The Love Hangover: Bell House 15 February 2012

The Love Hangover has been going on for 13 years in five cities – a series of duets where the male/female pairings sing about love and heartache. Teddy Thompson was going to be the headliner for the NYC show, performing in one of our favorite venues, so rtb, violaleeblue, and I got tickets. violaleeblue wasn’t feeling well and had to cancel and, although parts of the show were good, I was glad she decided to rest and get better instead.

rtb and I had dinner at local restaurant – modern Chinese takeout, which means hormone-free chicken and no MSG and it’s certified Green. Michael & Ping’s is okay. The food is good and it’s okay. We headed over to the Bell House so we could pick up our tickets and get in early enough to grab one of the few seats. We sat at the bar waiting for the Will Call station to open and the front room was getting crowded and there was a stage set up and we were listening to the soundcheck and we were wondering when the doors for the club would open. I walked over and looked inside the club and saw that the stage was not set up for a performance and realized that the front room was it. Since no one had asked us if we had tickets we could have gotten in for free. And we would have gotten what we paid for. Luckily we were sitting at the bar so we had seats and easy access to alcohol.

First up was Greta Gertler and Richard Alwyn (the night’s curator). At one point Alwyn was singing and I had my WTF? face on and I turned around to look at rtb and it was like looking in the mirror – she had the same WTF? look on her face. Alwyn’s MySpace page hasn’t been updated in a while and I can’t find any references to him. His lack of musical activity showed – he was pitchy and off-key and I have no idea what he was singing about. Gertler had a nice voice but she chose Carole King’s “Home Again” as her cover. I never realized how bad those lyrics were – “snow is cold/rain is wet”? When it came out, Tapestry was on heavy rotation on my home stereo and I was young enough to fall in love with every song. Age really does give you perspective, doesn’t it? Alwyn covered Bob Dylan’s “I Want You” choosing to sing in a Dylan voice. When Alwyn announced that there were other Love Hangover shows going on at the same time in other cities I was wondering why I couldn’t be lucky enough to be in one of those other cities.

Happily, the night got better. Megan Reilly and Chris Mills were up next. rtb reminded me that Mills had opened for Okkervil River and we had enjoyed his performance. He chose John Prine’s “If You Don’t Want My Love” as a cover so I liked him even more. They also covered The Mekons’ “Millionaire” and Mills did his “Signal/Noise” with the lyric “I love you more the further I get away”.

Americana artists Jen Larson and Michael Daves were a definite highlight. Both standing around one old mic they thrilled me with their roots sound. Daves did spend too much time tuning but his guitar playing was excellent. They performed a fantastic version of “(Now and Then There’s a) Fool Such as I.”

Jolie Holland and Rick Moody were next. If you were wondering if the author of The Ice Storm could sing, I’m here to tell you he’s okay. He was good singing back-up for Holland but not so good singing lead. One of the covers they performed was “A Good Year for the Roses.” Holland was excellent on guitar and fiddle.

Finally it was time for Sasha Dobson and Teddy Thompson. Thompson’s guitar playing, as usual, blew everyone out of the water – he inherited his father’s guitar artistry. Each duet only performed four or five songs and, even though it was late, I could have heard more from Thompson. Thompson’s sense of humor came through with “Down in the Willow Garden” not only because of the choice of a murder ballad but, since they had just learned the song, Thompson pulled out his iPhone so they could listen to it before they performed it.

It was late and rtb and I had seen what we came for so we didn’t stick around for Michael Arenella & Alan Cary although the fact that one of them was walking around in a tuxedo with a trumpet under his arm and was sporting a spit curl did intrigue me.

By Carene Lydia Lopez