Friday, November 02, 2007 ... 9:00 AM

Gillian Welch ... Speed Demon: "Throw Me a Rope" Guest Entries #3 & #4

I'm slow at thinking up stuff to post between them, and so I'm falling behind on the Gillian Welch guest entries. So today I'm going to double up.

Annie T. of Ape Kabuki writes:

last night there was an out of the blue, kind-of-secret-in-that-it-wasn't-really-advertised and only 40 people were there, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings concert at Tangier in Los Feliz. they usually make it out to L.A every October, but they usually play at the Avalon, which is a much bigger venue. when they came out dave said, "welcome to the world's most informal gig."

the show was totally awesome. they did dylan covers and "tired eyes" and a beautiful robyn hitchcock cover "luminous rose," and they sang the same mysterious song they never put on a record plus i guess a new song of theirs called "knuckleball catcher," which was phenomenal. at one point dave was singing along with his playing under his breath just like glenn gould, and at another point he surprised himself with his genius and yelled, "jesus!"

i have decided that they are not alt-country or neo-country, they are modernist country. they take any song--even cindi lauper's "girls just wanna have fun"--and with their precision they distill it to its aching american essence, honing in on it like they're driving straight for it on a flat highway in texas. but shy and adorable at the same time. and so rangy.

but here's a spur of the moment poem for you;
red hair, cowboy boots
looking out past the screen door
into a field, a desert,
into stage lights,
quiet evening creeping
into our held breath
waiting, listening,
she bends her head
and his voice joins hers,
witchy from the darkened kitchen.

and an anecdote gillian told at the concert:
they were driving around l.a in their rented charger and some guys in their own classic car (i can't remember the make) pulled up next to them and kept on trying to get them to drag race. so over a couple of blocks out the window she learned they were scottish guys from aberdeen. and she said, "i woulda done it too, but if i get another speeding ticket, i lose my license."

Can't you just hear Gillian telling that story? Love it.

Carolyn Fryberger, who co-runs a Dave Rawlings Machine group over on the Facebook, shares with us a Cultural Event paper she wrote for one of her classes:

Why We Do What We Do:
Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and my Quarter Life Crisis

Tuesday April 24, 2007 marked a very important anniversary for me. Driving home from Nashville at 3 in the morning, as my mind drifted along the fuzzy edge of reality, watching east Tennessee farms fall away to the side of the road, I thought about how much has happened since the first time I saw Gillian Welch and David Rawlings in concert. Gillian and Dave’s music has become a medium through which I understand many of the experiences of my life; my choice to transfer from back home from what most would consider to be a prestigious school, the love that has come in and out of my life. She is able to take any experience, no matter how distant from my own, and make it understandable to me; in the process making the place of my own experiences more understandable in the world. She has changed the way I understand the feeling of home and the feeling of being myself.

Last year, going to Merlefest with my best friend Ginger marked the end of my first semester at UNCA, my first semester back in the area that I love. I was reeling with the weight of recent decisions, trying to figure out how to understand them as just a part of my life, rather than a definition of myself. It was at this festival that we both saw Gillian for the first time, a dream of ours since first being exposed to her music through friends and family. I had no idea at the time how much this show would change the feeling of the ensuing year, my understanding of myself, my motivations, and my friendship with Ginger. Since that first taste, I have traveled to seven Gillian Welch and David Rawlings shows, logging countless miles with my friend Ginger by my side. My understanding of Gillian and Dave’s music has deepened in ways I never knew possible, bringing with it a fuller understanding of myself and my goals. They bring me back to the deepest beauty of this world: the bittersweet experience of loving. Gillian and Dave have made me fall deeper in love with this world, and I have become wholly addicted to the experience of their shows.

The incredible emotional response they evoke from me makes the experience of their shows a kind of touchstone for other emotional experiences in my life. The meaning of most anything can be spun through their songs. This, I think, is the definitive purpose of artistic culture. At its best, art should be a medium through which we make sense of our experience in the world. We should allow ourselves to be changed both by the content, as well as the feeling of experiencing that content. There is no place in this world that I am as sure of myself as when I am riding home from a show in the middle of the night, overly caffeinated and preparing for a day of classroom delirium. This is the place where no questions need be asked, as I listen to the next tune on Ginger’s aptly named “why we do what we do” mix CD and revel in the overwhelming emotion drawn out of me by Gillian’s melancholy lyricism, and Dave’s euphoric guitar playing.

As I write this, it is 3 in the afternoon now, and I’ve yet to take a nap or eat a real meal. Running on fumes, these thoughts strike me as the most beautiful creations of my mind. I’m sure I will later read over them and think myself silly and overly dramatic. But I know that when Ginger reads this, she will understand.

Thanks Annie and Carolyn. More on the way!




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Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas
(Novello Festival Press, April 2008)
includes my essay, "Link Wray"


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