Anyhow, I discuss him here because I'm finally going to get around to posting about the Melissa Ferrick show I attended with Fool and Textureslut (who wrote a little entry about the show here) and a couple others on September 10. Glenn McDonald has the best description of Ferrick's music that I could find - much better than my standard "She's like a lesbian Bruce Springsteen" line. Incidentally, I'm also with him about Ani DiFranco at this point.
Here, you can see a review of Melissa Ferrick that pretty much sums up how I feel about her, and I've cut and pasted here for easy access: I say "Ani DiFranco", when I'm talking about independent, aware, fast-acoustic-guitar agit-folk by women you assume to be lesbians (even if you aren't necessarily surprised if they later vacillate on the issue), because at this point the informed music listener is expected to know who she is, approximately what she sounds like, and very loosely what she stands for. I haven't actually liked an album of Ani's in a while, but that makes her even more useful as a symbol, to me, since it's clear, at least inside of my own head, that if I mention her at all I'm probably doing so solely for symbolic purposes. In my opinion the current master of the kind of music Ani represents is, as it has been for a while, Melissa Ferrick. After years of harboring reservations about Melissa, based on a lingering wish that she'd reverse her slide into acoustic simplicity and make the dense, roiling, noisy rock record of which the busier songs on her debut Massive Blur hinted she was capable, I was finally conclusively won over to her cause by seeing her play live a couple times. One by one, her stripped-down concert versions of songs I'd wished were more complicated convinced me that my wishes were wrong. This didn't help my experience of her actual records that much, though, because now instead of wishing they were all more like Massive Blur, I just wished they were all concert albums. Her second (and first full-scale) concert album, in fact, came out a few months ago. It is a two-disc, twenty-two-song, ninety-seven-minute concert recording (a whole concert, banter and sound negotiations and all, which "concert" albums often aren't) called Skinnier, Faster, Live at the B.P.C., BPC for Berklee Performance Center, the very nice auditorium connected to the Berklee College of Music. Ani's Living in Clip would be the obvious comparison, but that was a meta-concert assembled from many shows, and a career retrospective, and big. Skinnier, Faster is resolutely small, despite its length, a single show apparently unretouched, the set list shamelessly biased towards new songs (everything from Freedom and half of Everything I Need, but only three songs from Willing to Wait and nothing from Massive Blur). It's just Melissa and her guitar and a large room full of people who are abundantly willing to think of themselves for the night as her closest friends.
And this is all so plainly Melissa Ferrick's proper environment to me. "Freedom" is measured and stirring. The tour-song "Win 'Em Over", basically redundant in this long-ago-won-over setting, becomes a shared celebration of the sustaining strength of being home. "It's Alright" is jagged and seething, and her guitar is lucky to survive a furious rendition of "I Will Arrive" (in the middle of which her monitors finally start working). The would-be roar "Blind Side" is disassembled and picked through for parts. "Everything I Need" is rapturous, "Faking" reticent and gentle, "This Is Love" spiked and jittery. "North Carolina" almost gets away from her, but she tracks it down somewhere in the second verse. "Particular Place to Be" is a frenetic guitar thrash, but "Gotta Go Now" is subdued almost to lullaby. Somehow "Willing to Wait" has evolved into Melissa's "All Along the Watchtower". "Will You Be the One" and "Welcome to My Life", in advance of Valentine Heartache, slide into their spots in the set just as comfortably as the songs the audience has heard for years. "Mr. Bumblebee", an improvised sketch for a later sea shanty, clears the way for the finale, a menacingly vivid performance of her seduction anthem "Drive" that it sounds like several members of the audience are trying to volunteer to help her reenact. A tacked-on studio-munged remix of "Drive" only highlights how much more vital these songs are when Melissa is allowed to perform them without any outside interference.
Anyhow, the show at the 8X10 Club was amazing, just as great as the concert CD that McDonald describes, and the night was memorable because it was full of good people and good times. Now, a month later, I have some photos:
Fool, a vision in lavender, is having a great time.
The opening act, Natalia Zukerman. She was alright. I couldn't hear her voice too well.
Here's Melissa. I remember commenting to a friend how unbelievably hot she looked this evening. I'm not sure what it was; she looked just as lesbionic as ever. It was something about her belt, though. The friend said, "Yeah, it looks so loose," and I said something like, "Yeah, I think I could undo it with my teeth." Because she was that hot that night.
She duetted a bit with the opener chick. I got the feeling that they were doing it.