Archived Story

Live performances show true talent

Published 8:21am Friday, January 25, 2013

don’t have cable television at my house, and I don’t have the Internet either.

It’s a source of ridicule from some of my coworkers, as I am usually out of the loop on any pop culture trends. I was about three months late on the Honey Boo Boo wagon (I am perfectly OK with that), and if you want to know who won last night’s sporting event, I’ll have to ask Siri because there’s no chance I watched it.

Others are bewildered. “Don’t you get bored?” they ask. “What do you do with your free time?”

Well, I read.  Some days, I will go home and start writing all over again – for leisure and not work.

But most of all, I sit around and play my dad’s old six-string – a gift he bestowed unto me shortly after I began playing at age 14.

Dad bought the Kazuo Yari Alvarez in ’72. It was this same guitar that Dad used to impress the ladies back in college and with which I tried – admittedly with less success – to do the same while I was at Auburn.

But my guitar playing, despite 12 years of practice, is still in its infancy. I play for myself these days, though my nightly concerts usually have my two furry, four-legged fans in the audience.

But if there is anything I enjoy more than hearing my amateur renditions of Mumford and Sons and Phish echoing through my house, it is watching other musicians perform live.

I spent last Friday night in Waverly at the Standard Deluxe, tucked in the back of the Little House – the indoor venue, as it was far too cold for an outdoor performance.

I knew nothing about the two women set to perform that night, but it didn’t really matter to me.

There is just something about watching music live – you get a clearer sense of who the musicians are, the emotions that drive their music and whether their voice is organic or manufactured in a studio.

To me, studio albums take some of the magic out of music. Multiple takes and digital remixing can create an idealized version of the band’s music that they could not create by themselves.

Studio music is sterile, antiseptic.

Live shows, however, only get one take. The music that reaches the audience’s ears may be familiar, but even the same song played 100 times live will elicit 100 different fractals of the same musical structure – all self-similar but far from identical.

These live performances can be described by the Japanese aesthetic concept of wabi-sabi, which stresses the transient nature of reality and the beauty in imperfection.

The musician might not hit every note as written. They may choose to add or subtract. But that doesn’t make it flawed – it is what makes it beautiful.

Last Saturday’s show featured the music of Julia Haltigan and Kendra Morris. But it was toward the end of the Kendra’s set where the concept came back to mind.

She began strumming a song then stopped. Her voice cracked a little and she explained that she wanted to play a new song – one about her brother who had recently passed away. She warned us that she might forget some words or that she might hit a wrong note or two.

And perhaps the song we heard that night wasn’t the version scribbled on a notepad somewhere in Kendra’s guitar case. Maybe it wasn’t exactly as she intended.

But that version – that experience – can never be replicated.

At that moment, we all shared in the genesis of true music.

No filter. No safety net.

Just a woman and her guitar, singing her heart out.

Nelson is news editor for The Outlook.