Last Night: Dock Rock 2009

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Lori Goldston rocking Lake Union
Erik Neumann's annual dock show (full disclosure: he writes for us on occasion) is one of those magical events that you feel privileged to experience -- the fact that it's an invite-only affair adds to the feeling of intimacy. We departed from the Center for Wooden Boats on a giant, wooden floating dock equipped with generator, speakers and projector. A tugboat about a quarter of the size of the dock pulled us veeerrrrry slowly across Lake Union near Gasworks Park so that we could listen to the music while drifting back toward the Center. While we listened, other boats -- big boats, little boats, kayaks -- sidled up alongside, and our dock was aligned in such a way that the musicians were performing with the city skyline behind them.

Lori Goldston, a cellist who's accompanied Mirah and most notoriously, with Nirvana on MTV Unplugged, stared the show with a somewhat short performance of her original work: brooding, sludgy, metal compositions. Seriously. Metal. As she hit her first loud note, a giant black barge that rumbled across behind her, clinching the sinister atmosphere.

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get photos of the other musicians who were there -- kora player Kane Mathis and Kristian Garrard, who is one half of the band Thousands -- because it was too damn dark and I didn't want to use a flash and startle someone into falling off the dock. We were already wearing sweaters (well, those of us smart enough not to forget them in the car, anyway.) It was too bad, because Garrard got up there with his guitar and sang some really lovely songs, but I was most impressed by his adroit fingers. It was really friggin' cold out there and he was fingerpicking double time like we were at Telluride, or something.

Afterward, Kane Mathis got up there with his kora, a West African instrument -- Mathis has been studying the instrument for twelve years now, and regularly travels to Gambia for instruction -- that looks sort of like a banjo mated with a harp. It's got a long narrow neck and round body like a banjo, but it's got 22 strings (and, logically, 22 tuning pegs, 11 per side) and the strings extend out vertically, like a harp, and are very close together. I am pretty sure last night was the first time I've ever heard one played live.

Stefan Gruber, an artist, closed the evening out with a few really amusing animated films and a cartoon slide show, which we watched on a sheet tossed over the speakers we were using. His films were whimsical, adorable little landscapes of cute monsters and ducks that look like rabbits, but one of the funniest parts of the evening was one in which he just played a slide show of his comics and narrated them himself. Gruber's part of the Slide Rule Comic Strip Sideshow Players, which is basically a group of people who display their comics as a slide show and narrate them in order to reach a larger audience than you might by distributing a 'zine. Trust me -- you want to check these people out. Either way, last night proved one thing: Lake Union is definitely the best venue in Seattle. Too bad it's not possible to use it more than once a year....yet.

 
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