Welcome to the Free Show
Categories: Band, Stand-up Comedy

APAP|NYC is an annual convention for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, basically a who’s who of theatres, managers, agents, and solo and company shows, musical acts, and all manner of variety and production across the country and even internationally. Working through the Czech Center, I was helping my good friends and colleagues at the Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre get some bookings and possibly find an agent who wanted to work with them.

One of the ways in which acts get booked or represented is through a series of showcases held throughout the four-day weekend. Venues all over the city hosted dance companies, theatrical shows, and comedy nights, but many of the artists stayed in the heart of all the action at the Hilton New York.

My time pimping out my marionette friends was limited due to rehearsal commitments, but after a long day of dance on Saturday, January 12, I headed to the three-floor extravaganza in hopes of making some good networking connections for CAMT, and possibly even myself. Had I known so many agents and managers handling tribute shows would have been there, I would have most certainly brought some materials to promote my Meat Loaf tribute “The Legendary Pot Roast”.

Heading to the coat check on my way out after 3 hours of schmoozing, I heard the familiar chords of Neil Diamond’s “I Am, I Said” coming from a hallway I had not passed through during my earlier scouting. It seems these rooms were reserved as small performance spaces, and the music was that of The Steve Love represented “Real Diamond”.

Cover bands and tributes are of particular interest to me, as I often portray the Meat Loaf-esque character Pot Roast, sometimes backed by the great cover band known as Rock Star Karaoke NYC. When we filmed our big promo show at the Triad, I grew out my side burns (to go with my already very long hair) and out on 75lbs to really covey the girth of real M.L. Aday. Curtis DiDomizio doesn’t particular look like the actual Neil Diamond, but they could definitely be in the same police lineup. He sounds like the man, has a strong band (though his backup singers could use some rehearsal), and he is a true showman. Even in the small setting it was clear from the lighting, the quality instruments, the brilliant costuming, and his presence that he can definitely grab bigger houses by the balls and keep their attention.

Ending with crowd favorite “Sweet Caroline” (preceded by “America”) I was energized to go check out some of the other fare being offered up through the convention. Continuing with musical acts, I stumbled in on a group called The Hunts. They’re a family band, that started with some very traditional folk music, but have started to move towards an indie sound and feel as the children have gotten into their teens and early 20s.

Dressed in bow-ties and suspenders the men played along next to their farm-girl fantasy sisters wearing understated dresses and pulled back hair. Stylistically they were a cross between middle America and Williamsburg, Brooklyn though they seemed earnest in their upbringing and artistic experimentation. The ladies serenaded the packed room with a very simple ukelele cover of the Elvis Presley classic “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. Following that the family performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and ended with a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Fullsom Prison Blues”. Very humble and without any pretension they rocked the house and filled me with the same sense of fun they seemed to be having playing their old favorite. Their music is not my usual preference, but I am dedicated to listening to more of their songs.

Next on the same stage was “Guitars on Fire”. While the name of this also family band (Alex Fox and his two sons) evokes a heavy metal barrage of electric distortion and raucous anthem, they were much more classically trained and softer with their music, evocative of someone who had travels and studied around the world. While the tunes may have been fun for dancing, sitting in a crowded room was not as enjoyable. I left after their second song, the self-titled “Guitars on Fire”.

Switching gears from music to comedy, sort of, I moved down the hall and around the corner to where former television star Bronson Pinchot was performing select monologues from his longer personal appearances repertoire. Not exactly stand-up but definitely humorous and frantic, Pinchot regaled the capacity crowd room with stories of traveling to Greece, working on his first feature film, and surviving in show business. Fans of “Perfect Strangers” and those in the entertainment industry are sure to enjoy his “act”, but it seems his potential audience is a particularly small niche.

Upstairs were even more rooms and I found my way up the escalator to the elevator to the fourth floor where Katie Goodman was showcasing her one-woman musical comedy show “I Didn’t Fuck it Uo” which opened with a song by the same name. Looking like a younger (but not young) Karen Allen, her songs were crass but not clever. A fan of musical comics like Stephen Lynch, Bo Burnham, and Garfunkel & Oates, her songs were disappointing. Her attempts to rap about subjects such as being a MILF were embarrassing, though she plugged along like a trooper. Obviously her material is more geared for a drunken late-night crowd, but her talented guitar and piano playing combined with her interesting voice should be backed up with better material.

Goodman was followed by Lauren Fox who has a Joni Mitchell/Leonard Cohen cabaret called “Love,Lust, Fear & Freedom”. Adding a hat to her wardrobe to signify her Cohen character, Fox spins anecdotes of the lives of these legendary song writers; she tells of sexual encounter with Janis Joplin, the importance of the Chelsea Hotel, and emphasizes the short-lived love affair between the two sides of her show. Finishing her showcase (and my evening) with two favorites – the evening’s second rendition “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” – it is clear that her full show is worthy of critics’ praise and the MAC and Bistro awards it has been honored with.

An unexpected evening of free performances has lead me to the discovery of greater shows, bands I wouldn’t have known to listen to, and the hope that some very talented but unknown acts find their moment in the spotlight soon.

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