Beguiled in the streets
Not long ago, I might have run out of the room and straight home to the safety of some comfort music, like a pile of vintage Replacements albums. The triggers would have been way too overwhelming—guy with a ponytail: Check. Van Dyke: Check. Muslin shirt: Check. Other guy with a six-string fretless bass: Check. Girl drummer with pigtails: Check.
But love can carry you to strange places, and on this Sunday evening, it took me to It’s All Yoga, a studio next to Espresso Metro just off Freeport Boulevard in Land Park, where Seán Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band, a kirtan trio from New Orleans, were about to launch into a two-hour set of Hindu devotional music.
Kirtan, as the form is called, is sung in Sanskrit, that ancient and sacred language from India. The vibrations from singing in Sanskrit, some believe, have healing properties. And you don’t get to watch passively—the leader sings a line, the audience follows in response.
Which could be problematic, if the voice in my head—a buzzy noise like South Park character Eric Cartman’s—was to be believed. “Dude, it would, like, totally suck if you sang the wrong incantation to some Hindu monkey god and suddenly found yourself in an airport in Atlanta selling flowers to pissed-off travelers in front of Cinnabon,” it hectored.
Although the fear was unwarranted. Johnson, who accompanied his voice with a harmonium—a small organ with hand bellows—would sing a line, and the drummer, Gwendolyn Colman, mirrored the line with her bell-clear voice; the 20 or so people seated across the studio floor would take cues from her. The effect, over time, was pleasantly hypnotic, like riding a series of waves crashing onshore. Even a non-Hindu could find a measure of enjoyment.
For singers, the evening could be viewed as a nice long practice session for the voice. Indeed, one local performer, whose own music is a lot closer to Southern rock than South Asian raga, was there, blissfully singing along.
Of course, it’s good for people to get together and sing, period. And this coming Second Saturday, a bunch of people will be singing on sidewalks around Midtown. The idea is to get a critical mass of buskers, or street performers, to make some noise, so that the music can be captured on video to promote the upcoming Fête de la Musique, which isn’t as pretentious as it sounds—it’s a global night of music, set for June 21, the summer solstice, where performers take to the streets.
Some of them may be familiar to Second Saturday fans. Folkie combos like the Alkali Flats and the Juggs, whose member Darleene is behind the local manifestation of the Fête, typically can be found playing sidewalks once a month. Other acts, such as Art Lessing and the Flower Vato, usually have a gallery gig. Saturday, there should be a lot more. If you’re interested, go to www.sacwiki.org/fete or www.myspace.com/sacfete.
Later the same night, Yuba City native, Nashville transplant and singer-performer-producer Charlie Peacock will return to Sacramento for a rare local gig at the True Love Coffeehouse with David Houston and Adrian Bourgeois. The all-ages show begins at 8 p.m. The cover is $10.