Monday, January 25, 2010

Review and Interview: Andy Kohnen @ the Sci Fi Lounge, January 21 2009

Welcome to a new feature on the blog! The other night, I went to a show at the Sci Fi Lounge and met up with a good friend of mine from my Webster University days. Ostensibly, I just went because a buddy of mine was playing, but I also went to get a musician's perspective on playing this type of low-key local show. And low key it was, at least the venue. Don't rely too much on your Google maps or your mapquests or your GPS to find it, and also don't rely on your intuition because mine led me astray not once but twice. Just get to the general area and make a few blind turns the correct way down one way streets that you think are the wrong way and all of a sudden, you will come upon your destination. And once you get there, go to the side door (upon which you will find the only Star Trek memorabilia I saw the whole night, a sticker advertising the 2009 film's theatrical release) and marvel at the pinball machines. Just marvel.

The walls are covered in Star Wars models and action figures. There are televisions hooked up with video game systems including PS2, NES, N64 and what I think is one of those plug and play Atari systems. Free Wi-Fi, comic books, board games and one dollar drinks (soda, coffee, tea, water-no liquor license here despite the deceptively placed Schlafly sign) create an atmosphere ripe for the nerd in all of us. And then there's a tiny stage.

There were about five acts, including a man named Paul Frazier who played between acts, announcing the others as he went (totally check out his awesome videos here. Most of the acts, with the exception of Mr. Frazier and the last two acts (Andy Kohnen followed by...can't remember the group's name, but the lead singer's name was Lola) played a type of angsty acoustic rock that borders on goth rock but with a bit too much emo influence, and please remember I'm coming from a mid 1990's definition of both Goth and Emo.

When Andy took the stage, the crowd lit up (after all; the show was billed as "Andy Kohnen and Friends" so most of the crowd came to see him). People reacted to songs such as "Boston" which appeared to be a crowd favorite. But I fell myself for some of his newer songs. The heartfelt "1997" is a little rough for being new, but it shows great potential. I felt special affection for his song "Poster World" which is based on a play Andy starred in a year ago.

The show felt a lot like the venue; loose, relaxed, a place to go and be with people and have fun. I'd probably go to another show at this place, if for nothing more than to try and beat my friend Emily at Mario Kart.

In addition to the show, I also got a chance to ask Andy some questions afterwards.

I'm o.k.: How do you write a song?

Andy Kohnen: I try to tell a story, or retell a story from my life. Something that has a basis in fact.

OK: How do you measure your success as a musician?

AK: Once, I opened for Tally Hall, which is a national touring act. We didn't even ask to be put on the show, the guy putting it on just called and said we'd be a good fit for the show. That was pretty cool.

OK: How many people do you wish your music could reach?

AK: As many as possible.

OK: How many is enough?

AK: I'm not sure. I play for myself, really. If one person reacts, that's cool.

OK: Would you rather your most meaningless song reach a hundred million people, or your most meaningful song reach only a dozen.

AK: Wow. I don't know. A lot of people like my song "Boston" and I don't really like it anymore, but I'll play it because people like it. But...I guess a dozen.

OK: For you, what do you get out of performing?

AK: It's just laying my heart out there, you know? Whatever the audience takes from it is fine with me. I play for a reaction, but I don't expect one.

OK: You sing a lot about yearning for love, as opposed to just love. Why is that?

AK: I've never experienced love, so I think it would be hypocritical if I wrote about it. There's a musician, Jeff Rosenstock, who writes a lot about growing up but not feeling grown up. I'd love to write like that, but I don't know if I'm there yet.

OK: You mentioned tonight that when the webcast may have been lost, that worse things have happened to you at a show. Like what?

AK: Well, once, I was playing a show at this terrible place called The Red Sea [writer's note: it was a pretty scuzzy place] and only three people showed up. I tried to make a joke with the bartender and he totally ignored me. I don't know if he actually ignored me or if he just couldn't hear me. And the first time I played here [at the Sci Fi Lounge], I was playing and everybody was talking. Nobody was listening to me, and I got nervous and started screwing up.

OK: That's kind of counter-intuitive, don't you think? People ignored you and...

AK: And I got worse. Yeah, that's weird.

Well there you have it.

I have some big posts coming, so keep looking. They'll be here soon.


Bridget said...

I may have to go clubbing! "Park your car and look left for the big chicken"? Who can resist that?!!

Molly said...

I like this post. Where's the "like" button?

andy. said...

Hahaha I found this by Google searching my own name. Nicely done, sir!