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Litefoot is Gary Davis. And Gary Davis is a man with a mission. That mission is to inspire people to get up off the couch and take action.
At the last Mt. Hood Cherokee meeting, our new friend Gary Davis stopped by to share a few words. An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, Davis spoke about his interesting life story, but the story paled when he drove home a message at the end of his talk, about hope, tenacity, longevity, purpose, action, and faith.
He grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma but fell in love with a woman who lived in Seattle. She turned out to be smart and capable, as well as beautiful, and Davis knew that there was something for him in the Pacific Northwest. It helped that he’s a huge Steve Largent (Seahawks) fan. He’s lived in Seattle with his beautiful family (they all came to the meeting too!) since 1997.
Davis took the stage name of Litefoot and began rapping for his friends on the reservation as a teenager. His first rap album was produced in 1992. His music touched a nerve for some and resounded for others, bringing up painful or powerful topics from an Indian’s perspective, in contemporary music. He reached even more people with his first movie in 1995 when he was The Indian in the Cupboard. He added television roles to his movie roles. And all the while he kept making music.
Back in the early days, Davis said, he knew what he wanted to do and he had a meeting with Chief Wilma Mankiller and told her about it. “I knew Oklahoma was not the rap or hip hop capital of the world. What I wanted to do was bring a message to the people. People were hanging their heads. Other people recognize what we have to be proud about that we don’t even realize.” The Chief could have reacted in any number of ways to a young punk making modern music, and she chose to ask him to sing at a function for her. “But there’s one thing,” Mankiller said to him, “I want you to speak.” Davis said he thought he was nobody and had nothing to say, but he did as she asked.
It wasn’t that there was nothing on his mind, but more like too much on his mind. “Things have gone on for so long that people can’t even find a beginning point in order to find something to say. I prayed for the right words and 15 minutes later I stopped talking and people started clapping.” He knew speaking was for him. The high only lasted until the end of a show when a girl met him and demanded, “What did those Pilgrims do to you?” Davis said he thought to himself, “Brother, you have a long way to go. You have people with privilege who don’t even know they’re privileged.”
Since then he rapped in Kodiak, Alaska all the way across the continent to North Dakota and Maine. He was invited to perform in Rome. In 2005, he and his wife Carmen Davis started the Reach the Rez tour, to bring a positive voice to native people. To “get out ahead of drugs and suicide” he told us, “not once something has already taken place.”
Davis is every bit as active as he says people should be. I mean, he walks the talk. His message resonates with me personally. I can get a little uneasy among my Cherokee brothers and sisters, and I begin to feel like an outsider when I don’t find people who think about our heritage the way I do. So many Indians are about spirituality and artistic expression to connect to their indigenous heritage or to send a message. But that mooshy stuff simply doesn’t really resonate with me. I totally get that there is a power in activism through radiating your positive energy into the world. I totally believe that people’s lives are changed through creating or experiencing artwork. But…uhh…it makes no sense at all to me. Listening to Davis made me feel like I belonged again. Here is another one of us, and this man is about practicality and action. I am that kind of Indian.
He told us that someone once gave him a critical message: “No one cares.” We can moan about how poorly our ancestors were treated, or about how hard it is to get ahead now, and how racism and how cultural appropriation weakens our power, but it will not get us anywhere. People have too much going on in their lives to give us their effort and attention, and there are competing stories of need. “I care, because I am one of you,” Davis said. “But in general, people just don’t care.”
The answer is to become your own change. Do something. Volunteer, help build a home, help get legislation passed so that kids have access to better education. “I’m willing to think outside the box. It may not be the most comfortable for me, but I do what has to be done, in order to make it happen. People sometimes only see you for how they see themselves. They’ll say ‘We’ve tried that and it didn’t work.’ or ‘Nobody has done that.’ But don’t let their words limit you.”
“If it doesn’t speak to you; if it doesn’t resonate with you like you’re on fire, then get out of there! What is it that you’ve been born for? I love education, but it’s not the be-all end-all for everybody. What’s your thing? We need to know our own value. We need to know how brilliant we are.
“So many of us, so many Indians, have important things to do and we need to get out of our own way. Sometimes people live their lives as though on accident. Ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this?’ If it is just about checking the box, it’s not the right reason. We are who we’ve been waiting for. There’s nobody coming, man. It’s up to us. We’re good enough to do this. We’re capable enough.
“We weren’t still supposed to be here in 2017. We were supposed to shrivel up and go away and die. Most of America doesn’t even want to get out of bed in the morning and see that we are still here. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Are we gonna sit here and talk about what they don’t do for hundreds and hundreds more years, or are we gonna do something?
“You can make excuses, or make a way. Just start. Take a step.”
Litefoot is working on his 12th album, scheduled to be released June 27th on the birthday of Warrior Kai McAlpin. This sweet little Cherokee tyke was sick with cancer on the day Davis spoke to us, and died three days later. It allowed us to hear Davis say “Kai is…” and we thought of Kai that day, alive and loved in Oklahoma.
“For us the violin is the vehicle for a bigger message, which is not to be afraid to be different,”
~ Kev Marcus.
Six years ago, Tara was dancing ballet at the Laurelhurst Dance Studio, which is a part of Portland Parks and Recreation. It was a great environment, with talented dance instructors. For one seasonal performance, Tara’s instructor chose a song for the kids to dance to by a group called Black Violin. The song was Dirty Orchestra.
If you’ve ever participated in practicing something, or were a parent watching someone practice something, you can guess how many times I heard that song. I ended up purchasing the song on iTunes, and I even made CD copies for all the kids and handed them out at one of the early practices, so they could take their dance home if they liked.
After a couple years, I still couldn’t get enough, though I had purchased the album. It’s fun to discover musicians whose appeal turns out to be long term.
Tuesday I received an email from Portland’5, the local arts email that gives me a heads up when anything is happening in PDX, from opera to ballet to music to Broadway. It announced Black Violin, the very next night! In person! I bought tickets without even thinking about it.
The show was even better than I was hoping for. Black Violin are packed full of energy to back up their irresistible music. Both classically trained violinists, these two men, Wil Baptiste and Kev Marcus, lean more toward hip hop and R&B. So, they pull it all in together: the appealing sounds of the strings with the funky, soulful beats. The sounds were rounded out with a DJ on stage (and I’ll admit it’s probably the first time I’ve ever attended a concert with a DJ in the band), and a drummer who held his own. In my opinion, the mix is fabulous!
Most of the performance was their own work, but the guys also covered a lot of familiar songs that were fun for the audience members who didn’t know Black Violin songs very well. My favourite was a mash-up of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and Barry White’s Let’s Get It On. I was singing at the top of my lungs for all of it.
The only down side (and this is a pretty high down side) is that they weren’t willing to let us sit through the show. Though I had recently had a small operation on my toe, I expected to be seated most of the evening, and assumed my toe would be alright. Nope. “Get up! This is a party!” yelled Kev. I had no choice, but was forced to shake my tailfeathers for hours. My toe was angry the next day, but it was worth it. The show was a blast.
Unlike every other show I’ve attended at one of the Portland’5 events, the artists told us right from the start that we SHOULD be using flash photography, and video, and posting it online as much as possible, and to tag it with #blackviolin. I love it when people grab onto trends and use them, rather than fight them. I managed to get a couple of poor quality videos, so you get a sense of the show.
Yesterday evening was another one of those times when I am absolutely humbled and grateful for the beautiful people in my life who made it happen for me. Don’t you find that remarkable things happen as a result of collaboration? It’s always that way. Keep people you admire and respect close to you, and they will make your life better. 🙂
Though we see each other rarely, one of my favourite friends of all is A, who lives out in Southeastern Washington state. He was invited to a backyard BBQ and potluck party in Gig Harbor, Washington where our mutual friend, Marcus Eaton would be playing. A couldn’t make it, and asked that I be invited to the party instead. And I was. (giggly happy dance inserted here)
It was at the home of a luthier, A told me. A man who makes high quality guitars played by musicians including Jackson Browne, Marc Cohn, Graham Nash and David Crosby. It was a unique opportunity for me to be in the presence of real artists, and only two hours’ drive from our home in Rainier, Oregon.
I got up early and made jalapeno poppers. This involves carefully cutting open fresh peppers and removing all the pulp and seeds and stuffing them with cream cheese. The task is tricky to do without tearing the peppers, which you want to close back up once they’re stuffed, so you can roast them. The bigger problem is dealing with pepper juice on your fingers. It’s 24 hours later and my skin is still burning. I always think “Next time I’ll wear gloves,” and I always forget. At least I’m consistent.
The weather was wretched and that made I-5 treacherous. The four northbound lanes are usually bumper to bumper on the way to Seattle: that’s a given. So add torrential downpours causing small lakes on the Interstate, and the omnipresent summer construction zones. Yikes. We were grateful to pull onto Highway 16 and head west over the Tacoma Narrows bridge. (I received a text from my brother that the bridge was closed due to high winds after we arrived at our hosts’ home, but luckily it was opened up again by the time we all left.)
Our plans had changed due to the weather, so we arrived rather early. Tara and I decided to explore the town of Gig Harbor and calm our nerves a bit before we ventured on. From there, it was only 15 minutes to the house.
Mrs. McAlister was as gracious as could be, considering she had never met us, and ushered us both in, introduced us to the kids, pointed out drinks and food, and showed me how to work the oven so I could broil the poppers. I met other guests and was grateful that Tara and I were not the first. Marcus was already there, and introduced me to Roy McAlister the luthier, and he introduced me to his new guitar.
The guitar should get a dedicated blog post. Sadly, I am ignorant of the technical descriptions of instruments. All I can say is that – even to me – this guitar is sexy enough to make hearts pound. Roy pointed out all the pieces: the blonde front piece, the dark sides and back, the black wood border around the face. Each piece of wood gorgeous and patterned and quilted with variations in the wood. Even the ebony of the neck was striped with lighter colours. Stunning.
Marcus had just been presented with the guitar, and played with it for a couple of hours before people started showing up, because he was trying to “open it up,” and noted that he could already hear the difference after doing that. He was so pleased he practically babbled about his gift. He said that guitars peak in sound quality after 10 years or so, and he was dying to hear the future tones of this work of art.
I was honored to be invited to Roy’s workshop in the back, filled with carved and unassembled pieces, curved and shaped and waiting to be brought to life, first by the luthier and finally by the musicians.
Roy McAlister was revealed to me by the end of the evening to be an exceptional human being. When describing the guitar for us, I could sense his efforts to maintain a calm and humble presentation but it was easy to see how excited he was. Watching carefully as the evening progressed and he hovered at the edge of the audience, soaking up the sounds of the artists with his guitars, I could see the kid inside him, straining not to bounce around with glee. If he wasn’t proud of his accomplishments while watching the musicians, he deserved to be. During the party, he talked with everyone and made each person feel appreciated, even me and Tara, total strangers. Roy made jokes all night and when he got together with Marcus, the two of them were positively juvenile. It was pretty hilarious. I teased him about being the biggest kid in the house, and he took it as a compliment.
Marcus could not stop raving about his gift. It was better than Christmas. The guitar, obviously, is gorgeous. But Marcus was just going crazy about its playability the instant he picked it up. “I’ve been fighting my guitar for three years,” he told me. “This guitar disappears when I start playing. It disappears.” You could tell by watching. There was no adjustment period as he figured it out…he just sat down and made jaws drop. In between every song he took the time to rave some more. “Sick!” he says, “I want to be more eloquent, but that’s all I’ve got.”
The rain POURED and wind raged. It had brought down a tree in the yard earlier. There was no question of being out of doors. So the lovely hosts rearranged their home and brought the show inside. That made it very intimate, and I was glad, because I was able to hear every single breath of the new guitar.
When the house was full, the artists began playing. It was a full concert with personally invited artists. I have photos only from the beginning when the light was still good. When it got dark outside, the room was dark and my little Nikon with my poor night photography skills was not able to capture anything worth posting.
Terry Holder started us off, with some fabulous back-up by her husband Jerry. I had the chance to talk to them before the show and they are both truly genuine people with quick smiles and generous hearts. Terry’s songs are as beautiful as she is, and filled with a magical, hopeful quality that I noticed is also in her personality. “Put it out into the Universe,” she said a couple of times during the night, expressing her belief that good things happen when you are true to yourself.
Rick Ruskin was up next with his McAlister guitar. Rick’s funny stories were a great accessory to his exceptional playing. It was clear that he and his guitar had been close friends for years, and his picking was relaxed and confident. He joked about playing I Wish It Would Rain the previous year, and this year’s barbecue being rained out. He played it again, hoping to cancel out the effect, and then – just in case – held us spellbound with an instrumental Here Comes The Sun. I complimented him on his set, later in the kitchen. “I give it a B+,” Rick responded. Oh, pshaww. Maybe artists find it harder to admit to greatness when there are so many greats together. But I argue: wear the coat when it fits.
Then Marcus played a nice long set. For those who want to know, the setlist was Sunrise Lets You Down, Black Pearl, What’s The Difference, Flying Through the Fire, Reverie, I Will Be Your Shade, Better Way, The Sting, The Barbie Song, and Who You Are. His fingers fly when he plays. He sometimes watched the frets while his hands picked it out, and sometimes looked right out at us while his fingers danced and sparked like lightning. There were little gasps in the audience and quiet “wow”s around me. (I often wonder what it’s like for those hearing him for the first time) Though I have been mesmerized by his playing since 2006, twice I caught myself dizzy from holding my breath to listen. No matter how good the music is, I must still breathe. It was the first time I had heard Flying Through the Fire, inspired by a WWII messenger pigeon. “It’s about life,” said Marcus. The song touched me deeply. It’s going to have to be my new anthem. Sadly, I still don’t have the music, since it’s on Marcus’ new album. The album is so recently completed it hasn’t even been released yet!
As if that wasn’t enough music-from-the-gut, I was introduced to Keith Greeninger. First of all, his voice knocked me flat. In a good way. There is no better match of voice to songwriter ever. Each song has a message that is so profoundly beautiful it broke my heart. In a good way. I had to fight off the tears during Hop In the Truck, in which he played a mandola (everything else was on guitar). It is about American and Mexican construction workers building a border wall together because they needed the work to feed their families, and when it is finished all the foreigners get deported. The song called out politicians building campaigns by shutting out the laborers upon whose backs our country was built. After the show I found that Keith is …wait for it… deeply genuine and caring in person. He was eager to shake my hand and thank me for listening, when I was the one trying to thank him.
Every single person was wonderful, and funny, and interesting, and open. I didn’t even have a chance to meet them all, and trust me, I feel that loss. The bigger story is that I was able to meet many of them, and today my life is a hundred times richer.
My last post was about visiting family in Idaho. I had two reasons to go there, and the second one was music.
A few of us die-hard Marcus Eaton fans know a little about each other. So when we heard that Marcus would be in Idaho visiting family and putting on a show with newly-Idahoan Alana Davis, I got some pressure along the lines of, “You should go to Idaho, visit your dad, and catch the show while you’re there.” Thank you for pushing me guys, it was the best one yet!
I’m a fan of Alan Davis too! Years ago I found out that Ani DiFranco’s song was actually a cover of Alana Davis’ 32 Flavors, so I bought her album Blame It On Me, and became a fan on the spot. Turns out she lives in Idaho now, and was able to participate in the Idaho Songwriters Association December concert. When Alana played 32 Flavors, she brought Marcus onto the stage with her and we got to hear their guitars together. I go weak in the knees for acoustic guitar.
My brother joined Tara and me at The Sapphire Room. My brother was the manager at The Big Easy (before it became the Knitting Factory) and had seen Marcus play a dozen times, but this was mostly new music for him. The delicious surprise was that there was a lot of new music for me too! While I have seen songs like Smile, and Sunrise Lets You Down on YouTube, this was my first time hearing them live.
Marcus also treated us to a song or two from the new album, one he co-wrote with David Crosby, and a couple brand, brand new songs too! I have been *starving* for new music, and it was the medicine I needed. He played song after song, covering a Bob Marley tune with Alana, and playing a song with his dad Steve Eaton, also an accomplished musician. Marcus joked about the drawback of many harmonica players, but pointed out that “My dad can actually play the harmonica.” And he could. Steve sang one of his own songs called Asleep at the Wheel that made lots of Idaho references, making a fun song even more enjoyable.
We had been there nearly three hours when the show ended. I introduced my brother to Marcus and Tara was finally able to say Hi (she is prohibited from attending all his 21+ shows). Those two wanted to go home and sleep, but I was soaring on adrenalin and wanted to stay. My brother gave me the number for a local cab and I handed him my keys.
After the show I was approached by Melissa, who had noticed my camera and asked if I would take photos, since their usual photographer was not there. I happily acquiesced, and the after-show shots of all the folks involved with the concert and the Idaho Songwriters Association turned out great. Turns out that Steve Eaton founded the Idaho Songwriters Association, and remains active and supportive in it. While waiting for others to come together for the photos, I was able to meet and talk with Steve. His enthusiasm for his son’s career, and his love for his son, was evident.
After photos Marcus was swarmed by fans, friends, and family (and those categories totally overlapped). It was a brilliant thing for me to see: the musician at home. Something I feel honored to have witnessed. The love and admiration was palpable. I stood to the side, waiting for my turn. I had the chance to talk with his brother, and his sister, and his mom. The whole family is warm, wonderful, generous, the way I’ve come to expect of the Idahoans I’ve known. Everyone was buying up the gorgeous concert posters his brother made, then getting autographs all over them. It was a frenzy of favors and silver ink and laughs.
When most of the people were gone, a few of us fans followed him to another room where he packed up his gear. Marcus’ sister begged him for the use of his phone charger. His mom came in with a friend and we all sat around a large round table and told stories and got to know each other a little. Marcus is a born storyteller, periodically having to get up and act out the tale, once even enlisting the help of the Ohio fan to play a part of “ordinary guy” to his “obnoxious L.A. native.”
When it was time to go, Marcus overheard me calling a cab. He told me to call them back and cancel, and I got a ride home with him and his sister, while his mom drove. Now THAT was the pinnacle of a great evening for me. I couldn’t sleep for another two hours, just lay awake and grinned.
It’s been too long since Marcus Eaton was in Portland. When I got the news he would be coming through, deciding to attend the show was a no-brainer.
As I told a friend: “I am sort of miffed at Marcus (not really, I’m joking) for moving to LA. He used to have this Pacific Northwest circuit, where he’d play Seattle, Spokane, Kennewick, Portland, Boise, and sometimes smaller towns in between. I could catch those shows. Seattle and Kennewick are only 3 1/2 hours’ drive, so practically around the corner.”
Marcus has been busy in LA, still doing shows in Italy, working hard with David Crosby, and has completely changed the old routine. He’s connecting to thousands more people than before. Now that our little secret is getting out, the old fans are having to relinquish our personal time with our favourite artist, so he can satisfy the new fans. It’s a bummer, but I’m also thinking: it’s about time he gets the exposure he deserves.
I showed up early (because, Duh, it’s Marcus!), so I had to wait around. Marcus had the audacity to leave after sound check, and get a bite to eat I presume. Imagine, thinking about food at a time like this. One of the employees pointed me through a door to the outdoor patio and Zaalook mediterranean cuisine. There was a fire pit beside the sidewalk and that’s where I soaked up a little of the city while I sipped my drink and waited.
He showed up with 2 minutes to spare. There he was! No glasses, short hair, but the man I was looking for. I practically leapt across the theatre for a hug and a hi and then watched him hit the stage.
Playlist for Mark (you know who you are!):
- Sunrise Lets You Down
- What’s the Difference
- The Calm Beneath
- Close Your Eyes/ mashup with Bille Jean
Marcus had expressed some worry that the sound would work out, since there had been problems earlier during the sound check. I don’t know what the problems had been, but we were bombarded with bass at the beginning of the show. Luckily the sound guy pulled it off somewhat over time. Sadly, a residual effect of this was when I managed to get a super-great close up and undisturbed video of The Calm Beneath, I played it back home and found it absolutely worthless due to the sound quality.
I have told this tale before, trying to describe how much I love his music. As soon as the guitar began to sing, my heart was melting. It sounds like a serious health condition, but jellied innards are a sign of big-time fan worship. And it’s a good thing. I was trying to soak up the melodies, the atmosphere, the idea that I was finally seeing him live again. The crowd really went bananas when he played Bille Jean. I’ve heard him do this before, but it doesn’t fail to please. And five songs later, it was over too soon. The audience tried cheering as payment for one more song, but we were ineffective. Melted heart broken.
It was fun to notice that at least half the audience was there FOR Marcus…which I am not used to seeing when he opens for another act. It has almost been a badge of honor to be the only fan who shows up for ME, and not for the main event. But the tides are turning and ME is coming into his own time.
Yes, he was touring with his longtime friend and even longer time guitar hero, Tim Reynolds. I had seen Marcus Eaton and Kevin Rogers open for TR3 before, several years ago. While we waited for TR3, one audience member told me, “If you like Marcus, just wait till you hear Tim Reynolds. Your life will never be the same.” She had no idea who she was talking to, ha ha! She should not have been so confident that our worlds had not already been rocked by a guitar magician. I chatted with no less than seven other people that night, who all swore they had only come for Marcus Eaton. One couple had never even heard of Tim Reynolds. Ha!
So yeah, Star Theater‘s big act for the night was TR3 with Tim, the bassist Mick Vaughn, and drummer Dan Martier. They were really entertaining and the music was much more rock and roll than what Marcus gave us. And all those guitars you saw stacked up in the photo at the top? Tim played them all! It was a great show from beginning to end.
The boys even brought Marcus onto the stage so we could suck the last bit of ME music out of the night.
I had not seen Marcus emerge during the TR3 set, and didn’t know till nearly the end of the concert that he was in the back with the merch, available for chatting. As soon as I learned this, I went back to chat a little, but kept it brief cuz I didn’t want to abandon my date. We were able to exchange a couple of personal tidbits to catch up on each other’s lives. He empathized with getting my braces off – yay!! A friend snapped this photo during our few minutes together.
After the show, I stood beside him and got in a few more questions in between fans gushing and buying CDs. Marcus said he loves L.A., loves his neighborhood, loves the music, the beach. It’s hard to stay mad at him for living there when it makes him so happy. The answer to the most sought-after question of the evening: The new album is still not ready, no new songs were introduced, no insider info. He’s got most of it done, he told me. Aside from the beautiful song Better Way, we will just have to be patient. “Soon!” promises Marcus.
When someone is in love they want everyone else to share that love. Indulge me while I rave about some extraordinary music that I am crazy about, and the story of how I met the man who makes it.
When I heard Marcus Eaton’s music for the first time, I became instantly and forever devoted. Yes, I confess. It’s not a relationship with a person I’m talking about, but a love affair with sound.
In 2006 Marcus Eaton had been making a profound impact on audiences for several years, but I had never heard of him. While I visited my Pa at his oasis on the Snake River in southern Idaho, the nearby Ste. Chapelle Winery had cleverly invited father and son, Steve and Marcus Eaton, to play their Father’s Day concert.
It was a splendid day with my family. We picnicked, drank wine, and danced in the shade. Steve Eaton’s music was a perfect choice for the event. His son played a few solo tunes and KNOCKED ME FLAT. With a studio perfect voice, flashing his guitar as his pass into my soul , Marcus Eaton’s melodies spiraled together world beat, singer songwriter, Latin rhythms, jazz and rock. After the show I stared at this young guy hanging around the stage, and he saw me. I’ll never forget his face at that moment. Looking expectantly at me through his glasses. I was dumbstruck with pure fan paralysis, and eventually ducked behind something and escaped.
I scratched his name onto a napkin and carried it home to Massachusetts, and eventually bought The Day the World Awoke by Marcus Eaton and the Lobby. I played the CD till my 10 year old daughter had it memorized. That CD has the brilliant Fiona, which never fails to win converts. In fact, l want you to hear Fiona. The following video begins with a short intro in the midst of an interview, so if you’re bored with my blog post already, please just skip to 5:40 and maybe you’ll decide to read more.
In 2008 I was compelled to write a review of the CD on Amazon. It was an amateur review I grant you, but borne of genuine admiration. That was the best thing I could have done!
I got a friend request on facebook shortly after; from a person I didn’t know. I checked her page and couldn’t find a single thing in common except that her page mentioned Marcus Eaton. I asked Kitty, prior to accepting the friend request, “Why did you friend me? Is it because I adore Marcus Eaton?” The answer was yes, and that is how I became friends with Marcus’ manager at that time. When I tried to purchase The Story of Now, it had been sold out, so Kitty sent me a personal copy instead, plus the CDs Live at the Gorge, and Live at Larkspur 2007.
In the meantime, I had seen him at a couple of concerts. Marcus is one of those artists who – live on stage – can explode your expectations. Here you were, expecting to be musically entertained, and instead your aural world is turned inside out for two hours. At one show he said, “I’ve been playing around with loops…” and he was not kidding. These days, incorporated into every show as though looping his own background tracks at a live show is as natural as announcing the next song, Marcus almost effortlessly builds in a whole percussion and vocal ensemble behind himself in solo performances.
Wanna see him looping?
I was always the bumbling fool after his shows, trying to make words come out of my mouth that would give him the impression that I loved the music. I wasn’t new to music: I was authentically impressed. My dad plays guitar, and I grew up with summertime bands (in the basement to hide from the heat), whiskey-laden, smoke-infused strains of mandolin, drums, bass, and my dad playing slide on his pedal steel guitar drifting upstairs to the rest of the house. I played guitar in a bar in Tamarack, Idaho for a few months when I was 10 years old, my timid voice attempting Kenny Roger’s hits while bearded loggers shouted at me, “Louder!” I have always been drawn to stunning fingerwork, and was drooling in front of Michael Hedges in little theatres in Boulder, CO and Burlington, VT when I had barely hit my twenties. In retrospect, I imagine the deer-in-headlights look must have given Marcus a clue that I was an incorrigible fan. Or, in need of sympathy, heh.
Kitty invited me to a backyard party prior to the annual Gorge show in George, Washington in September 2009. By then I was living in Portland, so my daughter and I made the drive up to Seattle suburb and joined the party. Stopped in my tracks, I spotted Marcus at the food table. “Hi, it’s great to see you!” he said, and came toward me with a big smile and arms out for a hug. “You can’t possibly know me,” I said doubtfully. “Of course I do. I recognize you from the shows,” he insisted. I told him my name, and we chatted a little. I told him about the Father’s Day concert at the winery. He said it was almost an annual event for him and his dad.
It adds to the beauty of the music that he’s a beautiful person. Listen to the stuff he writes; it’s all about finding peace in this world, finding the best ways to love, recover from pain or judgement, and to value what’s important. He sings about growth and about childlike joy. Listen, just listen to him!
The rest, as they say…
Marcus met my mother at Jimmy Mak’s in Portland one December night in 2008. He sent me a facebook message the next day, “Nice to meet tu madre.” Our girls’ night out, when I finally got to share with her such a Crystal-ly favourite part of my life, is a truly precious memory. When I think of Marcus, he keeps her alive for me in a special tiny way, because he reminds me of that night. My mother died in December 2010.
I was at The Roxy in Kennewick the night somebody brought in a case of his newly released CD, and cut it open right there. I bought two copies of As If You Had Wings: one for me and one for another friend of mine with a guitar in the family.
When it was my daughter’s turn to catch a show at Jimmy Mak’s in February 2012, she embarrassed me by knowing the words to the songs better than I did. Marcus’s hug for her was as huge as for his other friends. Last month I caught him at the White Eagle in Portland, and Marcus asked about her. “Is your daughter old enough to get into shows yet?” He commiserated with Tara, who couldn’t come because she is still too young to get into bars, talking about the time when he drove like a mad man to get to a Tim Reynolds show only to be turned away for being under age.
My love affair with the music continues, and I want more all the time. Lucky for me, he’s making new songs like crazy. He’s played a couple of music festivals in Italy, and I can HEAR it in his new music. He’s been collaborating on an album with David Crosby (Yes. THAT David Crosby.) and the experience of working with such a respected and experienced musician has polished up Marcus too. Now that his project with David Crosby is wrapping up, Marcus is dying to make his next album.
And I want your help!
More to the point, Marcus wants your help. His next batch of astonishing finger acrobatics and vocal rollercoaster rides are hidden from me until he gets funding for his next album. Marcus Eaton has put together a great little video to advertise his Kickstarter campaign to earn enough to be able to begin recording. You should watch it.
He has invented 20 creative ways to pay you back for any donation. For only $5, you can back him. For the price of a grande double caramel soy latte, you can get new music and give a handsome guy a chance to fulfill a dream. If you can give more, there are so many awesome incentives available. Would you want to visit the studio during production, have help guitar shopping, get a copy of a personalized recording, or have an original painting by the artist? Do you like David Crosby? Want him to play a concert with Marcus at your house? Just asking…
There are 10 days left to make it happen. I’ve already pledged and I WANT that money to be pulled out of my account, but Marcus doesn’t get a penny unless he meets his goal. You have to help him reach the goal so that I get this chance to pay Marcus back for all the memories, and for his beautiful beautiful music. Watch the video, please. For me?
If you are willing to watch the 3 minute video, please CLICK HERE.
Just a short one today. I wanted to show off the great venue at Maryhill Winery on the southern Washington shore of the Columbia River Gorge.
The average age of the crowd was easily 40, and it reminded me that I’m aging. But who cares when the point is to Live! and have a lovely day of it. Thank you Counting Crows and Wallflowers for being so good that you can still draw thousands of people to a remote grassy lawn in the middle of nowhere on a perfect summer night…
After our full morning with the Mt. Hood Cherokees, Tara and I then had an awesome evening when we took Arno to see my favourite musician, Marcus Eaton. ME also plays with Ben Burleigh on bass and Kevin Rogers on drums, but often I catch him in Portland when he’s solo. This was one of those times.
Two bonus items of the night, in addition to the awesomeness of catching ME live: our good friend Andre came out from the Tri Cities, and Intervision was the headliner show. Damn. Just can’t go wrong with the whole combination.
When you make dinner reservations, you can bring minors, so we were able to have Tara there in Jimmy Mak’s with us. Jimmy Mak’s is an excellent little jazz club that offers the perfect atmosphere, surprisingly stellar food, great drinks, quick service, and the best size for keeping things intimate with the musicians.
Arno, Tara, and I arrived early and before ordering dinner I asked a server whether any of the musicians were around. She pointed to the bar, where Marcus sat with Andre having dinner. Yay! We went over to say hello, and big smiles, introductions, and hugs were passed all around. Tara thinks Marcus is a big-time famous personality (and of course she would… since she’s been listening to his music in our home for as long as she can remember), so she was beaming light rays in all directions. I was so excited to see both Marcus and Andre I totally forgot to include Arno in the conversation (luckily he was able to pick right up with Andre when I turned to talk to Marcus). Sorry Arno!! I get a bad case of Fan Idiocy whenever I’m around Marcus. Blerrg.
We settled in and were soon eating the establishment’s delicious food and imbibing their drinks.
Marcus opened, and, I was a little disappointed with the sound quality. His guitar, which is the firepower that carries the whole thing, just sort of faded into the background. On pieces where I got ready for lighting fingerwork and ka-blam percussion dropped on top of heart-rending melodies… well… it was too fuzzy. I had to listen carefully to pick out the guitar from the rest of the sound. Ok, this is probably exaggeration. I have this stuff memorized. Maybe it was a factor of us sitting on the side of the stage, so perhaps there wasn’t a problem with the equipment at all. But …this guy is my musician hero. I want his stuff to always sound PERFECT, not just really good.
His vocals knocked us out, as always. And refreshing: ME had a bunch of fans in the audience this time! I am more familiar with two groups of people when Marcus opens for someone else: 1) those so focused on wishing he would hurry up so their fave band can come on stage that they don’t hear him, and 2) those having their world rocked because they have just heard him for the first time. My suspicions were confirmed later when a woman said her husband recognized me from another concert, and wondered if I was related to Marcus. “Nope,” I answered, “Just a big fan.”
But, don’t let me disparage the concert! Just because I noticed an imperfection in the sound equipment quality is not a reflection on the always-inspiring Marcus Eaton. He doesn’t stop with talented guitar playing. He turns his instrument into a machine for his creativity. His fretwork has no boundaries except on the neck itself, he uses his pick, his voice, the heel of his palm, to thwack and thump and twang and knock and ting! ME will pop all that stuff into loops until the playback sounds like he’s got 8 people on stage with him, then he casually segues into words with a voice so compelling it makes people in the audience turn and look.
Over all too soon, Intervision took the stage. My feelings of disappointment for not having ME on stage lasted about 3 seconds until I was reminded of why I *LOVE* catching Intervision in concert. Cripey, that is one groovin’ croonin’ happy jazz band. Love it, love it. One of my favourite things about Intervision is the obvious individual personalities I see on stage. Though I don’t know them, I get the sense that these guys might not have anything else at all in common except that when you put them together they make magically moving jazz. I don’t even consider myself a jazz fan, and this stuff is irresistible. In no time I was wiggling in my seat as much as I had done with my favourite ME songs. Who can resist great music?
It was a night I’ll use in the future to explain to myself why I love Portland so much.
Tour de Fat is a festival in celebration of bicycles. It’s sponsored by New Belgium ales, and in particular, the celebration takes it’s name from the popular Fat Tire Ale.
Unlike most of Portland, we chose to brave the heat and head out to Tom McCall Waterfront Park for Tour de Fat this year. It’s a sad thing, too, that the turnout was low in the sweltering heat, because Tour de Fat is one of our favourite summertime traditions. Everyone who hovered selfishly at home under their air conditioners was unable to partake in the best of glorious silliness that PDX has to offer.
We enjoyed the usual romps from stage to stage, as we were entertained by comediennes and clowns, and a man who made a bologna sandwich with his feet! Doubt ye not! Because followed immediately by the last performer was his lovely accomplice from the audience who ATE the sandwich! Ha ha.
As usual, we watched the continuing tally of how many trees were saved, how much recycling was collected, and how much waste we saved from landfills, as the diligent servants of the festival collected our biodegradable beer cups made from corn, and did not collect in trash what we chose to recycle. A billboard with constant updates was easily viewed and constantly refreshed with the new numbers. Good on ya, mates!
We resisted the temptation to sing karaoke in a porta pottie, and watched the slow race with delight. The slow race is, as it sounds, a race to see who can bicycle most slowly. The challenge is remaining upright and not touching a foot to the ground. Oh, and each contestant had to carry a full cup of New Belgium ale while they raced.
The “race” was followed by storytelling. Contestants sent their stories in ahead of time, and their names were chosen at the time of the event. Those who were present had their chance to tell their bicycle story, in two minutes or less, and win … A NEW BIKE! Handcrafted by the best and handed over with due solemnity.
The winning storyteller had a hilarious tale of the time when his bike trailer had no child in it, but instead contained a flat full of tomatoes that he had just purchased from the Farmer’s Market. A woman driving a car accidentally hit the trailer, sending it flying and spreading heaps of red, mangled, dripping… you guessed it: the driver of the vehicle was horrified. The bicyclist, catching on quickly to the misunderstanding, tapped into his evil core and shouted, “Oh my GOD!” before explaining to the woman driver that it was only tomatoes. Evilness and comedy are a great mix.
We stepped into Le Tigre, and were entertained by an enthusiastic rapper and his gorgeous sidekick. Although advertised as “air conditioned,” the heat was too much for the air conditioner, and the place was a sauna. We glistened as we listened.
One of the most entertaining for me was an arena filled with crazy bikes, open for anyone to enter the ring and attempt to ride a bike of their choosing. Bikes with 9 wheels, or with tennis shoes in a ring rather than wheels, double-seater bikes with the seats and handlebars facing opposite directions, track-wheeled bikes with levers rather than handlebars… you could not imagine the variety of bikes there! And eager participants were constantly jumping into the frenzy and trying their skills at machines attempting to defy them. It was riotous!
We caught another comedy act before we left, from the steps leading up to the Hawthorne Bridge above it all. From our perch we could get a final, satisfying look at all the eccentricities of our fellow Portlanders. What a fun city it is!
There has been so much going on that I have not taken the time to blog it, and thus I find myself way, way, way behind.
First a little blog-world happiness. A person I’ve never met and never really exchanged communication with (unless you count my comments on her blog) is having/had a baby today! Because she and her husband were facing foreclosure the same time Mark and I were, I began reading her blog. They had to leave their home and find something else (but avoided foreclosure – whew!). Over the past couple of years she has turned from emanating city savvy in a Los Angeles suburb to now mowing the grass and planning ferry trips out of Friday Harbor in the San Juans to the mainland where there are stores.
Isn’t it a wonderful world now? While I do lament the lost (I found myself wishing to see a caboose at the end of a train the other day.), I embrace the new. Today I spotted the latest message from my sweet friend Mohamed in Luxor, Egypt just let me know he finished his exams and now he’s working in tourism hoping to be a university professor in Egypt someday…. And at the same time, I’m all happy for Stephanie and Bob and their new baby, only because they suffered like I suffered – a long time ago. In one moment the three of us (and, gosh, hundreds of others in my web!!) are brought together through the Internet and pure random love and friendship. Brought together in my blog only by the common denominators of “me” and “Internet.” Life is so awesome.
I never blogged my trip to my Pa’s. I talked about Map Rock, but of course, that deserved a blog of its own. It is a 4th of July tradition to go to my dad and Michelle’s place out on the Snake River in southern Idaho and shoot many illegal rockets off and watch their sparks tumble into the river. The Snake is all fat and lazy on July 4th. Days are hot and dry out in the desert and nights are cool and breezy. My folks have a whole herd of cats that rule the place. It’s a riot to watch Pa and Michelle chirp over them like mother hens.
Highlight: My brother Eli came over from Boise and brought my nephew Parker, whom I had not yet met. Parker is 14 months old and a great personality. Handsome boy, just like his dad. Poor Parker somehow BROKE his foot while in his crib. Eli and Addie only noticed in the morning when they got him out and he wouldn’t put weight on his foot. So the kid has this full leg cast up to the middle of his thigh and down to his toes. He was apparently just about to learn to walk when this happened, so when I saw him he was just about to learn to walk again – only with a cast. Eli was calling him hop-a-long, cause he wobbled along on a foot, then on the toe end of the cast, then foot, then cast. I was really bummed not to see Addie, but she is a nurse and had just finished up an overnight shift and her husband (thankfully) had convinced her to sleep instead of drive out into the desert. Miss you, Addie! We’ll hook up soon. Maybe at the secret surprise Thanksgiving Gathering Of The Children at Mom’s house this Fall. Shhh! Don’t tell Mom, but I’m trying to pull that together.
My Pa is too thin. He’s always been one of those tall, skinny, beanpole men. “167 ½ pounds,” he always bragged to me. “That’s what I weighed in high school, and that’s what I weigh now.” He’s probably 140 now, and it looks frightening. He has IBS and is trying to work with it, but damn if it isn’t heartbreaking to see. My Pa raised me, and thus I know his internal inclination not to mention any health issues, so I didn’t say “Oh my god!!” to him, but we did talk about it a little. Hopefully they get through it. Michelle and he both had the West Nile disease two years ago and are slowly slowly pulling out of it. Michelle is not well either. Oh man. Two such awesome people should not be sick. It’s so not fair. She hasn’t even retired yet.
Right now. Right now, I’m at the Roxy Wine Bar in Kennewick, Washington. The drive was actually 3 ½ hours, and I’m wiped. And I wasn’t really sure when the show would begin, but it turns out it begins at 9:30. Ohhhhh Marcus, if only you know how I’ve sacrificed tonight. He’s got his NEW CD here and I am so psyched psyched to listen. Of course, I imagine I’ve heard all the songs already, but still. AND his new bassist is here tonight. AWEEE SOMMEE. No Internet here at the Roxy, or I’d have updated my facebook status already!
Oh yeah, so here I am in Kennewick. Crazy. I guess I have to do some crazy things now and then. My alarm will go off in 8 hours. Yes, 8 hours from now. I think I will re-set it, and not go in so early tomorrow. Yes, AND, throw in another 3 ½ hour drive to get back home. Ha ha ha. Well, I’m not twenty anymore, so this hurts. BUT, I’m not 60 yet, which means I can still DO it. I’ll try to get at least four hours of sleep tonight. I forgot to bring my iPod for the drive, what a dork. So I guess I’ll get caught up on Christian talk radio. The one signal I can always count on out here in the desert….
I knew I would get to the concert early, so I brought the laptop to catch up on my blog while I waited for the show. I did get to say hi to Marcus, and then the band was done with their warm up and they took off.
So hey! Next weekend is Faerieworlds in Eugene, Oregon. I get to see my little girl and gosh, I miss her so much. She’s only been at her dad’s since school got out, but I can feel the hole in the family. Life is NOT RIGHT without her. She is the coolest kid ever. Interestingly, she seems to have taken after my brother Travis more than anyone in the family. He is in awe of her. He calls her Awesomespawn. My girl truly is awesome. I am so, so lucky to have perfectly beautiful and perfectly brilliant and perfectly funny and perfectly kind and loving with only a teensy, tolerable portion of obnoxiously lippy all packed together in one teenaged daughter. Yes! Teenager! Her 13th birthday was last week. Whooo man. That makes me the mother of a teenager. Yipe.
I finished a couple more tiers of my terraced garden out in front of the house. We jokingly call it the Obama Victory Garden. This June was the cruddiest beginning to summer ever, with a drudging continuation of May’s 40-degree rain. June was 4 more weeks of 40 degrees and rain, so my garden was cranky and nothing grew. But the spigot turned off in July, the heat came on, and everything exploded! With the new real estate created by extra terraced levels, I put in new garden items, but somehow it still seems like there was more last year. No watermelon this year. It was such an eye-catcher last year that our neighbors are asking this year, “Where’s the watermelon?”
So, we can only afford a few pallets of bricks a season. I’ve put those into the wall and the remaining tiers will have to wait till next year. Dude. I so wish I was retired and could just take care of my garden and blog all day!!