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2007-01-20 - 11:21 a.m.

The theme for today is "folk music."

Last night I went to Union Hall to see the ever-amazing Mark Eitzel, whose live show is always enlivening, touching, funny. He can swing so easily from self-deprecating humor to transcendent melodicism to punk rock sneer to folkie sincerity, all within the space of a song, or an introduction.

Oh, and he covered "Friend of the Devil," which is a great song...

Eitzel: real deal. Troubador. Plays his songs, makes you happy.

The opening act, however, made me intensely unhappy, and I had to flee the room for the duration of their set.

Now, if you're a folk musician there are a variety of ways you can be good:

  • You can play goofy, corny crap, but be technically proficient on your instrument, and make pretty music that goes down easy with a pint of Bass (hello, 75% of the acts at the Living Room).

  • You can, like Eitzel, be a force of nature and just preternaturally charming and poignant, with witty lyrics and a sense of urgency, and those weird chords. And that hat.

  • You can be technically un-proficent but blessed with all of the above, like some of the fine "anti-folk" acts I used to play with at the Fort.

  • You can be Irish.

    But here's what you can't be. You can't be a bunch of dull, bearded, brown-sweater-wearing Will Oldham wannabees, with nothing but slow and almost-midtempo songs, no personality, no chops, no hooks, no banter, and, worst of all, a packed audience of your clueless fans cheering for you.

    It was that last clause that made me flee the room and feel really sad about the state of indie music in this country. Anybody can be a Pitchfork darling now--you don't need anything resembling talent, you just need a couple of webzines telling the kids that you're good.

    And that sucks.

    Oh, and one more way you can be good: be the "band" Molasses (really just Scott Chernoff and some cool guest-stars like Chris Brokaw and Thalia Zedek). Alien8 has just reissued their 2004 album and I'm really liking it, even when it threatens to violate some of the rules above...Minimal electric folk, I s'pose you could call it.

    thoughts? (8 comments so far)

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