Sunday, August 03, 2003
Peter Mayer at the 333 Coffeehouse in Annapolis on July 18, 2003
This Peter Mayer does not tour with Jimmy Buffet - that is a different Peter Mayer. I haven't heard the other one, but this Peter Mayer I hear over and over and over. The first time was at the Center for the New American Dream (CNAD) in 1999. I went to hear his song about the New American Dream, written after Peter read a book written by someone on the Board of Directors for the CNAD. At that time CLAD made the song available to play from their website. I found the CNAD web site after reading about it in Sojourner's Magazine (I don't share all of Sojourner's theology, but I respect their social action perspective). CNAD (and the song of Peter's they featured on their web site for a while) is about simpler and more environmentally friendly living. A radical message - consume less, live more thoughtfully and enjoy life more.
Two friends from my former church, Lynn and Diane, came with me. A folksinger (and how bad could the concert be for free);we knew one song was good. Well we were all quite charmed by all his songs! That is until Peter sang "Holy Now" and then we were blown away. Long past childhood religious practices, there is simple childlike wonder at what is - this is my take on the song today. I bought all 3 CD's even after I learned Holy Now would be on his "next" CD. Talking to Peter afterwards was Ilene, who was asking Peter if he would consider playing a house concert . I immediately gave Ilene my email and asked to be added to their House in the Woods house concert list. Happily they host Peter Mayer once or twice a year.
The 333 Coffeehouse is a very successful Unitarian Coffeehouse. In the middle of summer when traffic is low demonstrating most people are out of town, they get a very full turnout to this good sized UU meeting room (not a sell out but close). The room shows the care the volunteers provide. Each table has a cloth red and white checkered tablecloth with a round glass candle. A volunteer soon lights the candle at our table, at each table. The feature here is music, a variety of different kinds of music each night. But it also focuses on a community created around this unique music experience. The room is a typical UU church with several large glass walls and a wooden ceiling vaulting up into the point of an inverted triangle over the room (other churches would call it a sanctuary.)
As we enter Peter Mayer is ending up his sound check. Christiana Muir (of Hot Soup) greets us. She picked Peter up at the airport today and is going to sing backup harmonies on some of his songs.
Since 1992, the Coffeehouse founder and host, Max Ochs, opens this gathering with a poem. Today, he has grim news and a poem about it. The news concerned his hosting of a free Sat night outdoor concert series at nearby Quiet Waters. 7 years ago, he helped found this Quiet Waters series in a municipal park. They got corporate sponsors, booked all kinds of music, not just folk, and he was the host of the series, reading poems like those by Emily Dickenson and Walt Whitman. But at the last concert he said "Our leader doesn't like reading." He did not use any of these words: Iraq, Bush, President, or bring troops back. However, someone was offended and called the County Executive and the 333 host is host of the outdoor Quiet Waters series no more. Then Max read us his poem about the POTUS (President of the United States). It refers to the POTUS's love of reading from a teleprompter, and the illogical phrasing that can result as he looses his place. (see a copy of the poem at the end of this posting).
Max also regales us with detail of a recent pilgrimage to Mississippi to John Hurt's home (now a like museum in his memory) and an early July 03 concert there remembering John Hurt. As a boy Max went door to door collecting old 78's labeled "guitar and voice" and selling them to Dick Spottsworth of radio fame. Max and his friends were listening over and over to a John Hurt record that they thought referred to Athens. Some years later, someone Max knows was listening to a cleaner record discovered it was "Avalon", looked on a map, found Avalon Mississippi, went there and "found" John Hurt who was still there. (John Hurt thought they were the FBI come to arrest him because they were in suits). Later, meeting John Hurt in Virginia, Max didn't know what to expect in meeting this legendary singer, and he saw a short black man They brought John Hurt to New York City where John Hurt actually stayed with Max for a few weeks. This was an introduction to Max's playing John Hurt's Avalon Blues for us.
The opener tonight is a local singer-songwriter, Bobbi, who has 3 children. She has made one quilt for each child and has also written a song for each one. She sings a song she wrote for one child, and another song, backed up by her husband Rob (I am not sure of their last name).
Then a young woman, Magdalena Chavez, who is in the US studying with a viola teacher here, does 2 classical pieces on the viola.
When Peter Mayer comes on he says, "That was quite a poem Max". His first few songs are from his new CD "Elements".
Awake - Peter makes a unique sound drumming his guitar wood. It is amazing the range of wonderful sounds he gets from his guitar.
Earth Town Square - Christina sings harmony on this one and also the next two:
Ocean Mary, and
Blue Boat Home.
Fall - I have heard this before, but this time I have a new thought - could this also be about finding a way to trust?
John's Garden - an early Halloween Song (preceded by a story of Peter's brother method of celebrating Halloween. A quirky sense of humor seems to run in the family.)
Peter tells us he is working a new a CD, a sort of Christmas, solstice, Holiday set of songs. (Peter wrote a song about finding the dove, about how peace can "fly away" and is hard to keep. He sang this in Maryland back in Feb or March 2003 when all the news was war. This dove song is so gorgeous and moving, I had tears in my eyes and the words and theme haunted me for days. I hope, I hope he includes this song on his upcoming CD but I forget to ask when I see him after the show).
Instead Peter sings the song most recently written which will be on the upcoming CD:
Christmas Morning - What do you wish for, what will you get? Not your typical holiday song. Guarantee is a brand new day. Can you wish for healthy self esteem and people to love?
One More Circle - What will the new year, another circle round the sun, mean?
Holy Now - Mad Agnes and Christina Muir join Peter onstage and the sound of all the voice is heavenly! Or as Paul Harrison, a sing-songwriter sitting beside me says: "Now that's a magical moment" Yes! This song which is not only my favorite, but seems to be everyone's. There is another lovely version of this song with Lea accompanying Peter on the Sugarloaf UU Coffeehouse site. This song begs for lovely accompanyment.
I remember when I first asked Peter to sing it at the Folkal Point the week I met him, and I got the impression he was not sure how it would go over in a commercial venue. It was the one people asked about most afterwards, and I am sure it still is. Most everyone can relate to a sense of ingested childhood dogmas about what is "holy". And now a song that carrys us to an adult spirituality that just finds everything holy now! And who can better tell the tale of the magical transformation from a childish view to a true adult innocence and openness than Peter! All his songs reflect this perspective, but this is the best!
After a very short break - we hear a few songs by the 2 male members of the trio Lola Granola.From Away
About Commuting (ketchup is not vegetable) - humor about what for many of us in this area is a grim reality.
Mad Agnes - Christina Muir who sings with the harmony goddesses "Hot Soup", told me before the concert started that Mad Agnes has gorgeous harmonies. Since that is true of Hot Soup, I was curious to hear this group. They do have a gorgeous sound, and sometime, like Hot Soup, a sense of humor. A fun group, not at all mad, despite their name, but sometimes quirky. Their songs include:
A Manic Depressive Madrigal
May I Be Like Melting Snow
Wild Geese - based on a Mary Oliver song
If You Were Red Tonight (a capella)
When the Wild Dove Flew into My Heart
Let this Be my Prayer
Collaborative band song on falling in love
I Would Know You Anywhere
I like the 333 Coffeehouse for their choices of good performers, and creation and support of a solid audience. I have sometimes left wishing I had heard more from the favorites I came to see. But this venue has a good sized community that support this music, and if they want to hear several cameo performers too and this keeps the community engaged, this is a good thing.
I certainly will be back next month on August 15, since Christina Muir and Eliot Bronson, two of our favorites, are headliners here at the 333.
Used by permission - poem by Max Ochs of the 333 UU Coffeehouse in Annapolis Md
(Max explains that Hokum stands for nonsense, and POTUS stands for prez of the US, an
expression that remoinds him of the phrase " hocus pocus".
Working title: Trouble at Quiet Waters, or Hokum POTUS
I got a call from my friend, the park superintendent
saying I’d made a mistake. It couldn’t be mended, and
Yesterday, I had been unceremoniously yanked from my post.
(For seven years at concerts I’ve been privileged to be host)
As soon as I’d said it, Suzy shuddered in dread
She felt in her gut -- as a host I was dead.
It’s true, I did it, I admit it, I know I was wrong;
I should’ve just read a poem, sung a song.
Yeah I’m an old lefty, a bleeding heart liberal;
You bet I’m a snob who prefers politicians cerebral.
I campaigned for Truman and Adlai and Kennedy
‘Gainst Nixon and Reagan desperately sought remedy
Craving eloquence and inspiration I was comfy
With Gene McCarthy, Mondale, even Hubert H. Humphrey
My heroes were iconoclastic, irreverent types
Bellyachers, bigmouths, gadflies and gripes.
But Rogers, Will am I not, nor Sahl, Mort, or Twain, Mark.
Besides, personal politics has no place in a public park.
Not that what I said was bad, but said on stage
And that I made a citizen mad, fall into a rage.
Here’s what I didn’t say: the words “Iraq”
Or “W.” or “President” or “Bring troops back”
(as one or two a day I grieve lay bleeding),
no: I said our leader doesn’t like reading.
I read a poem by Emily and two by Walt
For I love Leaves of Grass to a fault
As I love our country and the folks in it greatly
and I’m miserable about our government policies lately
But I didn’t say any of that at the concert in the park;
I said something else Saturday to cause this spark:
And what exactly did I say that got me in such
Immediate, irredeemable and unmitigated Dutch?
It wasn’t offhand, or thoughtless, nay, au contraire
I’d been evolving this thought for days with care
And that thought was this: that the illogical phrasing
The strange pauses, that occur while the POTUS is gazing
At the teleprompter, occur during scrolling typeface;
Our reader, our leader, keeps losing his place.
I was explaining, I thought, the causes
Of those pauses so annoying, so irritating.
That’s why I find his speeches so grating.
I still believe things wouldn’t’ve turned out badly
If only the country had voted for Adlai in 1952,
I would not be so blue; in1956, might not be in this fix.
July 16, 2003 - Bill Staines at Baldwin's Station in the eveningI have been wanting to heard Bill Staines for years. I have heard other sing-songwriters cover some of his songs. Many of his are sort of "folk classics". I hear some tonight that I've heard before, but now sung in person by the author of the song.
He came from New Hampshire, but he looks western - with a white beard, blue shirt, jeans and a cowboy hat and boots. He is introduced as one who will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you think.
The songs he sings tonight include:
We are crossing the waters
Nebraska - he excels in story songs
Bridges (intrigued by the bridges in Sophie's Choice and also in Troy NY)
Buffy's Quality Cafe
Child of Mine
"Take off your thirsty boots and stay for a while" - a real classic, great song.
Toast to Another Day
All God's Critters Got a Place in the Band
So Sang the River
The Philosopher's Song (a new one)
Heart of Stone
River Run Down to the Sea
July 16, 2003 Lori Kelley and Cletus Kennelly at UMBC from noon to 1pm
Lori was audience last month when she and I saw Eliot Bronson here, but now she is one of the performers. (See the June 25, 2003 folkfan blog on Eliot's show).
It's a one-hour lunch time concert so it's short, and there is background noise, and we get just a small taste of 2 our favorites. Some other venues offer more of Cletus and Lori, but this will have to do for July.
Cletus and Lori swap songs and sing harmony for each other. Click here to see a picture from this show.
Cletus starts with Gunshy Girl - "if I come to your house would you offer me coffee or tea". Oh Cletus - coffee, tea or thee?
Lori - Same Damn Day - a song about the ups and downs of love.
Cletus - Letter to Olivia
Lori - Safe Tonight - "tomorrow I'll be gone"
Cletus - Carnival Rides - About the ups and downs of love but "I wanna go for a ride"
Lori - Snow is Falling - about PFC Lori Piestewa the first Native American servicewoman to die in combat There is a unique Indian-like beat and great harmonies. This song of Lori's is new to me. Yes!
Cletus - Jessie Knows - written from the perspective of an illegal immigrant who is "in love with the one who holds the flame".
Lori - World Spinning - a song about slowing down.
Cletus - We won't remember the races - what will we remember about our lives?
Lori - OK the movie studio didn't use it, but Eowyn from Lord of the Rings (Return of the King) has a lovely song written by Lori. Listening to it I am immersed in the beauty, danger and romance around this strong, beautiful mythical woman and the magical story.
Another by Lori - We are Unfinished - about breaking up and getting back, over and over with the same person, a song about indecision.
Cletus's Walter Mitty song - A song about the Walter Mitty in all of us.
Lori - It Was a Great Day - "there is no time for ice cream", no time for love-making , a great day NOT!
Cletus - The Gate - is this about what a person is at the essence?
Lori - Like Sea Glass (my husband asks for his one but I would have too. Yes!)
I could hear these songs over and over, and have.
But there are songs they didn't get to. Lori sang some new songs, but I love all her old ones too. And we didn't hear so many of Cletus's - like Cletus's Christopher Columbus song. And we didn't hear his 9/11 song (still our favorite after all the others we heard.) We heard it at the first public performance of this song on 9/15/2001. During that strange week, Cletus give voice to sights, sounds and feelings that were more than all we saw on TV, and voiced what we had no words for. And very soon he made an MP3 of this song available for download from the Washington Post MP3 site. What a gift!
Cletus and Lori had a series of "boat" house concerts on a friend's house boat last fall. This concert at UMBC is not a moonlit Chesapeake night, nor even a Takoma Park Folk in the Attic, it's not even the Greenbelt New Deal Cafe(a politically correct spot for Democrats) but UMBC will have to do, at least until Aug 16th at the Dawson's House concert in Potomac! Or with the incomparable Lou and Peter Berryman, fun incarnate, at the House in the Woods on Oct 4. There are obviously some very discerning staff booking performers for their lunchtime series. Thanks UMBC.