Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sweet Tooth

My name is Cindy and I am a music dork. I got the taste for treacle early, cutting my music teeth on John Denver, Barry Manilow, the Cowsills and the Partridges. "Seasons in the Sun"’s syrup? Not too rich for me. “Patches” too sourly maudlin for you? Love it.

Mmm, Bread.

Typically kids with immature tastes experiment with excess – have you seen the extreme flavors in candy lately? But while I did eventually expand my palate, I never really outgrew the sweet. I may have posed as a Dylan and Lou Reed hipster in college but it was often the confections of Dylan’s widely panned Down in the Groove and Reed at his most upbeat that I gorged on.

I watch American Idol.

Clay Aiken was my favorite contestant.

I love his Christmas album. You see?

“We don’t have any U2 CDs,” I complained to Randy a while back. “No Simon and Garfunkel! Our collection is all spice and novelty. Where are the staples?”

“We don’t have any DaveHootieTraveler either,” he replied. “I may have a U2 album in the basement.”

Of all the yin and yang in our relationship, Randy and I swing farthest in regards to music. We have enjoyed some memorable concerts together – Prince at 4 am, Tom Waits twice, Neko Case opening for Nick Cave come to mind. Pepe Romero played a song Randy had cut into a Dove commercial. Caetano Veloso at Ravinia. John Brion from the front row.

But much of Randy’s musical preferences is strange and discordant to me. He has every Fall album ever recorded. Who? Yeah, exactly. He sings Ian Curtis to my Dolly Parton, who by the way, has two, count ‘em, TWO songs about dead babies on her lovely Little Sparrow album.

“They’re moving toward a mathematical theory of rhythm,” he said, trying to describe the Slint set at last weekend’s Pitchfork Fest. He spent an entire Friday night cutting one of their song for the website.

“Ick,” I replied. “Give me soaring vocals and discernable lyrics. With a narrative.”

Wednesday was a day I neither cared to hide nor control my dorkiness. Thanks to Melody (yes, Melody) our babysitter, I took the train into the city to a glorious matinee of The Light in the Piazza.

Oh, I feel like swooning, just remembering it. Christine Andreas’ voice had the density and glow of heavy velvet. Even her quiet lyrics were strong and pure, a silver wire suspending the gem of the melody.

The dazzlingly handsome David Burnham fell to his knees and tore at his shirt while singing to the rafters “Il Mondo Era Vuoto,” a song that is at the same time funny and sincere. And entirely in Italian! I bawled at the passion, at the mother’s conflicted love for her daughter, at the complex beauty of the melodies.

“It’s about a mother, a protective mother,” I cried later as I tried to describe the show to Randy, half considering asking him if he wanted to go with me to the final performance this weekend.

And true to dorky form, after the show, I waited in the alley to get my program signed by the callow leads. Actually, being the obsessive fan didn’t initially occur to me. I was walking down Michigan Avenue, still trying to compose myself after the last number (oh I weep now, just remembering it) “Fable.”

(“Love if you can and be loved/May it last forever Clara,” sings Andreas.)

Then I saw Senor Naccarelli coming out of an alley in shorts and a t-shirt. I ran up to him and shook his hand. “Thank you so much! I really enjoyed that.” He smiled, said something gracious, then it dawned on me to fish a Sharpie out of my backpack and get some signatures.

Burnham’s teeth up close were blinding. Katie Clark can’t be more than twenty-three. Andreas walked by in true diva form, transformed out of her character’s proper Southern lady in I Love Lucy suits into a Soho cherub in vest and jaunty hat over her close cut curls. I was not going to press her and I didn’t really have anything to say that she hadn’t already heard. After three signatures, I walked on, satisfied.

An hour and a half later, the rain clouds were loaded up and flying low as the Decemberists started their set with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion. Happy crowds under umbrellas, on picnic blankets. Lots of tattoos, sundresses, nerd shirts, some children.

I found a prime spot dead center. I could see the dot of Colin Malloy strumming. The first cool drops fell as the strings and horns swelled up behind the delicate lyrics of The Crane Wife Parts One and Two.

It felt like an Event was starting. One of those you-had-to-be-theres. The concert of the Moment, ironically starring a quartet that dresses like Victorian dandies, backed by an orchestra well versed in prior centuries.

But I felt lonely. A family with two young boys was sitting behind me. Watching the packed ground carefully as I stepped over picnic dinners, sleeping bodies to reach this spot, I had caught a glimpse of a woman’s hand wearing an engagement and wedding ring. I thought of all the debates going on around me, all the various levels of commitment to this hard won, hard defended patch of real estate on this special night. “Should we stay?” “Taxis will be impossible.” “I can’t miss the encore!” I wanted to share that conversation, share the experience with someone. Cause that’s the sweetest connection of all for any music lover, of pop or pap or whatever, finding those who join you in relishing it.

After two songs, I walked on.


Dianne said...

You have cleansed my secret shame. Is this a safe place to talk about Air Supply?

Cindy Fey said...

Before I left for college, my friend Tonya transferred my Air Supply's Greatest Hits from vinyl to cassette tape for me. What a good friend. ("And I'm never gonna tell you all the things I wanna tell you but you know I've got to give it a try!" Name THAT tune!)