“She’s More to Be Pitied Than Censured.”

September 17, 2007

Scrap and I played in Santa Fe on Saturday. It was another rough one. I’ve been blaming humidity for my tuning problems–it’s been a season of so-so shows–but I think my 1978 Gibson, my newest guitar, the apple of my eye, has some kind of problem. The G string goes wildly out of tune, unpredictably, at inopportune moments.
I used to bring my guitars to Susan at Ludlow St. guitars, and she’s great, but she’s left and I don’t know where she’s at. I gotta get this dialed before Scrap and I tour in November.
We did two shows in one day in New Mexico. The first place we played was an amphitheatre on the grounds of an Indian school, designed by Paolo Soleri. It was beautiful, but I don’t know how functional it was. He’s a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright.
He’s building a proto-Utopian town in the Arizona desert called Arcosanti.
The other show in Santa Fe was IN A MALL. Seriously. We were the featured draw for a contest giving away a limo-conveyed VIP concert excursion, and a pink Vespa ‘Buddy’ scooter. We played under big pink WIN A BUDDY! banners.
I’m in Chicago for a day–not playing, just hanging–and I might go to the big library to photocopy some sheet music for songs from the 1890s. I went there a couple of years back and photocopied some of the oddball, creepy selections, like “My Dad’s the Engineer” (about a train going through a burning forest, and the engineer’s daughters implorements for faith), “She’s More to Be Pitied Than Censured” (fallen Bowery showgirl), and “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” (a song much weirder than I expected; a fiancee is stolen, and the trapezist forces her to join her act and makes her “take a mannish name”–?!).
I chickened out on photocopying some minstrel songs, which were in the same folio, and were fascinating and scary. Songs like “Run N____r Run.” Weird songs about all the happy n____rs in N____rtown doing n_____r dances and eating n____r delicacies. Very shocking, especially for their blithe jollity. I recommend reading John Strausbaugh’s Black Like You for a history of Bowery minstrelsy.
I’d love to do something with these songs, but I don’t know what. An art installation?