Here I have been writing primarily about food, law school, and the banalities of my day-to-day life, when I am in the Live Music Capitol of the World. It is notable that I haven't been to much live music here. I've been around live music, whether at the greenmarket or the Hot Sauce Festival, but tonight was the first time I made a deliberate effort to go see some. When I moved here I was overwhelmed by Austin's music reputation and was in a sense paralyzed - I didn't know where to start. Of course, this is a poor excuse for not taking advantage of an enviable scene. I decided about a week ago that I wanted to go to the Continental Club (http://www.continentalclub.com/Austin.html) on S. Congress as my first foray into Austin music. A friend from law school, who happens to be from Brooklyn, lives near this famous venue; we agreed to go there together sometime.
She has a friend visiting from New York and they made plans to go to the Continental Club Gallery tonight to see Jon Dee Graham (http://www.myspace.com/jondeegraham), who she described as Tom Waits-ish. This comparison didn't mean much to my ignorant music mind but I know my dad likes Tom Waits so I was sufficiently intrigued. I met her and her friend at a seafood restaurant across the street from the Continental Club and we arrived at the 8:30 show around 8:35. The man at the door cut us a deal on the cover, 3 for $30 (compared to $12 each.) On the way upstairs I smiled at the sign on the wall (Mr. Cool Ice Says: Its nice to be important, but its important to be nice.), see above.
Maybe it's only in New York that shows start about a half hour after their advertised starting time*, because Mr. Graham and his lovely guest for the evening, Erin Ivey (http://www.erinivey.com/), were already playing when we arrived. The room was small and intimate and the only three seats available were directly to the left of the stage so we tip-toed around to take them.
I wish I was a music critic so I would have the proper vocabulary to describe the show but I'll try my best with what I have. Mr. Graham has a throaty, gruff voice. He is the father of your friend who you think is a grump but actually turns out to be a softie. He told a story about teaching a fellow musician to hug and moments later insisted on an awkward silence to make the audience feel uncomfortable. He is self-deprecating, sore, and sad but all the while hopeful and full of love. The last song was about a friend praying for him. That's the kind of faith he has - the faith in a friend who prays for him, but not the faith to be the one praying. He is also a terrific guitar player and his slides seemed to make the guitar cry.
Ms. Ivey is pretty and looks younger than she is. I just read her bio and she mentions coming to Austin for college and subsequently says, "as ten years in Austin approached..." Honestly, I am relieved. I thought she was prettier, more talented, and younger than me. Turns out she's only prettier and more talented. One song she sang, "Little Star," made me think of the black sweatshirt with neon stars that I wore everyday when I was three years old. The song obviously triggered in my memory the stars, but also youth and innocence. Maybe this is why I thought she was younger than she is - this is what her voice conveys.
Mr. Graham and Ms. Ives probably played only 6 or 7 songs in their hour and a half set. The show didn't seem to be rehearsed and one would join the other in their respective songs. At one point, Ms. Ives asked Mr. Graham to accompany her on his electric guitar, "but not too loud." He was dismayed by the instructions and their banter suggested he would not oblige, but sure enough her soft voice was never obstructed.
After the show, I hailed a taxi to get home. The van pulled over and as I opened the door to the backseat, the driver said, "No, sit in front. More comfortable." On the way home I learned he is a cricket player, moved here twelve years ago from Kashmir which he described as "a very poor country." "Do you know it?," he asked. "Heard of it," I responded. "Like the sweaters," he said. Embarrassed, I wondered, how can he tell I am not well-traveled and like soft knits? He literally won citizenship to the United States when he finished high school. There was a lottery in his country and his name was pulled. "And I was the one who won," he went on, "worth more than a million bucks." I could tell he was serious. When he learned he won, he asked a friend where the coolest place in the United States is, and his friend told him to move to Austin.
*When I looked at Ms. Ivey's website I noticed she advertised the Continental Club start-time as 8:00, so while I originally attributed the half-hour leeway in advertising showtimes as a New York/Austin thing, I now think it is generational.