Saturday, January 23, 2010

Student, Teacher, and Fan

Since becoming a "professional" musician, how I experience a live concert has forever changed. It is no longer simply an open, joyful absorption of sound that formed my musical being as a youth, but, rather, I now process the experience (in varying degrees and order) as a consummate student, teacher, and fan. For better or for worse, this is how it all goes down, and, ultimately, all three elements mix together, funneling down into the big pot of professional development, and, hopefully, inspiration.

As a lifelong student of music, I analyze a performance and try to learn something new - a technique, a lick, a compositional concept, a joke, etc. A guitar concert can be especially fruitful given that is my primary medium. Depending on the performer, you can also learn what NOT to do as well. Then, student becomes teacher. I try to extract examples to reinforce a topic, clarify an idea, or gain a new historical or musical perspective to incorporate and pass on to my students. As a fan, I find a moment to lay back, listen, and enjoy.

So, it is from these perspectives that I offer you my thoughts on the Dakota Dave Hull show which took place at the Riverview Cafe in Minneapolis, January 16th, 2010:

Dakota Dave Hull is a self described 'Guitarist. Producer. Old Fart.' I chuckle every time I read that on his Facebook page. A longtime local musical fixture, he is an absolute joy to watch; a model of good taste and musicality. All contemporary finger-style guitarists need to see this guy as there are too many lessons to be listed here. His playing incorporates very subtle, internal pyrotechnics, that have a huge impact. As a player, I can tell you that pulling off such musical effects is way more difficult than speed and technical facility. It is something that can only be developed from years and years of practice. He tells a great story with his playing, with every note that he plays, and is always following a catchy, sometimes profound, sometimes whimsical melody. The performance was a veritable guitar/roots music history seminar as well (albeit a very entertaining one). Over the course of the evening Dave played 5 different guitars: two National baritone guitars (tuned down to low B), a custom Hoffman piccolo guitar (tuned up an octave above standard tuning), a jumbo 6 string, and a standard National Reso-Phonic guitar. The musical ground he covered began somewhere in the 1800's moved through the 20th century and landed in the present. He played tunes of or inspired by: Tin Pan Alley, Stephen Foster, Ragtime, Cakewalks, Gospel, Joseph Spence, Irish Fiddle Tunes, as well as his own compositions that were a happy blend of some or one or ALL of these genres. He is a throwback, one of the most direct links to the traditions of American music for sure and through his work and performance over the years, he has become an important historical figure unto himself. This is meat and potatoes music, it is substantial, the base, and, who doesn't love meat and potatoes? Dakota Dave demonstrates that old time is a great time and still very relevant.

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