I have probably been to almost half a billion concerts, although I never saw Richard Wagner, who is one of the more atrocious people to ever live, which is unfortunate because he was also a genius, with a breathtaking ambition to create the most epic, colourful, bombastic music the world had seen. And largely succeeded. But he was an awful person on many levels: arrogant on a level to make Kanye West sound like a more timid Napoleon Dynamite; anti-Semite to the extreme; blatant racist; a manipulative scoundrel who abused others his whole miserable life.
Which makes it so terrible that the universe let him leave behind such a stunning legacy. Ring des Nibelungen (the Ring cycle), Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde...his pieces combined music, drama, storytelling, and epic themes in an integrated way that was mindblowing in both concept and execution.
Becca and I were at a show a couple weeks ago. Jason Lytle, creative force behind one of the greatest unheralded bands ever, Grandaddy. Anyway, most concerts have an opening act. A woman took the stage with a guitar and microphone. Also, another woman was there with guitar and mic. Making a total of two women, two guitars, and two mics.
Sea of Bees was their name, although it really is the nom de guerre for Julie Baenziger, a solo artist. Together, they launched into an opening that sounded like a dead ringer for the exact distance separating Cat Power from Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan.
She was obviously not entirely comfortable on stage, but their banter between each heartfelt, alt-pop-folky song was charming; the kind of authentic humility that makes the thirty-ish audience chuckle out loud and spontaneously clap in support.
They finished their set, and graciously hippie-courtsied away. I stopped by the merchandise table to say hi and chat with Julie. If the universe has known the equivalent of a human most distant from Richard Wagner, this would be her. Kind, personable, self-deprecating without being annoying, appreciative, and surprisingly humorous. Just because she was so nice, and the show was so good, I decided to clunk down $20 for her two CDs. My experience with most lo-fi, folk-driven music is that even when it sounds great live, it usually sounds terrible recorded. Bland, flat, ubiquitous strumming that makes me want to throw on some Götterdämmerung. So we left and later played the albums, and...
they were good. Really quite nice! I particularly have been enchanted with her 2010 release Songs for the Ravens, a sweet, dreamy, occasionally bouncy lo-fi affair that has her hushed vaguely-Irish vocals flying along with accoustic guitar, some glockenspiel, and gorgeous harmonies. In fact, I was pleasantly to discover what some might call the Greatest Song Ever: track 3 Wizbot, a quietly building indie rocker that splatters love all over the world and in the face of decomposing Dick Wagner.
I guess I am fascinated and inspired by people who are able to do two things:
1) fill the world with their talents via music, art, film, etc.,
2) be a decent person at the same time.
Thanks, Jules. You have succeeded.
Sea of Bees
Songs for the Ravens