Thursday, March 6, 2008

TVD's Daily Wax | Jeff Buckley "Live at Sin-é"


Despite having grown up on the New Jersey shore and having lived in DC close to 23 years now, I've always been an Anglophile. I'd much sooner grab a NME or Melody Maker off of the newsstand before a Rolling Stone or Spin. And in about 1992 or so, the 'Maker was reveling in a Tim Buckley live set called "Dream Letter" capturing Tim in all his hippyfolkyglory in London in '68. The review was so compelling that I went out and purchased the thing (double cassette, no less) and quickly fell under it's spell. Tim had, as has been widely observed, a magnificent voice. So, it was with some interest when I noted that his son was not only making music himself, but was performing at DC's then somewhat new Black Cat at its first location steps away from my home. So, this February evening, needing a pint and some live music, I slipped around the corner to the Cat and opened the concert door where Jeff Buckley was playing on the tiny back stage, solo. As in many of the pictures from that time, Jeff had the close-cropped hair, the v-neck white t-shirt on (odd for a snowy, blustery, February night) and well, the voice of an angel. I was a little bit late to the proceedings and all of the chairs close to the small stage had been filled - yet there really wasn't a CROWD per se, maybe 35 - 4o people? I was made to sit at the only available space, a big round table toward the back which was decidedly empty then. A few minutes into the set, jaw firmly on the ground, a girl walked in and gestured as if to say, "are any of these seats taken?" I waved "no" and she joined the table with an empty chair between us. Jeff's spiraling through octaves and odd tunings to an enrapt audience and then between songs he sees the lass who has joined my table and invites her up onto the stage. Seems that they had met sometime during the day, discovered some musical kinship, and they were off on a duet which, even if rehearsed, couldn't have sounded any more in sync and lovely. The duet comes to an end and she retakes her seat at the table and I whisper to her how great that was--amazing, etc. Three or four tunes later, Jeff finishes the set to hay-uge applause and only knowing one friendly face in the room, his duet partner, he adjourns to my table and takes the seat between me and her. Now, he wasn't JEFF BUCKLEY at this point, just a quiet, almost shy guy who didn't seem all that thrilled or accustomed to the attention he was suddenly receiving--seemingly in general and for sure right then in that room. I recall some older, hippie-type in his Hawaiian shirt and straw hat saying to Jeff how much he worshipped his father to which Jeff simply replied, "I never knew my father." (Geezer goes silent.) I ended up just shooting the shit there with Jeff for just shy of an hour. I bought him a pint and he returned the favor. I was playing drums at the time and asked if he was looking for a band and he said that he had one--"Grace" was in the can already and at this point Jeff was just picking up gigs here and there. Now, with so much having been said about the guy, what I'm left with from that very brief encounter can only underscore what many others have offered--that he was indeed that sweet, unassuming, yet wildly talented artist we all had the pleasure to watch come into his own, albeit for a shockingly brief time. And Jeff played that room a few more times over the next few years and I was there for every one of them and the scene was quite different...almost a hysteria as he DID ultimately become JEFF BUCKLEY. Yet, I'd prefer to recall the guy who threw on an old overcoat over a sweaty t-shirt, packed up his own guitar, and walked out into that cold, blustery, wintry night alone.

Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah (Mp3)
Jeff Buckley - I Shall Be Released (Mp3)
Jeff Buckley - If You See Her, Say Hello (Mp3)
Jeff Buckley - Sweet Thing (Mp3)
Jeff Buckley - The Way Young Lovers Do (Mp3)
(Tracks 2-4 from the "Live at Sin-é" expanded Legacy Edition)

8 comments:

John Foster said...

Nice recollection. I really enjoy the longer posts (even though I am sure each paragraph is a drag at times - haha.)

Jimbromski said...

Yeah, good story, enjoyed that one.

Davy H said...

*speechless* And you waited this long to tell us that one? Fab x

The Vinyl District said...

'Twas the first Jeff Buckley post!

jack said...

That was a great story. When I went to see Chris Whitley (RIP) at Iota, I had never been there and was shocked to see how small the place was and how close I was to him, because since his first release, to me he was CHRIS WHITLEY. It's hard to remember sometimes that they're people, if you know what I mean.

spikelo said...

I agree with davy h and I have known you longer. Why is this the first time we hear of this story; especially since you turned me on to Grace in the first place.

The Vinyl District said...

It's true - I met Spike when I was three. (37 year ago!)

But Spike - I've been telling this story for years! It's one of the very few "brush with greatness" stories I actually have.

Next up - the time Todd and Noel and I ran over that guy on Essex Road...............

spikelo said...

Oh jeez, if I have to hear the running over the guy story again...that one is going one well over 20 years, but never hear the Buckley one ever. Methinks I am getting the short staff on stories.