(Excuse all the table talk but this is how I heard the music that night … my stepson Drew’s 38th birthday with his beautiful wife Kelly. Getting us out for live music for the first time in a long tine in the Covid era)
I watched the Grammy Awards this year. Saw Billie Eilish and Cardi Bi. A lot of other stuff that represents what is supposed to be the leading music of our culture at this point in time. And now, a few days after the Grammys, it’s St. Patrick’s Day and we’re at Natalies in Worthington listening to an Irish Trio called the Kels. The contrast between the music I heard on the Grammys and tonight might offer a lesson for others. It certainly offered a lesson for me.
One wonders that if in that grand “unseen” scheme of things, there’s a reason St.Patricks Day comes a few days after the Grammy Awards. Is it to shock Americans into seeing a contrast? St. Patrick’s Day celebrates a tradition many Americans come from while the Grammys celebrates everything new and non-traditional in America. Much of the nation seems divided along these lines. The huge political divide today seems genearational in one sense and ideological in another. Other terms such as liberal and conservative have been applied to these two perspectives on the world but tonight, at Natalies Wood Fired Pizza in Worthington, Ohio, on St. Patrick’s Day, listening to the famous Irish trio called The Kels, I realize that Irish music has so much more power and meaning to me than the stuff I heard at the Grammys a few days ago.
I come from a perspective that music can provide a true spiritual power to the listener. It has for me but I’m not trying to beat my experience with music into the heads of readers. It’s simply the way it has been for me. So much so that I wrote a book on the life of John Coltrane. I’m just saying that this is the effect the music can have and has had on me. There’s a lot of noise to filter out to determine what is the true and powerful sound that relates to you today. Again, this is something I ask myself and don’t try to preach to others. Similar in some ways to the way images attack us each day like mad starlings.
Here, not an attack of images. Rather, an attack of sounds. Particularly, organized sounds into rhythms, melodies and tonal environments. These organizations called songs and music. And variations such as jazz and hip hop and rock and country.
One of the ways to learn in these crazy times is not through more information. Rather, it is through the juxtapostion of information. One event that is out of place on the expected linear track of expectation and really perception of the world. We all are influenced by the linear march of events from similar events to other similar events. We proceed along, influenced by the cycles of similar events in our lives. Certainly, the similar events in the area of sounds in our life. In the area of the music of our life.
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No one ever discusses the idea that life might just possess a type of music to it. Or at least, the lives of individuals. Think of it for a second: how important is music to your life? For many it is a nice, distracting entertainment. This is fine. For some, it offers a profession of creating and/or playing it. For some, it offers something different. A type of power that animates so many things in their lives. Not necessarily a direct power of direct light but more of a radiance of light coming now upon some object but rather from within it.
Hearing the Kels Irish Trio at Natalie’s Wood Fired Pizza on St. Patrick’s Day reconfirmed something important in my life and renewed my direction. I’m thankful for this. The power of music. It basically juxtaposed the power of Irish music to the leading winners of the Grammys today. Listening to the music of the Kels tonight at Natalies in Worthington, our table maybe 30 feet from the stage, I listen to two hours of some of the most powerful music I’ve recently heard. The contrast is even greater when powerful Irish music is placed against a recent sound event like the Grammy Awards. A battle between musical tradition and newness. Music preferences seem to play themselves out in a political medium or context hiden from most.
So obvious tonight that Irish music needs to be at the forefront of any national music of traditional, patriots of the nation. Whoever this group is. Whether a few thousand scattered around the nation to millions everywhere. In fact, perhaps establishing a music and even theme song might be as important as some leading character in a screenplay today. Perhaps they should be the context for the content of leading characters in screenplays and bibles today. Music as the context of the story content. The medium is the message.
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Hardly no one ever suggests music might be the true source of a new spiritual power to modern man. At least not out loud to the media if they are celebrities.
Yet it might be the way forward as a unifying force in culture, it seems to me. I feel all the more certain about this after hearing the breathtaking performance of the Kels at Natalies Wood Fired Pizzas. The two locations of the restaurant have brought some of the top musical talent to Columbus, Ohio for a few years now. Their star only rising as being a top, small musical venue in Columbus in the era of Covid and everything. Its on High Street at the northern line of Clintonville and the sourthern line of Worthington, which they’re (barely) in.
Perhaps more than anything else, the real purpose of St. Patrick’s Day following so close behind the Grammy Awards is to show us the contrast between the old and new music of America. The English have their monarchy. Americans have their music. Particularly, their Irish music. So many elements of this music pull together so many traits of Americans. One of the central features of much Irish music is the drone sound. In some ways, the sound of trhe bagpipes. Yet the idea of a drone sound behind so much Irish music. It is not a wandering, butterfly type sound. But rather a heavy, substantial one that is not about to move. It stands up behind the comings and goings of all the lesser sounds today. The comings and goings of annual awards programs like the Grammys. Awards for the leading current music if the time.
I faithfully listen to the entire Grammy show and even read up a little about it. I even do a blog on Billie Eilish on my Midnight Oil site. I have great repect for some of the leading people in music. Yet so much is show. Modern Grammy winners involve the process of separating the show from the art in musical artists. Sometimes, the synergy and synthesis between the two impossible to disern. Then, I buy tickets for a presentation of the Irish trio the Kels on St. Patricks Day for my step-son’s birthday. Much more needs to be said but right now I can say that the future of America might be within a particular music as much as a particular narrative. Perhaps the two are one and the same though.
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Perhaps, more than anything else, its purpose is to offer a traditional symbol in contrast to a non-traditional symbol America expresses in its music. The contrasting music and leaders of Grammys is one general form focused on the present and future that combine a number of music genres into the yearly Grammy Awards. In spite of its declining audience ratings, it still serves as a type of “sound” symbol of what the present American music industry wants things to look.
At the end of the day (as the popular cliche says) the music from the 2021 Grammys are placed against the music of the Kels in my mind tonight listening to the Kels. I’m recording parts of their music with Filmic Pro on my iPhone using a Rode MicroMini microphone. Thirty feet back from the stage and everyone talking at our table, I think it still sounds pretty good and the 4K footage is good for simply capturing it without any adjustments. I was mainly testing sound and this came out in a fantastic way. It shows footage from the night at Natalies.
On the other hand, the music of the brother and sister team of Finneas and his younger sister Billie Eilish stands out from the Grammys as music the most free from corporate production takeover of it. After all, they recorded a few award-winning albums in the bedroom of their parent’s home in the Highland Park area of Pasadena. There is a connection between the two in my mind: the music of the Kels and that of a Grammy winner.
There is the strong drone influence of the Kels in their presenation of powerful Irish tones and modes of music. The drone in the background should be a call to all out there today. To gather together. Come together. In this world of social distancing.
It ia interesting that I am at a situation right now where I still have freedom to both create and follow a particular trajectory in life.
2 thoughts on “The Kels / St. Patricks Day / 2021”
Subjective Award Shows are such phony and baseless PR events to me that I’m unable to take their outcomes even semi-seriously. It’s impossible to compare something against nothingness (zero).
As ever John, you study the contrasts in our present culture –
the one that seems so artificially created/ and forced on people as a political and commercial agenda –
and the other that just flows out of American spirit and tradition.
I loved the Kels sound – an endless soul spirit that takes over a body and tugs at ancient memories we forgot we had.
Thanks for sharing this treasure.