Saturday, June 6, 2015

Listening to music again


It's a warm April night and I'm sitting on a vinyl-upholstered bar stool, wearing pajama pants, an Eileen Fisher camisole top, sneakers, and a cheap sweater from Target, sipping a mai-tai from a plastic cup.

At the Allways Lounge down on St. Claude Avenue in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, it's nearly eleven, and we're partway through the first set. It's a CD release party for Dayna Kurtz's new album, and everyone in the place is transfixed by her voice as she sings.

I met Dayna before the show, introduced by my friends Naomi and Louis. She was warm and welcoming, and she agreed to let me take a few photos with my phone as she sipped a little whiskey.

Dayna's a tall woman, and strong. In the stage lights, you can see the muscles flex in her arm as she reaches for the neck of her guitar and turns the tuning key. Her voice is a low contralto, deep and full. "You're not what I need," she sings, "but you're all that I want."

The room is dark, the lights onstage are warm pinks and  magentas and reds. Three mirror-balls in the room orbit, throwing sparkles and shards of light over the black walls and rough concrete floors. By the bar, an impossibly tall and voluptuous black woman tugs on the bodice of her strapless cocktail dress, hiking it up on her chest.

The bartender is an elfin pale girl with her dyed black hair wound in a bouffant, pinned in place with green feathered clips. She wears black leather short shorts and a pair of thigh-high woolen stockings.

As the set continues, Dayna's list progresses from bluesy torch songs to more introspective fare. A violinist joins the band onstage for the exquisite "If I Go First," which you can hear in the official video by Louis Ludwig:

Dayna explains that the lyrics were inspired by an unlikely source; the song "If Ever I Would Leave You," from the Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical "Camelot." Like that one, her song is an exploration of the seasons and the timelessness of lasting love - though with a decided poignant twist.

As the final tremelo of the strings dies away in the darkened room, through the open door comes the smell of something cooking on a sidewalk grill. Outside on St. Claude a man is shouting, greeting someone and laughing out loud. Someone peeks through the open door at the sound of the music.

The melancholy falls away as Dayna calls for the audience to sing along with her. It's a Bobby Charles song, "You'll Always Live Inside of Me." At first I can't, unaccustomed to singing, but then I raise my own voice. It feels good to hear the sound pour out of me and swell and rise on the night air with the others'.

You'll always live inside of me.
You'll always live inside of me.
Though you may sleep with someone else tonight,
You'll always live inside of me.
The Hi Ho Lounge on St. Claude - across the street
This is live music, something that has not been in my life in recent years. I want to invite it back in.


David Duff said...

"a plastic cup"!!!!!

America, like Britain, has much to answer for, but perhaps your greatest crime against humanity was the invention of the plastic cup. I have no idea what 'Mai-tai' is but I'm sure it deserves something better than plastic!

As for your quoted song lyric, it confirms my suspicion that no-one has written a truly beautiful or witty lyric since 1960!

Glennis said...

David, it has to be plastic so you can carry your drink out on St. Claude Avenue to another club. Duh.

David Duff said...

Any drink served in plastic is not worth carrying as far as the nearest sink! That is why I will never enter a Starbucks even though the, er, product they pour into their plastic cups is, just possibly slightly *improved* by the taste of plastic!

I'm shocked, Aunt Snow, shocked!

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

Cocktails to go! I don't care what cup they're in. I especially like the walk up cocktail windows in New Orleans.

David Duff said...

But ... but ... Claudia, could you, really, truly and honestly, pour one of your delicious looking mint juleps into a plastic cup? "Oh, the horror, the horror!"