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Paul Foglino, Jack Grace And Tom Clark At The Treehouse At 2A, Sunday, July 21st, 2014, Reviewed

Paul Foglino in flux

Paul Foglino in flux

James Brown once claimed time will take you out and Sunday night upstairs at 2A on 2nd and Avenue A, time is taking us out again. Christine Vine, the bartender at the Treehouse since Tom Clark began his Sunday night live performance space in July 2011, is leaving for the graduate writing program at Cornell and if that isn’t the ticking of the clock loud enough, word is filtering out that the Rodeo Bar, represented by the space’s booker Jack Grace who performed on Sunday night, is closing down.

This is on former 5 Chinese Brother bassist Paul Foglino’s mind as he introduced “I’m A Stranger” with this strange sense of flux, of the inevitable sense of time passing and things changing, Paul had just played what will probably be his last set at Rodeo Bar and his kids are now in middle school.

Underlying whatever you might think Tom Clark is doing at the Treehouse every Sunday, with free concert at a lovely loft like space with windows looking down on the East Village like it is Lincoln Center’s Allen Room gone downtown,  what he is doing is managing the flux of time. Great musicians make a fair amount of money in a very kind room where the audience are often fellow musicians and the vibe is brethren. Clark would tell EV Grieve “It’s really grown into a nice destination on Sunday nights. No cover, a LOT of interplay between acts.” And bands you’ve been aware of for years, performers you’ve known, play intimate sets where they must be on their game because their friends are watching, cheering them on, egging them on.

Jahn Xavier of the Bowerytones is a regular and had advised me to check it out ages ago but the timing was never right for a night that could would certainly run past midnight onto a work week, but I finally got my opportunity to see what the ruckus was about Sunday and it is about world class performances.

Well, you aren’t gonna get a Paul Foglino to open the evening every night of your life. The singer songwriter (who wrote Ellen Foley’s 2013 About Time) performed a fabulous set with audience faves like “Shithead” and anthems like “Fill Your Cup”, bad advise like “You Can’t Be Too Ugly To Get Drunk” , the song he wrote for Ellen “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” and a song so good they should have a name street named for it “That’s How I Know”. To be blunt: Paul’s gift is he is sincere without being an asshole. And his gift on Sunday night was to honor the flux of time in a place where the flux of time is never honored.

Jack Grace is the booker at Rodeo Bar but Sunday night he was a countryfied folkie with a mean harp which he used to do more than punctuate his songs, on the first song he announces “You know I love you but me and the bottle are getting a room” and it is a wry funny song about alcoholism which leads me to assume Grace has something of the Allan Sherman in him. The second song of the set, “Being Poor” is a goodie but straight forward and the third song “Been So Long Since I’ve Bothered To Think” is a blues track which yet again balances between humor and horror. His songs move between folk and country and he closed with Neil Young’s  “Albuquerque” which everybody at Treehouse seemed to know.

The evening ended with Tom Clark jamming for an hour. With his band the High Action Boys, Clark is behind “If That’s Country Music” -a song the entire planet is gagging to hear on record, the punchline is “If that’s country music I’d like to know what country it’s from”. “Tom knows the lyrics to every Chuck Berry song” , Jahn whispers to me as Tom launches into a speedy, dexterous, finger picking “Roll Over Beethoven” with Grace adding a line and a lick at will.  The version of “She Think’s I Still care” is  beautiful, with a terrific solo by Grace, a note by note take down. Clark builds to his falling to pieces. Jahn himself hits the stage for a thundering “Isolation”, just Jahn and Grace with Jahn singing into the heart of the Treehouse a personification of “we’re afraid of everyone, afraid of the sun.” Jahn followed it with “Someday We’ll be Together” . I first heard him  cover this Supremes song maybe three years ago and it was a devastating take then and it is a devastating take now. A seriously deepening of the songs theme and again another ticking of the clock.  Grace adds “I Am… I Said”. Clark claimed to have been drinking since 3pm  Sunday afternoon and it now past midnight, but he doesn’t seem drunk except he keeps on hitting it, terrific “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” followed by terrific “20 Flight Rock” followed by show ending “Route 66”, all played at full speed on his acoustic 1949 Gibson J45.

It is easy to see why the Treehouse has carved itself a room on the cultural landscape. The name of the club refers to its position on the first floor looking down, like an open Treehouse, but it also refers to a youth, to a time when we were kids, climbing into our Treehouse, away from the immediate environment and in a world that belonged to us alone. Clark has built a treehouse where musicians can come together for the pure pleasure of sound and vision, of building a place where the vicissitudes of an increasingly cruel and isolating music business can be ignored so the players might return to why they these great singers, songwriters, musicians, people, gave their life to sound in the beginning.

The flux of time will never stop but it hasn’t quite reached the Treehouse yet. Every Sunday at 9pm, it lives on.

  • 25 Ave A (Upstairs)
  • New York, New York 10009
Closed until Sunday 8:00pm – 12:00am

Grade : A-
Thanks to Bicycle Joe for this wonderful video from Sunday night.

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