by Jim Bessman
His Oct. 20 An Evening With Wavy Gravy one-man show at City Winery will be “semi-sensational,” says Wavy Gravy, as only he can put it.
The eternal hippie/activist/clown—“a saint who walks among us,” as Elvis Costello puts it—will share highlights of his remarkable life as an American counterculture hero of the 1960s and beyond.
“It’s oral history—and I’ve been around for a lot of it,” says Gravy—birth name Hugh Romney–who “in 22 years I’ll be 100.”
“I spill the proverbial beans, and it’s pretty darn amusing, and sometimes, enlightening.”
Indeed, Gravy “started out on the planet a young boy in Princeton, N.J.”—after being born in East Greenbush, N.Y.
“Albert Einstein took me on walks around the block, and I was a teenage beatnik,” he says, then recounts how he roomed with Bob Dylan in the early ‘60s in Greenwich Village, where he served as poetry director and then entertainment director at the Village’s fabled Gaslight Café.
This was the time of the ‘60s folk music revival, and Gravy remembers opening the Village’s nearby Bitter End club with Peter, Paul and Mary.
“The next thing I knew I was doing standup comedy, opening for John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk and those guys,” he continues. Now managed by Lenny Bruce, he moved to California and in short order joined with the Grateful Dead and the Merry Pranksters of Ken Kesey fame, then “segued” into the creation of the legendary Hog Farm collective, “and running the first pig for president of the United States, and then Nobody for President.”
“Of course I’ll talk about Woodstock, of which I can wax on the hippie glory days, and then a series of rock festivals, and driving two buses from London to the Himalayas—which was beautifully recorded inSaint Misbehavin’.”
He refers to the acclaimed 2010 documentary Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie, which also details Gravy’s extensive charity involvements, especially the Seva Foundation–the international health organization that he co-founded to build sustainable health projects and for which he’s enlisted benefit concerts starring the likes of Costello, members of the Dead, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, David Crosby and Graham Nash.
“We’re now up to 3.5 million eye-saving surgeries worldwide,” he says of Seva activities. “Eighty-five percent of the world’s blind don’t need to be blind, and we’re constantly staging benefits and using music to inform people that every seat in the house is somebody in India and Nepal and Cambodia who’s not bumping into s**t anymore because they’re listening to wonderful music.”
Gravy also continues 40 years of running Camp Winnarainbow, a circus and performing arts camp adjoining the Hog Farm in Laytonville, Calif.
“It’s my greatest legacy besides Seva,” he says. “We’re now getting children of children who came to camp, who learn survival in the 20th Century—or how to duck with a sense of humor and compassion! We get 700 kids each summer—and have one week for grownups: It’s never too late to have a happy childhood!”
Gavy also maintains his role as emcee of the annual Dead-inspired Gathering of the Vibes summer music festival in Bridgeport, Conn.
“I always tell people that I’m still the fog in the mirror,” concludes Gravy. “Kurt Vonnegut said that hsitory is a list of surprises, and so is my life—under the counterculture. I’m sharing it with everybody.”
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Full article here: http://www.examiner.com/article/legendary-wavy-gravy-brings-his-one-man-show-to-city-winery
Tickets to the show available here: http://www.citywinery.com/newyork/wavygravy102014.html
City Winery founder and CEO Michael Dorf had an aching head when he arrived at Nashville’s City Winery construction site this past week—not from overindulging in the exquisite wine his latest venue is serving up, but admittedly because of it.
“I rarely get headaches, and while I arrived with a cold from last week’s flight from Napa, upon returning to the construction site 48 hours before show time, I immediately got a pounding headache.”
And understandably so: Dorf’s newest project, the incredibly buzzed-about City Winery Nashville, was due to open in 48 hours as the premier venue for the city’s highly-anticipated Americana Music Association Festival and Conference.
And given that construction on the existing 36,000-ft warehouse had only begun a few months earlier, the show was far from ready to “go on.”
As is the case with any grand debut or opening, stumbling blocks in the weeks and days leading up to the then-incomplete venue were anticipated—truthfully, they were expected, and Dorf admits he was surprisingly able to remain cool and collected. “I had complete confidence that both the operations team and production teams would be able to put on a show, move a crowd in and out, and serve them booze,” Dorf said. “I’ve certainly put on many a show in much worse, smaller, and less-than-ideal situations.”
But the obstacles facing Dorf in that moment of arrival extended far beyond the music. Questions about fire department sign-offs, insurance paperwork, legal and safety concerns—and not to be overlooked—the public’s perception of the venue all loomed over his already foggy head, thus explaining that pounding ache.
Luckily for the CEO, his dynamite team members were fully committed and deep in the trenches in those final 48 hours to showtime—experiencing a few headaches of their own on the road to success, some heartwarming and some downright hilarious.
Staff unloading venue chairs at Tennessee Brew Works who graciously let us store our tables and chairs with them during construction.
Michelle Albanese, Concert Manager for City Winery Nashville, was stressed, thanks to—wait for it: missing towels. “It’s my responsibility for making sure the artists are happy and have everything they need. Stage towels and water are basic requests for artists.”
Albanese recalls, “The day of the show, I knew I HAD to find them, and I so I went pod diving into a storage unity filled to the max with all the glassware for the entire space (a winery nonetheless). Crawling over boxes, under boxes, and wedged in between boxes, I was lots in a world of cardboard—and still couldn’t find them.”
One bad case of claustrophobia and one missing cell phone later, she located them, alright. “Opening that box was a wonderful feeling. End of story. None of the artists used them.”
For Raúl Mesías, Director of Wine Sales at City Winery NY, the journey to the successful launch of City Winery Nashville began with David Lecomte, CW’s chief winemaker, in New York, and was a little more arduous.
“Sunday at 5AM, we head to the winery in New York to pick up the truck with a goal to be in Nashville by Monday at 10AM. David and I drove 110 miles…and then truck broke down. We knew at that moment we had to transfer the whole load by hand—but we didn’t care. We were just eager to get to Nashville.”
The replacement truck arrived, and Mesías recalls that moment: seeing his comrade rolling kegs of wine and remembers the inspiration of getting the job done against the odds, erasing all of the pain and exhaustion they initially felt. By 2PM on Monday, the two were rolling out kegs once more…this time at their Music City destination. “The trip itself was quite an adventure!” Lecomte exclaimed.
Meanwhile back in Nashville, Chris Torri, AV Installation Manager, was experiencing a few technical glitches of his own. “We had no power, were missing part of our lighting package, and had nowhere to set up the sound board, much less plug it in!” he laments. “We were under the gun and needed to pull off the show.”
Torri remembers those two days as “excruciatingly painful,” but says, “We never took our eye off the prize.”
On Wednesday morning, just one day before the doors were set to open, lights were still being hung and cues were still being programmed—but progress was happening, and as the team continued to tirelessly work throughout the day, the room filled, the band took the stage, and the performance went off without a single hiccup.
Bryce McCloud from Isle of Printing finished his wine bottle installation while the first AMA shows were happening in the venue. Wednesday, September 17.
It’s a million wonders that Marc Colletti, Production and Technical Director NY, recalls anything from those whirlwind 48 hours. Fresh off a plane from his honeymoon, Colletti had no time to prepare for the madness. “I only had time to go home, wash my clothes and hop a flight to Nashville from NY in time for sound checks.”
Firing up the PA system for the first time was both a thrilling and hectic experience for Colletti. “The floors were still being installed around me only hours before our first show.”
But once again, the hard work and dedication paid off. He says, “It’s hard to say what I enjoyed more. Being in the ‘do or die’ pressure cooker with the enormous weight and responsibility of facilitating the musicians to entertain their fans, or realizing that at the end of the evening, every member of the City Winery team came together to accomplish a fantastic evening without a hint of its actual urgency.”
Ed Greer, Chief Production Officer for City Winery arrived from NY just as the final 48 hours approached and immediately took charge of moving the site from a construction zone to a clean room ready to be set up and host the concerts.
“At 9.30pm we had 10 guys from the Rescue Mission next door arrive to move contractor tools, pallets of wood flooring and assorted building materials. They were great and at 10.30pm an overnight cleaning crew arrived and worked through until 4.30am to get everything clean and sparkling. The curtain installer arrived at 6.30am to hang the curtains in the now dust free space and the Nashville team were able to set tables and chairs and stock the bar.
Mike Simon who moved from CW Chicago to CW Nashville, clocked 13 miles on his pedometer during set up – I love that fact!
The floor install was completed at 2:30pm just as concert soundchecks were under way – a race for sure but one I knew we could (and had to) win.”
For Phillip Katz, City Winery Construction Rep, the experience of opening City Winery Nashville meant making many personal sacrifices, including long days and nights away from his expectant wife, whose due date just happened to be this past week as well. “I had her full-on support—she’s amazing and I feel blessed.”
With his family far away, and his deadline a little too close for comfort, Katz decided to hunker down full-time in Tennessee, moving his Airstream (aka “Groove Tube”) to the So-Bro parking lot of the venue to serve as his home-base until the job was done.
He slept in the “Groove Tube” alone each night and was the first to unlock the gates for the contractors each morning at 6AM. Katz recalls, “I missed some significant personal, professional, and family milestones—some joyous and some painful, and I realized: if I was making the sacrifice, my efforts had to be successful. I realized: I could not confuse effort with results.”
And those efforts were rewarded. Katz was able to fly home for the birth of his first child, a beautiful daughter named Lilliana, and what’s more—he was able to bring his girls home back to Nashville and introduce them to the team as they worked around the clock until showtime.
David Richter, City Winery’s General Manager, remembers standing in the middle of the construction the morning of the big day. “I would have never thought we’d be standing in front of our doors ready and able to greet our first guests upon scheduled door time. Then I stepped back and remembered the teams that made it happen . . . all working in harmony with no fuss and plenty of smiles.”
Rebecca Spindler, Concierge Director for City Winery, won’t lie: she cracked open a few cold ones in anticipation of the final 48. With an optimistic mind, she and the team cleaned, trained ushers, arranged tables, set barricades and even installed an ATM on their own. “The night went off without a hitch for a bangin’ show!” Spindler recalls.
Anthony Aquilato, Production Manager and Sound Engineer, felt right at home amidst the insanity.
For Aquilato, the hustle of a rush opening was a familiar feeling, akin to his former days on the road.
“While I was touring in the 80s, we road dogs used the term ‘no sleep until Sydney’ all too frequently. Days upon days of back-to-back shows with little or no sleep,” he remembers. “Your crew was your platoon. Everyone was in it together. There was never a question of how or why—at 8PM, there WAS going to be a show.”
Fortunately, Aquilato found that same kinship and incredible work ethic with his City Winery team—and once again, he got to experience the incredible rush and sweet taste of success.
“The last 48 hours leading up to the opening of City Winery Nashville brought me back to those glory days of Rock and Roll. We all hit it hard and got it done. Everyone focused and working endlessly—there was a show to put on and come hell or high water, we were going to be ready.”
And ready they were: the shows launched beautifully last Wednesday with one of the Festival’s big award winners and starring attractions, Sturgill Simpson. The festival closed out on Sunday with Americana icon Lucinda Williams who will return to City Winery Nashville for three nights of shows November 24-26.
But there’s still more to be done and still more to come as the official opening of City Winery Nashville commences on Wednesday, October 1st—or as CEO Dorf (now free from his headache) teases, “The story is not over. The fat lady will sing only at the Grand Opening.”
City Winery Founder/CEO Michael Dorf welcomes Singer/Songwriter Jason Isbell and wife, Recording Artist Amanda Shires to the opening night of the Americana Music Festival. Wednesday, September 17 at 9PM.
(Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Americana Music)
- See more at: http://www.citywinery.com/blog/nashville/city-winery-nashville-48-hours-to-showtime/#sthash.HLiak9sD.dpuf
Singer focuses on social justice, as he has since his 1980s debut. Bragg also mines Woody Guthrie’s catalogue.
BY GERSH KUNTZMAN NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
He’s still mixing pop and politics.
Nearly 30 years after he put out three perfect pop-folk-protest albums in a row, Billy Bragg remains the leading voice for social justice — one backed up with a great hook, bridge and chorus.
“The key to a good protest song,” says the British folkie who has written plenty, “is to have enough protest and enough song. You have to have the message, sure, but you also have to keep (the people) humming.”
Bragg promises to do just that during a two-night stand next week at City Winery, where he’ll mix songs from his classic albums — “Talking with the Taxman About Poetry” (1986), “Back to Basics” (1987) and “Workers Playtime” (1988) — with tracks from his most recent album, “Tooth and Nail.”
And, of course, there will be plenty of Woody Guthrie — the archetypal folkie with the machine that kills fascists. Bragg, backed by Wilco, spent must of the last 15 years serving as Guthrie’s personal Alan Lomax, teasing out three full LPs out of old unpublished lyrics handed to him by the late singer’s daughter.
Bragg’s recording schedule has slowed of late, but not his itinerary. There’s Billy Bragg singing at an Occupy rally. There’s Bragg singing for Scottish independence. And, last week, there was Bragg at an impromptu food drive/concert to benefit struggling families in Ferguson, Mo.
“Songs don’t change the world — I wish it worked like that, but it doesn’t,” he says. “But songs can bring people together around an issue, like Ferguson or Occupy Wall Street. When you go to a gig and everyone around you is singing along to ‘There’s Power in a Union,’ you think, ‘Wow, other people care about this, not just me.’”
Cynics would say that group singalongs and protest songs went out with the 1960s — but Bragg has a different take: cynicism — not capitalism or conservatives — is the enemy no matter which side you’re on, boys.
“The only real antidote to cynicism is activism,” he says. “Think about the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was so easily dismissed, but it reinforced people’s sense of community. We did it with song. The other side does it by owning a news channel. Fox News has its own singers letting people on that side of the issue say, ‘Yeah, that’s how I feel.’
“Besides, the point of Occupy Wall Street was to call out the bankers for creating the problem. And it worked. At least now, people ask questions when someone proposes loosening financial regulations. Besides, if Occupy Wall Street didn’t do anything, why is Bill de Blasio mayor of New York? Obviously the movement stirred up enough mud to make it possible to elect someone left of center.”
Yes, Billy Bragg talks a lot about politics. But so is everyone these days, thanks to social media, blogging, or even making movies, which used to be prohibitively expensive.
“Yeah, music is no longer the only social medium for young people,” Bragg says, recalling his earliest days of busking in the 1980s before he landed his own record deal. “I only had music. If you were someone with something to say, you formed a band and gigged.”
And he still is. Bragg says his solo two-night stand will be familiar to fans, but there will be plenty of twists. A few nights before coming to New York, he’ll be at Chicago’s Riot Festival, which favors metal.
“I may still be playing loud because of Riot Fest,” he says. “I do a good one-man Clash.”
And the second night coincides with the referendum on Scottish independence, which Bragg supports.
“I may be dashing off the stage every few minutes to check the returns,” he says.
On either night, Bragg may be coaxed out to perform the entirety of his first EP, “Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy.”
“It’s only 17 minutes, so if I get the wind in my sails, I’ll do it,” he says. “I listen to the audience. If they’re rowdy, I’ll do more electric.”
Billy Bragg at City Winery, 155 Varick St. at Vandam St., (212) 608-0555, Sept. 17-18, 8 p.m.
Full article: http://www.nydailynews.com/billy-bragg-mixes-pop-politics-city-winery-article-1.1934015
On Saturday, 9/6, City Winery received their first shipment of grapes from Bacigalupi Vineyards from the Russian River Valley, CA.
All grapes are hand harvested at night or in the cool early morning into small picking bins that hold 20lb of fruit. The bins stack to ship to ensure none of the fruit gets squished on the way to City Winery.
Fruit arrives at 5am. We unload it off the truck and bring it inside. Inside, one person dumps the bins of whole grape clusters by hand into an escalator for grapes – this equipment is called the giraffe.
The whole clusters are dumped on the conveyer belt. Then they are moved to the destemming machine.
Destemming is the process of separating stems from the grapes.
Grapevine stems are:
-High in tannins, but these are usually bitter, low molecular weight tannins.
-High in potassium, which decreases wine acidity.
-High in water, which decreases the colour and alcohol level of the wine.
Most of the time, grapes are destemmed at City Winery.
After destemming, the berries are sorted by hand on a sorting table. Hand sorting helps to remove imperfections the destemming machine could not set apart (leaves, stems, stones, moldy grapes…)
Our Chief Winemaker, David Lecomte, is tasting a couple of berries to estimate the balance sugar/acidity of the grapes and the tanicity.
After hand sorting, the berries are transported onto another giraffe (conveyer belt). Then they fall in to the fermenter tank. Maceration and fermentation processes can start!
For more information on City Winery’s wine crush, check out these videos:
CRUSH SEASON: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
By Jim Bessman
Manhattan Local Music Examiner
September 4, 2014
He won an Oscar playing a country singer, so it comes as no surprise that Jeff Bridges has the best country show on the road.
At the first of two SRO gigs Tuesday night at City Winery, Bridges reprised his big songs from Crazy Heart—starting his set with “Fallin’ and Flyin’”—and added memorable songs from other cinematic high points, most notably the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” from The Big Lebowski–an expressed nod to his career-defining role.
Indeed, Bridges continues to embody the immortal “Dude” physically, at least, and retains his wonderfully laidback ease. But he also resembles the washed-up Bad Blake Crazy Heartcharacter, who sang country music as real as it gets–as does Bridges today.
With his raspy, whiskeyed voice, rugged yet comfortable, Bridges also evokes Kristofferson, both vocally and in grizzled look. Fielding a first-rate country band (the Lebowski-invoking Abiders, with lead guitarist/background vocalist/keyboardist/harmonica player Chris Pelonis, drummer Tom Lackner, bassist Randy Tico, pedal steel player/lap guitarist/electric and 12-string guitarist/accordionist Bill Flores), Bridges, who also played guitar and keyboards, ran through most of his forthcoming album Jeff Bridges & The Abiders LIVE, out Sept. 30 on Mailboat Records.
Also from Crazy Heart came “I Don’t Know,” in which Pelonis mixed Cajun, Tex-Mex and zyedeco accordion stylings. From his unforgettable 1992 film drama American Heart soundtrack, Bridges, at the piano, sang Tom Waits “I’ll Never Let Go of Your Hand,” capably approximating Waits’ low and gruff tones.
Bridges even gave a shout-out to the fans of his father Lloyd’s 1950s underwater adventure TV series Sea Hunt—in which he occasionally appeared as a youngster. Speaking of the love for showbiz that he inherited, he acknowledged its darker side, than delivered a tune about it written by his childhood friend John Goodwin, “Van Gogh in Hollywood.”
But Hollywood doesn’t seem to have darkly affected Bridges. At City Winery, he plugged his involvement in the anti-child hunger Share Our Strength organization’s No Kid Hungry Campaign, for which he’s a spokesman. “They’re our future,” he said, noting New York City and State’s woeful record in feeding school children. “When they succeed, we succeed.”
Recalling his favorite New York film shoot, he dedicated the show to Robin Williams, with whom he starred in The Fisher King. And for his encores “The Weary Kind” (from Crazy Heart) and The Byrds’ classic “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” he brought back Jessie Bridges, who had opened the show with a four-song set.
Jessie did her father proud with thoughtful singer-songwriter fare (“When Today is Tomorrow” stood out). He clearly passed on both talent and affable charm: She sweetly asked everyone to come up and say hi to her during the brief set change.