NEW YORK — July 27, 2009. Mayoral candidate Reverend Billy Talen (Green Party), performing at a campaign fundraiser held at the Highline Ballroom Monday night, praised the “fabulous 500 neighborhoods” of New York and their resilience in the face of evil — in the form of current mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Performing with the Reverend at his high energy election event were: “pirate-puppet rock” band Jollyship The Whiz-Bang, folk singer Greta Gaines, “chamber-pop” group Quitzow fronted by singer/songwriter/keyboardist Erica Quitzow, the Life After Shopping Choir — and the legendary Joan Baez.
Following performances by Whiz-Bang and Greta Gaines, Reverend Billy offered a sermon of hope — hope that the working people of New York can defeat mayoral control freak Michael Bloomberg and his monied backers. Talen described “preaching” change on the subways of New York and he praised the diversity and vibrancy of New York’s 500 neighborhoods. Clad in his vintage electric blue blazer, Talen looked sharp and energized – an image that reassured supporters who had been concerned after a recent illness necessitated a brief hospital stay for the preacher.
After the sermon, singer Erica Quitzow and her band performed six numbers from their new CD, Art College. NLN intern Nathaniel told this reporter, “I like this band.” An unusual combination of synth-pop and acoustic cello — played by Topu Lyo — create Quitzow’s signature sound.
Following Quitzow, former New Paltz mayor Jason West (Green Party) spoke briefly as did Yetta Kurland, candidate for the New York City Council (third district) who introduced Reverend Billy, “the urban legend”, and the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir. The Choir rocked the house, offering an inspired version of Pushback (“we gotta pushback Mayor Bloomberg,” Talen quipped) and a reworked version of “New York, New York” — “Start spreading the wealth…” The highlight of the performance, however, was soprano Laura Newman singing lead on “Back Away From The Walmart.” Newman’s vocals were smoking as she ripped up the song, prompting choir director James Solomon Benn to try and cool her off by fanning her with a towel.
Joan Baez took the stage last and performed “Joe Hill”, “Christmas In Washington”, “Old Gospel Ship” and “Jerusalem”. She was in good form and the sound quality was excellent. The evening at the Highline ended with an moving rendition of the civil rights/New Left standard: We Shall Overcome. Joined onstage by all of the evening’s performers, Baez sang the archetypal anthem with passion. Near the end of the finale, Life After Shopping Choir members James Solomon Benn and Gina Figueroa soloed before handing the microphone back to Baez — who smiled and waved at an audience that clearly appreciated a remarkable performance.
To get involved in Rev Billy’s campaign visit www.voterevbilly.com