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Dean, Britta and Andy's gift to New York

I was in New York this weekend for a number of events, this week will be focused on this event, current offerings in the galleries (Chelsea and the Bowery), notes on MoMA’s current hangings and the art blogger meeting at Pocket Utopia in Brooklyn.

Saturday night Lincoln Center’s American Songbook presented 13 Most Beautiful … Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, Composed and Performed by Dean and Britta. (Dean Wareham formerly of Galaxie 500 and Luna, Britta Phillips formerly of Belltower, Ben Lee and Luna) Of interest is the fact that this is the first official musical background played live to any of the Screen Tests since the Velvet Underground performed as part of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

The set is composed of thirteen songs – with each track at approximately 4 minutes – the length of the filmed screen tests. The format of the screen tests and in particular the two presentations 13 Most Beautiful Women & 13 Most Beautiful Boys both comprised of 13 shorts is similar to the tracking of a record album, four minute movies are about the length of a “standard” pop song – so the approach that the Warhol Foundation (I am assuming) has found is a great way to extend the reach, presence and relevancy of these most interesting movies. It doesn’t hurt that the music is great either. I believe that there are few musical acts that could really only be effective in this performance the Velvet Underground is the obvious choice (good luck with that), Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate, and Dean Wareham (with any of his past bands or with Britta) are the natural choices. Anyway, I approve of the choice.

Of the 13 songs, 4 were covers all well chosen, for Nico, Bob Dylan’s I’ll Keep It With Mine, a song Dylan gave Nico for her first album, Chelsea Girls. For Edie Sedgwick, It Don’t Rain In Beverly Hills made “famous” by The Tadpoles (I think), Cristopher Popora’s I Found It Not So for Mary Wornorov (my current Warhol era crush, also known as Miss. Togar in Rock and Roll High School). Finally a lesser known velvet’s track for Lou Reed called Not a Young Man Anymore. The originals all have that amazing blend of “dreampop” and Dean and Britta’s take on the duet in the manner of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra or Glen Campbell and Bobbie Gentry.

The stage at the Allen Room s unusual in that the rear of the stage is a wall of windows allowing the viewer to literally look down Central Park South and gaze at the New York skyline. while the screen tests played on a large screen covering maybe a fifth of the window and the band played underneath. It was great watching the band, watching the movie, and watching the city of New York all interact with each other. I really thought how great that was – these movies and people, which could only have been made in NYC in the 60’s could sit inside the current skyline and become more interesting as a unspoken dialog between the three opened up in front of me.

One final note, during the song for Freddy Herko (a dancer who legend has it literally danced out of his window and feel to his death) an ambulance with sirens flashing raced down the street. Found poetry indeed.

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