Variety Playhouse. Little Five Points. Atlanta, Georgia.
November 15, 2010.
Brooke Fraser Concert.
Who Are We Fooling - Brooke Fraser (feat. Aqualung) (mp3)
My first experience with Variety Playhouse was chaperoning seven students to a moe. concert in 1997. Jam bands don’t work for me. Worse yet, being responsible for seven adolescents in an environment where drug use is almost an entry requirement, made me like this particular situation less. I was new to the world of chaperoning and school, and I was uptight.
Everytime I return, that goddamn moe. concert comes to mind, which is a damn shame for the Variety Playhouse, ‘cuz it’s a decent venue.
I returned earlier this week for a very unique opportunity: to attend a concert for a performer about whom I knew almost nothing, about whose music I was fond but not a “fan,” and without anyone I knew accompanying me. The Brooke Fraser concert was a chance to experience the musical version of a stranger in a strange land.
Here’s my observations.
Brooke’s opening act was a Brit singer-songwriter named Sam Bradley. It was just him and another dude on a two-acoustic set. His pal was plenty talented with an acoustic. The set was a nice warm-up and had some strong moments. But here’s what I was really thinking about the back-up guitarist: The back-up guitarist for the opening act for a Kiwi pop artist most Americans have never ever heard of is a more-than-competent, talented guitarist. And he’s still just the back-up guitarist for the opening act for a headliner who’s virtually unknown in America.
Shark cages are more loving than the music business. If you’re in music to get laid, or to ride on Concordes, or to say words like “double platinum,” then there’s a 99.3% chance you’re in for the most depressing rude awakening of your life.
(2) “I write a music blog.”
These words are not meaningless in most situations, they’re downright toxically amusing. If I ever say this to people, the response their facial expressions can’t help but reply is, Why are you telling me this, and why should I give a shit? And this is precisely the reaction such a comment deserves in most situations.
But attend a sold-out concert, wear a cool wristband that embodies you with special privileges, and carry a sweet digital SLR with two lenses. Then, when you say these words, people look at you differently. Suddenly you have this weird level of clout in the only place where music blogs matter.
“You’re gonna write about Brooke on your blog?” they asked.
“Yup. That’s the plan.”
“That’s so cool. She’s so awesome. Are you a fan?”
“Not in the traditional sense. Just here to cover the experience.”
“Cool man. Cool.” (They had no idea what “cover the experience” meant, nor did they really care.)
Some variant of that conversation occurred at least four times. I won’t lie. It felt kinda cool. Perhaps because my bar of feeling cool is very, very low.
It seems like almost all fans follow a musician for one of a handful of reasons: their musical talent is worthy of awe (think: Rush), you lust after them or envy the lust they engender (think: Bon Jovi or Britney), you sense of a kindred spirit (think: Patty Griffin), or you dig the character and theatricality of it all (think: Lady GaGa).
For the fans with whom I spoke or overheard, Brooke is of the kindred spirit variety. This kicked up a notch knowing that Brooke is a Christian singer. While her latest album wouldn’t fall under “Contemporary Christian,” enough of her lyrics dance around that burning bush that it didn’t surprise me to see so many clean-cut doe-eyed Christian kids in the crowd.
Two large groups of college-age girls crammed in on either side of me during her show, and I overheard conversations in both groups suggesting that Brooke is that friend who never does you wrong. She always has the right advice and is completely trustworthy, and you never get in a fight with her.
A rough guesstimate had the crowd at 60-70% female. At least five or six dudes yelled out “I love you Brooke!” She’s married.
At one point early in, Brooke announced that she didn’t show up in Atlanta to put on some boring, listless show. In a sense, she was being honest. But in another sense, Brooke isn’t exactly gonna rock out. I mean, she’s not gonna rip down the glass with shrieking and guitar shredding. Her music might have moments of energy and exuberance, but it’s mostly a chill set of ethereal pop songs. And she and her band did a damn fine job of performing her set, keeping the crowd engaged, and most decidedly not just dialing it in.
She talked a lot, too. Some people don’t like that. They think it takes away from the number of songs you get to hear. But I tend to think talk is the one thing most musicians can’t help but mix around from one concert to the next. Monologuing is the truly unique snowflake of each concert. So I like it when they talk. It showed she was having fun and approached her job and her success with the right mindset. It was adorable.
And it sure beats the ever-loving hell out of a jam band stretching three songs and calling it a concert.
Visit her web site.
Get her music at eMusic.
Here's her cool video for "Shadowfeet" from a previous album: