Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Joseph Arthur at the 2nd Annual SongFest

                                                                   I learned about Joseph Arthur because of Chuck Prophet.

I’ve been nagging K. and T. to get Chuck for the Safety Harbor Music Fest. They are the dynamic-duo-plus-one (hey, Heather!) that brought us the first Annual Music Festival. And now this is the SECOND one. I see a pattern here. 

Anyway, just because my kid knows the Prophetmeister, doesn’t mean I have any influence at all.  On the other hand, Todd only has to show up at any concert and his magic grabs them. Musicians tell their handlers to find a way to schedule them for a SHAMc gig. I think it’s a Swedish thing.

I also think Todd was politely getting me off his back when he said he saw an artist named Joseph Arthur who had recently toured with Prophet. Todd asked him to play at this year’s
festival. The Arthur people booked him. (See, I TOLD you…)

My interest was piqued. I Googled and You-tubed the guy. It constantly surprises me just how much GREAT talent is out there.  I mean, really talented vocalists, writers, and musicians with so much charisma and so much to say in their music, are not as well-known as they should be. These artists, in my opinion, are better than, or at least equal to, the over-played pop stars of the commercial world. It’s a shame there aren’t more music festivals, car commercials, TV dramas, or late night talk shows to put these talents out there and cause people to say, “Who is that? Screw the car, what is that song in the background? I want more of that!”

And so we get to see Joseph Arthur, a veteran of the Letterman show, and actually has quite a
large following. He’s also a fellow Buckeye hailing from Akron, Ohio. Ohio produces superb
talent. We’re awesome people. [Here is a shameless shout out to Canfield.]

And this guy is a visual artist as well.  His paintings sorta remind me of Picasso or Keith Haring, but still feel original, colorful, and fun. He’ll be painting and performing live at Syd Entel Gallery for our SongFest Kickoff Party on the Friday night before the festival, the 27th of March from 6 to 8 p.m. His paintings have been to Berlin, Singapore, SXSW … and now Safety Harbor! Can you stand it?

According to my virtual stalking, he was discovered by Peter Gabriel. That’s a name we know,right? Although, I’m not sure how a person is discovered if they’re already here. Just sayin'.

If you type Joseph Arthur's name in Pandora, you’ll  find that he’s been grouped with bands like The Shins, Iron and Wine, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Weepies. When I read bios for these bands they all mention Leonard Cohen as an influence, as does Arthur. I sometimes worry about the deification of Cohen, but his writing is so impeccable and carefully  thought-out, that he will never be over-stated. I actually prefer to hear renditions of his work by other artists, because they seem to become new over and over again.

Arthur writes his songs impeccably, too. He tells stories. He finds new ways to describe
ordinary experiences, inner struggles. Some of his songs are presented like poetry, similar to
the talking style of Patty Smith or Bob Dylan. Travel as equals or not at all. He mentions God a
lot, and themes of redemption. His visual acumen comes through in his performances. See
Currency of Love. He’s good to watch. His band is good to watch. And when songs grab us
visually, they become visceral.

He took on a daunting project in writing a tribute to Robin Williams. Who can properly honor
such a soul as his without running the danger of trivializing it? Joseph Arthur managed it well. 
Venues like the Second Annual Safety Harbor Music Festival, an inspiration of The Safety
Harbor Art and Music Center, bring these talented musicians to our community so that people
who don’t necessarily listen to Community radio, or get to go to many concerts; can experience
imaginative and varied styles of music packed in to two days. Music should be a feast from
savory to sweet. Out on the sloping lawn by the water, with friends around, is one of the best
ways bathe in it, breathe it, move to it, or eat a taco and drink a beer to it. The music will float
on the breeze and through open windows. Joseph Arthur will be the soundtrack to your splendid evening. 

He’ll take the waterfront stage on Saturday evening, March 28th. For a list of all the bands or solo
artists, and a rundown of where and when they can be enjoyed, click here. 

See you at this and all the other SongFest events!
- Deb Klein

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