June 15, 2014
New York rock legend Lenny Kaye is kicking off a series of monthly residency concerts at City Winery on June 18 with It’s a Nugget If You Dug It—Nuggets’ 40th + 2 Anniversary.
The show celebrates Kaye’s historic compilation Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968, originally a double-LP anthology of 1960s garage rock gems, often by one- or two-hit wonders, released on Elektra Records in 1972. It contained classics like The Standells “Dirty Water,” Count Five’s “Pscyhotic Reaction” and The Leaves’ “Hey Joe,” and was reissued on Sire in 1976 and as an expanded four-CD box set from Rhino in 1998.
Accompanying Kaye on guitar is his residency’s house band, Symphony for the Devils, made up of fellow members of the Patti Smith Band in bassist Tony Shanahan and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, and Fab Faux keyboardist Jack Petruzelli. They came together originally as the house band for City Winery’s Rolling Stones tribute at Carnegie Hall in 2012.
Each residency show will involve similar song themes and feature special guest artists, with Joan Osborne, Marshall Crenshaw, Glen Burtnik, Kevn Kinney and Steve Wynn sitting in on June 18.
“It should be a really fun show, actually,” says Kaye, a well-known rock critic before finding fame with Smith and in other artistic musical endeavors.
“I’ve spent the last two days with the boys practicing almost 30 Nuggets songs, and they’re great to play: The secret of Nuggets is that beyond ‘garage rock’ or whatever, they’re all really great songs when you take them out of the concept–really well-crafted, hooky singles that are very creative, that speak to a moment of time but also beyond a moment of time.”
Hearing a Nuggets song, Kaye continues, “is like hearing a great girl group song, or a great reggae song or hip-hop–or any other genre where you’re hearing the best. That was [Elektra’s founder] Jac Holzman’s brief: Get songs that were great, that perhaps you didn’t have—or want–the rest of the album. Of course nowadays we want the rest of the record.”
Kaye recalls picking “favorite tracks that I played when I was working at [Greenwich Village record shop] Village Oldies in the ‘70s. I paid my dues in the record world!”
He adds: “These songs are great songs and fun to play, and of course, Nuggets–Lord love it–has had a lifeline that’s remarkable for an oldies album: two score and two more–42 years since the Elektra release. I always think that if I go back 42 years from it, I’d have a 1930 record of mid-‘20s music. So the fact that this music has lasted as long as it has is a remarkable thing.”
Indeed. The venerable Standells were just in New York, touring behind their acclaimed album Bump. Meanwhile, garage rock/punk promoter CAVESTOMP! The Garage Rock Festacular! recently pacted with RockBeat Records to present new artist and reissue recordings spanning garage and retro rock, punk and soul–and will also promote live events in these genres.
“It’s the longevity of rock ‘n’ roll,” observes Kaye. It’s a Nugget If You Dug It, he says, will be “an old-fashioned songfest. We’ll play all these great songs: ‘Too Much to Dream (Last Night)’ by the Electric Prunes, ‘No Time Like the Right Time’ by Blues Project, The Seeds’ ‘Pushin’ Too Hard,’ Blues Magoos’ ‘(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet,’ The Strangeloves’ ‘Night Time,’ The Rationals’ ‘I Need You,’ the Amboy Dukes’ ‘Journey to the Center of the Mind’—all the hits. A lot from the original release and the Rhino box.”
While Kaye went on to find his own greatness in rock ‘n’ roll history as an artist, he notes that the Nuggets project remains a personal “touchstone” in formulating a compilation that “was both academic—as us rock critics like—and a great listening experience. I tried to walk that fine line in my mind on the original Nuggets of a Yazoo Records compilation of blues records from 1927: something very specific like that–or those oldies albums with motorcycle guys on the front cover and containing 12 hits of the day.”
“Those were my two templates,and Elektra–Lord love them–gave me space to do something like this,” adds Kaye. “They went along as I departed from the original concept and allowed it to become the worldwide milestone that it has become. I’ve had more beer bought for me because of Nuggets!”
Kaye recognizes that Nuggets, as a genre compilation, wasn’t innovative.
“But I had the opportunity to do it first,” he says of the garage rock theme, “and had the record collection to draw from. The story of Nuggets is my story growing up as a wild animal in New Jersey trying to find a place in the world, learning guitar and driving around constantly in my car and pulling in stations on the radio and trying to find who I could become.”
Of his remaining monthly City Winery Symphony for the Devils shows, Kaye realizes they won’t be as easy to decide on as It’s a Nugget If You Dug It.
“I’ve had 42 years to think about it and see how it’s impacted my own life and philosophy,” says Kaye, also acknowledging his good fortune as a musician to be playing with “one of the greatest artists of our time” in Patti Smith.
“But I could probably use another two weeks to get all the songs down right,” he concludes. “But that’s really the essence of garage rock.”
Forty-two years ago renowned guitarist/musicologist Lenny Kaye curated for Elektra Records honcho Jac Holzman Nuggets, a double LP compilation of American one-hit wonders that came in the wake of Beatlemania.
Kaye last week presented a “40th + 2″ live anniversary version of the album, subtitled “Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968,” at New York’s City Winery. Most of the 27-song album was played, as well as a few other 45-rpm rarities that showed up a subsequent Rhino CD boxed set released in 1998. I first encountered Nuggets as a Sire Records vinyl reissue in 1976, which I now regret including in a massive collection purge about four years ago.
When enlisted by Holzman, Kaye was working as a rock critic and in a Greenwich Village record shop called Village Oldies, which provided easy access for assembling a compilation wish list. In 1966, barely out of high school he also had his own stardom aspirations. The ensuing single, “Crazy Like A Fox” from his own garage band, Link Cromwell & The Zoo, went “unacclaimed,” but was lovingly performed this night.
“We actually started out in the basement (not the garage),” Kaye laughs in an interview, following the show. In any case, Link Cromwell’s frat parties and dances provided an apprenticeship of sorts for him in 1971 becoming poetess-cum-rocker Patti Smith’s musical director, a role he still plays when he’s not doing ad-hoc gigs like this one.
Despite geographic disparity (California, New Jersey, Long Island, NY; Cleveland, Philadelphia, Texas, Northwest, et. al.), these Nuggets shared a collective DIY force, an undercurrent of youth culture rejection of the establishment. Suddenly, rock ‘n’ roll needn’t be so slickly polished. By 1966, hair length, clothing styles, pot, coupled with a fuzzy guitar, combined for an unstoppable aesthetic continuum, not to mention burgeoning consumer market, that even Corporate America couldn’t deny. Therein lies the contradiction when art meets commerce. The hippies couldn’t be too non-commercial if they were to become stars with huge record contracts.
At City Winery, the pleasant surprise was how well the Nuggets, some of them nearly five decades old, held up without toiling in nostalgia. Kaye & Co. faithfully replicated the original album’s and show opener, The Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night,” which was not surprising since he assembled such a crack band, including Patti Smith rhythm section Jay Dee Daugherty and Tony Shanahan, as well as Marshall Crenshaw, who took many of the lead vocals.
One Foot In Wine Country
JUNE 5TH, 2014
by Mackenzie Allison
Earlier this week, I took a tour of City Winery—a fully functional winery, restaurant and music venue in SoHo. Although nestled smack-dab in the middle of downtown Manhattan, hugging the corner of Vandam and Varick streets, once inside, the substantial space exudes a rustic vibe—drawing inspiration from Italian and Old Spanish wineries. I first saw the sprawling music venue, packed with long communal and circular tables, as well as wood pillars with branches wrapped around them. When I visited, bands were rehearsing on stage—a stage that has seen the likes of Prince, Patti Smith and David Crosby. City Winery also hosts comedians on a regular basis.
In the Barrel Room, the establishment’s intimate dining space, patrons are treated to views of The Winery—a room teeming with French oak barrels and steel fermenting tanks. Twenty-plus wines are available on tap, which are delivered straight from the barrel to the glass. I enjoyed flights of crisp whites, including SoHo Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Reserve Chardonnay—offering a crisp, tart escape on a particularly muggy day; as well as full-bodied reds (think Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tres Amigos). On the food front, City Winery boasts an extensive menu of tasting dishes and entrées. I sampled the Butchers Table Meatballs, with crusty bread and Manchego, which were mouthwatering with a slightly tangy, sweet taste; and Braised Duck Tacos, with braised Hudson Valley duck, gaucamatillo salsa and cabbage salad, which proved to be full-flavored without the overwhelming saltiness I normally associate with duck. The pizza is even wine-infused, with wine yeast used to make the dough. Hearty fare is served at tables with wine cork tabletops—adding a quirky touch to the dining venue. The ultimate oenophile can personalize their City Winery experience with the restaurant’s Barrel Program. This serves as the perfect opportunity to make a bottle of your own wine—from selecting the grapes, to crushing, barreling, corking, bottling and labeling. For more on City Winery’s DIY winemaking, click here.
How This Former Internet Entrepreneur Is Building A Wine Empire
In 2008 Michael Dorf opened his first combination music and wine venue in NYC called City Winery. In 2013 the brand generated over $1M in profits for his investors. Compared to his previous technology company called the Knitting Factory, Michael generated more profit with City Winery in the first year than all of his years combined at his internet company. The business now has locations in NYC, Chicago, and Napa. This fall will see the opening of the fourth location in Nashville with more expansions to be announced by the end of 2014.
Here are some lessons from a former technology entrepreneur on how to build a rapidly growing business in the old fashion world of food and hospitality, using technology as a catalyst for growth.
You can’t digitize wine, but you can music. Marc Andreessen famously said “software is eating the world” however there are just some things that will never go digital. Food, wine, and live music are just a few examples. So when Michael looked at his business, he asked himself “what is impossible to copy?” For him, live music was at the top of this list because as he said, “even the best high def surround sound Imax films can’t capture the magic of a musician performing live.” Thus, the opportunity around the live concert business was the side of the music industry he wanted to focus on. Michael isn’t the only one to capitalize on this opportunity. From 2009 to 2013 “the rock band Phish has generated over $120 million in ticket sales, handily surpassing more well known artists like Radiohead, The Black Keys, and One Direction.” Michael and Phish focused on live music as their point of difference.
User Interface (UI) is not only important for computer screens. It’s also important for physical space. In the world of software, User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are both critically important. It is how a customer navigates a website, what they see when they enter, how they are greeted, treated and ultimately served. A physical room is no different so when Michael designed his first venue, he strongly considered the material choices and the design elements of what a customer can touch and feel. Danny Meyer calls it “enlightened hospitality” to look at all of these elements. With the mindset of user interface, you can improve customer experience by thinking about the various movements in the physical spaces of your store, restaurant or office.
Technology is a tool to make your simple tasks, even simpler. Michael wanted a ticketing system that could allow his customers to pick their seat at a particular table, visualize it on a map, and see who was where in their 300 seat room. This capability would enable City Winery to perfectly scale the room with different pricing options and configurations. This solution however did not exist, so they spent some resources to build a custom ticketing solution for their business. Now, people can show up an hour before an event or 20 minutes late and they will still have their seats available. This created a much more luxurious approach to seating and tickets thereby creating a much better overall experience. According to Michael, “this in fact, gives people back a little time, something that has gotten more scarce and valuable in an overly digitized, super fragmented, and fast paced high tech world.”
Know who your customers are by measuring and analyzing data. In a larger scale organization, the ability to have a maître-de remember everyone who walks in and what their favorite wine is, simply will not work. However, by using a membership program which is tied to a POS system, Michael is able to track what kind of wine people are consuming and is therefore able to see patterns in their consumption. Their “virtual sommelier” can send suggested wines for the customers to try on their next visit. Like great sommelier with a tremendous memory, this is terrific service perk, especially the more regular a customer is. As Michael said, “this was a classic old world dining trick which we used new technology to reapply in a tangible way. If it was purely a digital suggestion box, it would not work as effectively.” When you think about your business, think about how you are keeping track of who your customers are and what they like. There are newer tools out there that can help you do this more efficiently then pen and paper.
City Winery is not just using technology, but the best of the new media’s thinking, in delivering a unique, profitable and real world experience. Besides locations around the globe, if anyone is going to be able to digitize wine, chances are good that it will be Michael.