I recently went to a house concert in San Francisco. I wasn’t familiar with the headliner, but I enjoy seeing music in this more intimate setting. There’s something refreshingly adult feeling about sitting in a stranger’s living room with other adults and listening to someone entertain us minus the fourth wall. For one fleeting hour, the artist becomes accessible.
There is some magic about this situation that humanizes the performer to a level where audience and artist are equals. Yes, one is doing more of the “talking,” but the audience enhances the experience by participating and actively listening.
I’ve been to three house concerts so far. I admit, some have been more engaging than others. But I inevitably end up falling head over heals for the performer every time.
Ben Kweller was no exception.
In fact, I think I may have a new muse.
Up until this past week, my main songwriting barometer has always been Ani DiFranco. Ever since I first purchased Little Plastic Castle and sat transfixed in Central Park, Manhattan until the cd had been rotated three times consecutively and my musical mind was shattered, she’s been my siren.
I found myself feeling that same shattered feeling when I listened to Ben perform in the little Victorian on Futon Street and I absolutely HAD to tell him. And, we were standing on the same carpet. I figured that this thin, polyester commonality gave me SOME license. That and the wine.
So I did. I think I even gave him a copy of my CD (Naked Day Alone). How embarrassing and uncharacteristically forward of me. But he was so gracious. He even gave me a huge hug. I was so freaked out that I don’t think I noticed the hug until later in the evening. But I remember leaving with the thought “THAT is the kind of performer I want to be.” I want to be human.
This brings me to my existential crisis over Ani. I’ve never wanted to meet her. Her impeccable use of the poetic language is so embedded in the DNA of my womanhood and I think, on countless occasions, she’s even saved my life. But I would never be able to tell her that. Or, maybe with enough whiskey in my gut, I could tell her. But I don’t think I would walk away with the same freaked out but equal feeling that I did with Ben.
Then again, I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been on the same floor with Ani. I’ve been in countless rooms with her. But never on the same level. And that may also be my fault.
In any case, two days after the house concert, I walked out of an Ani DiFranco concert 3 songs into her set. One of my best friends tried to comfort me by saying that this is a natural part of the process. “We are supposed to out-grow our gods. If we are ever to move forward with our artistic expression, we must move past and make better that from which we came.” Okay, maybe he didn’t say that last part. But it was implied.