Thursday, August 12, 2010

Antifolk Fest, Wednesday, August 11, by Guest Correspondent, J. J. Hayes

Our guest correspondent J. J. Hayes was on the scene at Sidewalk for the Antifolk Fest acts Wednesday. Here is his report:

By J. J. Hayes

Here is my humble stream of consciousness report about Wednesday's doings:

Clinical Trials (a/k./a Somer) was on at 7:00, and I haven't seen her do straight up acoustic set in a while but she was totally in the face of every song she did and her own face was expressing some kind of pitch perfect raw emotion in just about every song. She also snuck in a cover of She-Bop, which led to a discussion outside about other songs which have the same subject matter, or at least apparently do. Like Jackson Browne's "Rosie" and the Who's "Pictures of Lily." I therefore missed Dan Killian's set and cannot comment. Soce The Elemental Wizard -- first time I ever caught a full Soce set, if 1/2 hour be a full set. I cannot complain about a man who will free style Jon Berger's suggestion to rap about Thursday on a Wednesday, and in fact enjoyed the whole thing immensely. After Soce was Barry Bliss, which is where the evening got going for me. Barry did what may be called a laid back set. Barry himself commented that his 1/2 hour ended just as he was felt he was hitting stride. Yet there was something really important, it seemed to me, about a non-intense Barry Bliss set, just a man simply laying down a classic song like "Joan of Arc' (I mean Barry's Song of that title is a classic, not tht he covered Leonard Cohen's Joan of Arc) in a not so crowded but darkened candlelit venue. Dudes, I wish to cry to the rest of the world, you are missing something exceedingly special. Barry's relatively new American Dream should be heard by many people. He finished with his song about how fame is not going to be something most performers on this scene are ever going to be playing arenas with tons of groupies and limos. That song may have been written to someone who really thought they were going to get famous from the music or perhaps from the songwriter to himself, in any case, done in the rather laid back non-angry manner it was so matter of fact in this performance, that one could simply accept the state of affairs that this is not a place for fame and yet it is so artistically compelling on an evening like this that one thinks you know this is as important as any moment in rock and roll history except no one is going to be talking about, because it is not part of the mainstream conversation. Rav Shmuel was next, he did at least three love songs and the tip jar was being passed before we even settled into the set but here's the thing, oh reader, you must hear Rav's new song, his final song which I think he forced into the line-up beyond the two songs after tip jar rule. It is called Being and Becoming and it is I declare required listening. This song had people listening intently and applauding strongly. I had my eyes on Sam James who seemed entranced by it. Sam was up next and somehow coming off of Rav's final song his whole set seemed particularly compelling as if he took some of that existential force from Being and Becoming and imbued that alternative mythical world that Sam James and the songs of Sam James inhabits with urgency. It started me thinking that some singers sing from their particular world (as in Somer, Bliss and Shmuel) but others seem to be exploring a world most of us have thought to be long gone. But these old ballads and this old style, this world which predates even the old weird America, and is more like the old weird English Scots border, has many corners yet to be explored and James is like someone who the longer he stays in this far away country which is really just behind you and to the left out of the corner of your eye becomes more and more fluent in the language and knows places only the natives know about, and is willing to share them in a dark room in the east village. And then Turner Cody. Cody's set (with Spencer Chakedis on mandolin for a number of songs) was easily one of the the best sets I have heard in a while. It was fairly impeccable. Where Sam James was coming from the mist covered green woodlands on the borders of some ancient place, cody was coming out of dryer climes. It was like the southern European mainland, greek island or old desert west, to James's british islands. Cody, like James, is willing to use old poetic synactical strangenesses without blinking and fluently. Listening to Turner Cody is like listening to someone who really believes that that old poetic diction, that worldview of the old ballads, can give us insight into a world where people run around driving Ferraris, and he ends up convincing you that the old weird world never really left us. Or even that the present world is weirder now then you imagine and is utterly capable of being mapped onto the older pathways.

Didn't get to see The Relatives or Drew Blood.

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