Friday, November 17, 2006

Tonight's Great Uncle Helmer show at the Freighthouse Dunn Bros. Coffee in Minneapolis was really fun and strange. Among other things, it contained the longest, silliest version of "Kansas City, Nebraska" ever. Karl sneezed right at a break in the verses and everyone cracked up. The song completely stopped. He said he always thought that the unavoidable sneeze was merely a convention of poorly plotted suspense fiction but that now he is a believer.

Then, instead of hacking apart another terrible bass solo over those slippery chords, I tried to tell a joke that required Karl to remember a single line. He did not remember it from the hour and a half before when I had told him it. This forgetting did not in any way detract from the joke.

Finally, the last part of the song was expanded with several good improvised rhymes about the mysterious woman while I insisted over and over that "it's just me". Sounds long and silly, doesn't it. Well believe me it was.

As promised, we also gave the "speaking in tongues" feature its Twin Cities debut and it was a huge success. Karl and I felt very impressed and edified by some of our favorite listeners' interpretations of our songs. Here are the ones I can remember (I just got home):

Zo Bid (click titles for lyrics)
A frequent listener suggested that "Zobid" was the name of a prescription drug and that the person in the song may have run out of their prescription. I love this interpretation, in that it accepts the words of the chorus (and title) as they are rather than shifting them mentally to their near equivalents in the English language, as I realize now I have been needlessly doing.

Rio Grande
Another frequent listener suggested this song was about "differentiating from your family of origin" an interpretation I immediately called "exactly right". I was challenged on this because I had said there were no wrong answers, so I clarified and said there were "right" and "exactly right" answers.

Bass Guitar
A previously total stranger suggested this song was a close cousin of "I'm A Little Teapot". This fascinates me and I will have to listen to it more, or maybe read over the lyrics again. A more frequent listener with the advantage of having heard the song several times suggested it was about a father's love for his child. These are all good readings of the song.

Introducing the Door
This song was said to be about wanting someone to leave and also about spiritual growth. I agree with both. I would add only that it is Karl's greatest "mystery" song and that no interpretation is complete.

There was another song that was said to be about baseball, but I can't remember which one. After that interpretation, we played "Ron Cey", which needs very little interpretation and is indeed one of our more overt songs and is definitively about baseball, marriage, and the passage of time.

I know there were more and if anyone who was there remembers them, please put them in comments on this blog entry and I will publish them. I am sleepy now and having trouble remembering. Thank you and thanks to all who attended this very fun, strange show.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Karl and I had a fun show in New Richmond, Wisconsin tonight.

Our idea was two high energy sets of our fastest, catchiest, most accessible songs. This was modeled after our polished and well received set at the Bryant Lake Bowl last April. Well, the people who come out on a Wednesday night in New Richmond, Wisconsin are maybe not exactly the same folks who come to Bryant Lake Bowl at 11 p.m. on a Thursday in April. We felt like we were a little too loud and high energy by the end of the first set.

We ended up emphasizing slower more "folk" like material. This is fine. I like that material at least as much as the fast material. Also, I guess we were guessing somewhat because we couldn't see the crowd or their reaction for the bright lights shining on us. (Incidentally, I counted the lights (not out loud, just in my head) during the break in "Starguise" "I can't see the moon...3,6,9,12,13, ooh 13!...but my rocket charts should be here pretty soon".)

Basically, we played a good show in a very nice venue, The Old Gem Theater. There were not all that many people there, maybe 15 or 20 at the high point. But we moved four or five CDs and Karl and I played very well together. Actually, from a musical standpoint, I felt like we played very, very well. I would even say we gave definitive readings of the following songs:

(Today I Don't Mind Livin' In A) Small Town
Road Movie to Berlin
Car of Jonas
I in the Sky
Bass Guitar
Introducing the Door
Buffalo Bill's Grave

Tonight also marked the grand debut of the new GUH innovation, "speaking in tongues". In other words, we acknowledge that some of our songs are confusing, mysterious, and obscure. In tonight's feature, we asked audience members to interpret our bizarre words and tell everyone what they felt a given song meant. Tonight's selection was "Bass Guitar". The audience member who responded said it was about a "bass guitar". So true.

And yet, somewhat incomplete and non definitive. Perhaps next time we will choose a different song for this feature. But make no mistake, it will become a regular feature of GUH shows. Prepare if you wish, although we are aiming for pentecostal church style inspired interpretations that just hit you like a lightning bolt.

Xanadu was interesting. I sang very, very quietly, letting the microphone do the work, and came a little bit closer to getting the harmony part correct. Only very rarely have I been satisfied with my part on that live. Maybe one or two times. I was not happy with tonight's either, but I came closer to something I think I could really settle in to. Is that weird for a song I've sung for twelve years?

Buffalo Bill's Grave had tremendous dynamic range. On the quiet, slow sections I flat picked individual strings for the first time instead of strumming. This is something I will do from now on as the dynamics of the guitar part then match the variable tempo.

Inkwell felt really great tonight too. It really flowed and I felt like I sang it gently and had a little bit of my young voice back that is audible on the studio version from winter 1995. Karl was really on tonight as well, on this song and on everything else.

Thank you to Kathy and Rick at the Old Gem, the town of New Richmond and the Wednesday night music series, and especially everyone who came out to see us. We hope you enjoy the CDs you bought.