Vance Gilbert

It’s still April, and I’ve kept my monthly trend for enjoying music via house concerts. This month I had the good fortune to experience Vance Gilbert’s music for the first time.

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I really enjoyed Vance’s show. I got the impression that Vance embodies the “living daringly” lifestyle almost as soon as I walked in the door. As I was putting my beet hummus on the pot luck table, Susan (a Lunazoot host) introduced me to Vance. Vance almost immediately called me out for having a sun burn. We barely had time to say “How do you do?” and some how something similar to: “How old are you? You should know better…” came out of his mouth. I explained that I had been picking blueberries the previous day (truth) and hadn’t been thinking about the sun. He dropped the topic of the sunburn and proceeded to tell me how stunning my heart tattoo was, so apparently I was forgiven… Smile How does this fit into living daringly? I really appreciate his openness and honesty. Somehow his mini-attack on my sunburn made me feel immediately at home around him.

His honesty extended into his show. In between songs he tackled the following topics, and more, all with great humor: racial stereotypes, age stereotypes, gender stereotypes, death, divorce, engineering stereotypes, relationship stereotypes, airplanes. Then as he played more of his songs, it was obvious they were filled with vulnerability (or they made me feel vulnerable, at least). Early in his set he played a song titled “Goodbye Pluto” that is both about Pluto losing its planetary status, and about goodbyes in general. The nerd in me loves this song, and the part of me that has said one too many goodbyes feels a little sad.

 Then there was his happy divorce song: Out the Way We Came In. This one had me weeping and laughing in turns, and sometimes at the same time, in the back row. It’s about a woman and a man who were married 26 years and got dressed up in their finest to end their marriage the way they entered into it. It wasn’t a sad song, per se, but it evoked regret in me. I certainly wish my marriage had ended the way Vance described it in the song, but since it didn’t the song brought up a lot of sadness for me. But it also brought laughter. Once upon a time I wouldn’t have been able to make the connection between laughter and tears in association with my divorce. I’m glad that I’m able to both laugh and cry with more grace nowadays… Both are important.

Vance noticed me crying in the back row, and he brought it up while I was waiting in the bathroom line during intermission. (FYI-this is a most convenient place to have someone bring up your crying episode when you were trying to be discreet while it was occurring.). Most people like to avoid the topic of other people’s crying, so I thought it was interesting that he brought it up at all. But I’m glad he saw me, and I’m glad he brought it up in such a public setting. I was able to tell him why his song affected me the way it did, and that I cry during most house shows I attend (also truth). He joked that he didn’t feel special anymore knowing that I cry at all of the house shows I go to. I replied that he should be more offended if I didn’t cry, because that would mean that his songs didn’t go as deep. Others were listening to our conversation, and there was no judgment about my tears. They seemed to get it. And I’ve been to enough shows to know that I’m not the only one crying by the end of the second set… So, again, I appreciate his honest and openness in confronting things. It was an interesting conversation.

Vance had another divorce song that resonated with me: Unfamiliar Moon. He said that this was a song that wrote itself. A good friend of his left the house so that her soon-to-be-ex-husband could come get his things. As she walked up her stairs that first time after he emptied the house, everything was new. I moved out of my house upon my ex’s and my separation, so I got a more direct feeling of everything being new, but I know what his friend was feeling.

Vance showed part of his sense of humor when he admitted wanting to get someone more famous to sing “Unfamiliar Moon:” perhaps Aaron Neville. I have to admit that I didn’t recognize the name while Vance was talking about him. I could only assume that he was some new singer that I was unfamiliar with, since I don’t really keep up with pop culture. Turns out I am a bit familiar with his work from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. So apparently Vance and I are on the same pop culture timeline… Smile


I can’t say that hearing Aaron Neville’s high notes makes me want to pop out a kid, nor Vance’s for that matter, but I think Aaron would do a fine job singing Vance’s “Unfamiliar Moon.” And I hope Vance starts to reap the mailbox money, because he certainly deserves it.

Vance’s sense of humor showed through in so many of his stories, and with his banter with the crowd. He joked with the old folks. He joked with the black folks. He joked with the white folks. He joked with the folks whose heritage was more muddled. He joked about my blog. He joked about babies. He joked about himself. He made nerdy jokes and jokes about jazz. He previously toured with George Carlin, so when he talked about giving up the music thing and just doing comedy, I believe he could do it. During last night’s show, without singing a word he could have had us all laughing in our seats for both sets.

But I’m glad that he did sing and share his music with us. Without the songs, there would be no place for laughter mingled with the tears, and that would be a tragic thing to lose.

Go see Vance Gilbert wherever he may be playing. He is insanely talented in multiple ways (perhaps with a *slight* emphasis on the insane), and he’s a really interesting guy.

Support independent music. Go to house concerts and listening rooms. Huzzah!

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