Archive for the Leah Category

Best of 2008

Posted in Best of..., Leah, movies, music, shows on December 21, 2008 by criticalreviews

You know, 2008 wasn’t as bad as I keep telling people. I got to go back to Asia for the first time in 20 years, started a book club, discovered a love for graphic novels, joined a group of mix-tape enthusiasts, spent time in Paris, and made some new friends along the way. All the while, my top tens were forming in the back of my mind. So, here goes…

1. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
2. Dodos – Visiter
3. Beach House – Devotion
4. Marnie Stern -This is it and I am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and That Is That
5. M83 – Saturdays=Youth
6. Titus Andronicus – The Airing of Grievances
7. Hercules and the Love Affair
8. No Age – Nouns
9. The Walkmen – You & Me
10. Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna

-Honorable Mentions: Santogold – Santogold, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!, High Places – High Places, Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes,  Times New Viking – Rip It Off

(5/3) Woods, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts at Cake Shop 3-Year Anniversary
(5/6) No Age, High Places, Fiasco at Bowery Ballroom
(6/13) Teenage Jesus and the Jerks at Knitting Factory
(7/12) Oneida, High Places, Abe Vigoda, Vivian Girls, Ponytail, Titus Andronicus at The Yard
(7/17) The Dodos secret show at Cake Shop
(7/18-20) Mission of Burma, Fleet Foxes, !!!, Animal Collective, Times New Viking, Dirty Projectors, Health, Dodos, Spiritualized at Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago
(7/25) Times New Viking for Wordless Music Series at The Whitney
(8/24) Titus Andronicus and Yo La Tengo at McCarren Pool
(9/6) Matmos at The Stone
(10/11) Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise at Knitting Factory
(10/25) Marnie Stern, All the Saints at Bowery Ballroom (CMJ)

-Honarable Mentions: (March ?) Stanley Brinks at Mains d’Oeuvre, (5/1) Scout Kniblett at the Tap Bar @ Knitting Factory (6/6) MIA at McCarren Pool, (6/25) Herman Dune at Union Pool, (8/8) Radiohead, Girl Talk, Grizzly Bear at All Points West Fest, (9/26) Meat Puppets, Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill at Terminal 5

1. Let the Right One In
2. Reprise
3. Paranoid Park
4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
5. Boy A
6. Cloverfield
7. Savage Grace
8. Pineapple Express
9. Slumdog Millionaire
10. Fear(s) of the Dark

-Honorable Mentions: The Dark Knight – Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Synecdoche, New York – Milk – Doubt


Jeffrey Lewis and Herman Dune @ Union Pool, June 25th

Posted in Leah, music, shows on July 24, 2008 by criticalreviews

Last March, I spent about a week in Paris. A good friend suggested that we check out Stanley Brinks at Mains d’Oeuvre. This was my introduction to Andre Herman Dune. Stanley Brinks (aka andre herman dune) left the band Herman Dune in 2006. According to cosmozebra , it was because he was ridiculously shy of being in the public eye, and Herman Dune had some scheduled TV appearances. I’ve heard different stories, including that he was against having Herman Dune’s music appear in commercials. I’m not quite sure what to believe. Anyway, seeing Stanley Brinks was amazing, so when I heard that Herman Dune was playing Union Pool, I had to get over there. Once Jeffrey Lewis was added to the line-up, it was easy to enlist Tom and KLK to join. Luckily, we purchased our tickets in advance. I haven’t gone to Union Pool very many times, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was a packed house. The spacious back patio was full of people trying to get into the sold out show. It was a little bit unorganized, but we got in the door unscathed.

I admittedly don’t know much about Jeffrey Lewis, except that he has done some collaborating with Kimya Dawson . But, I must say that I truly enjoyed the part of his performance that I witnessed. He was about 2/3 of the way into his set and the room was packed to the brim. Somehow we managed to push our way up to the front just in time to catch ‘The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song,’ which is all about Jeffrey meeting a girl at a bar because he recognized that she is talking about the Leonard Cohen song, Chelsea Hotel#2, in which Cohen gets, ‘blowjobs on unmade beds.’  Another song that I really enjoyed was about the history of communism in China. It spanned Chinese History from the dynastic periods to the cultural revolution and Chairman Mao. Jeffrey turned the pages of a comic book that he had illustrated to go along with his lyrics. It was fun and informative.

Herman Dune followed Jeffrey Lewis. Herman Dune has a tendency to play shows with a collection of friends and locals. Neman Herman Dune (drummer and back-up vocals) and David Herman Dune (singer and guitarist) were joined on stage by Angela Carlucci of the band the Baby Skins and also a trio of brass instrumentalists that I recognized as the backing band for Beirut. I recognized a gang of songs from the album, Not On Top.  Also, HD played quite a few songs of of their newer album, Giant.  Everything sounded great, and the band seemed to be having a lot of fun and getting a great response from the crowd.  It did make me sad that I didn’t hear my favorite Herman Dune song, My Friends Kill My Folks, but I’ll live.


p.s. sorry for the delay!

Here’s the inspiration for the Chelsea Hotel song:

The Rusty Knot

Posted in alcohol, bars, food, Leah, restaurant with tags , , , , on May 14, 2008 by criticalreviews

I read quite a few reviews about the Rusty Knot before it had even opened its doors to the public. New York Magazine was hyping the classy-dive far at least a month before its opening. The Rusty Knot was hailed by founders of both Freemans and the Spotted Pig. I haven’t been to Freeman’s, but my office threw a x-mas party at the Spotted Pig once, and it was pretty amazing…Jay-z and LeBron James actually stumbled (accidentally) into our private room. Anyway, I like the premise of the Rusty Knot: nautical decor meets cheap booze meets prog rock jukebox meets gourmet bar food. I mean really, who could ask for anything more?

Last Tuesday, a planned meeting of old friends presented the perfect occasion to scope the Rusty Knot. I work in Soho, so I decided to walk over to the (waaay) West Village location. It was a painless trek, because the weather was nice, but I nearly walked straight to 14th Street. The Rusty Knot has a blue awning that simply says, ‘West. Bar and Lounge,’ and all of the shades were drawn. It’s a good thing that I knew the address. I was about a half hour early, so I took a seat in the lacquered wood 70’s style patio furniture and took in my surroundings. I thought that Taavo Somer (notorious taste-maker and co-owner of Freemans) made some wise, yet predictable decorating decisions. There was a smattering of ship’s wheels, a nice fish tank, flourescent beer signage, and many mounted fish. I don’t know if this makes sense, but the bar gave off a New England-old-man-bar in Hawaii kind of vibe.

The reviews that I read described the drinks at Rusty Knot as being utterly affordable. I guess that if you take target demographic into account, beers were aptly priced. I paid $6 for a red stripe. I think that cans of Tecate were $5 and you could supposedly order a shot of Busch for 99 cents, although I don’t really see the point in that. I did find myself wishing that the beer selection was better, however appropriate it was. Mixed tropical drinks, like Mai Tais and Zombies were varied from $7 to $12, and served in Trader Vic’s style ceramic glasses. I’m not the biggest fan of fruity concoctions, so I steered clear. But, people seemed to be enjoying their beverages.

Once my friends arrived, and also ordered Red Stripes, we decided to sample a couple of things on the menu. The chef at the Rusty Knot is a co-owner and chef at the legendary Momofuku restaurants, Joaquin Baca. I ordered a pretzel dog, which is basically what it sounds like. For $4, you get a hot dog, that is baked into a salted pretzel, and served with a horseradish-y mustard.

I wish that I could say that I enjoyed the pretzel dog, but I didn’t have the opportuntity. Two bites in, and my hot dog slid out of the pretzel and onto the floor. My pal Ravi suggested set screws to keep unwieldy dogs in place. Nobody else at the bar seemed to have any problems. Joleen, a strict vegetarian, ordered the beer balls. We expected fried, gooey, cheesy goodness, but instead received 4 or 5 little baked rolls with some sort of preserve (possibly apricot). They were tasty, but we expected something a little more savory. Finally, Nancy ordered the much-hyped chicken liver and bacon sandwich. Most reviews that I have read focus on this sandwich as the crowning glory of Rusty Knot’s kitchen. It was quite delicious, although chicken liver and bacon together makes for one salty sammie.

I would definitely recommend a visit to the Rusty Knot, based on my experience, although I don’t believe that it lived up to its hype. The service was great, but the crowd was not my flavor – nor were the food or drinks.


Flickr photo props to:

A Continuous Lean
Sarah Payton

lighthouse tavern

Posted in alcohol, bars, Leah on March 2, 2008 by criticalreviews


This Saturday, I had the unfortunate experience of stumbling upon the Lighthouse Tavern. A good friend was having a birthday celebration down the street at Southpaw. My group decided to skip out on the around-the-block line and search for a bar. We walked for what felt like 15 minutes, passing fancy restaurants, coffee shops, maternity clothing stores, and food co-ops. Finally, from a distance, I spied a red storefront that looked like it could have bar potential.


The Lighthouse Tavern was fairly crowded and top 40 rap music was blaring from the speakers. Alas, we decided to stick it out, because it took so long to find a bar in the first place.

The beer and liquor selection was pretty great, I must admit. But, the bartenders were complete a-holes. The first guy (male, bald, black-rimmed glasses) took his sweet time asking me what I needed. Yes, he saw me, and no, he wasn’t helping anyone else at the bar. I ordered an IPA and before it was handed to me, the bartender thought it would be a good idea to stack all of his glassware, even though I ordered a bottle. The next time I ordered a drink, I experienced the other bartender (male, heavyset), who was wearing a mardi gras themed jester hat with blinking lights on the ends. He was trying to entice bar patrons to drink Jamesons directly from the bottle with him. Needless to say, he was drunk and completely obnoxious. I ordered another IPA (I think that it was Butte Creek – delicious!) and a shot of Jack Daniels for the birthday boy. The drunken turd had the other bartender throw the bottle of JD to him, you know to show off his Cocktail moves, and dropped it. Also, instead of handing me back my change in a civilized way, he handed me a wad of crinkled bills. It was just really annoying, and I promise, I am not a difficult bar patron to please!

I wish that I had the opportunity to research this bar before I went. Lighthouse Tavern was rated 3 out of 5 stars on City Search, and most of the negative reviews were directly related to the service. In fact, LT even directly mentions these negative reviews on their website. Instead of trying to discredit the review, they claim that real bartenders at real bars with real beer are allowed to act this way.

The bottom line is that I have money to spend at bars. I tip well. I am not hard to please. But, I will never, ever go back to this bar, nor will I recommend it to anyone. Stay away.

Photos from



Posted in alcohol, bars, Leah on February 29, 2008 by criticalreviews


I’m sure that some people will disagree with me, but I really feel that Nolita is lacking unpretentious, yuppie-free happy hour bars. Well, there is one exception: Botanica. This is a regular after work haunt for fellow knobbers of Nanz and me. We usually all pile in at our regular table – on the right, past the bar, across from the bathrooms. We even have assigned seats, it’s sick, I know. Botanica has a perfect location for any sort of meet up. It’s within five blocks of the B, D, F, V, N, R, and 6 trains.

Happy hour drink specials are a really good deal. All well drinks are $3 and draft beers are $1 to $1.50 off. I usually have a couple of vodka sodas, or a couple of beers, and then a shot of Makers Mark or tequila thrown in for good measure. My tab is rarely over $20. I may be divulging too much about my drinking habits, but it’s all for the sake of a good blog post. Thomas says:


Liquor reps love this place, too. In the last two months, there have been reps for Dewars, Jack Daniels, and Stella/Budweiser, all giving away full-size samples of their wares.

Also, as a former bartender, it’s important for me to have personable drink slingers at my spots. Mark, the owner, tends bar frequently. He remembers most of our names, and our usual drinks. He remembers our drinks so well, that we often won’t order something different, even if we want to. We wouldn’t want to make Mark feel bad. Mark’s wife, Jessica, also tends bar. She’s super nice and is always smiling. Dave has a heavy hand and he’s not bad to look at.

As for the atmosphere, it’s just your typical divey type bar. There are plenty of comfortable (and not so comfortable) seats. There are a couple of ratty couches and a back room with a stage of sorts (although I’ve never seen a band play). Most nights, there is a dj that plays good background music, usually indie rock…lots of MIA.

There is really only one thing that I can complain about, and that is that sometimes Botanica smells bad. Granted, as I have already mentioned, my group always chooses to sit right next to the bathroom.

Photo Credit: nchoz’s flickr


Little Destroyers…

Posted in Leah, music, shows on February 19, 2008 by criticalreviews

PhotobucketSaturday the 17th, I had an opportunity to check out Hello, Blue Roses at Glasslands Gallery. I am a fan of the space. It’s the perfect venue for a more intimate show, with standing room for about 250 people. GG is dimly lit, but colored bulbs allow great people watching, even from the balcony that probably only holds about 30 people. The walls are smattered with high school caliber art and rolls of lanyard are haphazardly strung from the ceiling. Random items are bolted into the wall, including a tricycle and a glass case of sea shells and brassieres. GG has the feel of an artist’s loft space that has been renovated to showcase the art of friends/residents. Perhaps, those are the origins of Glasslands Gallery.

I wish that I could say that I enjoyed Hello, Blue Roses’ performance as much I did Glasslands Gallery’s ambience. Dan Bejar was wonderful as usual, but I couldn’t really appreciate Sydney Vermont’s voice. Her tone reminded me of middle school chorus. She’s the nasally soprano who can hit all the notes, but it just doesn’t sound pretty. HBR could have also benefited from another 6 months of practice. It isn’t fair to your audience to stop and start a song 5 times. But, maybe I’m being harsh. After all, Vermont is PREGGERS!


Yes, that’s right. Bejar went and knocked up his sweetheart. Here’s hoping that little destroyers will one day rule the earth.


Tretorn Skerry Vintner Wellies

Posted in Leah, wearables on February 13, 2008 by criticalreviews


The weather in New York can be quite disgusting. Today, it’s warm-ish and mucky outside, due to yesterday’s frigid snowfall and today’s luke warm rain. The streets and sidewalks are covered with a mix of melting ice, muddy puddles, and slushy goo…not to mention the various animal droppings that the elements are hiding. This brings me to the subject of my review: Tretorn Skerry Vintner Wellies.

These babies are perfect for catastrophic city weather. The tread on the bottom of the molded rubber boots ensure traction, so you aren’t likely to fall on your ass. The inside of the rain boots (including the feet) are lined with synthetic fur, so your toes stay nice and toasty. I even wear these shoes when it’s just cold and not rainy/snowing outside, because they keep my tootsies so warm!

I only have a couple of complaints. First, I wish the height of the boot was just slightly taller. They don’t quite cover my calves when I wear 3/4 length leggings and if it’s really wet outside, I get backsplash on the back of my legs. Maybe Tretorn should start selling mudflaps. Also, and this might be because I have ridiculously arched feet, the foot seems a bit tight, so if I wear them all day, the tops of my feet get a little bit achy.

All in all, I highly recommend these rain boots. The design is simple and elegant; I much prefer the matte black/green/white to leopard print or magenta. Also, they don’t look cheap, and they aren’t. They cost $60 (the posted photo’s pricing is wrong), but I think that was the best $60 that I spent last year.