You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Devo’ tag.
I went to see Highway of Sight, Steve Forbert’s cell phone photo exhibit, this past Saturday at the ART629 Gallery in Asbury Park. I had been feeling a little anti-social all day, so it really was a good thing to hear from Nancey, my good friend and concert-going buddy, who convinced me to quit cocooning and come out and play. Thanks, Nancey—I appreciate that! The two of us have such fun hanging out and being Forbert groupies together- How could I miss this one?
As I came in the door, I was surprised by Steve, who said hello, remembered my name and that he had seen me the week before at his show at The Record Collector in Bordentown. I am not sure he remembered that I interviewed him for the 2008 Songwriter’s Market. He couldn’t have known that a few years ago I was contemplating using the title of this blog entry as the title of a book. The book would be based on a slice of autobiography – soul-searching in the years around my father’s passing and other lesser life complications – with the backdrop of my strange pursuit of this quietly enduring folksinger. For a long time I have also wanted to write about the power, mostly positive, I think, that exists in music hero worship, and the bonds and creativity borne out of fandom. When I heard about the recent publication of I Think I Love You I felt scooped, but whatever—I have different insights and stories to tell. There are quite a few books living in my head. One day, some of them will escape and find themselves written down, I promise.
The photos were simple, telling bits of Americana and curious things found along the trail of a touring musician. In this show, Forbert seemed to favor repeating items – like soda bottles or rows of eggs – that reminded me of early industrial innovation. I was checking out the images, wondering why an artist finds a particular fascination, or vice versa. The artist himself had been affable and talkative with attendees all evening. He managed to surprise me again and out of the blue walked up and asked, “So what’s the deal?” He wanted to know about the town I live in, and which photo was my favorite. My fave of the moment was “Glass Stems in Case.”
His question got me to confront something I had only idly mused over before:
Seriously, what is the deal?
Why this cyclical fixation (and the requisite goofy crush that goes with it) on the unassuming Steve Forbert and his live performances? I have the records and CDs, but it is mainly about the live show. I’ve seen him more in concert than quite a few of my other fangirl obsessions like Steely Dan, Gary Wilson (I know, he doesn’t play that much), and even Devo.
Though it is fun to revel in the mysterious nature of my adoration, I can say a little about what draws me:
Storytelling. Forbert is a solid craftsman of songs of struggle, love, work, and everyday greatness. He is afraid of neither politics (“The Baghdad Dream,” the ever-evolving “Oil Song”) nor humor (“Strange Names – New Jersey’s Got ‘Em)”. One of the surprising byproducts of the emergence of kirtan chant into my life was a lessening of the impetus to tell stories in song. When you are at OM, what more is there to say? I feel the stories reemerging now, and can look to the art of cutting to the core of basic human experience in Forbert’s best tunes for guidance.
He loves his career. I have heard him say more than once that he is grateful for the early success of “Romeo’s Tune” because it has enabled him to do what he likes for all these years. Another artist might be forever angry that meteoric success didn’t continue unabated. Steve seems to get that he has a good life and a really cool gig going on.
Perfect timing. Honestly, I believe this all started back in the day the first time I heard WMMR play “Goin’ Down to Laurel.” My heart melted and I was changed in some intangible way. Later, “Romeo’s Tune” was the summer love theme playing in my head as I would travel hours by bus and train to Connecticut to see a girl I was crazy about who I’d met at summer camp.
He is earnest. The language he uses is often matter-of-fact, sometimes cute, and may deal with pain, but is not meant to cause pain. He can write a personal or cultural critique without the cutting cynicism that I actually love from other artists. A Steve Forbert song is like an antidote to an overdose of bitterness. His body of work tells us that he really wants the best for the world and all of us in it, without even so much as a devolutionary twist.
Inspiration. Whenever I’m nervous about whatever it is my next move ought to be, I remember these immortal words: “You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play.”
Even as I am moving along into 2011 armed with optimism and new resolve, I find myself still looking back, trying to make sense of 2010. Everybody may be sick of all the Top 10 Whatever lists we get pelted with in December of each year, but mine formed late. So here it is.
I won’t pretend that 2010 was an overall good year for me. I am moving past it enough now, though, to have lost interest in enumerating the painful spots. I would rather remember the important positives. I’ve noted them in my cumbersomely titled Top 9 Very Good and/or Extraordinary Experiences of 2010, in chronological order. I enjoy the Number 9 and multiples of 9. I’m weird like that.
Top 9 Very Good and/or Extraordinary Experiences of 2010
1) Recording with Producer/Musician/Composer Scott Pearson – February 7-9
It is not often when I hear the language that a song speaks to me, and find another person who hears more or less the same thing— plus huge leaps through a library of sounds just on the tip of my imagination. In these sessions, we recorded two songs that I promise you’ll get to hear one day soon. Scott Pearson is brilliant, insightful, and has hilarious stories to tell. Add to it that getting to his Cary, NC studio involved driving through a blizzard, having my car buried in snow on a cul-de-sac in Alexandria, VA, and a tow truck to free the vehicle before another few harrowing hours of driving on ice, and you have a formula for quite the memorable time.
2) Visiting with Anasakta – April 23-25
I met this Canadian mystic when he became friends with my former housemate. His insights on Self-Realization are extraordinary, and he believes in my wisdom and inner awareness in the bhakta/tantrika realm more than I can fathom. We talked for hours, laughed a lot, interviewed each other on South Street in Philly, and he even put up with my inexplicable obsession with Canadian folk singer Stompin’ Tom Connors.
3) Gunnison Beach Party – July 24
Anyone who knows me at all knows that being naked in the sun is one of my favorite life experiences. I have been part of a large group that gets together annually for a party at Gunnison Beach, the clothing-optional beach at Sandy Hook in New Jersey. This year the weather was truly perfect and being in the midst of this social experience while making moments to commune personally and directly with nature was profound. Being in the ocean to me is to be enveloped in the essence of Goddess. My longtime friend and spiritual sister, dancing rabbit, stayed for the weekend. Any time with her is never short of healing and magic.
4) Rocking out with the MMB on my Birthday – August 27
For the last few years, getting the chance to perform with the Mutant Mountain Boys has been a highlight of my musical year. We’re a bluegrass-styled band that pays tribute to Devo and the Church of the SubGenius. The group is a brainchild of my banjo-playing Devo freak friend, Samantha. This year we played on opening night of the annual DEVOtional at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland. We performed what felt like our best show yet, and saw some excellent out-of-the-box bands. That was a great way to celebrate another trip around the sun.
5) Kirtan Cleveland, August 26 and 29
The Cleveland area was good to me in 2010. Frank Barnett was a champion of the kirtan chanting community there, and he coordinated my first NPR station interview for the afternoon of the 26th. It was a challenge and a joy to roll with linking my love of Devo with devotional chanting. The kirtan on the 29th had Samuel Salsbury on violin and Joe Culley on tabla, and lots of enthusiastic people at Studio 11 in Tremont to share the experience. The fact that Frank passed away two weeks later makes these moments so much more precious.
6) Recording “Hare Krishna Christmas” – November 8
Last year, I finally got back in touch with my inner comic. I have always loved parody, naughty limericks, cartoons, and all manner of zaniness. Though “Hare Krishna Christmas” has humor, it also emerges from a heart sincere in love of Consciousness and blended spiritualities. Finally, I followed friends’ advice and recorded this tune that has lived in my head for years. I had never before begun a recording session by having to multitrack harmonies with the lyrics “Ding Dong Ding.” Engineer/Musician/Composer Jack Walker and I tend to crack each other up no matter the recording project of the day, often with Warner Bros. toon quotes: “This time, we didn’t forget the graaa-vy!”
7) Silent Retreat – November 29
On this date every year, I have private, 24-hour long silent retreat. I talked about it quite a bit in the previous entry. This time around the silence was not so pleasant as it was functional. Pain and thoughts and questions came up and morphed into much needed calls-to-action.
8) Kye’s Birthday Parade Surprise – December 11
I really don’t know how I would feel if I were surprised by scores of people in costumes with twirling ribbons who came dancing and marching up the street to the front of my Las Vegas abode to do the box step and shout cheers for me on my birthday. I do know that it was amazing to play The Cat in the Hat in this display for Kye Brackett. Kye is one of the many extraordinary beings that make up the chosen family of people for dynamic and authentic living we call freedomcommunity. I was overjoyed in this procession at the creativity and penchant for the absurd, and was moved to tears by the outpouring of love.
9) Tears of Joy at the End of DADT
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a terrible policy. I was angry about it when it was instituted, and always thought it should go away. I admit I never truly understood its impact until I heard the ecstatic and exhausted tears of joy and relief when a good friend called to tell me it had been repealed. The repeal of DADT meant that she will be able to continue to live with the love of her life, a career military woman, without lies of omission and fear. An impending promotion will not mean separation and emotional chaos, but a new home and a next phase in the lives of two people dedicated to one another. Oh, Happy Day.
Happy New Year to you. Here’s to a 2011 full of love, health, growth, fun, and music.
At the end of the kirtan last night at The Yoga Place in North Canton, OH, I mentioned that I like being in the area. Someone said “Why don’t you move here?” My impulse response was “If you move the ocean here, I’ll think about it.” I feel most at peace and most able to uncover a sense of union with All when I am on the shoreline. On the edge of the continent, cool and sandy earth, vast sky, fiery sun warmth, and infinite-seeming water couldn’t be more clear expressions of the makings of all life. Rarely do I ever feel homesick, as I am generally happy to be wherever I am, experiencing what is there. In that moment of remembering the shore, though, I had a twinge of it. It suddenly felt alien to be more than seven hours from the closest ocean. How fitting that as I drove over the Ben Franklin Bridge this evening NPR was playing an interview with Bruce Springsteen on the making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. It was good listening– I’d never considered his poetry that directly before. Welcome back to Jersey.
All four of the gigs on this mini-tour worked out very well. The people and the vibe to carry the evenings all showed up. I am never sure what my inner experience will be while I’m singing, so I let myself be surprised. Somewhere in the middle of leading chanting in Kent and in Toledo, the bemusement crept in.
What the heck am I doing up here? Why am I singing mantra again? How did all this even happen? Am I here to facilitate spiritual experience? No, I just sing. Whatever – Time to stop analyzing – Sheesh.
It is the old familiar WTF that I try to treat as I would any thought in meditation – see it, breathe, and let it go. It’s not an easy one to let go. Sometimes I need to run through the timeline in my head just a little—remembering the visions, the love, the white light, the dreams that swept me into recognizing that Spirit would be more a part of my music and overall being than I’d ever known.
Why does all this still surprise me?
Thankfully, the surprise washed through and moved along, swept up and sublimated in the ocean of sound. All the events this time out were sweet experiences. House of Yoga in Berkely, MI near Detroit was an ideal in many ways – not the least of which was for the chance to see some amazingly cool black squirrels nearby the next day! But I digress—the musical joy was that I was able to sing nearly an hour set of songs and then the same time was given to chanting. It feels wonderfully dynamic and balancing when these elements are invited together and I intend to develop the show and do more in this format. North Canton was a straight-up kirtan after which there was a sense of exuberance and deep fellowship in the air.
All the people I met or had the chance to see again on this trip are good, good, solid, loving beings. I am blessed to have found a path that leads me to them. Some kind of general positivity swirls for me in the Cleveland area and into some margin beyond. It is where the Devo fans gather for the annual DEVOtional. It is where kirtan connections have led to knowing kind people on rich paths. It is where whenever I am linked up with a musician for a gig, we usually sound like automatic magic. I may be a coastal being, but I will be back to be part of these circles as I am able.