Thursday, July 21, 2005

I've been listening to my inner hippie. As opposed to the outer ones.

I don't know if this is a specific sub-clause of Murphy's Law, or just covered by the general concept, but if, supposedly, one were to fail to tighten the bolts on one's bitchen-lookin', torpedo-shaped bike headlight and if said hypothetical headlight were to work itself even looser from the vibration of riding, said headlight would, again hypothetically, choose the exact center of the steepest, bumpiest piece of bike path in the city to depart its fendery perch for places unknown.

Also, again hypothetically, the alarming rattling of said illumination device would fail to be either loud enough, or mellifluous enough, for any hippie pedestrians one might pass at such speeds as one might attain. Should such an event come to pass, words might be exchanged that would make said hippie seem 93% as passive-aggressive as a PMS-ing Stepford Wife. Words like, oh I dunno, "HEY! You know what's cool, is the dinging of the bells when a bike passes you! The dinging of the bells!!" I may have to give in on this point sometime as the law kinda requires it, but rest assured, dear reader, the ol' El Rattletrap Special is custom-engineered with the finest thrift store technology to already make enough noise to be noticed automatically. All mod cons, we got 'em.

In any event, here's my impressions of the first day of Folk Fest:

  • Buck 65

  • I've been a fan of Hali's weirdest hip-hop export for a few years now, so I was looking forward to seeing him live at last. And I've gotta say, I was the tiniest smidge disappointed. It's hard to actually find any specific fault, mind you--his words entranced, his delivery was the right combination of world-weary and energetic, and though the odd pseudo-Tom Waits-ism about circus freaks in Dusseldorf or whatever felt a little bit like conscious window dressing, his enthusiasm for his genre-stretching and -abandoning experiments seems pretty genuine. (For instance, he ended his set with a live mashup of his own "Wicked and Wierd" over Clarence "Tom" Ashley's "Coo Coo Bird") Still, it seemed he wasn't connecting with a big hunk o' the crowd.

    Maybe they were expecting a live band. I know I was--Chicago avant-gard/postrock/alt-jazz types and 1996 hipsters of the year Tortoise reportedly backed Bucky up on his newest record, and they are playing the festival this year, so I naturally assumed they'd be behind him on stage. Nope, just two turntables, a microphone, and occasional backing vocals from his wife, Claire. (Who was either buried in the mix or wasn't enunciating well, it seemed.) Anyway, it sounded good, but whatever je ne sais quois he was missing, I'm not gonna hold against him.

  • Instinckt

  • Damn, you gotta check these guys out. I mean, if I said they modernise traditional Danish fiddle tunes, throatsinging and Donovan's favourite medieval instrument, the hurdy-gurdy, with updated danceable beats, you'd think they were like broccoli to a kid--good for you but tasting awful. But trust me, they're pretty entrancing if you give 'em a chance.

  • Hawksley Workman

  • So I'd somehow written Hawksley off as one of these studio-only type of guys. Maybe it's because of how intricate and multi-layered his records come off as, maybe it's because I'd heard of him as a producer before I'd heard of him as an artist, but there you go. Preconceptions suck. He's got a hell of a vocal range and he knows how to use it, toying with pitch and dynamics in a way that's spontaneous, soulful and yet weirdly torch/cabaret-esque. (Must be 'cause he's got Teh Ghey.) Oh, and he can still sing like that when he's doubling on guitar or drums, too. If he was a "Hit 'em with the hook" type, he'd probably be an International Superstar.

  • Jeff Tweedy

  • So I'd somehow written Jeff off as one of these studio-only type of guys. Maybe it's because I only know him from Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot", a collection of songs that at their best balance a deceptive folk-pop simplicity with a sprawling psychedelic tape-collage aesthetic without either extreme cancelling the other out. No wait, that is the reason. Anyway, if you're expecting the freaky bits live, they're not gonna happen, but J-Twee as I'm sure his friends don't call him has whatever that quality is that makes a lone man with an acoustic guitar worth paying attention to. Definitely helps if you know enough to sing along to "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart"--that opening verse is genius:

    "I'm an American aquarium drinker
    Art assasin down the avenue
    I'm hiding out in the big city blinking
    What was I thinking when I let go of you?"

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