At Kitchen Gala, Seeking Baking Supplies

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Laurie Anderson at her party. Photo: Patrick McMullan

The Kitchen is a forward-thinking arts center in Chelsea, and yet it somehow manages each year to wrangle avant-garde musicians, performance artists, and all manner of downtown freak to a stately, 10021-style benefit gala. At this year's installment, held this week, the main honoree was experimental-music star Laurie Anderson (it's her 60th birthday), and serenading her from the stage were several next-generation stars not terribly accustomed to playing over the sound of scraping knives and clinking glasses. Each coped in his own way.

"Keep your voices down, please," said composer Nico Muhly with some steel in his voice, before premiering a song written with Anthony Hagerty (of Anthony & the Johnsons). Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, who made the PR girls around us titter and swoon, took a distinctively British tack. "Don’t pay any attention to me," he suggested genially, and then played a gorgeous ballad to a Robert Burns lyric. We sadistically informed one of Anderson's heirs, doe-eyed crossover artist-writer-director-performer Miranda July, that the evening was co-sponsored by a jean brand and a breath mint. "Really?!" she gasped. What would be your ideal corporate sponsor be, we wondered. "Maybe some type of flower." Like the yellow one in your hair? "No, I mean flour. Or a brand of baking soda. You just know they've got to have lots of money, and you never see them sponsor anything." It's true; you don't.