Not so long ago, in a Saturn rocketing between Ohio and Kentucky, a friend played this music. This woman’s voice cut through the repetition of the dark highway, and my vodka and absinthe induced fatigue with the clarity of a train whistle. She had the voice of bluegrass and rock and roll, like joy in the face of adversity. Her voice sounded like Dolly Parton’s, but soaked in whiskey, dried in cigarette smoke on a rack in the blazing sun, and wrapped in a velvet bag with leather straps. How could that not appeal to the likes of me?
The music became a bit of an obsession for me, until I had discovered all of her work available, and dissected it clinically, and parted it out to the yummy bits I savored the most. I discovered that it was her and her husband, and I became even more enamored. The duo was called Shovels&Rope, and I was hooked. Being a bit of a singer at heart, I can honestly say that, as much as some of us hate the phrase, imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery. I do not intend to go around trying to rip them off, but I can at least say I walk around singing their songs often, and this is a high compliment from me. Very few songs strike me in such a way as to have me singing them in earnest, wholeheartedly, LOUDLY, and a few of theirs do.
So, being the wonderful friend she is, our lovely HumanStench texts me to tell me my treasured Shovels&Rope will be playing a mere 20 or 30 minutes from us, at reasonable cost, at a reasonable time, in a place called Canton. I, of course, squealed like a tween and promptly texted her back to say “Oh hell yeah.” This hosting a parasite thing (also known as pregnancy) really has me down, but a trip to sunny Canton seemed totally do-able, even in my altered state. Also, let me note here, I did this once before, this gestation thing, and it was much easier the first time. 11 years ago I hardly noticed, but now it actually feels like work. *sigh*
This brings me to my topic at hand…Canton. Did you know that there are places all over the United States called Canton? At least 21 states have them. New York has a surplus of Cantons, with 2 of them. Ohio is a possessed of a most-blessed Canton, in that it is home to the Pro-Football Hall of Fame, about which I care little, and many other attractions. Let me list some of them for you: The V-rock Shop (home of glorious gemstones that is open to the public, selling rough, polished, faceted, and all kinds of stones, and this is dear to my heart) The Harry London chocolate factory (absurdly cool, and very, very important to the sanity of thousands, neigh, MILLIONS of Americans addicted to the melty goodness that is chocolate) The McKinley Memorial and Museum (our 25th president; lots of stairs to climb to work off all that chocolate, practice for when the zombies come, and also so that we can pretend for a brief moment we are in that scene from Rocky) and the Blue Water Majesty Museum, where I have not been yet but intend to go soonish. Clearly, Canton Ohio has a few things going for it.
Let me interject my praises of Canton by saying that it has improved, apparently, from the Canton I used to know. I used to spend an unpleasant amount of time there, and it was filthy. Not in the fun way, not in a dirty-hippie way, but in the “get pulled out of a moving car by your throat, by some huge random crackhead” or “A policeman from Canton went bananas and killed his wife, his mama, a neighbor, and his kids” or a “foster mom throws kids out 3rd story window” kind of way. Ok, I exaggerate, but only a smidge. It was mostly just his wife and kids. I think.
Needless to say, I didn’t have much optimism about going to Canton itself, but my love of these musicians was so great, I couldn’t force myself NOT to go. Hence, we went. Me, and H.S., and my sister and kid all piled into her car, and sallied forth. In the car, H.S. put on David Byrne and St.Vincent, and that was pretty cool. We gorged ourselves on candy, as whiskey is not an option at the moment (parasites and all that), and got ourselves juiced up.
We get to the club, a place called The Auricle. Street parking was a fair option, thanks for that Canton. The venue name for some reason had put me in mind of the Neverending Story, and when we walked up, the logo on the sign and on the glass of the door was…a griffin, reminding me all the more of the Neverending Story’s sphinxes, and my warped mind was delighted. Somewhere between the fantastic company, excitement over the music, belly full of candy, luck with parking, good weather, and the childhood movie references, I forgot I was in a city I once feared and despised. I looked around with new eyes.
We walked down the stairs into the club, and hear Cary Ann Hearst singing Boxcar, one of my sister and I’s favorite songs to sing together. The show was fantastic. Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are not only talented musicians, but entertaining people, and an adorable couple. At one point during the show, she mentioned how Ohio had been so welcoming to them ( I was glad to hear it) and that when she found out they were playing in Canton, she was tickled because she had been in another place called Canton in Mississippi.
HumanStench found cake-pops for sale, and (gobless ‘er) she brings me a pumpkin pie pop…holy smokes. I recommend them. Like 6 of them. Do it, I implore you. Cake-pops seemed absurd to me, but I promise you, they were worth eating. We all ventured to the pisser at some point, where we saw one of H.S.’s friend’s band poster…but it was just a close up of the lead singer’s face. At least it wasn’t directly IN the bathroom stall. Bad enough having that guy looming over your shoulder ( he was obviously vamping and trying to look saucy) while your washing your hands. Nice guy in real life, I guess, but a weird sensation, to be sure.
After the show, we went by the merch booth, a place both H.S. and I are all too familiar with, having worked both sides of them many times ourselves, and met Cary Ann Hearst. She was gracious, and funny. Very personable, and didn’t seem to mind that I never meet a stranger (I figure nobody is stranger than me) and that I just figure everyone wants to know me. She signed my daughter’s arm, let me hug her like we were old friends, (bit of a fan-girl moment really) and took pictures with us. I can’t wait to see them again.
The point here, I think, is that we should all go into things without preconceived notions, even when they are founded in your own personal history. Cesar Milan would be pleased, I think, with my living in the moment, and not the past. My excitement about the show trumped my previous crappy experiences in Canton. We did not get mugged. Our car was not towed. I got to spend an evening with 3 of my most beloved ladies, watching live performers that I (also) adore. Ran into an old friend from high school. Got told by both her and the singer I idolize that I looked young (a most welcome comment in my current state.) The backache and swollen feet were well worth the effort. C is for cookie, and that’s good enough for me. Thank you Canton, HumanStench, Court, Nel, and Shovels&Rope for the good time.