Dar Williams pictureThere's the wind
And the rain
And the mercy of the fallen
Who say they have no claim
To know what's right
There's the weak
And the strong
And the beds that have no answers
And that's where I may rest my head tonight

-Dar Williams, "Mercy of the Fallen"

Despite being in pretty bad physical and emotional shape this week (the headache that never ends, among other things), I went to see Dar Williams play at the Cactus Cafe on campus on Tuesday night. And she was great. Actually, she probably wasn't, by an objective standard, great, but it was great fun to see her anyway. It's a very small room, and I got there early, so I was in the first row, only a few feet away from her, which was excellent.

She did a few songs I hadn't heard her do live before, including one of my very favorites, "I Had No Right," which is about Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan and his work for peace, and is a great song, so hearing her do that was a thrill. She also did favorites such as "The Christians and the Pagans" and "When I Was a Boy," and even did "Southern California Wants to be Western New York" by request, which was great.

While watching the show, I started thinking about my penchant for music driven by heady lyrics and performed by tiny women with big guitars. Who would have thought, in my heavy metal-transitions-to-grunge youth, that I'd end up so comfortable in a folk club, watching a performance that consists completely of a woman, her guitar, and her words. It's such an intimate experience (particularly from the first row). It feels so good, so honest. So like something I can relate to. When did that happen? When did bands become to loud and distracting? I've always, to a greater or lesser degree, liked singer-songwriters, but now they're generally the only people I care to see live. And I am more and more unwilling to sit in large venues and watch concerts that seem more like plays. The natural, flowing, personal nature of the shows I've seen at the Cactus Cafe, though--Lucy Kaplansky, Eliza Gilkyson, and now Dar--they are worth leaving the house for.

Once again, it leaves me feeling old. But not necessarily in a bad way. This is what I like. And there's nothing wrong with that.


I really wanted to go to that show, but my trip to California conflicted with it. Thanks for posting about the performance!

I feel like every show I go to, the guitars are turned WAY up and drown out the vocals, which are the part I most want to hear. It's so annoying. And it's EVERYWHERE for pretty much every genre. My classic example is that Dan Bern show we went to at the Roseland--sucked when electric b/c it was all guitars, awesome after. There have been only a few exceptions to this, recently. A Hank III show I went to had a reasonable vocal mix, the Drive By Truckers was okay, and most hiphop shows are fine (since vocals ARE the thing there). And Prince is always a good mix!

I'm totaly in love with Lucy Kaplansky lately. And Dar. Do you have/have you heard the album they did together (with some guy whose name I forget), "cry, cry, cry"? So good! Anyway, I'm only 21, so don't feel old! ;) Or I'll feel old with you....

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