A Speakeasy Evening at ‘Art Vivant’

Photos: Vitor P Teixeira

Last Thursday, “Art Vivant” hosted its second “speakeasy” occasion with an evening of performances at a secret location in the East Village. Guests arriving at the tenement building were instructed to show their paper tickets, printed with an image of a key, to the font camera after buzzing. The doors opened, and a small group of us walked up to the 5th floor. Menacingly, a coiled taxidermied rattlesnake greeted guests from a shelf at the entrance. In the hallway, a white rat was framed in a black shadowbox.

In the main space, the apartment was more welcoming.  Overstuffed couches filled the space, and cream colored curtains covered a wall of windows. Aside from the various taxidermied animals scattered about, (a wild boar graced the living room), the apartment was sleekly modern, with polished dark wood floors and recessed lighting.

The invite suggested 1920’s attire, and the women wore long dresses, strands of costume pearls, and headbands adorned with feathers. In the kitchen, a bar was set up selling Absinthe and bourbon cocktails, and bottles of beer. In the corner, a young woman in pearls reclined across a chaise, bewigged with a silver bob. Across from her, artist Minji Reem, sat painting her in oils.

Artist Minji Reem sketches her model

Artist Minji Reem sketches her model

At about 9:00PM hosts Isaac Gut and Alan Joseph introduced the first act, an impossibly adorable duo of women that go by the name Elle G. After explaining that they were visiting from Lithuania (they’d been playing at various venues in Brooklyn for the past month), they launched into a series of charming songs that had more in common with the Andrew Sisters or Edith Piaf than any popular music from this century. One song was about a man who shared both of their affections; another about a cuckoo bird. They both sang, while one strummed away at a dainty ukulele.

Next, Lindsey Hope Pearlman coming out in a jean miniskirt and cowboy hat, quizzed the audience on the 2008 financial crash before launching into a country and western song about Hank Paulson while holding a large sign of his face on a stick.

Lindsey Hope Pearlman

Lindsey Hope Pearlman sings about Hank Paulson

Afterwards, Rob Paravonian played an amazing series of songs on his guitar, including “Tech Support for Mom and Dad” and a song about the oft-cursed “G” train, that were as hilarious and musically catchy as anything “Flight of the Concords” ever came up with.

Tiger Darrow, possessing a charming, awkward gangliness, attempted to make small talk with the audience at the beginning of her set with Andrew Orkin on acoustic guitar. But awkwardness was nowhere to be found when she began to sing her brand of pixie folk,  producing angelic, high pitched notes that showed tremendous control of her voice.

Tiger Darrow and Andrew Orkin

Tiger Darrow and Andrew Orkin

The hosts reappeared to, intriguingly, lay down a large tarp across the floor, before introducing Reggie Bügmüncher. Emerging to strains of “We’ve Only Just Begun,” Ms. Bügmüncher wore a thin black robe and gold high heels.  Smoking a cigarette, she cried over a  framed picture of Edward Snowdon that she held tightly in one arm.  Smashing the picture to the floor and shattering its glass, she proceeded to push the pieces against her bare arms. She then dumped a suitcase full of shards on the ground. The audience audibly gasped as she rubbed the pieces across her face, producing not a drop of blood.

Reggie Bügmüncher

Reggie Bügmüncher performs her sideshow act

After a bit of cleanup, closing the evening, Isaac Gut lulled the crowd with bittersweet serenades.  After his set had ended, people began pulling out their phones to check for text messages and emails, and suddenly, reluctantly, we all found ourselves back in the frenzy of the twenty-first century.

Isaac Gut serenades the audience

Isaac Gut serenades the audience