Friday, July 20, 2018

Heal Your Ears, Fill Your Cup

Tuesday night I headed out to the inaugural Heal Your Ears Music and Wellness Festival at one of my favorite local haunts: the IndyHostel. The event featured four bands and two guest speakers plus a dozen or so local vendors of locally sourced food, wellness services, and fine arts.

I’ve seen more deserve-to-be-famous singers in its cozy lounge and rustic outdoor venue than you can shake a stick at! (My dad tells me that is a lot, because if you can’t even shake a stick at something, then there must not be very much of it. You’re welcome.) Although I’ve enjoyed probably fifty indie music and art shows there since 2007, I haven’t been in a few years, and I’ve been feeling a void lately. You get a special sense of harmony and community and generosity at this venue that you just can’t get at stadiums and bars.

Enter Derek Weaver, health educator and founder of Heal Your Disease wellness cooperative, who organized the event. I learned about the concert via the page of singer Gayle Skidmore, now of The Netherlands, who last performed in Indy at the Beat Lounge, and who met Weaver when he operated the boards at one of her concerts in San Diego.

A few years back, I was a producer for a not-for-profit intimate listening room venue called The Beat Lounge, which happened to be in the attic of my home. Our motto was “for your art & soul,” and in addition to poetry readings and concerts, we also hosted yoga classes.  I held some thirty shows over the course of three years for singers from all over the U.S. plus a few from Canada, Zimbabwe, and Ireland. Jascha Is played what turned out to be his last show at The Beat Lounge along with Troubadours of Divine Bliss, and the performance still haunts me: He was not long for this world.

At the time I was also writing concert reviews for No Depression and now defunct Mission Intrigue: Indy. Here’s what I learned about writing about concerts: it’s tedious. Here’s what I learned about reading concert reviews: even tedious-er. Unless something really cool happens, like a raccoon family jumps from the perimeter wall onto the stage and starts scurrying about and scaring the band members who haven’t had their rabies shots, which has happened at the Indy Hostel, then it’s like reading a play-by-play recounting of a sportsketball game. I fully accept the probability that I just don’t know how to write concert reviews.

What I want to write reads more like a journal entry of how the music made me feel, and I’m not convinced that’s good reading for people who aren’t me. My advice is to get out there and experience live music, somewhere besides Let’s Just Call It Deer Creek and Be Done With It or the Venue that Should Still Be Known as The Murat. If anything I have ever written inspires people to check out bands they’ve never heard of, well then I am an excellent concert reviewer afterall.

If the music is good, I go through many emotions and contemplations, and, it is hoped, enlightenment. I’ll be on my feet one minute dancing, and on my keister the next, blown over by some simple rhyming wisdom with a beautiful melody. Such was the case at the Heal Your Ears Music Fest, and it was my privilege to have a perfect seat under that old cherry tree whose branches provide the perfect anchor for the rudimentary stage lighting. It’s always been about the music for me. Lights and effects are just there to fill up emptiness.

The world is full of emptiness. Kind of an oxymoron, but it’s true. Maybe it’s better to say that life is full of emptiness, and this is precisely why Weaver took this risk of hosting a free music and wellness festival in a little known venue on a Tuesday night without benefit of advertising. The bands and the speakers donated their time. The vendors offered discounts and free samples, plus free massages and Reiki sessions. It seems a lot of people think the world could use a little healing right now.

On the concert line-up were two popular local bands, Cyrus Youngman and the Kingfishers and Sarah Grain and the Billions of Stars, and two touring acts: The Hope Griffin Duo of Asheville, NC, and Gayle Skidmore, currently of Amsterdam. Speakers included Greg Monzel, recently featured on WFYI, a nutritionist and educator at Good Earth in Broad Ripple, and Wendell Fowler, recently featured on WISH, a local chef and best-selling author of the book Eat Right Now.

Here’s what some other writers had to say about the bands. I think they say it better than I can. Unless otherwise noted, I don’t know the names of the writers.

The Hope Griffin Duo invites you to be a part of their musical
journey down roads both familiar and new. Alaska-born singer-songwriter Hope Griffin is on the road in 2018, promoting her latest full length album release "Where the Soil & the Stars Meet." She is joined by long-term bandmate and remarkably talented cellist Jamie Leigh Bennett to offer you a show that soulfully fuses acoustic guitar, cello, and angelic harmonies together to provide their own stirring Folk/Americana originals. Well known for her free spirited stage presence, velvety vocals, and heart wrenching ballads, this talented act is ready to share with you own, fresh contributions to the singer-songwriter conversation.

Sarah Grain & The Billions of Stars: Listening to Sarah Grain & the Billions of Stars, you may pick up hints of folk, bossa nova, rock, americana or jazz. Their sound is finely textured with thoughtful instrumentation, rich vocal layering and harmonies, and is rooted by Grain's well-crafted lyrics and storytelling. Grasping you, these songs will get into your head and have you singing to yourself the next day. They released their first full-length album, ‘Something Wild’, in 2017, and perform every fourth Tuesday night of the month at The Chatterbox Jazz Club.

Cyrus Youngman and the Kingfishers: An intelligent, enthusiastic, wildly optimistic fellow, Youngman’s charisma is inescapable when you step in front of him and watch him lead the Kingfishers.”  -Donovan Wheeler from Nuvo

Gayle Skidmore: Seven-time San Diego Music Award nominee Gayle Skidmore has written over 2000 songs since she began songwriting at the age of 8. Her natural ability and innate passion for music made her music career inevitable, and her tumultuous life has given her plenty of inspiration. Translating her experiences into song has been more than just personally fulfilling. After winning Best Singer-Songwriter in the 2013 San Diego Music Awards, Best Pop Album for “Sleeping Bear” in 2014, and Best Pop in 2015, Gayle moved abroad to The Netherlands where she won De Beste Singer-Songwriter van het Groene Hart in 2017. Classically trained on the piano from the age of 4, Gayle Skidmore also plays over 20 other instruments, including the mountain dulcimer, banjo, folk harp and balalaika.

Now, here’s my self-indulgent concert review.

Hope Griffin’s voice could give you whiplash. You’re sitting there checking out the people and goings on, but when her voice comes over the mic, you whip your head around to see what is making that enchanting sound. Add Jamie Leigh’s cello, (did you know that it is believed that the cello is the closest sounding instrument to the human voice?) and you will enter the wonderful world of Right Where You Are Right at This Moment. Hope gave us a smattering of songs about a life that is foreign and exotic--one lived in Alaska. From fisherman ballads to what she loved to call “Dusty Westerns,” she reminded us through her songs, "You never know what someone is going through. We humans have a knack for hiding it pretty well.”

Sarah Grain brought an unexpected element to this music festival: children, and lots of 'em. Turns out, the parents of these children have helped her raise her own. There’s something about a woman artist who is also a mother--I don’t know if there’s anything more beautiful or feminine than a woman who fully pursues artistic passions while raising children. I will probably get in trouble for god knows what from god knows who for saying that, but this is my opinion. I mean it: go get your own if you don’t like mine!

Sarah teaches at the White Pines Wilderness Academy in my favorite neighborhood,  Rocky Ripple, and her dedication to finding herself as an artist in nature informed most of her delightful stage banter. (Some singers over-banter, and some don’t do enough. For an intimate performance, singers, I beseech you, if it’s special to you, share it.) Here’s some gems I jotted down between snapping pictures and checking out the unbridled energy of children in the company of other children in an outdoor setting without electronic devices: “When I walked a mile for what felt like fifteen years.”  “Living somewhere near the truth.”

Cyrus and the Kingfishers: “If you don’t like where you are, then I suggest that you hit the road.” Cyrus: thank you. Typical of a band of dudes in their twenties, the drummer forgot about the gig or had another gig or fell asleep--something like that. Not one to waste people’s time, Cyrus tossed a mound of percussion instruments on the stage and asked the children to play their hearts out. Who is this musical Messiah who lives the creed: “let the little children come to me?” He’s a lanky rocker in skinny jeans and captain’s hat who burns 5000 calories per show, and who writes some truly thoughtful lyrics and tells modern day fairy tales in the form of something like rock music. I won’t say that it was a good idea to give seven kids under the age of seven these instruments, but I will say it was the right idea. I know it wasn’t meant to be a teaching moment, but what a moment it was to see the kids rush the stage awestruck that they got to be part of the show. How can you not love a band who is so inclusive and so willing to be in the moment? Here’s something else I loved about the Kingfishers, and this is no disrespect to anyone else in the band, but they have a keyboardist (and an electric mandolin player). I’m not one to say what is rock and what is not rock, but in my book, if you bring in a keyboardist, you bring in credibility and class.

Gayle Skidmore: Gayle was the reason I attended. By the time she took the stage, more than half the audience had left because it was literally way past their bedtime, and they took their parents with them. The rest of the crowd was so hyped up on the nuclear half life of energy that is Cyrus Youngman that you could barely hear her over the din of excitement. My heart sank a little that people were going to miss a true nightingale. I should have known better. Gayle knows how to work a crowd. The trick is to get them to move closer. How does she does this? She says,  “Hey, how about everyone move in a little closer?” And they do. She co-opts us to be her back-up, she has us singing like a choir. She does magical things with her voice and about seven instruments, some of which even the Kingfishers had never heard of. Among others, she sang for us her new song “No Ordinary Life,” which will be featured in the movie “Little Women.” Here’s a video of her gorgeous ballad Pale Ghosts that she recently filmed in Amsterdam on a canal in a borrowed boat.  

Pictures are worth a thousand words. They say it better than I can.

Hope to see you next year at Heal Your Ears Music and Wellness Festival!

My favorite photo of the night!

Assistant Emily and her friend volunteer to run the merch table.

Derek's parents run the raffle.

Hope Griffin and Jamie Leigh usher in a beautiful evening with songs about life on the water, and a feisty woman named Lola in a "Dusty Western."

I always loved the fire ring at Indy Hostel!

Cyrus and the Kingfishers were happy to offer their merch "pay what you can, even if it's nothing." I saw a dog wearing one of their shirts later. I think he paid for it with a doggy kiss!

You know those coloring books for adults that are so popular now? Gayle started that. Seriously. All of her CDs come with coloring books of her own drawings. 

Greg Monzel talks about the complexity/simplicity of plant life and why the farther our food gets from the Earth, the more unhealthy we will become. Great talk!

That big tree above the stage is a wild cherry tree, and that is poetry to me.

Greg points out the nutrition offered by the common Hackberry tree, which is in the Cannabis family, and I didn't hear anything he said after that for some reason.

Sarah talks about nature defining her art. And about taking her kids to Brazil! Lucky kids!

Gayle watches Hope Griffin Duo. Later Hope Griffin Duo showed huge support for Gayle as the crowds waned.

Chef/Author Wendell Fowler recounts his past as "300 lbs. of gelantinous goo" and knocking on death's door before healing himself with wholesome food.

This man sat like this for nearly an hour. Talk about healthy knees!

If there are dogs, I will photograph them.

The kids lent their bubble-making machine for "special effects." Hug hit!

The drummer finally arrives.

The world could use a little more brotherly love and expression of affection.

Gayle takes the stage.

Gayle closes the night with an unplugged (due to neighborhood ordinances) version of "All My Life" with the audience serving as back-up choir.

This artist had beautiful pottery and big brass bowl that you stand in while someone gongs it. 

Derek gives free Reiki demos!

Smoothie bar!

Students and teacher at The White Pines Wilderness Academy

No comments:

Post a Comment