“I have a band called Giant Cicada. We play chamber punk,” bassist Jon Burr told me as he handed me his card.
“Oh, chamber punk. Sure,” I replied. (Or something to that effect.)
Jon was shocked that I took in “chamber punk” as easily as if he’d said “Mozart.” (Once the son of a friend, about 11 or 12, came to let me know they were there to pick me up. He was in full clown regalia, makeup and everything. “OK, I’ll be right out,” I told him, purposely teasing him by ignoring his altered state.)
We had found ourselves eating next to each other in a soup place across from the midtown church where a Chamber Music America First Tuesday seminar had been held. I don’t know how we got to talking, but we soon realized we’d been to the same event and introduced ourselves. And when I explained I was in New York researching, among other things, groups fusing genres and so “chamber punk” had quickly come to seem pretty, well, normal to me, we had a laugh.
Note to myself and especially my younger readers: remember that nothing is more important than networking. Whichever of us started the conversation did the right thing. I keep working on getting better at this. There’s an old saying that “it’s not how good you are, it’s who you know.” The truth is that it is how good you are at what you do AND who you know that makes the difference. If your work sucks, it doesn’t matter how well-connected you are.
We’ve kept in touch. Jon lets me know about upcoming events, which led me to rush up to the Thalia Café last week, after a post-concert dinner with a friend after Thursday’s NY Philharmonic concert, to hear him and his Giant Cicada chamber-punk co-conspirators Lynn Stein (vocals), Carlos “Go-Go” Gomez on the cajon drum, John Hart (acoustic guitar–and he needs to get a website), and 15-year-old jazz-violin wunderkind Jonathan Russell. (I even sprang for a taxi!)
Another note: inviting people to your concerts/gigs really works. And yes, I’m rarely good at doing this myself. That’s why people hire publicists and managers. But unless/until you can afford that, you (or someone who loves you
It’s an attractive space with good drinks and food at reasonable prices. Giant Cicada (as described on the group’s website) plays a mix of music “from 60’s pop, jazz, the Great American Songbook of Standards, songs from around the world, as well as original tunes.” Jon does a lot of bowed bass; the guitar lends both jazz and classical touches; Jonathan’s violin playing combines jazz, rock, and fiddling influences; and the cajon drum brings in a distinctively Latin feel. Lynn is, simply put, a wonderful jazz/pop singer. It’s a wonderful, unique fusion of stylistic elements, performed by fun, inventive, skilled musicians.
They’ve got a great promo video (their next step, by the way, is probably to make a much shorter version):
At the Thalia, there were some, uh, challenges with the sound system, which made it near-impossible to hear Lynn and Jonathan. Not totally impossible, but it was if they weren’t amplified. Which was too bad, because part of the crowd was quite noisy. Get a bit of alcohol in some people who then get excited about their conversation, and they talk louder than the music. To them, it becomes background music (or even a bothersome distraction), rather than being the reason to be there. (I used to notice this when I played string quartet background music gigs. If we couldn’t hear ourselves and played louder, the decibel level of the talking would increase in parallel fashion.) It may be that given the lack of good amplification, these folks had given up on listening, but it still seemed obnoxiously bothersome. You could look around and see the rest of trying to listen.
Anyway, it was a fascinating, fun,and musically enjoyable, regardless of the acoustic challenges. The Giant Cicada folks are creative, good, and entrepreneurial. I look forward to hearing them again.