Salty Brine, meet Ringo Starr.
For his new one-man show, East Village performer Salty Brine will take one of his favorite records and weave stories around the songs so the audience experiences the music in a new light. Spectacular Living Record Collection Cabaret premieres at the Red Room tonight with its first incarnation, based on the Beatles album Abbey Road.
With elaborate costumes designed by nightlife legend One Half Neslon and only piano arrangements by Ian Axness (Clown Bar) for backup, Brine reinterprets each song, fitting them together like patchwork to create something akin to a German cabaret. At the Red Room Monday morning, Brine said the project began to take shape when he was thinking about iTunes and the ways in which the $1.99 single has changed how we listen to music. He grew up treasuring albums he could listen to from beginning to end. “It’s rare to find an album like that, where you love every song, or maybe you don’t like a song at first but it begins to grow on you,” he said, adding that he enjoys sitting down with the albums and “figuring out what makes them tick.”
Each month Brine will choose a different album, and the form of the show will change to suit the music’s tone.. For Abbey Road, he said he chose a German cabaret because of the album’s underlying themes. “When I was a kid I used to really love [the song] Maxwell’s Silver Hammer because the music is sort of like a kid’s song, but actually it’s pretty dark- it’s a about a man who kills someone with a hammer.” The gallows humor, sexual frankness and political satire of the German cabaret suited the album, Brine said.
For the next show in the series Brine will adapt Joni Mitchell’s Blue, creating a night of songs and stories about love and the ocean. “It’s a sad album,” he acknowledged, but he said part of the magic of performing, especially in an intimate setting like the 40-seat Red Room, is taking the audience to a sad place and using humor and music to lift them up to a joyful place moments later. Throughout his act he interacts with the audience, though “not in a scary way.”
Brine comes from a long line of performers — in fact, he inherited his nickname (and his real name, Walter Brine) from his grandfather, who was a well-known radio broadcaster and children’s television host in Rhode Island. “A lot of people assume I made the name up as a stage name, but my family has been calling me Salty since before I born,” he said.
The 34-year-old has been doing cabaret ever since graduating college in 2003. He said he found his “Master of Ceremonies vibe” as a karaoke night host at a club in Astoria, and now he’s often hired to play that type of role. He was co-creator of the rock and roll vaudeville duo Salt N’ Pepper, performing at venues throughout New York City, including Joe’s Pub, and he had a role in the darkly funny Clown Bar, a New York Times critic’s pick that played in 2013 at the Parkside Lounge and again in 2014 at The Box.
Brine’s series will run at the Red Room indefinitely; though he only knows for sure that he’ll be doing Blue, other albums on the short list of candidates are Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Weezer’s Pinkerton, Annie Lennox’s Diva and the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing.