Tuesday, February 9, 2010

III-The Delancey

Baby Dee played a third gig while she was in town, but first the answer to the all-important question: Where did she park the car?

Rather, where did I park the car, because it was I, of course, who was in charge of parking. [Insert pirouette here.] The importance of this task cannot be underestimated, in part because Dee has an unpaid parking ticket, and if that car so much as attracts a policeman’s attention and the officer runs a check on it, a tow truck would come and impound the car, and Dee would be screwed, because her budget does not include paying off tickets or redeeming a car from the pound, and her whole North American tour depends on getting from Baltimore to Albuquerque via Calgary and Santa Monica in that car, and her income for next winter depends on touring … So you can see how important I am, I mean, parking is.

Anyway, I didn’t have anything better to do last Sunday afternoon, so I decided to move the car to a Tuesday-Friday spot; that way, no one would have to worry about it on Monday morning. The block where we had left it was lined with orange cones, and orange plasticated flyers were taped onto the sign poles: “’Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ is scheduled to film in your neighborhood.” The crew would start removing cars at dawn on Monday morning. When I told Dee this, she said, “I hate ‘Law & Order.’” Anyway, I drove around for a while and found a spot some distance away, down by the river, good till Tuesday at 11:30 A.M. It was actually kind of fun: not only did I have the gratifying sensation of having escaped a trap laid by NBC TV, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting and the New York City Police Department, but I rarely get to park a car as tiny as a Volkswagen Beetle. The spot I found was the last one before a fire hydrant at the end of a block, and though I almost rode up over the curb (VW bugs are wide in the hips) and the front fender overbit the yellow-painted curb by just the teeniest bit, it was legal, and it was still there on Monday afternoon when Dee went to get it to take the harp to her third gig, at the Delancey.

The Delancey is a bar with a performance space for a music salon called Small Beast, with acts chosen by Paul Wallfisch, who, among his other accomplishments, accompanies Little Annie Anxiety on piano. There is a long bar, and upholstered benches line the walls of three small rooms. The piano is draped in green silk and has candles on top of it. Annie appears there most Monday nights.

Dee was playing harp with the Cairo Gang, a band led by Emmett Kelly, the guitarist who played with Dee and the cellist Matthew Robinson in the other New York gigs (and will be going on tour with them). The first act was a guy with a guitar who did a song about a “teenage alcoholic” (I misheard it as “teenage operaholic,” which would have been more interesting) not once but twice, first on guitar and then on piano. Paul Wallfisch did a set, in which he sang in French (with a little German thrown in). Then Annie made her entrance, slinky in black with a red sequinned beanie. I have never seen her in this venue before, and she seemed exceptionally loose and wonderful. Dee and Annie did a duet, with Paul at the piano, on “The Dance of Diminishing Possibilities.” Dee is wearing her hair short these days, and has beautiful new teeth. She had on her Dalmatian-print hoodie and a red wool hat that has shrunk to fit a pinhead. Little Annie and Baby Dee traded lines and the microphone back and forth like a hilariously demented version of Steve and Eydie.

There was some canned music while the Cairo Gang tuned up. I can’t imagine how musicians can tune while there is other music playing, but I know Dee has an electronic tuning device for the harp. Emmett’s music was good—I remember a rapt love song, with lyrics a lot more interesting than, say, a song heard twice about a teenage alcoholic. Despite his name, Emmett Kelly does not look anything like a Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey circus clown circa the nineteen-fifties. In fact, he’s a bit of a heartthrob. He looks like a younger, scrawnier version of the famously photogenic David Remnick. During his set, young women sat on the floor in front of the stage gazing up at him.

Then the trio turned around a notch, with Dee moving to the piano. She did a bunch of the songs that had been covered by others at the Joe’s Pub show: “So Bad,” made famous by Frankky Lou Hightower; “When I Get Home,” sung and played by Andrew W.K.; “Teeth Are the Only Bones That Show,” which had been played by Matthew on cello and a young woman named Sarah on vocals and electric guitar, and which, as material, seemed as unlikely for these fresh young musicians as Dee’s “Price of a Sparrow,” with its line about hookers, seemed for nine-year-old Frankky Lou. “Teeth” is a savage song, and Dee tears into it. She also did “A Compass of the Light,” one of the bee songs; a new song with what we all, especially Emmett, hope is just a temporary name (Dee loves incontinence jokes); and finished with the Pie song. When the crowd called for more, she did “Lilacs,” and I realized that no Baby Dee set is complete without “Lilacs.”

Dee was off to Cleveland first thing this morning, and leaves for England tomorrow. Before leaving, she reminded me of the song about the teenage alcoholic.

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