Michael Hedges

Kaki King at Turning Point Cafe

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Last night we saw Kaki King at Turning Point Cafe in Piermont, NY.

On October 24, 2007, we saw Kathy Mattea at Joe’s Pub in NYC. Accompanying her that night on guitar, as he has been for roughly 18 years, was Bill Cooley. When I reviewed that show I stated that I thought Bill Cooley was possibly the best acoustic guitarist I had seen.

My friend Eric Sink commented that he thought Phil Keaggy was probably the best he’d seen, but he mentioned some others, including Kaki King, who he practically dared me to listen to. 😉 Here’s his exact quote (in a comment to a different post I made about Phil Keaggy):

Or if you’re quite daring, have you listened to any of Kaki King’s stuff?

So, given that I respect Eric so much on every level, I had to check her out (and Michael Hedges, whom he recommended as well). I liked Kaki King alot, though there’s little doubt that she’s not a mainstream artist on any level.

Last night was the first opportunity I had to see her live, and I jumped at the chance. I had never been to Turning Point Cafe, but I knew it was a small place. In fact, it seats roughly 63 people. We had awesome seats and were roughly eight feet from Kaki, dead center.

From the many YouTube videos that I’ve watched of her (and the two CDs that I own), I knew that she plays with a full band (and plays multiple instruments herself) as well as just solo guitar (her forte). I figured that in a club this small, she was likely to play solo, and indeed, that’s what she did.

She announced at the beginning that she was experimenting with getting back to her roots of solo guitar, without any vocal accompaniment either! She was hitting up a number of clubs that booked her back in the early days, in order to share the intimacy of that experience with the people who were fans of that style of music.

Here’s a photo to show you how good our seats were, and how intimate the entire experience was:

Kaki King

Kaki King

She didn’t disappoint whatsoever. Aside from being quieter than usual (at least according to her) 😉 she is a lovely, thoughtful person. Her guitar virtuosity is exemplary, but her selection can be quite brooding, even angry at times. Like I mentioned above, and like Eric hinted at, this music is not for everyone.

We invited good friends to join us, even though I knew that neither they, nor Lois, would find this kind of music entertaining. That said, seeing Kaki King perform (and you can get a really good sense if you watch her YouTube videos) is as much a wonderful performance art experience, as it is a musical one. She’s a wizard on the guitar.

Here’s a photo of her using both hands on the frets. She creates some incredible sounds when she does this, and both sets of fingers seem to fly independently (but in sonic coordination!). In addition, it’s special for both of us, because we’re Wicked and Wizard of Oz freaks, and she’s obviously wearing the Ruby Red Slippers, so she’s Dorothy to us. 😉

Kaki King Wizardry

Kaki King Wizardry

We live 20 minutes from Piermont (on the other side of the Hudson River). Our friends live in Northvale, NJ, 10 minutes from Piermont (further from us). We went for an early dinner at their house, and then we followed them to Piermont. We arrived at around 6:15pm (doors open at 6pm) and ordered some drinks. The show was called for 7pm, but Kaki came out at exactly 7:15pm.

She played straight through to 8:35pm, with the only pauses being tuning. She (and many other current guitar masters) use a variety of non-standard (perhaps they are standard now!) tunings, and they switch them often for different songs. Here’s a fuzzy picture (sorry) that shows her tuning, but also shows one of her original guitars, that she recorded her first CD on (she closed the show with the last cut from that CD):

Kaki King Tuning

Kaki King Tuning

As I suspected, none of the three people that came with me (Lois included) were enamored of the particular selection or style of music (though each found at least one song that resonated with them). That said, I hope they all had a nice time nonetheless, and appreciated how talented this woman is. I think they did. 🙂

I would definitely go see her again live, with or without a full band, but I would likely only bring along Lois next time. 🙂

Last night was the first of four concerts in a row for us. So, when we got home (around 9pm), we packed up the car and headed to the city (the next three shows are all in NYC). Expect updates on each one over the next three days.

Acoustic Guitar Update

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This is another long post, so bail now, while you can, or grab a cup of coffee (to keep you awake). 😉 Actually, the post itself isn’t insanely long, but if you watch each of the videos that I’ve linked it, the entire trip will take a while…

I’ve gone on and on in a number of posts about my long-time love for acoustic guitar music, and my recent discovery of some masters of the genre. I could link to those posts, but if you have an interest, it’s simple enough to type the word “acoustic” in the search box and see the titles and decide for yourself.

This post has been rattling around in my head for over a week, begging to be set free. I was waiting for one of two things to happen before writing it. Neither has happened, but a third (unexpected) event occurred last night, finally pushing me over the edge to get this on paper. 😉

This new adventure was officially kicked off when I saw Bill Cooley live accompanying Kathy Mattea. I wrote that he might be the best acoustic guitarist I’d ever heard. Eric Sink commented that those were fighting words (not really!) 😉 and pointed me to Phil Keaggy. When I reviewed The Master and The Musician by Phil Keaggy, Eric commented that I should check out Michael Hedges and possibly (only if I dare!) Kaki King.

Like I’ve said before, anyone who doesn’t pay attention when Eric Sink speaks is likely a dummy. I try hard not to be a dummy (not always successful), so I checked both of them out. What, exactly, does that mean?

When I was growing up, one discovered music mostly on the radio. Word of mouth was probably second, but then the circle of mouths was relatively small. Third was TV, with shows like Ed Sullivan showcasing some musical group every week. All of that is different today. I’ve had a specific post about Pandora and Last.fm rattling around in my head for months now, and I’ll birth that sometime in the next few weeks (and therefore ignore it for now).

Today, with the Internet (you’ve heard of it, right?), one can purposely or accidentally discover music to the extent that one cares, with extremely little effort and time invested, with little risk of purchasing music that will eventually disappoint. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of sites to listen to music on, but for me, the two juiciest targets are MySpace and YouTube.

An incredible number of bands have MySpace pages, with the vast majority of those offering at least four songs for immediate streaming. If someone mentions a band to you, see if they are on MySpace, and check out whether you like their music or not. For my personal quintessential example (no surprise to anyone who has visited here before), I learned in 30 seconds that I would love Girlyman from their MySpace page.

All that said, lately, I am much more hooked on YouTube. It has boggled my mind how many clips (many of them of reasonabe quality) are available for an amazing number of artists. Since I love live music, YouTube gives much more of a feel of the performance in addition to just the music. With some of the incredible styles that today’s acoustic guitarists have, the video is much more powerful (to me) than just listening to the music.

So, after watching quite a number of YouTube videos (I’ll link at least one to each artist’s name in the coming paragraphs), I have purchased a bunch of new albums, mostly downloaded on Amazon’s MP3 service, with the rest on real CDs.

Following Eric’s advice, I ordered two Michael Hedges CDs. He’s not available for download on Amazon 🙁 so I have to wait for them to show up. Since his CDs haven’t shown up yet, he was one of the reasons that I was waiting on this post.

Also following Eric’s advice, I checked out Kaki King. He was correct, as some of her stuff is out there. Still, even that stuff, when seen, is amazing. The rest of her music is gorgeous. I downloaded both of her albums that were available on Amazon. I can’t tell you how hard it was to boil her down to two videos for this paragraph. The selection is very broad, and most of them are truly entertaining. Check her out!

Bill Cooley himself (yes, he’s kind enough to respond when I email him!) suggested that I check out Phil Keaggy’s Beyond Nature CD. It wasn’t available for download at Amazon (though many others are, including Acoustic Sketches, which I’ve downloaded and really enjoy). I had intended to purchase Free Hand – Acoustic Sketches II from Amazon, but on PhilKeaggy.com they had a special bundle.

Three CD’s, Beyond Nature, Acoustic Sketches, and Free Hand – Acoustic Sketches II, for a very good price. Unfortunately, I already bought Acoustic Sketches. I bought the bundle anyway, since Beyond Nature was only available on that site, and the price was great, and I’ll give Acoustic Sketches as a gift to some lucky person! 🙂 They haven’t arrived yet, so I can’t review Beyond Nature. That was reason number two for holding off on this post…

On Phil’s site, they mentioned that Beyond Nature was ranked #3 on the DigitalDreamDoor list of the 100 Greatest Acoustic Guitar Albums. In addition, Acoustic Sketches and Freehand are both in the top 100 as well (hence, their idea for the bundle!).

On that list, in number one is Aerial Boundaries by Michael Hedges. Cool, it’s one of the two of his that I ordered. Number two is 6 & 12 String Guitar by Leo Kottke. I remembered at that moment that I had a CD of his that I hadn’t listened to in 20 years, and hadn’t ripped on to my iPod. I ran downstairs and found it immediately (my CDs are filed alphabetically), it’s called Guitar Music from 1981, and it’s fantastic. I also downloaded 6 & 12 String Guitar from Amazon. Also fantastic!

So, while I owned Leo Kottke already, without the list at DigitalDreamDoor, I wouldn’t have looked for it. I then noticed that the guy in number five, Adrian Legg, had three other top 100 albums listed. I bought two of his albums on Amazon Downloads as well.

What prompted me to finally write this post when I’m still waiting for the Michael Hedges and Phil Keaggy CDs? Yesterday evening, Rob Page (CEO of Zope Corporation, the portfolio company that I spend the majority of my time with/on) IM’ed me this video of Andy Mckee. It’s the first time he’s recommended any music to me, so, to humor him, I bought all three of Andy Mckee’s albums that were available on Amazon Downloads. 😉

I wasn’t a very careful consumer though. While I think Andy is wonderful, there are four songs that are on both his Art Of Motion and Dreamcatcher albums, so I now own two copies of each of those…

Whew, I think that’s most of what’s been screaming in my head on this topic. One last thing though. I need to contact Bill Cooley one last time in 2007, and ask him (or beg him) to put his music up for sale at Amazon.com, and iTunes as well. It’s very hard to promote him to others when it’s difficult to buy his stuff online. At the very least, his new album (coming sometime in 2008) better be available for download! Now, if I could twist his arm to put up a YouTube video or two… 😉