Shuttle Diplomacy

Chaise Lounge acted as an emissary between two musical countries last weekend–and the odd and somewhat schizophrenic nature of what we do was brought into sharp focus. On Saturday night, we played at Chris’ Jazz Café in Philadelphia, the jazziest of East Coast Jazz clubs. On Sunday, we played at Godfrey Daniels, a quintessential folk club in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. Jazz and folk: Could Chaise Lounge really find common ground between those two ideologies? At Chris’ we brought a folksinger’s love of storytelling to the coolest cats in Philly. And at Godfrey Daniels, we brought our sharp suits and sharp chops and swung our as*** off for the salt-of-the-earth folksters of Bethlehem. And hooray, it felt like we brought a little bit of peace, love, and understanding to both sides, at a time when our country can use as much peace, love, and understanding as we can get.

Rethinking Christmas carols

Charlie heard his first Christmas carol of the year on the speakers at Home Depot before Thanksgiving. Ugh, he thought. But he is probably like a lot of us…conflicted about these chestnuts. If you examine the traditional carols one by one, they are usually pretty good hymns—well crafted and perfectly seasonal. Too bad we get so sick of them. And yet we need them, and not just to make a living as musicians during the season the public wants to hear them. We need them for how they connect us through the years, both with our younger selves and with carolers who have gone before. This week, Chaise Lounge will perform our annual Christmas show, with tunes from our Christmas album. One song we always play is “Good King Wenceslas.” It is a sci-fi-tale of the Duke of Bohemia in the 13th century, who leaves heated footprints in the snow as he travels on foot to give alms to a peasant. The melody might be Finnish from the 1600’s. The version we usually sing dates from the mid-19th century. What is astonishing to us is how the fiery silver nugget of wonder in this song burns its way through the centuries to have fresh meaning every time it’s sung. That is some powerful Christmas hoodoo. If you’re in the DC area, consider coming to our show at Blues Alley. 

One for the roadie

Sometimes the most valuable player at a gig isn’t even onstage. While we were on tour in Vermont this summer, we were blessed to have a young man, Dyllan, in charge of locating, transporting and setting up our back line for every gig. He was on site before we were, and he had nearly unlimited energy for getting drums, amps and keyboards on stage. After our gig in Greensboro was finished, it was absolutely pouring outside, and we dreaded having to mush through the muck to our cars. But it turned out that wasn’t necessary–Dyllan had already moved all the vehicles that needed to be moved and was quickly striking the set and bounding off the stage, brutally heavy amps in hand. Not once did we have to ask for help. He was a step ahead of us with all the help we needed. We hear he’s a talented bassist, so he may well have roadies of his own soon. Our wish for him is that they’ll have his same great energy and healthy knees.

A flash of inspiration

Corner of High and Blue Youtube ScreenshotYou never know where your next idea will come from. For us, most recently, it came from a set of walking directions and an offhand crack from Pete. Last month, when we played at The Rooster’s Wife in North Carolina, we were honored to be houseguests of the club’s owner, Janet Kenworthy. After sound check, Janet gave us directions to her house: “Walk out this door, turn right on High Street, then walk up to Blue Street and it’s right there.” “OK,” I repeated, “You’re at the corner of High and Blue.” After the perfect pause, Pete said meaningfully, “Man, I’ve been there.

How could this not be the next song in what Marilyn refers to as our “scorned-woman-slumped-over-bar catalog”? When we got home, I put pencil to staff paper and came up with a new song named after the intersection—and the mental state. Here’s a video of us performing it last week at our favorite DC supper club, The Hamilton: “The Corner of High and Blue.”

—Charlie