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August 28, 2007

Deer Park’s pride, Garrett’s quest, metal with a message

Friday, Aug. 31Will GarrisonSinger-songwriter Will Garrison makes a sort-of hometown return appearance this weekend. Never heard of him? Let’s hear what some of our best singer-songwriters say about him:“Absolutely the best songwriter who ever lived in the Deer Park neighborhood and high, high in the running for best from this city ever. Seriously.” —Joe Manning“His music strikes me as independent among independents — at once removed from fashion, and plugged in to a vast, peculiarly American cultural landscape.” —Joe O’Connell of Elephant MicahI asked the man himself to address some important issues:LEO: Do you consider yourself to be a Louisvillian?WG: Well, I moved around a lot growing up. So I guess I’ve never really associated myself with any one place geographically. There is something special for me about Louisville, though. It’s where I spent my earliest and arguably most formidable years artistically.LEO: What are some things you like about Louisville?WG: It’s a humble place. It has a sharp wit and uses that to keep itself as unpretentious as possible. People in Louisville know they have something special, but they’d never make a person feel small for it. Oh, and I like that everyone enjoys drinking.LEO: You’re touring with The Absent Arch, also from Minneapolis. What do you like about them?WG: They’re willing to throw everything they’ve got into this. I’ve found that to be something that’s really hard to find. To me, their sound is sort of how it would sound if John Prine was fronting Calexico, and they had a really solid jazz drummer. But they aren’t defined by their sound. They want to go all over the place, always trying to go farther and reinvent themselves.LEO: We’re having a huge heat wave. Do you wish you were in Minneapolis this month?WG: All of us are just happy about being on the road. No matter the weather, we’re really excited about Louisville. I’ll be able to see some family and friends that I haven’t seen in too long, show the guys some great guitars, and get a chance to play with The Commonwealth.The Commonwealth is one of my favorite bands. (Bandleader) Daniel (Duncan) has been a friend of mine for, I guess, seven or eight years now. His style of writing has always inspired me and stuck melodies in my head.LEO: How would you describe your music to, say, a friend’s mother?WG: We’re trying our best on an acoustic guitar and a cello.LEO: Will you have the cello guy with you?WG: Yes, absolutely. His name is James Waldo. He and I come from such different directions. His classical background has left him unfamiliar with music that has been highly influential to me, and allows him to bring a variety of musical ideas separate from my own self-imposed limitations. James doesn’t think in verse-chorus-verse or in traditional song structures. So we have a lot to learn from each other, and we’re both so excited to learn.Will Garrison and friends play an all-ages show at 8 p.m. at the 930 Listening Room (930 Mary St., 635-7053) in Germantown, on Friday. Tickets are $5.Thursday, Aug. 30To those who say jazz has died off in a sea of neo-traditionalism, smooth jazz and an empty pool of new approaches, we say don’t forget Kenny Garrett. The saxophonist, a still youthful protégé of Miles Davis, performs at the Jazz Factory (815 W. Market St., 992-3242) on Thursday, at 7 and 9 p.m.Kenny GarrettGarrett’s most recent album, the year-old Beyond the Wall (Nonesuch Records), was inspired by time spent in China. The spiritually-fueled Detroit native has explored music in Asia before, but remains rooted in American sounds. The recording boasts an outstanding band, featuring drummer Brian Blade (Joni Mitchell), bassist Robert Hurst (Wynton Marsalis) and pianist Mulgrew Miller (The Tony Williams Quintet), as well as guests from, well, beyond the aforementioned wall.Tickets will go fast for this special event, so go on! Tickets are $25.Sunday, Sept. 2Political awareness communes with symphonic black metal for Cthonic, (pronounced THON-ick). The Taiwanese group has been called Asia’s answer to Black Sabbath.At a recent Ozzfest show, Freddy Lim stopped the onslaught to remind whoever was listening that his home country is being shafted by the United Nations. The least of these transgressions? Unlike most so-called “developed” countries, Taiwan does not receive assistance from aid groups like the World Health Organization. “It’s not fair to Taiwanese citizens,” Lim tells LEO.Under the dirge-like riffs and maudlin, black-and-white makeup is material that draws upon more than 500 years of mythology and folklore to create music that’s nationalistic — and not in a bad way — in theme and substance.“So many classical stories have been told in this country,” Lim explains. “We appreciate tragedy much more than comedy. In China, all the classic stories have a happy ending.”CthonicOn record, Cthonic shares more in common with the kind of avant-garde metal groups like Sunn O)))) or Boris. Lim says this makes for an elongated storytelling, but that is a necessity.“Our kind of music is much more complicated. It needs a whole album to describe a concept, and that concept must be a big story or on a big scale, like mythology. We like ghost stories, horror movies, we like ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘Lord of the Rings,’ all kinds of fantasy.”Since arriving in the states, Cthonic’s music has touched at least one fan, a Taiwanese student in Seattle, who discussed Taiwan’s fight for greater recognition on the world stage in a social sciences class.The rest of the time, the band has experienced one lesson in American culture after another. Like girls flashing their breasts at shows. “Some of the girls are crazy; fans fight with each other, moshing, bodysurfing, it’s quite different than the fans in Asia. In Asia, even if they don’t appreciate the music, they don’t boo, they stand there, they are polite. But here, so far so good.”Cthonic plays Sunday at Uncle Pleasant’s (2126 S. Preston St., 634-4147). Doors at 7 p.m. $10. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com