Monday, December 1, 2008

Another Night in the Round at the Postcrypt

The e-mail reached my inbox on a Friday, so when the phone rang at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, and it was my parents’ phone number, I knew why my father was calling. I said, “Yes, Dad, I’m going to the Postcrypt to see Jack tonight.” My father said, “All right,” and he rolled into town that evening, meeting me at Havana Central (formerly the West End Gate) for a pre-Postcrypt beverage.

Over at the Postcrypt, Jack Hardy and Tim Robinson were tuning up backstage. (See the setlist here from Tim Robinson’s appearance with Suzanne Vega and Richard Julian at the Postcrypt back in the spring.) The third performer for the night was Chris Fuller, another attendee of the Songwriter’s Circle, which is held in Jack's apartment on Monday nights. I was not familiar with his work, and by the end of the show, one of my companions assessed him in the following terms: “He has so many neuroses that he makes me feel normal.” His songs borrowed a little bit of Jack’s lyrical style but added in a touch of hallucinogenic drugs and some bubbling id -- they were intriguing, if not always completely comprehensible, concoctions.

The three had established themselves on the stage, and with no one taking the lead in introductions, my father suggested that I do it. So inspired by the concoctions available at Havana Central, I did, which was a rather fun flashback to the late 1990s.

During the first set, Jack played new material, starting the entire show off with a song about a cowboy friend of his named Rainer: “How could you not be a cowboy with a name like that?” Lamenting the upcoming departure of his greatest muse of late -- George W. Bush -- the source of one Jack Hardy song after another for the past eight years, he sang an inspirational (and serious) song for the incoming Obama administration: “If There Ever Was a Time.” Still he couldn’t help himself from ending the first set with “Worst President Ever.” In between, he played a cool song about memories with the repeated line “Brother, can you spare a dime for the crime of the century?” and a song called “Kansas.”

My first introduction to Chris Fuller was his response to Jack’s cowboy song opening: “This is a country song, too, but with no cowboys in it, and no Western themes, in fact. … When I’m hard up for a song, I consult the Encyclopedia of Mythology. This is a song about the centaur. … It’s about the roots of Western civilization!." “Another Fine Mess” sounded the most like a Jack Hardy song of Chris’s repertoire, which was amusing since he noted, “The Mr. Hardy in the song is not the same Mr. Hardy as on stage, although there are some grounds for comparison.” His most memorable song of the night was "Red," a phantasmagoric song with the repeated lyric “In the bloody mess of childbirth, / Your life gets painted red.” The song opens

Down at the corner
Of Psycho Path and Rue De Wakening
Johnny’s fryin‘ eggs on the sidewalk,
Scramblin’ all over the street.

Tim Robinson delivered a number of good tunes in the opening set. He started with his great “Orelia's Kiss,” followed it with “Tommy and Claire,” a song about two hippies in 1972, gave us a nice one called “No Place Wild But the Heart” and wrapped up with the terrific “Between the Moon and the Sun.” In the second set, he would play "Black Car," "Out on the Edge" and a brand new one called “Girl on a Train.”

Chris Fuller started the second set with a scary “song about Halloween that takes place on Christmas” called “Magic Lantern.” And Tim followed it with “Boho,” about Beatniks gone awry. Jack had been handed a number of requests during the setbreak, and he pulled out “Johnny’s Gone for a Soldier in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Wars,” inspired by his opening on a tour for Mitch Ryder, doing 29 gigs in 31 days, playing in front of “leather-jacketed types who wished they lived in Detroit” and becoming terribly sick at the mere mention of “Devil with the Blue Dress On.”

When Chris started the next round with “Colfax Avenue,” Jack gave us the history lesson that Colfax was President Ulysses S. Grant’s vice-president, but Chris said that the song was about the street in Denver, not the one in South Bend, Indiana, and that somehow settled that.

“This being a well-read, educated crowd, I’m going to guess that most of you are fans of Mexican wrestling!” That was Chris’s introduction to “Red Nomad of the Highlands.” “I’d like to introduce my pregnant wife. … I have CD’s for sale!” That was his conclusion.

Jack had the next zinger of an introduction: “I wrote this 10 years ago; I didn’t know that I was writing a campaign song for Sarah Palin,” he said before launching into the classic “I Oughta Know.” Jack also played “The Zephyr,” one of my all-time favorites, and one that I have entreated him to play at the Postcrypt in the past.

From Chris, someone requested “Get a Room,” a tune filled with lists of couples who should do so: “Church and state – get a room!”

As the show wound to a close, we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Jack -- the party was at his apartment after his show, although my father and I bowed out. (“You guys used to know how to party,” he chided us.) On the verge of turning another year, Jack closed the Postcrypt portion of the festivities with a new song: “Climb Up the Hill to the Capitol.”


Nick Toloudis said...

I just saw this--excellent stuff, Matt. "Johnny's Gone" is a fantastic song from the Civil Wars album (also has The Zephyr and 111th Pennsylvane, and a fabulous song called The Black Hole)...I was psyched to hear it live!

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt,

It's Chris Fuller. Just wanted to chime in to say Moonshine Show has been may favorite way to kill Sunday morning for some time now.

Thanks a lot for the review... it means a lot. I'm not sure if I met you at the show or not. But if I did I definitely did not put it together that you were the Moonshine guy. Anyway....

Till next time,