I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
April 24, 2018 - 12:16 p.m.
Yesterday was my third day in a row hearing live music. Here is the mystery, the performers, Anna & Elizabeth are the least familiar to My Gentle Readers yet played the largest venue, Le Poisson Rouge and sold it out. I first heard of them through Gary but got to know them when they shared some bills with Kristin Andreassen. Fred asked, "How can somebody I never heard of play such a large venue?" It is a puzzlement. Of course, Fred had heard of them through me as I rave every time I see them.
Le Poisson Rouge is on Bleecker Street in the heart of Greenwich Village. Can anyone figure out where I ate? I know it's tough, it involves knowing the geography and knowing me. If you do know those two things you should also know what I ordered. I went to Pomme Frites for poutine. It's been way too long since I've eaten the food of the Quebecois gods. I times things very well, when I pass LPR on the way there nobody was lined up. When I returned there was a short line. I love their check in system, more places should adopt it. Two people walk up and down the line with hand held devices with the will-call and guest lists. When they find you on the list they put a bracelet on you.
I got the seat I wanted, by the crankie. Do you really not know what a crankie is? I'll let Sue Truman explain it, The Crankie Factory.
Hello! I am a fiddler, guitarist, stepdancer and crankie artist living in Seattle, Washington. A crankie is an old storytelling art form. It's a long illustrated scroll that is wound onto two spools. The spools are loaded into a box which has a viewing screen. The scroll is hand-cranked while the story is told. It can be accompanied by a narrative, song or tune. If you haven't seen one before, then a picture (or video) is worth a thousand words. You will find hours of viewing on this site.Anna & Elizabeth are like nothing you've ever seen. I'm confident in saying that. I've seen them before and they were still like nothing I've ever seen. They did not write the songs on the new album, The Invisible Come to Us they found them all in archives from the 20s, 30s, and 40s. They are going through the process that the pioneers of the 50s Folk Revival did. They didn't use the term, but I take it that they are field recordings, often of very low sound quality. You haven't lived till you've heard their live imitation of what a decayed wax cylinder sounds like. It's worth the effort as they discovered these beautiful old songs that have not been heard in decades. Some they perform a Capella. More often they play some combination of guitar, fiddle, harmonium, and banjo. Last night they added a band with full drum kit, pedal steel guitar, synthesizer, and saxophone. Did your head just explode? mine did. Then there is the story telling with the aid of the crankie.
Their live shows are as much performance art as concert. Their music is unproduced and naturalistic. It's simple folk melodies with otherworldly harmonies. But every movement and word is choreographed, or at least it has that feel. It goes right down to the blocking, when one of them does a song solo the other is onstage sitting on the floor or standing off the side in a pose. Every movement is graceful and measured as are their voices. They do a song with a dead woman, Margaret Shipman. Elizabeth stands on stage holding her laptop which plays the ancient recording of Margaret singing while Anna accompanies her on fiddle.
I'm listening to the new album now. While you have to see them to get the entire experience it's amazing how much of it comes through without the crankie and choreography.
I didn't see anyone I knew before the show and I was looking. I find it hard to believe that none of my Brooklyn friends were there. I was surprised that Stephanie Coleman & James Shipp were not in the band on fiddle, and synthesizer. During the break I got up to go to the bathroom and saw that Mark, was right behind me. He was in my blind spot, antipodal to the microphone Anna & Elizabeth sang around. I met him only once but knew him immediately even with my bad eyes. If you see Kevin Klein walking by then realize he's way too young, then you are seeing Mark. Where were the rest of you? Even if you were there you didn't have a good view of the crankie. The next time Anna & Elizabeth play you are coming with me. Everyone I know with a venue or house concert series should be booking them. Coco that goes triple for you. Your house is the perfect venue for them. That is if they are still doing house concerts.
My only disappointment was that I didn't get a chance to talk to them. That always seems to happen. I want them to be my people. Why don't I do the merch for them? I know them through Kristin and I always do her merch when she's in town. I can never figure out how these things work.
It was a late show, I didn't get out of there till 11 o'clock. My timing was good, and I was able to make it home in an hour and a half and not have a long wait for the bus.
I'd love to stay home all day and not get dressed, I've been on the run for 10 days straight, but I must go shopping. Now it's time for brunch. Tomorrow I'm writing an album review. That makes me nervous as I don't know how to write album reviews. It took me years to get the hang of writing about concerts; even then I don't do it the way others do. Sometimes I wish I could write like others but doing what I do I have no competition. I'm not sure of what I do other than I make everything personal.
I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.
The Adventure of Anna & Elizabeth at the Red Fish - April 24, 2018
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