Americana Music Festival & Conference 2008: Day 3
Words by Karen Zarker and Pictures by Sarah Zupko.
We snagged the best table at the 3rd & Lindsley. This is a really good venue when you've got a table up close to the stage -- that is, under the speakers that will, if aimed right at you, blast you to a pulp by the end of the evening. The lighting is harsh, but you'll only notice that if you're trying to photo shoot.
Jim White started us off this evening rather sweet and mellow. Or rather, a bit bitter and mellow (the tangy bite of his satirical lyrics are balanced with a mix of musical sugar). A master of the pedal last night, up there all by himself, he interspersed his songs with amusing storytelling. Intimate and comfortable.
A swift setup and in no time the Red Stick Ramblers dragged us kickin' and hollering down to the Louisiana bayous. Consummate musicians, those of us stuck in our seats were doing the butt cheek dance while the women in the back grabbed one another and twirled. Just when your soul feels it might burst from all that Cajun-sustaining food, they bring it to a rousing end. Damn, that's right -- it's a showcase, it ended about four hours too soon.
Time is a funny thing though, ain't it? Jim White takes his 45-50 minutes with you and it's like you were sitting on the porch all summer evening, enjoying the song of the crickets and the company of a good friend, while sharing a bottle. The Red Stick Ramblers made time go by faster than a speeding semi barreling down I-65 between Chicago and Nashville. And then Peter Bradley Adams and his band came on...
Set up takes a while, and we're wary. Signifiers indicate this might be a... mellow set. Really mellow. A guitar case is opened and a Soviet-era looking poster is taped to the case for all to see. "HOPE", it demands. Oh, yeah, that's the latest Obama poster.
Ironically, we spent more time writing over this set than any other, this evening -- that is, passing notes back and forth to one another. "This is the sort of polite, mopey, singer-songwriter lite that sounds at home in a Starbucks line. Very sincere, slightly dazed-looking female back-up singer; even more seemingly sincere, deep lead singer. There are other musicians on the stage, but their sound is so muddy, one only knows from sight that they're working... Rather depressing, really." (That was a long note.) "I could help out that back-up singer, a few notches or 20." "I could give the lead a decent haircut", "Well, the bass player is cute" and so on. That's a 45 minutes of our lives we want back.
Mike Farris and his amazing band answered our prayers and gave us more soulful sound in their all-too-short set than mere physical boundaries such as time and earthly bodies can contain. Lord, they resonate. If you see this man and his band once in your life, it will be music you'll hear in your head when you're clinging to the last vestiges of this mortal world -- it is truly a joyful sound. It's gospel, yes, but it's that universal gospel that moves even the most cynical soul. Farris and the McCrary Sisters are singing their salvation -- and yours -- and you will be moved, no matter how firmly you keep to your convictions, wherever they're grounded. Their Deep South sound heavily steeped in the sounds of New Orleans and Memphis will take you to Heaven and you won't be able to sit down. Rarely do we, considered outsiders by many in this country, feel so welcome -- and so damned happy to be human -- than in the company of these highly talented people.