The Burgundy Stain Sessions, January

Doveman and friends – Le Poisson Rouge – January 14th

When I first witnessed the bill for Friday night’s show, I admit my stomach got away from me for a second. Sure, Doveman and Sam Amidon often play together… but Glen Hansard? Special guests? I was hooked.

Doveman in concert in January of 2010 (photo Katerina Plevkova)

“Thank you so much for coming,” Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) began. “This is the first of these concerts that I’ll be doing, and I thought it would be nice to start with just me and Sam because me and Sam have been playing music together since we were five.”

The two kicked off the show with a simple, lovely, and faintly religious little song, “All is Well.” Ringing out with repeatedly, the titular refrain seemed like a perfect starting point for the evening.

After getting temporary sidetracked, trying to remember the date, Amidon quickly interjected, “So we’ll have some songs about Jesus,” not so much as an apology but as a simple disclosure/admittance. With his voice full of yearning and his wildly candid stage presence, Amidon easily assumed the position of a well-intentioned but slightly off-kilter preacher. During one of the more religious songs of the evening, he raised his hands up in slow spirit finger fashion, as if overcome by a subdued religious fervor.

Sam Amidon's spirit fingers at a show last January (Photo Katarina Pievkova)

Like his childhood friend, Bartlett also had a kind of awkward intensity to his performance. Bartlet’s stylized method of pian playing was captivating. Even on the quieter songs, he’d hunch down far over the keys and suddenly lurch back with one hand in the air. For him, playing the piano was a form of cardio.

Amidon’s songs were ripe with tales of wayward sons and evocative language. (In Sam’s world, cheeks are red and rosy and the grass is always green, green.) After a few songs, Bartlet (aka Doveman) and Amidon were joined by a small group of musicians.

Sam Amidon, Doveman, and friends perform “Prodigal Son:”

With the likes of Doveman, Sam Amidon, Glen Hansard, and Beth Orton all announced on LPR’s site, it was hard to imagine who the ‘special’ guests might be, but I was glad to see that the adjective was not taken lightly. After Sam had played through a few of his songs, he casually announced, “We’re in a gospel mood,” which was apparently Annie Clark’s (St. Vincent) cue to make her way to the stage to fulfill her role as a “great gospel guitarist.” Crouching down on stage in the shadow, Clark joined Amidon for one more song before the spotlight officially shifted to her. As she stood up, the stage lights shone through her messy main of curly hair, creating a halo that complimented her Amidon-annointed title.

Annie Clark performing in Seattle, 2008 (photo Shawn McClung)

Annie Clark and friends perform “Some of Them Are Old” (a Brian Eno cover):

The evening proceded with a potpouri of performances. Hardly a song or two would pass before the configuration on stage would change. Beth Orton, Glen Hansard, and Dawn Landes would each have their turn. “One thing I realized is that I hate talking on stage so much that things are really going to need an emcee,” Bartlett joked.

Beth Orton, Doveman, Sam Amidon perform the beautiful “Castles:”

The evening felt special – not just because of the talented and humble group of musicians on stage, but because sitting in the audience, I almost got the feeling that we had a behind-the-scenes look at their musical process. More times than not, the featured musician had to quickly teach the chords of the song to everyone else on stage. It felt raw and intimate. In a funnier moment, Hansard turned to Bartlett at one point, saying, “none of your jazzy shit, alright?” which elicited a quick chain of laughter throughout the room.

Many of the musicians played songs that are either too new to be officially recorded or so old they were all but forgotten. During Hansard’s performance, he actually performed a song he had apparently written a few hours prior in the dressing room.

Glen’s new song (a thinly veiled ballad about his former lover, Markéta Irglová):

Glen Hansard performing in 2008 (photo Jeff Meade)

Throughout the evening, the interplay and on-stage banter among the artists were quite charming, especially between Amidon and Bartlett. Apparently, these evenings are going to be part of a series.”This whole evening was modeled on salons,” Bartlett eventually admitted.  “I was really not enjoying playing shows for a little while and I realized that this was a really fun way to do it. If I just bring my friends along than I have a fun time, too.” Nice strategy.

Here’s one with Doveman and the whole gang:

Coming up at the next Burgundy Stain session: singer-songwriter and performance artist Justin Bond.


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"He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world to make friends."

- Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being


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