A few weeks ago I went to Harrisburg for a concert. The show was held in this really cool venue, the Midtown Scholar Bookstore. Midtown (duh), right across from the Broad Street Market, and six levels of space jam-packed with used books for your delight and edification.
Yes, that’s right. I said six. It’s big. And it’s roomy and groovy, an old movie theater that burnt down and was converted into a store of some kind that closed down in (I think) the ‘70s. And stayed closed until the Papenfuses took it over and turned it into a cultural mecca. Books, art, coffee, and live music. Local peeps looking to play in the Harrisburg area (or non-local peeps looking to play in the Harrisburg area), check them out. And bring extra money, because you’re going to want to pick up a book you never expected to see. Anyway.
So I went to Midtown Scholar not just to feast my eyes upon its loveliness, but to see Ellis Paul. In the last thirteen or fourteen years I’ve probably seen Ellis (who now, like Beyonce, only requires a first name…at least that’s how it is in my world) somewhere around twenty-ish times. I’d never heard of him when I first saw him in college; he opened for John Wesley Harding and I thought, OK, I’ll give the newbie a listen.
I’ve gone on mini-Ellis-tour in Texas (and met a bunch of other people doing exactly the same thing). I’ve traveled through thunderstorms and snow, driven seven hours in a day, and planned trips around when he’ll be in a particular area. It’s not just that he’s a skilled singer-songwriter who’s also a charming storyteller, it’s that his lyrics capture the motion of our daily lives, and whether you’re in the nerve-wracking insecurity of a new relationship (Maria’s Beautiful Mess) or wondering where to find a cocktail and a friendly welcome during a voyage of self-discovery (Alice’s Champagne Palace) or just need to recognize a pivotal, life-altering moment in your life (The Day After Everything Changed), he figures out a way to do it. Gracefully. Poetically. With open tunings. For a while I always brought someone new to an Ellis show with me, as though it were my mission. My sister even got involved in such, bringing my mother to an Ellis show.
He asked me once if I was secretly on his payroll, as I brought in a stream of new listeners. Sorry, man. It’s just for the love of the game. And GOD AS MY WITNESS, do NOT respond with “Freebird” if he asks for any requests. It won’t end well for you, as he has the mike and an axe to grind. I’ve already taken the heat for this for you. Trust me. Some day, I’ll ‘splain.
People, just because I like you, I’m embedding “Hurricane Angel”. Bring tissues, and you’re welcome.
He’s got a big voice, big features, big gestures. I had no idea how one guy + one guitar could = compelling stage performance, but I’ve seen it done again and again. And his thoughtful, well-crafted of lyrics have become the background music for—of all things—Farrelly Brothers movies, starting with “Me, Myself and Irene” (his breakthrough song for them, “The World Ain’t Slowing Down”, was the romantic theme in the movie) and going straight through to “Hall Pass”.
If you YouTube “The World Ain’t Slowing Down”, you’ll come across loads and loads of covers. My personal favorite is by the Greenock Zombie, who doesn’t cover it so much as lip-synchs. In a zombie mask. Behold!
Any so. If you’re looking for things to do, and Ellis is in the area, believe me. His shows are so worth a $20 cover charge and a couple of hours of your time. Bring your mother. Trust me, she’ll love it.
As for why it’s re-running the pictures of the book store and Ellis and my mother…I do not know. When I understand this better, I will fix.