Thursday, October 11, 2007

What kind of week am I having? Yesterday, on an errand in Oakland, my brakes started inexplicably smoking. When I took the wheel off, there was still plenty of pad left. It seems fine now, but ate up the better part of the day. After that, I was driving on a different errand and saw my friend, M, who is deaf. I beeped at her and then got miffed that she didn't wave back.
Let me repeat that.
I got offended because my friend who is deaf didn't wave when I beeped.
I've got to get more sleep.

There’s an old cliché that a rising tide lifts all boats. Certainly that seems to be the theory behind Applefest (although it’s never immediately clear how I, as a resident of downtown Franklin benefit, although picking up trash out of my yard on Sunday night, it as pretty clear what the costs are).

But, that doesn’t seem to the case with Applefest and the arts. Would the Applefest pooh-bahs be opposed to flyering for a show? Probably, but they would be foolish to do so; the object of festival based-tourism has to be to get and keep people here to spend money on food that isn’t eaten off a stick and for using the hotels for more than the bathrooms in the lobbies.

With that in mind, I expected Justin Parson’s Brother Bean show to be packed. Beyond just the fact that he's a superior singer-songwriter, the sheer population density just 8 miles away should have meant some spill over. And there was a respectable crowd of about two dozen, but I was expecting wall to wall.(leading me to believe what I have often said – that Applefest patrons come in, buy tchokes and drive back home). Pearls before swine indeed.

In fact, in anticipation of a crush, I almost didn’t come – I’m still taking cold medicine and it leaves me with the ability to actually feel the words as they slowly develop in my head and then spill out, which is pretty cool overall, but not real conducive to having or understanding any sort of conversation.

Parson's shows are lunchbucket. You don't get a lot of frills. Just an enormously talented guy and his guitar. I'm reminded of the index card Raymond Carver kept propped on his desk reading, 'No Tricks".

Parson's was one third of the Americana group Big Jack Earl which has since split with the members going there separate ways. And, although Parson performed quite a few Big Jack Earl songs like “Charlotte’s Web”, "Windows Open” and one of my personal favorites “Monster” (which Parson reworked slightly into something like a talking blues style), his musical style has changed dramatically since his time in Big Jack Earl, which is a good thing.

He's older, his life is more complicated, his worldview perhaps a little darker. It shows up in the writing. Parson is angry in the very best way. Not in a "no-one-understands-me-listen-to-me" 30ish pop punk star but in a Billy Bragg/Wood Guthrie "Jesus Christ for President" sort of way. A way that forces you to think about the political constructs behind, life, love, and music in a way that most of us would prefer not to.

While Parson complained that the cold left him sounding as if he “. . . had an elephant seal up [his] nose”, it was clear that he was having a good time on stage. Parson has an easy time with his audience – his patter describing how and why the songs were written sounded natural and non contrived and the audience reacted likewise. The concert had families, children wandering around and playing Lincoln Logs while their parents sucked down lattes and listened to the music.

Parson seemed shy about shilling his goods (note to artists: Don't be. We have to eat to. there's no shame in suggesting that someone who came to your show might want to by your album as well) and, by the end of the night, was using the Radiohead method of selling his back catalog that night – just pay what you feel is appropriate. Ironic in itself , because I was drawn back to a conversation Parson and I had last summer - I mentioned that I hadn't actually physically purchased a disc since The Old Hats - I much prefer to download and Parson felt just the opposite - like a happier Freud, he felt an integral part of the artist-fan relationship was the exchange of bills for product. I'm wondering now if this new attitude means a downloadable album in his future.

The set list was well-thought out while seeming spontaneous - when I teased him about his set list running to two columns on notebook paper he joked back that it was simply every song that he knew. The new work went over well with the audience and he finished the night with a a well thought out (and received) cover to finish out the night – John Prine’s "Sam Stone”.

Parson appears at Jamestown Ny's Labyrinth Press Company(12 E 4th St in Downtown Jamestown! ) Saturday, Oct 13th

Friend Justin Parson on MySpace.

Bruce Squared plays Seneca’s Brother Bean this Saturday from 7-9 pm. No cover.

A Voice like Rhetoric w/ Bangarang!, the Wonder Years, Unit 731 and Monument the Ghostplays the OIl City Elks Club Satutrday at5 pm $7 cover

Nick Mitchell at Empty Jug Productions needs a rehearsal/performance pianist for the show Jekyll&Hyde @ the Academy theater in Meadville PA. This is a paid position. Rehearsals are Mon-Fri 7-10. The show opens Oct 26 and runs Fri & Sat for 3 weeks with matinees the first 2 Sundays. Call (814) 347-724-5953.

Writer's Digest provides some tips for promoting your book in the web, although much of it is applicable to any DIY project.

The Derrick says that nobody has put forth an offer on the Franklin Club, which isn't entirely true. I offered them an attractive sum for the parking lot, but they wouldn't consider selling it separately. I get the idea that fix is in for a pre-chosen bidder at the upcoming auction.
In honor, then, of backroom deals everywhere, a poetic break:

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us--don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know. How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

The Pittsburgh region finds itself in the middle of a regional magazine boom.

This weekend's opening of The ToonSeum Gallery, a new cartoon gallery space in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.

The Photographer’s Rights is a downloadable guide that is loosely based on the Bust Card and the Know Your Rights pamphlet that used to be available on the ACLU website. It may be downloaded and printed out using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

The National Book Awards were announced yesterday.

Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Did somebody blow a whistle and decide that mid-October should be some kind of ad hoc, free-floating film fest?

Grizzly Bear plays The Andy Warhol Museum (117 Sandusky St., Pittsburgh) with Beach House. Tonight at 8 p.m. $15. All ages. 412-237-8300.

The Erie Times-News has abandoned their ridiculous registration requirement for the website, which means I can bring you gems like this pottery show review:

Whether or not crystalline structures are a universal mental construct, their visual power cannot be underestimated, as any proposing would-be groom can tell you. Crystals exist in a space somewhere between the natural and the artificial, or rather the unreal.

and then ends with:

You'll have to buy one to find out.

Hoooo-doggies! It's like they made one of the child reviewers on Reading Rainbow attend graduate school in the 80s. Ironically, the show (at the gallery, although Reading Rainbow pretty awesome too) is fabulous and accessible, but you wouldn't know it from this review.

Speaking of reviews, the NYTimes takes a look at Kara Walker's new show.

I'm thrilled to the bottom of my geeky heart to announce that I've been asked to contribute an essay to the forthcoming book on Captain America, To Honor America. I'll be writing about Truth: Red, White, and Blue.

Finally, why not download a free and legal sampler of the bands playing this year's CMJ?

1 comment:

Peter A. Greene said...

I'm not sure what the issue is with Brother Bean.

I can say that if I did not read here, I would probably have no idea whatsoever what, if anything, was going on out there. Nor does the place appear to register on my students' radar, either. And it may well be that neither my students nor I are exactly BB's target demographic, but if you're ruling out teens and middle-plus aged folks, you've thinned out your potential audience quite a bit just to start with.

From out here in the cheap seats, BB seems to have a branding problem. Is it a Christian Coffee House? A book store? Are heathens welcome, or will they feel uncomfortably out of place? And if it's several different things, how does one tell when which sorts of things are going on? And given the location, casual drop-ins are unlikely.

If I cared enough, as a potential audience person, I would go check things out on line or seek out info about the place. But of course the trick is to entice people who don't really know whether they would care enough to bother, and they're not going to go the extra mile to find out what's going on.

It's not a unique problem-- there are any number of operations in Venangoland, past and present, living and dead, that operate(d) on the theory that since family and friends know all about what's happening, that should about cover it. And the lack of any dependable media outlet to reach people-- the newspaper is both mercenary and expensive, and it would appear that the Forever Broadcasting stations just took another step backward by axing all the live jocks-- makes getting word out for anything an uphill challenge.