By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
OKAY, I CONFESS. Perhaps there are times when I could stand to learn a thing or two about music. After all, it was only a few short weeks ago that I realized the Soft Boys' bassist Kimberley Rew is actually a man (Yeesh, I had always thought. That hag standing next to Robyn Hitchcock is certainly one UGLY broad! Now, I simply shake my head mournfully and sigh, Will parents soon be calling their sons Tiffany? Is there no end to the cruelty of the English?) Luckily, I know that every time I'm wrong about something, I have you lovely readers to put me back in my place by reminding me ever so gently that I'm a vocabularily impaired monster who must have undergone some kind of aural taxidermy.
For example, here is an excerpt from an e-mail message that some Puckett-in-training recently dispatched to our offices: "Should your writing staff continue to insist on using the words mod and Faux Jean in the same sentence, I'll dig out my old parka and come over with a baseball bat and FUCKING SORT THINGS OUT!!!"
And here is another letter from a more discerning reader: "Melissa: With your divine music taste, you are my angel of the morning." All right, so I wrote that last one to myself in an ugly moment of self-pity that resulted from reading the first letter. But a girl can always dream about getting fan mail, can't she?
Yet I digress. My point is that not all City Pages readers are among the most spiteful critics known to man--or perhaps even known to girlie-men named Kimberley. Local singer-songwriter Dan Israel is one of the finest gentlemen ever to slap me with an insult. It all started with an innocent A List blurb I wrote, in which I reported to like the apathetic singer-songwriter Manishevitz because he wasn't an earnest singer-songwriter. Mr. Israel criticized me for devoting space to someone who sings horribly off-key. He angrily identified himself as an earnest singer-songwriter--a detail that is supported by the fact that he likes to end his letters with "Sincerely." And then he proceeded to get defensive.
"Are you referring to people like me?" he asked, "Am I paranoid? Do I have delusions of grandeur and think people are bashing me when in fact they don't even know who I am?" And to this I would say: Yes, Dan. Yes, you are indeed a raging psychopath. Just kidding. As it turns out, Israel is actually more adept as an accomplished musician than as a deranged lunatic. (Israel is also pretty good at sending bulldozers into Palestinian neighborhoods--although, come to think of it, that might be the work of a distant relative.)
I responded to his rant by dragging my bruised ego over to the Uptown Bar, where I saw him perform. He strummed some jangly melodies and copped a nasally, Bob Dylan twang to sing folk songs about a working musician's daily grind. "I'm hanging around the hip ones/Just to try to be noticed," he sang ardently on "Overloaded" while his brow furrowed. At other times, his minimalist voice-and-guitar sound took on the inspired tone of a sexed-up street performer who just scored a pair of Joan Baez's undies in his collection basket. And Israel's choruses never rambled on in free verse. Instead of trying to find a rhyme for orange (door hinge?), he sounded happy enough to provide cute couplets along the lines of "love" and "above."
And speaking of love, he even confided between sets that he met his wife in this very bar (sigh!). In short: Dan Israel was the most earnest singer-songwriter I have yet seen this side of a Greenpeace rally fronted by acoustic harmonizer David Wilcox. And, to my surprise, I enjoyed his show wholeheartedly without once letting my brain revert to its usual sarcastic inner dialogue. Excuse me while I wipe that tear from my eye.
Now, I know what you're reasoning in that noggin of yours. Dan Israel sent her hate mail, then Dan Israel got a column that praises his music! But hold on there, professor: I'm not pleading with you to send e-mail that invents cruel nicknames for me or insults my mother (who was not over at your apartment "entertaining" last night). But I am encouraging you to write. I am committed to reviewing new music, and I do try to see as many shows as I can stand. So write me and tell me about your band in the most titillating tone you can muster. If you pester me nicely, and if we haven't written about you before, I'll try my darnedest to respond by coming to one of your performances. And then I'll write a column accusing you of 50 years of injustice toward the Palestinian people.
While I'm in responding mode, I must reply to the Mad Batter, whose e-mail I mentioned earlier: I stand by my use of the word mod, my friend. If you think I use words unperfectly, well, that's just preposteratory.