Sweet Bitters

Victoria Lavington Fundraiser at Christopher Street Coffeehouse

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Almost two years ago, I discovered a duo named Sweet Bitters. Since then, we’ve seen them perform a number of times and have become friendly with both Sharon Goldman and Nina Schmir (also known as Nina Soka).

For many years (at least nine I believe), Sharon has been a member of a female songwriters group affectionately known as Chicks with Dip, more formally known as Maggie’s Music Salon. One of the members of that group is Victoria Lavington.

Victoria is currently undergoing a battle with breast cancer. The Chicks decided to put on a benefit concert for her, and when Sharon announced it on Facebook and Twitter, Lois and I decided to support Victoria and attend.

Sharon Goldman was MC for the night (she also performed a solo) and was marvelous throughout the evening.

SharonGoldman SharonGoldmanHadar

There were two featured performers announced in advance, Red Molly and Natalia Zukerman. One of the members of Red Molly, Carolann Solebello, is also a member of Chicks with Dip. We are huge Red Molly fans (Sharon told me I would love their music the first night I met her, and she was spot on!).

I had heard Natalia’s name a few times, but took particular note earlier this month when she headlined the same bill with The Paper Raincoat (one of our favorites!) up in Massachusetts.

The Christopher Street Coffeehouse is located in St. John’s Lutheran Church at 81 Christopher Street. They highlight singer songwriters on a regular basis, so it was the perfect choice (in so many ways) for this gathering.

Instruments

Attendees were encouraged to purchase tickets in advance on Victoria’s site. While there was a suggested donation per ticket, we chose to pay more. I don’t say that to aggrandize ourselves but rather to encourage those of you who can help others to do so in whatever amount you can, not just the minimum that is socially acceptable.

There were excellent refreshments and lots of merchandise (notably many CDs, all of Red Molly’s, Natalia’s new one, Maggie’s Music Salon and Victoria’s). Everything purchased at the show was donated, so 100% of the proceeds went to Victoria’s cancer fighting effort!

Let’s repeat that, because it’s awesome! Not only did Red Molly and Natalia Zukerman donate their time and talent, causing attendance to be larger than it otherwise might have been, but they donated their merch (lots of it!). Further, they didn’t put a price on the merch. Donate what you want/can, and take what you want!

We bought the two Red Molly CDs that we didn’t own already (one was brand new). We bought Natalia’s new CD and Victoria’s as well. Red Molly and Natalia were kind enough to sign our CDs. 🙂

Natalia Zukerman totally captivated us. We’ve added her to the list of people that we will go out of our way to see perform. Simply wonderful. Her voice, music, musicianship, extraordinary spirit and her command of the audience.

NataliaZukerman1NataliaZukerman2AbbieGardnerNataliaZukerman

NataliaZukerman3

Red Molly are nearly indescribable. In the cab on the way home I was thinking that the three of them control their voices perfectly, individually and blended together. The subtlety of their volume shifts and the tightness of their stops and starts are amazing. Just as I’m thinking this, Lois turns to me and says “Can you believe the discipline that Red Molly has in everything they do, in particular their voices?” 🙂

RedMolly1RedMollyACapella

AbbieGardnerLaurieMacAllisterCarolannSolebello

All of the Chicks were wonderful too. They performed Victoria Lavington songs. Victoria writes extremely complex songs, so my hat is off to the Chicks both for attempting these compositions and for pulling them off lovingly and beautifully!

Apologies for the quality of a number of these photos. The lighting was just strange enough that the shots were mostly too dark or too washed out. At least you’ll get a sense of the evening…

AllisonTartaliaAnnaDagmarAllisonScolaKirstenWilliams

ElisaPeimerMegBraun

Here are scans of the front and back of the program so you can see what was performed and by whom. Click on any photo in this post to see a larger version:

VictoriaLavingtonFundraiserProgramSide1 VictoriaLavingtonFundraiserProgramSide2

Susan Lavington (Victoria’s sister) flew up from Washington for the event. She was scheduled to be the opening speaker, but her flight was canceled. Thankfully, she caught another and was only a little late. She gave her wonderful speech right after intermission.

SusanLavington

When the performance was over, Sharon introduced Victoria. Victoria gave one of the more moving speeches I’ve heard. Knowing that she was surrounded by friends and loved ones, and knowing that everyone was there to rally around her, with her and for her, she didn’t hold back anything in telling her story.

VictoriaLavington

When she was done, she performed one of her songs for us. Apparently she hasn’t performed in public since roughly 2004. She had a chemotherapy session that day and apologized in advance that it would likely affect her vocal chords (it affects all the cells in your body!).

VictoriaLavingtonSinging

No apologies necessary! Sharon and others had described Victoria’s voice as angelic. Even on the day of a chemotherapy session, that was still true. She also picks the guitar well, making for a very moving performance. When she was done, she got a very long and well-deserved standing ovation.

To top the night off, all of the Chicks, plus Red Molly and Natalia, joined Victoria for an a capella version of another of Victoria’s numbers.

VictoriaLavingtonChicksWithDipRedMollyNataliaZukerman

The entire evening was filmed and a DVD will be produced. They were available for pre-order last night for $10. I assume that when they’re ready, they will be available for purchase on Victoria’s site. Please visit there regularly and do yourself a favor and buy a copy of the DVD. Not only will you experience some amazing music, but you will capture Victoria’s speech for yourself, forever. Whenever you need a bit of inspiration, watch it again!

Some of you might avoid these kinds of events for fear that they are downers with a lot of milling about averting your eyes. This is our second such event (the last one was a Livestrong fundraiser for Shannon Black) that I covered in this post.

If you have a chance to attend/participate in the future, go! It’s a celebration. It’s a room full of love. It’s people showing their humanity, the fragility of it embodied in the person needing the help and the wonder of compassion and love in those who rally around them.

That this event happened to be held in a church made it all the more reverent, though the Livestrong fundraiser was in a bar, and I can tell you that it was a spectacular evening for all of the same reasons!

If you have some extra money laying around, and these days, who doesn’t?, 😉 please visit Victoria’s site and donate, even though you missed last night’s wonderful show!

Red Molly and The Nields at Joe’s Pub

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Last night I finally got to scratch an itch that I’ve had since April 5th, 2008! That’s the night that we first saw Sweet Bitters live. I covered that show in this post, but as you can see, in the comments, Sharon suggested that I check out Red Molly. The minute I heard their stuff (you can hit the Play button on the top right of their site) I knew I would love their show.

We had a failed attempt to see them that month (as I noted in the comments), and since then, I’ve actively searched for opportunities, but scheduling kept conspiring against us. Until last night, finally!

As a bonus, another group that I’m pretty sure I heard about through Sweet Bitters (but I wouldn’t swear to it), The Nields, were opening for Red Molly.

Red Molly were awesome, in every respect. They opened the show with an a capella number, showing off their amazing voices, individually, and collectively (in glorious harmonies). They also closed the show with an a cappella encore, again, sending shivers down our spines.

Red Molly consists of three very talented ladies. Standing left-to-right on the stage:

Abbie Gardner sings, plays dobro and acoustic guitar. She sings like an angel, usually taking the highest part in the harmonies, but she sang quite a bit of lead as well. She’s an excellent dobro player (no one is in Jerry Douglas’ league, so don’t ask!). She plays the guitar well too. She also wrote at least one of the songs they played last night (Red Molly does more covers than originals), and it was excellent. Abbie was also very funny and engaging on the stage.

Abbie Gardner

Abbie Gardner

Laurie MacAllister sang, played the banjo, acoustic guitar, and acoustic bass. Laurie has an incredible voice, plays the banjo, guitar and bass well. I’d never seen this style of acoustic bass before. It looks exactly like a normal guitar, but it only has four strings, and sounds like an upright bass.

Laurie MacAllister

Laurie MacAllister

Carolann Solebello sang, played the acoustic guitar and acoustic bass. Carol also has an incredible voice, carrying the lower range for the group. She’s also a talented guitar player, and handled the bass with aplomb as well. Of the three, Carolann is probably a little more animated on stage, but all three are extremely warm.

Carolann Solebello

Carolann Solebello

They played for roughly 50 minutes, including the encore, and every note was a joy. After the show, we bought one of their CDs, and Lois got Abbie to sign it. 🙂

Red Molly

Red Molly

The Nields are two sisters, Nerissa and Katryna. Nerissa sings and plays the acoustic guitar. Katryna sings. Both have lovely voices, and they sing beautifully together. Nerissa plays the guitar well, and accompaniment and arrangements are traditional folk style (like Peter, Paul and Mary, etc.), which is one of my all-time favorite genres.

Katryna Nields

Katryna Nields

Nerissa Nields

Nerissa Nields

They are both very warm and engaging with the audience. Katryna told a very long story (very well), and Nerissa took over at the end to make some corrections (remember, they’re sisters!) 😉 and it was funny and worth the break from the music (not that any break would be necessary when these two are on stage!).

We bought their CD too after the show, and Lois got both of them to sign it. I’m in the process of loading both the Red Molly and The Nields CDs onto my iPod as I type this, and we look forward to many listens in the months to come.

Thanks to both Red Molly and The Nields for exceeding our very big expectations after such a long wait to finally get to see them perform live!

Sweet Bitters CD Release Party

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We’ve seen Sweet Bitters live three times now (including last night). The first time we saw them was just over a year ago at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. I covered that evening in this post. Seven months later we saw them perform at Googie’s, covered in this post. As noted in that post, the main point of the Googie’s show was to raise money to produce a new CD.

I’m very happy to report that they did indeed produce a new CD, and a wonderful one at that! Last night was the official CD Release Party / show, even though the CD itself has been available for at least two months (we got our copy on March 30th, 2009). In the previous post I said that it would be a 13-song CD. It turned out to be a 12 song CD. I’ll get to the missing song toward the end of this post.

Even though it’s only been 14 months since we first discovered Sweet Bitters, I am very impressed by how much they have grown in that time as performers. From the day we discovered them, we knew they were both extremely talented songwriters. They both have wonderful voices, individually and when they harmonize together. They are both good musicians as well.

So, how have they progressed since we first saw them? First, the simple answer. The first show was just the two of them. It was lovely. The second show added Andrew Frawley, a drummer, to the mix. It was a very nice touch, and I had a lot of praise for Andrew’s playing in my previous post. In addition to playing live with them, Andrew Frawley also was the sound engineer for the new CD, which they recorded in his studio. Given the quality of the CD, I can now safely compliment Andrew’s talents as a sound engineer as well!

The new CD has additional instruments on it that they had never used in a live performance. To continue my simple answer as to their growth, in last night’s show, they played with a full band. Andrew once again played the drums. They added a wonderful bass player who came down from Maine to join them, Kevin Attra. Ila Cantor played electric guitar on roughly half the numbers. On a few numbers they added a wonderful cello player, Martha Colby.

Here’s a shot of all of them on stage at the same time. Apologies for the fact that Sharon and Nina have a major red eye effect here, that I couldn’t correct for. At least you’ll see the stage setup and good shots of Ila and Martha. Kevin is hiding behind Sharon, and Andrew is partially obscured by his drums:

Sweet Bitters Full Band

Sweet Bitters Full Band

That, in and of itself would be growth. However, their growth didn’t stop there. Sharon worked hard learning to play an electric bass, and showed off her new skills well in one song. Nina played the glockenspiel in one number (and it was a very nice touch!). It also made me realize that when I wrote about The Paper Raincoat a month ago, I was likely wrong when I said they played a mini-xylophone. It too was almost definitely a glockenspiel. Sharon explained the difference on stage, in a very cute story.

Here’s Sharon singing and playing the guitar:

Sharon

Sharon

And Nina, singing and playing the glockenspiel:

Nina

Nina

To be clear, I think they would still put on a great show if it was just the two of them. They don’t need a full band, but they used the additional talent to their credit.

The one thing that I took them to task on at Googie’s (very lightly) was that it was pretty clear which were Sharon’s songs, and which were Nina’s songs, even though their voices blended beautifully no matter whose song it was. That feeling/complaint was completely gone last night. Having a full band probably nullifies the problem, but I honestly believe that they have matured as a group/duo, and even playing by themselves, would mesh really well.

Four of the songs from the new CD are up for your sampling pleasure on their MySpace page. They rotate the selection on occasion. Perhaps our favorite Sweet Bitters song (at least the one we agree on) is Falling Into Place. That used to be up on MySpace, but isn’t at the moment. A good enough reason for you to buy their new CD (available on iTunes, CD Baby, etc.). Since I haven’t mentioned it yet, the new CD is named “Sweet Bitters”. Lois suggested they name it “Falling Into Place”. I agreed with Lois, they didn’t. 😉

I mentioned earlier that the CD ended up with 12 songs, from the original plan of 13. The song that got cut is one that Lois is in love with, Rich Little Poor Girl. We don’t own a recording of that, so we only get to hear it when they perform live. Last night, during their set, they didn’t play it. When the set was over, I could feel Lois’ disappointment. When the crowd cheered loud enough and long enough to make it clear that Sweet Bitters wouldn’t be allowed off the stage without an encore, Lois’ wishes were answered.

For the encore, they played Rich Little Poor Girl, and Lois got to leave completely satisfied with the entire show, including finishing on a personal high for her. Now we need to twist their arm to record it so that we can listen to it whenever we want. 😉

The show took place at Kennys Castaways, a small-ish bar in the Village. We’d never been there before, even though it’s right next to many landmark places like the Bitter End (to name just one). The sound system was very good, in particular for their vocals, which is what makes Sweet Bitters special to begin with. I don’t know exactly how many people were there, but it was packed. Quite a number of people were standing, even though Sharon pointed out to them that there were seats available in the balcony. I guess people wanted the more intimate feel of being near the stage.

We had a great time, heard excellent music, made a new friend (hi Shani), and got to support people we like and admire.

I was looking forward to a beer and a burger (Kennys menu looked pretty tempting online). Unfortunately, the kitchen was closed last night, so I settled just for the beer (very satisfying) and ate when we got home (thanks Lois for throwing together something delicious on such short notice!).

There was another group playing at Kenny’s after Sweet Bitters. It’s tough to even get noticed in the music biz (one of the most brutal ways to try and make a living that I’ve ever seen), let alone to actually make it. I was impressed by a very small touch that this next band did, to help them get noticed.

In an incredibly unobtrusive manner, near the end of Sweet Bitters set, a nearly unseen hand quietly slipped a 4×6 piece of paper onto our table. It was an announcement of their show. Clearly, this served a number of purposes, meaning that they were likely handing these out long before the show, not just to the crowd at Kennys.

At the bottom was a link to their site, pointing out that there were four songs that could be downloaded for free from that site. We didn’t hang around for their set (many reasons), but I did bother to listen to their music, and found it good enough to download (after streaming it first). You can check them out too, and decide for yourself:

The Wind-up

My point is that they weren’t in my face, but they didn’t lose an opportunity to try and reach at least one new potential fan. In addition, while streaming is nice (they have it available on their site, on their MySpace page, and in YouTube videos as well), giving me their DEMO CD as a free download will probably accomplish more, as I may actually listen to it more often than I would if I had to remember to visit their site.

In this day and age, giving away a few songs is a better way to try and grow a fan base. Here I am, not really a fan yet, but finding myself compelled to promote their music, perhaps netting them some more fans, even if I never end up listening to their stuff again. Good luck guys! 🙂

Sweet Bitters at Googies

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Last night we saw Sweet Bitters perform at Googies. We’ve seen Sweet Bitters once before, at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, and I shared my thoughts about that show in this post.

Sweet Bitter

Sweet Bitters

Last night was not just a normal show, but rather a fund-raiser, to help Sweet Bitters put together enough money to put out a professional CD. They have more than enough material do so, but money is always a hard thing to come up with.

We really like their music. We also really like Sharon Goldman and Nina Schmir as people. So, in addition to looking forward to another opportunity to see them perform, we wanted to support their fund-raising effort.

There will be 13 songs on the new CD (which they have already begun recording). Last night they performed all 13 songs, as well as one request which was shouted out from the crowd. Lois commented to me after the show that the requested song, Rich Little Poor Girl, should be on the CD too. 🙂

Of course, they were wonderful, as they were at Pete’s. Like Pete’s (which can seat roughly 24 people), Googies is small. It’s a lounge, upstairs from The Living Room (which is a bar and music club, and much larger than Googies itself). Googies can probably seat 40, and can squeeze another 20 (I’m guessing) standing in the back. To repeat, it’s really a lounge, where people are meant to drink and socialize while a piano player serenades them softly in the background.

That makes for an incredibly intimate experience, which last night definitely was. Sharon plays guitar (very well) and sings (beautifully). She also writes wonderful songs. Nina plays guitar (very well), sings (beautifully) and plays keyboards (extremely well). She also writes wonderful songs.

At Pete’s, Nina played electronic keyboards. Last night, she played on the real grand piano that is a permanent fixture at Googies (it is, after all, a lounge). It’s likely that with my eyes closed I couldn’t really tell the difference between a good electronic keyboard (played through a good sound system) and a real grand piano. Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Nina play on the real grand piano. 🙂

Googies Grand Piano

Googies Grand Piano

At Pete’s, the women were alone on the stage. Last night, they brought along Andrew Frawley to accompany them on the drums. He’s an exceptional drummer in general, but last night, he was the perfect complement to Sweet Bitters. In a room that size, with that sound system, and with the mostly folk genre of their music, most drummers would have overwhelmed them. Andrew was masterful with the brushes (no sticks last night) and not only accompanied them, but he was interesting to listen to just for the beats that he created.

This bodes well for the new CD, as Andrew is playing drums on that as well. He is also the principal engineer on the new CD, and it’s being recorded in his studio!

Sharon mentioned that they haven’t settled on a name for the new CD. Lois told her that she favors Falling Into Place (which just happens to be the title to a gorgeous song of Sharon’s), for many reasons. The minute Lois mentioned it to me I agreed wholeheartedly.

If I had to take Sweet Bitters to task it would be on one issue. They have been together long enough, and perform together very well, yet still make it apparent that a song is either Sharon’s or Nina’s. Don’t get me wrong, we like knowing who wrote a song. But, the way they do it, makes it feel like they are individual performers, sharing a stage, rather than a duo where the individuals happen to write songs separately.

Aside from the banter (“You do a couple”), it’s apparent in a different way. Each sings their own songs start-to-finish (with harmonies by the other, but no verses led by the other). In every one of Nina’s songs, Sharon sings harmony, but always puts down her guitar, even when Nina is playing keyboards. In other words, they don’t arrange the songs to use both of their talents together. Not a huge deal, but I think worth noting (and fixing).

In addition to hearing terrific music last night, we had a great time with a wonderful bunch of people who were there to support Sweet Bitters. There was a raffle (we lost), and some very nice items available via a silent auction. The ladies handed out very nice goody bags to all the attendees. The atmosphere was warm and inviting and we enjoyed every minute of the evening.

As a bonus, we also discovered the larger venue downstairs (The Living Room), which has now officially been added to my NYC concert radar. The night before, one of our favorite performers was there, Chris Thile. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of it until the day after.

So, if you like the music you hear on their MySpace page (linked at the top of this post), then be bold, and send them a check to help them complete the new CD. You’ll end up having at least nine additional songs to enjoy from this very talented duo! 🙂

Sweet Bitters at Pete’s Candy Store

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Recently, I’ve written about a new group called Sweet Bitters (here’s their MySpace page). That story ended up being more focused on the place (Pete’s Candy Store) and their customer service, but ultimately, it was about discovering Sweet Bitters through my love of Girlyman.

I really wanted to make it to hear them last night. A bunch of things conspired against that. At the top of the list is our normal irresistible urge to spend the weekends at the house rather than the city. Luckily, we’ve been having some problems on our deck in the city, and Lois preferred to stay in the city over the weekend in order to take care of it. (Obviously, the lucky part was staying in the city, not having problems on our deck.) 😉

Given the experience communicating with Pete’s, the only reason to go there was to catch Sweet Bitters, but that was motivation enough. Not knowing anything about the neighborhood, we decided to drive. We got there reasonably quickly, even with a little more traffic than expected. We walked into Pete’s at 8:04pm, the show was scheduled to start at 9pm.

One of the reasons to show up early was the complete lack of guidance from Pete’s. They did nothing to even describe the size of the room, etc. Walking in the front door answered all of our questions. Pete’s is a neighborhood bar. You could see that on the other side of the room, there was a hallway that led to the room where the music would be, but you couldn’t tell how big it was.

When we walked in to that room, it was empty. Very small room, skinny, and a little long. Roughly 24 chairs, with room for another dozen or so standing if everyone was willing to be cozy. Definitely the smallest place we’ve ever seen music in. It was empty. Again, nice job on Pete’s part, considering that unless a local star is playing there, I doubt it ever fills up more than hour before the show. That’s all they needed to communicate.

We took the first two seats near the stage and settled in. Five minutes later three people came in toting instruments. It wasn’t hard to guess that these were the Sweet Bitters ladies (Sharon Goldman and Nina Schmir) plus a helper. We chatted with them while they set up. Lovely women, and the helper is Nina’s boyfriend Craig (my assumption, but I’ll do a triple-take if I’m wrong) 😉 is a great guy as well.

While they were unpacking we saw that they had CDs for sale. This is a sampler CD with four songs on it, the same four songs available on their MySpace page. Since I know I like all four of those songs already, I bought a CD (yes, signed by both of them) in advance, so that I wouldn’t be wasting their time after the show when hopefully others would be lining up to buy the CD.

They then did a short sound check (we were the only ones still in the room at the time). The sound was great. Here’s a photo of them with me giving the thumb’s up after the sound check. Since Lois was right beside me, I apologize to Sharon and Nina that my head overwhelms the shot:

Sweet Bitters Sound Check

Craig and I went to the bar and brought back libations for ourselves and the ladies (Sharon and Nina stuck to water before the show). Shortly thereafter, still early, a few more people wandered in. By 9pm the room was nearly full. Let’s call it roughly 20 people there for the show.

Sweet Bitters did 10 songs (so clearly, they have more material than just the sampler CD, good!). Both Sharon and Nina are songwriters, and of the 10 songs, five were written by each of them. Sharon plays guitar (as can be seen in the photo above) and Nina plays the electric piano/organ (also seen above), but on a number of the songs, she also plays the guitar. Both are talented musicians. Both have lovely voices, and their harmonies are rich, interesting and anything but vanilla.

When they declared the show over, we all wanted them to play more. They hesitated, because the artist scheduled to be on next (Alice Lee) was in the audience and ready to go on. Alice signaled to them to play another song. Very generous of Alice, and we all appreciated it greatly! They sang one more song, which was also excellent.

As much as I would really have liked to hang around and listen to Alice Lee, both Lois and I were thoroughly exhausted. In addition, our garage closes for the night at midnight, so we had a secondary excuse. We waved goodbye to Sharon and Nina and headed home.

A completely fun and satisfying evening, with the extra special gift of getting to chat with them for quite a while, in a relaxed atmosphere, before enjoying their lovely music.

Their next confirmed date is May 30th, 2008 at Bar4 in Park Slope. Go see them (the show is free, just like last night!). Perhaps some day, they’ll open for Girlyman, just like We’re About 9 is doing at some of the shows on their current tour. 🙂

On a potentially (hopefully) serendipitous note, Craig works for a software company that might have a product that we could (eventually) use at Zope. If that ends up working out, this evening could turn into a business success rather than just a pleasure success. We’ll see, as we’ll be following up with Craig this week.

We also got to meet Sharon’s fiance, a very nice guy. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there early enough for us to spend quality time with him, so other than being a really sweet guy, we know nothing about him.

While I’d do it anyway, and you all know that by now, tying in Girlyman into this post is natural, since I only discovered Sweet Bitters through Girlyman alerts. With that, let’s do our regular dance this month, which is promoting the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest going on now, in a browser near you!

Update: I forgot to mention this morning that when I ripped the CD, iTunes (via Gracenote) didn’t recognize it. I typed in all of the info and updated Gracenote, so anyone who rips it after I did it will have the pleasant surprise of seeing the correct ID3 tag info filled in automatically. 🙂

Snarky Customer Service

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As you all know, I’m a huge fan of Girlyman. I have an alert service that informs me whenever there is news about them (and The Wailin’ Jennys as wel). Today, I received an alert pointing me to a blog about Brooklyn. In this post, she writes about a Brooklyn-based group called Sweet Bitters. She lists their influences, which include Girlyman, hence my alert notification.

So, I listened to the four songs on their MySpace page (linked above), and liked their sound. They only have two upcoming live dates listed there, one being on April 5th, 2008 at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. I wouldn’t mind seeing them, and there’s a slight chance that we could make it there that night.

Sweet Bitters’ link to the venue makes it clear that the show is free. Since there is no place to purchase tickets, Pete’s is clear enough that tickets are free as well. They have a menu link, with five sandwiches listed and some cocktails, so one assumes that they make their money that way, but there’s no mention of a cover or minimum so who knows.

Utilizing the better safe than sorry theory, I sent an email to one of the addresses listed in their contact link (I think it rotates on reloads, because I saw another name appear at a different time).

If you read this space regularly you already know that the above italics aren’t rare for me. 😉 I will happily admit that I overdid the quote marks (to indicate the same emphasis I use italics for here). I thought I was helping highlight the underlying points. Here is my email in it’s entirety:

Hi. I’ve never been to Pete’s. I might be able to make it on 4/5 to see the 9pm show (Sweet Bitters), but I’m not sure yet.

Can you tell me how Pete’s “works”?

What time should we show up for the 9pm show to get good “seats”?

Are there tables or rows of chairs, etc.?

Obviously we’d like to give you “business”, so the above question is related to whether we show up early and order drinks and dinner, but whether we have to move afterwards or sit at the table and watch the show?

Do you “sell out” (we’d be coming from Manhattan, so it would be frustrating to show up and not get in)?

Thanks in advance, and I’m glad to have found out about your place today! 🙂

P.S. I don’t know if it matters, but there would be two of us for sure, and possibly four…

OK, a little over-the-top, but reasonably clear, no? In particular, the part about my desire to want to support the venue given that the show is free?

Here is the entire unedited response, cutting out my original email from the bottom:

“all” pete’s shows are “free”. if you are worried about “it” being ” too full”, then “come early”. you do not have to “leave your seats” from one show to the next. i hope this “response” was “helpful”.

for more “info”, go to www.petescandystore.com.

“take care”

OK, let’s analyze. First and foremost, did he respond to my questions? Mostly, but not as accurately as one would hope. What does come early mean? 8pm, 7pm, 3pm? It would seem that he mistook my question about selling out to simply mean is it free. Otherwise, he might have said something like “on occasion, in particular on Saturdays, if you don’t get here by 8:45pm, there is no room left in the place”.

More importantly, is his response appropriate? I’m a potential customer. Could he be sure that I was savvy enough to take his sarcastic reply in the (hopefully amusing/entertaining) manner that he intended? Wasn’t it as likely that if I’m so clueless as to have put the quotes in to begin with, that I might be offended at being made fun of?

Let’s assume that he doesn’t care (that’s my assumption!). After all, they’re not charging for the concert. In any event, they must have some reason to open their doors, and perhaps I would never come there, not just that night. Perhaps I’d even blog about it, affecting other people. 😉

Bottom line, I think his response was at best snarky, not necessarily out-and-out nasty, nor obviously meant simply to be humorous.

Is that the best way to get business? Who knows. I still don’t know whether I can make it or not, but I’d still like to. Whether I’m interested in giving them business is another matter, but we’ll see how that plays out as well.

I could have been indignant in my response, ignored it, or chosen something in between. Here’s the entire text of my response:

“thanks”, “cute answer” 😉

Hope he doesn’t think I was insulting him. 😉

Anyway, I really wrote this post to promote Sweet Bitters, even though I am also indirectly promoting Pete’s Candy Store. I just couldn’t resist telling the whole story behind it, because I have written about the lack of customer service in the past, and this is but one more example…