November 11, 2007

Wind and Rain in the SouthCoast


The girls and I visited the Narrows Center for the Arts to see Crooked Still perform. I'm not sure they really knew what to expect; this was their first live music show. The short story is that it was a long evening and everyone had a great time.

Maggie had work to do for her class, so the girls and I were on our own. We arrived 30 minutes before the show and the venue was already pretty full. There was ample space on one of the pews, but some people arrived later and wanted to sit next to their friends, which made for cramped seating.

The Narrows

The layout of the Narrows Center is very cozy. The building itself is an old factory, and the topmost floor is where performances are held. You enter through a small gallery area into a large room whose windows face the Taunton River, overlooking Water Street. Blocking some of the windows is a large black curtain behind a small stage. Right in front of the stage there are a number of small tables about the size of card tables. Set back a little farther are pews which surround the stage on 3 sides.

We sat on the "stage left" side of the stage, off the corner but a couple of rows back. It wasn't the best view, actually -- but it was close to the snack area, so the girls got to share a brownie while I grabbed a coffee to wait for the performance. The next time we go, we'll show up early with a cooler and food (it's BYO whatever) and grab a table!

It was too dark for my camera to get a good picture, and during the performance I didn't want the bright LCD disrupting any-one's enjoyment (from our vantage point, a quick snap would have been pointless; I would have had to aim carefully and make many attempts). The only picture I got was the empty stage between sets.

The show started a bit late, and the performers explained that they were on "Portuguese time" -- which meant that they were taking a laid back attitude after having waited a bit longer than expected for their (otherwise enjoyable) meal at an unnamed Portuguese restaurant.

SouthCoast Connections

Crooked Still are very personable, fun and relaxed. They had a good rapport with folks in the crowd, many of whom had followed them south from the Boston area. Aoife O'Donovan mentioned her connection to the SouthCoast: an aunt and uncle who have a house in Westport. She professed a great fondness for Westport's legendary Lees Market for its well-stocked hippie food supply, good for making vegan dishes such as a chocolate chip banana dessert. Whether it was a cake or pie, I can't recall, but she was sporting a neon green Band-Aid as a result of a mishap while baking it.

We heard about Corey DiMario's recent wedding and the night they spent in the UMass Dartmouth dorms. It struck me that these folks would fit right in with the JJKCriminals when Corey detailed an unfortunate dare involving two tablespoons of wasabi chased by a shot of Jameson. Why didn't we think of that? Dr. Gregory Liszt found it amusing that the dare was to prove Mr. DiMario's manhood, yet it resulted in much crying. Wasabi does tend to have that effect. My personal experience with wasabi peas (coincidentally purchased at Lees Market) involves a poker game, eating too many of them without thinking and losing my ability to taste for a couple of days. Maggie says the effect was caused by a cold I had coming on, but I blame the wasabi.

In a funny coincidence, our dinner conversation that evening was about the difference between the food flavors you taste with your tongue (limited to the five basics: salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami) vs. those that require a sense of smell. The band has a bagpiper friend who lacks the olfactory range of tasting, and exploits this by taking bets to eat things that other people would find disgusting. His worst experience? Eating a quantity of salt (sorry, the exact measure is eluding me at the moment, but it was somewhere between a couple of tablespoons and a cup) which resulted in 36 hours of hell.

After hearing that they like to discuss and compare state slogans and mottoes, I wish someone closer to the stage had asked them what they thought of Fall River's "We'll Try."

They performed all of my favorites except for "Little Sadie" from Shaken By A Low Sound. Maggie might have been disappointed; "Sadie" is the Crooked Still song I knew she had the biggest chance of liking. "Come On In My Kitchen" is my favorite, and I wasn't disappointed to hear them pour some serious emotion into their performance of it.

Singing Along

They called a number of children to sit at the foot of the stage, where Aoife could see that many of them knew the lyrics. She said it was her dream to see little girls singing along.  My girls were a bit too shy to sit so close to the performers.  I told them "they don't let you do that when you're an adult, so you ought to take advantage of it while you're young!" But they were quite happy where we were.

The entire audience was encouraged to join in on a couple of the songs. In "Wind and Rain" we sung "Oh the wind and rain" and "Oh the dreadful wind and rain." And during "Shady Grove" we pitched in on the refrain (which is repeated quite a few times at the end of the song, not that anyone seemed to mind). By that point in the evening K was quite exhausted, but perked back up to lend her voice to the crowd.

End of the Tour

Uninhibited Cellist Rushad Eggleston only has 3 more performances with Crooked Still, and it was great to see him before he moves off to the west coast. I don't know exactly where he's going, but if you hear about a sneth-metal band called "The Wild Band of Snee" or "But, Wizards?" I advise you to check it out. Rushad threw a wrench in the works for their encore, suggesting an impromptu Hank Williams song instead of the song Aoife had planned. It was a pleasure to hear them perform "Long Gone Lonesome Blues." The ear-tickling vocal somersaults had us grinning.

I believe the band is monitoring Internet buzz via Google Alerts, so, if you read this, thanks for such an enjoyable experience, especially for the girls who may be even more enthusiastic to see live music in the future. If you come back to the Narrows Center I'll be there. I'm looking forward to the new album in January and hearing Crooked Still with its new band members.

[For those who didn't see it the first time, my earlier post on Crooked Still.]

Posted by James at November 11, 2007 12:19 PM
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Nice review, thanks. Makes me feel like I was there.

Posted by: Mike at November 11, 2007 12:29 PM

K reminded me that she had been to a concert before -- a practice for the BSO (and you were there, actually). They've also, of course, participated in many concerts for piano and strings.

Posted by: Maggie at November 11, 2007 1:53 PM

Right - although the BSO was a practice and we were far away in the balcony.

I wasn't counting the concerts they'd performed in.

For me, this was the first time I'd been to a concert where a band member asked "does anyone know about neuropsychology?"

(There was a brief discussion about mirror cells and watching Josh Beckett pitch. Apparently, O'Donovan and DiMario are serious Red Sox fans.)

Posted by: James at November 11, 2007 2:20 PM

Sounds like you were treated to a terrific performance! And the Narrows is such a great venue. So personable and full of character.

Posted by: Sara at November 12, 2007 11:35 AM

It was terrific.

Next time they come around, I'm going to lean harder on people to come along with us. :D

maybe I'll promise to cook something good and bring it along.

Posted by: James at November 12, 2007 12:34 PM

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