Last Thursday, artist Martynka Wawrzyniak hosted “A Night of Experimental Jazz & Lydia Lunch” at the Park Church Co-Op (129 Russell Street) to support her McGolrick Park community art installation, Ziemia. Ziemia, when finished, will consist of a large ceramic orb made from soil from across the globe and placed in a carefully cultivated meadow in McGolrick Park, adjacent to Russell Street between Nassau Ave and Driggs Ave.
The Park Church Co-Op was dimly lit, the stage awash with red and blue light. Meditative electronic new-age music played as the image of Jesus on the crucifix centered on the back wall looked over the scene. It may not seem like the most likely venue for a night of experimental jazz, but Pastor Amy Kienzle remarked that this event was part of the church’s larger event series that supports community art. And with Wawrzyniak being such an enthusiastic member of the church she felt it was important to support. She added that the church “believes in art and it being spiritually beneficial.”
The audience was filled with dyed hair, ripped shirts, red lipstick, thick eyeliner, piercings, moustaches, and large glasses—a group of people who could easily be called hipsters, who had come out to support a fellow self-proclaimed hipster.
Jesse Lynch began the night at a grand piano. The piece he played was completely improvised, which he admitted to finding “kind of scary,” however he said he “really enjoyed performing” because it was nice for him to get a chance to perform in a public setting as most of his performances are for private audiences. Lynch played with his eyes closed and teeth clenched, occasionally humming along to the melody.
The second performer of the night, Matt Nelson, played a tenor saxophone solo that he had practiced a few sections of but was mostly improvising trying to “play off the echoes and reverbs of the room.”
Next up was a trio set—a pianist, drummer, and double bass player—by Moppa Elliott’s Mostly Other People Do the Killing. MOPDTK is an “improvised band,” and they spotnaneously created everything other than a few jazz chords they had set out before the show. The band was able to play around with the unfamiliar acoustics of the space: drummer Kevin Shea used every object and action available to create sound. Every part of his hands, drumsticks, and even the wall of the church was used to create rhythm. At the end of a drum solo he threw his drumstick into the air, and anti-climactically failed to catch it, and dropped it on the floor. The crowd cheered.
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Finally the post-punk, avant-garde musician and headliner Lydia Lunch walked down the church aisle, a red fan in hand, the stage lights flickering, to the sound of Michael Foster playing the saxophone. She went on to perform a spoken word musical compilation, before she encouraged the other musicians to join and conducted everyone in a final outburst of music. After her performance Lunch said it was “amazing” performing there, and said she felt she should “always perform in churches” because in her words she is a “Evan-ginical.” She told Wawrzyniak she felt it was “one of the best performances I’ve ever done.”
Tim Murray, who owns Diamond Lil (179 Nassau Ave), said the night was “amazing as expected” and in fact it may have even “surpassed expectations.” He said he’s seen Lydia Lunch many times, but every time he sees her she brings something new and exciting to her act.
At the end of the night Wawrzyniak was seen running around, a large wad of cash in hand paying all her artists, as well as saying thank you and goodbye to the 200 attendees. After the event she went home to relax and reflect on the night, having not even had a chance to count how much she made.
Wawrzyniak spoke of feeling “overwhelmingly emotional” because she was in the church she is a part of, across the street from the field where her art piece will find its home, and surrounded by all the people she loves and many supporters of her project. It was “intense” to see people from different areas of her life in one room together, as if all her “worlds have collided at church.” She plans to hold more fundraising events in the Fall, “Continuing a theme of juxtaposing unexpected musical genres in line with Ziemia projects mission of connecting people of different backgrounds / demographics / scenes together through a universally shared experience.”
You can check out the Park Church Co-Op’s event calendar here, or subscribe to their email list. And for more info on Martynka’s art project, check out the Ziemia site and follow the project on Instagram.