Thursday, July 21, 2011

Show Report: Hudson Water Music festival, 7/20

We drove up to Hudson early on Wednesday afternoon for the Hudson Water Music festival. We were all a little cranky and hot when we left from Dobson’s studio in the Bronx, but escaping the city in the middle of a weekday to head upstate was a rare treat, and the farther north we got the happier we were, until we finally pulled up in front of the gazebo by the river where we would be playing later in the evening, and life seemed good again.


We set up the marimba and our other gear as the food vendors started setting up their tents in the back of the field facing the river. When the lemonade tent was up Dobson bought a cup and drank it almost instantaneously. “Do you think I could get this in that trash can from here?” he asked, holding up his empty cup of ice. “Definitely not,” I said. “If you get it in, I’ll give you a dollar. Actually, I’ll buy you another lemonade.” He eyed the distance and got ready to make the toss. “But if you don’t get it in,” I added, “then of course you have to buy me a lemonade.” And that was how I got a free lemonade.


Heather had brought a costume with her, a green fabric mermaid tail that she was hell-bent on getting me to tie around my waist before we played Siren Song. I told her I’d consider it, but only to humor her. She took a picture of me wearing it while sitting on some rocks by the water.

Most of Heather's time was occupied by her flash cards. She recently started a grad program in physical therapy, so she's been taking a summer gross anatomy (cadavers!) class. It turned out one of her classmates lives up in Hudson; when he turned up they drilled vocabulary together. She had agreed to the gig before she knew she would have an exam the next morning, but much to my undying gratitude, Heather's a trouper. (And the next day she sent me a message requesting for a gig the night before all of her exams, so I guess she did well.)    

The wind gusted through our sound check, amplified by the microphones. Rob, the festival's producer (and the owner of Musica, where we played back in April) showed up and told our sound man we sounded like we were supposed to. We finished and he came over and gave us hugs hello. Some early birds started populating the field, finding good spots for their lawn chairs. We decided to patronize the food tents. At the falafel tent, one of the two smiling women told us about her son as she ladled tahini sauce and falafel balls onto pita bread: “When he was two years old, he’d say, ‘Mama, before I was your little boy I was an old man, and we used to sing a song called The Hearth and the Kettle.’ And then he would sing it. It’s actually an old Appalachian tune.” Dobson asked if there was any other way for him to have learned it, and she said no.

I decided to get a rib sandwich from the soul food tent, which turned out to be two giant Flintstones-esque ribs precariously balanced on two slices of white bread, all piled onto a tiny plate. I immediately dropped the tiny plate and made a mess of BBQ sauce on the counter. Then we all sat down to eat and I dropped one of the ribs directly in my lap. I was glad to be wearing a black dress.

The first band, The Edna Project, was a trio, a man and a woman on various instruments and their young son on percussion, playing songs based on Edna St. Vincent Millay poems. They sounded good, and the music carried nicely through the crowd of people sitting in the grass. Heather wandered off to join the group of people hula hooping on the other side of the field. The Edna project took their bow. “Can we take our bow like that, all holding hands?” asked Dobson.

“If you and I were married, and Heather was our child, then we could bow like that.”

“Okay, but doesn’t it feel that way sometimes?” Dobson said. I looked over at Heather, hula hooping on the grass in her party dress, and back at Dobson in his immaculate summer suit.  I laughed and laughed.

We had a full hour for our set, so we played every song we can do in marimba formation, more than a dozen tunes, including the still very new Catch and Toss. The crowd was patient and listening, glad to be sitting outside with music washing over them. It felt wonderful to be playing in the open air by the river. Before we played Ana├»s, I told the audience that if anyone correctly guessed afterward what book it was based on, I’d give them a free CD. Guesses included Wicked, The Scarlet Letter, and Jane Eyre. I gave Wicked and the Scarlet Letter CDs for having interesting wrong answers. 

Siren Song was last, and I had been hoping Heather would forget about the tail, but no such luck. She enthusiastically reminded me from her position stage right that I’d promised to wear it, and when I mumbled that I'd had a change of heart, she argued that it was a great idea, and there we were bickering onstage. So I explained to the audience what the discussion was about, and asked what they thought.

Of course they voted for the tail.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for coming up to Hudson. Enjoyed the music!