Strange out-of-place homage to Wayne’s World. But perhaps not. An evening with Vance Gilbert comes with a huge amount of laughter, in addition to some stunning music and vocals.
The setting is familiar… The living room of Russ & Julie at one of their famous House Concerts. Twenty years, I believe and approaching 200 shows. Amazing. The joy of these shows is the casual and intimate nature. You get to mingle with the artist(s) before the show… usually. During intermission… usually. And afterwards… usually. Did I mention you are sitting in their living room? And there is a pot luck dessert buffet? Not great on the last night of a 10-day cleanse, but a good test of willpower!
Thank you, Russ & Julie! Again… and again… and again!
I had heard Vance’s music, of course, and knew of his reputation, but had never seen him live. Luckily I can now answer that question in the positive. A stunning, stunning evening.
This was the last in a three-night trifecta of singer/songwriters for me. Thursday was the remarkable David Poe at the Hotel Cafe. David’s songwriting is filled with poetry and wicked wit. He breaks your heart and makes you smile in one song… one verse.
I also had the good fortune to see the act before David hit the stage… Darlingside and Heather Maloney. They are both from the New England folk scene and happen to be touring together. Fantastic! Absolutely beautiful harmonies and musicianship. Keep an eye on both of these artists.
Friday night was a spontaneous evening at the Canyon Club to see Sea Wolf… aka Alex Brown Church. I would have loved to have seen the music fleshed out by a band, but his solo acoustic set grew in power as the evening went on, and I have always been a fan of his simplicity and force.
I learned a lot about Folk music over the course of these three nights.
First, most folk singers have fantastic senses of humor. Vance could easily do standup. Hysterical.
Second, most are very self-effacing and brutally honest. Though how can you be anything else when it is basically you and a guitar, alone on stage? Same goes for that killer sense of humor. It comes with the territory and touring, I imagine. A survival instinct.
Third, this is a genre that pulls you in perhaps more than any other. It is an open dialogue between performer and audience, a connection, immediate and powerful.
Fourth, the community is strong and filled with remarkable support. Heather was so genuinely excited when I told her I was seeing Vance and thanked ME for supporting live music. Pretty sophisticated for a young twenty-something. Vance was shocked that Heather once opened for him, praising her incredible talent and genuinely fawning over her musical gifts. It was great to see and hear that, as too many times we are more exposed to jealousy and in-fighting. Good on you, folk singers!
I remember the first time I saw Loudon Wainwright III. It was at McCabe’s Guitar Shop. Again, I knew the music before I set foot in the venue, but seeing him live was transformative. Loudon’s music is beautiful… stunningly, gorgeously beautiful and poignant. But it can also be sharp-witted, like a tongue or a rapier. That dichotomy was always so fascinating to me. He would make me laugh and break my heart, all at the same time. Like life, I guess.
Vance gave me that same satisfaction and utter joy. McCabe’s, where he played the following night, described him as “delivering beautiful, heartfelt songs with an angelic voice, a devilish wit, and some serious guitar chops.” They also included a quote from Dirty Linen that says he is “among the quintessential musical poets.” Yeah! What they said!
His voice is powerful and just soars, and closing the evening a cappella was potent. So was the gut-hurting (from laughing out loud) spontaneous song he sang about his love for snacks. I will hereby describe my belly as an “awning for my junk”.
Highlights for me include: “God Bless Everyone”, “Out The Way We Came In” (pure genius), “Unfamiliar Moon”, “Old White Men” and “Goodbye Pluto”. Closing with Hall and Oates’ “Sara Smiles” was one of the best covers I have heard.
Vance is also one of the nicest, most sincere human beings you will meet and was as truly moved by the evening as we were.
Live music MUST be part of the community, because it adds to the community and truly helps it thrive. So powerful, so healing, so mighty and amazing. Laugh out loud, sing out loud… live and love. Amen. AMEN!