As I mentioned, the first two weeks of October in NYC is crazy if you want to take advantage of the great things happening. I attended all five programs for Fall for Dance, six events for the New Yorker Festival the first weekend, and three sites for Open House New York on the second weekend. In-between I managed to fit in two concerts. I’m going to write those up first.
One of my bosses could not use his ticket for Leo Kottke, so he asked if I would like it. I had heard of Kottke and knew he was a great guitarist but little else. But I was very interested in checking him out. I invited Peter to come along with me. We ate dinner on the other side of Canal Street and got to City Winery a bit before 8pm. It was after 8pm when they were just setting up the mics.
Suddenly Kottke walks across the stage and sits down. Someone yelled out, “Nice beard!” And he said that sometimes he does not recognize himself. Then he said he had an amazing driver who got him there just in time for the show. The first song was the soundcheck. (That took me back to the days when I did live sound and many times the artist’s first song was my soundcheck.)
Kottke started with an instrumental on a 12-string acoustic guitar. Like other guitarists I admire, he plays melody and rhythm, although it is not as pronounced the way he does it. A few of the songs had lyrics. He told lots of stories – most of them very funny and most of them making little sense. There were non-sequiturs with long lead-ins into a song that had nothing to do with the song he was about to play. In some ways he reminded me of a more relaxed and agreeable and funny Seasick Steve.
There was a story about drinking Lysol and a friend he had who rode the rails but was difficult to talk with because he drank Lysol. When Kottke asked his friend how he knew which way the train was going, his friend replied that it depended on which way the engine was facing.
He switched back and forth between the six- and 12-string. His style is a mix of blues, jazz, and folk with maybe a bit of classical in there – especially with his style of strumming and picking.
Another story was about how he played trombone in the JHS marching band and he walked into the director’s office one day and saw a guitar and picked it up. The director told him that the guitar is okay but remember that the trombone is your future.
I enjoyed “Julie’s House” a lot but it was fun to see where he would take us with the instrumentals.
He announced that that was the set and now he would like to play the encore. He never got up but we applauded as if he had left the stage and then cheered as if he had returned. He told a story about saxophonist Ronnie Scott, who once said about a gig that he should have stayed in bed because there were more people there. Kottke thanked us for coming out and ended with a lullaby-type, which you know that I think that is an excellent way to end a show.
By Carene Lydia Lopez