Matthew Sweet, Susanna Hoffs, and a Pottery Cat…

…and it’s a strange tale (tail?).

City Winery on Varick and Vandam in NYC has got to be one of the oddest music venues in town. Not a bad venue. Not at all. But odd. The layout is ludicrously large and sprawls out in such a way that the stage is only truly visible from a few tables. Kirsten and I sat one table back from the stage – so our view was just fine. However, we glanced over at the alleged VIP section and saw all kinds of visual obstructions. There’s a column and an I-beam right in the middle of the room at that point of the layout that seems placed not as an architectural necessity – but a Lloyd Wright tribute. It makes no sense and seems to serve no purpose. (If architects are reading this – or the City Winery engineers are reading this – please illuminate.)

Even the video guy that had to climb over our table to adjust one of the cameras for the eighteenth time because of the bizarre feng shui of the place had no reasoning for any of this. He did claim, however, that all of the money had probably gone into designing the place for sound.

I’m no audiophile – but when Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (working under the moniker ‘Sid ‘n’ Susie’ ) kicked into an acoustic cover of Sweet’s 1995 hit “Sick Of Myself,” bizarre feng shui and acoustic resonance was immaterial.


Matthew Sweet was paramount in the early nineties musical scene. He reconciled the growl of grunge with the honey-touch of radio friendly pop. And how many of us survived our first high-school break-ups with the rich valentine that was “Girlfriend” or were aided into teenage disaffection by “Altered Beast?”

Lyrics from “Knowing People” –

‘Are you made like God / When you start to bleed
Do you really know / What it is to breathe
Without a mind to think / Or a hand in fate
You’re an animal / Filled with love and hate.’

It’s a misanthrope’s fucking ANTHEM! And definitely something this young man at 16-years-old amped-up on his CD-player while thrashing on his school-loaned Fender Precision.

So, between songs Sweet cleverly banters as the band sets up for the next. His energy is charismatic and his enthusiasm is infectious. Hoffs, for the most part, sits pretty and says little. This works for me because she looks better at age 50 than she ever did as a twenty-something Bangel.

And Sweet starts talking about the band’s “merch” – merchandise the band provides – which needs to be kept down a back hallway so that it won’t conflict with the winery’s merchandise. And he starts talking about his pottery.

The man makes and sells pottery at his gigs to make some extra cash.

This is a man who helped soothe my aching, 16-year-old broken heart and – after all the radio play and all the chart success – he’s still hawking his wares at the fair to make a little extra bank.

And then he mentions that all the cat-lovers in the audience should head back there and check it out.

So – after the gig is over – cat-lovers Kirsten and I head back down this hallway. I should preface this by saying that – while I love and adore cats – nobody loves cats the way that Kirsten loves cat.

And – on this little table – covered in a simple, black velvet table cloth – there lays a simple, white sign written in black permanent marker that says “Sid ‘n’ Susie” – with accompanying star-burst that reminds me of a “stop for lemonade” sign my neighbors and I made when we were 8.

Surrounding the sign were dark blue ceramic cats with elongated eyes that made them look – oddly enough – like extra-terrestrials in a typical alien-abduction story.

And Kirsten just had to have one. Because she just had to have a ceramic cat made by Matthew Sweet.

She has now deemed it the talisman for her new office (she’s moving into a spiffy new office this weekend…hooray…and she’s all kinds of stressed) and will be displaying rather prominently – I would imagine.

There was a great lesson I took away from the whole affair – no matter how far you go in the business or what success you gain – it can all be so easily taken from you – and fame and fortune are not guaranteed to last even if you have them…

…and if you’ve got talent you need to keep your guitar tuned, your case open, and be sure to have a ceramic cat to hawk at the fair because no one’s gonna look out for you the way you are gonna look out for you.

It was a solid show of mostly covers. It was a relaxed affair as they took questions from the audience. Musically, the highlights of the evening were the above mentioned “Sick of Myself” and a beautifully rendered, vocally agile “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison – made even more memorable by the affectionate way Sweet ribbed Hoffs after she had forgotten the second verse and they had to start the tune over.

Other songs they did last night (not precisely in this order):

“I’ve Seen All Good People: Your Move/All Good People” (Yes)
“Willin'” (Little Feat channeled by Linda Ronstadt)
“What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding” (Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello)
“Cinnamon Girl” (Neil Young and Crazy Horse)
“Different Drum” (Stone Poneys/Linda Ronstadt)
“She May Call You Up Tonight” (The Left Bank)
“Hello, It’s Me” (Todd Rundgren)
“Maggie May” (Rod Stewart)
“To Sir With Love” (Lulu)
“In Your Room” (Bangles)
“Manic Monday” (Bangles)
“Sick Of Myself” (Sweet)
“I’ve Been Waiting” (Sweet)


~ by saturdaysinthedark on November 12, 2009.

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