September 2015 Newsletter
Saturday, August 22, 2015
THE EPHEMERAL & THE PERMANENT
A recent New York Times feature "The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn't" rehashes the popular digital economy platitude that recorded music has been reduced to a promotional expense that takes a backseat to the still valuable, communal (and undownloadable) experience that is a live performance. As a troubadouresque sort of guy, you'd think I'd be uniquely satisfied with and well-suited to this allegedly new and more populist paradigm. No longer can those fat cat major label artists sit at home, lounging by their champagne-filled swimming pools! If they want people to hear their music these days, they gotta get out there and tour...we're all folksingers now!
There is something truly dignified, sublime, spiritual and beautiful about live performance. Ever since I wrote my first song, I felt compelled to play it for others and I've spent the better part of my adult life scheming about how I could travel around playing for more of them. But here's the thing: it's hard to draw an audience and it doesn't take much to make a concert feel less than sublime or spiritual. The weather's too shitty (or too nice). The show's too late (or too early in NYC). The so-and-so's are in the playoffs. So-and-so is playing at the Enormodome across town. Sometimes the show can be derailed from the inside out, if I'm under the weather and having a hard time breathing let alone singing. All of these factors make me even more grateful for the ephemeral miracle that is live performance. But I'd hate for that to be the only, or even the main way that people hear my music.
The show will go on as long as I am alive and healthy, but there will come a day when there are no more gigs. In the meantime, I'm further constrained by the fact that I can only be in one place at a time, and I'm trying to avoid the chiche of the divorced, ne'er-do-well musician who is on the road so much that he doesn't know his kids. All this emphasis on touring sometimes makes me feel like we're forgetting the power of listening to recorded music. I've never seen Neil Young play live, but his albums have been constant companions in my life for over 25 years. And The Beatles had stopped touring long before I was born, but I've had a richly rewarding and ever-evolving relationship with their records nonetheless.
It seems to me that the bigger, more interesting issue is the relationship between ephemerality and permanence. Performers (and performances) are ever-evolving, and it can be a powerful experience to hit it right and witness a performer at certain moment in your life when you really connect with what he or she is expressing. But it can be just as powerful to revisit a documented, objectively unchanging piece of work (e.g. a record) as you change over the years. This latter phenomenon is foremost in my mind when I think about my boys listening to my albums. What do they hear when they listen to my records now, and what will they learn about me from my music after I'm gone?
As I start to tour again this fall, I obviously encourage you to catch a show. I'm in a bit of a post-Milltowns and pre-10th record limbo, and I plan on using the time to experiment a bit with different songs and by performing through a single mic with no monitors. If all goes as planned, they will be intimate, raw, soulful evenings, and if I can get enough folks in the room hopefully we'll all come away changed for the better. But I also encourage you to pick up an album you haven't heard yet. You can pay whatever you please, listen for the rest of your life, perhaps taking away different things from the songs with each passing year.
The ephemeral and the permanent, all wrapped together in one night. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.
MP3 of the MONTH: I can't think of any better way to wrap up the season than with a cover of Dave Mallett's "Summer Of My Dreams," one of the sweetest summer songs I know. This is a field recording of sorts, captured with my phone in the stairwell of an old lighthouse keeper's house on Cape Cod. You can hear yelling kids and motor boats in the background, but I like to think that's part of the charm. It's available for free for the month of September on my Bandcamp page. Enjoy!
Sept 11 - Dreamaway Lodge, Beckett MA - 8:30 pm
I've always wanted to play this cool place where Dylan, Baez and the Rolling Thunder Revue hung out in the 70s. I will be hanging out with Zack Hickman, and I'm not sure which one of us will play Dylan and which one will be Baez. But we'll have an assortment of guitars, mandolins, pump organs and upright basses with which to brew our Rolling Thunder.
Sept 12 - Sounding Board Coffeehouse, West Hartford CT - 8 pm
Last time I played here I either ate something weird before the gig or was coming down with something...it was a struggle just to get through the show. Not sure if anyone could even tell, but I'm looking forward to enjoying myself a bit more this time around. Zack Hickman will be there too!
Sept 18 - Deb's Chesham House Concerts, Harrisville NH - 7 pm
House concerts rock and house concerts in beautiful houses tucked away on the backroads of New Hampshire in fall rock even more. Purchase tickets online at TicketStage or RSVP at 603-827-2905 oremail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sept 19 - Music At Sanctuary Hall, Weymouth MA - 8 pm
Oh man, this room sounds amazing. I haven't been here in awhile but you always remember the rooms that give you something back, that make you feel like you've got a choir of souls moving through you. I can't wait for this one, just me, one mic, a bunch of guitars and songs. Let's do this.
Sept 26 - Suffolk Theater, Riverhead NY (with Paula Cole)
ON THE HORIZON:
Oct 2 - Concord NC **opening for Paula Cole
Oct 3 - Holly Springs NC**
Oct 9 - Cambridge MA
Oct 10 - Eastham MA
Oct 17 - Northampton MA