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
February 05, 2017 - 11:28 p.m.
I don't have to dig through my diary ideas bin today; I have something exciting to write about. The problem is that I must be out of here in two hours and I also have to make breakfast and shower. I should do those things first and put off on this. But I'm doing something exciting today too and need to write about that. I'm going to prioritize like a grownup and do the things I need to do first. That probably mean no blogging till tonight.
It's now tonight. I'm writing this instead of watching the Super Bowl. This is rough. I did something today fresh in my head that I want to write about but I should first write about yesterday which was epic. Just letting you know that I'm suffering for my art.
I had a trilemma yesterday, three concerts that I had to go to. There were at least two more that I wanted to go to. I chose the right one, Joe Crookston's Imagine Nation. It was much more than a concert. Joe is also a painter and his paintings were on display, both on the stage and in the lobby. There was multimedia projected behind him. There was spoken word by Joe and Honor Finnegan. There were acrolette dance, not by Joe … for the most part. There was food and drink. You put it all together and you have Imagine Nation, a unified work of art, crossing media boundaries.
Joe does not need bells and whistles. He won me over with just an acoustic guitar. For the most part I've seen him perform alone or with Peter Glanville joining him on guitar and tenor guitar. He's added instruments over the years, fiddle, slide guitar, and electric guitar. But it was still a show he can do in a living room. That's where he was the last time I saw him.
That's all Joe needs to put on a great show but he needed more to fulfill his vision, he needed Imagine Nation. He was joined on many songs by Emily Mure singing harmony. She joined him on oboe as he fiddled to accompany the acrolette dancers. It reminded me of Wagner. Joe's music is nothing like Wagner's but the breath of his creativity is. When Wagner created the Ring Cycle he broke tradition; he didn't just write the music, he wrote the libretto, designed the sets, he even designed Bayreuth, the Opera House.
Joe is a lot less egotistical and autocratic than Wagner. He didn't need to control every aspect, he incorporated the visions of Honor, Emily, and the dancers. The show was blocked out. I don't know how long in advance he got there to work out the lighting and the sound. There was a lot going on.
With all that for much of the show it was just Joe on one instrument and his voice. Sometimes it was just him doing spoken word. He had his usual funny banter. He can always make an audience laugh. There were also serious set pieces, one, Head of the Hydra was an artistic manifesto. He's going to send it to me and I'm going to share it with you.
Honor told the story of being caught in the flood at Kerrville. Have you heard the story?
Now you have.
If there were justice in the world this show would fill Carnegie, not just Irvington Town Hall. Not to slight Irvington; it's as beautiful theater. Joe is one of the finest songwriters and finest musicians. Some of his songs are intensely personal, others are true folk songs telling other people's stories. His specialty is doing research on a subject and writing a song about it. He did a new one based on an American Nurse in WWI. He was commissioned by the WWI museum in Kansas City to go through their non-public collection and create a work of art based on something he found. He used a collection of the nurse's letters. In addition to writing the song he painted a portrait of her. Joe is a man of many talents.
He is in so many ways a true folk artist but his songs are the antithesis of kumbaya or droning to a guitar. They are musically compelling and often high energy. Some, particularly those on the slide guitar, would work as rock songs. I would not be shocked if he tried that out with a band. The basis is already in his music.
I met Emily at NERFA 2015, the same one she met Joe at. I talked to her, and liked her, but have never heard her perform and I don't seem to have her album. I have a feeling it's in a box where I'm storing my things. One weird thing with the anxiety is that I sometimes have trouble ripping and listening to new CDs. Perhaps she didn't give me one. She's is someone I connected to on a personal level and my rule of thumb is that anyone who can hold my interest conversationally has a better chance than most of making interesting music. I liked her one song quite a bit and I'm going to try and check her out at Rockwood Music Hall this week.
Joe connected with Honor through me. He posted on Facebook who would be a good spoken word artists to be in this show. I wrote him directly and said that "Honor is your man." Gender inconsistency intentional. He checked her out and liked what he heard. I knew he would. There personalities are diametrically opposed but I have the same kinds of conversations with both. Well, OK, I never said he looked cute in an outfit.
I got right to the meat today. I didn't tell the story of the two buses and the Metro North train I took to get there. Part of that is interesting but I'll get to that another time. I got there early because I was helping out. I told you that there was food in drink. I was on the staff to lay that out. Daria brought it. It was a nice spread. I had antipasto, cookies, and popcorn, a well-balanced meal. I also had meatballs and mashed potatoes in the green room. See I had a vegetable, it just wasn't green.
I'm putting off listing my friends that were there as I can't use my usual geographic method of remembering them. They all came to the food area at one time or another. Gene and Isabel are easy, the drove me home. I already mentioned Daria. Carter was the presenter. Then there was Mike, Paula and Peter, Perry and Beth, Judy, Lisa, Mark and Beth, Bootleg, John who was the photographer, and Nancy. I know there were more that I'm forgetting.
Because I got the ride I was home before midnight. I did not expect that. I thought it would be closer to one.
This was one of the best concerts of my life by anyone. I hope he does it again.
Neither snow nor rain nor cold nor gloom of night - February 10, 2017
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