Five Firsts: Karen Schoemer of the Schoemer Formation
NAME: Karen Schoemer
BAND AFFILIATION: The Schoemer Formation
INSTRUMENT: Words, voice
1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … A Donny Osmond collection off TV. I had to work hard on my parents to get them to buy it and send the money away. It took weeks of concentrated pestering and allowance deal-brokering. I was 8 or 9 years old. We had a stereo in the living room, and it had an arm that held the LP in place and dropped it on the turntable. I remember being really thrilled. The album had all the hits: “Go Away Little Girl,” “Puppy Love,” “Hey Girl.” All I’d bought up until then were 45s, and there was something beautiful about all those songs piled on the same piece of vinyl with the little black grooves separating them.
2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … Bruce Springsteen, Madison Square Garden, The River tour, December 19, 1980. I was 15, which seems incredibly old by today’s concert-going standards. Bruce was trying to get rid of ticket scalpers, so I had to send a money order to an address at Penn Plaza, and they chose winners by lottery. I had to get my mom to go to the post office and get the money order – it was $86 dollars for four tickets and handling. 1 in 4 people got tickets, so I was really lucky. Bruce played for four hours, and I screamed my brains out the whole time. There was a couple in the seats next to me, and the guy turned to me and said, “Do you snort coke?” I said, “What? Do I smell Coke?” Like, did I smell it in the air? He said, “No, do you snort it?” He had a little yellow vial. I said, “Oh! No, thanks, that’s okay.” I was pretty hopped up already.
3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … I borrowed my mom’s acoustic guitar and tried to learn to play it, but it hurt my hands. I didn’t have the patience. I stuck with writing. I was very focused on writing from eighth grade onward. I’m amazed that I’m performing with a band now for the first time at the age of 48. I thought not being able to sing or play an instrument was going to keep me off stages, but you never know.
4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … “The Dealer,” which is a song I do with Eric and Amy. We performed live for the first time in January, and that was the first song in our six-song set. It’s a poem I wrote for a spoken word EP I did with a British musician named Detective Instinct and Mike Watt from the Minutemen and fIREHOSE. It was written for Mike’s voice but I rewrote it for my voice.
5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … In the ’90s I was in a band called Black Republican with my ex-husband, Dave Salzberg, and John Sluggett, who was a member of Half Japanese, and John’s wife Linda. I played drums. We practiced in Yo La Tengo’s practice space in Hoboken for about six months but we never played out. The Schoemer Formation is really my first band. I feel like a teenager. I want to play every VFW hall and house party in the Hudson Valley. I’m working on getting us a gig in Hoosick Falls. Playing a gig with my band in Hoosick Falls, that’s an achievement beyond my wildest dreams.
Karen Schoemer joins her bandmates Amy (keyboards, guitar) and Eric (guitar, fuzz bass), as the Schoemer Formation delivers a spoken word-meets-music shindig at the Spotty Dog in Hudson on Saturday (March 8) ($5) and the Low Beat in Albany on Thursday (March 13) ($7).