Spacecrab (spacecrab) wrote,

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A very cellular song

   I'm not announcing the results of a Livejournal "Which Tarot Card am I" quiz.

On Saturday night, I saw the partially-reunited Incredible String Band in concert at the Noe Valley Ministry. I was reminded of what I knew at 20 and now too often forget:

the natural cards revolve ever changing
seeded elsewhere planted in the garden fair grow trees, grow trees

tongues of the sheer wind
setting you foot where the sand is untrodden,
the ocean that only begins

I was the right age to discover the Incredible String Band at their peak -- when songs on the FM radio allowed us to become thousand-year old trees, metamorphosing caterpillars, Byzantine magicians, witches' hats, dancing amoebas, and so on.

I don't find that kind of stuff, much, in stereo now. Those adventures are kind of back to where they were before the Beatles: in children's rooms at libraries, occasional comic books, and YA fantasy novels. We've got improved animation and stereo -- but it tends to be more full of giant robots fighting monsters than cosmic sea voyages, these days.

I love the fact that there's a 120-year old Noe Valley church just a couple of blocks from where I live, where, over the past ten years, I've attended a number of musical performances by Oregon, Roger McGuinn, Gene Clarke, Peter Rowan, Cindy Lee Berryhill, and Robin Williamson.

This touring version of the Incredible String Band lacks Robin Williamson; but it includes the other two original band members: Mike Heron and Clive Palmer. Newcomer Lawson Dando does passable substitution on the background vocal, keyboard, string, and kazoo parts that were arranged for/by Robin.

When this ISB launched into their first song, one of the guitars was slightly out of tune and Heron was a bit off key. But I decided to be patient. Not so much changed about that from twenty years ago, when they surrounded themselves on stage with a humungous assortment of nylon and steel guitars, banjos, violins, mandolins, cellos, mandocellos, sitars, glockenspiel, kettle drums, bass drums, flutes, pipes, recorders, and so on -- most of which had to be tuned and retuned between each song.

Heron picked up quickly, and within two or three songs, his vocals had as much power and charm as I ever remembered. Clive Palmer proved to be an adept banjo player with a good bluesy voice; and Lawson Dando tastefully filled in high harmony and string counterpoint. This was sufficient to allow me (and an enthusiastic audience of about 150) to re-experience the sense of wonder bound into the Williamson-Heron poetry.

I don't know if any other LJ readers witnessed (and/or loved) the Incredible String Band in their original touring incarnation. Old-young fogey Deadheads know that the GD version of "And We Bid You Good Night" was inspired by the ISB version on "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter." The new ISB performed a well-arranged (two organ counterpoint) version of Heron's 17-minute "A Very Cellular Song," which includes "And I Bid You Good Night."

I'm glad I had this song in recent cellular memory, last night, after seeing the photo of Chris Reeve-in-supersuit on the Atrios website. I knew what that photo meant as soon as I saw it. I thought about posting my reaction to the news of Reeve's death on LJ, last night. But I knew that, within an hour, the Internet would be full of Reeve supersuit photos -- with eulogies that would say most of what I would have said.

earth water fire and air
met together in a garden fair
put in a basket bound with skin
if you answer this riddle
you'll never begin

Good night, Chris.

For those who care to do so, Christopher Reeve's family has requested that donations be made in his honor to the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

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