Higher than Eagles is how we feel
Well, it feels pretty darn good to have performed Perfect Lives again. Third time ever. First time in two years. Each time it happens it gets bigger, more moving parts, more ambitious. In some ways more off the cuff, more tight. It’s just so big and you forget that every time. And inevitably, there are new things to discover every time, as we all said to reporters in various press roundups (my favorite discovery moment was when I clued my cohorts into the fact that Noel, “as given” in The Park is a reference to the fellow in The Church whose office & bedroom are so close together… there are many more abstract connections we discussed beyond this). You can find a good wrap up of the day by Kyle Gann here. He’s a guy who knows from Perfect Lives, so his enjoyment of our staging is a nice feeling to take away.
Having another show waiting for us in Pittsburgh next May is a very different way to end the piece; our work feels evolving and unfinished. But I wish to take a moment and highlight a few special things that happened for me throughout the day:
Having not made it through last year’s Empty Words marathon, I was nervous about my physical stamina to perform all day. Going into The Park as narrator, I was trying to conserve energy. But that thing happens that’s always happened with this piece – I just opened up my mouth and it moved me. We tend to agree on this: performing the narration of this piece is like channeling a spirit for 25 minutes. As soon as I was done I felt calm, awake, excited, and full of energy for the rest of the day. What a good ghost to have had visit me! During the episode, I felt in control and like I was making decisions as a performer, but also like I had done all the hard work and could enjoy the payoff from the inside out. Not as intense for me as doing The Church in 2011, but very intense nonetheless.
In The Bank, I was delighted to look out and see the receptive Catskill audience. Who knows how many of them were weekenders from the city, in any event the vibe from the crowd all day felt awesome. Aliza’s banter with and getting a Davy Crockett-style cap from an audience member was a good indication. Singing “yoo coo coo”s with Brian is something I’d do any day of the week.
The Supermarket was The Supermarket. Every time it’s a joy. To witness it for the first time must be a delight. There was also a great moment of calm before the episode spent by the Esopus, just behind the store but out of sight. Usually you see the water you’re close to, but in this case we had to find it and it was kind of magical.
The Church was interesting for me personally having been the narrator last time. I saw things as a band member that I didn’t see before while Aliza did a smashing job with the lead. I got a much better sense of what happens with the call & response italic text in that episode – when you’re driving the train you miss it.
The Backyard was beautiful in Gelsey’s new staging. Looking out over the hills in a gorgeous garden, it was hard not to be hypnotized by the proceedings. Aliza acted as an orbiting satellite, passing around the audience with an accordion and eventually heading for the house. Ray Spiegel‘s tabla was a pretty special addition as well.
The Living Room came together beautifully despite a lot of last minute rearranging. We had the talents of Karen Waltuch on viola, Asa Spurlock on cello, and Bill Ylitalo on flutes led by Brian holding it down on organ. My notated arrangement for this episode (the only notated one we’ve used) is really tricky – I realize now the complications in using such a thing for this music – but they pulled it together having never played together until the day of the show! Aliza, Paul, Gelsey, & I came to an interesting point of vocal delivery here, and while I’m proud of the work everyone did in this episode, I’m confident we have better arrangements in us. This is such a rich episode! They all are!
The Bar was just a treat for me as well. My first time playing bass in public, and Brian, Paul, & Dave Malloy were great help to me and a great 7/4 rhythm section throughout. Paul & Brian also killed it as Buddy & Rodney. I had the pleasant experience of watching everything through some really scratched up sunglasses, so I can’t guarantee I always hit the right fret or tell you in detail where Bill Ylitalo was running to & from with his sax, but it was a blast.
Many thanks to the pack of folks who stayed with us all day, there was a pretty impressive contingent of you! I’ll try to gather everyone’s name for internet honors soon.
That’s the quick & dirty inside scoop, surely more thoughts will be emerging over the coming months! Let us know if you were there and have thoughts & recollections.