NEW YORK -- Former American Music Club frontman Mark Eitzel played what
he said would be his last solo acoustic show ever Sunday.
That set, performed here at the Lower East Side club Tonic, also wrapped up Eitzel's
four-month stint as curator of a weekly singer/songwriter series. Since September, Eitzel
has brought such artists as folk-rocker Freedy Johnston, lo-fi country singer Bonnie
Prince Billy and guitar-poppers Fountains of Wayne to the club Sunday nights. On Jan.
3, Bonnie Prince Billy -- formerly known as Will Oldham of the country-folk band the
Palace Brothers -- will take over the series.
For his farewell performance, Eitzel played mostly new material for a hushed roomful of
fans. After the show, Eitzel revealed that he has no intention of playing solo shows again
and is putting together a new band, which will include American Music Club guitarist
Vudi. The new band will record material for a yet-to-be-determined label, he said.
Eitzel also told the audience that he's been dropped by Warner Bros., which released his
1996 solo album, 60 Watt Silver Lining, and his 1997 collaboration with R.E.M.
guitarist Peter Buck, West.
Eitzel was dressed all in black and accompanied only by his Gibson acoustic guitar. The
songs he played were largely unfamiliar, even to most of the devotees who packed the
small, spare room.
Still, Eitzel had the crowd's rapt attention.
"For some reason, people are really quiet in here," he said later. "I'm always expecting
people to talk and have a life."
Floridians Alan Moon, 24, and Shawn Jensen, 29, stopped by with New Yorker Liz
Lazarus, 22, after seeing the show advertised in a local paper. "He reminds me of Elliott
Smith, only a little better," Lazarus said.
Moon commented on the "quiet, church-like" vibe of the show and on Eitzel's
"hyperawareness" -- his interactions with the crowd, his self-deprecating comments and
his responses to the occasional sound of glasses knocking at the bar (also, what he
sometimes mistakenly perceived as heckling).
For a final encore, Eitzel asked the crowd for requests, then he played "The Thorn In My
Side Is Gone," from AMC's final album, San Francisco (1994).
"I hate this song, but I'll play it," he said. He recounted how his bandmates in AMC told
him the song didn't have it. After seeing a videotape of himself playing the song, Eitzel
said, he decided they were right.
Afterward, Eitzel said the singer/songwriter series was "a wonderful thing to be a part of,"
but that he hadn't been to many of the shows. "I've been in San Francisco," he said, but
"New York is really expensive, and I'm broke."
However, Eitzel said he got positive feedback from the performers he booked, who
included such little-known but critically praised singer/songwriters as R. Stevie Moore,
Richard Davies, Bill Fox and Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt. Basically, Eitzel
said, he tried to showcase "anyone who wrote a song and doesn't stink of the treadmill."
On the subject of losing his Warner Bros. deal, Eitzel lamented an industry that makes
heavy demands on artists to become megastars. "I'd rather have a heart and soul," he
After exchanging greetings with a few acquaintances, Eitzel donned his coat and cap
and excused himself, saying, "I'm going to go get really drunk now."