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Teatro Polenzani - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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February 21st, 2010

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12:48 pm - Teatro Polenzani
Back in The Day, as we like to call it, my friend Alanna introduced me to Rose Polenzani. I was not really into her at first, but then a couple years later, thanks to my friend Steph, I grew into my female singer-songwriter phase and became a huge fan and bought all her CDs and saw her when she came to Ann Arbor in 2004. I have since grown out of my female singer-songwriter phase, I think—I can barely listen to Dar Williams anymore, even though I had a great time seeing and meeting her in Dallas in 2003—but I still enjoy listening to her songs. So when I heard she was doing a house concert here, I was excited.

She was playing at the Bus Stop Co-op in Berkeley at 8 on Friday. I showed up at 7:15, which turned out to be exceedingly early. I think people were still finishing up dinner. I impressed Rose by identifying my name on The List from the back of the paper. I loitered for half an hour while I waited for more people to show up and Rose tuned and warmed up. It was weird to be, like...in someone's place of residence. I'd never been to a house concert before.

I took a spot in the front row. The rest of the guests started streaming in around 7:45, and the residents provided tasty snacks for us to munch on. In an unexpected bit of Small World Syndrome, one of the guests knew one of the residents from Dartmouth. They were excited to catch up with each other. I chatted with a couple, Kate and Justin. Kate noticed my Tegan and Sara shirt, which I had worn to be noticed, and commented that she'd never seen it before. I proudly answered that it was one of only 200 or so that they had made in order to fund the "Living Room" video. We both agreed that we liked Tegan and Sara more before they changed their sound. She had the same feelings about Modest Mouse. Justin remarked that he actually hadn't listened to Rose in years, but he wasn't going to pass up an intimate, casual show like this. I was the same! When I said that I thought I'd moved past my female singer-songwriter phase, Kate said that was just like Justin, whom she referred to as her "lesbian husband." She was amused that we were kindred spirits. Both of us men were pretty pleased that we weren't the only dudes there; there were more than a handful!

Rose came on around 8:30 and thanked us all for coming. She said it had been eight or ten years since she'd played in the Bay Area, so she didn't know how familiar people were with her newer material, but she realized she'd put together the sort of setlist she'd play in Boston, where they knew all her songs. As a result, there were only a few songs on her setlist that I knew, and they were good but not my very favorites. But she did take requests! She did "Omen," which I learned was about horsefucking, "The Llama," which she had printed off lyrics for, and "Sacramento Avenue," which one guy said it was traditional for him to request (I heard the story from him later: at one show, he requested the song based on the lyrics he'd read on her website, never having actually heard it, and Rose was surprised at the request for an older song that she'd never recorded, but she played it and then it showed up on a later album...coincidence?). She also played some ukulele songs, my favorite being "Seven Swans," which was not a Sufjan Stevens cover but still had a sort of sinister undertone. During one song, she tried to start up a call-and-response audience participation thing, and Justin picked up on it much more quickly than the rest of us, and she was so pleased she said, "Free CD to the man in plaid!" And she was serious, ha.

In the front row, I could watch her play guitar without a pick and tune her ukulele with this electronic device and close her eyes while she sang beautifully. There's nothing like hearing someone with a great voice you admire in recordings sing just as well or even better right in front of you. She closed after an hour, but we clapped her back for an encore, and she sang "Sometimes" a cappella, and it was just amazing. She had such control of her voice. It could have ended right there, but she followed it up with her award-winning song, "You Were Drunk." Later she told us of a recent performance where MC Mr. Napkins had inserted a rap from the perspective of the man in the song. Her favorite line was the last: "My pole rose for Rose Polenzani."

After the show, many guests shuffled off, and when there were only a few of us left, Rose said we could break out the wine. And so I hung out for a couple hours talking with folks, several of whom were Rose's friends or former roommates. I was just a simple fan. But everyone had stories to tell. One guy, Scott, regaled us with his adventures being scammed in Turkey and left on a train car in Eastern Europe and consoling an online stranger who mistook him for a friend who had just died...all in the space of three days. One cute girl with funky glasses—also named Rose—was a single mom and huge fangirl of local glam rock band Triple Cobra, whom she and her friend/boyfriend/whatever recommended to me highly. Rose—the singer—asked me how long I'd been in the Bay Area and what I was doing. I told her about seeing her in Ann Arbor, when she had jokingly asked me to come stand next to her and I had taken her at her word and done gestures while she sang "Till There Was You." She didn't remember, but she said it sounded sweet and cute and she wished she'd done something like that tonight.

I had brought liner notes from the three Rose Polenzani CDs I didn't have signed—I had gotten August signed when I bought it at that show, and she had written "There were bells on the hill" on the CD—and I was waiting for an opportune moment to ask her to sign them, as it almost felt gauche in this environment. But after someone told Rose a story about getting CDs signed for a friend, I pulled out my material and asked her to sign. She spent a lot of time just flipping through the booklets since she hadn't seen them in so long. She was unhappy with some of her recordings from long ago. Rather than just signing the cover, she looked for other places. In Dragersville, she signed on the back with a "Thank you, Sunil" (I didn't have to tell her my name!). In Anybody, she drew a bunch of lines on her shirt. In Rose Polenzani, she flipped through the lyric book and wrote "Thank you" under "The Llama," "Sunil!" under "Polliwog's Lament," and her signature under "Orange Crush." I told her that was a perfect place to sign since "Polliwog's Lament" was one of my favorites, as was "Orange Crush," which I had requested, but she said she couldn't have remembered all the lyrics.

My mission accomplished, I waited for an opportune moment to leave since I was quite tired and had stayed out later than intended, and when Rose—the single mom—made a move to leave, I followed suit. It had been a fun night, and now I wonder whether I'll run into all those people I met again. I do like how music brings people together.
Current Mood: hungryhungry
Current Music: Emm Gryner - Yellow

(5 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")


[User Picture]
Date:February 21st, 2010 10:01 pm (UTC)
In light of this post, I feel compelled to pimp out the upcoming Conspiracy of Venus show (46 women singing a cappella! You know you don't want to miss that!)

We're opening for John Vanderslice at Noise Pop in SF on Friday the 26th.

All the info is here - clickclick!

Noise Pop: John Vanderslice, Nurses, Honeycomb, Conspiracy of Venus.

Pre-Sale Raffle! Sonderkasten Celebration! Official release of Honeycomb's EP! Trivia Question!

Okay, now our trivia question. The correct replier gets their name inserted into Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" by Conspiracy of Venus. (We will send you an mp3 of it!)

Two late 60s films of Ingmar Bergman share an important location. What are the films? Why does the location have special significance to Bergman's life and work?

Honestly, I think you'd really like a lot of it. Plus we just performed at a women's prison, which was really interesting and emotional, so I'm all kinds of stoked on the choir at the moment. :D
[User Picture]
Date:February 21st, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)
Friday the 26th? Balls! I'm planning to go see Karmacoda at Harlot for free that night! And yet, 46 women singing a cappella is enticing.
[User Picture]
Date:February 22nd, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
Well we're also performing March 21 but I don't know as much about that yet. :)
[User Picture]
Date:February 23rd, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
At some point, I had all her albums, but they must have been lost in a hard disk crash. I remember loving Olga's Birthday, but haven't heard it in years. Gonna rectify that right now: http://popup.lala.com/popup/937030206111411046

Anyway, that's very cool.
[User Picture]
Date:February 23rd, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
Oh, I had no idea you were a fan! I would have invited you. If you want to borrow my CDs to burn, you can.

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