Rosendale’s alive with the sound of music….
This past Sunday, we risked the oppressive heat and humidity and trucked on down thirty miles to the village of Rosendale for the second and final day of its 30th Annual Street Festival – and accompanying live music, spread across no less than five stages. We caught only the tail end of the event and it was none too easy on the kids, with temperatures well into the nineties. But I was glad to finally get to experience the Festival. Everywhere we turn up here, there’s another outdoor concert and if the quality of performers is not always up there at the very highest echelon, well Goddamn, it’s free, ain’t it? Super short observations follow below.
The Rhodes performed on the Café Stage, out front of the (vegetarian! Yes!) Rosendale Café, where just a few weeks earlier, I’d shared a car ride with some neighbors to go see Mary Gauthier perform. Gauthier, in case you’re not familiar, is the singer-songwriter who only came into her own in middle age, after years of hard living, such as infused the song “I Drink” from the album Mercy Now. I wrote about the title track to that album when I first heard it, via an NPR All Songs Considered Podcast. The song near enough stopped my car in its tracks. (Read the full experience here. Hear the song at Gauthier’s MySpace page.) Turns out I’m not alone, as the same thing happened to a tough guy friend of mine when he first heard it; having just fathered a second son, the lyrics about family and mercy hit too close to home, forcing him to pull the car over and shed some tears.
There were no tears in the house at the Rosendale Café, an incredibly intimate gig given Gauthier’s current standing on the Americana scene. (Her new album, Between Daylight and Dark, was produced by Joe Henry for Lost Highway.) There was plenty of laughter, no shortage of standing applause, and lots of loving – especially between Gauthier and her partner, Diana Jones, who played a short opening set and then joined Gauthier for much of her own. In fact, I’m not sure when I last saw such a look of admiration between onstage performers as when Gaulthier gazed lovingly upon Jones near the end of their shared set. Gauthier and Jones do not perform what you might call uplifting material: in fact they bill themselves with a certain facetious self-deprecation as the Sorrow Sisters. But any time you get the opportunity to sit just a couple of tables over from a writer and performer the quality of Gauthier, you take it. This was, apparently, Gauthier’s fourth visit to the Rosendale Café – they’ve been booking her since before the likes of me ever heard of her – and the owners clearly hope it won’t be her last. But given the village’s keen obsession for live music, I can be sure that there will always be something worth traveling down there for.