December 29, 2002
by Allen Salyer
Missy Gibson (ex-Strange Bedfellows, vocalist for L.A. bands Breech and Nellie Bly), Paul Einhaus (of the Winonas), and Dave Boutette (ex-Junk Monkeys) came together post-Christmas for the best show of the year. That's the kind of pronouncement that is meaningless in January but has great significance just days before year's end.
I received a postcard in the mail announcing a very special holiday performance (one night only). Missy Gibson was home in Detroit for the holidays and managed to pull together a show at Xhedos Cafe. Xhedos has a wonderful dining room feel as the smell of chocolate permeates throughout. I thought it hilarious the way the lights would dim when the cappachino machine ran.
Opening the show was Dave Boutette carrying an acoustic guitar, a voice and a great sense of humor. Boutette is one of those singer/songwriters with fun life stories to pass along. He opened with a lively tune, "Casual Thing," that lead to another song about relationships. "I've been caught with candy in my mouth but I've never been caught with you." The next song was about rock and rollers who grow up, get jobs, get married, have children and give up music for the adult life. Now they are older and have more money, they can finally afford better gear and still have their chops. "How Long Since They Broke Up The Band?" is a song dedicated to them, The Old Dogs. "Patriot Song" was written for a peace group out of Ann Arbor. I loved the lyrics: "Tell the masters of the presses we are still waiting for the whole story." It's about being a good citizen in these troubling times of fear with threats from both outside (terrorism) and inside (the government).
Boutette was telling us his experiences at songwriters camp. Each musician was given a subject to write a song about. He was assigned the task to write a song honoring aging Italian-American rockers. He flashed back on his own memory in which he hung out in front of the home of Aerosmith's Steve Tyler's father. Steve is Italian, his father, Mr. Tylerico, lived in a tract house in Florida. Boutette watched Tyler's dad watch Tom Brokaw on the television set through the front window. He ran into the subdivision security guard, a grey-haired old lady in tennis shorts, who told him that Steve visits once a year and confided in a whisper that Steve's "a very ugly man."
My favorite song had to be "Garage Sale," written by the Saline- based Bridge Club from their CD "Music To Clean House By." It's a lively song about the joys of weekend garage sale-ing: tupperware, glassware, old toys and other "goofy stuff from other people's lives." He sang "Cow Girls Rash Roundup," written by Frank Allison, an ex-rocker who retired to Manchester, Michigan to buy a theater and show independent and foreign films. Boutette wrapped up with a spicy, extended version of "Making Whoopie" based on a Ray Charles version he loved and turned it into a long, shaggy dog story.
After Dave Boutette, we were treated to the premiere showing of Breech's first video for the song "Easybake" shown on a quaint old pushbutton Sony television. Presenting the video was the director Barrett Tripp himself. Gibson went to high school with him and met him again in Los Angeles. The video showed Gibson as a child and an adult with some nice animation by Kevin Quigley. The video captures the underlying evil undertone of the song, those kinda creepy child abduction references.
Paul Einhaus of the Winonas appeared on stage initially as a solo act, just he and his cherry red Fender Telecaster guitar. "I don't know about Missy, But I think it's weird playing when it's still light outside," Enhaus declared. Looking outside I can see the "Filipino Stick Fighting" lettering across the street. He started with a nice '60s-based pop tune, "You're The Cure For What I Got." Next was the very Eddie Cochran sounding "Keystone State," a song about touring the factory towns of Pennsylvania followed by "I'm Just A Snake Coiled In A Jar" with its great imagery.
Missy Gibson joined Einhaus on stage at this point. I couldn't help but notice her demented-bunny T-shirt and those huge black and white Oxford shoes that look like something Minnie Mouse might wear. Starting with "It Was Summer," Einhaus had the lead vocal duty while Gibson sang backup; nice harmonies about a hot summer long ago. "That's my favorite song," Gibson confided. Sometimes I sing it in the shower but not as well as Paul." Einhaus played a moody guitar strum as Missy sang "Curtains" with the slightest Country/Western twang in her voice. "I'm not a willow, but a switch. I'm always hurting the ones who I love best." It's a very emotional song with footstomp percussion.
Next was a group of songs Gibson co-wrote with Breech guitarist Mike Flanagan in a project they called Nellie Bly. These songs were slow and empathetic, intensified by the intimate performance provided by such a small performance space. Gibson asked, "do I seem nervous? I am so nervous. I don't know why. I guess if I say it enough I'll stop being nervous." Could it be nerves from playing for a hometown crowd? They played some older Breech songs like "Charms" followed by the best of Nellie Bly, "Uncheckered Life." Gibson, microphone in hand, leaves the stage and walks around the audience singing as Einhaus softly exhales the word "breathe." It's as if she's confessing her sins to each one of us individually.
The last set of songs came from the new Breech full-length CD "Apron Strings." "Splinters" is a song about false friends and plastic people, something she must encounter in Los Angeles. "I only know you as a lie." "Lilywhite" is a song that contains my favorite lyric off the CD: "I fastened you to my weak bones. Without you I may break." She sang the title song, "Apron Strings," then a Christmas medley. "If you sing Christmas songs after Christmas you know you really mean it," Gibson reflects. She sang "O Holy Night," one of the few Christmas songs I actually like as there is a touch of drama to the tune folowing with the most amazing Hanukkah song sung in Hebrew. Simply add a clarinet and Gibson could start her own Klezmer band.
No one wanted her to stop and begged for more, but Paul and she had nothing else prepared. She then looked up with an enlightened gaze and said "I know," closing with an a capella gospel-like song, "This Is My Body." She performed it without instruments or a microphone, just her and her voice, slowly walking around the room with everyone transfixed on her. Such talent displayed. When she finished, there was a long respectful silence as everyone absorbed all the emotion she poured out and then thundering applause. What a magnificent ending.
Afterwards I talked briefly to Paul Einhaus to ask much time he spent learning the Breech and Nellie Bly songs. "It took a couple of weeks" and they rehearsed a few times together when Gibson finally hit town. I complimented him on how good they sounded together and he thought he could have done better. I appreciate a musician who is on a consistent course of improvement. Near the entrance Missy Gibson was keeping up her "Betty Rocker" image she cultivated in L.A. by selling Breech spatulas and aprons. I read on Brenda Kahn's Womanrock website (www.womanrock.com) that Breech hold bake sales to raise funds to record and release their CDs. Gibson is driving back to Los Angeles in her dad's old Buick. Now how perfect is that? She plans to hit various cities on her way home to perform in, taking the long way home via the Southern states. Ah, the rock and roll life.
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