Last night Spence and I went to the Tractor Tavern to see old acquaintances of Spence’s, the entirely brilliant (in the American sense of ‘genuinely original and deep’) The Handsome Family. The band is a husband-and-wife songwriting team; they perform original music that is deeply grounded in American traditions and which benefits from the rich baritone of the singer’s voice. Viv had originally planned to attend a different show at the Croc, Visqueen, but decided to stay home instead.
Scott McCaughey and a Vancouver band, ‘The Buttless Chaps,’ opened, but I was there for the headliners. A couple friends met us there. I ran into an old friend there as well. Some grumpy gus was pissed that Katie and I (and then Spencer and I) were gabbing during the set, and although I was irritated by him, I couldn’t be mad at the guy – the music demands reverence.
After the show I started talking to Brett Sparks, the lead singer, about the old-skool clamshell iBook they used to provide accompaniment for the entire performance. The iBook was running iTunes with a list of backing tracks and one-minute silent tracks between the backing tracks. I floated a possibility about a piece looking at the couple’s use of Macs in their creative and performance process, and he was quite open to the idea. He told me that the backing tracks had all been developed in ProTools. We started talking about the roots of their music (they opened the set with a song about a bottomless pit, which reminded me of the myth of Orpheus).
Brett’s wife Rennie is the lyricist; he mentioned that she is working on a novel, which sound interesting to me because I find their music so interesting and rewarding. We talked about the great age of much of the material that they work from. Their work reflective and literary in the sense that the work has a great deal of possibility for personal reflection and the discovery of tangential meanings built into it.
Then Spence and I ate at IHOP in the University District (bottomless coffee, endless pancakes) and had a long conversation about, like, you know, life and stuff, as traditionally appropriate to late-night dining.
Alas, the buses don’t run between the U and the Hill after about 3:00 am, so I walked home. It took about an hour and a half. I arrived a bit after 5, having taken a pit stop at the wonderful neighborhood bookstore Twice Sold Tales and wandered around looking for a nice hardback copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, which I’m reading on my Palm
Pilot. They had one, but it was overpriced at $18. I’ve been struck by the perfection of Stevenson’s prose, which begs to be read aloud.
While I was there, they were playing old Kinks, and so at 5 am, as the sky pinked up a tiny bit, I had the pleasure of hearing ‘Waterloo Sunset’ just before I walked back in to the chilly chilly morning breeze.