I’ve always been a little curious about Louisville, Kentucky due to two of its residents: on the relatively famous end of the spectrum, Louisville is the home to the singer Will Oldham of Bonnie Prince Billy and Palace Music, and on the less famous end (unless you count multiple appearances on the Yokoji blog), Louisville is the current residence of Lex Hanu Latkovski, a friend from Zen-land. Hanu happened to be out of town but generously left us a key to his apartment and an open invitation to stay. We were in need of a few days to catch up on emails, blogs and work so we jumped at the chance.
Since our main plan was to hang out in the house and enjoy a couple of days of not traveling and catching up, we didn’t see a whole lot of Louisville. What we did see, we liked, though. Our usual pattern on arriving in a new town is to Google “[name of town] vegan food” to see what comes up. This time, the most promising offering was a vegan food truck making classic southern dishes, run by an award-winning chef. We caught up with the truck at a farmers market, but were disappointed. We ordered chicken and waffles and BBQ loaded mac and cheese. The chicken was under-cooked seitan (wheat protein) and the mac and cheese tasted more like pasta with ketchup. The “bacon” was coconut flakes. This is kind of the inverse of our experience in Nashville: high hopes dashed upon the mediocre tastes on offer. Oh well.
Hanu lives just off of Bardstown Road, a long street lined with bars, restaurants and funky little stores. It was a perfect hang out for us, although we didn’t really do more than walk up and down it a couple of times.
Another Google search we hit up in a new town is “[name of town] live music”. This turned up quite a bit in Louisville, although sadly, no Bonny Prince Billy. St. Vincent were playing downtown and the tickets were $30 per person. It’s been a while since I went to a proper (as in expensive) music show, and I listen to St. Vincent a fair bit. Melissa was game, too, so we went for it. It turned out to be $60 very well spent.
The show was in the Brown Theatre, a beautiful old theatre in the heart of downtown. We had seats up in the gallery right at the back, but due to the relatively low capacity of the venue, they were still great seats. The opening act was Sarah Neufeld, the violin player with Arcade Fire. She casually walked on stage at 8pm promptly, picked up her violin and started to play. It was experimental classical, I guess. Some passages had the energy and virtuosity of Vivaldi and some had the cerebral quality and rhythm of Philip Glass. After the opening, she was joined by a drummer / synth-dude and they continued to make some bizarre but inspired sounds for another 20-30 minutes.
St. Vincent were mind blowing. I’ve listened to their records, but didn’t know much about them. The singer, Annie Clark, turned out to be an amazing performer. She had the kind of futuristic, slightly sinister sexiness of Daryl Hannah’s cyborg in Blade Runner, and the diminutive physicality and eccentric stage presence of Prince, or the artist-formerly-known-as. Annie Clark and the female guitarist / keyboard player unleashed a set of strange and unexpected robotic dance moves. The first was a alternating teetering back to front shuffle in time with the strobing lights which lent them the qualities of a mechanical ballerina. Various synchronized head turns and esoteric arm gestures were intertwined with rock guitar-goddess poses. Annie is an amazing guitarist, using effects pedals to create a varied soundscape from traditional lead solos to weird harmonics and walls of melodic feedback. The lighting and the powerful sound system made the show an experience that was hard not to be swallowed up by. Sometimes I find live music a little disappointing, but St. Vincent were so good live—better even then on record—they have reignited my interest to spend a bit more money to see big name bands in the flesh.