Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mike and Ruthy at the Calvin

It's such a treat to see friends doing well, growing, and getting new opportunities and making the most of them. We just got to see our friends Mike and Ruthy come through Northampton, to open for Billy Bragg. Mike and Ruthy wrote and performed the music for Kitchen Hamlet, and you can hear some of it in the trailer. (They actually are also both in the movie, as the Player Queen and the Third Player.)

Mike and Ruthy met Billy Bragg in May, when they played at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday concert. Mike played and sang "Union Maid" ( a song with one of my favorite lines, about "the goons and the ginks and the company finks") with Billy, and they struck up a friendship, and before you know it, here were Mike and Ruthy as the opening act at the Calvin.

We hung out with them some beforehand, and helped watch Will, their 1 1/2 year old, during the show. (We also hung out during sound check, and Billy Bragg brought our son out on stage with him to hear how everything sounded.) The visit was fun, we had a terrific dinner at Thai Garden, and it was lovely to catch up (& finally give them a copy of the movie). Most of all, though, it was amazing to hear them play.

Mike and Ruthy have certainly played big spaces with their band the Mammals, and supporting Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Arlo Guthrie, and others, as well as at Carnegie Hall for the Pete Seeger birthday show. Still, hearing the two of them fill the space at the Calvin was different. And they did fill the space. Their sound translated so well from the smaller houses we've seen them in, and it made me want them to have more chances to fill up big rooms like this. Their harmonies have never been more gorgeous, the guitar rang out, Ruthy's fiddle lines floated through the theatre.

At the sound check, even they seemed struck--not by the space itself, but by their sound it. When they actually performed, they were ready, and they made full use of the space, adjusting their set list, and I think their sound. An audience that had come to hear Billy Bragg gave them its full attention, and a wonderful ovation at the end of the set. I heard the final songs from backstage, with Will in a stroller, while Adele and Eli watched from the audience.

If you want to hear Mike and Ruthy, you can check out the schedule on their site. We're hoping to go hear them at the Montague Book Mill on August 21st. It's a much smaller space, but they'll still sound beautiful. In the mean time, I'm hoping they keep growing and keep making new music, and I'm hoping a future full of spaces both small and big for them, and for all of our friends out there making art of every kind.



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