Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Few Words About Robyn In Piermont

I got to see Robyn Hitchcock at Piermont, New York's The Turning Point last night.  Showtime was 7:30 PM; it was still light outside, and Robyn joked about pretending that it was a lunchtime show at the opening of the gig.  Although I have seen Robyn Hitchcock perform in the bright sunshine at a couple of West Coast outdoor concerts back in the 90's, this time it seemed odd to be witnessing his show before twilight. Robyn performed acoustically and solo, delivering an intense set punctuated with his usual surreal between-the-songs patter. My favorite of those was a tale of prisoners who were nightly returned to their jails by blimps to which they were tethered at their ankles.  He steamed on through to the end of the show, taking no breaks. 

The Turning Point is a great room in which to see someone like Robyn.  It's in the basement of an early 19th-century house: a little dark, heavily air conditioned, and oddly cozy.  It's also so small that the effect of seeing a show there is like being entertained at the private party of someone very fortunate.  The sound and the sightlines are excellent.   

The local Robyn Hitchcock faithful were out in force, singing along and keeping set lists.  I make a point of NOT keeping a set list at shows by musicians I really love.  I don't sneak in digital recorders or take pics on my cell phone, either.  I like to just listen, and let the evening wash over me.  And indeed, my choice to do so was rewarded last night.  Still, it was nice being in the presence of other folks who express their pleasure at being present in other ways, though--a homecoming of sorts. 

Robyn played two of my favorite songs: "Mr. Kennedy" and "Only The Stones Remain"  "Ole Tarantula" worked fine unplugged.   His intro to "Victorian Squid" was another example of the man's ability to prop open the door to his subconscious pretty much at will--and it's a great song, too.

I liked hearing "Adventure Rocketship," a bunch also.  OK, I'll admit it: I was one of the folks who ponyed up to Yep Roc and put it as the ringtone on my cell.  (And here I am bragging about being too cool to make set lists!)  Honestly, though, the only reason I downloaded it was because I never figured out how to get the clip I grabbed of the opening guitar work from  Element of Light's "Airscape"onto my phone instead.  But let me be clear: I really like "Adventure Rocketship."  I read somewhere that "The Yip Yip Song" is the theme to a childrens' TV show in the UK.  "Adventure Rocketship" is the show I'd have really wanted to see as a little girl.

The crucifixion of Jesus seemed to be much on Robyn's mind last night.  He mentioned it several times in  his song intros, finally comparing it to the little toy penguin he had stood on the miniature green road cone beside him onstage.  I don't know anyone else who could a) get away with that or b) get a laugh from doing so.   

Hitchcock also mentioned Storefront Hitchcock , the Jonathan Demme concert flick of about ten years back, and got a round of applause for it.  Demme was sitting at the table next to me, with his family; one of Demme's younger kids got the final benediction of the show from Robyn:"have a great time at camp." I liked that.  Who gets a send-off from Robyn Hitchcock for summer camp??  Wonderful--kind of like getting to hear Robyn in a tiny room with the sun going down unnoticed on the Hudson River across the street.  

After the show, I gave Robyn a RandoRadio T-shirt and suggested he put off doing his laundry for another day.  Told him we play plenty of his music.  I was too flummoxed to do my usual handshake and "Chris Potter from RandoRadio" routine; I'll admit it.  I mean heck--it was Robyn Hitchcock I was talking to!!  He said he could use a shirt as he'd lost a bag on the tour.   I'd be honored if our own Adventure Rocketship T helped fill in the gap.

He's playing again tonight, Wednesday  the 16th of July.   OK, so I'm a true believer.  But if you can, GO.



Holly A Hughes said...

I was there too (one of the dorks writing down a set list) -- oddly enough, I've only seen Robyn perform in dark rooms at night, so that's how I imagine him always. It is a lovely club, isn't it? Great crowd, great show all around.

chrispy said...

Hi, Holly!

Yes, it was a terrific show, wasn't it? I played "Mr. Kennedy" at the opening of my show on yesterday (Friday) 'cause I was so pleased that Robyn chose to perform it Tuesday.

I don't think I've ever been at a show where so many people knew the words and were very quietly singing along. That was very sweet. I've seen Robyn in all sorts of places--at a science museum at the Edinburgh Festival a few years back (like everyone at Edinburgh every year, he had a terrible cold, but put in a good set), and more recently, down at The Manhattan Center when he opened for Nick Lowe. How wonderful he was pretty much leading the encore at that concert! Elvis Costello had arrived onstage as a surprise guest, Nick Lowe was the one with the terrible cold that night, and Robyn was just beaming.

The Turning Point is always a good time, though. A great room!