The Prairie In Madtown
Saturday evening I had the pleasure of heading down to the Overture Center to see A Prairie Home Companion
. I'd never been to a live performance before nor seen the fateful attempt by Disney to put it on television so it was to be a real treat.
At stage left was a street sign and in the center was a prairie home. There were folks seated onstage at either side as well as on the porch of the house. Before the show went live, Garrison Keillor led the audience in a few stanzas of "America the Beautiful." He then brought out the lovely Wailin' Jennys
to sing their national anthem, "O Canada". And, just before hitting the air, Keillor had us sing "Working on the Railroad" for his young daughter, who was in attendance.
He then went into a monologue on how nice Madison is:Madison, Wisconsin. It's a town of extremely nice people. Runners (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS, PANTING: On your left. FOOTSTEPS PASS. Thank you! ) You step off a curb and cars come to a stop. (BRAKE SCREECHES TO A HALT — Tom Keith (OFF): After you, sir!) At the coffee shop they always give you an extra shot. (ESPRESSO MACHINE) The biggest Unitarian church in the country is right here in Madison and they are nothing but kind and tolerant — whatever your faith journey may be, they are all for it, just so long as it doesn't involve talking in a loud voice or jumping around with your hands up in the air. It's a city of literate people. The homeless people tend to be former graduate students who realized that if they got their Ph.Ds they'd have to go someplace not as nice as Madison so there they are panhandling on the street (JINGLING CHANGE IN PAPER CUP)— but in a very non-intrusive way—
It ends with high school kids sacrificing their prom so that the money could go to "help old geezers who need prostate surgery". Thus was born "Proms for Prostates". Guy Noir found himself near Dodgeville (a town near Madison) ordering pants from Lands End, which is located in Dodgeville and a sponsor of the show. He was doing community service for having been caught speeding so he was assigned to milk cows for a local farmer.
The Wailin' Jennys performed several times and, besides being beautiful, they had fantastic voices.
Also on hand were fiddle players John Niemann...
...and Ben Sanders. Ben is from Milwaukee and is the reigning Wisconsin State Fiddle Champion.
I was happy to find that Aly Bain
was going to be on the program. I knew that he'd played on Onkel Fish's album, Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors
but wasn't very familiar with his work despite the fact that he's a legendary fiddle player. He was joined by Ale Möller on mandola and they did a few numbers. Ale really got fired up!
A Swedish band, Totta's Bluesband
was also supposed to have been on the show but they had a run-in with the INS at the border and apparently were not able to obtain a visa which would allow them to play before a paying audience. Ergo, Keillor had them come on after the show had ended. And of course I stayed late for to see them. They did pretty good versions of Howlin' Wolf and Elmore James tunes as well as a rockin' take on Bob Dylan's "I Wanna Be Your Lover". A lot of fun.
There was a skit about 2 UW students at their graduation ceremony - a man and woman. They flirt and find they have a lot in common. The guy finally invites the woman back to his place. All is going well until she finds out that he's originally from Minnesota. Now, for us Cheeseheads, this was humorous but I wonder how many people outside of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois found this to be funny. Do other states have animosity like there is between Wisconin & Minnesota and Wisconsin & Illinois? I never heard folks in Lousiana trash-talking people from Arkansas. When I lived in Chicago, I don't recall Chicagoans bad-mouthing Indiana. Surely some sociologist has an explanation for such behavior.