Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Throwing Cold Water on Melissa Ferrick

Sometimes you walk into a room and know you’re not supposed to be there. I’ve been to Club Passim many times before, but that’s how it felt when I walked in to see the Melissa Ferrick show last night. I arrived just before the opening act goes on as is my usual custom. I was halfway down the center aisle to be seated at a table with three women when I realized that the audience was almost all women. Looking around after I was seated, there were only a dozen other men in the audience, and well over a hundred women.

Now I knew that Melissa Ferrick is what some would call a lesbian-themed folk singer. But those artists fall into two types, those that play to mixed crowds and those that play to lesbian crowds. I had walked into the latter.

The opening act was Coyote Grace. Ingrid Elizabeth is a pretty woman in a sunny dress who hails from small town Ohio. Joe Stevens is a short, bearded man with hairy arms. Ingrid hasn’t learned all the stagecraft of bending over to pick things up on stage, so the crowd of women was getting quite a show. But as their set progresses an unexpected back story emerges between and through their songs: “Girl meets Girl. Girl becomes Boy. Girl and Boy become a band.” Yes, Joe is a transman. And I’m realizing that there are really only a half-dozen men in the club.

So it’s all a bit confusing, and I’m pretty sure I’m being put on in several ways (Ingrid, I find out later on the web, has in her day done a bit of burlesque), but their old-time jazzy bluegrassy folk rock sound is great and I’m cool with that. Just how cool was put to the test after the end of their set. One of the three women at my table stood up in the crowded club and managed to spill one of those large plastic tumblers of water directly into my lap. Three-quarters full, direct hit, full absorption. I will say this it was an accident, but I don’t entirely believe it.

Now I’ve got a real problem on my hands. Because I’m sitting there with what would look like a large pee stain were I to stand. Fortunately, the lights had already come down for Melissa Ferrick to go on stage. So I’m sitting there in my damp seat, wondering how I’m going to get out of there with what remains of my cold, soggy dignity. It hits me about halfway through that at the end of this set the crowd is going to give her a standing ovation. I don’t want to stand up. And I don’t want to be the lone man refusing to stand in this crowd filled with some very butch women.

So what did I think of Melissa Ferrick? Under these circumstances, it was kind of hard to concentrate on the music. I would say she was good too. Not memorable, but perhaps that is unfair for me to say under the circumstances. It was certainly an evening I will never forget.

So how did I get out? Fortunately, it was a cold night and I had worn my parka, which I pulled off the back of the chair, put on, and zipped up near the end of Melissa Ferrick’s set. It was long enough that I could stand and clap loudly for her encore. And just barely warm enough for the twenty minute walk home.

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