Live: Skerik Rips Open A Horn Portal At Cameo Gallery

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Skerik's Bandalabra
Cameo Gallery
Tuesday, September 11

Better than: A tale of one city.

When it comes to music, Tolstoy's dictum about the only two kinds of stories—1) someone goes on a journey, or 2) a stranger comes to town—can usually be distilled into a single notion: We hop on the train to hear the stranger in town. When Seattle saxophonist Skerik (born Eric Walton) brought his new group Bandalabra here Tuesday night, however, it provided the occasion for the former Prospect Heights resident to reconnect with several of some former Emerald City associates in an unusual there-kind-of-here sort of way. And so, after a relatively short set with his new quartet, the floodgates opened for about a hundred minutes of off-the-cuff multi-horn grooving of a daringly high order.

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Live: Kristen Schaal Bids Farewell To Hot Tub

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Hot Tub with Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal, feat. Leo Allen, Janeane Garofalo, Eugene Mirman and Reggie Watts
Littlefield
Monday, July 30

Better than: Whatever happened in the Olympics last night. (Don't tell me who won—I have money on Serbia.)

It is truly gratifying to watch two people with real chemistry, who are so in sync that the next great hook or huge laugh seems to be created in a special space between them, perform. There isn't a New York duo that seems more comfortable on stage together than Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal, a fact that colored last night's edition of the variety show Hot Tub, the final installment with Schaal as co-host. Braunoher will continue the long-running Monday night comedy show on his own while Kristen takes the leap to Los Angeles.

Last night, billed as a send-off for Schaal, served as a look back at some memorable moments from Hot Tub's first seven (!) years. Braunohler bounded onstage in a three-piece suit, which Schaal noted made him look like he was "from the '40s... but it might just be the polio." They let the crowd know that Hot Tub would continue and that Kristen would be back in a matter of weeks. In some ways, the goodbye that wasn't really a goodbye was fitting—it was mostly absurd, but legitimate heart and sweetness were at its core.

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Live: Questlove Puts The World On Shuffle At BAM

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Ed Lefkowitz/BAM
Shuffle Culture
Howard Gilman Opera House
Friday, April 20

Better than: Celebrating "4/20."

Questlove's "Shuffle Culture" event—at which ten or so musical acts performed a handful of songs each, but never more than one at a time, as if the set list itself were on shuffle—was at once strange and familiar. On one level, the premise was anticipatory, predicting a future where concertgoers won't have the time or patience for a low-concept, single-band show. On the other, one could see the evening's roots: in the mixtape, the DJ set, the all-star benefit concert, the R&B revue. And it was this marriage of old and new—analog and digital—that permeated the night, a constant reminder that, as Q-Tip famously told his daddy, things go in cycles.

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A Very Long Conversation with Comedian Reggie Watts About Williamsburg, Touring with Conan, and Brian Eno Birthday Parties That Is Totally Worth the Read

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Any attempt to describe what Reggie Watts does onstage will inevitably fail to convey the dizzying heights of absurdity the man regularly achieves, but here it goes. First, the Seattle-via-Montana transplant constructs backing tracks via carefully controlled beat-boxing and judicious use of looping pedals and pitch-shifting, weird-noise generating devices. And then things start to get strange. He might use the ramshackle tracks as the bedrock for a startling accurate imitation of a drunk British professor--or of a squirrel. He might sing a song filled with bizarrely right non-sequiturs like "Your ass crack/butter and toast." Or he might just decide to unleash a wave of distortion that would make TV On The Radio jealous.

Or he might just get real. Like, bizarrely, hilariously, specifically real about the minutia of his life. The highlight of his new CD/DVD combo Why Shit Crazy?, released via Comedy Central Records, is the song "My History Thus Far," in which Watts sings in detail about how he's never really paid rent since moving to Brooklyn a few years ago, and also makes a bold proclamation about the location of our city's finest hamburger. Free of the burdens of rent, Watts quickly found a home on New York's alt-comedy scene after moving here in 2006. He collaborated with Regina Spektor and gigged with absurdist comedy king Eugene Mirman, and built up enough buzz to land opening duties for Conan O'Brien's high-profile Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour. (He won the gig a day after one of O'Brien's writers showed The Once And Future Talk Show King some of Watt's live videos.)

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