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The Staten Island Acoustic Music Scene (Not a Typo) - Riffs and Licks
The Staten Island Acoustic Music Scene (Not a Typo)
Muddy Cup Open MicOn Monday night, I finally made my way out to Staten Island to check out an open mic that blues singer Caroline Cutroneo hosts at The Muddy Cup, a coffee house on Van Duzer Street in Stapleton. I'd met Caroline a few months ago at a gig she did at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, and she'd mentioned that there was a small but thriving acoustic music scene on Staten Island. She's not kidding. It was a fun and welcoming open mic with some truly brilliant musicians, some of whom were kind enough to ask me to sit in with them. I did two songs of my own, "Preserved Fish" and "Remember the Future," which I'm happy to say went over well. And I'll likely be playing with some of those folks in the future.

Open mics are scary; it's one thing to play on stage in a band or even to do your own songs with a partner backing you up. But playing my own songs, all by myself, in front of an audience of complete strangers, is still pretty new to me. But it went well, and on top of that I discovered quite a nice musical scene in an unexpected place. It's been a long time since I've been able to say "I grew up in Westerleigh" and have anyone know what I was talking about.

Muddy Cup Finale
I wish I knew everyone's names here, but I don't. On the left is a bass player who was doing a great job on songs he'd never heard; Caroline Cutroneo who hosts the mic; Gene Gambardella and Guy Michetti, a/k/a Acoustic Thunder; Chris, a singer-songwriter; James Brennan, another great guitarist; and some harp player from Brooklyn.

The Muddy Cup is a very nice venue -- lots of old couches and chairs in a very pretty old building. (I've heard musicians complain that the old furniture gives them allergy problems, but I didn't notice anything.) Stapleton is a marginal neighborhood now but it's an old North Shore town with some beautiful 19th century architecture.

Thanks to Dennis Jackson for taking and emailing the photographs.

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rednoodlealien From: rednoodlealien Date: April 14th, 2005 10:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not really apropos of anything, but on the subject of having people recognize the name of your neighborhood, last Tgiving I was out with a high school friend, and her brother, and although I knew rationally that he grew up in Staten Island, to hear him suddenly refer to "Master's", an old department store in New Dorp that is long, long gone, was the WEIRDEST feeling! Like, that's MY memory! What is this stranger doing with it!?

I like coffee houses better than bars. I wish we had one like that, with music, in Burlington.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: April 15th, 2005 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I remember Master's! I think it was in that same shopping center with the movie theater where I saw Star Wars (the first time) and the tiny little record store that was the only place on SI that sold Dead Kennedys albums.

The North Shore equivalent was Major's, where I bought many a record. It was out on Forest Avenue where all the big-box stores are now.
rednoodlealien From: rednoodlealien Date: April 16th, 2005 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
New Dorp had SIX movie screens: the Hylan Cinema, the Fox Twin, the Rae Twin, and the Lane. The Fox was kind of in a corner, and across the parking lot was (Y)Our Discount Music Center (the Y fell off at some point); but Master's was the next shopping center over, not far.
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rednoodlealien From: rednoodlealien Date: April 16th, 2005 02:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd never forget the Lane, that was the last one I mentioned. Is it still there as some kind of landmark? Like I always say, geographically speaking, that was really a great place to be an adolescent. Six freakin' movie screens, record store, clothes and makeup, library, pizza, and ice cream in walking distance.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: April 16th, 2005 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)
No, the Lane is gone.

You and I have such different perspectives on growing up there. I don't think a day went by that I didn't hate the place.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: April 15th, 2005 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like coffee houses better than bars in the abstract, but some bars (Sunny's) are much better than some coffee houses.

Starbuck's doesn't count.
From: couscous1021 Date: April 17th, 2005 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
OT, ken, and I apologize in advance, but I FINALLY got to cross "buying ken's CD" off my to-do list. Yaaaaay!! I am very excited, and I'm sure it will be great. My apologies for taking so long...it 's hard to prioritize the seemingly endless list of short-term goals that make up my days. ;)
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: April 18th, 2005 06:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hey, it's great to hear from you -- it's been a while. But I wanted to double check -- I didn't see any orders from you on CD Baby, so if you did place the order, please let me know since that means they're screwing up my accounting. But thanks very much, and I hope things are going well.
From: couscous1021 Date: April 18th, 2005 07:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good to hear from you, too!! It has been a while.

My order number is 828377, and I got a very funny email saying that it shipped yesterday. Something about japanese prayers, golden boxes, and the company waving goodbye to my parcel. ;) Perhaps it will take a few days to show up, or maybe I screwed up the accounting by using paypal? I didn't have my wallet on me and was too lazy to hunt for it.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: April 19th, 2005 03:23 am (UTC) (Link)
It came through -- I guess they're just slow. Thanks again, and hopefully I'll see you soon, maybe at the next reading.
From: philipf Date: April 21st, 2005 10:11 pm (UTC) (Link)


I had this guy installing my washing machine in my house yesterday. He grew up in Port Richmond. I forget how small town Staten Island is in so many ways. Actually, that is not true. I remember all of the bad ways. However, until I run into a stranger from Staten Island I do not remember all of the good reasons.

It reminds me that I did not grow up in a stinking cesspool. It juse smelled that way thanks to New Jersey and the prevailing Westerleighs. OOPS, I mean prevailing westerlies.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: April 22nd, 2005 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Westerleigh

That's funny. I've been toying with the idea of writing a song called "Westerleigh Winds." I can't figure out if it should be sarcastic or not. But it's true; we didn't grow up in a stinking cesspool.
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