Sunday, August 30, 2009

Antifolk Fest, Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hey-Even though I got way behind in writing up the Antifolk Fest, I still plan on catching up as much as possible. I also was out of town for a while and missed a couple of Open Mic nights, but I'll be back in the swing of things soon.

Lots of good stuff Saturday, 8/15, but the revelation to me was Emily Einhorn. Somehow I never connected with her material during the time she was a Sidewalk regular--maybe a year or more ago. But this time I noticed the many interesting and affecting components to her songs. More about Emily when we get there. Saturday wrapped up the Festival for me as I had to leave town early the next morning. I kind of paced myself better this time and didn’t force myself to make every show if something else came up. I’m sure I missed some good stuff but also felt less burnt out by the end of it all.

I came in at the tale end of Carl Creighton’s set but really only got to hear him do his big number, Minnesota, which I’ve always liked.

Brian Speaker did a nice set mixing some of his latest stand alone songs with a couple tunes from his space opera and a cover of a Barry Bliss tune. Rachel Devlin sang with Brian on the song about how “if you really want to taste wine, you got to taste it from someone else’s lips.” I’ve heard the song several times, but this was a particularly beautiful rendering of it. Brian and Rachel melded really nicely. Brian mentioned how he’d wished he’d done a better job on the Barry Bliss tune that he’d covered at Wednesday’s Barry Bliss tribute. Brian seemed genuinely down on his previous performance, but I thought it had gone just fine and enjoyed the song. Brian played one of his most charming songs, the one about looking for a partner--who must be beautiful and talented and sing alto harmony and soprano leads--and be awkward and reliable just like..... He also sang another one about being like a Saturday morning cartoon. Lots of good ideas in Brian’s songs. He finished up with The Bird--which Amos requested and so Brian called Amos up to sing it with him.

Emily Einhorn’s songs seem mostly to be written from the points of view of a variety of different characters. For example, she said at one point something along the lines of: “when I was drinking a lot of whiskey I had an alter ego in a relationship with Tom Waits and this is a song she wrote.” Earlier in the evening she played one called The Office, all about the torment of The Office, and The Boss, juxtaposed with the singing of a little love song when the character in the song goes home. The songs have interesting melodies and although at first they seemed a little unstructured, gradually the form would emerge as Emily worked her way through them. Some of them had an edge of darkness to them, focussing on people who are dissatisfied or struggling. Emily made good use of dynamics and her vocals had interesting inflections. It will take some more listening to fully absorb these pieces, but they are rich and interesting and I’m looking forward to exploring them.

Erin Regan is a fabulous songwriter and performer. Her songs are mellow in style but deeply moving. The other night, among many others, she played her beautiful but mysterious song Building Jumper, and Iodine, in which she observes the ball of sweart rolling down the cheek of her bedmate and then sings “we are just balls of sweat, increasing and decreasing speed.” I’ve come to love Erin’s song and her voice over the years and continually wonder why she isn’t super famous.

Jaymay--who was a Sidewalk regular a number of years ago, was back for the Antifolk Fest and with a band including a stand up bass and another guitar player (who also played piano on one or two songs). I originally saw Jaymay at Sidewalk around the time I first started hanging out there in 2004. She’s not been around all that much since then as she’s built a following and a career, but I was glad to see her back recently and especially for the Antifolk fest. She played a couple of very catchy songs that have been rumbling through my brain ever since hearing them the other night. One is this love song called One May Die So Lonely, and the other, in which she lists all kinds of items that she sees in front of her, has the same sort of propulsive rhythmic feel. She also played a beautiful but sad song called Song for Paul, as well as some older love songs like Sea Green See Blue, and Gray or Blue. Jaymay’s strength is in the intersection of her performance and songwriting. It’s hard to pinpoint but there is something about the mixture of her words, music, voice, and playing that really makes her stand out. Sometimes I wonder if she edges a bit too close to catchy accessibility but in the end I think she usually rides that border nicely, veering back to more angular and interesting territory before things get too sweet. Jaymay was talking about how she has no money and was considering moving to New Orleans (not a bad place to go in my book). But she brought a nice crowd to Sidewalk. The room was filled with her fans during her set.

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