Saturday, November 17, 2007

I Really Do Kinda Like These Guys...

Friday I was at the Warehouse most of the day getting ready for a show that night with Grace Pettis and her band opening for San Francisco band, The Cobalt Season. Ryan and Holly Sharp are the very cool husband/wife team that comprise the heart and soul of this wonderful band (TCS), who have been traveling (along with their adorable 13 month old, Paxton) all over the US in their Prius for the last two months singing and doing shows. We were waiting for the Sharps and Grace to arrive for sound check, as well as helping four of our friends display their photography that would be available for folks to view during the show. As it turns out I missed a cell call from Ryan because they had rolled into town and to the home of our mutual friends, the Carltons. Ryan left a message saying that they were making some plan changes and wanted to get some feedback on that...but that was the last half of Ryan's message. Here's the first... "Hey David, this is Ryan from The Cobalt Season, and I was just online reading your blog right now, and was noticing that on the right side of the page under the heading of 'Bands/Musicians That I Kinda Like...' we're not listed. And frankly, it kinda breaks my heart because I see that you have The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Imogen, Sufjan, and even Grace, but no Cobalt...soooooo..if you could take care of that before the show tonight, I would appreciate it." Of course I laughed, and had to replay the message because I was laughing so hard I missed the end of the message which was the part I was supposed to really be acting on. The show opened well as Grace Pettis in her first show playing with a band was delightful, featuring her voice and songwriting, as well as shaking off the first-show-jitters. Then Ryan and Holly came on with video streaming across the front of the room. Ryan has an old school Dylan/Prine/Guthrie-esque talking/sing flow to his art, but it was derailed early by cable/pedal problems. Unfazed, Ryan unplugged, came down to the front of the room asked everyone to pull their chairs up close, and begin to do the show unplugged...I mean really mikes, no direct box, no eq or reverb, just he and Holly singing and talking. It was fascinating because everyone leaned in to hear the lyrics and strained to hear his startlingly honest and open struggles as a human being and a person trying to make a difference in the world. At one one he paused and observed that he thought someone might need to say something and he wanted to give the opportunity...there were a few playful comments from the audience, but it was a rare move by an artists to communicate that there is more going on at a concert than what is going on up on stage. At one point he confessed his struggles with feeling like the only way of living is that of peaceful non-violence, and that individuals and nations can always get along if they try...then he confessed his feelings of hypocrisy over not being able to have that kind of relationship with his own brother. After he sung a song written for his brother, someone from the audience asked why he couldn't just say to his brother what he has spoken to us...It was that kind of night. I couldn't help feeling that I had been a participant in something very very special...and I'm not even sure exactly what it was.

This morning in worship Dave Madden, Brandon and Harmony sang, "Lean on Me", "Now the Day Is Over" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water". Some Journey folks shared gut-level stories of the silence of God in the face of pain, suffering and honest questions. Then we watched REM's "Everybody Hurts" video and prayed and went home. I felt the very same way...I felt like i was in the middle of something very special...and I was. You know I feel sorry for those people who spend their lives trying to figure God out...Heck the fun of the faith is just trying to keep up... and go unplugged when the wires and pedals go freaky. And though it is probably a dubious honor, at best...Ryan, you made the list...traveling mercies to you, Holly and little Pax...



Friday, November 9, 2007

Cat Power, Regina, and The Black Eye

My friend Melinda introduced me to this fascinating, enigmatic young artist named Chan Marshall, who records under the moniker of Cat Power. She has a deep sultry voice that is dripping with pathos and sadness, and communicates a journey that, in one way or another, many of us have shared...a year or so ago, just as her record "The Greatest" was being released she went into treatment for alcoholism, and when she returned she decided that the healthiest thing for her was not to return to the temptations and rigors of the road in support of the new album (record companies and fans didn't see the wisdom in that move). She got major criticism, but she stood her ground and now is doing what she loves, with clarity and purpose for the first time in her young career. I am very impressed with not only her music, but who she is and what she has to say to the world.

Last Tuesday I accepted the invitation to attend a show at Stubb's with one of my coolest college friends...Amanda. Actually to call Amanda cool is redundant...the girl defines cool! You of course know that I am NOT in college, and am approximately 100 years old, so that makes this invitation all the more remarkable, but Amanda had an extra ticket and so we hit P. Terry's on Lamar and Barton Springs for a burger basket and then headed to Stubbs to see the young, delightful, Russian singer/songwriter, Regina Spektor. You must know that the name Regina holds fond memories for me of a beautiful lass who was the object of my affections in high school (Glen Oaks High School), named Regina Phillips. She was a vision of loveliness, who dated the school studly man, Gary Duvall (who was actually a really nice guy) and played tight end on the football team and center on the basketball team (Gary..not Regina). Yeah...I had no shot. Interestingly enough though, at the end of our senior years Regina and I were voted Mr. and Miss Glen Oaks (I'm pausing here not for the oohs and aaahs, but for the shocked silence)...yeah, it didn't make any difference...I still had no shot. Anyway, Regina Spektor did not need my "Regina" approval in the least for the sold out crowd hung on her every voice tremolo and clever line. The music was haunting at times and raucous at times and she used her voice as an instrument like few performers I've ever heard live. It was a real treat...I loved the show, and even though Amanda and all three of my girls, (and many many many folks) beat me to the punch...I'm a Regina Spektor fan.

Cleveland is my 17 month old Great Pyrenees (add about 100 lbs. to the puppy picture on the blog and you can imagine this big boy) who is my lone full time boarder these days. He's a frisky, happy, clumsy, loyal, monstrous ball of white fur. and other than snoring loudly when he sleeps, barking at every squirrel in the yard and eating more than me, he is a great pal. Except on Monday...when he gave me a black eye. I have had a few black eyes in my time...though none lately. I got in a fight with a kid on the playground when he called my cousin a bad name around the age of 8. He got the worst of it in the end, by the way (though I am in no way sanctioning needless playground violence) because my sandlot homeys came to bat for me...literally). Speaking of baseball, my sophomore year, my Glen Oaks HS occasionally fighting Panthers team was playing a regional playoff game in Opelousas, Louisiana on one of the worst dirt infields I've ever played on in my life. It was a routine ground ball (although my coach, Willis Stelly used to say, "Gentiles, with you in the infield, there is no such thing as a routine ground ball"...thanks coach) that hit a divot that looked like a pothole and popped up and hit me square in the eye. I chased the ball down and threw the runner out, but by the next inning my eye was swollen closed and I was on the bench holding an icepack on my eye with my baseball glove ( was cold!). Anyway, I digress...Monday I dropped a bit of the sandwich I was working on in the kitchen, and bent down to pick it up. Cleveland, no surprise, was there before the sandwich morsel hit the ground. My head is down, his head is down and when he sees my hand reach for the tasty morsel, he jerks his head up to look at me, and crushes his huge noggin against my huge noggin...right around the ole first shiner since Opelousas, Louisiana.

So that was my was yours?