36 THE SQUARE BELLOWS FALLS, VT 05101
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The Windham Ballroom | 40 The Square | Bellows Falls, VT
Please purchase tickets on the day of show by phoning Popolo at 802.460.7676. Tickets will
most likely be available at the door. Ticket price on 5/1/15 is $16.00.
Recently I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the concept of “acuity.” By acuity I mean the precision with which we regard our perceptions. Let’s face it, no matter how sharp we think we are, there are always details we miss because we are flawed beings. This holds true as much for thinking as for seeing and hearing. We think we have it all figured out, that we’ve seen and heard it all but then, in an instant, we discover we’ve missed a crucial ingredient, the most crucial ingredient, perhaps. Refusing to admit this, or refusing to admit we’re vulnerable to this, is the ultimate expression of hubris.
Sometime in my freshman year of college I discovered I needed glasses. For a while I blamed the penmanship of my professors, the architecture of lecture halls, the fallibility of institutional lighting…all of it. It hadn’t occurred to me that the problem was me. Then I got glasses. The world came into sharp focus. I no longer drove dumbly past my highway exit. The chalk shouted from the chalkboard. I saw every leaf and blade of grass, every star that twinkled at night, every drop of rain that made a gray sky, all the freckles in the mirror and every quirky pore on my ugly mug. Immediately I resented my 1976 wire frames.
I couldn’t help but notice there was now too much to see; the distinctions between one thing and the next became downright annoying. Gone was the undulating field of color that indicated a tree in the wind. Gone were the soft curves of a smiling face, the smooth transitions of infinite flesh-tones describing girls at the beach.
Soon after I got the glasses I launched a personal jihad against the tyranny of 20/20 vision. I must have appeared bleary and maybe I was. But the modern world demands that we neurotically identify and call out the sharp edges of everything. It’s better for driving, it’s better for working, it’s better for reading the rules. According to those in focus, this is a virtue unto itself. Acuity conveniently aids the labeling: this is a horror film, this is a thriller, this is roots music, this is Americana, this is gay, this is straight, this is a tree, this is the wind. And while we’re at it, there’s also a crisp line between the world and ourselves. Whoa, I’m lost in perspective now and you can see why even my friends wanted to smash my glasses.
Remember the Gilligan’s Island episode where Mary Ann in her visionary short-shorts ate the radioactive carrots? Suddenly she could see a rescue ship steaming towards the uncharted desert isle! Hooray! But then, whoops!, it turns out that, because of the freaky carrots, she could see a ship on, like, the other side of the world; a ship that had no intention of rescuing anyone, least of all a bunch of irradiated castaways. Doesn’t that moment make it perfectly clear? While everyone now longs for crispness in hi-def and hi-rez, in hi-acuity sounds, sights, and thoughts, the moral of the story – “Mary Ann’s Moral,” as we’ll now call it – tells us that seeing the world too sharply sometimes makes you miss the point.
“What’s all this about?” you’re asking. I can’t see what you’re saying. I want to come see Suitcase Junket, not Gilligan’s Island. Why is all this so blurry?
Easy there, Ginger, chill out, all will be clear.
Matt Lorenz, one of the local heroes behind the much heralded Rusty Belle, also has a solo project he calls “Suitcase Junket.” With this project Matt stands apart from the rest of the singer songwriters by dint of his attitude which seeps into all the corners of his songwriting, the performances, and the very sound of it.
Let’s work backwards. I’ve been reading about Suitcase Junket. Several who have written about Suitcase Junket are fond of referring to the project as Lo-Fi. Low-Fidelity. That seems an odd description when the recordings are so deliberate and clear in purpose. Without doubt, the engineer, western Mass’s Justin Pizzoferrato, knows what he’s doing and more than less of this record seems purposefully distorted. Lo-Fi? Distortion is lo-fi? I ask any writer to step forward who would call Hendrix’s guitar “Lo-Fi?” I’m probably skipping over a 1950s technical term but I’m gonna posit that Hi Fi is when it sounds like what you want it to. And apparently, this thing sounds more like dirty blue jeans than, um, well, clean blue jeans. And I expect this is on purpose.
The new album opens with “New Old Friends,” a song sung from the bottom of the ocean. It’s got a faraway low and lonesome vibe that doesn’t last long, though it clocks in at three full minutes. Starting the album hypnotized in this way makes what follows all the more dear. Lorenz taps into some snake charmer gris-gris and when the shoe stomping starts for Earth Apple, you’ll be fully out of your basket.
Rumor has it that a baby shoe and a suitcase hold down the groove both on the record and live. Distortion abounds while each song drives along, off road. This isn’t roots, this isn’t folk, this isn’t blues. This is where the wind and the trees collide. He calls it “Swamp Yankee” but um, that’s a reach. This guy should do the soundtrack to the next show like Justified. Truth is, Lorenz is a one-man band who is responsible for squeezing all these shredded idiosyncratic sounds through a gummy haze and into our hearts. “You’re made of rain,” he sings on his new record, Make Time, and that, my friends, is dark distorted beauty, even if it’s not meant as flattery.
Somehow, by accident, I discovered you could play “New Old Friends” right over the top of almost ALL the songs on Make Time and, though it would be something of a blurry mess, it works, and the surviving integrity makes all these songs some of my newest, oldest friends. I’m not saying there aren’t places where simple purity peeks out like a white baby shoe in mud season, but getting lost in the fuzz yields a more complex and nuanced appreciation.
Once again we’re lucky to have talent of this caliber at the Windham. We see a wide variety here, enough to know that, though we could try and slice it all up into genres of folk, and bluegrass, and orchestral rock, and funk, mostly there are no edges. We’ve learned that staring off into the distance to find our salvation is pointless when snuggling up to the music in our little room is pretty much all we ever needed. Mary Ann should have known better.
Smash your glasses, friends, we’re made of rain.
Suitcase Junket plays at The Windham Ballroom Friday, May 1, 2015. Doors open at 8:00pm and the show starts at 8:30. Tickets are $14 in advance and $16 day of show.
You can call for dinner reservations at 802-460-7676.
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