Humor from on High

Monday, July 31, 2006

Music To Sweat By

Here’s an excerpt from a long ago email when discussing music with some friends and trying to “force” them to try “Escondida” by Jolie Holland:

Speaking of which...my selection sings about none of those things. She prefers to focus on morphine, assholes, and crazy british people.

After months of threats...I am finally force-feeding Jolie Holland to you. But, please, think of it not so much as force-feeding...as it is me already chewing her up for you and allowing ya'll to eat her from my mouth in tiny, manageable bites. Mmmm...ABC music.

My completely random discovery of this artist sprung from hearing "Mad Tom of Bedlam" (track 5) played on The Current very early on in its existence. Feeling tremendously empowered by the lyricissitude of the song, I immediately drove to the Electric Fetus (someone please explain to me what the fuck that means) to hopefully purchase the album that contained this lovely tune. As it turns out, this song is a very old folk song...sung over time by billions and billions of other wacky folk singers. And the rest of her album is far more...um...shall we say "out there, man" than expected. However, I've grown to Love her quirky (some say fingers on a chalkboard) way of singing...and you can't deny (well, you can until you've actually listened) her originality.

All I ask...and it's really more of a demand...is that you download and listen to the album at least twice before judging. If, after that, you've decided it's not your style...we'll split her in half and I'll give you the awesome, folksy, cover songs and take the bleeding, raw, original lyrictasticness for myself.

First off, I don’t know what “downloading” means, but I assume it’s a perfectly legal practice of obtaining music.

Secondly, that little email is less than or equal to the weirdness that was the Jolie Holland concert on Saturday. And for me, when music is involved, weird usually equals good.

The Quirky-Meter was off the charts. It would be fairly hypocritical of me to claim annoyance to her under-produced stage presence when that is what, in fact, drew me to her albums in the first place…so I won’t. Plus, I think the first words she said to the crowd were “I don’t believe in slick-ness”. (She then screamed “I am a Golden God”…no, not really)

The venue was outstanding…casual, sit-on-the-floor atmosphere, perfect for the mellowness that was to ensue. Although, when you don’t have one of those cozy places to crash, it ends up being like the usual sardine scene found at most clubs. It’s amazing the kind of spaces human beings will fit into for their love of art.

The first half of the show was made-up primarily of Jolie on the guitar or keyboard playing songs off of her new album, “Springtime Can Kill You”…backed by a guy on drums (and other percussion) and another on bass guitar. I bought this album the day it came out and have been slightly disappointed with it thus far. The aforementioned lack-of-slickness was less evident on this her third(?) album, and I was worried that the usual bigger=shittier equation was starting to take hold. But her live versions held true to the “coughing in the background” rootsiness that was prevalent on her earlier work. Including a few false-starts…reasons ranging from equipment issues to fucking up the words.

Her…let’s say casual…stage presence was fine, and totally within character. I was cool with the halting nature of the show…as she worked through instrument, lighting, and memory problems. However, and this is my only complaint, at times she seemed really disinterested in the whole process…which is off-putting. I know it’s art, but we did choose come to see the show…it’d be nice if the artist made the choice, as well.

But the concert, as with most things in life, completely turned around for me once she introduced the box fiddle. Ms. Holland seemed infinitely more comfortable holding this little beauty, and gone were the equipment problems that seemed to dog her through the first part of the set. This turn-around was aided by two other events, as well…she recognized a friend in the crowd (and gave no further explanation as to who it was) and called-out some folks near the stage that had apparently been talking her to distraction.

Whatever…the music got better.

I don’t remember the set list…but it was a nice mixture of old and new. And the second half embraced the talents of the other two musicians…something that didn’t happen earlier in the night. (And something that is, admittedly, difficult when dealing with songs that find their groove in being completely stripped-down). She played a nice version of Mad Tom of Bedlam (the song that started it all, for me) that woke the place up a bit, (Did I mention it was 150 degrees in the theater?) and finished the show on a much higher plane than where it started. I think the heat also caused sort of an awkward ending…the house lights stayed down in the usual “waiting for an encore” manner, but no one seemed to be waiting for an encore. The place cleared out pretty quick.

Not much of a review, I know. But I’m a blind, kool-aid drinking fan at this point…not sure I can write anything to make that transferable. But if you’re adventurous at all in your music tastes, check her out.

(Oh…there was an opening act. Sean Hayes…who I was vaguely familiar with going in. He couldn’t possibly have been mellower. I’d say an urban, effeminate Jack Johnson…with a falsetto. What’s not to love?)


At 10:46 AM, Blogger Kaiser said...

I think the heat alone would have made this a pretty miserable experience for myself, had I been there. Glad it didn't totally ruin it for you.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Smitty said...

So I'm I supposed to want to hear her music now? Kidding. Glad to hear you got some enjoyment out of it.

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Hops said...

yeah, not really a glowing review is it? But she's good. Trust me.


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