Every year around this time, the New London County music scene gets together to throw a bash celebrating and honoring the best music we make around here, a red carpet extravaganza at Hygienic Art Park called the Whalie Awards.
Last year, Daphne Lee Martin & Raise the Rent came home with Americana Album of the Year for ‘Dig & Be Dug’ as well as best Folk/Bluegrass band and song awards. This year Daphne’s Moxie is up for Pop/Indie, Pop album of the year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year. There’s still time to vote in some of the categories, here are more of the details:
THE 2013 WHALIE AWARDS
Hosted by Sean Patrick MurrayThe Whalie Awards are New London’s equivalent of the Grammys. A full-scale awards show with big performances, loud fashion and, of course, the red carpet! It is a night to celebrate local music – over 100 bands and artists from New London county and beyond are nominated. The event is the kickoff for the summer season at the Hygienic Art Park and is the major fundraiser in support of I AM Festival which returns this year for its seventh installment on September 7th, 2013.
Red Carpet – 6:00pm
The Whalie Awards – 7:00pm
Over 30 Whalies will be handed out!
Special guest presenters!
Red carpet ceremony!
And TONS more!
Every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man
You’re a wolf with a closet full of wool
& I have never been a victim,
but baby you’re so cool
You never see the nests until the leaves have blown
Till the birds have flown, till you’re eating crow
You never see the nests till the birds have flown
Samson went soft for a woman
Slept in the joy of his sins
Woke to cry, “Delilah, why’d you do me wrong?”
“It was the least I could do for my kin,
& if your god would forsake you so easy,
Don’t the proudest go down so hard…
What good is the strength of a thousand men
If you’ve got no heart, if you’ve got no heart?”
If I had my way, I would tear this building down
Now the bees made honey in the lion’s head
& the beasts have cleaned the bones
An eye for an eye for an eye for an eye
Can’t you hear Jerusalem moan? Can’t you hear Jerusalem moan?
Midway through a rather ominous minor-key reggae song, Daphne Lee Martin’s keyboardist played most of a verse from Besame Mucho, using a glockenspiel setting to max out the menace. That was one of the high points of her show last night at the Way Station in Fort Greene, the unlikely setting for the first stop on her current tour which winds its way down to South by Southwest. Once word of her new album Moxie gets out, it’s not likely she’ll be playing places like the Way Station. She and her fantastic band Raise the Rent did most of that album, in sequence, with an exuberant expertise to match its eclectic style. Martin’s down-to-earth, uncluttered but finely nuanced alto voice might remind you of June Christy or Erica Smith, which makes sense since she and Smith were bandmates around the turn of the past century.
Martin and her five-piece band opened with Sweet & Low Down, a pulsing noir blues fueled by creepy funeral organ and then a fiery Strat solo from the lead guitarist that exploded in a frenzy of tremolo-picking as he went up the scale. The minor-key noir mood lingered through their second number, Whiskey & Sin, a luridly grim waltz, sort of a House of the Setting Sun: some girl in the crowd let out a scream timed perfectly to the end of the first verse as it reached a peak. Belly, a strutting vintage 70s-style soul groove, first fueled by echoey Rhodes piano and then woozily hilarious Dr. Dre-style synth, was next. Martin and band picked up the pace from there with the uneasily swinging House That Built Itself, lit up by some more bitingly bluesy lead guitar, then went scampering through Molotov with a torchy gypsy jazz-inflected intensity. Most of the night, Martin’s vocals were too low in the mix to reveal the level of detail that she typically brings to a song, but this one was a showcase for some unselfconsciously spine-tingling blue notes and melismas.
The next number, a duet with the keyboardist, had a planitive flamenco-rock feel, like the skeleton frame of an early Firewater song; then the bass and drums agilely transformed it into roots reggae in a split second. New London, Connecticut, where Martin and band have made their home for the last few years, has had a fertile music scene since the recently, tragically reducedReducers first came up in the 80s: it’s good to see such a fantastic band representing that city on the road.
The first confession I will make about this song is that the introduction didn’t exist until much after the poetry of the song. I’ve had the lucky stroke to find myself sharing stages with one Alec Spiegelman when he was playing with Miss Tess. His playing always struck me and when Tess picked up with Rachael Price (Lake Street Dive, whom I’ve also happily shared stages with over the years) to form an act called the Sweet & Low Down, a name garnered from Tennyson via Gershwin I had my title and intro. After I wrote the poem and had the melody in my head and a few beers in my veins, I got brave and called Alec and he talked me through the melody and the timing and helped me chart it out over a long distance phone call. Matt Gouette, my roommate at the time, helped me put the finishing touches on the progression.
The original prose:
stress, exhaustion. HA! I’m not… i’m getting tangled in the cords. chest caving and expanding, breathless, voice strained and pushing its natural limits to complete ecstasy. i was not cut out for this simple happy life. i was cut out for the madness of a carnival. step right up for the bearded lady… none of my corners are square, they are very round, and they ache for it, here, here, and here. my pulse is racing. i was born for chasing, for heat, for discomfort, built for speed, for anger, for fear and fearless pursuit of the unattainable. a strangling desire, constant. no moss growing on me. no, that will not do. there is no amount of cold weather darkness that can spread into the slick sheen of sweat on my summer skin. i may not rely on anything which has come before. ah, yes, that’s more like it. the one and the three, not the two and the four. push me pull me.
“It was like the fragment of a dream which, by an effort scarcely calculable, is revived again and again in the fraction of a second, is revived without a change, vivid, naked, complete. Softly she sang the words in his ear; the touch of her cheek like a burn, her voice like a drug, her breasts, soft and full, swelling with the melody.”
the lip of your hat pouts like a child being cute to get his way. it curls up on the sides like the poems hid in a crown royal bag to unburden a heart full to bursting. the ridge of your hat spreads and stretches like my time with you may dream to stretch, like the spread of my softening hopes. the white linen of your shirt, worn, un-starched, is billows of clouds guarding the heaven of your song that i am in. beautiful glimpses between the twirling bodies and smiling faces, and me the only one who ‘knows the words, sings so she’s heard, and knows how all the stories end’. as i furiously rip off big sur with the kind of abandon one can only have at the very end of their rope.
i want to feel the straps fall from my shoulders, sweat and freckles and the pain of burn from the sun. i want to hear the scuff and thud of sandals kicked into corners of the room and the heavy, spiced, alcohol graze of your neck across my lips. there is no going home. and it is not wrong. there is no going wrong and it is not home.
“This is about all the bad days in the world. I used to have some little bad days, and I kept them in a little box. Then one day I threw them out into the yard. Oh it’s just a couple of little innocent bad days. Well, we had a big rain, I don’t know what it was growing in, but I think we used to put eggshells out there and coffee grounds too. Don’t plant your bad days, they grow into weeks, the weeks grow into months, then before you know it you’ve got yourself a bad year. Take it from me, choke those little bad days, choke ‘em down to nothin’. ” tw
a friend of mine falls in love at least twice a day, i think i may have fallen in love with him a dozen times myself. he knows how my voice keeps changing. and he plays to my weakness. and i play to his strengths. he stares at his toes during long silences, and i wonder what he’s thinking. “living in a den of thieves, rummaging for answers in the pages…” a waltz between the sides and the one keeps stepping on the toes of the other. one moment i’m singing above him, the next below.
The second confession I will make about this song is that it isn’t written from my perspective. Long long ago in a galaxy far far away, I was in love with a boy. A boy who inspired me harder than I think anyone else ever will. A boy who made me sadder and more afraid, almost certainly, than anyone else ever will. The thing about those kind of boys isn’t that they never leave you (oh, they do), it’s that you never quite leave them. In any case, this particular boy was fond of giving young impressionable me the best gift young impressionable girls can receive: books. I was 18, about to make the big move to the big city, and he sent me a copy of Archy & Mehitabel by Don Marquis. And in so doing, he forever changed me.
Part of the appeal was in the antiquity of the thing. Part in the angst, I was 18 after all. And on my way from midwestern fundamentalist to ribcagewideopentothewholefuckingworld. Into a life I couldn’t have imagined- no matter how many books I’d read, no matter how many songs I’d sung, no matter how much history might be inherent in my old old soul. The glitter, the glamour, the fading and the ache. The outpouring truthful narcissim and self-loathing beauty. The aging of perfection, the honesty of just how fucking hard we all have it, whether we’re diving to our near death every time we speak out, or whether we have to bare our tenderest spots to garner the least interest from those around us. It was the *perfect* introduction to what would become ‘my’ New York.
I’ve never been able to read without, admittedly selfishly, having to find a way to identify with some character or other. In this one, I identified so strongly with both that I was very conflicted until someone pointed out the duality inherent in my Gemini sign. I can’t say it fixed the problem, but it excused it for the time being. Anyhoo, I chose Mehitabel as the voice of the song. I tried to use her meter, her singsongy way of expressing the mundane, even the charmingly pathetic, and those of you follow me on twitter know I’ve also conjured her as my handle @DameCalico.
The poem itself was written while I was sitting on the staircase at my friend Brian’s barn, or “Castle” as he calls it. It was both about the band that was playing and about the imagined melodramas of the dancers enjoying them. It’s mostly about the same version of “life” that plagued Mehitabel, the desire to live so hard, to take it all the way to the edge (and even over the edge) every time so that if often leaves you scarred, battered, believing in phantoms, seeking the flaws in others that might excuse your own, using anything to drug yourself into trusting that what you desire is reality, and ultimately being regretless. After all, you only really regret the life you “didn’t” live… and giving up is never actually an option, so you have to laugh at it, even if it hurts.
This is the sweet & low down of it, this is the sweet & low down of it, losing it all feels like nothing when you’ve got nothing left to lose except those sweet and low down blues…
The lip of your hat pouts like a child being cute to try to get his way | And I keep doing shots of you so I can feel you coursing through my veins | Flood it all away like a big rain
Falls from my shoulder in freckles and sweat and pain from the burn of the sun | Pops and crackles like a phonograph record one too many times spun | Aren’t you the quiet one, afraid to have a little fun?
So I try to divine a version of the truth that you can believe for tonight | And I’m getting so good at it I’ve nearly convinced myself this water is wine | Or that you could be mine
Now I hang like a suit that has been fitted to too many man, let out and hemmed in | And I’m prowling through alleys of discarded reason why you should care | Until I throw my hands up in the air, such a pretty despair…