New York City – “You’re Sylvain” – The Mercury Lounge – September 9, 1999

I remembered the green room from our show 3 months ago at the Mercury Lounge. It was the worst backstage accommodation I’d ever been in and it remained largely unchanged now. Here is what I wrote about it from our June 11th gig:

The Mercury Lounge is a dark, black box of a venue so while on stage, I was unaware how large our crowd was. When the lights came up, I was delighted to find so many of my NYC friends who’d somehow heard about the show without my direct interference. I was glad my publicist Ariel Hyatt was in attendance so I could congratulate her on promoting the gig so successfully.

My best friend from kindergarten, Rachel Zabar, embraced me with golden glittering eyes and her huge smile which has always seemed to me, to escape the perimeters of her face. Jim Hart, my stepfather, had heard about the show from a colleague at work. A bunch of people from high school, Boulder and Brown were present, and a trickle of people who insisted we’d met before and ‘did I remember their names?’ were there.

This game of “Do you remember my name?” is always embarrassing and no one comes away from it looking good. I learned early on from my dad to lead with context when approaching an acquaintance.
Ex. “Hi, it’s Sally Taylor, from Martha’s Vineyard. We went to camp together, you might not remember, it was a long time ago.”
And to re-introduce people to each other leading with context as well.
Ex. “Hey Dad, you remember Kate, my freshman roommate.”

This way, even if there isn’t immediate recognition, the person can say something like “Of course, now what have you been doing since then?” and no one has to feel embarrassed.
My friend Adam (Yes, Adam Natusch from The Boogies) used to love to make prank phone calls (these were the days before people got caller ID boxes). I’d be at his house and, with his red phone already off the hook he’d say, “Give me a number.” One day I gave him my mom’s digits and when she answered the following, now infamous, conversation ensued:

Mom: “Hello?”
Adam: “Is this Carly?!?!”
Mom: “Yes.”
Adam: “You’re never going to guess who this is.”
Mom: “Who?”
Adam: “It’s Sylvain”
Mom: “Who?”
Adam: “Sylvain Brown. Don’t tell me you don’t remember me. I’m already on the ferry on my way over to the Vineyard to see you. You wrote a song about me.”
Mom: (Sounding worried) “I did? What was the song?”
Adam: “You’re Sylvain!!!!”
Mom: “Hmmm…I’m not sure which song you might be—”
Adam: (Singing You’re so Vain) “You’re Sylvain, you probably think this song is about—”
Mom: (Click, dial tone).

Adam and I rolled around laughing on his floor for a few minutes before I tried to call her back to apologize for the prank (Side note—Do not feel sorry for my mom. She is the queen of pranks and practical jokes and can dish it out as good as she can take it). But she’d taken the phone off the hook, clearly to avoid another call from “Sylvain,” who definitely thought this song was about him. The next day when I went to call her, she’d already changed the number. Mom laughed hysterically when I told her later, that the caller had been Adam and to this day calls him ”Sylvain Brown.”

Midway through signing CDs at the Mercury Lounge, someone dropped a slice of paper on the table in front of me and disappeared into a blur of faces. Ariel and I squinted at the serrated square which read “I ENJOYED THE SHOW. YOU ARE ALL GROWN UP!” and was signed ‘Oren Segal (3rd grade).’ “WHICH WAY DID HE GO?” I shouted to Ariel. “THAT WAY,” she yelled back and pointed toward the front exit “HE HAD A WHITE T-SHIRT ON!” I didn’t have time to explain Oren had been my first crush. He’d bought me a porcelain doll for my 7th birthday and I was sure the gesture meant he wanted to marry me. The delusion of this early proposal dissolved over time but I kept that doll through adolescence displayed up on a shelf hoping someday Oren and I would meet again. It’s sort of disappeared since we left our apartment in New York, but I’m sure it’s somewhere, packed in mothballs and memories, somewhere between the center of the earth and the tips of my fingers.

Outside, the hot streets offered a miraged horizon of blurred red, yellow, and green lights. I marched myself up to the first white T-shirt I saw and said “Hi” just hoping it was Oren, but it ended up being one of those people who insisted we’d met before but whose name I did not know and ‘Did I remember their name?’ I never found him.

Dejected, I walked back to the venue. There, a very pretty woman named Ann Taylor (no relation) introduced herself. She’d come across our web page in the most unexpected, roundabout way. “I was looking on a search engine for Sally Taylor Orchids,” she said, “did you know there is a flower called The Brother Sally Taylor?” I said I hadn’t known but was delighted all the same. “Well,” she said tossing a blond lock behind an ear, “I was searching for this flower when the engine came up with your web page and I clicked on it. I’ve been following your Road Tails ever since and that’s why I’m here tonight.”

This internet thing is amazing!?!?! Until recently, I’d assumed I was shouting into the void. But maybe my words are actually making it through the abyss. Perhaps real people are reading this and enjoying it and what we have to offer. Maybe they’ll consider coming to a show or listening to our music in the future. I can’t believe it. My mind is legitimately blown. Now back to vocal rest and on to Rhode Island.

Reader interactions

3 Replies to “New York City – “You’re Sylvain” – The Mercury Lounge – September 9, 1999”

  1. Marianne Cancelleri June 28, 2024 at 11:19 am

    Lmaoo! You’re Sylvain! I love it, you and your mom. Thank for today’s big laugh.

    1. Adam is one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. Only he could have come up with something so brilliant on the spot.

  2. I love your writing – I felt like I was there in the Mercury Lounge – all dark and vibing. Did Oren ever reach out again?!

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