Friday, November 02, 2012

Jane & Julia

It looks like my Jane Sibbery singing Calling All Angels didn't embed in the post from yesterday.  It's

And below - is her doing something more akin to what I saw last night.


She played this small club in LA, Molly Malone's, with Julia Fordham, who is doing a residency there. They both did their big hits from the early nineties, Julia singing back-up on this, as well as "The Temple" and "Love is Everything".  Gorgeous songs. Hearing Julia Fordham singing "Manhattan Skyline" live was wonderful, and I still know every word twenty years later. Loved that album. Her voice is velvet.

I had seen Jane Siberry live in NY at a Joni Mitchell tribute, and also at the Bottom Line in a songwriter's roundtable with Janis Ian and Cheryl Wheeler. She seems prickly - at one point she stopped playing a song because the audience laughed - she seemed truly annoyed. At the same time, she can't help but be charming. What I love about her is just that.  She's vulnerable, seemingly all feeling and impulse.  I'd say I can't imagine it's an easy way to be, but frankly I have no idea - it could be blissful.  She seems very present. Julia Fordham was, too, as well as Tim Boothe from James, who played some new songs.

I realize what a privilege it is to have people share something like that with you.  You forget (or maybe I do, since I tend to discount when I do it) how vulnerable it is to be up on stage. I've always been able to hide behind a character, and it's only recently in performing a few times as myself, either singing or telling stories, that I see how nerve-wracking it is.  Not like I didn't have stage fright, but when you're trying so desperately to create something else out of yourself to become a character, you forget how naked it is to just be up in front of people.  Especially when you are in front of people performing something you composed.

I'm blathering, but I will say the first time I performed just telling a story about myself and singing, I was so nauseated I thought I was going to throw up. I've been going on stages since I was thirteen and I'm in my mid-forties; I cannot recall ever feeling this sick. I'm a little sick even linking it - ha.

Jane (I'm going to assume a familiarity I don't have), spoke about what she used to think was stage fright was actually excitement, and her body's adrenaline system shifting into a different mode.  I see that I extrapolated earlier from how she was on stage that she was that way in life - truly I don't know. I am grateful as an audience member that she was that open - and to the other two performers as well. It is not easy - reams have been written about it.

Tim Boothe was wearing a t-shirt with Patti Smith on it. Fitting.  She's one of the people I've seen who just is so herself it's breathtaking. I suppose that's what it is.  Part of the performance is probably being vulnerable without letting yourself get hurt - paradoxically it takes a great deal of confidence to be that vulnerable.  I do love all kinds of performance, but there's a special place in my heart for voices and guitar.

And if you don't know Jane Siberry's album "When I Was A Boy", then get it. I think it's about grief, but it's about much and feels revealed almost. That's part of the art of it.  You know it was crafted, but it feels delivered in one piece from somewhere that wants to reveal a secret we all should know. That's art, I guess.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Calling All Angels

I cannot stop thinking about New York (and the rest of the East) and how they are dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane.  I was downtown in NY for September 11th, and I remember being shocked and a little annoyed at the force of feelings the rest of the country had about the event.  We were the ones affected, after all, so what was so disturbing?  I was younger. Probably in shock. And that whole event was wrapped up in nationalism, attack, a known enemy. I understand more now, though, being a continent away and worried for friends and the city itself.

Here the enemy is something we cannot band together and rail against. We can only hope to recover. I feel impotent being unable to do anything as I see the photos of people discovering bodies, standing in endless lines, struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy in the face of such overwhelming disaster. I cannot fathom lower Manhattan underwater. I won't go into my feelings about global warming, but two hurricanes in two years is not a comforting trend.

Anyone who has lived in New York has a relationship to it; it's a city that feels almost like a person.  When we left, my friend Erin and I did a show called "Breaking up with New York" because it felt like the end of a relationship, albeit a one-sided one for the most part. For the country, it's where we keep many of our dreams and stories. It's our history; the birth of the financial district, labor unions, where the draft riots happened, where many of our ancestors first touched down.  It's the Statue of Liberty and her message of hope and sanctuary.  It's Broadway.

I am looking, and finding, stories of human triumph.  It is difficult to watch from this side of the country, though, and be powerless to do anything. You can donate to New York Cares or the New York Food Bank.  You can call your friends and let them know you are thinking of them and pray that they are safe. I never thought I'd be grateful for facebook, but it's been so helpful.  You can remember that New Yorkers (I'm including the tri-state area here) are incredibly resilient, and band together in a crisis.  I suppose we all do as Americans.  We're heterogenous in so many ways, but we're scrappy. I like that about us. I love that about us.

My heart is with all my friends there, as are my worries right now. I hope they have power soon. I know there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. I hope this is not a trend.

Do what you can, call who you need, and be grateful to those around you.