Audrey Ryan + Strand of Oaks + Lewis & Clarke, Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church, February 14, 2009
A V-DAY WITHOUT LOVE SONG? Well, Audrey Ryan did play one.
"Happy Valentine's Day. That was a saint, right? St. Valentine?" mumbled Lewis & Clarke's (wasted?) frontman/sonic adventurer, Lou Rogai. As I turned to snicker to my friends, my eye wandered to a massive painting of Jesus kneeling on the ground, hands in prayer, eyes cast imploringly to Heaven.
Saturday's concert was a spiritual experience of a sort. Some 35 people were scattered about the pews — most of them couples, though a few ostensible swinging bachelors showed. Doing double duty on guitar and accordion, Audrey Ryan started things off, managing to make songs about crucifixes and depression whimsically sweet with her strong, slightly twangy alto. She allowed an audience member to dedicate to his girlfriend her final number, which she admitted was "one of the few love songs I've ever written."
Strand of Oaks could be lumped into the company of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, what with Timothy Showalter's soulful, raspy voice and the varying intensity of the three-piece's facial hair. Lewis & Clarke delivered a more challenging set — the first song (or possibly the first three songs strung together) lasted at least 10 minutes, with long wordless bouts and cosmic, experimental noodling, plus an arrangement that included upright bass, piano, and synthesizer buzzes. In the final moments of the show, the synth player struck tiny bells on a string, as if announcing the Eucharistic presence.
On a day that compels one to appear as either an ostentatious lovebird or an embittered loner, Saturday's concert was a welcome solace — exactly what I was looking for as an out and proud "single." It was about romance, but it was also about friends, family, and neighbors. Or maybe sitting next to that Jesus painting and listening to folk music for over two hours simply turned me into a good-for-nothing hippie. Either way, it was one of the most meaningful V-Days I've had. Saints be praised.
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