Friday Night Lights
Musical residencies are usually reserved for the worlds of jazz and classical music. But it’s not surprising that Mike Viola, an unusually innovative artist and perhaps the city’s finest purveyor of charmingly quirky power pop, is breaking protocol. Viola is shacking up at Joe’s Pub on Fridays for the rest of February with a brand new LP in tow. His fine new album, Lurch, has already sold out of a limited edition first run, though a few will be available at the shows. Initially released through Viola’s own Good Morning Monkey imprint, the album is slated for a wider release later this year.
For Viola, an artist who writes supremely melodic rock songs notable for their striking vitality, residencies help to keep him busy and force him to shed the reputation sometimes associated with a conventional tour.
“These residencies put me in a place of having to stay on my toes and musicians tend to get really lazy if you’re not working,” he explains. “That’s our nature. When I do these residencies, it forces me to stay fresh because I’ll see recurring faces in the crowd.”
Asked about the potential pitfalls of performing a constantly changing repertoire for a returning clientele, Viola admits that playing four straight weeks in the same venue can be a bit troublesome. “Sometimes the shows don’t deliver and sometimes I surprise myself. I’m not the first one to do residencies but for my kind of music it’s a real challenge. It’s not like jazz where improvisation is expected; but, for me, it’s a really good way to keep the creative forces flowing.”
Viola has just recently returned to New York from Hollywood, where he worked with the inimitable Dan Bern as a resident songwriter for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. “Dan described it as like the Manhattan Project for songwriters.” So, you can expect those creative forces, which were responsible for some of the movie’s best songs, plus a hard drive full of unused material, to be on full display.
The Joe’s Pub shows promise to be lively affairs complete with stellar musical guests. And, good night or bad, it’s never boring.
“I’m not on a tour bus, and I don’t have roadies. I don’t sell many records. But I’m always hungry for the next song,” says Viola. “I feel vital. I feel alive.”
Feb. 15, 22 & 29. Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St. (betw. Astor Pl. & E. 4th St.), 212-967-7555; 11:30, $10.
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