Take Back Your Mind At The FotoautomatonSaturday, October 26, 2013
|Art Bergmann - Self portrait, October 26, 2013|
In spite of recovering from an Argentine strain of pneumonia I managed to take in a few shows in the last two weeks involving the arts. I attended Ballet BC's Tilt, Margie Gillis and Elizabeth Parrish – Bulletins from Immortality…Freeing Emily Dickinson at the Cultch, Venus in Fur at the Arts Club Theatre’s Granville Island Stage, Art Bergmann at the Biltmore on Saturday and Sunday a matinee performance of Turning Point Ensemble’s Forbidden Music.
I noticed a common thread beyond the fact that all performances were satisfying and not your usual bland cultural cup of tea. That common thread, with perhaps the exception of Ballet BC’s Tilt, is that I saw few young people.
It wasn’t more evident than at last night’s Art Bergmann at the Biltmore.
In the afternoon, if I am driving I listen to CBC 1 on the radio and I cannot understand why the music played between the excellent segments of local commentary on Stephen Quinn’s radio show features stuff that is devoid of passion. It seems like it's indie music (of the Canadian variety) that is designed not to offend or even wake you up from a driving slumber. At its best I find the music efficient. At its worst I find it mediocre.
But then anybody reading this must understand that I am not a music critic and I know nothing of rock and roll.
Last night at the Biltmore I was standing stage centre about 10 inches from Art Bergmann’s microphone. At age 71 I did not find myself overwhelmingly surrounded by much younger people. If anything there were people from my long past whom I did not recognize. They looked really old, perhaps as old as my image in a mirror.
And yet the music, electrifying, was of passion, it contained controversial lyrics, and there was a showcase of excellence in performance (and in particular Stephen Drake’s slide guitar and his whammy bar effects without a whammy bar). The drummer, Adam Drake is the most solid (physically, too) drummer around. Kevin Lucks a sound bassist who brings order and a centre to the band, with drummer Drake, to the potential for over-the-top shenanigans of Art Bergmann. In the few, very few, shenanigans of the evening it was wonderful to watch the cool Stephen Drake and Kevin Lucks playing almost oblivious to the drama of centre stage.
Next to me was a young man, age 25 who knew all the lyrics to Bergmann’s songs. He kept shouting, “We love you Art.” Could this young man be the token young person of the evening or could it be that somehow that young man has been freed from access to radio mediocrity or the 27,000 indie songs out there to be downloaded today and forgotten tomorrow?
Can anybody who has ever attempted to play an electric guitar not have marveled at Stephen Drake’s virtuosity or of Art Bergmann’s (rudely affected by nature with bad arthritis) now spare but still passionate guitar?
The songs and especially two of my faves Marianne and the Hospital Song, had lyrics with intelligent content which at the same time managed to convey a whimsical wonder at being alive even if in constant pain or in the realization that life can have so much disappointment.
There is a catchy smirk in Bergmann’s face who may be shouting at you (but can do it with the appearance that it is a loud whisper) that made me feel so alive. I felt rejuvenated. Since his punk years of the 70s he has mellowed and developed that smirk into what if you notice carefully is a warm smile.
We have been friends since about 1978 and every time I meet up with the man I find a new facet that is always a challenging surprise.
During the sound check, Bergmann shouted, “Alex, Eduardo Galeano.” I shouted back, “Un uruguayo.”
The depth in Bergmann’s lyric has a substance that many of the youth who were not there last night or who found the comfort of a TV den, a laptop or a cell phone might have profited from.
Bergmann cannot possibly be that much of secret, can he? Ballet BC? The Cultch? The Turning Point Ensemble? The Arts Club Theatre?
As Bergmann so prominently wrote with indelible ink on his guitar, “Take back your mind."