If you’re a routine show-goer in New York City, you’re lucky if you’ve ever had the chance to see Adam Schatz’s furrowed brow on an elevated platform. An elevated platform, meaning a stage, with Schatz front and center, accompanied by five other musicians. Furrowed brow, meaning the part of his forehead that wrinkles up when he belts out lines like he does in the song, “Above My Ground.”
Adam Schatz is a mid-20s New Yorker who plays in five-ish bands, books and promotes shows, and runs a non-profit called Search & Restore that supports the new jazz and improvised music community. According to a New York Times article from 2010, Schatz “started promoting at 15, booking gigs at the YMCA in Newton, Mass., his hometown” before moving to New York to study jazz performance at New York University. Sometime between his early NYU years and now, Schatz formed the band Landlady.
On Wednesday night in Manhattan, he played with Landlady at Pianos on Ludlow Street. I didn’t know what to expect–I wanted to go into it blindly because Schatz plays with a number of people whose music I really like (Man Man and Buke and Gase, to name a couple), but I wanted to judge his music individually. I will admit to being slightly biased to begin with because his last name means “darling” in German and I am a sucker for people with cute German names (ha).
It was during the second song when I realized I had to write something about his band. So many details kept popping into my head, like Schatz’s fabulous diction and his positively nasally vocals, the flexibility of the two drummers, or the band’s tight chemistry. Their fantastically complex and poppy songs were unpredictable in a controlled way–not spastic or uncomfortable. The songs’ lyrics were fresh and inventive; there were never moments at the ends of the songs when you’d be able to predict a rhyme. Without knowing the band’s song titles other than “Above My Ground,” the most memorable songs of the night were the one about friendship and the one about a bird with a worm in its stomach. They both do not appear to be on the band’s Bandcamp page, but “Above My Ground” is.
Throughout the one-hour set, there were times when Schatz would wind things up and do some funny dance moves, or pursue a staring contest with a fellow bandmate, and the audience was so into it. After the show when I asked him if he was always so animated on stage, Schatz replied, “Yes, I am an entertainer.” And my, doesn’t that just sound so simple and logical–yet it seems to be the case nowadays where musicians just get on stage and do their own thing, in their own world–like it’s no one’s business at all.
And that’s where Schatz shines. He makes his show everyone’s business. He will call you out if you are not singing along during a song that requires audience participation, he will tell you to dance and loosen up if you’ve been standing around, taking yourself too seriously, he will holler through the mic and ask his friends in the room if the quality of the sound is up to par. All of this, because Schatz wants everyone to have a good time. Because he is an entertainer.
An interview with Schatz is in the works. Intrigued New Yorkers can see him/hear him this coming Wednesday with his other band Father Figures at Glasslands in Brooklyn. They have an early set of 8:30 p.m. If you can’t make that show, you can expect to see Schatz on tour with Man Man during the month of February.