Ellis Paul, Wilkes University, June 1 2014

Ellis Paul guesses we didn’t save the LP. Or the 8-track, or the cassingle, or even the CD, as his story about a recently rented car that featured an MP3 port but no CD player will attest. But goddamn it, he’s not giving up an LP (or, in the broader spectrum, non-digital music) without a fight.

Check out the swingin' record player!

Nothing like traveling with a harmonica and a swingin’ record player! I had one kind of like this when I was a kid, but…it also played 78s*. I miss that record player.

*Some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, do you? Add this to the hashtag #whippersnappers.

Not that I can blame him for not giving up the LP…says the girl who has three record players hanging around her house, and regularly has LP-only dance parties in her living room.

Avec l'harmonica!

Avec l’harmonica!

I can’t find a bit of fault for anyone mourning the way the music industry has turned on itself. When everything’s digital, there is no “big picture”. There’s no concept album, there’s no cohesive narrative, there’s no reason to create an album your listeners will play from beginning to end, from the start of Side A to the close of Side B (#whippersnappers, that’s how it was done). There’s not even cool cover art. It’s all short, easily digestible (OK, is debatable) 3-minute bursts of electronica. It’s shortsighted at best, and only provides one tiny sliver of insight into music and humanity and life. For a storyteller…no es bueno.

Storifying us all.

Scoffing in the face of autotune.

See, he said, when everything is digitized and downloadable, there’s nothing to care for. There’s no item that you can hold in your hands, nothing to blow the dust off, no liner notes to read. There’s no fond memories of a tone arm weighted down with a taped-on nickel to ride over the scratches (#whippersnappers).  He did say he’s going to release future recordings on LP, which I will of course be buying. Because it’s vinyl and I can’t help myself.

Speaking of scratches, gearheads, no, you’re not imagining things. There’s duct tape on the guitar. It seems that the appropriately-named (because look at it) guitar, Guinness, had an unfortunate incident during transport, and the airline he was flying on (United, maybe?) cracked it…but of course accepts no responsibility. Saying this guitar has gotten its fair share of dings is an understatement. Maybe there’s a cabal of rogue luthiers trying to boost business by creating unfortunate guitar incidents.  Here’s another picture of it.

Boo boo guitar. Plus rock-star pose.

Boo boo guitar. Plus rock-star pose.

Guinness really is a gorgeous guitar. Want to see it again?

Well, hello, beautiful.

Well, hello, beautiful.

So, Ellis Paul showed up in NEPA and provided a bit of a discourse about the dominance of digitized music. I didn’t expect to have to get all philosophically thinky-like, but there you have it. Inspiration strikes in the oddest places. He did this with a harmonica, a guitar, and a record player for two full hours of storification and musical regalement. And he brought a friend along! Laurie MacAllister from Red Molly stopped in for the least jangly, most soulful rendition of “If I Had a Hammer” that I have ever heard.

Having teh funnies on stage.

Having the private smilies on stage.

All in all, it was a fun evening, though I think I may have set myself up for something. When I went to the merch table (because I’m all cool and in-the-know and say things like “merch”) to get…ummm…merch, I…well, I not only requested (and received!) permission to go on stage and photograph the Official Ellis Paul Touring Record Player….

Record player, with conveniently-placed (not even by me!) non-Guinness acoustic.

Record player, with conveniently-placed (not even by me!) non-Guinness acoustic.

…BUT I decided to toss out a pitch for a song. “Next time you’re in PA,” I began, and he added, “Which is in a few weeks.”

Oh, right. I remembered that as soon as he said it. I mean, he doesn’t normally come back to this area so quickly. But you know? Too late to stop now.

“Next time, would it be possible for you to do “Paris in a Day”? Because I would love that forever.” What I didn’t say is, it would go right next to that little spot in my heart where his 2003, Austin TX, Cactus Cafe performance of “Conversation with a Ghost” lives, and I would blow it kisses and nurture the memory and work it into my mental loop of awesome things that keep me happy. Because it is goddamned “Paris in a Day” and all other arguments are invalid. 

He said, “You know, I was just listening to that song on the way up here today.”

Really? D’oh!  Ahem. So. Looks like I’m going to Bethlehem, because if he does polish up that chestnut and I’m not there? I’m the worst fan ever.

Yeah. See you in a few weeks.

Yes you would be, he seemed to say.

Who’s with me?

I mean, really, if he doesn’t play “Paris…”, the worst that will happen is we’ll see a really good show.

Here’s “Paris in a Day” to play you out. And “Conversation with a Ghost”, for good measure.

Sad but true. And yes, I own this. And it's not an LP.

Sad but true. And yes, I own this. And it’s not an LP.

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