All posts by John Paul Carillo

Cloud Club Night

Joy on Fire at The Cloud Club (and after (and before))

We had decided to make a few changes in our set list after walking around the courtyard of Boston’s celebrated and magical Cloud Club. Cloud Club Fire EscapeThe spirit of the place had put us in a different mood. The evening’s events were being held outside, and we wanted our music—at least for the opening half of the set—to cohere with the wild, overflowing city garden we’d be playing in front of. As I walked around the brick paths before the night’s music began, I noticed the artistic touches in the garden’s construction—hobby horses stuck onto iron gates covered with ivy; Greco-Roman plaster heads, also covered in ivy; heads carved from coconuts that sprouted flowers; huge spheres of light that appeared, from a distance, to be floating in mid air—and this feeling of delight continued as the evening’s events began. Cloud Club OrbMali, singer/songwriter/pianist for Jaggery, who had organized the show, began the music with a wonderful song for bells and voice she had written especially for the event (ironically, the metaphorical conceit of the piece concerned weather). Three very good short films were shown. Folk artist Josh Cole passed out percussion instruments as he played his set. Valerie Kuhn’s new cello/violin/vocal project Naked Roots Conducive featured the hilarious lines: “When the Demon comes/It’s time to grow up/When the Demon comes/It’s time to shut the fuck up.” As much as I like these lines, and laughed out loud from the back of the courtyard when Val sang them, I blame Val—or thank her, as the case may be—for what happened next.

Joy on Fire was the closing act of the night, and as we were plugging in and tuning up, Mali ran up to us and said, “It’s going to rain! It may start in an hour, or it may start—” and then we felt the first drop.

The decision to move the show inside was pretty swift. Within ten minutes, the show had changed from a garden party to a basement punk rock blowout. The change of vibe required a change of set, and we stomped into our driving opener, “Le Phant.” It worked, and the energy was good. By the time we got to our closer, “Punk Jazz,” the Demon came, and I stopped the song in the middle to yell at everyone because they weren’t dancing. “This is dance music!” By the time we picked it back up, I had shut the fuck up, and most everyone in the room—including the band (excluding the artist who had been and still was painting a picture of us as we played)—was dancing. So we played one more song—untitled but with the working title “Disco Metal”—as the garden-party-turned-punk-house-show-turned-dance-riot was almost complete.

Cloud Club NightWe were on the road by midnight, headed on Interstate 90 back to the Hudson Valley to demo a new tune with engineer Jesse Melito; to the Hudson Valley, where we’d played two shows booked by our friend Corinna Makris only 24 hours before….

-John Paul Carillo

Joy on Fire at the Storied Grounds of Tompkins Square Park

After seven weeks away from our home in Greensboro, North Carolina, Anna and I finally came home in early July. Looking back at all the good gigging and recording and jamming that Anna, Chris, and I did in the Northeast from May to June, the gig that stands out for me is International Make Music Day, June 27, which, for Joy on Fire, and thanks to Corinna Makris, who acquired the permit (this permit plays an important role in the story), took place in Tompkins Square Park, NYC.

As per circumstances—an early morning uncancellation of the gig due to sunshine after a late-night cancellation due to thunderstorms, Chris’s car being in the shop, etc.—we got a late start, and with the gas generator pull-started and roaring and coughing and spewing exhaust and creating a rhythm all its own while powering our amps, we were set up and ready to play by 2:40pm. A crowd had already begun to form, and in this crowd, beside the street punks, weed dealers, families eating ice-cream, and at least one guy on a unicycle, was a man who worked for the NYC Parks Department. He asked if we had a permit. Corinna was ready for him and brandished the permit. “This is only good to three o’clock,” he said. “You’ll have to shut down by three.” We debated this, but he was insistent. It was now 2:45. With wide eyes we looked at each other. This was surely a lot of set-up and all kinds of other work for a fifteen-minute gig. On the other hand, it definitely created a sense of urgency.

We brought this urgency into our playing and blasted into a stomping version of our opening number, “Le Phant.” By the time we were done with our second tune, “The Spider’s House,” the crowd had grown to twice its original size, photos were being snapped, and people were taking videos and dancing—and we had two minutes left to play. We only have one piece that fits this short format, so Anna switched from alto to baritone sax as quickly as she could, and we played “Punk Jazz,” a tune with a head, a solo, and then the head again, and that’s it.

It was now three. The Parks Department Guy was nowhere to be seen. With the crowd’s encouragement (they knew the score) and to their enjoyment, we kept playing. By the time we made it to “Disco Metal,” the last song in our set, Parks Department Guy, with his arms crossed, was once again part of the audience. Though he insisted on cutting us off as per his badge, he seemed to enjoy what he heard, and when it was all over, the members of the crowd dispersing on their ways to the rest of their New York City days, we gave him a CD.

-John Paul Carillo

A unique shape?

Sam Smith just lost his case for copyright infringement because he stole the tune from Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down.” But the controversy’s not over, because copyright infringement wasn’t the controversy in the first place. The real controversy is: Why is “Stay With Me” up for a Grammy at all?

Smith can sing, I guess, but the song shape is boring, and the production is mawkish. Jimmy Page, no stranger to lawsuits of this type, and recently sued by the band Spirit for supposedly ripping off the opening of “Stairway to Heaven,” defends himself in these cases by basically saying “My composition has a unique shape.”

Does this idea — a unique shape — even make sense to your average contemporary listener? Probably not, and that’s too bad….

Here’s a short YouTube video I found overlaying both songs for just the first few bars. Enough to show the similarities and the differences. What do you think?