It was a dreadful night for a number of reasons.
One would think that 800 individuals who gather in a high-school auditorium in Natick to listen to a story of three orphans whose parents perished in a suspicious fire and who had to live out their days of innocence being pursued by the most devious of men might deserve such punishment. But if you had witnessed the scene of terror in Natick a week ago Monday night, when fans of the Series of Unfortunate Events books — children and adults and high-school students and college hipsters and hipsters in training and four men with beards and a woman with a broken foot — came to meet Mr. Lemony Snicket and listen to a performance of the Gothic Archies, you would not come to that conclusion.
First was the glaring absence of Mr. Snicket. When the Gothic Archies took the stage, the trio was a duo, with Stephin Merritt (of the Magnetic Fields) holding a ukulele, an empty chair surrounded by Mr. Snicket’s percussion, and someone named Daniel Handler on accordion. When Mr. Snicket’s name was announced, both men looked stage right and saw nothing.
Handler tried to “call” Mr. Snicket. (The “phone” he “used” looked to be two carved wooden blocks connected with a string.) Handler then walked into the audience, took a book out of a child’s hand, and began to expound on the saga of the Baudelaire orphans. The duo played selections from The Tragic Treasury: Music for “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Nonesuch), a new CD of the theme songs Merritt wrote for each of the 13 in the Series of Unfortunate Events.
The lack of percussion made the arrangements downright ghastly. Handler attempted to fill the void with uninspired vocal percussion but it was not the same. The word “rip-off” came to mind, but the event was free. This was a rather different kind of rip-off — a rip-off the soul, as you will never be able to recover from seeing the looks on the children’s faces. Yes, the crowd laughed heartily at Handler’s sardonic antics. But it was a nervous laughter. A laughter that sensed something dangerous was just around the bend, and you might as well laugh now, because you might never get the opportunity to laugh ever again, for the rest of your life.
Handler apologized for Mr. Snicket’s absence and said he would sign everyone’s book with a “stamp” of Snicket’s autograph. He ended the evening with the sea chantey “Scream and Run Away.”
: New England Music News
, Stephin Merritt, The Magnetic Fields, The Gothic Archies, More