Last Thursday I went to hear Namoli Brennet, a transgender singer-songwriter I first heard last year at a Stonewall Democrats fundraiser at Fagapalooza. I had known for a while she was coming out east from her Tucson home for a tour, but there wasn't a NYC concert on her schedule. So I was delighted when she inserted a little "house concert" in Brooklyn.
I was even more delighted to see it would be at the home of Ed Mannix, a guy I used to run into frequently at the Monster Bar, five or six years ago--but I hadn't seen him for a long time (or had I? He said he was at Fagapalooza also, but I don't remember seeing him there).
Ed has been hosting a series of musical events in his high-ceilinged living room for three years now, his website says. He calls them "A Circle of Berdaches," believing Berdache is a good name for LGBT people like him. Well, I must say I don't particularly like his appropriation of this term, and I might like it even less if I were Native-American--though they prefer being called two-spirit people, there are still some real berdaches today. Anyhow, regardless of the name, Namoli would be singing at Ed's.
Getting there was not half the fun, however. A stalled subway train converted a one-change trip to a mini-nightmare of four trains (five if you want to include the one I got off of before it moved, because they announced a change in destination) and a very aerobic climb at 4th Av-9th St. Of course, when I got there Ed informed me of a much easier alternative route. Oh, well.
Anyhooski (as Namoli wants everyone to say), I did get there, and got a big hug from Ed, who joked about the "cow" skirt I used to wear (It was pony, not cow!--faux, of course). He introduced me to his roommates, and some other people, including the opening performer, Grace Millo, and her friend, Nicole, who is a bartender at RubyFruit. I talked a bit with Nicole, about how we used to go there more when Michael, a friend of the CDI president, was the chef.
We talked for a while, drank some wine and munched on the food Ed provided--the hummus and the stuffed potatoes were great, and the pear salad was very nice also. We listened to some songs he liked, both on CDs and on the internet. He was waiting for some people who had RSVP'd--and for Namoli. Eventually she showed up. She said she had been leaving messages all day. Ed then checked his voice mail, and found hers--explaining that he had been home all day, and she must have called while he was on the phone with someone else.
After Namoli got settled a bit (and accepted Ed's offer to stay over--she hadn't even thought about where she would be sleeping!), the show began with Grace Millo. I had never heard of her, though I had heard of her sister, Aprile Millo. In fact I even had actually heard her sister, singing at the Metropolitan Opera. (However, I had neither heard, nor heard of, their brother: punk rock pioneer Rick Wilder of the Mau-Maus, and the Berlin Brats.) It was clear from the start that the family's singing talent did not skip over Grace (the parents were both opera singers also). One of the problems of many singer-songwriters is that they are much more the latter than the former (think Leonard Cohen). But Grace has no shortcomings here.
She has no shortcomings on the songwriter side either. I particularly liked "Quicksand Ground' (the title track of her latest CD), and "Get It Right."
Her 45 minutes ended too soon. It was an unexpected treat. I was happy I could buy a CD so I could hear her songs again.
Then it was Namoli's turn. It took her a few minutes to tune her guitar, so I had a chance to get some more wine (and buy Grace's CD). I even managed to eat a nice piece of roast chicken, without messing up my make-up.
Namoli sang some songs from her new CD, Chrysanthemum, including the title track. "What I Wouldn't Give" brought a smile to my face, with its tale of a grandparent wishing for half the energy of an ADHDD grandson. "Between the Furrow and the Roses" was sad--a father, near the end of his life, giving his burial instructions to his daughter. "Faceless Men with Cold Hands" was even sadder--a song of sexual abuse. Few of her songs are really happy. Her lyrics are not always easy--you really have to think sometimes. But when you do think, you feel what she means.
She sang some old songs. She took requests. She even sang the title song of her first CD, "A Boy in a Dress." She sang and sang and sang, having a great time. And I had a great time listening.
But all good things must end, the saying goes (why is it only bad things get to go on and on indefinitely?). I bought a couple more CDs, which Namoli eagerly offered to autograph. My purse was stuffed. I arranged to take the subway back to Manhattan with someone, then waited while he and Ed had a long discussion, about Outmusic, I think, or maybe that was a previous discussion. Whatever, it was mostly a monologue by Ed. He does like to talk.
Eventually we extracted ourselves, and walked the couple of blocks to the subway. A train came quickly, and we were on our way. I was really glad of the company though, because a stop or two later a somewhat bewildered homeless guy and his huge plastic bags of stuff boarded the train. He sat down and joined our conversation, while the bags contented themselves with spilling their contents on the floor. We humored him--he didn't seem dangerous. But he couldn't quite grasp what day it was.
Unfortunately, my escort's destination was a couple stops before mine, so for a couple uncomfortable minutes I was left alone with the guy (there were a few other people in the car, thank goodness). When we reached my stop I dashed past him out the door. He called after me, something about how I reminded him of Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie.
1 hour ago