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punch bowl

i now own a punch bowl.
this punch bowl makes me think of my mother and father in the late 60s, early 70s
and their finger poppin’ parties. Back when adults were still cooler than kids (although the kids were gaining ground).
I remember how limitless and cool adult life looked. They smiled like gods. And they danced with irony and total commitment.
Our definition of cool, back then.
And it looked to me like they were having the best kind of fun. Mysterious fun. You could see it in their sly grins
when they walked in or out with someone they met by the punch bowl at my parent’s party. I am haunted by those sly grins like
like glimmering lights in the distance waiting for me to grow up and join them. Those sly grins were proof they knew of things sweeter than candy, rides wilder than merry-go-rounds, smaller, more intimate Disneylands.
These toe-tapping finger-poppin’ drink clutching gap-toothed be-hatted gods smiled slyly while telling me don’t hurry to get old. Which of course I couldn’t hear.
This saturday i’m throwing my own little punch bowl party and i hope there’s an 8 year old in attendance
who will note my sly grin and look up at me like I’m a drunken loud mouthed god and not just some old cat trying his damnedest to be cool.


go see Passing Strange THIS WEEK at the IFC Theater on 6th ave

i just found out from my kid that its still running at the IFC. Of course, being on facebook, she learns of these kinds of things well in advance of me or anyone else who had anything directly to do with the film. She has actually been my only timely and reliable source for Passing Strange info since the film premiered. And shes way over here in Berlin with me.

And although there are no ads saying it, I’m pretty certain this is the last week it’ll be there. So make a move to see our movie. Who knows when it will ever show again on the big screen. Because, without a doubt, on the big screen (with the big speakers) is where it belongs.

Passing Strange


asphalt orchestra rules

i am speechless.
they are so amazing.

Passing Strange in Los Angeles

Spike’s film will be happening on opening night of the Downtown LA Film Festival on Wednesday, August 12th.

And stay tuned for my thoughts on the recent NYTimes article.

with greetings from the capital,

Bio? Nada.

the problem with my local organic supermarket is that you have to be a millionaire hippy in order to buy lamb there.

tribeca was cool. someone told us they were shocked cuz our talk-back was actually entertaining. i didn’t few the film but i heard it looked and sounded amazing in their theater.

i’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that this crazy little thing me Heidi and Annie cooked up just for the hell of it is actually going to live on as part of the PBS canon. I really cannot wrap my head around that yet. PBS changed my life a number of times as a teen – for instance, – like or not Robert Hughes’ politics, his “Shock of the New” series was a watershed moment for me as a kid who wanted to be an artist for life. That doc made art making seem heroic, suspenseful, important and downright necessary. After seeing it I went out and bought a canvas, some oil paints and tried to be Munch for a few months until a painting I made looked so much like a guitar (and a woman) that I realized where I should be hanging my focus. And there it has remained.

And so the idea that PS is going to be there for some unsuspecting teen (so that she may realize that shes not alone in thinking that there’s gotta me more to life than what she’s been handed by her community) and some equally unsuspecting Mom (who will see that we who run away with the circus do eventually get it, albeit too late sometimes)…is just all quite alot to fathom for a singer in a rock and roll band.

their review

the review of the review won’t make sense unless you’ve read the 1st review…

…and of course even then it may not make sense…

Stew’s Review of Stephen Holden’s Review of Alice Tully Show in New York Times

It’s no doubt the height of bad taste if not idiocy to take issue with a completely positive review such as the one Stephen Holden so graciously penned in the NYTimes today of my Alice Tully Hall show last Friday. I’ll probably regret it the moment I click “send.” But immediate regret is half the fun of email, is it not?

Let me start by saying how much we all appreciate the great review.

But here are my thoughts:

Just because I’m a Black artist who explores identity doesn’t mean I’m having an identity crisis. Although if white people keep telling me I’m having one it may come to pass (no pun intended) heh heh…

Nor does being Black mean that everything I write is autobiographical. Like many artists, I play with the audience’s expectations of autobiography in my work (see Passing Strange) but that doesn’t mean my work is purely autobiographical. Just as I play with identity a lot in my work but there’s no ongoing “crisis.” You saw my waistline: there’s the crisis.

Embarrassingly enough, and for the record, my sense of my own identity has been pretty much set in stone since I was about 17. That is when I decided to be an artist for the rest of my life, screw SATs, college degrees, job security and, most significantly, cable. Which is why the part in today’s Times about how that guy onstage at Tully last Friday “minutely gauges how people perceive him in various settings, then adjusts his behavior accordingly” describes a person nobody who knows me would ever recognize. I only adjust my behavior for gun wielding policemen and the IRS.

Mr. Holden goes on to write: “Flatbush Avenue on Sunday” was a idyllic snapshot of Brooklyn on one of those perfect days when “all the dreadlocked people in their finery … came out to play.” In this harmonious moment he feels completely at home.”

Now if we’ve been buying into the whole identity crisis suffering/alienated black guy narrative of this very nice review we are forced to conclude from this observation that Black Brooklyn is the antidote to the Black artist’s (non-existent) identity crisis. But the song celebrates “Puerto Ricans, Jews and Dominicans too” who also came out to play on that fine day. Yes, I feel quite comfy within Brooklyn’s multicultural panorama. But that song is not about feeling at home in Brooklyn. It’s about feeling relieved that my show closed and that I didn’t have to work on Broadway anymore.

Last nitpick I swear: I actually live in Berlin. I just work in New York.

Thank you Mr. Holden for a really great review. Despite my totally out-of-line-what-the-hell-am-I-doing-taking-issue-with-a-positive-review-in-the-New-York-Times pre-coffee ramble, I was thrilled by your generous review. I’m still shocked every time we get a review in any newspaper especially one as prestigious as yours. I always operate under the assumption that no one knows what we’re doing. And our record sales would prove this to be for the most part true.

I’d like to give a shout out to my amazing band that deserved way more column space than me: Eisa Davis, Rebecca Jones and De’Adre Aziza, Jon Spurney, Christian Gibbs and Christian Cassan from the Passing Strange ensemble, the amazing string quartet known as ETHEL, The Horn Problem led by Mike McGinnis who just smoked from top to bottom, the Grammy Award winning Marty Beller on the drums, the absurdly tasteful music-man about town Joe Mcginty of Loser’s Lounge and Circuit Parade fame and of course my esteemed collaborator Heidi Rodewald.

I really felt we were a team up there and probably more than ever this show was about music and little more.

Love and Thanks,

nothing deeper than these changes

I don’t know which was more unlikely:
Obama becoming Prez
or a middle-aged rock freak winning a Tony.

I think the latter.

I thought 2007 was about as surreal as my life could possibly get.

2008 made 2007 look like an episode of that BBC series about the country veterinarians.

I’ve never bought into New Years hoopla. I find the parties embarrassing. I have grudgingly attended them only when I was too broke to refuse the highest paying gig of the year: executing grimly endless grooves for amateur drunks. Like my birthday, it’s always been just another day.

But 2008 rocked, nay, shook me in all sorts of ways: emotionally, politically, romantically, intellectually, career-wise, name it. I even learned how to cook chili. There’s more to it than opening a can, son. Anyway, 2008 chewed me up and, being the fat, overly spiced motherfucker that I am, spat me out. And I’m all the stronger for it.

But for the first time in my life I am feeling the significance of this insignificant marking of time. Because 2009 really will be different.
Ain’t no way around that.

The beautiful stuff that happened in 2008 was beyond description. Maybe some day I’ll find the words to describe how it felt to listen to Toni Morrison talking about PS as my ex-wife Freya, my daughter Bibi and my girlfriend Debbie, all Morrison fans, listened on in rapt attention. This was extra deep because Freya turned my Mom onto Morrison’s work. That moment with Ms. Morrison in my dressing room speaking directly to the women of my life, and thus, in a sense, directly to my Mother as well, was the moment I learned what success was. You couldn’t buy that moment with money. That was the real Toni award.

Back in LA when I was young and spending more time in garages rehearsing than I was onstage, often after practice the band would sit around drinking beer and smoking weed and inevitably somebody would get so high they’d start talking about what I “should be doing” with all these songs I was writing. And they’d say things like “Yo, Stew! Maaaaan, what you need to do is write a musical!” And then another dude would mutter, while passing the J and trying not to exhale, “And then get that shit on Broadway, dude…” And then the guy in the backseat, who was by now higher than all of us, would say “Yeah, yeah, yeah…and then you gotta get Spike Lee to film that shit!”

And then we’d all laugh.

Starting January 2008 and right up until a few weeks ago, this year has been a non-stop love rollercoaster of challenges both beautiful and painful. These challenges have changed my direction, my mind, my work, my life. I lost things that I thought I’d have forever. And I gained great things that I never thought I’d have. That’s a fair exchange. Or maybe about as fair an exchange as you can expect from life.

So for the first time ever, this New Year is really going to be “new.” Not because of some false significance that I imbue it with, but because real change has come.

So when I do the embarrasing toast tonight at midnight I’ll actually have something real to toast for a change, as I think will we all. And the only endless grooves I’ll be “spinning” will be from my “party play-list” in i-tunes.

I can’t listen to all these fireworks bombs going off here in Berlin tonight without thinking about Gaza. I’m not foolish enough to think I could possibly add anything valuable to that long sad song here on my goofy singer/songwriter blog. I’m more Sonny Bono than Bono. I just wanted to mention it since we were talking about change.

Nappy New Year,

the history channel

Mandela’s release, the fall of the wall, the LA riots, the birth of my kid, the introduction of the euro,
the election of obama…i always seem to be in berlin when big things happen. and that makes sense
for berlin is the history channel…sure, a part of me wanted to be on flatbush ave celebrating…but it was just fine experiencing this huge explosion of endlessly reverberating change in the wee small quiet hours of the berlin morning on my little history channel street (Dietrich was born a few houses down)…Barack, to be frank, is not the guy i will remember most from this night – even though I’ll be seeing the footage of his speech no doubt for the rest of my life – no, the most memorable cats from that morning will be the pundits on the panels, the newsfolk who we so rarely see looking anything remotely like actual human beings suddenly becoming human beings before our eyes (this happened during katrina quite often, by the way. Barack being, of course, a positive Katrina.) Ok, not all of them became human — john bolton, a panel member, even on such an occasion as this, absolutely did not resemble a human being. No, he was the same frightening robot he’s always been – not unlike one of my daughter’s teacher’s the next day who refused to acknowledge the significance of what has just transpired the night before but went head on with his lesson plan. Anyway, my point was seeing newsbots actually smiling and agreeing and damn near high-fiving each other was rather special. There was a hilarious moment on BBC when Ted Koppell, another on the panel, in a clear attempt to grab attention by being contrary to the party vibe, delivered a laundry list of all the big problems Obama was going to have to deal with in this mono-tonal voice of doom and the BBC announcer just said something like “Look, dude, chill. History has been made tonight. Enjoy it.”