Sunday, May 8, 2011

New York City

As a present to myself for finishing my M.Sc (finally!) I decided to go to NYC for a few days. After a long 8 hours alone in a car it was time to go to my first show.

April 30th, 2011: London Calling - Martin White & This Ambitious Orchestra

I arrived a bit early at Sullivan Hall, giving me enough time to have a look around the venue, grab a drink and say a quick hello to Martin before the opening act went on. During the opening set I saw James Dowdeswell wandering through the crowd. I was happy to see him, but also quite confused as to why he was there. Turns out he and Sarah Bennetto had decided that NYC is an appropriate stop on the way from Melbourne to London. Either way, it was lovely to properly meet Sarah and to see James again, and to have people to hang out with during the show.
During this gig Martin was performing with This Ambitious Orchestra, a group which is similar to the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra, but based in the USA. Having never seen the MFMO perform, I was excited to hear the songs. Martin and the usual leader of This Ambitious Orchestra traded back and forth during the set. Martin's songs were 'Thank-You For Not Discussing the Outside World', 'The Taste of Hair', 'Dudley and His Magic Pants' and 'An Adventure on the Transcarpathian Express' if I remember correctly. I had only heard two of them before, but it was a delight to hear them live. Nothing like the full sound of an orchestra to make me happy. When Martin wasn't fronting the band they played some brit-pop covers which were also pretty great. I'd be interested to see how this show differed from a typical MFMO gig, and hopefully will have a chance soon enough when I get over to the UK.
I stuck around for a bit after the show, probably having a drink too many and making an ass out of myself with my very sleepy brain, but I had a fabulous time and it was a great way to start off my trip to NYC!

May 1, 2011:
I woke up pretty late and joined my hosts and their other guests for a tour of the city. We walked through Central Park which is a completely man-made patch of 'nature' in the middle of the city. I'm not sure if it was the fact that the park was engineered, or the fences separating people from the grass or just the business of the park, but I found it all a bit unpleasant. I like my nature to be, well, natural. After that we did a bit of aimless wandering before taking a bus to Grand Central Station. It's very impressive. A beautiful marble building with a gorgeous ceiling painted with constellations and a massive gold clock in the middle.
The epic Grand Central Station

On the way home I caught a glimpse of broadway and Times Square, but didn't get a chance to explore.

May 2, 2011:
Mike and I had arranged to meet Martin at the Museum of Modern Art in the afternoon, so we made our way into the city to do some sightseeing before that. We walked through Times Square, past the Radio City Music Hall, around 30 Rockerfeller Plaza and past the stunning, but sadly under construction New York City Centre.
The obligatory Times Square photo

30 Rock

The Lego Store
After the sightseeing, we met up with Martin and went into the MOMA. I'm not an avid fan of modern art, but the MOMA had a lot of very famous pieces that I enjoyed. We started off with a more avant-garde section though. This was my favourite bit of that collection.
That's someone flipping the bird at famous landmarks. I am a child.
After the first couple floors the art got to be a bit more my style, with famous paintings from Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso and Dali all making appearances. Starry Night by Van Gogh was by far my favourite. Also Dali's melty clocks, as I insist on calling it, was actually quite a tiny little painting. Still very cool to see up close. We finished the museum, I said goodbye to Martin who flew back to London the next day, and Mike and I made our way home. It was great to spend a bit of time with Martin since we are so rarely in the same city, or even on the same continent.

May 3, 2011 - The ridiculous walking day:

Mike and I took the ferry from New Jersey around to Wall Street. We saw the Statue of Liberty from afar and also got a pretty cool look at the Manhattan skyline. We walked the length of Wall Stresst at lunchtime when all the bankers were out on their breaks. It was very busy. We then made our way back to the South Seaport Museum where the Bodies exhibit was. If you've not heard of it, the best way to explain it is do to a google image search for 'bodies exhibition'. They used lots of really interesting dissections and preservation techniques which to very effectively teach anatomy. I really enjoyed it. After that exhibit and going to look at a big boat, Mike and I stopped for lunch. Then the walking began.
We walked up to the Brooklyn Bridge, then accross to the West coast of the island, then up the coast, then back into the centre of the island, then up Fifth Avenue to the Empire State building. It took quite a few hours, but was a really interesting way of seeing the city. We went up to the 86th floor of the Empire State building and then realised just how far we'd come.
If you can see through the smog, we'd walked all the way from the
top left of this picture.

It was windy that far up.
After that, we realised that we only had an hour to meet Mike's mother and friend for supper so we hiked past Madison Square Gardens down to the meat packing district (sounds tasty doesn't it?) where we had dinner in a quaint little restaurant. A much needed sit down after a long day. On the way home from dinner we walked past the Chelsea Hotel and got an impromptu history lesson from a passing stranger. Lovely end to a lovely day.

May 4, 2011 - Minchin Day!

It was a rather cold and rainy day and my feet were still quite sore from the previous walking, but we went out to a free concert in a church and to meet Marie, a friend from Kingston who had just moved to NYC. The concert was alright, baroque music and opera in latin isn't really my style, but it was great to see Marie, since I probably won't get to see her very much anymore. After that we went to The Morgan Library and Museum, a little museum set up by super-rich banking man JP Morgan. The building itself was pretty gorgeous and the exhibits included lots of very old books, an early hand-written copy of the Star-Spangled Banner as well as lots of ancients seals, jewellery and some cuneiform (!!) tablets. It was very interesting, but also a bit depressing that a rich American banker was able to buy so many artifacts from all across the world. After that, Mike and I made our way to Gramercy Theatre, where Minchin was going to be performing, had some supper then got into the show.
Pre-Tim Piano
The theatre was smaller than I was expecting, but I really loved the atmosphere. The crowd seemed pretty happy, but despite a sold out show, there were chunks of audience missing. Apparantly this is due to scalpers buying up the tickets, but it made me pretty angry considering that I was really hoping to go to more than one of his New York shows, but couldn't find tickets anywhere. I was really excited, because this was my first time seeing Tim do a full-length show since Edinburgh 2008. Before the show started I spotted Liza in the audience, and went over to give her a big hug, since we'd never met before. I can't remember the entire set-list from the night, but there was the appearance of old favourites (Rock and Roll Nerd, Darkside & White Wine in the Sun as his encore), and brand new stuff (Cont, Sam's Mum & Lullaby) as well as stuff in between (Storm, Pope Song, Prejudice). And lots of great new bits of standup, some audience banter (mostly because a guy shouted '10 foot cock' as soon as Tim walked out on stage), a new grammatical construct (I's) and a vocabulary lesson which taught us the words minge and whinge. Tim was on spectacular form, he seemed happy and loose on stage and it was a fantastic night! He got two, well-deserved standing ovations and even came back to play 'Second Encore' while standing on the piano bench, which made my night.
Liza, me and my sparkly boobs.

After the show, Liza, Mike and I went to wait for Mr. Minchin so that we could get some hugs. I got to spend some time with Liza and found out that she is even more awesome in person. Finally, Tim made his appearance and we watched as many very excited people got pictures hugs and signatures. Eventually our turn came around, I got a lovely big hug and he even remembered my name!
Tim looks great. I look slightly deranged.
He also told me (again) that he'd gone back and read my Montreal blogs. That still kind of weirds me out. I suppose I'll find out if he read this one when I go see him again in Toronto. I'm really looking forward to it! One for the forum, Me, Liza and Minchin with the cool T-shirt that Liza got him.

We made our way out, hugged Liza goodbye and went home. What a fantastic end to a lovely holiday. It almost made my awful M.Sc. work seem worth it! Sorry for not blogging in ages and ages, but I have had a very work-heavy and comedy-free winter. I will try to see more stuff from now on. Thanks for reading my dears! x


  1. Lovely to hear about your trip, Sarah, particularly the Minchin show. I'd been wondering what material he would do over in USA without his band or orchestra. I suppose Fence and Cheese song might not work so well with just piano. Sounds as if some bits of the stand-up are VERY new - lucky you! - don't recall any I's bit at recent shows in UK - intrigued!

  2. It wasn't a real stand up bit. It was an improvised riff. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. It's true, Tim stalks his stalkers. It's probably how he decides if we're dangerous or not. ;)

    Sue (DiB)

  4. He said it was awfully stalkery of him. Which it is. And if he didn't want me to drive really far to see him perform, well he wouldn't do stuff like be all nice, or remember my name.

  5. sounds like a great trip, hope you dont have to work as hard again next time you wanna holiday

  6. Great blog. Glad I discovered it. I love ur writing and topics. I'm a fan. :)