Friday, November 22, 2002

Drove to Wawautosa with Tag last night to see the big Richard Buckner shew. What we saw was mesmerizing if not dazzling, which is to say that Richard Buckner is not so into the hard sell. Granted, I was largely unfamiliar with the material and might have been more engaged, otherwise, but Richard's songwriting is more meditative than hooky. Supposedly his sound-system specifications (the rider, as they say in the business) got lost somewhere, so because there weren't enough mics and stuff, he didn't get to use all the equipment he brought--including, tantalizingly, a pump organ. Instead he switched between steel-string and classical guitars. Richard wins plaudits for his original capo usage: I've never before seen a man put two capos on a guitar at the same time. But his songs are unrelentingly ethereal and bleak: the only line that stays with me today went something like, "My death will be my revenge." After the show, in the theatre office, Richard seemed a little sad. About half the audience had left by the time he finished--in part because it was freezing in the theatre--and he didn't play an encore. I hope he's okay.

Opening was Wisconsin's own Jeffrey Foucault, a folkie with altogether less gravitas than Buckner, but a little more stage presence. He endlessly retuned his Martin between numbers, which I found very boring. (I'm all for alternative guitar tunings, except maybe I'm not.) And he told anecdotes that were not altogether fascinating, one of which began on this perhaps accidentally hilarious note: "With the money I made from my last tour, I put a new muffler on my truck." Mostly his stories provided insight into what it must be like to sing and tour the mid-level folkie circuit: a lot of house concerts in the Downers Grove, Illinoises of the world, a lot of crashing on friends' floors.

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