It has been over a weeks since this show, and I’m just now sitting down to reflect on it. Summer is busy. Summer is warm. Business and warmness don’t inspire much reflection. Give me a cold, calm day and I’m spilling over with words. Give me summer, and word drought takes hold.
That said, I’ll push a few words out for posterity. It hasn’t been that long since Rabbit Rabbit (ex-Sleepytime Gorilla Museum members Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi, although they’re busy bees, so reducing them to ex-members of a single band doesn’t seem fair) was last here, so I can almost pretend they’re still local. This time out, the show happened at Carla Kihlstedt’s old Tin Hat stomping grounds, the Freight and Salvage Coffee House. The woman running the merch table, a Tin Hat fan, was excited because she had just realized that Carla was part of Rabbit Rabbit. Speaking of the merch table, Rabbit Rabbit has just released their second album, “Swallow Me Whole”, as a download-only release. I confess that download-only is my least favorite format (somewhere right behind cassettes), but they made it more worthwhile be giving us physical-fetishists something to fondle in the form of a beautiful art print by artist Dan McCarthy (the download code is on the back of the print). Rabbit Rabbit songs can also be downloaded on a monthly basis at their website. Be a cool cat and navigate there now.
The Freight is one of my favorite places to see shows. The sound is good, the people are committed to the arts, and the coffee is simply coffee. Plus, there are snacks. Jeanine and I got seats in the front row too. That was a nice change from the recent Cowboy Junkies show in the same space.
The opener, Rupa, wasn’t previously familiar to me (my brother, when we ran into him after the show, was taken aback by this for some reason), but the words on the Freight’s website were intriguing.
With an acoustic guitar in her hands, Rupa Marya arrived onstage accompanied by a contrabassist, a drummer, a violinist, and a viola player. How could a performance not be good with that combination of instruments? Right away, I became a fan. The first song (the title of which I’ve forgotten, but I think it had the word “lament” in it, which is always a good sign on its own) powerfully reminded me of Canadian singer, Lhasa de Sela, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. Rupa has the same hint of smoke in her delivery, and the same ability to wring emotion out of every word. The musicians were all top notch too, with the string section being especially masterful.
Like Lhasa, Rupa proved to be fluent in several languages, singing in Spanish, English, French, and Hindi during the course of her set. The foreign-language songs resonated more with me than the ones sung in English. Perhaps because they also showed musical influences from their respective cultures. None of the songs were bad though, and I made sure to vomit forth some funds in the direction of the merch people. I’ve listened to the CDs now, and I notice that some of the recordings reveal what sounds like a reggae influence, which was absent at the performance. The difference may be that the CDs are more band affairs (recorded under the name Rupa & the April Fishes), whereas the performance was billed simply as “Rupa”. Not being a big fan of reggae, I was okay with the reggae influence being absent at this performance. The CDs (I got them all but the first one) are good though, especially the Spanish-centric “Este Mundo”.
One of the parallels between Rupa’s performance and the following Rabbit Rabbit one was the fact that Rupa and Carla have both recently welcomed new additions to their respective families. Rupa apologized in advance for the inevitable baby noises coming from the audience, and sure enough, baby noises were occasionally heard. Come to think of it, offspring were present (in the form of Margo Timmons’ son) at the last show I saw at the Freight too. The other parallel was local guitarist, Myles Boisen, who guested with both bands, playing some beautiful, haunting slide guitar.
The current Rabbit Rabbit monthly offerings all feature guest guitarists, so it wasn’t too surprising to find Myles Boisen involved. Rabbit Rabbit also had a contrabassist whose name has slipped my memory. Sorry, contrabassist. Matthias provided some innovative percussion, piano, and vocals while Carla brought to the table her beautiful vocals, masterful violin playing, wordy lyricism (Mathias made gentle fun of her for utilizing words like “tintinnabulation” and “coterie” in her lyrics) and the occasional sidestep into creative bell ringing.
Like last time, a couple of my personal highlights from their set were Inside Outside and In the Dead of Night. They also played an as-yet-unrecorded song that probably won’t see the light of day on their website until next year, since it doesn’t feature a guitar. Other favorites included the frantic Swallow Me Whole (formerly entitled Remember Me), which injected some Sleepytime-style energy into the mix, and the wordy paean to wordlessness, Nothing To Say. It was all very good, and I continue to be impressed by how they effortlessly move through a variety of musical moods. This is multifaceted music for multifaceted people.
I find that getting monthly doses of their music, along with back-stories and attendant photos and lists, adds another dimension to what they are doing and forges a stronger connection between creators and consumers. As far as I know, Rabbit Rabbit’s method of musical dissemination is unique. That said, I’d still welcome some vinyl so I can caress it and shelve it and feel comforted by its physicality.
Their first volume of songs is still available on CD. That’s something, at least. The print that comes with the second volume is definitely suitable for framing though. I’m still deciding where to hang it.