Ken Maiuri’s Clubland: Amy Rigby on NYC life at the Parlor Room

  • Amy Rigby plays The Parlor Room in Northampton Oct.  12. Ted Barron photo

  • Makaya McCraven plays at UMass Amherst  Oct. 10. David Marques photo

For the Gazette
Published: 10/9/2019 4:33:32 PM

“I poured my heart and soul into it.” That’s Amy Rigby talking about her new memoir, “Girl To City,” but that statement feels like it rings true for the songs she’s written over the years.

Like the immediately classic “Dancing With Joey Ramone,” a glorious celebration of pop music and the Ramones frontman, with an ending that’ll both bring a tear to your eye and make you pogo around your living room.

Or her angry, timely, catchy single from earlier this year, “The President Can’t Read,” which jangles like a ‘60s hit on the recorded version but has a more raw punk edge when she plays it live.

Rigby will read from “Girl To City” and perform songs solo at The Parlor Room in Northampton on Saturday, October 12, at 7:30 p.m.

As she writes in the memoir, Rigby went to an art and design college in NYC in the late-‘70s. One of the guest artists her class met with was Yoko Ono. After a lecture, Ono called the students up and gave each a gift. For Rigby, she pressed a white chiffon scarf into her hand and whispered one word: “Dream.”

Rigby is the kind of person who dreams, but also makes things happen. On her top-notch blog (diaryofamyrigby.wordpress.com) she mentions how her book was “turned down by every publisher because none of the publishers had ever heard of me as a musician. “I was no Patti! Or Kim! Or Chrissie! Or even Carrie?” So she put it out her own damn self.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Rigby made sure she got to New York City as soon as possible. I never made it to CBGB, but I can still relate when she, a huge Elton John fan since her young teen days, sees her first concert there, the kind of venue where the band is 20 feet away, rather than a small speck on a big arena stage. (And in her case, the band was The Ramones, in their heyday, blasting through their amazing songs.)

The city’s life-changing energy helps propel Rigby through more dreams — starting a club with her brother and friends in a musty basement on St. Mark’s Place, starting up bands with bigger and bigger horizons (Last Roundup, The Shams), and finally working up the nerve to make a solo album.

Rigby’s palpable love for NYC comes through on every page. “I didn’t need to pray,” she writes about her early days there. “I had The Ramones to dance to and Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko paintings to sit in front of at the Museum Of Modern Art. I had real butter melting over chewy bialys in the morning to remind me there was a God.”

The vividly detailed book has a tag line that rings true: “For anyone who ever imagined trying to make a life out of what they love.”

For a preview of the landscape of Rigby’s memoir, check out its trailer, full of photos and memorabilia; the soundtrack is her beautiful and bittersweet song “The Summer of My Wasted Youth.”

Makaya McCraven at UMass Amherst

Drummer, composer, producer, sonic collage maker and “beat scientist” Makaya McCraven brings his Ensemble to Bowker Auditorium at the University of Massachusetts Amherst tonight, October 10, at 7:30 p.m.

McCraven was raised in the Valley (he’s a UMass alumni, and his father is drummer Stephen McCraven), but Chicago has been his home for over a decade. He’s been putting out acclaimed albums that embrace in-the-moment musicmaking but also the art that can be made from those performances after the fact — “post-composing.” He takes the recordings of his group’s improvisatory live performances and then edits, loops, layers and arranges the live material to create new tracks.

His Ensemble show promises to “blur the boundaries of jazz and electronic music,” and McCraven will be joined by guitarist Jeff Parker, vibraphonist Joel Ross, harpist Brandee Younger, and bassist Dezron Douglas.

Ken Maiuri can be reached at clublandcolumn@gazettenet.com.




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