Sxip Shirey: Musical Magician

07/27/2011 04:29 pm ET | Updated Sep 26, 2011

Sxip Shirey's recent Birthday Show at Joe's Pub was chockablock with genre-busting magic along with a stagefull of special guests from various parts of his musical past to turn up the heat.

The highlights were many: the anthemic and appropriate "I Live in New York City" opened the set; a tone poem called "Istanbul" which deposited listeners into a fever dream wandering the alleyways of the former Byzantium; the spooky, bluesy "You Can Ring My Bell" with Sxip on resophonic guitar and jazz vocalist Rachael Price; trumpet player Sonny Singh of Red Baraat joining Sxip and drummer Mathias Kunzli on a song about Sxip's Albanian grandfather, "Grandpa Charlie"; Electric Junkyard Gamelan's Terry Dame on her electric rubber band harp, the Big Barp, while Sxip played a guitar with paper clipped strings, for an untitled tone poem; Singer Xavier contributed vocals on "I Don't See Her Walking In" with Sxip on piezo pick up guitar and Mathias on drums.

Other guests included violinist Rima Fand of the Gypsy Punk band the Luminescent Orchestrii (which at one time was helmed by Shirey), vocalist Rachelle Garniez, and Ned Rothenberg on clarinet. The encore was a scorching version of Shirey's "The Temple Must Burn", with Rima Fand, Rachelle Garniez, and Sonny Singh sitting in.

Shirey is pure magic, and if you have the chance you should see him onstage weaving his spell. New Yorkers have two chances to do just that in the near future. On August 3rd he'll join the Raya Brass Band for what is being called two hours of kinetic, fun, and surprising music, beginning at 7pm at the Cooper Square Hotel Penthouse. This show is part of Joe's Pub Summer Salon, and tickets can be purchased at the Joe's Pub website. Sxip joins composer/conductor Todd Reynolds, beatboxer Adam Matta, and six of New York's finest violinists at the Damrosch Park Bandshell for the free summer series Lincoln Center Out of Doors on August 10th, after which Laurie Anderson and Friends will take the stage. Todd uploaded a track from one of their rehearsals to Soundcloud.

Shirey's last record, Sonic New York, will take you on a wondrous journey if you give yourself up to its beauty. His new one is entitled A Half Glass of Whiskey and a Handfull of Bees, and has a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production. The Kickstarter page promises a sonic origami event. "Take a good look at the photo {on the Kickstarter page}," writes Sxip. "That's my Albanian grandfather sitting in the middle -- those are his boys at the shop. That's his barber shop. Before the crash Grandpa Charlie owned property all around Gary and Chicago."

If we lived in a different environment -- one that really supported artists and gave them money to create work that enriches a free society -- Sxip Shirey would be heralded as a national treasure, because that's exactly what he is.

For more on Sxip Shirey's work visit