Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tender Warriors strive to...

Tenders Warriors
find the courage to be sensitive
 be emotionally vulnerable
be comfortable with & embrace solitude
never compromise their integrity
 be true 
be kind
practice self-acceptance & self-love
give an honest effort
be present
be patient 
be transparent
- Tender Warriors Club manifesto (by Lady Lamb aka Aly Spaltro)

I had a very busy concertgoing end of the week as I saw three shows in two nights. Lady Lamb, touring in support of her new Tender Warriors Club EP, was the second of the three. I think all three shows are worth writing about.

First, on Thursday night, I saw local indie rock band Cloud Nothings play to a sold-out Beachland Ballroom. Going to see Cloud Nothings play at the Beachland was something that had a sort of eerie significance for me. The last time I did that, also on a Thursday night, was on August 22, 2013. That was the night before the day that Cara was admitted to the hospital, leading to her being diagnosed with lung cancer. As I wrote in a blog entry on the three year anniversary of that occasion, "I had a really great time at that Cloud Nothings show, which some of my friends also attended. Looking back, that was the last time that my life was anything resembling normal." So that was certainly on my mind.

As usual, I had great fun seeing Cloud Nothings. Something I've realized at their shows is that I really enjoy a good mosh pit. Moshing, however, is something that almost never occurs at shows by any other band I see regularly, so it's something to look forward to when going to see Cloud Nothings. It's funny, because I remember the first time I encountered a real mosh pit at a show, which was the Ozma reunion show at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood in March 2006. It was too rough for me and I quickly retreated to a less wild part of the crowd. Now I'm 33 years old and may even have been the oldest person in the pit on Thursday, but there's just something really exhilarating about bouncing around and off of other bodies in a mass of unpredictably moving human beings, in time to loud rock music! One of my friends remarked on how I had been in the pit for almost the entire show while he had only joined in for the last song (the always amazingly intense extended version of "Wasted Days" that Cloud Nothings usually close their shows with), and I replied, "It makes me feel alive!" I was going for a laugh but there was a lot of truth in my statement.

Friday night brought two shows, both by supremely talented female singer-songwriters. First was Lady Lamb (formerly known as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper) on her "Living Room Tour," a series of intimate, solo acoustic performances. The show was not actually in someone's living room but rather in a back room at the Canopy Collective art gallery, a cool setting nonetheless. This was my third time seeing Lady Lamb and each show has been a very memorable occasion.

The first time, March 29, 2014, I braved a heavy snowstorm to head out to the Beachland Ballroom and see a really spectacular show at which Lady Lamb opened for Typhoon, easily one of the best combinations of two artists at one show that I've ever experienced. In fact, Typhoon's White Lighter and Lady Lamb's Ripely Pine are my top two favorite albums of the year 2013. Also very significant in retrospect was the fact that the first opening artist was the band Wild Ones, a fact that would lead me at another Wild Ones show to having a great conversation about Typhoon and about Cara with Wild Ones' lead singer Danielle Sullivan, who unbeknownst to me at the time was engaged (now married) to Typhoon's lead singer Kyle Morton!

The second time I saw Lady Lamb was at the Grog Shop on July 26, 2015. This was the day after Cara's grandmother Margie passed away, which itself was three months and one day after Cara passed away. Margie was also one of my very favorite people, and in a way her death kind of felt like "Cara's death, part two," so naturally both their losses were heavy on my mind that night as Lady Lamb put on a really amazing performance. Her song "Ten" beautifully concludes with the line, "There's a sweetness in us that lives long past the dust on our eyes once our eyes finally close." And wow, did that hit me in the feels that night.

The show on Friday was a big departure from my previous Lady Lamb concert experiences, because her music normally rocks a lot harder than you'd expect for someone described as a "singer-songwriter." It was great to hear these new takes on some of her songs, and the stripped-down acoustic performances really allowed one to take in her lyrics, which I think are some of the best out there today. She also brings an incredibly expressive voice to the table, one that can quickly go from delicate to full of raw emotion. Aly had two acoustic guitars and a banjo with her, which she switched between and repeatedly tuned in between songs. She said that the change in weather was bad for the instruments and blamed a visit to Florida earlier in the tour. She had a lot of great interaction with the crowd amidst a fantastic selection of songs that included a number of requests.

Before playing the final song of the night (the haunting "We Are Nobody Else" from her new EP), Aly gave a little speech in which she explained how Tender Warriors Club was more than an album to her. She explained how one day she had been talking to a friend on the phone, a friend who was going through a really difficult time and who had spontaneously decided to take a trip to Paris, and she had told her friend that her friend was a "tender warrior." At the time she said it, the phrase didn't have any special significance to Aly, but then it stayed in her head and she started to think about it more and more and it become a sort of life philosophy that is summarized by the "manifesto" (from her website) quoted at the beginning of this post. She said that this had become especially important to her in light of all the scary things going on in the world right now. I was very moved by her words. I thought about all the struggles in my own life, and I thought about Cara and Margie, and when Aly said that she would be at the merch table right after the show and would love to talk to people, I decided I wanted to tell her the story about seeing her the day after Margie died.

After she concluded her speech and before she started playing the last song, I glanced at my phone to check the time, and naturally (because both Margie and Cara, aka Margie's "favorite birthday present", were born on September 22) it was 9:22 pm.

At the conclusion of the show a long line of people formed at the merch table. Fortunately, I had been near the back of the audience and was able to get a spot early in line. When it was my turn to talk to Aly I complimented her on the great performance and then I told her that what she had said about "tender warriors" was very beautiful. I then said that I would like to tell her a little story, and I told her that my wife had died of lung cancer in April 2015, and three months later my wife's grandmother had died, and the day after that was the previous most recent time I had seen Aly perform. And that the line about "There's a sweetness in us that lives long past the dust..." had made me think of my wife and her grandmother.

As is usually true when I tell a musician something like this, she seemed very genuinely appreciative. As I've said before, if an artist (or anyone else) does something that has a real and meaningful impact on your life, and you get an opportunity to tell them, you should take that opportunity! (And now that I think about it, I suppose that's part of being a "tender warrior.")

I went on to tell Aly that music was one of the things that helped me get through hard times in my life. She replied, "Music is one of the only things that helps me."

After I'd finished talking to Aly (as well as buying a record and t-shirt), it was off to the CODA music venue in Tremont for the second show of my Friday evening. There I went to see a local band that has become one of my favorites, Noon. Noon started out as a solo project of Erin Kapferer, who plays the piano and sings. She has since added guitarist Patrick Stefan and cellist Shelby Sangdahl (who is quite a busy performer, contributing to a number of projects including the wonderful Shawn and Shelby and who also played with opening artist Sol Fox on Friday).

I first encountered Noon at the Heights Music Hop in October 2015, a little less than half a year after Cara's death. The music of Noon has also been good to turn to in difficult times. For the combination of being both very sad and very beautiful, it's hard to beat. Noon's first album, 9 Years, was just Erin and her voice and piano. It's a wonderful album. The addition of cello and guitar rounds out Erin's sound really nicely, and most of the songs performed on Friday were from a new album the trio are working on now. I'm looking forward to it a lot. After the show, I went up to Erin to tell her it had been a great show as usual. I guess she's noticed I go to see her a lot because she said I was her "super-fan." (Aww!)

There is a lot of scary news right now. So hooray for great music, and hooray for tender warriors!

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