“In January of 2022, we were gearing up to inaugurate our new quarterly music series at Public Records with a performance by Ben LaMar Gay. Not only had we just co-released his album Open Arms to Open Us (which was hailed fairly unanimously in the press, including the Washington Post who said it “leaps across all sorts of portals, dipping into the dawn of jazz right on through its vibrant present moment, with glints of woozy hip-hop, Prince-ly funk, wordless ululations, Tropicália and gospel”) with Nonesuch Records in November of 2021… but because he’s such a foundational artist to our label family and one of the critical flavors in our catalog sauce (our first release with him, Bottle Tree, was just the 10th release we’d ever done, and since then we’ve released 10 albums where he’s the lead artist, plus another 9 albums where he’s a featured contributor)… it just felt perfect that we would start our first regular music series in New York with BLG.
Unfortunately… the Omicron wave blew threw, and the show got cancelled… But the series lived to start another day; and now that we’re almost two years in, we couldn’t feel more ready to, at long last, present Ben’s first proper headlining New York performance with his main working ensemble. We’re expecting it to be extra killing, since his band will be fresh off a month-long slate of shows across Europe. (Tour tight, as they say). Not to mention the opening set… being led by Brooklyn born artist Tomin, whose music we’ve admired from afar for a hot minute, and have only grown to love more as we’ve got to know him as a human. His Tomin’em ensemble is deeply connected to our label family, featuring drummer Tcheser Holmes and bassist Luke Stewart (aka Irreversible Entanglements’ rhythm section), Fly or Die’s Lester St. Louis on cello, Chicago-raised pianist (and former member of Angel Bat Dawid’s Sistazz of tha Nitty Gritty) Teiana Davis, plus cellist Clérida Eltimé and trumpeter Linton Smith.
We’ve been blessed to do this series over the last two years… I still remember during the pandemic remission – I think it was early 2021 – when I had a casual zoom call with (Public Records co-founder) Francis, and he pitched this idea of us doing something quarterly whenever the venue would open back up. Remembering where all of us music folk were back then – stuck in the purgatory of ‘will I ever get to do or see a show again’ – it’s no wonder that I held onto that idea as an essential vision for the future. Thankfully, Francis stood behind his proposition when I came back on it later that year (basically in the first moment it seemed we could confidently expect live music to return permanently). It was also around that time when I met Dan Mackta from Qobuz USA, and he extended a warm, open invitation to support any creative ideas we might have for working together.
Qobuz’s support for these shows is truly what makes them possible… That is: their support makes it possible for a label like our’s – with no New York based employees and almost no New York based artists – to do something regular at Public Records. It’s given us the flexibility to plan these shows around the artists who are celebrating album release dates, as opposed to simply booking whoever happens to be in NY around a particular time of the year. (Shout out to Sujan, Rachel, and Jeff, in addition to Dan, the Qobuz USA crew, for all of your continued amazingness.)
It’s been, genuinely, a highlight of (now 7 of) our new album campaigns over the last 2 years, to do a show at Public Records around the street date for those albums. In March 2022, we celebrated the recent release of Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer’s Recordings from the Åland Islands and the impending release of Alabaster DePlume’s GOLD with their double bill performance at PR.
In July 2022, it was jaimie branch and Jason Nazary’s Anteloper performing at PR, shortly after the street date for their album Pink Dolphins. Just a couple months later, in September, Makaya McCraven did a special performance of his new album In These Times, just days ahead of the release date, with a large ensemble featuring a string quartet conducted by De’Sean Jones.
We ended 2022 with Carlos Niño & Photay in December, with whom we had just released the LP An Offering and its subsequent expansion More Offerings.
Thus far in 2023, we’ve presented Jeff Parker in April (just a few months after Pitchfork called his solo guitar album Forfolks one of the best of 2022), and Damon Locks & Rob Mazurek did an astonishing duo performance of their New Future City Radio project, the same weekend that the album landed in record stores.
Our brother Alejandro Ayala aka King Hippo has DJ’d every single one of these shows! Engineer Lily Wen has helped us record a lot of these shows as well, for the times when one of our Daves can’t make it out. And screen-printed posters by Mark Rice aka Goatmother have become a staple of this series… It’s amazing to me how fresh of an idea he comes with, every single time, not to mention the quality of his prints… Aces.
Ben LaMar Gay, who performs this October 29th, doesn’t have a new album coming – but we think of it as an overdue re-do of the celebration that should have ensued in January of last year, and/or a necessary celebration of the continued sustenance of this music series. May it stay potent, poignant, uncompromising, and Chicago AF for years to come.
Before I go – want to extend a special note of gratitude to the PR staff – Sruly, Chloé, Sally, Christopher, James, et al… Their kindness, grace, and priorities being in the right place are actually the reason we keep coming back… even more so than the dope ass sound system (which doesn’t hurt). Our connection to and collaboration with these folks has extended beyond the boundaries of our quarterly, Qobuz co-presented series… We’re now working together with them on their Durations festival (alongside Pioneer Works), presenting a show with Photay (with Zosha Warpeha, and Lester St Louis from Fly or Die) and Jason Nazary (of Anteloper, in his collab project with Saint Abdullah) on November 2nd. And our brother Daniel Villarreal plays the Sound Room on October 18th!
Anyways, clearly PR is the place to be for real music… big Love and Thanks to all the lovely people working there who make it so.
See you in the Sound Room soon for the BLG show.