July 3rd, 2011
(c) Hilary HarrisI was excited. I boarded the ferry out to Bainbridge Island. I took a picture of the Seattle skyline as the boat got a little ways out. I uploaded it to Facebook and commented on it. “Taking the ferry out to Bainbridge Island to see Star Anna at the Treehouse Cafe.” I’d met Star before, and Justin Davis (guitar) and Travis Yost (drums), but that was for Wine, Women, and Song so I hadn’t seen them play their own material. It was a night of firsts thus. First ferry ride. First Star Anna show. First time walking for miles and miles on the island.
I’d planned badly, you see.
I caught the 6:20 ferry to get to Bainbridge by 6:55. There’d be ample time thus to get to the Treehouse before 8:00 when the show was supposed to start. I got off the ferry and walked to the bus stop, but I noticed no one else did. People walked. People got in cars. They did not linger at the bus stop. It was only me, and so I waited alone. Around 7:15, I figured the bus that the bus schedule said would be waiting for me would not, in fact, be waiting for me or anyone. I looked at a map of the island and plotted my course to walk to the bar. I had 45 minutes, and judging by the map, The Treehouse was only a few inches away. No problem. So I took off walking, and I walked and walked and walked, and at 7:55 in the middle of no where, I figured my calculations of a few inches might have been off by more than a few inches. Some cars passed. I willed them to stop, but they didn’t. They kept driving. I kept walking and walking and finally at 8:20, covered in sweat, shoulder aching from the laptop I carried, right knee aching because it thinks I’m 61 rather than 41, I saw it, the Treehouse Cafe. I wondered how many songs I’d missed.
I entered the Treehouse and flashed my ID. It was checked against the guest list, and I was in. Thankfully, Star had remembered to put my name down, and luckily, the show was only just starting. I stood by the sound man and ordered a beer as Star and Justin began the show with a couple acoustic tunes. I was still sweating, but I had a beer in hand. I’d gotten my exercise for the week. The music was beginning. Things were looking up.
For the uninitiated, I will start by saying Star has an incredible voice. There’s no other way to describe it. It literally is passion embodied, and well, the songs are good too. When I’d met her and the other guys, I’d asked a favor, “Can you play ‘Spinning My Wheels’ and ‘Running Man’ at the Treehouse show?” “Sure. We even practice those tunes.” And ten songs into the set, there it was, a little feedback intro, the first A minor chord, and like an excited little kid, I wrote in my notebook, “Spinning My Wheels!!!” I even underlined the exclamation points.
“It comforts me some that three beers suffice, It’s unnerving to think that ten more would be nice…” I drank to that as I could identify. I’ve been to that place where heartache is soothed by one more beer, and one more, and one more … Maybe we’ve all been there. It’s one of the later lines that really gets me though, “Too many lifetimes and not enough years … too many lifetimes and not enough years.” Who hasn’t felt such at times? It echoes a sentiment right out of my book. How many lifetimes in the course of one, but in this one there is never enough time. Plenty of beer though, and there’s nothing like music and melody and the sung phrase to capture a sentiment. We listen to songs again and again and again, and one more time, much more so than we read the same books or poems again. Music gives shape and meaning to things in a way no other art form can. And Star sang. And I drank. And my heart ached for the lifetimes and the lack of years and all the beers consumed to somehow even that equation.
“Too many lifetimes and not enough years.”
And later, there was my other request, “Running Man”. I love that tune. It’s so open and sparse at the beginning, just those three notes on the bass, C, E, A, and then an F for good measure, but it builds and builds and something like six minutes later Star is almost agonizing as she sings over and over, “Don’t you know I’m a running man … Don’t you know I’m a running man. … Don’t you know I’m a running man …” Simply awesome. And unlike the video below, Star didn’t play guitar in “Running Man”. She just sang. She had her right arm across her stomach, her left curled in so that her fingers clung to the collar of her shirt. It seemed she was squeezing herself in an effort to wring a little something extra from somewhere deep inside. And she succeeded in that.
After the show, Justin was good enough to give me a ride back to the ferry and then to my car once across the water. On the way to the ferry terminal, I thanked him for playing my two requests, told him they were my two favorites. “No, problem,” he replied, “I love playing those, especially ‘Running Man’ since the end just goes and goes and jams.” Indeed it does. It is no three minute pop song. It has everything good music should have. Heart. Soul. Passion. And length. When done right, I want that refrain to go on indefinitely. And these guys know how to do it right. They don’t play a forty-five minute set that leaves one wanting more. They play for two hours. They exhaust themselves and the audience, and yet, everyone in a fifty mile radius still wants more when it’s over. It was so at the Treehouse. There were many shouts at the end.
The closer for the show was the title track off the new CD, “Alone in this Together.” It had all the requisite heartache and power, and the voice. Mike McCreedy played some of the guitar on the recorded version, and the recorded version is very cool. It will be released on July 12 though, and on that night, you can hear the live version at Easy Street Records in West Seattle, the live version that even without Mike McCreedy stomps all over the recorded version. You can stream the recorded version here…
…but really, you need to experience it live on July 12th.
I’m going back to Bainbridge Island this weekend, but I’ll plan it better. I’ll go early. I’ll take the Jetta across on the ferry. I’ll drive to the Treehouse. I’ll listen to the new Star Anna CD on the way there and back. I’ll sing along.
“And we’re all alone … in this.”
I’ll memorize the words. I’ll hit the back button again and again to repeat the song again and again as I’ve become one of those who will stay until then end and then shout, “One more!”
Star Anna CD Release show: East Street Records, West Seattle. July 12th. 7:00
Photo by Hilary Harris