Saturday, February 28, 2009

Antifolk Fest, Thursday, 2-26-2009

Thursday night was excellent all around.

Kenny Cambre started things off with some sad songs. I'm wondering if Kenny is really that sad. First he sang a song called My Face, and I'm afraid Kenny has some concerns about his face ("no photograph has ever done me justice"). He also sang a song called Stupid Stories. In the middle of it he told a story about a hungry dog that he rescued while living in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi. He also had one called "Nice to Everybody" which had a line like "I'm so nice to everybody, why you puttin me down?" On some of his songs Kenny played with friends on accordion and violin. I really don't think Kenny is that sad. I think he just needs to get stuff off his chest and he does it in his songs.  I really like Kenny's whole vibe and it was a nice set.

Ben Sadock was next up. Ben had his cute baby Max along with him and Max, who is just getting used to walking, kept heading toward the stage and acting like he was going to climb up while his dad was playing, but every time his mom would grab him just in the nick of time. Ben started off with one of the most optimistic songs I've heard in a long while "Today the news is good news" was the gist of it. He also played a bouncy new song that he had written earlier in the day. "You and Me and Mr. T" and "Bye Bye Baby" were also included (I think that last one he said was inspired by something Max had said). The more I listen to Ben's stuff, the more I appreciate his lyrics. They can be very intricate and clever but don't feel at all forced. This was a solid, entertaining set from Ben.

Although I had no idea what to expect, Dinousaur Feathers really impressed me. The group consisted of Tom of Torn Curtain on bass, Duck on keyboard, Hannah Fairchild on vocals for some songs, and someone I didn't know who was at the center of things on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. The songs were built with all these interesting layers and textures. Each song had a cool, very specific underlying rhythm track played back on a drum machine (that was kept in a suitcase). Duck would punctuate things with these piano stabs or lines. Sometimes the songs would build up to these big moments, with the dynamics stemming mostly from the layering in of more interlocking vocals. All the group members had really nice voices, particularly Mr. Centerstage. I'll have to check them out again to get a better idea of the individual songs, but it was all very original and entertaining, and inspiring, frankly.

Susan Hwang is an amazing force of nature. Some of her songs have these moments of dramatic vocalizing that are hard to believe. Susan played a solo show, and accompanied herself on accordion. She did most if not all of her zombie songs last night as well as "Parking" and what she usually says is her one optimistic song, "Be Yourself." Some of Susan's songs seem at first as if they are about one thing and then surprise you by swinging over or weaving in some other concept that is related but that you don't expect. Like in one of the zombie songs she starts talking about zombies but then the song ends up addressing general existential dread. Well, I guess on one hand you could say that's the point of a good zombie song anyway.

Jeffrey Marsh of the Venn Diagrams played a solo set because Rick, the guy who forms the other part of the duo was ill. Jeffrey can hold the stage on his own without any problem. Jeffrey, who accompanied himself largely on ukelele, has a beautiful voice that can soar to great heights. Considering his skill he could allow himself to overdo it, but he manages to keep things in control. Although he plays a range of songs, I appreciate Jeffrey's selections in the show-tune-y area He sang The Man That Got Away Thursday which is a wonderful Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin song and he also did Secret Love, which Google tells me was a Doris Day hit from the film Calamity Jane. Among others he sang a song that I think was inspired by his love for Scott Bakula.

For some reason I never connected with Ben Sheperd during his original time on the scene whenever that was, maybe a year ago or longer. But at some point I came across this song of his called Bootsy Billade on MySpace and was captivated by it. It's a terrifying song in a way, but the line "you never really know about the people you know," is very true. Ben's songs sometimes deal with characters who have darker sides to them or find themselves in difficult situations. But it's rich stuff. People were very much drawn in last night. I'm glad he's on the scene again.

Mr. Patrick started with a funny story about Frito Lay. He passed around a bag of his favorite Frito Lay chips and read a letter the company had sent him after he contacted them in concern about the problems he was having locating the product. He also told a story set at the Indianapolis 500 in which Rick and a cheerleader friend from college stayed in a hotel room that had been bugged by the FBI. Neither Mr. Patrick or his cheerleader friend knew that the FBI had listened in on their exploits until they noticed the winks and nods from the agents when they saw them the next day. In the end the story also had a lot to do with Mr. Patrick's relationship with his father, but you'll have to hear the story yourself sometime to get to that point. There also were tales of drinking bouts with Russian friends and meeting the Dali Lama. Rick has a compelling voice and an easy style that draws in the audience. His stories are always interesting.

Schwervon is a great rock band. They played several selections off their latest album Low Blow. At one point Matt broke a string and Nan took over with a cool song about "an elephant in the room." Matt also took a moment to tell a funny story about a recent prostate exam given by a sensitive doctor. It was a great Schwervon set, and I danced a little.

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