Quantcast
 ed

Van Dyke Parks + Kinky Friedman @ Brisbane Powerhouse, 25.06.11

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Van Dyke Parks & Kinky Friedman @ The Powerhouse

By Justin Edwards

I saw Van Dyke Parks play at the Powerhouse a couple years ago, when he was here for Big Sound and played the upstairs balcony room, a lovely space that I’d never been to before (or since). It was the same day as that year’s Frankly festival and the audience included a very sweaty Peaches, still dressed up in her stage gear and who went upstairs straight after her headlining DJ set. It was an incredible show and you just felt really lucky to have the chance to see one of music’s legends at such a small and intimate show.

Fast forward to early 2011 and it was incredible to see a joint tour featuring Van Dyke Parks and Kinky Friedman announced. I got into the Kinkster through a friend at university who was reading Elvis, Jesus And Coca Cola at the time and told me all about him and his books. Having read almost all (I think there’s one or two left that I haven’t but they’re all back in my parent’s attic in the UK), it was exciting to finally have the chance to see him. For a long time (as obviously this was all pre-Wikipedia), I was never sure if he was actually ‘real’;  I guess I assumed that as he obviously wasn’t a Private Investigator in real life, the rest of it was all made up too; The Texas Jewboys and all the songs he mentions throughout his books.

As well as touring together, it was even more incredible that they were playing a tour of so many smaller towns (including Katooma and Eumundi) and playing small shows in the cities, including two nights at the Visy Theatre at The Powerhouse. The last time I’d been in the Visy Theatre has been for the Pauhaus Festival, way back in 2007. It’s a tiny space, all seated, with the seats on three sides around the stage and with a capacity of about 200 people.  

Van Dyke Parks starts the evening, accompanied by a double-bass player for most of his hour-long set. Spending time with Van Dyke Parks is such an extraordinary way to spend time. It’s not just that the music that he plays is so eclectic; from a version of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ that opens the night, through classical compositions, calypso, and his own songs, including ‘Orange Crate Art’ and ‘The All Golden’ from Song Cycle, but that the between song bits are as, if not more enjoyable and memorable than the music. He just has such a poetic way of talking, every sentence that comes out of his mouth is so carefully composed and thought out and he manages to make the between-song banter into an art form of its own. At one point he repeats his agent’s view of the four stages of Van Dyke Park’s career:

Who is van Dyke Parks?
Get me Van Dyke Parks
Get me a younger Van Dyke Parks
Who is Van Dyke Parks?

Thinking about that afterwards, is there anything that comes close to being a younger Van Dyke Parks working in popular music in the modern age?

Although an interval had been advertised, one doesn’t happen and instead it’s straight into Kinky Friedman. He’s introduced by Van Dyke Parks and appears looking just like the portrait photo on the back of his books; dressed all in black, in a trench coat and with a cowboy hat.

He plays a selection of songs throughout his set, meaning that after having heard about them so many times in his book, I finally get to experience ‘They Ain’t Makin’ Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore’ and hear how the song actually goes. But although he has supported Bob Dylan, I think it’s safe to say that his forte isn’t singing or playing the guitar but his capacity for setting up and delivering one-liners in his between song banter and monologues. Plugging his new book, a book of non-fiction about his heroes, he also does a reading from it towards the end of the evening, a really nice piece about his father who was a navigator during World War 2.

It is a nightmare to photograph. I find myself sat the wrong side for Van Dyke Parks and have a microphone and lamp stand in the way of getting a clear shot for starters, but it’s the quietness of the venue that makes you so self-conscious of the sound of the shutter that means that I take less than 30 photos for the whole evening.  For Van Dyke Parks I only photograph him at the beginning and end of a few of the songs so that I can use the sound of the applause to cover the sound of the shutter.  For Kinky Friedman I don’t really even have that luxury and so only end up only taking six photos of him plus a few at the end of the night when both him and Van Dyke Parks are together on the stage.

I’d made my mind up even before the show that I’d buy Kinky Friedman’s new book, as a memento and get it signed. After the show there’s a queue so big that it’s hard to even get out of the Visy Theatre doors. So I wait around chatting to Time Off‘s photographer, Stephen Booth, while I wait for the queue to go down. Van Dyke Parks comes over for a chat, working the room to talk to people and it’s a fairly surreal experience, although I regret afterwards having not asked about working with Joanna Newsom and his arrangement on U2’s ‘All I Want Is You’. Given that the majority of the audience were grey-haired I’m sure he would have loved to talk about some of his more recent work (at least with Joanna Newsom, it’s been 20 years since that U2 string arrangement) rather than the eight months he spent with Brian Wilson 40 years that he references during his performance. I’ll have to remember next time I see him.

The queue goes down and so I join the back of it. It’s still going slowly, mainly because EVERYONE wants to get a photograph with Kinky. I’m almost at the front when I hear that the woman who’s two people in front of me has bought the last book that they have. That’ll serve me for waiting for the queue to go down rather than making sure I got in there as soon as I came out of the room.  So I leave empty-handed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.