The Top 5 Moments at All Pilgrims
Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies and Jon Russell of The Head and the Heart played solo sets for City Arts on Wednesday night at All Pilgrims Church on Capitol Hill, and I went, and I realized something…revelatory.
GUYS! Churches as venues…sound AMAZING. I prefer to attribute it to the vaulted acoustics of a building created to carry sound just so, but if you want to call it God’s Holy Amp in the Sky, Beckoning Forth Jams from His Most Righteous Halls, that’s totally cool with me.
I wrote in my City Arts preview that I was really hoping to see David Byrne and St. Vincent get their noise on at the 5th Avenue Theatre on Wednesday, but apparently I was correct about all of the people wanting to go to that show, and I was not able to get in. You win this one, All of the Other People. I’ll get you next time.
I think you may expect me to write an emotional review, or talk about how Kevin Murphy’s guitar sauntered over to me when he started playing “Empress of the North” while I was leaning in a corner, and made me feel all sorts of sad and hopeful things. Or wax poetic about Jon Russell’s smoldering cover of “Aint No Sunshine.” But I am not that predictable. So, with that:
The Top 5 Moments at All Pilgrims on Wednesday (Thanks for the Borrowed Format, High Fidelity)
5. When Murphy played “Ain’t No Lord in a Church” in a church. And it sounded magnificent. He pointed out later that maybe it was OK, because it’s technically a double negative.
4. That time Russell asked us to all sing the “oooh”s on the new song, “Gone” and I realized with striking clarity that an audience often does not find strength in numbers. But the gentle hesitance of a crowded clutch of people singing is really endearing, and when Jon said that we were doing great, I wished that I had a refrigerator to tape that accolade upon because I have stage fright within a mile of a stage, so it felt pretty good. And damn…churches can make even the most wispy back up vocals sound god damn beautiful. I mean. Just beautiful. No one is damned. Not a damn in there.
3. Russell sat at a piano, told everyone that he had found a voice memo on his old phone with a song he had been working on a year and a half ago in New Orleans, and said he was going to try to play it. After a few false starts, with one really nice and loud guy yelling encouragement, he sang a short little ditty about Bourbon St and a couple characters he met there right around Mardi Gras. One of them was named Martin. The piano parts sounded beautiful. Everyone clapped really hard, and it reminded me that seeing an artist, especially a successful one, solo and trying new things in front of a crowd can really humanize them. It takes the act right out of the act, and allows everyone to be on the same level. Which is probably how we were coerced into singing later. Sneaky.
2. All of the new Moondoggies songs that Murphy sang. BECAUSE WOW. Just wow. I’ll leave the metaphors and similes to other people, because I was too busy staring up at the exposed timbers, trying to figure out if I’m too sensitive, or if these songs are too good. Both, is the answer.
1. When there was this one guy who was shooting with flash on the stage, and every 5 seconds the audience would get this blinding white pop in their eyes, and Abbey and I were glowering at him, and then this amazing man who probably worked for the church I think went and told him not to do that any more. He was the real hero.
OK, fine, you got me. I cried maybe three times. Especially when Russell sang about Virginia and finding a home when you have none.