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Concert For A Blue Moon: Tanya Donelly w/ Arc Iris
Friday, July 31, 2015 from 8:00 PM - 11:00 PM
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You can buy tickets at the door at 8pm for $25.00.

Once In A Blue Moon

I read an article today about the discovery of one of the oldest stars, a heavenly body created around the time of the Big Bang. Two things about this story interested me: first, that this star happens to be in the Milky Way, which might as well be in our neighborhood. What’s the chance of that? I have to assume there are ancient stars elsewhere because the idea that we’re in the oldest neighborhood in the universe just doesn’t sit right with me. I mean, you’d think by now it’d be better than THIS, for crying out loud.

The second thing that interested me was that this star is quite small. As I understood the text, that’s not because it’s gone quieter with age, though it may have, but because way back when – the article quoted 13 billion years as its age – a star didn’t need to be so big to get started. Our own sun, which by comparison is a newbie, is a thousand times the size of Earth. This primordial star, by comparison, needed just an asteroid the size of Australia and some hydrogen and, badabang, it remains important 13 billion years later. That’s inspiring.

It would be easy to say that Tanya Donelly is ageless. She looks almost exactly like she did when I first saw her, when she was seventeen and I was twenty-seven. Back then she was playing with Throwing Muses before they became whatever it was they became. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say they were world-famous because people came to see them wherever they played in the universe. Lots of people. They were trend-setters for a new postpunk tradition and were followed swiftly by the Pixies who made a bigger splash, perhaps, but things were already set in motion. People in clever eyeware from remote provinces in Spain would line up for tickets to see this very adorable band play some literally death-defying music. Ms. Donelly started Throwing Muses with her step sister, Kristin Hersh, and with their schoolmate, drummer Dave Narcizo who the NME called “indisputably the world’s best drummer.” Though they lived under the misperception they were a band, like other bands, eventually the world caught on that they were most certainly not. I can still remember the moment when I heard the music and thought, “this is gonna change everything.” I’m now too old to think anything changes everything, not even the Big Bang, and surely thirty years hence it’s not like Throwing Muses is a household name. But someone should give that band a hefty award for boldly going where no one had gone before them. They have a mighty sun’s worth of gravitas.

At some point in the waning light of the 80s, Ms. Donelly started a side project called The Breeders with Kim Deal of the Pixies. Their first record, Pod, made them very popular in a similar sort of way but by then the audience for what was still “college rock” had grown precipitously. It took the single Cannonball to make them megastars but they had it coming from the beginning.

For whatever reason, before the second record, Ms. Donelly had lost interest in The Breeders, departed Throwing Muses, and with a couple chums from her hometown, Newport, RI, started her own band, Belly. Clearly she had been stockpiling songs during her tenure in the Muses and The Breeders. Belly’s first record, Star, was a runaway smash hit and was declared gold by the RIAA, garnering two Grammy nominations in 1994 and Best New Artist at the then pivotal Video Music Awards. Something about Donelly’s persona and the more developed popcraft she brought to this new band touched a nerve in mainstream America. It’s hard to imagine that same thing happening today because Belly’s material was intelligent, lyrically oblique, and sonically thrilling. Making stars was different back then – not easier, just different.

Belly introduced Ms. Donelly to the big uncomfortable world of pop promotion, an experience she has since told reporters she now finds somewhat distasteful. Belly disbanded after only two records which sent her off on a solo career, now several projects deep. In the process she raised a family, worked as a doulah, and collaborated with incredible talent from both the musical and literary world. She even recorded an album, This Hungry Life, right in the Windham Hotel back in 2004 in front of a live audience. Her most recent project is a series of several-song releases, titled Swan Song, purportedly to herald the last light of Ms. Donelly’s long and fruitful music career. But some people are born stars and Ms. Donelly is one such person, no matter how low key she plays it. She’s ageless. Unlike many pop icons of her era, she’s never sacrificed her idiosyncrasies, courage, or grace to make her mark on the world. And if there is such a thing as a down-to-earth star, she is one who lives in our neighborhood. If you doubt these accolades, you need to witness for yourself.

On Friday, July 31, Tanya Donelly joins the wonderful and innovative band, Arc Iris, at the Windham Ballroom in Bellows Falls.

Fronted by the brilliant multi-instrumentalist Jocie Adams, formerly of The Low Anthem, Arc Iris has played at the Windham before. At that show I watched, slackjawed, as the band bewitched the audience in ways I’d never seen. At the last note of more than one song, the entire room jumped to its feet in applause, as though these were longtime fans hearing their favorite cuts. But no, almost no one in the room had seen Arc Iris before. They’re just THAT good.

The Boston Globe says Adams is a “composer of mercurial melodies, a nimble singer, and a force to be reckoned with.”

The Guardian wrote that Arc Iris is “a hybrid of extreme musics…a shape shifting treat.”

NPR instructed, “There no sense in resisting it, so lean back and surrender to the delight that is Jocie Adams and Arc Iris.”

Only once in a blue moon do two such talented artists share a stage in this area and you can see them with the naked eye. July 31, on the night of a blue moon, meet us in Bellows Falls. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the show. You can get them online at www.popolomeanspeople.com or by phoning Popolo at 802-460-7676.

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