Saturday, March 29, 2014

Roots and branches


So if last week’s open mic was a reality television show, this week’s was a seminar. An entertaining one, for sure, but a seminar nonetheless, one where various cultural root of Americana were exposed, explored, intertwined and came together in new ways.

There were two young rappers, Polite and Swagger Jack.
Swagger Jack and Polite
Polite clearly experienced with a smooth flow and Swagger just his second time on stage. Polite got the night’s excitement rolling by inviting  Pat O to come up and lay down a guitar
Polite and Pat O
line while he rapped over it.  And damn, it worked.

Rose and Josh had brought another Columbia grad friend with them, Hollie O
Hollie O
(which made RL think of Tallie Ho so he called her Hallie Ho….) who did her own self-ironic rap about wanting to be a rapper but still being a cracker. This gave Pat O an idea so when  he came on, he invited Polite, Swagger and Hollie up with him as he did a traditional spiritual, Ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down, with Hollie on harmonies and improvs and the rappers taking turns freestyling. Today’s urban hip hop connecting directly with one of the sources of  black popular music. 

This is  exactly the kind of thing  that almost always bring  RL tears. It's the collaboration of community versus competitive jamming. It's what live music means to him. It's a sacred thing. 
Swagger Jack, Polite, Hollie O and Pat O

Then Joel Gold blew the young wordsmiths away with his own timeless spoken word improv and they caught on to another source stream for their art. Later we’d hear Rel who came from a more traditional R&B place.
Josh and Rose
Josh and Rose did their set with her borrowing a page from Pastor Bob (she said) and doing an a capella song.

Mandola Joe took us deeper into Americana with his Brooklyn Dodgers 1955 World Championship jacket (the only real Dodgers, he said) and his proclamatory dramatic recitation of Casey at the Bat in honor of opening day.(
Mandola Joe in his Dodger jacket, Casey at the Bat

So, when it was my turn,  I did both spoken word, another acapella and closed with Leonard Cohen.

The coupe de grace however had to be RL’s closing Stay Awhile, (Rose earlier had sung her own Stay with Me) accompanied by Pat O and the two rappers. I never thought I would live long enough to see RL with rappers. In fact, the thought never ever crossed my mind.  

We’d had this night long odyssey through Americana popular culture where everything fit seamlessly together. As Dion, our stand up guy (in so many ways) said, You just never know. That’s why we come here.  In our house, you just never know…it just might be possible, something you never thought of just might happen

Pat O, RL, Swagger Jack and Polite

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