Aug 19, 2012

Truth, Justice, and All-American Allergen-Free Apple Pie

Straight Talk in a Crooked World: AE House Concert

September 3, 2011 by wildninja

 

Couch cushions, Springsteen, and caprine foot trimmings, oh my.

Where, you might ask, can you experience all of this and more? An Aaron English house concert, of course.

If you haven’t heard of Aaron English, to quote the Geico commercial, do you live under a rock? English is a prolific songwriter and performer from Seattle who shares his musical stylings with fans in venues large and small. Currently living in Hawaii, he returned to his hometown recently to give several house concerts.

And what, pray tell, is a house concert? It’s when someone decides to host a concert at their residence accompanied by a number of friends and fans. House concerts are often a BYOC event– bring your own chair– or blanket, or cushion, or camp stool. They often begin with a potluck and as the night progresses, the musical guest will entertain the crowd in the intimate atmosphere of the host’s home or yard.

House concerts are a great way to hear musicians because of the warm, inviting surroundings and the very faint likelihood that the host’s fire pit will degenerate into a mosh pit. You can avoid the noise, avoid the crowds, and generally find parking. It also gives you a chance to interact with the artist and meet fellow music lovers of all ages. Children are frequently welcomed at these events, making them a family affair.

When English began one of his Seattle concerts recently, my juvenile charge and I parked ourselves in a folding chair and on a blanket. I cracked up when English emerged on the back patio in a very Seattle-esque flannel shirt, quickly qualified as his only flannel shirt. In addition to his keyboard, he had several other gadgets at his disposal, including a small box that reminded me of an Easy-Bake oven or Space Race-era technology that had been salvaged from a SR-71′s control panel. As he adjusted its bubbly beats, he told us that it is a tabla box, otherwise described as a merciless metronome, which is traditionally used in Indian classical music.

Tabla… flannel… lots of wires… the carrot cake cupcakes my companion was fixated on perched precariously on a high table… “what is going to happen here?” I wondered to myself. Starting his set with a soulful rendition of Doves, English progressed into fan favorites like Believe and The Name of This Song is a Secret. As if on cue because he was speaking of their brethren, a flock of birds sailed overhead for awhile, gliding towards the south through a nearly cloudless sky.

Several songs in, as the birds continued to float past, English asked for assistance as he strapped what appeared to be some sort of tribal warfare gear to one leg. He explained that these were trimmings from goat hooves that serve as a percussion instrument. They looked curiously similar to the chew hooves I bought for my dog at Costco until he cracked a tooth on one, yet never had I thought of threading them together and strapping them to myself to be my own drum section. The caprine contraption was a remarkably effective accompaniment to a number of songs. It had a pleasant shiver to it, like a cascading rain, and was particularly suited to a call and response Kenyan number that involved cow herding.

As the sun went down over Lake City, English introduced a Springsteen song that I hadn’t heard in so long I didn’t even remember the last time I heard it, Atlantic City. As he explained, it was a suitable homage to the struggles people are facing in an economic downturn. Later he surprised us with his take on U2′s Trip Through Your Wires, another ’80s classic that sounded quite nice as a one-man jaunt over black and white keys. I first heard Aaron perform just a few years after that song was released, and appreciated the nod to the righteous dudes of Dublin.

Rumor has it that someone took a black Sharpie and wrote “Aaron English washed his hands here” on the wall behind the host’s bathroom door. Hopefully the homeowners didn’t mind and realized that the graffiti had actually increased their home’s value.

English is an artist worth hearing in such a venue; I actually liked some of his songs better when performed solo, Easy-Bake oven, goat feet, and all. For information on how you can host or attend a house concert, visit the Aaron English website at http://www.aaronenglish.com/houseconcerts.html.

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Music is the art of thinking with sounds. -Jules Combarieu

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