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Intellectual House o' Pancakes Webdiary

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2005-12-16 - 10:27 a.m.

Went to a Housing Works benefit last night, featuring Chocolate Genius Inc. and some others...a wonderful time in the cozy, sit-down splendor of the Used Book Cafe.

The openers, Judd and Maggie are an unspeakably wholesome brother-and-sister folk duo whose music is so bland and samey that the only way to get through their set feeling entertained is to envision a Judd/Maggie vs. Eleanor/Matt death match...or worse.

The next act, Jeff Klein, was a lot more interesting, sonically and visually--a vaguely goth-y (well, in the way that Eddie Izzard is an "executive transvestite," Jeff Klein is more like an "executive goth") singer-songwriter with a guitar and a tape loop unit that gives his simple, nakedly emotionally songs some body.

His songs are good, but when someone sings in a theatrically raspy/whiskey yowl, it takes me right out of the moment. Just sing, brotha, you don't need to pretend you're all gin-soaked and Zoot-suity.

Still, he had presence.

And then, Chocolate Genius got up and played an incredible set of slow, mournful, bluesy rock with a stellar band: Marc Ribot on guitar, Me'Shell Ndegeocello on bass, and a drummer whose name I didn't catch.

I remember a month or so back in the late 90s being dazzled by Black Music, and then losing touch with Marc Anthony Thompson's career altogether, so it was nice to be reminded that he has kept trucking along.

His new album Black Yankee Rock is complex and beautiful.

Watching the news this morning about how the transit union is setting off a "series of smaller strikes" made me feel like we're at war on our home turf.

The local news stations, of course, did what they do best: made the private bus line mini-strike seem like the end of the universe itself.

"This strike is going to devastate Queens!!" the newscaster intoned gravely, as if it were a nuclear strike she were talking about.

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