He’s a real nowhere man

A few days in a faraway place and it’s easy to get homesick. Even in a place with the charms of Manhattan, it’s hard to avoid an occasional twinge of saudade for the old hometown.

That said, Manhattan is a great place to perambulate. Late Saturday morning, I began hiking north on Eighth Avenue from my Midtown hotel. A few blocks up, Eighth Avenue turned into Central Park West. I’d unconsciously dialed the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night album on the iPod and at 72nd Street, suddenly, the Dakota apartments loomed to the left, and a right turn into Central Park found Strawberry Fields and a memorial to John Lennon. Weird serendipity.

When that album finished I switched to Rubber Soul, then got caught in a sudden downpour just as “Nowhere Man” came on at 106th Street, a.k.a. Duke Ellington Boulevard. I kept walking north, switched to the 1962 jazz classic Duke Ellington & John Coltrane around Morningside Park, and continued to listen down 125th Street into Harlem, where tourists were busy snapping photos of the marquee of the Apollo. Now that was a sublime moment.

That night, from a glance online to see if any Sacramento acts were in town, the closest to the 916 was Amy Cooper at a SoHo club called Pianos. Cooper, a Northern California transplant to Los Angeles who’s become one of my fave guitar-slinging femme rockers, periodically plays Old Ironsides (where she’ll appear on Thursday, November 16). Her trio—Bjorn Fleuren on bass, Alex DeCarville on drums—churned out a short set of melodic rockers that found an enthusiastic audience in a small room.

Cooper was here for the CMJ Music Marathon, a massive indie-rock confab staged every fall by College Media Journal. The festival, which kicked off on Halloween, promised 1,000 bands. That should have netted a dozen or so from our neck of the woods, but the only locals on the bill were the Evening Episode, a fine trip-hop combo that’s starting to garner some national recognition, and Mike Visser, longtime frontman of local trio Frank Jordan. But Visser moved to Philadelphia and signed with the indie label Park the Van, which will release new music soon.

The following day, the plan was a walk in Central Park while dialing through local bands on the iPod, but bitter cold weather with high winds put the kibosh to that. Ergo, an alternative: the Museum of Modern Art, mere blocks from the hotel.

After entering MoMA with the Kinks’ “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” blasting, Deathray provided a natural segue. An observation: The candy-apple hard pop of that band’s two Eric Valentine-produced albums is a near-perfect fit with paintings by van Gogh, Picasso, Rothko, Pollock and others. At one point, a collision of Simon Patterson’s wall-sized “Cosmic Wallpaper,” a sky-blue map of the cosmos combined with a history of “pioneering heavy metal band” Deep Purple, accompanied by Deathray’s gem “Days Gone By” provoked unexpected laughter.

But loud music can be a distancing mechanism; it’s odd to be jostled by German tourists in front of Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” with Th’ Losin Streaks blasting in your head. Two Sheds and Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup cans go together nicely, though.

Anyway, next week: Velvet Underground and the Crocker. See you there.