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Things were running behind schedule because the singer, Gisburg, had her peripatetic toddler in tow and was waiting for a babysitter. Her set was a mixture of songs set to the words of Bertolt Brecht and trip-hop, and if that sounds incongruous, it was. Percussionist’s Phil Painson’s beats were decent, but Gisburg had to restart several songs because she was out of tune, and she didn’t have the voice to carry the ambitious minor sevenths she kept attempting.
After three songs, I was surreptitiously looking around to see if other people were hating this woman as much as I was, but no one’s eyes mirrored my agony. I wondered if I just didn’t understand the appeal of off-key histrionic German pseudo trip-hop. The scruffy guy in battered Converse next to me was bobbing his head with the Portishead-aspirational beats as if he was an integral part of the music. When he took out his phone and started holding it out to take a picture, I started to think the entire show was a farce.
At the end of the set, I breathed a big (though silent) sigh of relief, and hightailed it out the door. Daniel the door guy followed me out and asked what I thought of the performance. I mumbled something noncommittal and asked him what he thought. He told me it was total shit, and said he thought I had showed up because I knew the woman. He said, "Come back tomorrow, the show will be much better. A jazz quartet, and then a trio. They’re great." In a flash I realized that Daniel is the secret to decoding this place’s schedule, and it had been stupid of me not to ask him about Douce earlier.
You’ll need his advice, because the curator changes every month, and much of the schedule will be obscure to people who aren’t immersed in the downtown jazz and avant-garde scene. According to Ned Rothenberg, composer/performer and April’s curator, the changing curator is designed to "break down barriers and get people listening to different things." May will be curated by Mischa Mengelberg, a Dutch jazz pianist and composer. Mengelberg will play every night for the first half of the month, with a rotating cast of musicians including downtown laptop artist Ikue Mori and trumpet player Dave Douglas. The second half of the month the space will be closed for renovations. In June, classical cellist Fred Sherry will curate.
If you’re not crazy about the programming possibilities of Dutch jazz pianists or classical cellists, consider the following. With the Killers on The O.C. and Kidz Bop recording a version of Modest Mouse’s ‘Float On’, it’s apparent that indie rock is now anything but. If you’re searching for a new indie scene, the Stone is a contender. It’s defiantly musician-centric, and while you may not always like the results, it’s an exciting place to go because you never know what might happen. While I’m a devoted fan of the Bowery Ballroom, I can’t say that about 99 percent of the concerts on their schedule.
To minimize the potential for Gisburg-like experiences, do some creative googling of the show’s calendar, or make friends with Daniel and ask his advice about shows. The Stone is worth the effort. It’s refreshingly hipster-free, the ticket policy encourages spontaneity (only sold at the door, night of), and it’s only $10 a show. For those who are deterred by the lack of alcohol, there’s no shortage of bars in the neighborhood, so find one, have a drink, and then steel yourself for some of the strangest (and most beautiful) music you’ve heard in a long, long time.•