this week’s download is “easy baby”– recorded from the stage of club passim, cambridge MA on 7 december, 1997 and broadcast live on boston’s WERS. it’s part of “small deviant things, vol.1 1997-99”, my handmade archival series.
in exactly a week, i’ll be heading over to boston to do a radio appearance on WERS and play a gig at club passim as part of the Anniversary tour. i feel incredibly lucky that my first time on the famous passim stage was broadcast live and documented for posterity. i can guarantee that on that cold sunday afternoon in 1997 i was not imagining what it would be like to play at passim 12 years later, i was just thrilled for the gig.
at the time, i was in my sophomore year of college in providence. i’d been seriously playing out for about 2 years. i’d made my first demo cassette (anybody out there have a copy?), and i was running my career myself. i spent a lot of time sending out packages and calling folks asking for gigs. passim was like the promised land; it was a real venue in a real city. i’d just played my first real new york gig at the postcrypt, was a regular already at northampton’s fire and water, but i hadn’t cracked boston or the venerable passim. i couldn’t even get my calls returned.
sunday afternoons, passim did a writers-in-the-round showcase and ERS broadcast it live. as i remember it, an old friend of mine, the songwriter andrew calhoun, called and mentioned that another artist (i’ve since forgotten who) had cancelled at the last minute. could i get up to passim in time to take her place in the round?
i remember being so concerned about whether i “belonged” in this historic home of folk music that i made a joke about it onstage. i wondered whether using my wah-pedal was sacrilege in that space. i was definitely overcompensating to prove i belonged no matter how adventurous my sound, because i actually hate wah-pedals and cant remember ever using one again.
so i slipped in through passim’s back door, literally and figuratively. in the years since, i have played numerous times on the campfire weekends and have settled into a yearly visit of 2 or 3 or 4 shows. not counting the times i have sat in with friends, it’s added up to many many appearances on that tiny stage.
right alongside the iron horse in northampton, the tin angel in philly, and cafe du nord in san francisco, passim has been the site of some pretty incredible moments for me. i’ve debuted songs there, completely flopped there, gotten standing ovations, and been surprised by what’s come out of my mouth (anyone remember my dream about theo epstein?). bringing “distillation” back to a stage where it was first welcomed is going to be a real treat.