Monday, May 17, 2010

And Here's My Thoughts About "So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?"

Harold Ray was a highlight. I'll start there because before anything else I want to say something positive about Sunday night's great show at the Whistler on Milwaukee in Logan Square, Chicago, IL. At the show's conclusion, Ray [Update: a character, I've recently learned, of the Chicago-based writer, Jacob Knabb)] sang, with the musical accompaniment of authors Patrick Somerville (banjo) and Mark Rader (fiddle), a rendition of "Dead Flowers" -- The Rolling Stones' song, but ostensibly done to the tune of the Townes Van Zandt cover featured on "The Big Lebowski" soundtrack. I liked it quite a lot.

The music in general of the Somerville / Rader tandem was a nice surprise for what I had initially presumed was going to be a strictly reading affair (though I can say I would not have been disappointed if it were, just liked the change of pace). I was not disappointed with my last, more traditional trip to the Whistler, for example.

The stories of Todd Dills, editor of the2ndhand which hosted the event, were enjoyable and his stage presence, whether true to his real life form or an affected manner for performance purposes only, was definitely amusing. But some of Dills' comedic attempts left me underwhelmed. (E.g. whatever the deal was behind the repeated interruptions of his Lady Gaga "Bad Romance" ringtone, that got to be too much very quickly). And so with that said, I figure I should just get the few negative opinions I have of a very good event out of the way. Purge the bad blood quick and cleanly, so to speak.

The beginning part, the part with the woman with whom I'm not familiar and who was to her credit noticeably enthusiastic if not quite at ease, that part was not good. It was plainly not good. The audience, while not a rowdy audience, didn't seem to enjoy whatever it was she was trying to do, which I still think was humor but I'm not positive. All I know is the crescendo moment was meant to be when she got seven volunteers to join her onstage for the purpose of dancing to Wreckx-N-Effect's "Rump Shaker," which again I take it irony and humor were meant to have a role in this, but I failed to see how exactly. And do not misunderstand me -- I'm all for quirky, off-the-wall fun and audience participation / I'm not a total stiff. I just felt the underlying motivation for doing what was done in the opener was undeniably pretentious, on the cloyingly hipster-ish, ugly side of what the literary scene promulgates and perpetuates. The volunteers went with it, but not without a smallish pervading undercurrent of awkwardness.

A perfect counterpoint to what I disliked about the opener was the more softly-stated staring contest put on by Heather Palmer before her reading. The contest was epic and, as evidenced by the cries and exhortations of the crowd, one that seemed to go on longer than was humanly possible. But it was genuine, not poking holes abstractly and for no discernible at some derivation of early modern hip hop and new age, self-help methodology (the opener also featured a monologue dealing with some notion of being addicted to self-help that descended abysmally into having an exorcist for some purpose that mystified me (and to be fair, I wasn't in attendance at the last of this monthly series hosted by 2ndhand, so I may have been missing something vital -- cannot be sure of what, exactly, though)).

Heather Palmer's reading was pleasant. It was not from her work appearing presently at the 2ndhand, and readable here on their website. Still it was a good story, featuring a line that has stuck with me, and I paraphrase like so, "Anna learned to speak with her hands before her mouth." Simple but good. Maybe? What do you think, pray tell?

Patrick Somerville was, as headliners should be, the highlight of the show. The story he read was called, "The Time I Accidentally Fell in Love with the Girl Across the Bay" -- a fictitious telling of his family history, and specifically the exploits of his great-grandfather, Henry Somerville, a "self-taught" dentist. There were repeated musical interludes, as mentioned already, which nicely complimented the rustic vibe of the story. I continue to urge you to read something by Somerville.

And there might be more worth mentioning. I drank a PBR in the heavily trafficked lane between the bar and the bathrooms aloofly, which is never my intention to be but listen you, I'm not exactly world's most outgoing person of the year, so cut me some slack, will ya? You smile at me and I'll smile at you, but you first.

It was a Great show! (aside from the parts that were not)

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