Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘performance’ Category

The Box

In nightlife, nyc, performance, soho, theater, treasure trove on February 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm

The Box, a post-Cabaret Moulin Rouge in the eastern fringes of lower Manhattan, draws on NYC performance art of the 1970s and 80s, circus performances, Victorian chic and classic burlesque. Rocky Horror wishes it was this cool.

Originally a sign factory and then a speakeasy, the club retains its dark, turn-of-the-century glamor, with carefully restored vintage wallpaper and wood paneling everywhere in its tiny, packed interior. The bouncers wear tuxedos beneath their overcoats. Inside, all the artwork on the walls is either original or borrowed from Europe at great expense. The bar sports dual jeweled chandeliers, a disco ball and a Swarovskied young woman swinging above the bartenders’ heads in a hoop.

Regular audience members lurk in front of the stage every Friday night. Dolled up in black lipstick, feather fanned headpieces and hourglass corsets, the boys and girls crowd around their low table, mixing vodka cranberries from iced decanters and swilling champagne. Fat businessmen in suits lounge at flanking tables, flirting with the skeletal go-go dancers in nipple clips and lacy garters who sit in their laps. Upstairs, VIP guests slosh themselves into oblivion in velvet balcony booths, overlooking the main floor and the stage. Bottle service for a table is $1,000 and up. Sparklers are set off whenever a big liquor purchase is made.

The show starts at 1:30 am. Where to begin? Naked ballerinas. Naked aerialists. A shirtless young man balances on wooden chairs stacked to the stage lights. Another man, dripping with jewels, does splits while balancing lit candles on a sword, balanced point to point on another knife in his teeth. A big-breasted, tattooed woman cuts her forearms and masturbates with a chef’s knife. A transvestite bleeds from the mouth and then pees on the audience. Later, she sodomizes herself with several dildos strapped to a man’s skull. The audience goes wild.

After hours, the audience dances on stage with the coked-out go-go dancers. Champagne flows a little more slowly than before, as coats are gathered and end-of-evening plans are made. Management shepherds everyone out by 4:30 or 5 am, into the frigid streets of SoHo.

Thanks to Ryan Shinji Murray, a great friend and a gifted performer, for making this review possible.


La Roux

In album, british, concert, music, nyc, performance on November 20, 2010 at 9:55 am

La Roux, the British electro-pop group, performed its last concert of a two-year tour this week at New York City’s Terminal 5. The young band, while not without its minor flaws, revealed lots of potential for albums and tours to come.

Francis and the Lights, a duo with self-important hairdos, jump-started the show with no fanfare or introduction. Two young men, clad in black suits, drew on Ziggy Marley and Sting for their bass-heavy tunes. The lead singer was chronically ironic, cutting off his Kings-of-Leon-inspired vocals to perform a spastic dance break, a three-second drum solo, or shake a tambourine with dour hipsterness.

The second opening act, Far East Movement, is famous for their electro-hip hop single, Like A G6. The inexplicable yet catchy tune drew the likes of Snooki from MTV’s Jersey Shore, in the city to celebrate her birthday. The three rappers took the stage in skinny ties, skinny jeans and astronaut helmets lined with blue and red LED lights. The group’s explosive set and high-energy antics roiled the crowd into a slamming, jumping frenzy. Even Snooki waved along.

La Roux took the stage after a break that let the audience’s endorphins dip a bit too low. Two keyboard players and a drummer were snazzy in angular black and white suits. Elly Jackson, the lead singer and face of the group, swept onto the stage in a floor-length gold jacquard cloak and lots of silver jewelry, silhouetting her improbable hair against a flashing image of her golden disembodied head. Leaning close to the crowd, she rocked her way through the group’s eponymous album. Highlights included I’m Not Your Toy, Colorless Color, In For The Kill, Bulletproof, and a very good cover of the Rolling Stones’s Under My Thumb.

Elly’s strength is the audience’s adoration. Her fans were more excited to see her than to see her perform; at the end of each number, she stood stock still and the crowd went wild. Her somewhat flagging energy and awkwardly pained facial expressions betray her reported reluctance toward fame, which is a pity. When she really cuts loose, her tight, controlled movements, menacing grimaces and 80s-inspired footwork command tremendous power, amping up the show’s energy a hundred-fold. The sooner Elly realizes how fierce she is, the better.

Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear

In dc, event, historical, inspiration, performance, photo op, politics, recommended on October 31, 2010 at 10:01 pm

The Rally To Restore Sanity, held by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, and the March to Keep Fear Alive, hosted by Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, collided on the National Mall Saturday. Attendance estimates range from 215,000 to 250,000 people, all of whom conducted themselves with moderate enthusiasm. (Buh dump chh.) Though the pacing of the three-hour-long event was inconsistent, the great positive energy of the crowd and the raison d’etre of the rally made it an overall success.

The guest list was extensive, eclectic and generally crowd-pleasing. As an opening act, the Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman conducted experiments on The Wave and seismic tremors with their largest sample size ever. Sam Waterston delivered an amusing poem penned by Colbert, bookended by Law & Order’s famous “dunk dunk.” Musical acts included John Legend and the Roots, who provided backup throughout the rally; Tony Bennett; Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, performing a brand new and under-rehearsed tear-jerker; and a disappointing set by Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy. The best set was a dueling trio: Yusuf Islam sang a moving rendition of Peace Train; Ozzy Osbourne screamed and leered his way through Crazy Train; and the O’Jays, clad in matching white suits, brought both ends of the musical spectrum together with Love Train.

The weather was sunny yet pleasantly cool, the crowd’s age demographic surprisingly broad and race demographic homogeneously Caucasian. Most impressively, the throng comported itself with, well, moderation. Extremists from both ends of the spectrum stayed home, allaying my fears of screaming slogans and vicious signs. Arguing, complaining, and even fidgeting were kept to a minimum. The only animus shown throughout the rally came from the people in the cheap seats, who repeatedly sent up chants of “Louder! Louder!” until the microphone system was turned up.

Stewart was an capable ringmaster, handling himself expertly both as a professional and as a comic. Many segments of the rally mimicked Sesame Street parables, with Stewart teaching Colbert that, say, not all Muslims are terrorists and not all robots are evil, aided by the onstage appearances of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and R2D2. Stewart even sang an educational duo with Colbert. Entitled “There’s No One More American Than Me,” the song celebrated the right of all citizens to be patriotic, and gave shout-outs to everyone “from gay men who like football to straight men who like Glee.” The repartee between the two men often grew tiresome, though, and by the end of the rally, with Colbert’s fear finally defeated, I was not sad to see him leave the stage.

Stewart’s closing keynote was the most serious moment of the afternoon, but also the most meaningful. He spoke calmly and passionately about the need for moderation and thoughtful reasoning, not abject, irrational fear, in today’s society, quipping that “we live in hard times, but we do not live in the end of times.” The audience hung on his every word. Although Stewart did not prescribe methods of achieving this moderation as we move forward, the sheer fact that so many people from so many places turned out for his cause deserves great commendation.

For more photos of the rally, check out the Flickrstream of my buddy Andy Richardson, whose seat was much more VIP than mine.

Ultra Violet Live

In nyc, nyu, performance, treasure trove on February 27, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Ultra Violet Live, NYU’s university-wide talent show hosted and judged by alumni, and performed by students representing each of NYU’s residence halls, consistently delivers one of the best shows on campus. The performers, chosen in low-key preliminary contests held in each residence hall, compete for a top prize of $1,000. This year, the seventh annual UVL kicked off with frank-talking funnyman DC Pierson, a member of the improv troupe Derrick Comedy and the emcee for the evening. DC bantered with judges Emma Tattenbaum-Fine, Hunter Bell and Seth Faber, who sportingly put aside their impressive credentials for the evening and rated the contestants in categories like Technical Ability and Overall Performance. The excitement in the audience was palpable. Fan clubs for popular performers waved signs and screamed. DC even encouraged us to tweet about the show with the hashtag #uvl2010; I guess the rule about cell phones being turned off during a performance is moot.

In twenty acts that spanned NYU’s immense and varied campus, some surprising themes surfaced throughout the night:

  • Pianists who bow before and after playing: In separate acts, Francis Guo (Second Street) and Lionel Yu (Palladium) took the stage quietly, sat down quietly, and proceeded to knock the teeth of a classical piano piece. Lionel penned his own soaring song, entitled Waltz of the Rising Star, but Francis wore a snazzy Purple Rain lace ascot. We’ll call it a draw.
  • Heartfelt boys with guitars: Skinny boys, skinny ties: Andrew Onore (Broome Street) and Eric Kim (Goddard Hall) strummed their acoustics and crooned about longing for faraway girls. Eric was a whisper-soft John Mayer, Andrew more Plain White Tees.
  • Sassy girls with vocal chords of steel: These ladies had it goin’ on and they knew it. Carissa Matsushima (Rubin) hit every single note in the famous Queen of the Night aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and she looked good while doing it, too. In a voice equal parts Jennifer Hudson and Regina Spektor, Martha-Sadie Griffin belted out a smashing mashup of 99 Problems, Lose Yourself and Drop It Like It’s Hot, while accompanying herself on the piano. The best was Phoebe Ryan (Third North), a beautiful freshman with kickass turquoise platform heels and the romantic sensibility of Ingrid Michaelson. Her self-penned heartfelt lyrics to a lover (“You make me breakfast / You always burn the bread”) floated touchingly with her own piano stylings and a moving three-piece string quartet. This girl could and should be on the radio.
  • Unexpected dance routines: Lauren Lashua (Greenwich Hotel) paired copacetic tap dance rhythms with a little showmanship and a dash of R&B attitude. Paolo Bitanga (Brittany Hall) mixed up his slick break dance moves with an over-the-top grab bag of piano-playing, crooning Frankie Vallie, beatboxing, and a fierce Blue Steel glare.
  • Matching outfits: Don’t Forget To Write (Carlyle), the most infectiously happy of the large musical groups, sported American Apparel headbands and primary-color gym shorts as they channeled Gin Blossoms and the Barenaked Ladies. The members of Brother Goose (Lafayette), a down-home folksy quintet with a fun percussion section and a bouncy beat, wore plaid over their T-shirts emblazoned with the faces of the Sesame Street characters. The theme of the Uptown band, headed by Alex Goley, was to not have a theme; like the Pussycat Dolls, each member rocked their own style, be it studded suspenders and side-cocked trucker hat, loose hippie garb with Jackie O sunglasses, or full tuxedo and matching floral cummerbund. (The tuxedo player rocked out on the mandolin.)
  • Unusual props: Poi spinner Shaun Sim (Weinstein) bopped around the stage, spinning flags to a techno remix of O Fortuna from Carmina Burana. Shaun also spun up to four blinking lights between his arms, under one leg, and doubled backwards while kneeling on the ground. Juggler David Sangillo (7A) went even further, juggling up to seven white balls and four glowing red ones, clubs, hoops and even knives in his circus-worthy show. In the evening’s most comedic performance, Noah Welch and Christian Oreste (13th Street) personified two hipsters-cum-beat-poets, wearing dark glasses and tearing off their clothes while rasping a riff on Britney Spears’ Toxic. Their prop of choice? Glitter. Rubbed ALL OVER THEIR BODIES.

Of all these creative and talented performers, the judges favored uniqueness the most. Third place was given to Shaun Sim, a freshman and a newcomer. Second place went to David Sangillo, who was snubbed by the judged last year and has since amped up his act. (Next year? He’ll juggle FIRE.)

The champion of the evening was Andrew Flockhart, the long-denied beatboxer who’s delivered riffs on the same performance at UVL since his freshman year. But what a performance! Flockhart, tiny in skinny jeans, workmen’s boots, and an oversized white hoody studded with rhinestones, rocked the audience with his gutteral driving beats, his self-confident humor (“Fasten your seat belts and prepare to get funky,” he warns at the start) and his inhuman ability to sing and beatbox at the same time. Andrew breaks down Rahzel’s signature song, If Your Mother Only Knew, by singing the lines simply, then choking out a back beat… and then doing both at the same time. He went even further this year by layering standard “bm-bm-chh” sounds with Afro-inspired clicks, vocals, and, in a new twist, a harmonica. The kid is beyond talented and the award is well-deserved; one can only hope that his skills will come in handy in his computer science major.

UVL is one of the Inter-Residence Hall Council‘s signature events, yet many people I know have never attended. Seriously, guys. The audience is crazy, the talent is sick and the tickets are cheap. (If you’re an NYU student, score yourself a voucher next year and get in for free!) You have no excuse not to see this show.

For photos of UVL 2010, check out Housie Maguire’s album on Facebook!

The Lord of the Rings at Radio City Music Hall

In movie, nyc, performance, recommended, sneak preview on December 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm

On October 9 and 10, 2009, Radio City Music Hall screened The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with live orchestral and vocal accompaniment. Live accompaniment allowed the audience to experience Peter Jackson’s work in a whole new way. The soundtrack felt brand new, the film pristine, the resultant experience a marriage of the immediacy of theater and the technical capabilities of cinema.

The event was a huge technical undertaking. The 21st Century Orchestra, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the Collegiate Chorale and soloist Kaitlyn Lusk had to coordinate their playing and singing precisely with the film projected behind them. The live music resonated in the cavernous hall of Radio City, rendering the film’s huge battle scenes more visceral and terrifying. Similarly, the film’s quiet moments were made all the more poignant for the clear voice of the two boy soloists, and the strong performance of Ms. Lusk, who wore an orange dress and sang in a clear, pure soprano.

The intensity of Howard Shore’s magnificent score almost overpowered the movie dialogue. As a remedy, the film was shown with subtitles, at times distracting but generally harmless. In fact, like reading song lyrics for the first time, the subtitles actually allowed the viewer to recognize bits of dialogue never heard properly before.

The audience, almost all fans who know the film, was enthusiastic to a fault, cheering and clapping, and even preempting many of the jokes. Applause erupted at the arrival of each beloved character and each pivotal moment in the film, infusing the evening with an intensity not to be found in any commonplace movie theater.

Elijah Wood and Howard Shore made surprise on-stage appearances on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively, to the great joy of the crowd. Even better, though, was the image that appeared on the screen at the end of the performance:

I already have my tickets.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers will be performed at Radio City Music Hall on October 8 & 9, 2010. Tickets are on sale now at



In concert, music, performance on December 18, 2009 at 5:49 pm

BlipFest, a three-day music show of video-game-themed chip music, is a fast-paced, high-energy event for dancing and jumping your cares away. Now in its fourth year, BlipFest is held in The Bell House in Brooklyn, a large space with high wooden ceilings and big brass chandeliers. A small stage is set up in the center of the room for the musical performers and their equipment, while images created for each performer are projected onto a screen behind the stage. The designs change continuously, and range from primitive computer graphics and pixelation to checkerboard patterns, bouncing rainbow circles to Twilight Zone spirals, depending on the artist.

I attended the first night of BlipFest with five gentlemen who know and love the show, and who were kind enough to give me the skinny on the scene. For example, I was informed that three types of people attend BlipFest: 

  • production people, who are into the chip-music-making process;
  • dance music people, who cluster toward the front of the stage; and
  • video game geeks, generally fatter than everyone else, but earnest in their attempts to dance. 

These categories are informative but not exhaustive; for example, I’m not sure where the person dressed as Santa Clause and wearing a welder’s mask would fit. (I’m not kidding.)

BlipFest’s musical artists come to New York from as far abroad as Seattle, Washington and Leon, France, and run the gamut in their musical styles. Early Thursday evening, Leeni wore a white bobbed wig and sang along with her tracks of menacing, circus-y music. In contrast, Albino Ghost Monkey paired his epilepsy-inducing flashing green-and-brown visuals with gabber music and danced with the crowd on the floor. The weirdest performer of the evening, Eat Rabbit, took the stage in a suit, tie and full-headed rabbit mask.

The best act of the evening was minusbaby, who dropped high-energy Afro-infused beats while flailing boys crowd-surfed. His geometric visuals, provided by Enso, were aesthetically simple, repetitive and powerful, and used 3-D glasses to enhance the experience with color. Best of all, minusbaby kept the music going with minimal breaks, which kept the crowd moving and the mosh pits moshing.

As good as minusbaby was Je Deviens DJ En Trois Jours. The French native rapped and snarled into his microphone, interjecting guttural roars into his hardcore heavy metal beats. The crowd got rough when he played, slamming with a frenzy, devil horns held high as white balloons bopped around the room. Unfortunately, Je Deviens DJ En Trois Jour’s equipment stalled at awkward moments, leading to the ire of the crowd.

Between sets, the lounge adjacent to the main concert space fills up with dancers seeking $6 draft beers and a seat on one of the many squishy leather couches. The bar’s atmosphere is very chill, and a good respite before reentering the main space to dance even more, or braving the cold Brooklyn streets heading home.

BlipFest runs Thursday, 12/17 through Saturday, 12/19 at the Bell House. Tickets are $15 at the door. A coat check is available for $2 per item. Come dressed to dance.

Casey’s Cottage

In dinner, event, music, park, performance, recommended, renaissance, syracuse on September 9, 2009 at 9:29 pm
Casey’s Cottage is an unassuming wooden house, nestled on the grounds of Mexico Point Park, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Once the carriage house to a larger home on the property and a destination for alcohol smuggled from Canada during Prohibition, Casey’s Cottage is now used for weddings and other social functions. The interior is elaborately carved with medieval figures, and the exposed rafter beams are covered with weird writings: some Latin, some Old English, some a made-up language. The tiny second floor holds two levels of darkened bunk beds and a miniature chapel. The whole building is romantic and endearing to a fault.
The best event at Casey’s Cottage is held for three days every August. Guests are invited to take a trip back in time, and to experience a full Renaissance dinner, complete with food, music, and entertainment. Upon their arrival, guests are instructed to park their “steeds” by a footman, and make their way to the front lawn, where they are greeted by Omen Sade and Nik Magill, two young actors performing as the Feckless Momes. The two young men tumble, tell jokes, sing, dance (if you can call it that), spit water at each other, and even dabble in Commedia dell’Arte techniques to amuse the crowd. Audience participation is random and mandatory if you are lucky enough to be singled out in the crowd.
The Feckless Momes: Nik Magill and Omen Sade.

At the finale of the Feckless Momes show, guests make their way into the Cottage, and are announced at the door as, for example, “Sir John of Smith and Lady Jane of Doe.” Serving wenches lead guests to their seats. The Queen enters last, in full regalia, and welcomes the diners. Another introduction and welcome are given by the Cottage staff, and a third by the voice of Sir William Casey himself, booming from the rafters as if by magic.
Dinner is brought out in small dishes by serving wenches, all students at the local high school. The far-and-away best of the dishes are the Dragon’s Eyeballs, juicy meatballs marinated in a dark, sweet glaze. Guinevere’s Gams (chicken legs), Merlin’s Orbs (baked potatoes) and Lancelot’s Spears (wraps of cheese, asparagus and various deli meats) are also perennial favorites. The menu changes slightly from evening to evening and year to year: one night hard-boiled eggs are served, the next a deep-fried wonton, the next a variation on spanakopita, each with an appropriately fanciful name. Super-sweet boxed wine, beer and water are poured generously.
Just as the food is variable from year to year, so is the entertainment. The Feckless Momes frolic and generally harass guests throughout dinner, to the great delight of the crowd (particularly the women.) Harp and recorder music are played in the background throughout the night, with interruptions for several singing performances by Abigail Anderson and Meb Byrne. (Full disclosure: that’s me. My mother is one of the harp players.) Performances are often impromptu: this year, the Feckless Momes did an on-the-spot duet with the harpists on “The Butterfly,” featuring a kazoo and a pan banged over Nik’s head.
Harpies: Amy Hueber and Jennifer Byrne.
Singers: Abigail Anderson and Meb Byrne.
The best part of the evening is the very end, when Omen rises to tell the story of the Cottage and how it came to be what it is today. The evening closes with a performance of Puck’s closing monologue from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and a fond farewell from the staff, until next year.
Mexico Point is by no means a professional endeavor, nor is it the end-all, be-all of Renaissance recreations. In fact, Casey’s Cottage almost grins at the idea of a true Renaissance reenactment, with its nonsensical wall carvings and medley of finger foods. Be that as it may, the Cottage is a happy, jovial place for friends and strangers to come together, share a night of fantasy and entertainment, and enjoy one another’s company. The common bonds of the human spirit at the dinner never fails to touch me, year after year. For those looking for whimsy, magic and a jaunt outside Syracuse to find new culture, Casey’s Cottage is a beautiful place to do so.