Saturday night we (Urk, Mrs. Urk, & the Little Toddler Sweetheart) went out to see a concert. It was a multi-band show put on by the Iowa Friends of Old Time Music at the Englert Theatre. it was a pretty great time. Opener Stones in the Field played polite versions of traditional irish songs, which is great if you like this sort of thing. I liked the variety of intruments that they brought onstage (guitar, fiddle, concertina, mandolin, some kind of celtic reed thingie) and they played them well, but on the whole well played respectful versions of old folk songs uprooted from their original context and recreated in museum-like settings just typify everything that i think is wrong with "folk" music.
The next act, the Gilded Bats was alot more fun. Although they have a similarly archival approach to the selection of their material, pre-turn of the century mountain music from West Virginia and North Carolina, the Bats perform with plenty of raccous rhythmic authority. This allows the songs to fulfill their original function as dance music. By the second song a group of kids, ranging from our LTS at two up to maybe 11 or so, had gathered in the space between the front row seats and the stage, and they began to jump and hop and shout and dance with serious and gleeful abandon. Musicologist and self-titled groovologist Charles Keil has a riff about what he calls "participatory discrepancies" a multi-layered concept that focuses on the unique ways that individuals respond to musical situations. while I'm not sold on every facet of keil's formulation, watching little kids dance makes it evident that their are very distinct individual responses to musical situations. Watching my own little kid dance, seeing these individual and very personal moves improvised and executed, is one of the greatest pleasures I've ever known. by the third song, the little pre-school mosh pit at the edge of the stage was in full swing, and i was struck by how much it reminded me of the best slam dancing of my punk rock days, something that Steve Voorhies once described as having 'all the naked aggression of a pillow fight."
the next act was the Escaping the Floodwater Jugband. There were sound problems, but this band's playful energy made them all but irrelevant. I don't really have time to describe them fully, but I'll note that they were the youngest band on the bill. According to Norbert form the Bats, one of their members, Banjo Kelly was a punk rocker who bought an old-time music collection as an ironic artifact and was soon converted. Onstage, the band is ridiculous in the best way, as one imagines any jug band was in their day.
I missed most of the Awful Purdies set, but what i heard form the lobby sounded great. check out the link at the top for samples of all of this stuff.