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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Another Day in My Kingdom

So, did you happen to catch Bonnie "Prince" Billy (a.k.a. Will Oldham) at the Ballroom last night? Chances are you didn't, since the room was only about 1/3 full. And that's too bad, 'cuz you missed a good one.

Bonnie "Prince" BillyTypically, this would be the part of the blog post where I chastise the hipster elite for bitching about the dearth of indie music at Higher Ground and then not showing up when Crothers and Co. deliver the goods. But I'm not gonna do that. Actually, the relatively sparse crowd — we probably could have fit almost as comfortably in the Showcase Lounge — was sorta nice. Plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy a pint or three without being jostled. And the folks who were there were there to listen. Well, mostly. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the three buttoned-down dudes standing in front of me, rocking out with some seriously sick air drumming. But even they seemed to be intently listening, albeit in their own amusingly awkward way. And why not? Mr. Will Oldham puts on one hell of a show.

I've been a fan of Oldham and his various character turns (Palace, Palace Bros., etc.) for a while now. But until last night I had yet to catch him live. As such, I never fully realized that to truly appreciate the man and his music, you need to experience him in person. As wonderful as his voluminous canon is, his many splendored idiosyncrasies simply don't resonate as powerfully on record as they do when he's standing in front of you.

Oldham is one sly, often subversive motherfucker — as evidenced by the giddy goofiness of his Buffett-ized version of "Just to See My Holly Home." And while you can get a sense of his subtle quirkiness simply by paying attention to his sneaky turns of phrase, catching the crooked raise of an eyebrow on "I Am Goodbye," or the faint hint of a smirk on "A King at Night" adds an element of intrigue to his music you might miss otherwise. Or, as my seemingly tickled girlfriend (a.k.a. "Plus One") remarked following the latter tune, "Bonnie Prince Billy is kinda dirty!" That he is. But he approaches the rather, um, sticky matters of sex and sexuality with a sort of naif-ish whimsy that feels anything but. For example, his gender-bending duet with fiddler Cheyenne Mize (of Louisville freakgrass outfit Arnett Hollow) on "The Girl in Me." As you can see in the video below, the song is provocative, funny and oddly sweet. Kind of a microcosm of the whole show, really.



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