Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Sunday is the day people in my faith tradition typically go to religious services. I want to know why I am living, what life means, how to be fully human, and how to experience the transcendent. Earlier today, visiting someone I have known most of my life, we talk about retirement, and how long our parents lived and how much time we may have, the typical mid-life crisis questions.
I go for answers Sunday evening. In just the first part, LisaBeth pays homage to a saint that has gone before us, and denounces a sinner. But they don't call it worship here, they are from a different faith. They call it a Panzer house concert in the folk tradition.
LisaBeth starts us down a path, but Vance's part is the ineffable, the part that words can't express. More later on all that I cannot say about this. But one of my friends said, they are a good compliment for each other.
The Panzer's living room can seat 70 people. They book great performers, some who also play at Wolf Trap, Ramshead and the Birchmere (a venues that seats 500.) It is not just the food that brings me (though food is also a religious experience for me). 15 minutes after doors open, the warm homemade berry pie is gone but it's ok because I get a small sample, and people are still bringing in their optional contributions of chocolate desserts and other snack foods.
Before the show starts, I ask my friend Tomy Wright if he has retired yet. He witnesses about his life transformation. The answer is yes and no. He went back as a contractor to help finance production of his CD. I hear some from his handheld CD player during the break. He has advance orders. It turns out he is not the only performer in the audience, and that is typical here too.
In introductions, Steve shares a new vow. He notes, in greeting people before introducing the first act, that usually the Panzers host one concert a month. This however is the 2nd one for June (and they did 2 in April and 2 in May.) It is a lot of work, and they keep vowing to stick to just one a month. We'll see how many months this vow holds.
June seems to be a comedy month with DaVinci's Notebook earlier and now Vance. The Panzers's policy is to wait 2 years before a repeat booking, even when they know they really really want a performer again, so look for DaVinci's Notebook in 2005.
Opening is LisaBeth Weber, accompanied by a bass player Maggie Marshall who adds lovely vocals while strumming an upright bass which is much taller than Maggie.
LisaBeth Weber's Set List (some are first lines, or otherwise title guesses)
Front Porch world goes up, world goes down -this is dedicated to Maggie and Jimmy Marshall
Cross the Water - I Went to Ellis Island with my Dad -this song is for her Dad and is on her current CD, Farmhouse Sessions
LisaBeth has a new, almost ready CD too; hopefully it will be available in time for the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (FRFF). The new CD is titled The Almost Live Sessions. Both are available from her website,
Car Song- I Hope You are Happy in my little blue (some kind of car). She wrote this the day her car was stolen. We get into her indignation and sense of hurt and humor. LisaBeth invites us to join her in singing 2 lines of the chorus but with each chorus, we insist on singing more and more until at the end we are along with the entire chorus. It is fun to feels so indignant about the creep, excuse me, thief. This song could fit any situation where I have felt ripped off. Yes, we do need to talk back, if only in song. LisaBeth says this is the best audience participation ever.
Evergreens - written for a lovely independent film named Christmas in the Clouds we should all see when it is hopefully eventually released. The 2 women's harmonies are lovely, and I enjoy seeing them look at each other as they sing "so you will never be alone."
Precious Jewel - This is for Dave Carter who died a year ago in July. LisaBeth wrote this while preparing to go to the July Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.
Someone in the audience releases a huge sigh.
This song brings back my shock when Karen told me the news at the Mofolk festival last year. It was so sad and he was so young (that is he was years younger than me) Is there comfort in this song too for my own mortality which I was feeling so keenly earlier today?
Throughout the concert, I hear several questions and comments from a lovely woman sitting to my left, who has been to the Panzers a few times before, but is new to me. She now wants to know all about Dave Carter - how he died, and old he was. The artists are tuning, as I hurriedly whisper I compress facts - I say 50 yrs (which is almost right, he was 49 but almost 50) and massive heart attack jogging (which is also almost right, I think his heart attack was right after jogging), and then add, that he had just toured with Joan Baez. I think but don't add that I heard they were exhausted whirlwind touring, in a year when everything was breaking for them and they were just making it "big". I realized that she doesn't know it is not "he" but "they" and write down the URL for the Dave and Tracy web site and give it to her, hoping since she is interested that she will find information about David's life partner who is continuing to sing and tour, Tracy Grammer.
The Current Hollow Piece of Sky - this is not something LisaBeth intended to write about. She wrote it on 9/12/02 - one year and one day after 9/11. Another loud sigh from some audience member.
Jump Right In - There's a Window they call Opportunity - a new song. A front row helper holds a paper with the words up for LisaBeth, though LisaBeth "knows some of it by heart".
I find this song very lively folk wisdom, and quite fun.
Steve comes up to introduce Vance, and tells us that the Baltimore Sun is here taking pictures. Why do the Panzers do this concert series? Frankly because they couldn't get talent like this to sing in their living room without the audience! Introducing Vance, Steve says even if Vance doesn't sing we'll still have a good time. I think people must be wondering what he means.
Steve, about the Baltimore Sun. Ok, US News and World Report , and Southwest Airlines Magazine did articles on the Panzer house concerts, but after the local paper, Columbia Flyer, did one, it started getting harder to reserve a seat in your house. Larger local and national media are catching on to house concert story. You book performers 2 years in advance, but as audience, we'll need yearly subscriptions to get in if interest picks up much more.
Vance tells us why he likes house concerts - something about wardrobe options, and the distance from his room to the concert hall.
The couple in the front row who held the words up for LisaBeth tell Vance that they saw him in Massachusetts at the tandem bicycle event. Vance has some things to say about tandem bicycles, and then turns to reflect on the couple. They saw him before and still choose to sit in the front row? This should be a clue to the audience, about what is to come.
See complete lyrics to most of Vance's songs on his web page at: http://www.vancegilbert.com/music.shtml
Unfamiliar Moon - he has so much passion the woman next to me murmurs.
Why Are We So Cruel
A woman with red hair in the first row is looking up with her head bent back since she is short and sitting. and Vance, standing in front of her, is so tall. She does not move from this position except at the break. Maybe she is very flexible and will not have a stiff neck tomorrow..
Eliza Jane - OK as this song ends Vance morphs into singing another song. When he stops singing, he gets a question.
What happens to Eliza Jane someone yells out. Is this an innocent Vance newbie? Someone so pulled into the story they are afraid that he hasn't finished the song?
Folks this is not a concert where you can sit passively and view the performer. What is it with Vance I keep wondering? I find myself writing on my set list notes that he is up there like a Folk Music Prince, commanding the room. Is this accurate? His larger than life presence and larger than life voice take us where he goes. (On a dare he later does a song a capella and the room hums, dances and survives). The passion he emotes in song and word bounces off the walls, vibrates within us, and carries us up, down and sideways. It is not emotional whiplash; I would not say that because I don't like roller coasters and this is not harsh or overly jarring. This is an impossible concert to comment on; it is beyond comment. My head is spinning so, I miss the running joke about the number of therapists in the room. And I will not even begin to comment on that whole thing about your nephew's picture sent through email.
We think we are audience but to Vance we are the show, we have what he will create with. Don't speak up at his show if you don't want to become part of the act. So the innocent questioner gets a response that becomes a rant, expanding to include speculations on black folks at a folk concert, and references to Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell and how it is to live in a world run by black republicans. But then Vance exclaims he has never seen a more racially integrated folk audience. In addition to an unusual black representation in this folk audience, there are even Asian looking people sitting in the back, and this is in Jewish people's home. Metaphors flow like a river in Vance's rants. Rants - I am not sure that is the right word, but what else can I call them? Anyway this part ends with the vision of something about race sinking into the sea.
Takin It All to Tennesee - OK, every one who has seen Vance before knows this story. Through folk music Vance met Ellis Paul, a friend Vance can say anything to and not be judged, a rare male friendship. But when Ellis decided to move to Tennessee, Vance got mad, and as folks at this show know by now, when you provoke Vance a storm of passionate creative energy will flow your way. Ok, Vance would say it is loving and passionate energy.
And I do think to truly see others in the moment and dialog in the moment is the most profoundly loving thing humans do. A Vance dialog is totally engaging. But this concert is not for those who hope to sit as observers with their feelings checked at the door. This man opens his heart and his passion and demands a response. This audience is open and responsive and having a great time.
You Can Go Now - The story with Ellis Paul continues. Ellis wrote and recorded a song about knowing Vance, and Taking It All to Tennessee was Vance's fair quid pro quo (these are my words - he said it differently). But he asked that they take a moratorium on songs about each other - until Ellis, who had moved back to Boston, then decided to move to Maine, a fairly "white" state, and a house so large Vance got lost in it. So this is a song about not writing a song (yeah, the woman beside me says, like Jerry Steinfeld, writing a show about nothing)
Listening to this song, for once the room is totally still and quiet.
Pablo's Lights -
At times I know another word is coming in the song, and I am on the edge of my seat anticipating it.
OK - Vance says it is break time, he calls it community time. But not quite.
Reba tells him she'll see him in New Bedford this coming weekend, and he goes off on how some big name performer got famous for forgetting gigs and not showing up.
He warns people sitting next to Vic and Reba that they sitting next to "dyed in the wool folkies". But then he starts in about people who like jazz and Miles Davis. I can't write about what comes next. I hope the Baltimore Sun reporter has more skill then I do in covering this evening. Vance's singing, all his expressions in song, thought and word, have a stream of consciousness quality at times. Like where is this man going, and what personality will emerge in the next sentence, in the next phrase? Did I hear Gollum from the Lord of the Rings? And then, he is singing again to show he knows how to do jazz or what is it? (I confess I am jazz illiterate).
BREAK and ANNOUCEMENTS
I talk to man who has a blog on woodworking, and his son has a blog on knowledge management and music. I hope he sends me their urls. He tells me his site has titles and built in indexed search - options I need. Their blogs are on Radio (http://radio.userland.com/), a better software in some ways then the free/easy one I am using from Blogger a subsidiary of Google (http://www.blogger.com/about.pyra) . My dream is to learn enough to move to Movable Type which is full-functioned but for techies (http://www.movabletype.org/) I have so much to learn.
After the break, there are announcement first. The 3rd annual Susquehanna Music and Folk Festival near Havre de Grace will be Mother's day weekend in 2004.
The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival is July 24 to 27, 2003 in the Berkshires in east-central New York State. The couple in the front row who Vance teased gets the give-away pair of tickets. They seem excited. Vance will be there (as usual) along with so many other great performers.
There are so many other venues in this area. I space out during the announcements. I am already aware of more concerts than I can attend. I used to complain about nights when I want to be 4 places at once (like the 4 enticing concert options on Friday 7/18, and the 3 plus on Sat, 7/19) From my higher self, I am now trying to be grateful that there are so many options we can all go somewhere on a Friday or Saturday night; venues do have space limits. But my lower self is still selfish and unhappy when I have to make difficult choices. And then there are the wonderful options on nights like Wednesdays at Vic's Music Corner and/or Baldwin's when I have work the next day! Can I keep an attitude of gratitude?
VANCE's SECOND SET -
I think he is going to start, but he doesn't. People around me let me know that Vance is staring at me! He notices I was writing a set list and he accuses me of taking down all his best stuff. "Vance, like I am really going to be able to capture what you are saying and then go perform. I am a shy writer, just pure fan, and people would pay for me to not sing." This is what I would say, if I could think fast. Instead I must be turning very red (which happens from time to time at this stage in my life), and Vance asks people around me to fan me.
Icarus by Night
A song whose name I missed
Charleen - I have heard this song before, but I literally feel a chill at the end of this song. A song couldn't get more serious.
There is more talk. Vance thinks the term folk career is an oxymoron, but admits to such middle class pursuits now as walking a large poodle, and a particular kind of lawn mowing. He acknowledges David Wilcox, as an inspiration for years and a friend, a musician who in attending this concert is on a "busman's holiday", one of the great acoustic songwriters of all time, and finally as kind of like John Gorka but taller. Yes Vance, you are so generous to other performers.
David Wilcox sits in front of me after Vance comes on and is decidedly learning forward the whole show. I sense David is really into this show too. There may be a mutual admiration society between these 2 great, mesmerizing performers. At some point Vance sort of sings/mimics David's song Eye of the Hurricane.
On the way out, the woman to my left tells Vance, I was so relieved when you sang, because when you talked I was just exhausted from laughing so hard. Vance seems pleased to hear this. Vance says he didn't know this evening was going to be so funny. Like somehow he thought somehow he was going to do a serious folk show and just sing his songs?
Is this fun too much of a good time, setting the bar too high for first-timers? One friend of a friend tells me her friend said "she says she loved the concert and said any more she would go to could never measure up!!!!"
He is reflecting on TV shows when he was growing up, and his father's TV habits. How does Vance remember the details he does, including the names of various show, their weekday and time slots? And Vance I do agree that you are funnier than Eddie Murphy ever was.
Waiting for Gilligan.
Vance acknowledges other performers in the audience - Cindy a great cellist, and
Patty Prasada-Rao, Tom Prasada-Rao's sister, and a wonderful performer in her own right.
The joking with audience goes on. Vance teases us about wanting to keep him away from our daughters, and some woman boldly observes: "You could help me make a daughter." There is silence. David Wilcox observes this is probably the first time ever that Vance has been speechless.
Which woman said that? Sounded like someone sitting across the aisle from me. Surely not my co-worker, or the woman from my meditation class. Surely not the woman wearing a Vance Gilbert tee shirt from one his shows 11 years ago. Maybe someone else, maybe from a few rows behind them.
Ten Thousand Skies - a new song
Let Me Know - Well Vance saves my favorite song for last. This songs decides me, I have to have his new CD.
I know my close friend came tonight because she was moved by the relatively short and subdued set she saw Vance do in a workshop stage at the Susquenhanna Arts and Music Festival . I wonder what she thinks about tonight and she tells me, "Vance Gilbert is quite an experience. It was refreshing to laugh so hard and enjoy good music at the same time."
As I wait in line to get my CD signed, I see the Panzer living room being transformed back. Chairs are folded and stacked away, and pieces of furniture return to traditional living room places.
What happened here between the profound, deep words and feelings from Vance's songs, and then the rib-splitting laughter? Was I here totally? Is this what now is?
I also find that reflecting, journaling about the event is, like the event itself, a helpful spiritual discipline. Can transcendence only happen in the now? Was I totally present in the now moment last night? Does that make LisaBeth and Vance my gurus? And the incredible audience - can a group be a guru, or just, as Vance said, a community? What can I learn from LisaBeth about heart? What can I learn from Vance about being human, being so full within myself, that I spillover? What can I learn about a force of character that draws others into a dialog about passions, love and fears which really all come from the same human experience ocean? And my own responses, are they teaching me?
My vow today - to write less, contemplating, less is more.