September songs

Barbara Manning and friends sing goodbye to summer

Barbara Manning

Barbara Manning

Photo By Tom Angel

Barbara Manning
with ETC Sat., Sept. 27
Downtown Music Revolution

One Perfect Green Blanket is the name of one of Barbara Manning’s solo albums, and that’s what it was, spread out alongside that long curve where The Esplanade ends and downtown begins. The impressive open grassy area in Children’s Park conspired with the twilight to invite these lazy bones to plop down a molded plastic chair and cozy up for an intimate night of beautiful music.

Standing alone on the little makeshift stage that’s been plopped into a corner of the park, with her striking sparkly silver Gretsch electric guitar sending warm, substantial chords across the park in every direction, Barbara Manning belted out her tales of love. Setting the tone was a tune I’d never heard—a sweet story of love at first, the song shifted into murder without a blink. Love stayed sour from there, moving in and out of relationships throughout Manning’s solo set.

Halfway through the evening, local musical couple Christen McClellan Derr and Scott Derr (who make up one-half of the Terminalwasteband as well) casually joined Manning on stage, falling in behind her to man the drums and bass rig that had were waiting there for them, respectively. Manning announced that they were now called ETC, saying, “If DNA gets to have three initials, so do I.”

With a fun, almost jazzy style, Christen’s drums gave the set the lift that would be expected, adding the pop to Manning’s pop songs. And Scott, using the occasional fuzz tone, brought just enough extra melody with the bass to keep things interesting. Despite the tempo push, it was still a Barbara Manning show, and she was still pulling out songs about the pain of love, including one of my favorites, “Scissors” off Lately I Keep Scissors. With Barbara confessing, “Lately I keep scissors/ pattern fabric into shapes/ there’s no thread in the needle/ so the pieces tend to stay that way,” the giddy-up rhythm repeatedly looped back around, always returning to the issue of two straining to be one together.

The years may have dulled the enthusiasm for Manning’s canon of moody pop songs, but for the scattered crowd that showed up on the big lawn, the words were still sharp enough to cut.