Andy Friedman & The Other Failures Shows
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About Andy Friedman & The Other Failures
Referred to as “The Johnny Cash of Painting” by a reporter from Southern Georgia and a self-described “painter with lyrics,” Andy Friedman’s original songs are accompanied by his own guitar, music from his roadhouse band, The Other Failures, and projections of his paintings, drawings, and photographs onstage. It all comes together in a “voice and manner that comes off a bit more like a more serious Lord Buckley or a beatnik version of Hank Williams’ alter-ego Luke The Drifter.” (Connect Savannah)
Friedman, 30, has been relentlessly touring the nation since 2002, when the artist traded a coveted day job in the Editorial Department at The New Yorker magazine for a life on the road. The very next day, the maverick visual artist from Brooklyn embarked on a tour with an unconventional one-man performance that critics nationwide quickly dubbed “the coolest, most interesting show to come around in a long time.” (Good Times) Alone on stage, Friedman accompanied projections of his paintings, drawings and photographs with a series of spoken lyrics and monologue. “They were songs without music,” Friedman explained. “For songs without music,” said Time Out New York, “they sound pretty cool.” Poised in music clubs, colleges, art spaces and roadhouse bars, Friedman’s performance was credited for introducing a refreshing live forum to the visual arts, “elevating the art-poetry genre to a level it rarely sees.” (Real Detroit Weekly) But by Autumn 2004, the concept behind Friedman’s performance had evolved. The artist learned guitar and began singing his lyrics, letting his pictures interact with his music and bringing all aspects of his art into a countrified whole that he calls “Art-Country.”
Live at the Bowery Poetry Club-Friedman’s third release but first CD-will be released on January 31, 2006 on City Salvage Records, the label and publishing house founded by the artist in 2001. Recorded on the final night of a seven-week run at the coveted club and poetry hang of visionary performance-poet Bob Holman in July 2005, the disc finds this ever-evolving, challenging, and pioneering artist reinterpreting his paintings, drawings and photographs with music for the purpose of relaying the “songs without music” live experience onto disc. “In the performance, the lyrics are colored by the pictures and vice-versa,” Friedman writes in the liner notes to Live, “so, I needed to figure out how the listener could hear that color.” Reluctant to release a recording of just the spoken lyrics on the grounds that only half of his vision would be documented, Friedman, in a moment of what he calls “extreme wheel reinvention,” wrote music to represent his pictures, referring to the songs on his debut disc as “paintings that you listen to.”
As a visual artist whose principle motivation is to hold a mirror of poetic truth up to his audiences, his “songs without music” presented the spoken-lyric accompaniment of his pictures as an instrument designed to seduce the viewers into considering and grasping the greater meaning contained in his pictures. “It’s no different than a singer using a guitar to lure the listeners into their poetry,” says Friedman. “My audiences were always free to reject the effort as much as they accepted it. For the most part, art-lovers and non-art lovers alike grabbed on for the ride and told me countless times that they walked away with something real, like the stuff you find in the old country music. They told me that they could have never expected to connect with pictures like that before.” When it came time to document the experience of traveling the country and connecting with audiences as a visual artist in this new way, Friedman felt that a live CD would be the most appropriate vessel, and not another book of poems and pictures. “I wanted to capture the excitement of people connecting with paintings and drawings in real-time,” says Friedman, who also showcases his flair for selecting and arranging material by kicking off the record with a pedal-steel laden version of The Dust Blows Forward N’ The Dust Blows Back, an a capella chant from Captain Beefheart’s 1970 classic Trout Mask Replica set to music written and performed by the artist.
Friedman’s prior releases came in the form of books. 2003’s Future Blues, a collection of Polaroid photographs and evocative, sporadic writing, “is a book about a guy who found his road, but is too busy driving on it to look out the window,” says Friedman. Academically trained an oil painter, Friedman dedicated the majority of his first book, Drawings & Other Failures, to beautifully elaborate pencil drawings in 2001. “This is a man who puts Ingres and Thunderbird in the same breath.” (The Hook) Always an artist who places the value of meaning over method, the songs on Live at the Bowery Poetry Club reveal an artist using his art to overcome tough times and obstacles along the way. In “Plenty Of Things You Can Do For Free,” Friedman sings “Plenty of things you can do at no cost/Miss a bus or take a walk till your lost.” In “Middletown,” perhaps the most musically complex record on the album, Friedman wrestles with his muse, caught between the urge to experience life as it happens or make art about it. “If a poet spends each rainstorm with a pen and a smoke,” he sings, “he won’t know rainstorm from a hard-boiled egg.”
“You can call me a painter, a poet, a songwriter – whatever you like,” says Friedman. “Since we all experience those same kinds of ups or downs, the record, my pictures, and live show are there for anyone in need of a pick-me-up or a bring-me-down, depending on the situation that brings them through the door or into their headphones.”