December 15, 2014

Dar Williams: The Honesty Room 20th Anniversary Tour

I made a last minute decision to trek up to Northampton, MA this past weekend to see Dar Williams on her "The Honesty Room" 20th anniversary tour. Dar (and opener, Jill Sobule, at least as much a draw for me) made a healthy dent in the Calvin theater, but there were plenty of seats left, including some higher priced Orchestra seats up front. I ponied up the bucks for a 5th row seat on the side, and was thrilled to be up close.

Dar and Jill getting ready to rock "Iowa" (with Bryn Roberts)
 Now, Dar and I go way back. We go back far enough that "The Honesty Room" was not out when I first encountered her - my first purchase was "All My Heroes are Dead" on cassette tape (!). In a 1996 Hartford Courant article entitled Dar Williams Finds Faith In Bristol Cafe, Roger Caitlin writes:
Every artist has a turning point, Dar Williams believes.

For her, it came one night at the Common Ground cafe in Bristol.

``I was going to quit,'' she recalls. ``I was going to get $100. Was it worth it to present my songs, my blood, sweat and tears before another crowd of beer and cigarettes?''

But something strange happened. ``I mentioned what inspired a song -- the Mafia in Middletown -- and heads turned around. People were listening.''

Sometimes, for a struggling folk artist, that's all you need.

``That gig gave me the faith,'' Williams said at a Connecticut Songwriters Association meeting in East Hartford recently. ``As a performer, that's what you need: The faith things are going to work out.''
Dar played the Common Ground many times, and I was at every one of those gigs. So yeah, we go back a ways. I bought "The Honesty Room" (the original Burning Field Music version) at Roaring Brook Nature Center, where Dar was a spotlight Open Mic performer, having not even risen to the level of head-liner yet, and she inscibed my copy "Thanks for listening....and for playing"

So this 20th Anniversary concert was a trip down memory lane, as Dar played each song from The Honesty Room, in order.
  1. When I Was a Boy
  2. Alleluia
  3. The Great Unknown
  4. When Sal's Burned Down
  5. The Babysitter's Here
  6. You're Aging Well
  7. Traveling Again (Traveling I)
  8. In Love But Not at Peace
  9. Mark Rothko Song
  10. This Is Not the House That Pain Built
  11. I Love, I Love (Traveling II)
Was quite lovely - songs that I had not heard Dar play in many, many years (although surely, having heard her play several dozen times, weighted towards the early years, I've heard them all at some point). A very sweet and generous trip back in time.

After the main event, Dar played a handful of other "oldies but goodies" - mostly from Mortal City: (As Cool As I Am, February, Iowa, The Christians and The Pagans). It was a hometown crowd for Dar (who lived in Northampton at the start of her career, and recorded THR in the area), with a special cameo by the young woman (then 5, now 25) whose "we both eat spinach, just sometimes, not all the time" tagged The Babysitter's Here recording.

And yes, not to forget Jill Sobule. I've seen Dar dozens of times; I've only seen Jill play live once (at the Inner Space in Hamden, not exactly Carnegie Hall) so it was wonderful to see her play to a big house on a large stage. She's quite wonderful - funny, talented, just the right amount of quirky and acerbic as befits someone who burst onto the music scene (with 1995's "I Kissed a Girl") and then never quite hit the top-40 the same way even as her musical career continued to be productive and creative. I've picked up several of her albums online that have gone into regular rotation, and will probably pick up a few more now that she has charmed me again. I did but her songbook this weekend and promised to hook her up with a steam train (she mentioned wanting to do a long train trip to write music).

I'd say that caps a pretty awesome year of music (which I will recap over the coming weeks) but you never know when and where I might find something awesome to go listen to between now and Dec 31.....

No comments: