Saturday, August 2, 2008

Grey Anne spins her web at the Towne Lounge

I knew it had been awhile since I tried to park in NWPDX at 9 on a Thursday night as I spent over 30 minutes driving around looking for a spot...thanks in large part to the Beavers game at PGE park. At any rate, I was glad I was late for the Towne Lounge since the show slated to start at 9 didn't get underway until well after 10. I didn't even realize I had been there before until I got inside, and then it all came flooding back to was part of an unfortunate St. Patty's day pub crawl incident a number of years ago which ended up with me passed out in an alley in a puddle of my own barf behind yet another pub I can't possibly remember. Fortunately, I'm much older and wiser now, and those days are long behind me. I'm proud to announce that these days I almost always make it home before I puke and pass out.

Seriously though, it was kind of annoying but what the hell! I'm easily annoyed anyway, 'subtle and quick to anger' as are the Tolkienian wizards. Not that I'm a wizard. Nor always subtle. So here I am sitting around waiting for two bands that I've never heard of before in anxious anticipation of Anne Adams, the echo-looping sorceress whose music I fell in love with upon first hearing at a show at the Doug Fir when she was performing as Per Se. (I reviewed it here if you want more of my impressions of her.) Lots of magic references here...that seems to happen to me when I hear her music.

At any rate, I had to sit through a long lot of boring to mediocre music before she played. I won't write much about question the guys playing had musical skills, it's just that I've heard what they were dishing out so many times before...they were plodding along through very well-tilled soil. I had a bunch of nasty things to say but I just don't have the heart: it was only a $5 show on a Thursday night, these guys are out there pouring their hearts out for a smoky, almost-empty lounge, so it's all good. They were occasionally charming; just mostly rather boring. And the second one (The Friendly Skies) way too loud. Maybe I'm old. Wait a second; no maybe about it. My 36th was just last weekend.

Interesing motif there at the Towne Lounge: good beers in cans. Must be part of the whole contrived hipster working-class affectation thing. Oops, there it is again. I've never drunk Newcastle (one of my favorite brown ales) out of a can before, but I figured 'hell, it's Newcastle; it's gotta be good.' And I was right. Had a couple of cans of Caldera Pale as well, stretched out over the course of the evening; I was the model of restraint. Thursday night drinking bouts usually result in an unlovely Friday for me...

Adams was performing under her stage name Grey Anne that night, so since I'd heard her (only once before) perform as Per Se, I was excited to see what might be different about this performance. First thing was different props: gone were the butterfly/fairy wings, in their place was an immense stuffed white tiger, and for her opening song she sat down on the stage and propped her legs over the big kitty, so that when her beautiful, pure, child-like voice opened up, I suddenly felt like I had been invited into a little girl's room, listening as she sang her dreams and musings. The whole pub, with a small though noisy crowd, suddenly went into rapt silence as Grey Anne began her set. She told the story behind her moniker, but I'm going to keep that to myself. If you want to know, go to her shows. I'm sure she'll repeat the story sometime...

That's not to say that all her music is about delicious whimsy and gossamer fluff. That was another difference between this and the Per Se show; she spoke more, and gave personal details, vignettes about her family; there was more that gave insight into her. She also explained the meaning behind some songs and there was nothing childish or whimsical about them thematically. Since I've only been to one other performance of hers I realize that's no solid basis for comparison, but there it is. Those were the differences I noticed between Per Se and Grey Anne.

She sang two songs that I know by name ('Adelaide' and 'Flapjack Devilfish') along with a couple others I recognized from having heard them before. I'm struck by her original voice, and by that I don't mean her vocal mechanism but her whole poetic/music/lyrical outlook. She loses herself in rhapsodic, spontaneous self-harmonies, using the loop sequencer judiciously and intelligently, and not afraid to start a particular loop over if it isn't what she wants. There may have been only ten people in the room, but (after the obnoxious drunk chicks left) everyone was hanging on every chord change and new verse, drinking it in like wine. I wasn't the only one who found myself, head in hands with a goofy smile on my face as a new song wound on.

I think that's why I like her music so much; it's so nice to have something that gently, yet inexorably and powerfully pulls me out of my well of cynicism and loathing and just lets me breathe for a minute. Music is just about the only thing that can do that for me, and it's got to be special music, and meaningful. Both of her shows I've been to have left me with the distinct impression of being wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket, and it's not very often I have that feeling.

I left the Towne Lounge and drove home the same way I do when I drive home from the opera or from a really good symphony performance: no radio, just letting the echoes and memories of the music I've just heard live on as vividly as they can for as long as they can, needing no auditory intrusion to mar the exquisite aftertaste. Things seemed glowing and new, like the same old boring street suddenly viewed through pink shades; the dimming lights of the ball field, the loaded morons staggering loudly down the street, the drunken madman with wild hair, a bushy beard, and ungodly befouled clothes leaning up against a parking meter whispering to it sweet nothings and giving it a kiss as gentle and profound as you've ever seen a man give his lover; it all seemed beautiful.

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