Thursday, January 15, 2009

APAP Part One

Last week, Thursday night through Monday, I spent at the 2009 APAP Conference in NYC. This is where many thousands of arts presenters converge to explore prospective bookings, conference about issues, and generally schmooze with agents, artists, and associates.

Having been to many music industry conferences over the years, I can say that APAP is one of the most intense, especially for someone who is looking to book world music. For example, the publicist (and all-around nice guy) Dmitri Vietze of Rock, Paper, Scissors embarks on the Herculean task each year of compiling a spreadsheet with all of the scheduled world music showcases happening around APAP each year, and this year there are over 200 listings!

But it's not just about world music (in fact, it's not even just about music itself... there is as many dance and theater showcases happening here as music). Jazz, folk, rock... just about everything is here. This is largely directed at the bigger budget arts presenters (universities, festivals and arts centers, for example), so the focus tends to be on those genres which play well with them. In other words, not many death metal showcases... but then again, this is New York City, and if you want to see some death metal on any given night, chances are good you can find some.

The biggest challenge at APAP is the choosing of what to see. Most of the booking agents have showcases both at the main hotel (midtown Hilton) and at various locations around the city, and every one of them pushes hard for you to come to their showcases. Then there is the tendency to just go to things that you already know and love... which can be great fun, but generally defeats the ambition of discovery.

I started my APAP exploring shortly after arriving on Thursday night, heading down to a relatively new NY club called Le Poisson Rouge to see a double-bill of singer/songwriters. The opener, Gabriel Kahane who has worked with Sufjan Stevens, My Brightest Diamond, and Rufus Wainwright. He premiered a song cycle based on the poems of Robert Lowell and had some moments of musical brilliance. But overall it was weighed down by the problem that so many arrangements of poetry to music seem to suffer from, especially good poetry, which tends to spark different emotional responses from different people, and is inevitably often in conflict with the emotional personality the composer happened to feel for the arrangement of that poem.

The headliner was a recent Nonesuch Records signing, Christina Courtin. Spectacular voice, but uneven material, and somewhat affected stage mannerisms kept this from completely winning me over. But she is a talent worth monitoring:

After that I walked a few blocks over to the historic Blue Note jazz club to catch an incredible set by three amazing musicians: Bill Frisell, Ron Carter and Paul Motian. Their rendition of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" sent me straight to heaven...

More later.

1 comment:

Brad said...

Some friends of mine works at Le Poisson Rouge. In fact, they also do a reading series there, so if you're ever able, you should drop in and say hello from the Twin Cities: