I went out the other evening to a concert, just to treat myself to something different for my birthday. There was a duo, the Undesirables, who performed mainly narrative songs. (Imagine a novel turned into song, or was that a song based on the novel?) They were enjoyable enough but were only the intro for the main attraction of the evening, C. R. Avery accompanied by the Legal Tender String Quartet. I had never heard of either act but went because the promo mentioned Tom Waits with both of them. C.R. Avery was a truly joyful birthday surprise!
Now those who have nuzzled through this site before know how I love performance art in all its forms – music, theatre, storytelling, and especially poetry. Let me tell you, Avery was a combination of the best of them all. I will try to describe his performance, but my words may be inadequate.
First of all, he is a poet, and has won the Great Canadian Poetry Face-off. He works in the poetic tradition, with rhythm, rhyme, imagery and various devices. He’s also one-third of T. O. F. U., the Tons Of Fun University group out of Vancouver that recently gave us Shane Koyczan, the poet who performed at the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremonies. He brings a beat/hip-hop sensibility to his presentation, both physically and aurally. And then the music.
Aside from the vocals and beat-box scratching and rhythm sounds with his voice, he played marvelous blues harmonica, using each to compliment the others. He was accompanied by a man who played a fine guitar with his hands and rhythm instruments with his feet. His sound was filled out by the Legal Tender String Quartet, a classically trained foursome of cello, viola, and two violins.
And now the problem lies in how to describe it. Let’s drop some performing beat (preferably Ginsberg) in a pot with early Bob Dylan imagery from his talking blues numbers. Add some Springsteen/ Mellencamp and a heap of Bukowski. Leave room for a lot of Patti Smith and enough Tom Waits to color the mixture. Don’t forget to season with Little Walter’s harp. And press it all through the best of hip-hop.
Damn. That still doesn’t do justice. That’s a poor approximation of what I experienced.
Excuse me, I’ve got to put his CD in the player. Why don’t you try it for yourself.