Today I began the morning with a walk at Exchange Park, the nearby park with the tiny nature trail past the tiny historic railway dam. I loved the song of a cardinal in a tree. I had the park almost to myself, but for two teen skateboarding folks. They were completely unobtrusive, and the walk was quite peaceful.
The nearby suburb of Richardson had its Wildflower Festival this weekend. As Sunday was the "folkie singer/songwriter" day, my wife and I elected to head over in the mid-afternoon.
The American Airlines stage opened to an unshaded concrete area, which proved quite a warming experience in our deep Texas heat.
At 2:30, to a crowd of dozens in a space for hundreds, Sara Hickman's band took the stage. It's a bit amusing that I had not seen Sara in a decade and a half, and then saw her on two successive weekends. If you don't know her work, then I can't recommend her highly enough--especially since she's now DIY indie and her new material shows the heart and soul she always captures live. Her show was completely enjoyable, except that six of her fans seemed determined to stand on a day best suited for sitting, causing everyone in a rather sparse crowd near them to stand also in order to see.
Otherwise, the concert was nearly perfect, except that Sara no longer plays "Last Night was a Big Rain", the Johnny Cash-derived uptempo song I love the best. Sara is so heart-breakingly good that one could almost shed a friendly tear that she's not more famous.
We walked to the other stage after Sara finished, past pavilions of outdoor suburban fair booths,
and arrived just in time to see a version of the Spinners play "Could it be I'm falling in Love", which is a bit like dying and going to Heaven, even if the synthstrings emanating from the synth sequencer and the dance moves were a bit out of sync, and even if I had the suspicision that I was not seeing the Spinners so much as "1 Spin and the others". I'd love to see the Spinners another time, particularly if the Temptations would also be on the bill.
We headed back to the folk stage, because Lisa Loeb was the next concert up. Lisa hails from Dallas, and attended the somewhat exclusive Hockaday School at which my mother briefly taught years before Lisa was born. Her story is one of those "discovered at a drugstore" things, when her apartment-recorded song "Stay" gets sent by Ethan Hawke to Ben Stiller, and ends up getting on the soundtrack to the odd movie-of-its-era "Reality Bites", making Lisa the first top 10 single by an unsigned artist.
Lisa's concert was just beautiful, done with just her and a guitar rather than with the full band she sometimes carries. I'd never seen her live before. Lisa Loeb is one of those niche tastes, who does what she does so very well, but what she does is a thing not radio-favored--great little singer-songwriter pieces about the microscopic details of relationships. She doesn't have the cut of an Aimee Mann, nor the vacuousness of a radio-ready girl, but what she has is the ability to paint little pictures about small moments very well. Lisa wore huge platform shoes with massive heels, because however tiny you imagine Lisa to be, she's actually smaller still in person.
It must be very hard to be a Lisa Loeb or a Sara Hickman, talented artists who must tour x days a year because their real CD sales all occur after the show at folk concerts. I chuckled when Lisa said that when she was a teen, she could never get into the Deep Ellum clubs where Sara played, because Lisa was not yet 21. I am about a decade older than Lisa, so I noted to myself that while 17 year old Lisa was outside looking into Club Dada or Theatre Gallery or the Prophet Bar, I was in those clubs, listening to Alejandro Escovedo's incredible True Believers, Guadalcanal Diary, the dBs, or Sara Hickman.
Lisa impressed me with her easy stage presence, which pleased the hundreds of fans which had turned up in the incredibly devastating Texas heat. She also said "y'all" a lot, which she never does on TV. I'll bet "y'all" did not go over so big when she went to college at Brown. When she got to the intro for "Stay", she said that people asked her if she got tired of playing it, but she not only did not, but she enjoyed playing it, because it reminded her of how much incredibly good fortune she had had in her career. She made "Stay" sound fresh and new. I was surprised that I knew a good handful of Lisa's songs even though I don't own any of her albums. She was great. We looked at her merchanise table, and about 100 people had already lined up to buy Lisa's CDs and get her to sign them. I am not much for chatting with celebrities, in part for the old LA "too cool to drool" thing and in part because I am in awe of talented people, so I did not line up.
The next scheduled singer/songwriter was someone I just love, Shawn Colvin. But my wife and I decided that the heat had done us in. When I used to ride a Peugeot bike everywhere over a decade ago, I came up with a simple rule--no heroics. I apply this rule to things like "do I have to stay to see one of my favorite artists even though I am a boiled lobster". We caught the train back to our car, which was parked conveniently at the rail line three stops up. We got our car, and went and had fresh grilled fish at Fishmonger's Cafe.
The train stop had a poster for the NIN concert coming in June, for whom the opening act is to be Bauhaus. I mentally applaud Trent Reznor for supporting this band whose sound influenced his own, in the same way I applaud Morrissey for promoting Sparks (though the Smiths did not bear a major Mael influence). But Bela Lugosi is still dead, and to me it's almost like Dylan opening for
Dave Mathews, an unthinkable thing. But I'll bet it will still be a great show.
Next month Echo and the Bunnymen return to Dallas. I love "Rescue", "The Cutter", and "Villiers Terrace". I saw them a time or two in their heyday. I was heartbroken once when they encored with "Twist and Shout". I would rather have heard them do a Beach Boys song than "Twist and Shout".
All this singer-songwriter music got me to get out my mountain dulcimer, and sing about
botanical gardens. I wish my voice were better, but it's fun to remix a dulcimer with a synthesizer and see what happens. I liked feeling like a weirdbient folkie, and finally singing in one of my songs and playing a non-virtual instrument, however flawed it proved to be.
We had a great weekend. I picked up my garden photo disks. I can hardly wait to see the flowers.
Gurdonark--"Fort Worth Botanical Garden", folk song remixed with synth lines provided by the wonderful Harri Bionic of ccmixter.org