Saturday, October 16, 2004

Eliza Gilkyson

Sing-alongs good. Sing-alongs bad.
University of Guelph, Guelph, ON

My favorite thing in the whole wide world is an audience who sings along with a band in tune and using harmony. So leave it to a folk festival to produce the most in-tune, harmony-cranking crowd I've heard in years.

Eliza Gilkyson is an amazing singer-songwriter who tours incessantly and is famous among a small sliver of music lovers. The people in this small, packed, windowless room at the university know that this show is a rare treat, and they try to (loudly) impart the significance of Eliza's presence to their friends. People who don't know her fall in love instantly, particularly when she plays a lost Woody Guthrie song.

During the sing-along parts Eliza teaches the crowd some basic moves, which they immediately make more complex and layered. This participation gives me goosebumps and makes me happy. But then during some of the verses which are decidedly NOT sing-along parts, two guys behind me insist on continuing the practice, which makes me want to kill them. So you have your upsides and your downsides to the sing-along.

Sense of smell is one of my superpowers, and there are some interesting smells in this room. At first I can't tell if it's the room itself or the mass of long grey hair in front of me producing a scent reminiscent of a college radio station where I hung out in the late 80s, but it suddenly makes me feel nostalgic and vaguely like I might be late or in trouble. Other smells make me overjoyed that it isn't summer if you know what I'm saying.

One thing that festivals don't really allow for is scheduling spontaneity. Eliza plays a pretty short set, but people clearly want her to keep playing. So she gets off stage and since this is basically a meeting room, she has to stand awkwardly next to the stage while the million coordinators and room monitors figure out if they can risk the extra four minutes for her to play another song before the next group comes up to sing songs about farms. Finally it's granted and she ends with another sing-along. Everyone there is all folksy and warm and happy, and there in the conference room in a university in the middle of nowhere, for a few lovely moments, I believe that everything is going to be okay.


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