Saturday, December 13, 2003

Stranger in a Strange Land Bookstore

Part Two: "Can you play 'October', it's my favorite"

The performance space is about the size of half a gymnasium. Forty foot high ceiling with exposed steel beams. The street-side wall, where the stage is, is cinderblock. There are a few more of the tall tables and pairs of chairs. There's a table made out of a glass basketball backboard. On the table is a group of large white cylinder candles burning on their stands, and a few small stacks of papers and pamphlets. On the walls around the room are paintings and framed photographs. On pedestals between some of the hung paintings are sculptures, most of them crosses made out of many items. One such cross was made entirely of handles from doors, oars, gates, and other places.

More than a quarter of the large space is taken up by a large walled structure in the back-left corner, which I find out is the sound booth, and behind that, the rest of the second story rooms. The sound booth area only sits about twenty feet high, like a balcony, and is open above that. There, the sound crew sits working on the board, balancing speakers, setting up a video camera. The short hallway I entered through was actually under this structure. I take a seat on an old pew against the front wall of the booth. There's a Persian rug on the floor in front of the stage, where some of the audience members sit cross-legged with their toddlers, who are playing together. One crawled over to me to say hi during the show.

I sit for a while longer reading, and a few more people talk to me. I don't remember their names, sadly. I've never been good about that. But they were nice and were happy I was there. Then Robbie came over and talked to me again, before leaving to take some pictures of the show.

A guy sits down in a chair six feet in front of me. Thick, shoulder-length, curly dark brown hair, that seems on the verge of exploding in a million directions. A full beard ("full" being completely unshaven, covering the entire jaw down to the neck, connected mustache, completely impenetrable by light) and a faded second-hand t-shirt proclaiming "Florida!" in cracked letters, and faded frayed jeans that sagged just enough for plaid boxers to peek out (these kids and their not using belts, huh?). He sits down, and pulls out a notebook. A girl and her parents whom he had just been talking to at a nearby table ask what he's doing. "Oh, I gotta whip up a set list." A spikey haired girl walking by stops and says, "Hey, Seth, can you play 'October', it's my favorite." He laughs and says that he'll try to remember.

Of course it's Seth. I should have recognized him immediately. Then finally he gets up and goes to the stage. There are various speakers. A drum set, four or five guitars on stands, an organ in the back that is currently being used to hold all the guitar cases. Above the stage, on the cinderblock wall, is mounted an old Celtic-looking metal cross, lit from the floor with a red spotlight. The rest of the stage is lit from above by stage lights. There are (thankfully) no flourescent lights in this space. Lots of candles, and some soft lamps pointed at the pictures on the walls. Very mellow, very warm. Inviting.

Seth and the band (collectively, The Sad Accordians) play for about twenty minutes, running through some of Seth's stuff, as well as some new things. I loved one song called "Automatic". He played the "piratey song" that he did at Metro called "Buried Treasure": "Baby, you're my buried treasure/And I'm your Captain Hook/I'd give that crocodile my other hand/If I could write you in my book." They played an upbeat version of "Boston" and Seth turned "October" into a sort of sad waltz, which was very cool. Then the Accordians took a break, and Seth played some songs by himself. My favorite part of this set was an acoustic version of the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star". He played the first verse softly and slowly, singing the lyrics normally instead of trying to imitate the original. Half the crowd didn't even realize what it was until he reached the chorus. By that time, everyone started singing along, and Seth's playing got louder and louder until he was singing it all-out, top of his lungs. Awesome. Good times. He sang a song that he wrote about some of the people he lived with in Houston, most of whom were in the room. That was nice. Then the Accordians came back to finish the set.

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