beast In Me” (which he wrote for Johnny Cash) and what is inarguably The Bands’ best-known song, “The Wait” for which folk singer Ray LaMontagne joined the group on vocals. Eclectic!
Going to the Apollo Theater in Harlem to see Elvis Costello tape a TV show was really fun and a very different kind of thing to do on a weeknight. Plus, Elvis is so cool and rad (Favorite Elvis Costello Song: “New Amsterdam”). He really should record books on tape for kids, because his speaking voice is just hypnotic. The Apollo Theater is gorgeous and comfy, and even though neither Jamie nor I had ever been as far uptown as 125th street, we were joking that “Harlem is just like a normal place!” because that is what we do. The “A” train back downtown was also well-air conditioned, un-crowded and really fast. I was on 14th street in about 20 minutes, and home by 11:00 PM. Last but not least, Jamie is the most hilarious person, so we had fun hanging out and acting like idiots together. Good Times.