Stephin Merritt LATE SHOW - 4/16/21 - **SOCIAL DISTANCE SEATING LIMITED CAPACITY**Friday, April 16 2021 9:00pm Doors / 9:30pm Start
Stephin Merritt LATE SHOW - 4/16/21 - **SOCIAL DISTANCE SEATING LIMITED CAPACITY**
at City Winery New York City
Welcome Back To City Winery!
The Show Must Go On...Just a Bit Differently!
Welcome to the first-of-its-kind City Winery show featuring a Socially-Distanced Seating Layout. Out of an abundance of caution, and in keeping with official local health guidelines:
- All guests are required to complete a pre-arrival health screening through CLEAR. This will expedite your entrance by downloading the app and filling in your information prior to arrival, bypassing the in-person health screening and going direclty to your seats after temperature check. Download the CLEAR APP, enroll for free and Enter Guest Code CWNYC57 to complete your health screening prior to arrival
- All other guest's will complete a contactless temperature check and wellness questionnaire (we take this, too) prior to entering our venue. Also, we require all patrons to wear a mask or face covering when entering and moving throughout public areas. You're welcome to take off your mask at your table.
- We are no longer seating unaffiliated parties at the same table. As such, tickets for this show will be sold in quantities of 2-4 select the appropriate group size for you and your companions. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to welcoming you to our new "safe but still intimate" concert venue.
- We will be continually updating our seating map to adhere to all official guidelines regarding social distance requirements as they evolve. All seating will be General Admission within each ticket tier; we recommend coming to the venue two hours early to enjoy a pre-show dinner (with contactless ordering and payment!) for the best arrival experience.
Brevity has often been the soul of Magnetic Fields composer Stephin Merritt’s wit. Though his most celebrated work—the 1999 milestone 69 Love Songs, the more recent 50 Song Memoir—has been epic in conceptual scope, the individual pieces of each have most often been beautifully crafted, slyly funny miniatures. Quickies presents his most consistently miniscule miniatures of all, with the longest track, a reimagining of a Shaker hymn called “Come, Life, Shaker Life,” clocking in at 2:35 and the shortest, the no-minced-words “Death Pact (Let’s Make A)”, at seventeen breezy seconds.
Quickies not only describes the format of this collection, presented in as five vinyl EPs, but in many ways its contents too: short bursts of melody and lyrics sketching in dreams and desires, erotic reveries, and wishful thinking. Merritt’s approach is epitomized by “Bathroom Quickie,” forty-seven seconds of carnal craving sweetly voiced by longtime Magnetic Fields singer Shirley Simms. Merritt says, “‘Bathroom Quickie’ is kind of the manifesto of the album. Just as ‘The Book of Love’ has become the manifesto of 69 Love Songs, ‘Bathroom Quickie’ is the fulcrum of Quickies.” In it, consummation is just one restroom stall away, if only a discreet and available one could be found. Similarly, much of Quickies addresses longing, both real and fanciful: to find a safe and welcoming place to hang out (“Favorite Bar”); to sport vestigial appurtenances (“I Want Fangs and a Tail”); to wear black leather and ride a motorcycle (“I Want To Join a Biker Gang”); to indulge in nostalgie de la boue (“I Want To Be A Prostitute Again”). On the merry “The Day the Politicians Died,” Merritt seems to be channeling nothing less than the unspoken but fervent hopes of America’s teeming masses.
The idea for Quickies developed While Merritt was recording 50 Song Memoir—Magnetic Fields’ 2017 five-disc collection of fifty tracks, each one addressing a year of Stephin’s life up to the age of fifty. The 50 Song tracks had been composed prior to Merritt entering the studio, so Merritt had time to work on something new: “I didn’t have anything to do at night, so I doodled essentially and wrote a lot of short things that seemed complete on their own.”
He had been particularly inspired by the radically brief “flash fiction” of celebrated short-story author Lydia Davis, as well as by his own literary effort as a sort of combination minimalist poet and board-game enthusiast with his 2014 book 101 Two Letter Words: “I’ve been reading a lot of Lydia Davis, and very short fiction in general, and I enjoyed writing 101 Two Letter Words, the poetry book about the shortest words you can use in Scrabble. I guess very short songs were in the air for me. And I’ve been listening to a lot of French baroque harpsichord music, which is the music that sounds best in the car. It doesn’t conflict with the engine noise at all. Most of what I listen to in the car is harpsichord pieces, which are almost entirely quite short. People get in and get out with harpsichord. Harpsichord doesn’t lend itself to languor. So I’ve been thinking about one instrument at a time, playing for about a minute or so and then stopping, and I’ve been thinking of narratives that are only a few lines long. There is that great story, I don’t know if it’s apocryphal, about Ernest Hemingway. When asked for a very short novel idea, he said, ‘For Sale: baby shoes. Never worn.’ All of that was stewing in my mind.
“Also,” he continued, “I had been using a lot of small notebooks, so when I reach the bottom of the page, I’ve only gone a short way. Now that I’m working on a different album, I’m enforcing a large notebook rule so that I don’t do Quickies twice in a row.”
Merritt recorded Quickies in Brooklyn, Boston, and San Francisco with his familiar cast of Magnetic Fields characters. Shirley Simms shares lead vocal duties with him, essaying racy scenarios with squeaky-clean aplomb, as Merritt notes: “I love having Shirley sing sexy lyrics in her Catholic school-girl voice. I never sound innocent no matter how innocent I am. But she does, while being in fact no more innocent than I am. And Shirley has actually become something of an Omnichord virtuoso. I don’t know any other Omnichord virtuosos so I wrote Shirley some Omnichord songs.”
The other players include Magnetic Fields stalwarts like Claudia Gonson (on one-hand piano, percussion, lead vocals, and harmonies), Sam Davol (on cello), and John Woo (unamplified electric guitar) plus Chris Ewen (mellotron), Pinky Weitzman (violin), and Merritt’s friend and literary/musical collaborator David Handler (accordion). As is often the case when Merritt embarks on an album project, he writes with particular instruments in mind. On Quickies, he composed for the three-chord autoharp, the oldest version of that instrument: “Three-chord autoharps sound so much better than normal autoharps because they have twice as many strings devoted to each chord. They sound much fuller than standard thirty-one-chord autoharps.” He also wrote for the banjolele, a banjo-ukelele hybrid he’d begun to collect. He discovered
sixties-era Celeste—the keyboard-based instrument that produces chiming, heavenly sounds—at a San Francisco studio, Decibelle, and fashioned duets for Celeste and Handler’s accordion. Most significantly, he utilized cigar-box instruments, a form of functional outsider art: “There is a folk genre of instruments literally made out of cigar boxes. The body of the instrument is a cigar box, you glue on a neck, add some strings and you have a cigar box guitar, which is a particularly crummy guitar that you have to play with a slide. Or a cigar box ukulele, which is a much more sophisticated instrument; it’s just a ukulele that has th
“Sam Davol built a wine-box cello, literally out of a wine box,” he adds. “He complained that it actually sounds too good, basically like his normal cello. The other cigar-box instruments are noticeably non-standard, but his cigar-box cello was too successful. The intonation is great.
“Of the cigar-box instruments, I played ukulele. John Woo played the cigar-box slide guitar, Sam Davol played the wine-box cello, Pinky Weitzman played cigar-box violin. And Claudia played cigar-box percussion. Not to be outdone by Sam, I decided to invent some percussion instruments out of cigar boxes. I built more instruments for the album than he did, but his was more successful.”
Quickies is the twelfth Magnetic Fields album, the fifth recorded for Nonesuch, in a career spanning three decades. In addition to Merritt’s acclaimed work with the band, he has composed original music and lyrics for several music theater pieces, including an Off-Broadway adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel Coraline, for which he received an Obie Award. In 2014, Merritt composed songs and background music for the first musical episode of National Public Radio’s This American Life. Merritt also releases albums under the band names the 6ths, the Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes. Upon the release of 50 Song Memoir, New York magazine called the box set “a celebration of Merritt’s sky-high range as a writer and a player, through the exploration of the circumstances that helped cultivate it … a delightful flip through the untold back pages of one of rock’s most singular voices, and, all in all, the best damned Magnetic Fields album in the last ten years.”
In contrast to 50 Song Memoir, Merritt states: “I should emphasize that although that last album was non-fiction, this album is definitely fiction and I do not in fact wish that I had fangs and a tail. I do not in fact wish I was in a biker gang. Well, hmmm. I sometimes wish I were in a biker gang, but not that particular kind. I was not actually a prostitute, but I have two friends who have literally said to me, ‘I wish I were a prostitute again.’”
But, he admits in conclusion, “’Bathroom Quickie’ is truly autobiographical. In fact, I was going around with my friend Ricky looking for a place where we could be more intimate, and we couldn’t find one anywhere. It was very frustrating. That one could have been on 50 Song Memoir, I guess.”