Show Review: A Radio Silence Tribute to Buddy Holly at Public Works, 6/16/13

by Dakin Hardwick on June 18, 2013

Thao Nguyen & Eleaner Friedberger

Thao Nguyen & Eleaner Friedberger All Photos by Michelle Viray

Radio Silence is a local based magazine that discusses pop culture, music and literature. Imagine if Paste and The New Yorker fused together into one megamagazine. This magazine is so cool that Neko Case even serves on the board of directors! They also occasionally book live events, and as a special treat for Father’s Day, we were treated to an evening in tribute to Buddy Holly. The guests that they invited? Legendary music journalist Greil Marcus, as well as musicians Thao Nguyen, Eleanor Friedberger, and Van Pierszalowski. All to talk about one of the most influential musicians of the last 60 years.

The evening began with Fiery Furnaces’ vocalist Eleanor Friedberger along on stage with an acoustic guitar, performing a beautiful and faithful rendition of “Dearest,” a spare acoustic number that was given new life by the 2007 hit comedy Juno.  She then left the stage, and Greil Marcus walked on stage, along with Radio Silence Editor in Chief Dan Stone. Stone engaged Marcus in a 30 minutes conversation about Holly and his career and legacy. Marcus was engaging and insightful. We learned some amazing facts about Holly: He was a smoker, but tried to hide it. His manager, Norman Petty, wasn’t playing Holly, or his band The Crickets any royalties at the time he went on the ill fated winter tour that led to his passing.

Greil Marcus

Greil Marcus

The majority of his time was spend discussing a chapter from a book that he is working on, which has the working title of The History Of Rock n Roll in 10 Songs.  Instead of selecting one of Holly’s more famous songs, he opted to a song that wasn’t released until after Holly passed away. He recorded many demos in his apartment and, after he passed away, his label opted to fill out those demos with orchestration. The song became a hit in the UK, but never released as a single in the US. It was, however, one of the songs that The Beatles used to audition for Decca Records. Which, although the band eas rejected by Decca, it did lead to an audition with Parlophone, and in turn, helped rewrite rock music as we know it. Sure, one would never have expected that based on The Beatles recording of the song in the late 60’s that was played for the crowd.

Thao Nguyen

Thao Nguyen

After our talk, we got three sets of music. The first one was by Thao Nguyen. So professed to not really knowing Holly’s work that well. That was, until she started exploring his work, and she realized how much of Holly’s work was ingrained within her. She opened her set with an impressive take on “It’s Too Late.” She was only accompanied by her own electric guitar for this number, and she pulled out a rockabilly guitar solo that was mind blowing. She was also very warm and engaging with the crowd. She also played 3 songs off her latest record, We The Common. She also pulled out a banjo for a couple of songs, playing with the same skill and passion as her guitar playing.

Setlist:

It’s Too Late

Hold Me

Holy Roller

We The Common (For Valerie Bolden)

Van & Marta

Van & Marta

Next up was a performance by Van Pierszalowski. I was entirely unfamiliar with his work. I was aware of his bands Port O Brien and WATERS in name only, and knew nothing about their music. I was quite surprised by his set. He was accompanied by a woman named Marta on harmony vocals, and did a brilliantly high energy set of folk music. He emulated Holly’s vocal style, complete with the subtle “hiccups” that he’d sneak in for a magnificent version of Holly’s “Heartbeat.” As is the format of the evening, he did three songs from his own catalog. The most impressive was his set closer, an audience participation number called “I Woke Up Today,” that required the audience to scream. We screamed nicely, and kept a steady rhythm going, too. It was an excellent set, and it prompted me to check out some of his other work.

Setlist:

Heartbeat

A Country

Mickey Mantle

I Woke Up Today

Eleanor Friedberger

Eleanor Friedberger

The final set was from Eleanor Friederger. I’m quite used to the disjointed weirdness of her main band, The Fiery Furnaces. I also have enjoyed the pop punk of her solo work. I’m used to her hiding behind some wall of feedback of noise in some way. Tonight, it was just her and her acoustic guitar. And, yes, she seemed a bit shy. But when she spoke of Holly, it was with a very pure joy and fandom. Which made me sad when she didn’t pull out another Holly number. Instead, she did an excellent set of bubbly songs from her solo records, and opted not to re-arrange any Fiery Furnaces works for this format. Her voice is warm and pleasant, and her songs have a warmth to them that seem to only enhance the bit of her sarcastic and witty lyrics.

Setlist

When I Knew I Was Wrong

Other Boys

I’ll Never Be Happy Again

Stare At The Sun

Of course, no all star tribute is complete without a big all star jam at the end. So Nguyen and Pierszalowsk returned to the stage for a lively rendition of “Not Fade Away.” It was a fitting end for a fun evening that was the perfect music nerd outing.

The poster from Buddy Holly's final concert

The poster from Buddy Holly’s final concert

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