Thursday, September 6, 2012
Caleb Hawley came to Deepwells last night for the third or fourth time and it was well worth the trip. Caleb is a funny, energetic, and talented musician. He’s a dog lover as well as his dog Fargo can attest. His guitar playing is expressive and jazz inspired, but his lyrics are a reflection of an observant mind that finds humor and pathos in the human condition. In Do You Want to Live Forever he faces head on the dilemma of eternal life vs. eternal death. In We All Got Problems he pokes fun at our infinite capacity to do anything to resist pain and emotional suffering, even if it means losing sight of who we are as uniquely flawed individuals. He references the tragic figures of Elvis and Michael as the purest expression of having it all and having nothing. In Seeing Colors Caleb expresses surprise and admiration at children’s inability to recognize skin color, the bane of American life that tragically pits Sarah Palin’s “the real Americans” against the rest of us who just “want to get along.” It’s a testimony to Caleb that he has taken up residence in Harlem which still dramatically signifies that racial divide that keeps the poor separated from the “1%-ers” who are now busily driving the last vestiges of the middle class out of Manhattan. The Harlem experience keeps Caleb “real” when so many musicians are nothing more than product placement and brand names as they reach for that “gold ring” with their specialty lines of clothing and perfume. In Who’s Your Doggie Caleb takes on man’s best friend and points out that deep inside most men wish it was “a dog’s life” and wish that our significant other would give us unconditional love no matter how many times we screw up. We don’t need American Idol. Last night we had Caleb Hawley in the house.
Every time you think you’ve seen the best of the best in up and coming talent, Dave manages to outdo himself. Last night Emily Elbert took the stage and within four bars we knew that we were looking at a great artist. Her singing voice was beautiful and rich. Her guitar playing masterful. Her songs intelligent and haunting. Her acoustic jazz and folk blend left you wondering where she will go next and how lucky am I to have gotten a chance to see her in this intimate setting before her career takes off in leaps and bounds. She bounced around the stage, pivoted and cavorted with a plucky kind of energy that can only make you feel good about being alive. The Stray Birds were a complete surprise. People like to talk about the “real America”. But who would have thought that the heartland begins in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They channel the best of blue grass and folk in a manner that kept your feet dancing and your hands clapping. How many times do you get to hear a band where each member can sing and play more than one instrument? Much like The Band each of them effortlessly took their turn at the mike, but because their harmonies are so intricately intertwined and the musicianship so interconnected the voice they created was always multidimensional and richly textured sound. The way they huddled together for every song as if they were one person was a delight to behold. While their songs are steeped in tradition, they are deeply connected to our contemporary experience. The audience couldn’t get enough.
Last night in Port Jefferson we got to hear Miles to Dayton meet Ken Kesey and the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Due to technical difficulties the band ala The Grateful Dead were forced to go into long musical interludes while Jon Preddice tried to root out the offending monitor. This left Dave March and Leanne Strom, Brian Kroll and their equally talented lead guitarist to improvise, or as the Dead might call it, meander in search of Uncle John’s Band. Finally, after Jon, frustrated and dogged, fixed the problem, the band rose to the occasion as a blue moon rose and the sun set, giving the audience what they had come for, another great performance. It was the largest audience to date at the Wednesday night concert series of Port Jeff Arts Council.