Syd Straw’s boobs are bigger than ever. Brian Eno has an enormous penis. And there aren’t any hippies left in Woodstock. These were just a few of the topics of conversation Saturday night at the Bearsville Theater.
“I am really worried about the lack of hippies in your town,” Straw opined, amidst a mountain of similarly non-sequitur statements.
By her own admission, she “sang like bacon” and bemoaned her flagrant yet funky sex appeal.
“I feel like someone’s uncle,” she said, exasperated, at one point.
Straw actually does sing, it just takes her awhile to get around to it. That’s why her shows are rare, and it’s why it takes her over two hours to get through a dozen songs.
But what happens between the songs – the bacon and the boobs and the fingerless “these are stupid” gloves – is every bit as entertaining. Just ask Henry, Syd’s dog, who sat onstage for most of the show.
Each February, Straw steps out of her Vermont burrow for a few “Heartwreck” gigs, showcasing Valentine songs of angst, loneliness and depression in that shimmering Olive Oyl-meets-Emmylou Harris voice. She surrounds herself with magnificent musicians, and Saturday’s cadre was an indie rock hallelujah featuring guitarists Dave Schramm and Don Piper; bassist/ukulele man Little Red Tiny Baby; drummer Konrad Meissner; violinist Hahn Rowe; cellist Jane Scarpantoni; and clarinetist Doug Wieselman.
The show opened with Neil Young’s “Birds,” fluttering through the Woodstock air like heartache taking flight. She could have stopped there, and we all would have stayed in love until we died. But she moved on. Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “This Guy’s In Love with You,” with soprano ukulele as the driving force; Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” with passion; and Ronnie Lane and Pete Townshend’s “Heart To Hang On To.”
Syd Straw sings Ronnie Lane. Be still my heart and Brian Eno’s, um…bacon.
The ever-inscrutable Richard Buckner, now living in Kingston, opened the show with a single brick dense knot of songs segued together. One never knows which aspect of Buckner’s multiple-lack-of-personalities will surface at any given time, but as long as he sings in that cavernous, vagabond voice all is well.
A little e-bow didn’t hurt.
He returned late in the evening, shaggier than Syd’s dog with his cheesemaker’s beard and street Jesus locks, for an unexpected encore run at Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Straw held the henscratched lyrics up on a tiny slip of paper, making it surreal and super at the same time. Like that was a surprise.
Like the rest of the show it was fat and greasy and crunchy and good.
Syd Straw. Bacon. Mmmmmm.
The whole pork rind circus moves to Brooklyn’s Southpaw at 8pm tonight (Monday). Admission is $20.
Review by Bokonon