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
July 22, 2016 - 12:29 p.m.
I'm starting to write late and I have a lot to write about so I am going to forego my usual opening paragraph where I talk about starting to write. I want to eat at a reasonable time and I can't do that if I spend time telling you that I slept late and had to watch Jon Stewart on the Late Show before I started writing. Nope, today there is no opening paragraph that doesn't advance the theme.
I hope you found that at least a quarter as funny as I did.
Last night I had a musical double header. That wasn't enough. There were two other shows that were must see. Time is what keeps everything from happening at once. Time took the day off. I missed Bumper Jacksons and Tammy Faye. It's ridiculous how many times I had to miss Bumper Jacksons. I usually can't afford to see Tammy and this was a free show. It really isn't fair. When I get my TARDIS I'm going back in time and seeing them.
So who did I see? Lisa Gutkin and The Hello Strangers. I first saw Lisa something like 25 years ago with the Celtic band Whirligig. I loved them but didn't see them that often. Now she's with the Klezmatics. I don't see them that often. I've seen her with other bands too, she's a musical gypsy. It used to surprise me that she remembered me even if we hadn't seen each other in years. That always impresses me. Know what else impresses me? Her musicianship. She's primarily a fiddler and a great one. But now she has a new project, solo folk music. She plays tenor guitar and sings. Like everything else she does it's great. She sent me the CD so I already heard it but last night was the release. It was not at a music venue but the Kettle of Fish, a historic bar in Greenwich Village. There's an area with couches and she set up shop there. It was not just a CD release party but also a birthday party an a bon voyage party. Lisa is very efficient. She did three sets but I could only stay for the first. The party went on all evening. Su was there and felt the need to introduce herself to me. That's because she didn't realize how blind I was. I hadn't reacted when she waved to me. I hadn't even seen someone wave. Once I saw her face of course I knew her. I didn't know it but she's known Lisa longer than I have. I didn't know that Lisa played with Jack Hardy.
The album, From Here On In is not Celtic and it's not Klezmer. It's Woody Guthrie style folk. There's even a Woody Guthrie co-write. Yes, she's one of those people that put music to Woody's words. There are many sides to Lisa. I wouldn't be shocked if her next project was Rock and Roll.
The Hello Strangers played at Hill Country NYC which is not that far away. They went on at 9:00 and I was able to stay at the Kettle till 8:15. I needed to get there early as Hill Country is perhaps my favorite restaurant; the best barbecue in New York. When I got there at 8:30 I saw a line to be seated. I did get the best seat in the house, closest seat to the stage. Then I had to go upstairs to get my food and there was another line. I knew I'd get my food in time so I wasn't too worried. I tried something new, pork loin. It was fantastic. I used to spend a fortune there but now have figured out to get out of there cheaply. I just have to not stuff myself. I don't need a pound of meat and some of every kind. I always get the corn pudding as my side, it's heavenly.
The Hello Strangers is a five-piece band centered on two sisters, Brechyn Chase and Larissa Chase Smith. Funny, Word thinks I misspelled Brechyn. How else would you spell it? I forgot to ask her if it's Welsh. I bet I asked last time and forgot. In case you forgot, I'll remind you that I'm an idiot.
When I got downstairs I didn't see Brechyn but Larissa spotted me. I suspect they just finished sound check. She still had her guitar on. I wasn't sure if they'd recognize me. I haven't seen them often and it's been a long time and I don't have my ponytail any more. But they did. Other people are better at this than I am. I talked to Larissa, went upstairs to get my food and came back down. When I got back down the guitar was down and I saw that she was great with child. I have been looking forward to putting it that way since last night. Euphemisms can be poetic. And hey, she is great and she is with child. Of course I couldn't go up to her and say, "I didn't know you were pregnant?" You never say that to a woman, if for some reason you are wrong you can never make up for it. Fortunately for me she mentioned it at the show so now I can write about it.
I didn't have their album and haven't seen them in a year so there is always the question; are they as good as I remember. They are not, they are even better! I don't know how they describe what they do but Country Rock is closest I came up with. Larissa plays acoustic guitar and Brechyn, button accordion and various percussion. The rest of the band is electric guitar, full drum kit, and electric bass. They are kickass. Don't think of the majority of female harmony groups. They have the beautiful harmonies but it's not gentle. It's not that they sound the same but I'd pair them with Eilen Jewel. If anyone is booking her on a tour the Hello Strangers would be a great opener.
They played a long set and didn't finish till after 11:00. I had no thought of leaving early. They held my attention the entire time. This brings up my usual rant that there are so many musicians that can't hold my attention for the length of a song.
There was no cover and that makes playing Hill Country problematic. The people are there to eat not listen so there's a lot of noise. I was sitting up front and as I said they are a kickass rock band so they could for the most part drown it out. As the evening wore on the diners thinned out and we were left with the people at the bar. You know how much I love drunks. They were nice, they bought the entire band beers and then shots. I got a picture of Larissa drinking a beer. Hey Larissa how much is it worth it to you to not publish the pic so your child doesn’t see and when he or she is 17 blame all his or her problems on you drinking the beer? She did not indulge in the shot. But they drunks also acted like drunks. They shouted out requests for Freebird and damn, I forgot the band they mentioned. One actually wandered on stage. Brechyn had to escort him off. Another sat on the edge of the stage and texted someone. The women handled it great. They never stopped smiling and made a joke of it. It gave the show a roadhouse feel and hell they could totally play a roadhouse behind chicken wire.
After the show I got to talk to Brechyn. There was symmetry, I didn't see Larissa then. But I got one-on-one time with both of them. I won't be surprised when they recognize me next time.
I didn't mention how I know them. They are on my short list of top discoveries from John Platt's On Your Radar. I'm thinking of making a list. The problem is hurting the feelings of those not on it. But most of the bands I loved who did the series were people I already knew and if they know me now it probably means they'll make the list.
I didn't get out of there till well after 11:00. The last bus to City Island leaves at 11:53. I paid for dinner with cash. That meant I didn't have enough on me for a cab and I didn't want to start looking for a cab. Jane always tell me that I can call her if I need a ride back from the subway so that's what I did. As soon as the emerged above ground I called. I waited only a few minutes for her to arrive when I got to the station. Have I mentioned that she's the nicest person in the world?
OK now I really need to eat so I should post this. You should follow the links to Lisa Gutkin's and the Hello Strangers' websites and get on their mailing lists. At least give them a listen. I don't think many of My Gentle Readers are that away of either of them and you should be. Maybe next year they will be at the The Budgiedome. Now it's poached eggs time.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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