Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SwedeFest Recap, Part III

(While this completes the SwedeFest Recap, the live album and concert DVD will take considerably more time to produce. Stay tuned.)

Since SwedeFest was on a Sunday and I’d planned for somewhat of an early show, I put 7 p.m. on the flyers. I should’ve put 8 or 9… But I got to chat with a lot of folks I don’t see near often enough, so the first couple hours were a great time anyway. If I hadn’t been growing steadily more nervous about actually playing guitar and singing I wouldn’t have had a single care about the slow pace of the night.

After waiting for a few key folks, I hit the stage to bring everybody inside, front and center for a little opening Thank You. And then I said (roughly) “Since I’m now 30 and therefore quickly approaching my deathbed, I thought I’d take this opportunity to make a public declaration of my final will and testament. And since it’s my party, I’m a-gonna sing it.” I invited Jeff onstage, grabbed the guitar out of its case, untwisted the strap from around the neck, sat down, adjusted the microphone, looked over at Jeff, announced the song and started in on “Throw My Ashes Over Wolf Creek Falls.”

We were playing without monitors and I could barely hear my guitar or my singing, so I tried to just act like I was staring out my bedroom window and play the song exactly like I had over and over and over the previous few weeks. I flubbed some – and a bit more later on – but it was a great experience.

Jeff and I ran through “Darkest Hour” pretty well and then before “The Primary Colors Song,” I told the story of the old Primary Colors Party, and congratulated the few folks in the house who had been at that legendary party eight years earlier. The song itself is simple and a great sing-along, and the SwedeFest audience didn’t disappoint. Hopefully the video captured a bit from the stage perspective of those hearty folks enjoying the song at the tops of their lungs.

And just like that I was done. I was simultaneously elated to have played my first “show” and fully aware that I was the mediocre three-song opener who should just go away quickly and leave the stage to the real bands.

I thanked everybody again, introduced the rest of the night and walked off to grab another beer before Honeysocks began his set.

Honeysocks started out with the fantastic “Dingoes Ate My Band,” one of his most notable compositions and a song that draws on humor as much as the folk tradition. “Who’d have thought that drummer meat would be in such high demand?”

Al also brought out some of his best covers – his deadpanned rendition of “You Can Call Me Al,” the barely recognizable but awesome folk-blues take on Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” and per my request, Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”

Up next was a short-handed Chango Malo, and I had no clue what to expect from a band whose singer was stuck out of town longer than expected on a film project. What they lacked in preparation or cohesion (and I say that lovingly, gentlemen), they made up for in audacity and piss-yourself humor (a turn of phrase, and not, thankfully, a literal description).

Jericho, the burly drummer, had already put down a few earlier, and was now on the microphone as the singer, and it seemed like he was MC’ing a roast of me as much as anything. They started with a version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” unlike any other, and I’ll leave the description at that. Then Kane Flint from the Provocative Whites jumped up to play guitar on Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop.”

And the band brought their short set to and end with a smokin’ version of Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” guitars cranked high and saxophonist David Clark moving out front to sing, giving it his all on a performance that had me shouting along the whole way, just trying to keep up. Awesome.

Soon after, The Swim hit the stage for the band’s first show in quite a while, their first with a new guitarist – and barely enough rehearsal time under their belts. Well, if the SwedeFest set is any indication, The Swim have just gotten a whole hell of a lot better and will start making huge waves, probably sometime this fall.

The Swim’s main songwriter and singer, Caleb, a fellow Prescottonian and onetime roommate of mine, brought an intensity and focus to the stage that I just knew was going to mean one hell of a set. I sat down with Caleb and Nate a couple weeks earlier and talked about some cover songs, but I had no clue what they’d play along those lines.

And in a couldn’t-have-asked-for-more set, I got Wilco’s “A Magazine Called Sunset,” Tom Petty’s “Time To Move On” and Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” Ho-ly shite.

I had a dream back in high school that I was a ghost attending my own funeral, and that my friend 13, who was running the soundboard in the church, had played “Time To Move On.” So I’ve always had a spooky-close relation to that song. And I don’t really tell people about that dream, so Caleb had no idea when he was picking out the band’s set that he couldn’t have possibly chosen a more fitting song to play. It’s been about 15 years since that dream, technically and officially half my lifetime ago… And so on a 30-years-is-OLD sort of theme for the night, this “funeral” song was such a perfect fit.

The night’s finale was as I’d requested it: an all-star jam of “I Shall Be Released,” an explicit nod to The Last Waltz and the only thing I could think of as a fitting SwedeFest closer. Honeysocks and Chango Malo joined The Swim on a stage that was hardly big enough for everybody. They put it all out there, a passionate and joyous cover version of one of rock’s greatest songs. “I see my light come shining, from the west unto the east. Any day now, any day now, I shall be released.”

I was front and center, swaying and shouting along, drunk and happy and just in awe that the song and the night had come together so well, that so many good friends had gone out of their way to make it a great 30th celebration. I can’t thank them all enough, and I hope they had a fraction of the fun I had, that those great songs reached just half as far into their souls, that the moment and the music are half as memorable. I hope that everyone who got a shirt or a sticker or a poster will take fond memories of that night a great many years into their own futures.

It’s kinda a bummer that the video had run out on the song just before the finale, but I think that may be another sign that this whole SwedeFest thing might have to become an annual event. And if so, “I Shall Be Released” will definitely return. I don’t think it’ll take nearly another 12 months before I start itching for another SwedeFest. And another…

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