Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Song of Three Concerts

However superstitious your mood this close to Halloween: It's not just bad things that come in threes. I got to hear three concerts this weekend - a triplet, a triad, a trio, so to speak.

Saturday evening, friends took me to hear David Bromberg play with Jorma Kaukonen at Jorma's Fur Peace Ranch. The Fur Peace is a haven of latter-day hippiedom in Appalachia (we knew we'd found the turnoff when we saw the Obama/Biden sign) and a guitar camp for musicians who are already pretty darn good. Oh, and luckily for me, it's only about a 15 minute drive from my house.

The Fur Peace has a small, rustic performance hall that seats maybe a couple hundred guests. I'd heard Jorma play a Hot Tuna set out there with Jack Casady. But I'd never heard David Bromberg play before now, and boy was that an oversight. He was wonderful! He wasn't just a guitar virtuoso; he was also a rousing blues singer with a wry sense of humor. Somehow he managed to play the blues seriously and yet poke fond fun at their woman-done-me-wrong clichés. He and Jorma played for nearly three hours - all acoustic, often half-improvised - and at the end no one was ready to go home.

But don't just take my word. Listen to his sly self-deprecation on "This Month," which I heard on Saturday (this clip comes from a 2007 show in Philadelphia, with his band rather than with Jorma). The lyrics made me laugh. They also made me wince at the times when I've been as much a fool in love (or lust) as the poor fellow in the song.

David and Jorma also played a treat for me and all the other Deadheads in the audience: "I Know You Rider." This clip of a similar version from the mid-1980s features David with Hot Tuna:

And no, none of us looks quite the same as we did half a lifetime ago. Jorma is downright unrecognizable - except for his voice and his playing.

I don't have any cool video for the other two concerts, and they weren't quite as professional, but each was a pleasure in its own way.

Saturday afternoon was my little Bear's debut performance with the Athens Children's Chorus. They sang outdoors, which is never easy when it's gusty and the music tends to be borne away on the breeze. They did a nice job anyway. I got a little misty-eyed but am saving my serious sentimentality for when the acoustics are good.

The last concert (actually the first, chronologically) was Octubafest at the university. You haven't experienced real absurdity until you've heard both Tchaikovsky and "The Wabash Cannonball" played by a dozen tubas and six euphoniums. As my husband said afterwards, violins and other treble instruments were invented for a very good reason.

Photo by Flickr user celesteh, used under a Creative Commons license.

But tuba players do need to go wild once a year. If you always have to play the "oom" part in oom-pah music, a complex melody involving sixteenth notes is pretty sexy. I used to play French horn, and we got stuck playing "pah" to the tubas' "oom." So I can totally relate.

The great thing about hearing all this music is that even though a performance is transient and ephemeral, it sticks with me for a while afterward. It's like someone has pressed the reset button. It's as though I got a little taste of equanimity, and the memory of that is helping keep stress at bay. With the election looming a scant week away, the economy collapsing like elephantine dominoes, and my back trouble migrating southward, a whiff of equanimity is no small gift.

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