Monday, January 14, 2008

sxip, the horned god

So last Thursday I amble into the deep hipitude that is Joe's Pub. I'm seeing Sxip Shirey's Hour of Charm, so I perch at the bar and wait for Brian Parks to join me, we're going to scheme on Edinburgh while watching the show. Sxip played the Theatorium back in the early 1880s, right after the Civil War and all that. We're old compadres. Part of the variety hour is 500 Clown out of Chicago and part of 500 Clown is my old college buddy Adrian Danzig, so, let the games begin.

I have to tell you friends and acquaintances, it was the finest hour of fun and amazement in recent memory. Adrian's crew is incredible, I saw the best hula act I've ever seen (and weirdly, I've seen a lot of hula acts over the last few years), a group of lovely ladies sang totally crazy, beautiful "country songs from other countries", Greg Wallach told his rightly famous "cake story" and wrapping it all up and keeping it all together was Sxip Himself.

Rare for downtown artsy folks, Sxip tolerates zero irony on his stage. He made a point of it, right at the top of the show, which chilled the crowd for a moment. He said,

"This isn't the cynicism show. If you want that show, it's playing down the street in that direction and down the street in that direction and over there and over there and over there."

Pointing in every possible direction.

And then he did this thing with a modified, amplified, rocket-fueled flute that left us all just staring at him with our mouths open. It was like watching Pan call in the Apocalypse. Seriously. He'd breathe out through the flute and it would be like:


And then he'd breathe in and it would be:


And then he'd start playing a song with that, using the keys of the flute as percussion. And then start singing in this crazy-ass old Tibetan voice.

No way to describe it. Mind-melting shit.

This is what I wrote at the bar, immediately after my mind resumed its former shape:

It's a strange thing Sxip Shirey does. It's probably unclassifiable, like most hugely interesting things are. Yeah, it's music. It's performance. He introduces himself as "an actual circus and theater composer". Which he is.

But what he most of all is, to me, is that 11 year old best friend of yours who never quite grew up (in the good way) and is still widely and wildly fucking around. With joy. And talent. And instruments he's just now invented. And you watch him, giggling at times and then absolutely stunned at others, as he defies possibility and expectation right there in front of you.

A strange thing Sxip does. An ancient, human thing. Like human sacrifice and agriculture, something we've been doing ever since we became us. There's wonder and some terror in what he does, but most of all it's funny and direct and astounding.

Quite a night.

Other random news:

Nancy and Matt and I rocked our little corner of APAP yesterday. Three more showings today, 4:10, 5:10 and 6:10 at the Alvin Ailey Studios, Lower Level, 54th and 9th. It's only ten minutes of Fatboy, so don't quit your jobs or anything, but if you're around its a lot of fun.

Saw that Kerry endorsed Obama, which is a little bit like Keith Richard becoming your Narcotics Anonymous sponsor. Probably not going to help much, but you'll hear some good stories.

And if you're a huge podcast fan (and who isn't, really?) check out

and you can hear me and Leonard Jacobs talking about the League of Independent Theater and my favorite cuss words.

It was kind of a weird conversation.

Now let's get busy on this Monday morning.

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