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
June 14, 2017 - 5:35 p.m.
Ugh. I'm starting late and now I'm trying to write while on a chat with "Google Play Help." I'm supposed to get three free months of unlimited music because of what I've contributed as a local guide on Google Maps. I redeemed the coupon and I don't have the three free months. You'd think they could just check their records but they can't. I had to send them the email they sent to me. I could write a play by Google play of the frustrations but that's not what this blog is about. I'm here to tell you about the draft. By draft I mean the musical doubleheader I had last night. When I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to mean, neither more nor less.
It was the second Tuesday of the month and what does that mean My Gentle Readers? Why do I always see the same hands? It means John Platt's On Your Radar. This month's guests were The Small Glories, not Small Wonders as I always start to write, Joan and Joni, no self-mocking about them, and J Shogren Shanghai'd, no relation to M Shanghai.
My first stop was my PO Box; I had three pieces of mail, one total junk, one a nice newsletter from the Rubin Museum I won't read, and mail to someone who gave my PO Box out as his or her address. I keep getting mail for, I think it's a her and have told the post office. I wish they'd pull it before they put it in my box. Then I made a quick dinner stop and found my way to Rockwood. Time for the idiot stories to begin.
I discovered when I went out that I didn't have my WFUV baseball cap. I had it the night before when I went to Rockwood. I had thought I put it in my bag but I didn't. That meant I must have left it at Rockwood, probably at Stage 3 but maybe at Stage 2. I was at both but only sat at 3. When I got there yesterday I asked the Stage 3 Bartender about it. He didn't know anything about it but said he'd ask the manager. I told him I'd check back after the show.
I always go down before doors open to check how things are going and to make sure that the front row is reserved for Me, John, and Richard & Viki. I usually schmooze with the performers too. The only one I knew at all yesterday was Kipyn Martin, from Joan and Joni, who I had met a few times at Falcon Ridge and NERFA. When I arrived J Shogren was sound checking and Joan and Joni had just finished. Kipyn came over and said hi. It being the folk world we hugged. I like the folk world. She introduced me to Allison Shapira, the other half of Joan and Joni, and Allison's mother. I think I briefly met Allison at NERFA. I know I talked about her with the only other Shapira I know, Efrat.
Doors opened early and Fred joined me. We have our official seats at OYR. I remembered to not only bring my camera but to buy batteries for it. I want to be able to post good pictures to the On Your Radar Instagram account. Take a moment now to follow us on Instagram, John Platt's On Your Radar. I try and post every day. You'll always find the link to the next show on the profile page. I am enjoying learning a new social media tool for promotion. I have no way of knowing if it's effective. I will give it a few months to catch on and then ask John if I can leave a survey on the tables asking the audience how they heard about the show. Where was I? right the camera. I took it out and went to load the batteries I bought. Right there in the case was a pack of batteries. What? Then why haven't I been using the camera. Then I remembered; the problem was not the batteries, it was the memory card; I had left it in my computer. How did this happen? You got it, I'm an idiot. I'm not done with being an idiot either. I put the camera away. I talked about it with Fred and we discussed how it sucks forgetting a memory card. Then it hit me. Fred might have an extra card. He did! I was saved. Thank you, Fred. Having what a friend needs in my bag is usually my trick. You ever need a pen, sharpie, sunblock, lip balm, phone charger, or guitar pick; the odds are I'll have one. I need to put a note pad in my bag too. It's one of my essentials. There is a reason I always carry a bag.
OK so now I was set. I had my camera and the show was about to start. I just head to relearn how to use the camera. I put the batteries in. It's almost impossible to see the battery direction graphic in good light with perfect vision. I knew they had to alternate so there was a 50% chance of getting it right the first time and 100% by the second chance. I put the batteries and card it. It wouldn't turn on. I switched the batteries. It wouldn't turn on. Fred got out a flashlight and looked and thought he could make out the right way for them to go. It wouldn't turn on. I flipped it one more time, it wouldn't turn on. One more flip for good measure. It worked! I had been hitting the zoom lever, not the power lever. It was impossible to see I that light and I'm still not used to the camera so I won't count that as being an idiot; I'm grading on a curve.
A thousand words in and I haven't gotten to the first band of the first show I went to. That shows that I'm enjoying the writing process. It's also because I accidentally had three cups of coffee instead of my usual two. I stole Jane's cup. That doesn't rise to idiot level too. The question is, this amuses me but are you amused? If you say, "no," I will go back in time and edit this down. If you are reading this it means that most readers found it amusing. In James Branch Cabell's Jurgen the titular character enjoys nothing so much as observing the workings of his own mind. There's a reason I love that book.
J Shogren Shanghai'd was up first. J Shogren is the one that looks like he's J Shogren. You know very well which one I mean; the guy with the beard and a guitar which I'm pretty sure is twenty years older than I am. I didn't get a chance to ask him. Any of my guitar people recognize it? Gibson circa 1935? I'm a fake guitar person, I can just talk a good game, I know nothing. You'd think that was Patrick Klink but he does know something. Should I have I made a Jon Snow joke instead?
You look at J Shogren, you hear the name of the band, and you think, "character." He doesn't disappoint. He writes songs with humor and style and originality. He's from rural Wyoming, and urban Wyoming is rural by North East standards. His guitar player, whose name I sadly doesn't know was excellent. I'm pretty sure classically trained. Was it nylon strings? I'm never good at telling that. One thing I loved is that he could switch from playing classical style to rock and roll in the same song. It was like a switch being flipped. I wish I had time to talk to them after the show.
Why is a duo whose members are named Allison and Kipyn called Joan and Joni? Because they center their shows around the songs of Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. You might have heard of those two. Allison does Joan and Kipyn Joni. Allison is a "recovering opera singer." That's quite fitting for covering Joan with her belle canto singing style. She says she's glad that Kipyn does the Joni songs as she couldn't handle Joni's guitar parts. Kipyn has been practicing those weird tunings since she was 14. They did the songs you'd expect plus they each did an original. You have to work at not enjoying great songs sung by great singers. They didn't reinvent the songs but they still made them their own; it wasn't a jukebox and it's not about showing off. The singing serviced the songs, not the other way around.
Last up was The Small Wonders are another duo, Cara Luft and JD Edwards, from the great white north, Winnipeg Manitoba. I just gave myself a geography lesson, that's due north of Fargo ND. They are at least the second On Your Radar artist to hail from there, Twilight Hotel, another female/male duo was the first. It must be something in the water, I've loved every female/male duo from Winnipeg. They very much live in my sweet spot, great lyrics, funny patter, and virtuoso musicianship. What's the style? Americana? It's hard to judge that when I'm listening to Charlie Parker. Like most music I love it can't be shoehorned. Let's just call it great. They are headlining a bluegrass festival in England. They don't play bluegrass. The Festival must follow the, if there's a banjo it's bluegrass, rule. American is right. You could call it hard driving folk but that's a subset of Americana. It's not Tom Dooley, their music has an edge; You can hear it being done by a rock band.
This was the optimum sequencing of the show. The only other one that might work is reversing the first two acts so the show would build in intensity but I like this better. Joan and Joni was the mellow movement between the sturm and drang of the first and last.
The show ended a bit after 9:00 and I had another show I had to go to at 9:15; good thing it was close by. The problem is lack of time to stay and talk to the performers and my friends I the audience. I hadn't seen them before the show so I talked a bit to Mira and Scott. I talked to Cara while she was clearing the stage and was able to get a CD from JD.
Then I was off to Berlin NYC to see Rachel Trachtenburg's band Wooing. There's something cool about seeing an artist you've known for two thirds of her life. I think that's right, she's 24 and was 8 the first time I saw her perform with the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. When I came in I looked for Rachel's mother Tina, she played slide projector in the family band, and sat with her. We were the only two people there over 30. It was like living in the Wild in the Streets world. Tina and I are going to get shipped to the concentration camp and kept high on LSD.
Wooing is cognitive dissonance. Rachel is one of the sweetest and most innocent looking people on the planet. You want to hire someone to take home to your mother and get approval you bring Rachel. Much of the band's music is angry punk. She delivers it with a radiant smile. None of this is put on, it's just not caring about people's expectations. They have been doing many shows but all too late for me to get back to City Island before the last bus. That's unfortunate. I was so happy that this worked out perfectly. The only problem was the set was too short. When it was over I said goodbye to Tina and a quick hello-goodbye to Rachel, and headed home. Things worked out so well I made the penultimate bus by a minute.
I almost forgot the last idiot story. That would constitute another idiot story. When i got on the train home i realized that I didn't have my water bottle. I'm hoping that i let it on the table at Rockwood. That means leaving something important there two days in a row. They should have a lost and found just for me. It should be the default destination for anything they find. "Somebody left their camera." "It's probably Gordon's, I'll give him a call."
Rachel Ries and Her Crooked Heart - June 22, 2017
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