Jan 27, 2012

Willy Porter and the Mealies at Old Town School of Folk on 1/27/12

I had not seen Willy Porter in several years and view him as one of the singer songwriters that never got the acclaim he deserves. He is also someone that I "grew up with" during my formative years in Chicago. He performed at many festivals and venues during his (and my) more youthful years in Chicago. He is now a Milwaukee, Wisconsin native and is happy to mock the Chicago (Bears) and Wisconsin (Packers) rivalry (is there one?). Tonight I volunteered to usher at the show at OTS, taking the opportunity to revisit my past and the special spot in my heart for the soulful heartfelt sound of Willy Porter. The song "Moonbeam" posted here really reveals Willy's typical warm and soulful vocals and his rapid fire agility on guitar. His guitar playing virtuosity is unparalleled (but I have trouble with bar chords still).

Willy performed with Carpe Diem, a string quartet consisting of Charles Wetherbee (violin), John Ewing (violin), Korine Fujiwara (viola), and Kristin Ostling (cello). His recent reinvention of Willy Porter + Carpe Diem = The Mealies, worked fabulously. This new collaboration allowed Willy (his name was often heard in the crowd with affection as they cheered him on - thus I am not referring to him as "Porter") to rework some of his earlier songs and invent new ones with enhanced beauty and flourish. Their latest release "Live at BoMA" is lovely and worth a listen. I personally splurged the $15 so that the money would land directly in their pockets but I believe you can download the CD for about $7. The crowd tonight was of mixed ages and filled less than half of the theater. It is a mystery why Willy's following is not stronger as it should be. Lesser musicians have more. If I only had the answers.

Willy played a 20 minute solo set followed by a short set by Carpe Diem (demonstrating their talent as a quartet sans vocals) and the show ended with a set with "The Mealies" (defined above). Combined, Willy's vocals were more muted but the music was mesmerizing. If you are a fan of string instruments (think Andrew Bird) morphing from classical to rock and bluegrass beats, you too will be sold. The set ended with a revamped "Mealies" version of "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel. If OTS would have allowed video, this one was the one to capture. This version was fantastic and better than the original (however iconic it is). Acoustics, as always at Old Town, were perfect. The show gets a 5 out of 5 guitar rating. For more check out the Mealies website.

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