Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Night At The Armory

Asheville, North Carolina, singer-songwriter David Wilcox was in Key West Tuesday night and my wife and I had no clue. Then Robert and Dolly announced they were back in town from a ski trip to Utah and they had tickets for all four of us. So off we went. It was quite an education for me, as I had never heard of David Wilcox before and even though I had a late night shift scheduled I was delighted for the opportunity to learn.Robert and Dolly had it all planned and they instructed us to meet them for dinner at Mattheessens 4th of July where we had burgers fries and ice cream. Mattheesens on White Street is a replica of a restaurant dear to the heart of post World War Two Conchs who remember the original restaurant in the city and this one apparently does a creditable job of imitating it with a soda fountain and the ice cream and so forth. We heard about Robert's brush with death on a modest ski slope wherein he dislocated his shoulder five minutes after trying to launch himself on his skis, and like any self respecting Key Wester he retired from the fray to self medicate and wish for warmer climes."At least he got to see snow," Dolly said as though that were a good thing. Robert really must love her a lot as she is quite fond of Utah's ski slopes... and they will reappear in their future together.The Armory on White Street is no longer used to drill the home guard or anything like that. The big cream colored building is devoted to Art and is home to a collection of artistic endeavors and actual artists, eleven of them apparently, in a group calling itself The Studios of Key West. I checked their website tskw.org which is irritatingly short of useful information but they have big plans and have all the usual suspects in the high profile/small pond artistic patronage department of the Southernmost City behind them so hopefully they will be around for a while. They probably had a jamboree opening last year and I failed to notice because artistic stuff comes and goes like lightning strikes in an expensive desirable little town like Key West. I'm going back for more next year when the snowbirds are back and demanding Culture, because TSKW, however awkward their acronym, put on a good show. The place was packed by the time we got to kick off at 8pm.According to one of the presenters organizers had blanketed the guest houses around town for the event and people turned out in droves to see this singer of whom I had never heard. This tactic may have looked successful from the stage but it was a disaster for me. Imagine the two loudest most drunk heckler sin the room happened to take the chairs right behind mine. Now I'm pretty sure one of the witches was a big fan of his because she kept caterwauling at the artists to perform a song called "Burgundy" such that before the last song he politely told her it wasn't part of his repertoire and she grunted like a stuck pig. So did I, but heroically, under my breath. I am one of those obnoxious people who will come up to you if you are talking in a movie and will stare in your face and not very politely ask you to shut-the-@#$!-up. That I restrained myself this evening was more good manners towards Dolly and Robert than to the screeching harpy sitting behind me.It was a pity because this Wilcox character is quite the performer. He sings, plays the guitar, tunes it endlessly between songs like a nervous oboe-ist in an orchestra, and packs his songs with imagery and allusions such that one has to really listen to get the most of it. "Did you stay awake?" Stephanie, a friend we happened upon at the performance, asked from the seat in front. I explained I was struggling to listen and she smirked. I think she enjoyed the fact I was sitting right in front of the harridan with the alcohol problem. I took a picture of Stephanie's rather fetching hat:There was another dude with a cool hat outside on the street waiting for the concert to begin, and I snapped his picture before the light went away. Just for something to do you understand:It was a fine concert and I'm sure Wilcox is all over the Internet where he will be seen and heard if like me, you have no idea who he is. One of his songs considered the problem of Jerusalem (!) and he allegorised the issue as three brothers getting a shared inheritance which was very thought provoking.In another song he compared our plunging economy to another opportunity to re-open the frontier, for us all to become pioneers, to open up to risk and adventure which was an image I plan to hold close in the months ahead. He also, in a tour-de-force asked an audience member to speak upon a subject of importance and he would write a song. That notion agitated the drunk behind me, I can tell you, and before she could get her oar in a woman across the room told a brave story about her therapist falling in love with her. Wilcox strummed his guitar (the drunk settled into a loud accompanying burble) and came up with a remarkable image of a man on the banks of a river filled with a log jam and his inappropriate love drowning him in the stream.I hate audience participation, I'd rather castrate myself than participate, but this effort was surprisingly effective. This was part of the auditorium in the intermission. Wilcox sang for more than two hours.I don't doubt a more competent review than mine will appear in Solares Hill this Sunday as it's editor Mark Howell, sat next to me for the first half of the concert. Unhappily he wasn't there for the second half with the participatory composition which was a highlight for me. Howell spoke briefly to me and expounded on his Welsh ancestry (identifying me on the fly as a member of the English oppressor class, as well as a fellow immigrant- all in one!). He scribbled notes frantically in the dark reminding me happily of my former days of journalism as I luxuriated in the music, and the mental images of slow painful deaths I could dream up for the howling dypsomaniac in the row behind me.