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
March 14, 2018 - 12:59 p.m.
Last night I went to an amazing night of music; John Platt's On Your Radar with Phoebe Hunt and the Gatherers, Sam Reider and the Human Hands, and Hannah Read. In the preface to the 1867 edition, Dickens wrote, "like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield." If it is good enough for Dickens, it's good enough for me. In my heart of hearts, I have favourite editions of On Your Radar and last night's was one of them. I knew it would be before it started as I love all the artists. Any one of them would have been a highlight of most editions of OYR. They weren't all good, they were all great. I pushed this hard on social media as I would have been disappointed if it weren't a sellout. There have been only two sellouts since the series moved to Rockwood. It's not something you can expect. I was not disappointed, it sold out.
I was surrounded by my usual crowd, Fred, as always was at my table, John at the next one, Dan & Phyllis behind him, and Marty behind me. The bonus was Kathryn! She had been an OYR regular, but her work has not given her time to go in ages. As soon as she walked in I asked her to join us.
Hannah was up first. She was joined by Pat McCusker on guitar and vocals. Let's see if I remembered his name correctly; I did! I am a memory god. I only asked him four times. I was sure I knew him from someplace. I didn't. I just should know him. How do I know Hannah? She's part of the Brooklyn music scene. I'm not sure where I first saw her perform, I suspect the Owl, but I've not only seen her perform I've seen her in the audience. There's a community, she's part of the community, I'm in the suburbs of it. Hannah is Scottish and she's a fiddler, but she's not a Scottish fiddler, at least not most of the time. She came to the US, studied at Berkley, and learned American fiddle music. Then, like so many musicians expanded her horizons. Most of the songs she performed were on guitar; she played fiddle on only one tune and switched to guitar in the middle of it. See what you missed Coco? Coco likes when musicians change instruments in the middle of a song.
Hannah's music shows all her influences, some are personal, some echo Fairport Convention. I've been waiting for her album, Way out I'll Wander since I met Hannah. It was finally released in the last two weeks. I have never seen her with Pat, it's not often that a sideman will impress me, but he did. It wasn't by playing incredible guitar solos, it was by being a perfect accompanist. His guitar and vocals were at just the right level to enhance Hannah's music while keeping the focus on her. It added a dimension to Hannah's sound. I have a confession to make. I could be entertained by hearing her speak in her Scottish accent the entire time, I'm a Caladoniaphile.
Sam Reider and Phoebe Hunt are in each other's bands, the Human Hands and the Gatherers respectively. Neither band is quite fixed but last night the Gatherers were a proper subset of the Human Hands. You might be ware that would lead to a sameness between the two sets. You might think it, but you'd be wrong. These are such exceptional musicians that they can play anything and do. I commented to Kathryn during Phoebe's set that it's hard to believe that the last two songs were performed by the same band and written by the same person. Sam's difference is even more different than that. He was on second. I didn't get a chance to ask John, but I believe that they were the only On Your Radar act to only do instrumentals. That can be dicey for some casual music fans, they want lyrics. Oddly classical fans are the opposite, and many avoid vocal music. Listen to most classical stations and if they aren't playing opera you'll hear very little vocal music. Listen to any rock, pop, Americana, or folk station and you'll hear very few instrumentals. Has an instrumental topped the pop charts since the 1960s? No matter, the audience went wild over it. I took a video and made sure to continue through the applause, I hope that others did the same. It was something to hear. All the songs are from his new concept album, Too Hot to Sleep, about a journey through the underworld, in all it's shades (pun intended). There are quiet moody pieces, high energy raise the roof pieces, spooky pieces, and serene pieces. Sam plays the accordion and the piano, there are fiddles, guitar, clarinet, and bass. Fred described one song as a cross between klezmer and bluegrass. Some are like zydeco or Cajun. There's Brazilian, classical, and jazz dancing their way around each other. This is one of the reasons I love conservatory musicians, they learn not just technique but a broad swathe of music.
When Sam was done there was just a tiny break, they switched places and the Human Hands became the Gatherers. It didn't hit me to last night and writing this entry in my head that there's word play in the name as in Hunter Gatherers. Phoebe is that deliberate? I also discovered Phoebe's background. I knew her first as an Austin musician. I did not guess that she was born in Puerto Rico and is half Puerto Rican. I never would have guessed that her first name is Shanti even though that's what she uses on Facebook and her new album is Shanti's Shadow. Her parents were devotees of a Maharishi, Shanti is Hindi. She went to India on a meditation retreat followed by musical retreat to prepare the album. She brought along many of her friends on the musical half, some of them are Gatherers, as is her husband.
Where does her music range? From singer/songwriter to Appalachian, to art song, to bluegrass. She doesn't even sound like the same person singing from song to song. Her style adjusts to the music. Her voice is another instrument, just as her fiddle can also be a violin. There are no walls around Phoebe's creativity.
More on her name, Phoebe means bright. That fits, she bright intellectually and she shines. I had to look up Shanti, this is from Wikipedia.
Shanti means peace, rest, calmness, tranquility, or bliss.Her names have as many layers as she does.
Not only was the musically one of the best nights, it was socially too. When I was trying to make my way over to talk to the artists I ran into Danny Greenberg. He had done an On Your Radar and I think we met at NERFA, but I have not seen him since. What I remember most was feeling a connection with him. I felt it again. It's strange how the world works, we are brought together and pulled apart by currents that we can't see or feel.
When I got upstairs I talked to Kathryn and Katherine. That brought back memories. When I first started therapy I had to explain to my therapist who all the Katherines were. I saw both multiple times a month and Catherine too. They were two syllable Kathryn, K Katherine, and C Catherine. I finally started to call Kathryn, Kay. Then there was Kath, and Kat and Caitlin, a variation of the same name as is Kathleen. I have friends Kathleen and two Kathys too. I don't see any of them as often as I used to. I need more Kat variations in my life. After Kathryn left I introduced Katherine to Hesch and we had a discussion of playing the bones. Hesch always has a pair on him. That's how we became friends. He was sitting in the audience at an OYR back in the Living Room days and I knew he was a friend of mine that I hadn't met yet. Katherine plays spoons, which is in the same family I then walked Katherine to Whole Foods which is on my way to the 99¢ Pizza place I usually go to after OYR.
You might have noticed that I didn't write yesterday but I was posting on Facebook. That's a bad sign, it shows that I'm home and not writing. It was a bad anxiety and depression day. I kept putting off reading scary emails. I never got to one of them. It continued till the music started. For the second time I was hit with a hard wave of anxiety as I turned the corner form Houston on to Orchard. I can't think of anything traumatic that happened there and perhaps it's just a coincidence. I'll discuss it in therapy. I did start writing yesterday. I think I'll end this with what I had written.
I think my health has totally recovered. It was the Crohn's yesterday; a weird attack; I was able to eat. I suspect the frosted shredded wheat I ate was the culprit.
I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.
Mercury Meets Fitzgerald - March 19, 2018
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