Now Playing: Willie Nelson--"Bonaparte's Retreat"
Summer officially ended last week--on the Gregorian calendar with the autumn equinox (I believe), and around here with the final show at the Madison house. It had been intended for the latter to be a "lantern-lit finale," which was accurate but unexpected in a way, as every previous Madison show had enjoyed singularly gorgeous weather. The night of the twenty-fifth, though, saw fits and starts of precipiation, forcing the show into the garage, with the audience gathered in and around, some with umbrellas, some without.
It arrived at the end of an odd weekend. I worked all day Friday, part of it catering the premiere of Dreammaker at the Michigan Theater. The movie was a local indie, starring, produced and directed by Christine Morales-Hemenway, a frequent customer of ours. It actually went pretty smoothly, and I briefly entertained the notion of checking out Tally Hall at the Blind Pig, but quailed when I saw the size of the line. The next stop was the Old Town, where I found Misty Lyn of Dabenport behind the bar, and I chatted a little from behind... I don't actually rememeber what I was drinking. I ran into Matt Jones on the way out, and could have sworn that Chris Bathgate was in the bar (discovering Sunday that I was right). Saturday, I tried to do what work was possible on the WRAP library--not much as everyone else was getting ready for OutFest, which took place that night. I helped set up a few tables and chairs with Danny, Jeremy, Richard, and the usual shower of people whose names I don't remember. I meant to make it back out there after dinner, but couldn't quite bring myself to move--a pity, as I'd quite enjoyed OutFest the year before.
The show Sunday night was wonderful, with a killer lineup: Actual Birds, Kelly Caldwell, Fred Thomas, and the Great Lakes Myth Society. There was some pretty distinguished accompaniment, too: Chris Bathgate, Aleise Barnett, Scott DeRoche, Greg McIntosh, Natania Monger... not to mention the occasional handclaps and singalongs from the audience. I took a couple of walks between sets and missed a couple of songs. The sets were great, though, all accentuated by the unusual setting. By the time we neared the end, the music and surroundings matched almost perfectly. Dustin, Kelly Caldwell, and Fred Thomas played in the center of the garage, its wooden interior illuminated with a number of lanterns scattered throughout, some as floodlights and some hung from the rafters, that came to resemble a Caravaggio--the singers bathed in a soft glow and the audience a mass of half-lit faces wreathed in shadow. The sight was sumptuous in a way that I'd never known at a show, at the Madison or elsewhere.
The music was first-class, and the climax, with the Great Lakes Myth Society, nothing short of sublime. I'd seen them twice, once at the Taste of Ann Arbor Festival, and once at the Blind Pig. As good as they were on those occasions, I can't easily imagine a better venue for their music and mystique than in the rainspattered twilight of the Madison House garage on a breezy, stormy Sunday night. It was child's play to picture the band as incredibly well-dressed strolling players in some shack in the Old Northwest, playing for dimes or whiskey (or the next flatboat fare), surrounded by curious onlookers. They held us spellbound with "Big Jim Hawkins," "Love Story," and "The Northern Lights Above Atlanta, Michigan," and then knocked us sideways and whichever with a cover of a little known E.L.O. song, "One Summer Dream."
After the smoke cleared, so to speak, I dithered and then decided to join the afterparty at Leopold Brothers, which fractured into about four separate gatherings. It was my first official visit to Leopold's since Election Night of last year, where my stumbling away in a suicidal mood left me with bad memories, all purged by last night. I chatted with Sara, Greg, and Amy, envied the robe worn by Starling Electric's Christian, and had a rather thought-provoking conversation on music with Christian's bandmate John and eventually everyone else. DJ Chuck Sipperley provided a wonderful finishing touch to the evening by granting a drunken request I'd made at one of the Madison House parties by playing "Through My Eyes" by the Creation. I also seem to remember trying to recreate some of the vocal pyrotechnics from Asia's "Heat of the Moment," for which I apologize to everyone affected. Thank you.
I didn't really get a good night's sleep last night, but I didn't care.
P.S. I forgot about Audra Kubat, recently returned New York denizen and lovely singer-songwriter. Her introspective hush made a kind of sawdust snowglobe of the garage, and made the strain to hear her, over the train, well worth it (not that it stopped me from running like a dog to watch the train, which turned out to be a single engine with a caboose). I accidentally surprised her as she practiced in Brandon's shower, by the way, turning on the wrong light to use the facilities. She was fantastic and I can only plead that it had been a long day when I wrote the previous entry. Thanks and God bless, as Red Skelton might say.