Showing posts with label "Max Vernon". Show all posts
Showing posts with label "Max Vernon". Show all posts


Max Vernon's Musical, The View UpStairs is an Unfiltered View of LGBTQ History

The View Upstairs set at Lynn Redgrave Theater

The Lynn Redgrave Theater was transformed back in 1973 into the gay bar, the UpStairs Lounge. Forty-four years earlier, a fatal attack of arson took the lives of thirty-two individuals and injured fifteen others. The UpStairs Lounge was home, a paradise of sorts, a haven for queens, queers, hustlers, and the unwanted and marginalized; it replaced the homes, families, and churches where their “kind” were no longer welcome.

Max Vernon’s passionate and inquisitive nature propelled him to write the book, lyrics, and music for the musical The View UpStairs. Directed by Scott Ebersol, the play is a snippet of time when a young gay fashion designer named Wes, played by Jeremy Pope, buys an abandoned space in 2017 that once was the UpStairs Lounge. There, he meets the ghosts/patrons as they surprisingly appear in retro 70’s attire among the inventive cheap yet chic decor of the lounge in its heyday. They enthusiastically swirl around the bar and sing about a place they call home / I think I found some kind of paradise / no angel wings / or fairy dust / just a rush of lust / but it’s alright. /

Vernon’s editorial style turns the future inside out by presenting it through the perspective of the gay community forty-four years earlier. Their wisdom is refreshing, and their reactions to Wes’ virtual world of selfies, branding, likes, and hashtags are hilarious and provocative. Wes tries to brag about the future as he sings /ain’t it great how far we’ve come since 1973 / the future is great there / you are what you own / if I could take you back with me / your mind will be blown /.

Throughout the play, the ghosts teach Wes many lessons and remind him of the rights he takes for granted. He, in turn, is perplexed by the hiding, hustling, and sex lives of his ghost hosts; as they live their lives in the shadows. The trajectory of their futures is altered by rejection and limited choices. Wes' new love interest, Patrick played by Taylor Frey, explains why he became a runaway /father sent him away / with a plan / fry the fairy out of him / and he’ll come back a man / more or less / the doctor guaranteed success /.

The show tackles many issues through the lens of LGBTQ history, including Trump’s election, and achieves a cutting edge. Hanging like a dark cloud over the theater is impending death, with Aids just around the corner and the future of arson. / how the eighties came killed all your friends / you just don't know it yet /. Weighing heavily and interspersed between dancing and song is the anxiety and fear of new laws that undermine all the rights gained in recent years.

I fell in love with the talented, diverse, and lovable cast. The staging created a viable interaction as some audience members sat in the lounge among the actors who worked the aisles. The fabulous Queen den mother, Willie, played by Nathan Lee Graham, delightfully shares his earned wisdom. His over-the-top personality is the comedic relief and connection to the show's heart as it offsets the dark content. Another significant aspect of the script is the invisible patron, Dale, played by Ben Mayne. He is rejected by his peers and exposes the flaws in their community, much like any other.

The beautiful score, effervescent cast, sequence, glitz, and glam can’t camouflage the issues facing the LGBTQ community. But what a way to tackle these matters proudly, singing and dancing into the future. This timely musical celebrates and honors the lives of the patrons of the UpStairs Lounge in all their colorful and unfiltered glory and paves the way for the fight ahead.

The View UpStairs


Max Vernon Brings His Observational Style to The View UpStairs

Performances begin for The View UpStairs on February 15th for the new musical written by Max Vernon at the Lynn Redgrave Theater. This contemporary American theater production will highlight Max Vernon’s observational style. His insightful intellectual curiosity reflects nuance and the dual complexities of modern-day life. Vernon is passionately inquisitive about societal issues and expresses his concerns with many words. His songs of content always hit just the right note.

The View UpStairs is a provocative new musical that pulls you inside the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant ‘70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans. This forgotten community comes to life in all its gritty, glam rock glory when a young fashion designer from 2017 buys the abandoned space, setting off an exhilarating journey of seduction and self-exploration that spans two generations of queer history. Inspired by one of the most significant yet all-but-ignored attacks against the LGBTQ community, The View UpStairs examines what has been gained and lost in the fight for equality and how the past can help guide us all through an uncertain future.

For more information and tickets, The View Upstairs


Max Vernon and Dan Fishback Share the Spotlight @ Joe's Pub

Max Vernon Joe's Pub Faux Photo

It was a night of firsts for musicians Max Vernon and Dan Fishback, who are about a decade apart, sharing the bill for their Joe's Pub debut. They have different music styles, but both are clever songsters and have the Charm factor sewn up.

Max Vernon rolled out a more poppy set than usual, playing solo on the piano, guitar, or keys and featuring the band in groupings or as a whole. It was an assemblage of diverse parts, whether acoustic, synth, cool backup vocals or the bow cello percussion it was smart-ass planning. In prime form were Vernon's magnificent vocal talent, smart as-hell songwriting, and piano chops that ease across the keys. He was so relaxed that he shared stories behind the songs. They were poignant, topical, or downright sassy. When he played his only slow song, "Pastels," fans in the rafters were cooing, and he replied, "I guess I got a hit." "Sirens" sounded great with the full band, and he strutted his tall frame at the keys with another new one, "The Morning After," with a little cool splice of Lady Gaga's "Just Dance." Max Vernon is spectacular to look at. His long, lean six-foot-three-inch frame is always styled to delight. Eye Candy, yes, but what really shines is his sincere and charmingly awkward way. Case in point as he entered and left the stage with a goofy wave. He could have soaked up the adoring attention and milked it with a long-deserved bow. Talent like his does not come around too often, and at twenty-one, his ability and determination will bring him a successful, long-lasting career. I'm just happy to be able to witness and document it from the beginning.

Dan Fishback @ Joe's Pub

Dan Fishback's very high voice is pitch-perfect, clear, and pristine. He is proudly gay, reflected in his songwriting, and usually performs alone with his acoustic guitar. But for this performance, he pulled out all the stops with a very tight accomplished band featuring guitar, piano, and drums. In stark contrast to the serious side of the instrumentation were his comedic and witty lyrics. One example was the song "Make Out"/ I'm going to make out with everybody who philosophically disgusts me /.

Not familiar with his music, the first thing that came to mind was John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, reflecting a certain rhythm and ongoing dialogue tied together with a great melody. A delight was the guest appearance by Sammy Tunis of the band The Lisps joining Dan for an acoustic duet. He ended the set with a proud anti-folk chorus contingent who joined him on the stage for the finale. His cutest remark of the night was when he said, "he didn't have time to write any new material because he was happily in love." His charming, sweet demeanor and cool geeky exterior were beyond endearing and a delight.

Photo tragedy: Dropped my camera, and the memory card fell out! So hopefully, the other photographers there will publish the real event. Max Vernon shot is a Faux Photo. Damn, I had some great shots now enclosed forever in a vacuum bag.


Max Vernon Struts New Direction

Photo Credit: Sophie Anita

Max Vernon is giving his music a facelift adding electronic synths that evoke mood without losing a pop edge. His cerebral minefield of twisted inferences, sarcastic commentary, and uncanny play on words remain intact. Two songs from his upcoming Silent Sirens EP can be heard Here.
Below is his latest video. It is DIY Gone Slick, created with the help of a talented crew of friends.

Upcoming Joe's Pub Debut April 5th Co-Headlining with Dan Fishback


CMJ Day One

                                          Blood Warrior at Piano’s, Edgy Twist to Folk

Blood Warrior's brand of Folk is weighty with thump-stomping percussion, great choral harmonies, and the vocal awesomeness of Greg Jamie. The music can soothe like a lullaby but don’t get too comfortable because these gentle warriors can bring up the volume. Their voices swell; electric guitar leads and acoustic strumming intertwine with shakers and emphasized bass drum, giving traditional Folk an edgy twist.

                             Max Vernon @ Kenny's Castaways, Master of Design

Max Vernon CMJ 09

Making a fashion statement at CMJ is an anomaly, but Max Vernon intends to please both visually and sonically. He walked onto the stage wearing an asymmetrical googly eye ensemble of his design.

He started the set by saying, "please excuse my unnecessary banter, I have to fill this forty-minute set," and fill he did. Max Vernon's verbal acuity does wonders for in-between songs, but that gift translates well to songwriting.

Standing confidently at 6’4 behind his keyboard and almost strutting, he played complex pop/jazz arrangements. His vocals dared go from low to falsetto, adding unexpected touches to his recorded material. What I found the most fascinating was his ability to seamlessly create the backup vocals. In between, he played three songs on the guitar.

A highlight was "Around Your Finger," with friend Emily singing the chorus / I hate to tell you / that I had more fun / When you were hooked on drugs /. "Psycho Bitch" a new one, is a song in the same vein. His second new offering had a haunting juxtaposition between an irregular chord repetition and a beautiful vocal. He ended with a Liz Phair cover, "Canary."

Flickr Set

Download a slew of songs here


Max Vernon CMJ Debut Tomorrow

Photo Credit Jacqueline Zaccor

Max Vernon reached out to me about a year ago, and I've been hooked. He will perform tomorrow at Kenny's Castaway, his first CMJ
debut. Max Vernon has a vocal instrument that is deep and resonating, its clear tonality has reach and depth of maturity. With a signature voice, he delivers piano-driven melodies with a broad lyrical palette of intelligence. At twenty years old, he composes music that can move in many ways, like the Woody Guthrie of Pop to make a bold comparison. OCM 2/ 09 Here Below is a sweet taste of his music in one of many homemade video entries!!!


Max Vernon New Video Entry

To say I'm obsessed with Max Vernon is an understatement. I'm always searching and waiting for new songs and they have been coming at a record pace for free download The Sixtyone. But it has been long nine-month wait for a new home video entry until now. It is a cover song completed for the celebration of Morrisey's fiftieth birthday, and part of a compilation released by The Music Slut called TMS Hearts Moz.
Enjoy "The Headmaster Ritual"


Anti Folk Fest Sets of Max Vernon/ Clinical Trials

Max Vernon is colorful, flamboyant, and fashionably overstated, much like his outstanding music and songwriting. In one of his YouTube video entries, he was asked about a harsh email from his mother where she wrote, listening to your music is like eating nine courses of foie gras, and no one wants that many courses of foie gras. It was an interesting comparison, with apologies to follow. A loving and caring mother was concerned about Max’s appeal to a broader audience. Max Vernon, I believe, can create timeless and great pop songs, and maybe he will someday. But for the last year, he has been recording smart, politically topical, catchy, gender-bending, not neutral material. Max Vernon is true to himself.

Charmingly relevant and bright, he works it from the visual and cerebral to the sonic. That was clear at his set during the Anti Folk Fest at the Sidewalk Cafe. The talent is apparent but what comes through is a genuine performing style that is relaxed and personal. His set was quite beautiful. I'm glad he came with his keyboard placing himself front and center even though I saw a piano on the side of the stage. He didn't go for the easy listen, in fact, he chose to play his most challenging material. I knew I was in for a treat when he opened with “Diamond Dust,” a song with many twists and turns vocally and on keys. He introduced "All I Need" by saying something to the effect, "this song describes my love life." Then he invited us to sing along to the chorus; / you’re not all I need / you’re not all I need / you’re not even close /,  but I like you, I like you. Although I like to sing, I wouldn't miss one minute of hearing Max Vernon’s spectacular interpretation. He added some yodeling extras splicing his highest pitch and intertwining it with his awe-inspiring low register.

"Love At Last," dedicated to Michael Jackson, is a brand new song that he had never played live, and it was awesome!!! The new material added an edge of enthusiasm. Playing keys combining Rhythm and Blues circa (mid 60's), back alley honky tonk, and classical. The chorus has a celebratory atmosphere mixed with the somber fate of a fallen Icon; Hallelujah / best friend though we hardly knew you / don’t it feel good to finally be loved at last / till the bullet rips through you.

He ended the set with a Morrissey cover featured on TMS (The Music Slut) compilation dedicated to Morrissey's fiftieth birthday, "Head Master Ritual."

Max Vernon can capture attention through his incredible music gift, but I realized tonight how well he can translate his talent live.

Max Vernon Flickr Set

Clinical Trials
I always arrive early to events. So I was surprised to hear about a very impressive rock band Clinical Trails. Fronted by a female singer and guitarist, Somer Bingham, accompanied by an all-male group on bass, keyboards, and heavy-hitting drums. It was so cool and disconnected to be sitting in a lovely cafe and watching and hearing such a rip-you-to-shreds set. At one point, Somer asked if anyone had an A string. Her vocals are a cross between Joan Jett, Patty Smith, and Pj Harvey but her performance persona has a rock-in-your-face attitude disguised in a beautiful he-she image. Gorgeous and riveting. Check their site for upcoming dates. The Trash bar is a perfect choice.

Clinical Trials Flickr Set


Max Vernon; Bait and Hook

Max Vernon has a vocal instrument that is deep and resonating, its clear tonality has reach and depth of maturity. With a signature voice, he delivers piano-driven melodies with a broad lyrical palette of intelligence. At twenty years old, he composes music that can move in many ways, like the Woody Guthrie of Pop to make a bold comparison.

Max Vernon’s lyrics leave an indelible impression. Using dynamic melodies in a pop format, he subliminally infiltrates the listener with smart content. His bait and hook got to me immediately. He employs words that move, words that drive the discussion, and words that can be subtly subversive and delivered with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Topically he is current, but his intellectual curiosity captures the subtleties and irony in the topics/controversies of the day. But wait! All this is delivered in the most beautiful manner.

He plays the piano with such ease and fluidity, melding Jazz, blues, Do Wop, and cabaret, and adds tou
ches of frivolity with classical escapades that are diced into song construction.
Getting recognition from his delightful cover parody of Katy Perry's " I Kissed A Girl" is a strange way to find Max Vernon’s music. But it has been the vehicle for attention even though it was sort of a goof that he decided to record and make a video. Attention has come his way. As I am writing this, a release party for The Guilt by Association Volume 2 featuring danceable cover songs is at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. His cover is in good company.
e he doesn’t have an official release, he has chosen to share recordings and demos on The One Sixty One. On YouTube, he shares stripped-down footage of piano and vocals in various homey settings and the practice studios at NYU.

His most ambitious recording is "A Good God Is Hard To Find." He infuses white-collar crime, in god we trust, and proposition eight all into the same conversation tying these thoughts into a round of ecstasy-embedded harmonies. How is that possible? But he does it.

Along similar lines is “Dear Democracy.” The heavy piano bass chords set the tone while he spews an operatic diatribe of political criticism ending each unnerving injustice with light sardonic classical notes, singing / I already know that I’m going to hell / so I’m having a party / a party.

"When Your Body Breaks" is an orchestrated production with female vocal backup Caitlin Pasko AKA (Lacrymosa), cello, violin, church organ, and flute. Giving a boost of encouragement for the depressed whose memories are tainted with grey. / Oh you deserve better than that / and you’re gonna have it / your body’s breaking / you’re left with just your mind / you’re gonna be fine / but it’ll take time….It will take time…

The Song "Pastels" is like a poetic cinematic score. Singing about two people trying to find meaning in these troubled times / don’t criticize us /. It pulls the heartstrings in the chorus / but I’ll be with you / you know / and when you fall down / just hit the ground running / and I’ll be running with you / running with you. He concludes by interchanging, running with you with take me with you. Ahhh...... I'm such a romantic sap.

On September 08, he was about to headline Ars Nova Uncharted Series. He wrote to me saying he found my Blog through some degree of separation after looking up the history of the series, he found both Novice Theory and Langhorne Slim, which led him to me indirectly. I am so glad he reached out to me so I could discover his music and fall in love with it.

He closed his letter to me with, "If you get a chance, please give my songs a listen. Hopefully, you'll dig it."
Dig, I did!

He continues his studies at NYU
Gallatin School of Individualized Study graduating in May. The future looks bright, and I look forward to it all.

Photo Credit: Nico Apo
Visual Art by Max Vernon "The Queen" 2008