Wednesday, October 22, 2014

from darkness

It's a bit of a music and show assemblage these days. We covered the Wilmington / Dennan gig already. I'm slated for Angus and Julia Stone on Saturday night with a friend. We have theatre on Friday night at Signature Theater, and I still need to talk a bit about Brandi Carlile's show
 at the Barns at Wolf Trap a few weeks ago.

Carlile's now complete Pindrop tour gave us her and the 'band' (Twins plus strings) playing small theatres with no amplification. Nothing was plugged in aside from some Edison lights strung about the stage. As she relayed during the show, they'd been thinking about a tour like this for any number of years and finally managed to pull if off - perfectly. There are only a handful of artists with the chops to do this, and by artist I include the Twins (Tim and Phil Hanseroth), and the wonderful string trio they brought along. You have to have serious oomph to play and sing in a room that holds 285 people - it's not for the meek projection. Carlile easily carried the room with her voice.

Last winter we had a power outage that started in the late afternoon, and as the sun was dipping down I was heading out the door to work. I'd gathered some 'hurricane lamp' candles and two flashlights as I was compiling what I needed for my workaday in the wilds of southern Maryland. All these beacons were gathered on the table and I pointed at them as I let the only teenager in the house know that , "There are candles and flashlights here on the table. You may need them as it gets darker. Your mother won't be home for a few hours."

"I don't need them. I want to maintain the integrity of my night vision." Okay pal, good luck with that plan.

This show was a bit like that teenager's dream: integrity of the music. I was in the front row of the balcony and as I checked out the room pre-show, I wondered just how the instruments and voices would carry. Clearly, they had a plan and had done the legwork (or studywork, or booking work...) to know that the 6 or 8 venues on order would provide the sound and clarity needed for the show. It all harkened back to seeing a bluegrass show - in particular, Steve Earle and the Del McCroury Band in London - that first showed me, with amplification in that case, that movement and projection is / was how musicians actually control who or what is out front: moving to and fro the microphone. I felt like I felt like Carlile was telling me that "we don't need amps, we want to maintain the integrity of the music." And that they did. It took half a song to realize that your ears adjust almost immediately to what level of sound is provided. Granted, it won't work in a 1,500 seat venue, but it will work in anything up to 300-400 in a designed venue. The notes and voices were so crystalline and pure that the next thing you realize is that all the electric-y stuff - wires, amps, volume knobs - each take away a little bit of the integrity of music. Don't get me wrong, I'll line up just as quickly for a rampaging Slobberbone show in a bar as I will for Brandi Carlile. But, this was pretty special. Damn, I wish I could sing.

Oh, if you're wondering how the night vision thing ended, it ended in the dark. X got home two or three hours later - illumination lost to the blinded - with a lone teenager declaring, "Where is everyone, I can't see anything! I've been here in the by myself for hours!"

Integrity indeed.

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