Monday, March 1, 2010

Puerto Muerto and a blast from the past weekend

I spent the weekend in NYC again, this time because my last roomate before Bill was having her 50th birthday party there. There were between 10 and 20 women at all of the events, of which there were a lot, and mostly I didn’t know them because they were friends from either earlier (college) or later (now) than when I really knew Angela. But it was fun, and I did know a couple of other people besides my roomie and met a few more. I got to run in the park again a couple of times, very cool, because it had snowed heavily the day before and everyone was out sledding and building forts and snowmen and by “everyone” I mean mostly parents and kids but not entirely.

Maybe the coolest place we went all weekend was something called The Campbell Apartment, which is in Grand Central and is apparently the former office of John W. Campbell, a railroad tycoon (not the science fiction writer), who commissioned an architect to recreate the look and feel of a Florentine palace. It’s very beautiful in a dark wood, masculine, early 20th century kind of way. (It’s like the Morgan library, but smaller, if that helps.) They serve old-fashioned, prohibition-era cocktails there, kind of pricey, but interesting. I took one look at the menu and had to get a Jack Rose…which has apple brandy in it and tasted really good. Of course, being at a table of 50-ish women, no one else got the reference, but you guys will.

Also, I’m writing for Venus again, or at least they’re up and running again, and I’ve done one article of them, which ran on the web last Friday. It was about Puerto Muerto, a blues-influenced, male-female duo with a complicated history who are not the White Stripes. Kind of sad, they’re breaking up both as a couple and as a band, so hello, goodbye, all together. Anyway, here’s the first bit. Follow the jump for the rest.

If you sense a darkness in Puerto Muerto’s latest album, Drumming for Pistols (Fire), you’re not imagining things. The Chicago duo has always imbued its punk-charged, cabaret-exotic material with creepiness — but when writing their sixth full-length a year ago, things turned from downbeat to downright dismal.
“Everything was going in the toilet,” says Christa Meyer, the singer, songwriter, and sometime drummer for the band. Not only was larger picture bleak — with the U.S. economy entering freefall, jobs drying up, and homes going into foreclosure — but life at home was no picnic either. As Meyer and her husband (and longtime band mate) Tim Kelley were recording the album, they were also splitting up as a couple.

Meyer and Kelley had been working together since before they were married, with Kelley kicking in the band’s sharp, eruptive punk energy and Meyer bringing strong classical training and a penchant for Kurt Weil–esque theatrics. The pair recorded 13 albums together as Puerto Muerto, starting with 2003’s Elena.


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