Now Playing: Aimee Mann--"Going Through The Motions"
After wavering a little, I decided to go to the Sari Brown show at Espresso Royale on Main last night. I had come close to not going, but then changed my mind again. This habitual indecision seems to be working out very well as a strategy for having a great time, as that was what eventually transpired. Privileged to witness one of the four or five best shows I've seen since I moved here, I also got to thinking about how important music and art are to me.
It was the partial culmination of a highly musical weekend. Friday night, I toddled along to the Dreamland Theater for Jess Rowland's latest play, So Long, Differently Thinking Persons. On arrival, I learned from Misha that it was actually live-action and not puppets, which certainly made for a change. "Surprise!" The play itself featured Naia Venturi as an experimental composer trying to evade the clutches of the increasingly dominant corporate world. Lots of weird tunes, ending with an unparalleled tableau of Deadre (Kate Ritter) using a staple gun to hold at bay a host of corporate stooges (including Tom Barton in drag as "Janet," the former Lithuanian basketball phenomenon). Like most of the Dreamland repertoire, it was a mix of imaginative whimsy and left-wing sentiment, the latter of which, I have to admit, veers dangerously near cliche. It's important for me to remember, though, that it probably seems cliched only because I live in Ann Arbor. Also, the "powers that be" don't seem to be paying attention to satire these days, and there's really nothing else to be done than to keep repeating these messages of sanity in the hope that they'll be heard.
ERC that Saturday night was packed--I'd never seen it that full, although in fairness, I'm usually there at about seven in the morning. Familes and friends, parents and children, clergy and laypeople, all had come for the show. Sari's pastor Tracy led the opening act, usually called "Mannafest," but tonight, due to a missing band member, dubbed "Bob, Tracy and Kyle's Band of Awesomeness," and quite excellent they were too, mixing covers from Sheryl Crow (good Sheryl Crow) and Norah Jones with original material. Sari, with her friend Andrea on cello, took the stage afterward and just rocked the place down, belting out song after song, talking with the kids in the kind of nursery-school mosh pit that came into being before the stage, talking about her music... the girl knows how to put on a show, no doubt about it. The ambience was startlingly different to my usual show attendances (generally the Blind Pig or the Madison), reminiscent in many ways of Cafe Momus back in Akron. Sari played a lot of tunes from her CD, For What Is The Journey (excellent, I've found), which she unhesitatingly identified as "spirituals" (one of which, "Jesus' Waltz", made me think of when John Donne wrote occasionally creepy love poems to the Almighty). As many of you know, my feelings on Christianity and organized religion in general are a little complicated (partially explained here), but I think it's very admirable that she isn't afraid to put her beliefs out there in such a manner. Something about association with Methodism, I think, is very appealing and congenial to the arts, maybe having to do with its grass-roots origins. When I think of Sari and her music, and my Methodist pastor half-aunt who's turned into a major progressive badass, doing spiritual work among Latino service workers in Chicago, barely a hundred miles away, I've got to think John Wesley's smiling down from heaven. Awesome work, all of you.
I've had a lot of opportunity, too, to think about how I relate to music. The shows I've recently attended in this town have been primarily (a) garage or 60s-influenced music, (b) folk or alt-country, or (c) both. This weekend reminded me that it's good to break the mold once in a while, and that musical or artistic taste have little to do with genuine personal worth. It also has to do with what's playing at various local venues, too, but the issue of personal choice comes into it as well. Never, for instance, did I believe that I'd be listening to anything this weekend that could be considered "Christian" (although those parameters can stretch pretty thin, if you look at U2 or Marvin Gaye). Case in point: At Karen's wedding reception, the wretched DJ somehow managed to avoid playing something on which both Karen and I strongly disagreed (which, now that I look back on it, was quite a feat--he should be congratulated for that, if nothing else). Now, Karen's one of the people I love and admire more than anything else in the world, but she likes Nickelback!!* In sum, I think that the value I place on artistic taste can sometimes get a little exaggerated, and I need to watch that.
Sorry about the post title, though, but it was allegedly uttered by Tim McIntire in American Hot Wax (1978), the Alan Freed cult biopic I've never seen. That made me think of human speech and dialogue, and the possibility that there have been sentences uttered that will never come forth again. Overheard in the Old Town Bar at approximately 6:45--"I don't like alligators with swords." Classic.