The Midwestern Musical Idiom

So, the Permanent Date and I went to see Grant Hart at the Horseshoe Tavern the other night. A late show on a sleety Monday, the crowd attracted was the same 85 superannuated hardcore fanboys (And 6-10 WAGS of same, oneself included) that might be expected on a balmy Saturday afternoon. The gentleman has his audience. It is small, and nerdy, but it is his. Sporting an elegant and flattering John Waters-esque ‘stache, Mr. Hart played a set that spanned his entire career, giving many generous gestures of antique Husker Du songs to his devoted, though wee in number, following.

(Once upon a time, when I had a regular show on the University of Toronto’s radio station, my announcement of “Coming up, a brand-new track by Grant Hart” stimulated the most call-in’s I’d ever had. If I hadn’t known yet that I was a Bitter Old Punk Boy magnet, well, dammit, I knew then. By the way, the lovely little song, “Barbara”, that I’d go my mitts on? He played it at this show.)

The thing is, I kept wishing that the longtime fans would shut up and let the man play some new songs. Mr. Hart is that rare songwriter who improves dramatically with age. His more recent numbers, like the lovely cabaret songs referencing Milton, or Echo and Narcissus, were far more impressive to me (Admittedly, I am a decade or more out of his PUNK ROCK GOD! radius,) than the stripped down versions of early-eighties semi-hits that his solo, though very aptly wielded, guitar would allow.

It was that rare “nostalgia show” that left me eager, not for reminiscences of times past, but for a copy of the artist’s new album. Really, though, Mr. Hart should tour with a band. A more melodic and less devotee oriented set might inspire an awful lot of new fans. Oneself included, again.

P.S. Dig this YouTube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vefkvjcjNj8, during which a young, tie-dyed Mr. Hart addresses Joan Rivers as he might a boozed-up friend of his grandmamma, “Yes, ma’am, this is the goofy job I do.”

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