[This fragment is available in an audio version.]
On Saturday September 25th, 2021, we went to a concert by Cousin Harley featuring Paul Pigat. The last live indoor music we’d seen was March 8, 2020, which is to say a gap of 566 days. Speaking of gaps, 2021 marks, more or less, both seventy years of Rock ’n’ Roll and 50 years of my loving it.
Weird coincidence: That last pre-Covid concert was by Coco Montoya “and Paul Pigat”, my calendar says, but I’ll be honest, I remember almost nothing of that evening.
Cousin Harley · This was the first event at the lovable but ratty old Rickshaw Theatre run under the latest Covid protocols: Max audience 250, vaccine passport required, stay in your seat, mask on unless you’re actually drinking, no dancing. The organizers apologized but also rejoiced in the return of live music. And yeah, when the guitar struck up, I found myself a little emo.
The band is one of two Paul Pigat projects; its musical center is rockabilly, but they sprawl pretty far across the guitar-trio landscape. Pigat himself is a fine axeman in a whole lot of styles, wasn’t boring for a moment. He got an exceptionally beautiful tone out of some little amp I didn’t recognize, particularly in a slightly-surfy instrumental.
This music is played fast, which means you need a strong drummer, and he was, but the web site doesn’t mention who he is, which seems kind of churlish.
Pigat, in between-song banter, mentioned that he not only writes songs, he builds guitars, although I can’t turn up any evidence online. On the strength of last night’s show, I’d say they’re good.
One last footnote: I notice, on Pigat’s website, a tip o’ the hat to the Canada Council, the Canadian government’s arts-funding organization. Which shocked me a bit; I’d always seen the Council as focused on big-budget grownup stuff like opera and ballet. It’s cool that some of my tax dollars are going to keep Rock music alive during these hard times.
Anyhow: We had a wonderful time. It felt exotic and grown-up to go out to an evening concert. Live music, yeah! And if you care about music and musicians, and if your local Covid conditions allow, go out and buy some damn concert tickets already. In this era of music streaming (which means, basically, musicians starving) the best way to route a few bucks to the artists is going to shows.
And, it beats the fuck outta doomscrolling.
History · The conventional wisdom is that the first Rock ’n’ Roll record was Rocket 88 in 1951, featuring Jackie Brenson on vocals in front of Ike Turner’s band. The argument isn’t crazy, but the song lacks a backbeat, which troubles me. How about Wynonie Harris’ take on Good Rockin’ Tonight, from 1949? Anyhow, close enough for Rock.
I’m sixty-six, which is pretty old. But the music I love is older. I discovered Rock in 1971 when I got the Beatles’ White Album for my birthday. Oh wait, the evidence on this blog says that it was ’68, when my Dad turned me on to Cream. (No, really!) Whatever, once again close enough.
Anyhow, by the time I started listening, the Beatles were breaking up, Joplin and Hendrix were about to die; I pretty well missed the glory days. That’s how old the genre is.
My parents (despite my Dad’s contribution) hated Rock and hated me listening to it. In my room I had a record player, the kind you could stack the vinyl up on and it’d play a side then drop the next record and play that. In only had one speaker, but it was pretty big and pretty loud.
Thus started the trend, which continues to this day, of the women in my life telling me to turn down the damn music. One time, Mom showed me an article she was reading saying how some Eminent Musicologists had done A Thorough Analysis of Moderm Pop Music and Determined Authoritatively that it was Pretty Well All Trash. I objected that I really liked it and she said “You’re discounting the value of education!” To which I had no come-back. But I kept listening.
I feel like a Proust character, because in my mind Rock still feels fresh and new and enjoyably offensive. But in fact it’s the stomping grounds of the much-reviled Boomer generation who, to quote Mose Allison’s Young Man Blues, have all the power and all the money. But I dunno, I keep seeing young folk wearing T-shirts with Aerosmith and Zeppelin and Tom Petty on them.
Anyhow, I’ll be going to lots more concerts (Covid allowing) and so should you.