Monday, September 27, 2010

Ryan Thomas Becker - 27 Sep. 2010 - Opening Bell

It had been a long day, one of those days you feel embarrassed to be calling long. After all, what right do any of us have to be calling those hours of sitting and typing and pensiveness anything that resembles labor. But it is our ill habit, in this age, to feel the inexplicable, psychic drag of some days.

It was just that sort of day when I walked into Opening Bell at Southside still wearing my interview clothes, feeling odd in tie and dress shoes. And it may seem hackneyed to say so, but I felt my gloomy, urban anxiety go slack when Ryan Thomas Becker hummed his first note.

The curative power of music: an oft-repeated idea to make it nearly insipid. But there it stands like a faithful truth, like restful Sundays or the sleep of deep night, steadfastly routine. A proper tune arrives just as timely, a word said perfectly, a few notes down and up in a particular order to make the nerves smooth again.

A lot of music is just perfect, very on-the-nose. Ryan Thomas Becker is not. His music is beyond conceivability, so much that an idea like "perfect" can't really precede it. Most people, I think, believe in something at the bottom of their living, beyond the obvious, and in their inability to get at it. Everybody wants to crawl between the molecules and pull the universe over themselves like bedcovers. Ryan Thomas Becker helps us prospect in that direction.

One man with a worn voice and an acoustic guitar on an otherwise innocuous, overwrought Monday, and suddenly I'm ok.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Doug Burr – 16 September 2010 – Church of the Holy Cross

You could hear every foot shuffle resonate last night in the sanctuary of Church of the Holy Cross. An obligatory solemnity managed to overtake the audience and everyone but Doug Burr was wary of breaking the delicate silence. Burr was performing his album The Shawl in its supposed entirety; although, I failed to absolutely confirm this. The Shawl, as I’ve written previously, is the simplest musical collection of Biblical Psalms, unmodified in their meticulous English translation* save for a multiple refrain here and there. Burr has apparently been soliciting area churches for space to perform the album and Father Will Brown, Rector of Church of the Holy Cross, was eager to accommodate.

Church of the Holy Cross is an Episcopalian church; moreover, an "Anglo-Catholic Episcopal Parish" by emphasis, which could explain the accidental quiescence. There are traditions of worship – I am intimately familiar with one – in which clapping is a frightful experience. Anglicanism is frequently one of them and their architecture, along with their cultural heritage of punctiliousness, reinforces propriety, solemnity. The results are often beautifully weighty, as was largely the case last night. Doug Burr was flanked by two accompanying musicians, all three standing just beyond the altar gate. His characteristic white shock of hair stood up, as if he were one peculiarly marked by God. A candle representative of creation’s eternal light, the uninterrupted announcement, flickered behind him.

Burr’s voice is precarious. His song often comes out more a cautious pace than a reckless sprint. The methodical words are not always entirely understood and, if you’re in a crowded din, the experience is frustrating. The case here was different. There are those who are compelled, and I am reasonably sure Burr is similarly compelled, that the words of The Shawl are uniquely efficacious. Christ-haunted, Doug Burr plays something of the ghost himself. Not a note The Shawl is very sharp, but its gravity is already beyond the norm, so all of it is imbued with an ineffable collision. In some ways, The Shawl feels like one long prelude to Burr’s most multiplied and unmistakable refrain: “surely there is a God who judges.” A strange comfort; a bloody grace.

The Psalms are a long tradition, not only in Judaism, but in Christianity too, where they are interpreted in the light of the Christians’ dawn. They’ve gone largely neglected in Christendom, where a troublingly many compose music in the undignified hubris that they have created something sacred. Burr’s approach evokes something, I think, closer to the original. A dusty-footed Palestinian of the first century, standing in the dim light of his or her old synagogue, singing aloud the fifty eighth of an ancient book of songs, bewildered with the newness of every word, strangely and fearfully assured.

*New American Standard

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Field Goal Percentage

This morning found me at Buckner park, watching my over-inflated, composite basketball careen off the rim at a tantalizing variety of angles.

Do you think I could start a rap war between Daniel T. Hall and Dem Southernfolkz? Hall has made some of the more frivolous plagiarism charges I've ever heard, but I'm desperate for material. Plus, Daniel T. seems like the kind of guy who would bring a log-chain to a gunfight, so I'm game to try.

Friday, September 3, 2010

90210 - The Cavern

My friend was gracious enough to point out yesterday's date: 90210. This assumes, of course, that you're punctilious enough to include the preceding zero of the day, but not the month. Suspect.

I was sloshing back Ziegenbock in a plastic tumbler made to look like a legitimate beer glass wondering if the night held some sort of compensating experience. Xry (pron. "cry), the duo from San Antonio, placated me. A warped bass sound and electro squealch and very short shorts. It is at times like those that I regret my staunch, Baptist upbringing. Some twisted kind of nurture has left me with a level of self-consciousness too severe to ever dance when I feel like it.

Muhammad Ali from Houston spoke that neanderthalic rock language in which I am fluent. It is a tonal, confusing, but austere, nearly brutal language. It is nearly unintelligible and practically incommunicable, but vital to me. It is simplistic rock that defies logical measures of art, but somehow surpasses it.

I have heard a lot about Leg Sweeper in the past couple of months. A drums, guitar, vocals duo that follows closely in the vein of other drums, guitar, vocals duos; thankfully so, if you were to ask me. Everybody crowded around the Cavern stage, which is something I haven't seen for a while: the emptiness existing behind the crowd, in the back of the room. "Energy" is bound to come up in all of their reviews, so I mention it here reluctantly. But there was a sufficient hyperactivity to obviate technical deficiencies.