So after six months away, I returned quite happily to Gainesville. Naturally I went nearly immediately to the Tom Miller (Now Winter-Summer) Unspectacular. Between preparing to move, calming my mother down from her emotional swings as a result of said move, and job hunting, this ended up being the only show I played.
The Tom Miller show is so much more fun with allies. Especially allies that come wide eyed and uncorrupted. This first night back I brought two with me, my friend Albert and his astonishingly, distractingly pretty friend Julianne. Luckily, I had ample opportunity to be distracted at the start of the night, watching their reactions to Tom Miller’s antics. Owing to a small showing, he took out a manuscript from a book of his (I do not know if this book is a fabrication or not) and commenced reading excerpts of alternately shocking and lascivious prose. One of these short pieces even berated his friends for not giving him money. I enjoyed them immensely. I owe this delight, probably, to my “in-the-know” status. As Albert later put it, the Tom Miller show elicits an initial reaction of is-this-really happening coupled with what-am-i-doing-here. The vibe settles on you later, and as you become more comfortable and included to begin to let go and enjoy, but those first few moments are priceless.
Tom continued this theme of “words” by inviting an author to the stage next. This author read from his recently published book in a hilariously conceited and faux accented style (obviously he was quite pleased with his book, reading a random passage for about twenty minutes) before leaving. “Words” continued as a young man read a passable river poem.
Finally we moved out of “words” into “music.” Tom introduced a local hillbilly banjo player as having come from out of town despite numerous audience corrections. I can confirm that he entertained us. I cannot, however, vouch for his sense of intonation. Either his style intentionally involved playing with progressively flatter strings (from the high string to low) and a oppositely scaling flatness to his voice or he was tone deaf. Both are possible. A good sense of rhythm, however, thrummed through the Laboratory with the assistance of a nearly catatonic drunkard who clapped along (generally behind) while he nourished the table with his flask of beer. By the end of our banjo player’s set, the chrome tabletop resembled a modern infinity pool or fountain.
Tom’s antics at the start of the show made sense with the show’s own particular logic. A very small showing of acts necessitated that he drag the show out to it’s normal length my any means. Most show’s last around three and a half hours and he wanted to make sure this one did not disappoint. He enjoys putting what he considers as talent near the end (especially newcomers) to see how many people the show will drive away first. Only the hardcore who stick around through all the shenanigans get to reap that reward, and one has to remain for the end for to win, too. At any rate, “Broadway Dave,” my personal favourite regular, charmed us with an excellent karaoke rendition of Zoot Suit Riot, and Be Prepared. After audience pressure he introduced Albert and Julianne to that uncommonly beautiful hand dancing style to The Circle of Life.
Dave’s brother Chase karaoke’d a single song in honor of his grandparents. His rather brilliant tactic seems to be to use original tracks (with the vocal parts still playing) at high volume such that his voice is hardly distinguishable from the true lead voice. I suppose this hides flubs and things so that we concentrate more on his stage presence and appreciate the music as it was first recorded. If nothing else, he introduces his generation’s music to a new crop of people. A comedian followed him up – one I can hardly remember beyond the fact that he existed – and then, finally, me.
I asked Julianne to choose a cover off my Live on Street Corner album. The last time I played at the Laboratory, this CD remained unfinished and I nursed high hopes I might sell a few to this warm group of patrons. I sandwiched I Will Follow You Into the Dark between two of my newer songs Silver Lining and If We Had Two – written after last January – and as an encore my Forever & a Day. I remained surprisingly collected and confident so long as I avoided looking towards Albert and Julianne. I guess I’m most comfortable playing for strangers.
I plugged my CD a few times through my performance and Tom replugged it after I left. When Chase asked to talk to me outside I assumed he wished to purchase one, so I left happily with one in hand. It turns out he wanted to confront me about my blog posts. Throughout the night, Tom and others alluded to my blog with sarcastic recommendations to read it, mentioning how I talk about “everything.” Apparently many Tom read a post or two one night that I’d written about the show, and some of the performers took offense. I couldn’t quite remember what I’d written as I talked with Chase and felt like I must have greatly denigrated the other acts in various ways. Chase said that some wanted him to beat me up when I returned. He, however, held the opinion that I simply spoke the truth. He told me he admired that I write things how I see them, and that I don’t hold back. In fact due to my blog he quit smoking. In my amnesiac state I apologized for slights I imagined I cast, while he assured me that of the silliness of said apologies. Upon review of my posts at home, of course, I concurred with his assessment. There’s not an over-reaching offensive thing in there.
I re-entered the Lab at the end of Mystic’s flute performance, relying as ever on cavernous reverb, and chatted with Julianne and Albert while we waited for the winner to be announced. Random.org decreed me that winner of $25 store credit. Petite Julianne took Albert off to see a lingerie store while I remained entangled in a lengthy conversation with the oppositely proportioned James Wesson on the porch. Oh the inequities of life. The distance between musician of popular opinion and the real musician’s lifestyle.
Earnings: $25.00 tab, 20 minutes
Song of the Day: I Will Follow You Into the Dark – Death Cab for Cutie