February 8, 2015

A White weekend: Five year anniversary

Wish me a happy anniversary, it's been five years since my first White weekend. Between that and a bunch of recent shows, this be-log's been a little inundated by Jack White the last couple of days (weeks, months, whatever).  Might need to take a break and try to write about other things for a while, even I'm beginning to need a little relief from the addiction (just a very little).  But before I do that, I'm gonna reminisce over how it all began and then draw a parallel.  

So it's been five years since my epiphany but, really, it's been longer than that since I first began trying to get into Jack's music.  I heard of the White Stripes on the message board for another band I was into at the time, where people were discussing the Stripes' tour of Canada for Icky Thump.  The crazy b-shows they were playing struck my fancy and I began paying attention to conversation about the band.  But I didn't go looking for their music, not yet.  I was just fascinated by the idea of what they were doing up there in Canada and the whole nothing but drums'n'guitar, brother'n'sister thing.  It wasn't until an October night in Baltimore that I heard their music. 

Some friends and I were in B'more for the annual Fells Point Festival, one of the largest, longest-running festivals on the east coast.  For lunch, we escaped the crowds by ducking into the restaurant upstairs at Sláinte, where we ended up with an especially flirtatious waiter. Yeah, I know this seems like quite a digression, but this guy is The One Behind It All. He told us he was tending the bar downstairs that evening and that we should come back later to see him. How could three single women resist an invitation like that?  So we finished lunch and headed back out to wander the festival until evening.  

The bar was packed when we came back. And our buddy the waiter was now a very harried bartender, with people placing food orders in addition to drinks and no one from the restaurant upstairs bussing for him. There were stacks of plates and cutlery all over the floor behind the bar. He was pissed as hell about it and acting out his anger in an alarmingly maniacal manner.  He flirted up a storm with us again as he took our orders, then headed to the other end of the bar, cussing out loud and kicking plates along the way.  But we settled in and after a while he brought our drinks.  By that time, I'd been struck by the music playing in the bar and asked him who it was. He said it was the White Stripes.  Ok, I was finally hearing this band I'd heard so much about.  A few songs later, I was still digging the mix and when he waded through the debris of dishes down to our end of the bar, I asked him again "What's this song?"  Again, he said it was such-and-such song from such-and-such album by the Stripes.  Then he picked up a glass from behind the bar and, while looking me straight in the eye, threw it over his shoulder where it smashed into a pile of plates.  The dude was insane, but I was seriously excited about his choice in music. This went on and on, every single song I asked about was the White Stripes and he finally said that was all he was playing, just their six cds on rotation. I asked which of their records I should start with and he told me the later ones were best because Meg finally learned how to keep time (if I'd known more about the band at that point, I might've chastised him for dissing her. Meg was integral to the band whether she kept proper time or no.).  By that point we'd finished our drinks and realized he was keeping us hostage by not bringing our check, so I headed upstairs to find a manager and get us out of the line of flying glassware.  I hope to this day that I didn't get the guy in trouble, because I owe him a huge debt of gratitude, crazy as he was.

It was still a while before I picked up any of the band's records, though. Dunno what held me back.  And when I did finally get ahold of a copy of Icky Thump, I was held back again. The music was immediately appealing, and I was struck hard by Jack's lyrics.  Four songs on the album resonated with me especially-- 300mph Torrential Outpour Blues ("I'm getting hard on myself, sitting in my easy chair".  The simple profundity of that line was like a punch in the sternum. To this day, if you held a gun to my head and forced me to name a favorite White Stripes song, this would be it.), Little Cream Soda, Rag and Bone, and Martyr For My Love For You.  The word-play in all was so witty and clever and the sardonic angst expressed in them was something I related to strongly.  But then there was Jack's voice, so high-pitched and nasal and unpolished compared to singers like Chris Cornell and Maynard James Keenan, who I was heavily into at the time.  I just couldn't connect with it. 


For almost two years I kept coming back to Icky Thump, knowing there was something there that I should be into, but unable to make it click.  Finally my buddy Leo told me that if I was interested in Jack's music, I should check out one of his other bands that she'd seen at Lollapalooza a couple years before, the Raconteurs.  We just happened to be in a record store as she told me this, and that record store just happened to have a copy of the first Raconteurs record, Broken Boy Soldiers, on cd. So I bought it. But I didn't listen to it that day.  No, it wasn't until a week later, on a bright, clear, cold day at the end of January, when I was out driving the curvy backroads along the border of Maryland and West Virginia, that I popped that cd in and gave it a go.  Like Icky, the music struck me as appealing, but it was just that-- appealing. Not profound or astonishing.  Until Blue Veins came up.  

You know how sometimes things happen to you and you know that you will never, ever forget where you were at that moment?  I feel like I'll go to my grave still seeing that bright blue winter sky through the windshield of the car, that I'll always remember the exact spot along the road paralleling the Potomac River when Jack sang the final line of that song and the lightning bolt came down from heaven and I finally... got it.  The combination of intensity and delicacy in his voice in those final few words was exactly what I needed to hear and changed everything. 

I feel like I've learned a lot about Jack since then, and I don't mean personal, gossipy, trivia shit.  I mean about his art and his philosophy.  I've been accused of "verbosity and mind-numbing analysis of... mundane detail" but, for crying out loud, when something moves you in such a way why shouldn't you throw yourself into it deeply and express the things it makes you think and feel?  To that end, I'm going to explore a little parallel before wrapping this up.
Around this time last year, I decided to finally get into Elvis Presley's music and went down a similar rabbit-hole to the one I went down with Jack, though not quite to the same degree.  A few months later, Jack covered Elvis's Power of My Love as a b-side to the World's Fastest Record.  To my knowledge, it was the first time he'd covered an Elvis tune and I was struck by the synchronicity (or was my brain just looking for patterns?).  Since then, I and other folks have been seeing what seem to be little nods to Elvis from Jack. Some of the parallels are superficial, such as Jack's recent pompadour haircut. Others are more profound, as in the way both blurred genre lines to make their music appeal to a widely diverse audience and to introduce that audience to styles of music they might otherwise have remained ignorant of. And there's no denying that both have (had) the same intense magnetism, the ability to hold crowds large or small in the palm of their hand. But there's one way in which Jack will presumably always differ from Elvis and it's a vital difference-- Where Elvis allowed decisions to be taken out of his hands by his manager, Colonel Parker, Jack has from the very beginning exerted a strong effort to protect his music. Third Man Records, his headquarters in Nashville (record label, venue, storefront, distribution warehouse) was created for just that purpose, to allow him to maintain control of his art. He will always do what inspires him and just hope that people dig it. So far, his instincts, much like Elvis's in the very beginning, have proven pretty much infallible. It's a sad shame that Elvis didn't have Jack's confidence and strength of will. He seemed to crave love, acceptance, and fame too much, whereas Jack may want those things (it's obvious he gets intense fulfillment from connecting with an audience and his ambition is palpable) but doesn't seem to need them the way Elvis did.

I read this the other day in Greil Marcus's Mystery Train--

"...When an artist gives an all-encompassing Yes to his audience (and Elvis's Yes implicitly includes everyone, not just those who say Yes to him), there is nothing more he can tell his audience, nothing he can really do for them, except maybe throw them a kiss.

Only the man who says No is free, Melville once wrote. We don't expect such a stance in popular culture, and those who do might best be advised to take their trade somewhere else. But the refusal that lurks on the margins of the affirmation of American popular culture... is what gives the Yes of our culture its vitality and its kick. Elvis's Yes is the grandest of all, his presentation of mastery the grandest fantasy of freedom, but it is finally a counterfeit of freedom: it takes place in a world that for all its openness (Everybody Welcome!) is aesthetically closed, where nothing is left to be mastered, where there is only more to accept. For all its irresistible excitement and enthusiasm, this freedom is complacent, and so the music that it produces is empty of real emotion-- there is nothing this freedom could be for, nothing to be won or lost.

For all the little signs over the past year that Jack seems to be channeling Elvis, the thing that will always set them apart (or that I assume and hope will always set them apart) is that Jack will never give that all-encompassing Yes to his audience. He constantly walks the line between Yes and a hint, or threat, if you will, of No. The "are you with me or against me?" question at so many shows on the Lazaretto tour, voiced so vehemently recently in Austin and New York, the immediate switch from semi-scripted arena shows in New York and Nashville to spontaneity in Ohio, and to lecture/complaint and willfulness at shows after that in the southwest, are indications that the No will always lurk on the edge of Jack's art. He will never succumb to the complacence that Elvis did. He can pay all the homage in the world with his cover of Power of My Love, his pompadour, playing the stages Elvis played... Hell, tell me that hair, shiny jacket and open collar, and even some of the motions of his recent performance on The Tonight Show don't call to mind the King's early days-- 

He could even hit the stage in a rhinestone-emblazoned white jumpsuit, but he will never become what Elvis became. He will always make demands of his audience. One of the best reviews I've read of one of his shows included this line that's become my signature at the two Jack-related message boards--  
"And the message is clear: if we want Jack White as our hero, he will entertain, but not pander. We have to accept all his flaws, whims, caprices and manias as a critical, sometimes uncomfortable, part of the contract."

In other words, he will sometimes tell us No. And, as Greil Marcus put it, that is exactly what gives his Yes such vitality and kick.  After five years of addiction to that vitality and kick, I still crave it as much as I did from the very beginning.  And, heaven help me, I hope to still be verbosely expressing mind-numbing analysis of every mundane detail of Jack's art five years from now.  

And is it just my brain looking for patterns again when I notice that this post about my 5 year anniversary is the 55th in which I've written about Jack?  It ain't 3s, but hmmmm... 

Confessions of a Jack White junkie, part 12: The addiction comes full circle

A couple of songs into the show in Columbus, Ohio and all I thought I would have to say about it was that there are too goddamned many tall people in this world. It was like Radio City on the Blunderbuss tour all over again, unable to become immersed in what was happening because I had to crane my neck and jockey around just to catch glimpses of it. But then I noticed that there were several empty seats in the row behind me, so I climbed over the chairs and found myself raised ever so slightly above the sea of heads with a fairly good view of center stage, except for every time the massively tall bald guy two rows down leaned over to talk to his friends around him and make out with his girlfriend, which went on through the entire. damned. show. But at least I was able to dance around with a lot more space than I normally have on the rail. 

But it just wasn't the same. I was close enough to see when Jack smiled, which, like the last few nights, was pretty damned frequently, but not close enough to take in the full impact of his energy. I began mentally kicking myself in the ass over delaying my flight so I could sleep after the Madison Square Garden show the night before and not stand all day in the cold again. I was so exhausted after the Garden show. The cold had taken so much out of me, both the weather and the sickness I'd been fighting all week. But I knew what I was missing down there at the front, I knew the adrenalin rush of being right there in the maelstrom would have erased all the shivering and aching for at least a couple of hours. But could my body physically have done it without collapse, could I have gone from Austin to Nashville to New York to yet another day of standing in freezing temperatures with basically zero hours of sleep? I don't know. I'll never know. I'm not even sure I would have arrived in Ohio early enough to have been able to get on the rail at all, though a couple of friends who arrived later than I would have did make it despite the number of people in line ahead of them. So I can either continue kicking myself periodically over giving up the chance to be up close and connected at a show at which Jack was talkative and playful and more spontaneous than he'd been in Nashville or New York, or I can be stoic about it and mature (heaven forbid) enough to accept that my body needed a break. Can the junkie handle that? Does she have a choice?

Most of the highlights of the show were early on-- When Jack mentioned leading into Hotel Yorba that members of the Southwest Syndicate were in attendance at the show, but nobody in the audience would know who they are, I had to yell out "I know who they are!" because it brought back a particular moment downstairs in the Grand Ballroom after the Masonic Temple show. And then there was Jack calling out his techs Josh and Abraham to the front of the stage so that he could give them very specific directions to bring him a drink in "a clear glass so everyone can see it" and in that glass he wanted Coca-Cola, Red Bull, something I couldn't hear, Kahlua, pineapple juice, vodka, a few more things I couldn't hear and/or just don't remember and, finally, tap water, but it had to be Ohio tap water. This little episode reminded me of the hunt for a stool that was the proper representation of the form in Miami. And then, as a lead in to You Know That I Know, Jack told the story behind how he came to write that song with Hank Williams, which included a fairly hilarious Bob Dylan impersonation and the fact that Jack apparently didn't know he'd been weeding poison ivy from around his irises--

The re-cap of the ingredients in the drink here doesn't include a couple in his original request, like the pineapple juice.
I'd love to hear from the first person who tests this concoction.

Then there was the Cannon/Sixteen Saltines/Pipeline/Cannon medley that had me jumping like a fool and screaming as much as laryngitis would allow. Moments of spontaneity that made me kick myself a little more for not seeing how far I could push my physical limits.

The pace slowed down a bit just after the beginning of the encore as Jack told another story at the beginning of Three Women, and I found myself slowing along with it. Detachment began to set in. When I saw Jack motioning for Abraham to bring out the Kay, I actually felt relief. But he tricked us like he did at Nashville, he wasn't ready to end things after all and instead treated us to a snippet of Let's Build a Home and most of Suzy Lee. 

Then he handed the Kay back and launched into a handful more songs, including a one-two punch of Black Bat Licorice into Broken Boy Soldier that should have had me bouncing off the ceiling. I felt some of my usual excitement over those two songs, but it was accompanied by that feeling of disconnection from being so far away and having assholes block my view. When he motioned for the Kay again, finally, I was glad for it. It was time. I never thought I'd ever catch myself thinking that.

And by the time I arrived back home in D.C. the next morning, I was wallowing deeply, wondering where the hell the junkie had been when I needed her, when I needed to be irrational and driven. This was a show that would have left me euphoric if I'd been in my usual place up front, but that instead left me feeling a little hollow despite how hard I tried to get into it up in the seats. It certainly wasn't Jack's fault, what he was doing on that stage was magical and I knew it. I can only blame myself for a decision that's left me feeling intense remorse, even though I know full well there was no guarantee I would have made it to the rail even if I hadn't made that decision. 

And now, like after Miami, the roller-coaster ride is at an end for the foreseeable future. My friends Sam, Helen, and Angelina went on to the last three shows of this leg and I spent those few days fighting to not return to the bitter, jealous state I began this ride in back early last summer.  Upon reading Helen's one-sentence review of the show in Oklahoma, and again after the next night in Albuquerque when she mentioned that he played Never Far Away, a song I love not only because it's beautiful but because it so perfectly encapsulates the story of one of my favorite books, my eyes filled up with tears and I felt a physical pang in my heart and before you start rolling your eyes at me let me assure you that I fully realize just how ridiculous that sounds.  I'm not so far gone that I can't stand back and see that all of this comes across like an over-aged teeny-bopper whining about first-world fan-girl problems. But knowing that doesn't help to control the feelings.  When I hear about the shows I've missed, the visceral reaction erupts before conscious, rational thought even has a chance to form. It's so easy to jump to the conclusion that what you've missed was better, more exciting and more surprising, than the experiences that you've had. And then the battle begins between the fan-girl junkie and my more rational, adult side. Those battles ain't pretty, lemme tell you, 'cause the junkie fights dirty and has ammunition in the form of photos and videos and show reviews aaaaalll over the internet. And I know I'm not alone in going through these withdrawal symptoms. I've had many conversations over the course of this tour with the friends I went to all these shows with and they've experienced it, too.  One of them was warned by her mother that it seemed her "decision making was weak or compromised".  Another has brought her credit cards to the limit to get to shows.  It truly is an addiction. But unlike drugs or alcohol that can be explained by a physical dependency, this is more like gambling or some other craving that's based in the most illogical reaches of the brain. Sometimes I feel that if I could just figure out what the hell it is about this man and his music that has this affect on all of us, then I'd be able to figure out some way to build up an immunity to it. But the things that move us emotionally just aren't based on rational causes and can't always be understood. So sometimes we suffer for them in between the moments of bliss.

Jack's touring South America in March, then playing the Coachella festival and a show in Honolulu in April, then that might very well be it for the Lazaretto tour.  Fucking shame my ride had to end with a whimper instead of delighted, giddy screaming. Moral of the story, kiddies-- Sometimes you really should rouse up your inner junkie and let it push you, even if it might  compromise your health or otherwise screw things up. The high can be so worth it, and you have to try to make it happen.

Come back soon, Jack. The junkie and I both need more of that good aural first aid.

Here's where it all began.

February 7, 2015

Confessions of a Jack White junkie, part 11: Aural first aid at Madison Square Garden. That's A-U-R-A-L

Yes!! I found the one cab driver in all of Manhattan who doesn't know how to get to LaGuardia! And who asked me not which airline I was flying out from, but which terminal, as if I'd know. And who then, after not being sure he'd taken the correct exit to the airport, told me when we finally got there that he needed me to read the signs to figure out which terminal American was at because "we need to work together, help each other". And who turned to me when we pulled up at the terminal and said "We went through a toll. Did you pay it?" And who then said, after I'd swiped my credit card, "You added the toll, but there's no tip on this".  

Uh huh. I'd woken up with no voice, not even a hoarse one, so arguing with the cabbie on the way to the airport was great fun. Why did I have no voice, do you ask? Well, because I was sick. Why was I sick? Well, because I'd spent so many days this week outside in the cold and wind (and some brief snow flurries), wrapped up in blankets on a sidewalk waiting to get on the rail at Jack White shows, to get my inner junkie her fix. Last night's was an arguably historic show at the historic Madison Square Garden and it went a long way towards eradicating all memory of those hours of shivering. If only I could eradicate the coughing and sniffling.

Jack's had a tempestuous relationship with New York. On the Blunderbuss tour alone, he played five tremendous shows, but the one most people talk about is the one that he pulled the curtain on after playing only an hour. I'm not going to go into detail about that show because you can still find all the articles about it on the internet, though I will say that I'm convinced I will go down in history as the only person who was glad he cut it short because I was as pissed off at the crowd that night as he was. So, after hearing that there would be no shows in NY this tour, presumably because he was still pissed, the announcement of the MSG show was a huge surprise. If he had to go to NY, he was apparently going to cram as many people into one show as he could, and no damned seated theater would do. As he told Jordan Klepper, Madison Square Garden has an energy that seated theaters in NY just don't have, no matter how renowned.

For this show, Jack swung to the opposite gamut from Nashville two days ago, where he'd celebrated the music of that town with openers William Tyler and Loretta Lynn.  To celebrate playing at the Garden in one of the hometowns of hip-hop, he enlisted rappers Run the Jewels to open.  Not my cup of tea, though I will give them (and featured guest Zack de la Rocha, that was exciting) credit for working their asses off to get the crowd fired up.  

When it was his turn, Jack exploded like gangbusters with Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground. Within a few songs, I realized with a bit of surprise that he was repeating the same exact set he'd played in Nashville.  The energy was off the charts, though, so at the time it was just something curious and I didn't give a damn. And from the moment that he dropped Broken Boy Soldier (one of my favorite live songs) into the middle of Cannon, he began to break things up a little bit and I became so caught up that I stopped thinking about comparisons.  

Except that it continued to remain very similar, though wildly different at the same time. After an insane Ball'n'Biscuit that almost led to toppled monitors at one end of the stage, the curtains swung shut for the encore break.  

Then once again, just like at Nashville, Jack had a surprise in store for us.  After blowing my little mind by beginning the second set with That Black Bat Licorice (my other favorite live song), he suddenly introduced a special guest-- But instead of someone iconic like Loretta joining him on stage, out came former Tribe Called Quest member, Q-Tip, rapping out the tongue-twisting lyrics of Black Bat alongside Jack.  Jack was obviously on cloud 9 as he, his band, and Q-Tip then launched into a cover of Excursions, bouncing around with a huge grin on his face. I didn't know the song, but it was fascinating to watch how he and the band handled a hip-hop tune being sung by the original artist, to notice when and how Jack chose to add flourishes of guitar.  


Another angle just for the hell of it--

I couldn't see what was happening behind me, but from watching Jack it was obvious that the huge crowd filling the sold out Garden was giving him exactly what he wanted and needed, what he'd not felt he'd gotten at Radio City two and a half years before.  He kept up a hyperventilation-inducing pace for the next few songs, leading directly into Sixteen Saltines, Astro, and Steady As She Goes.  God or whatever's above, bless him for finally giving us a break in the form of Would You Fight For My Love. 


A couple songs later, the Kay came out and it was time to see how New York would perform on Seven Nation Army. If anyone were to need an indication of how heady a night this was for Jack, what happened during this song is the example I'd give them.  He chose a spot 8 or so people down the rail from me to climb over into the crowd.  It crossed the junkie's mind for one brief moment to try to squeeze through the crowd to get closer, but it was over too quickly, I wouldn't have made it in time. And as it was, I was in a great vantage spot to see him hovering in the air over the fans below him, gazing back toward the far reaches of the arena. For those few seconds that he was on top of the crowd, Jack White was on top of the world.

Photo courtesy of Babette Ross and permission to use is very much appreciated.
She must've been only a couple rows behind where I was standing.
Photo by David James Swanson
  Go to about 2:40 for that moment--

Another angle, with his launch into the crowd at 4:30 in--

I can only begin to imagine the incredible high he must have felt, the combination of adrenalin, adoration, and pure energy.  It surely must've been at least as intense a high for him as he gives to us, and I was thrilled for him, and thrilled for myself that I was able to be a part of it.  Cold sidewalk?  For a show as exhilarating as this one, I'd spend every night on a cold sidewalk. 

During Top Yourself, just before the encore break, Jack had asked the crowd how we were doing and let us know that if we needed, he had an aural first aid kit up on stage, spelling out A-U-R-A-L, and saying he hoped it made us feel good when we needed it. Needless to say, I already knew about it, though I consider it a drug rather than first aid and it was why the junkie and I were there in the first place. It has definitely cured many of my ills on many occasions (except for the coughing and sniffling on the way to the airport the next morning, of course).

Could this be the rare show at which Jack might admit he was having... fun?  Watch some of those videos up there and tell me that's not someone having a ball, having a blast, having the time of their life. Jack may have a different definition of the word "fun" than the average person, but there was too much exuberance on that stage, too much joy, for that word to not spring to mind.  

Photo by David James Swanson

And, thanks to the magic of the interwebs, you can listen to the entire Madison Square Garden show here.  The junkie was off to Ohio after that lovely cab ride to the airport.  Here's where she's been.

February 3, 2015

Confessions of a Jack White junkie, part 10: The Jack'n'Loretta Love Fest

Photo by David James Swanson
 It's been a while since I've anticipated a Jack White show as much as I anticipated this one. Things have changed, the Lazaretto tour hasn't had the innocent excitement of 2012's Blunderbuss tour, there's been so much angst involved that the old butterflies in the stomach feeling hasn't overtaken me leading up to shows the way it did then. That doesn't mean I haven't had the same excitement during shows, no sirree Bob, it's just made the in-between-show experience different. But this one... Once Loretta Lynn was announced as the opening act, I knew this one was going to be special and I had moments during the days leading up to it when I wanted to just clap my hands and bounce around like a little kid. 

Jack and Loretta's love affair began back in 2003. The story goes that he and Meg used to listen to her music in their van, driving around from gig to gig in the early days of the White Stripes. They dedicated their third album, White Blood Cells, to her. She responded by inviting them over for dinner and then opening for one of their shows at the Hammerstein Ballroom. When she mentioned working on a new album, Jack asked if she'd consider letting him produce it. The result was Van Lear Rose, which won two of the five Grammys it was nominated for, helped introduce Loretta to a younger generation, and  showed anyone paying attention that Jack had as formidable instincts as a producer as he does as a musician.

 And that love and respect was still on display years later when Jack participated in a Grammy event honoring Loretta--

So here they were, a whole decade later, about to share a stage again.  It was gonna be a love fest and there was no way I was gonna miss it.  So determined was I that, despite a very generous new friend inviting me to be her plus-one when she won the early entry lottery in the Third Man Records Vault, I spent more hours in line for this show than for any other I've been to yet and was damned glad I did.

Loretta's opening set was preceded by a local Nashville guitar player named William Tyler, who's as good an example as any other contemporary young musician of the variety of directions the music in Nashville is going these days.  His set was totally unexpected and refreshing, just him and a guitar and a small pedal board. No singing, no words. Just really fascinating sounds.  I don't know how it played out towards the back of the arena, but from the front it was mesmerizing. A little taste from an in-store performance at Grimey's Records--

And then it was Loretta's turn. Unfortunately, there's only one video of her set on YouTube. But if you know anything about her, you can imagine the rest for yourself. Both the woman and her songs just as straightforward as can be.  She must've had a cold or something because she kept wiping her nose with a tissue, finally mentioning that she was sorry but her nose was "running like a freight train".  Totally disarming and charming.  And she sounded wonderful.  Her 45 minute set was over way too quickly, but I think everyone in the audience knew we were going to see her again that night.

Jack hit the stage with a triple punch of Dead Leaves, High Ball Stepper, and Lazaretto. He was immediately full of smiles. Over the crowd response?  Over having Loretta in the house?  All of the above?  A couple songs in, he stood briefly at the mic and just laughed out loud to himself.  At another point early on, he walked to the front of the stage near us and began to do the posturing thing I talked about from the Austin show, but he couldn't hold the deadpan stare, the corner of his mouth came up into a smirk that made it apparent he just couldn't contain his glee.  It was fucking adorable and highly infectious.

After a nicely balanced, high energy first set, the blue curtains were pulled shut to give us a break, though no one took a rest, we cheered our asses off for him to come back out even though we knew full well he was going to.  We knew that not only was he going to come back, but that Loretta was gonna come out at some point, too.  But I don't know anyone who was at this show who was prepared for the surprise we got when Jack's tour manager Lalo Medina stepped through the curtains again, just like he does at the beginning of every show to exhort the crowd to keep their phones in their (damn) pockets.  So what the heck was up now?  

Rather than a reprimand or chastisement, he instead announced that we should all "give it up for THE RACONTEURS!!!"  Talk about freaking the fuck out.  That entire crowd roared as the blue curtains swept open to reveal the stage bathed in a golden glow instead of the usual cool blue, with Brendon Benson to Jack's left and Little Jack Lawrence plucking bass next to Daru Jones on the drums (Patrick Keeler presumably wasn't available for drum duty because he's touring with the Afghan Whigs).  For two full songs, we were stunned and ecstatic at the same time. 

And then came the second surprise, the one that really wasn't a surprise at all because anyone who knows anything would have been anticipating it for weeks-- Loretta came out along with Brendon, Little Jack, and Jack's full band for a duet on Portland, Oregon and Whispering Seas, which was the b-side to her first single and a song she apparently never performed live. It's a song that Jack once told John Peel he loved, so for her to perform it with him had to have been a dream come true for him.  Leading into it, he told a story about calling her up to ask if she'd perform with him, impersonating her disguising her voice on the phone and how she called him "baby". 

It was so very sweet and funny to watch them together, her seemingly hesitant to get close to him for fear he'd knock her over with his bouncing about, and him wanting her close to sing with him and so he could hug her and kiss her forehead. Then Jack praised her as the most important female song-writer of the 20th century and Brendon Benson held out his arm to squire her off the stage.  Before she was even completely off, Jack maniacally launched into Black Bat Licorice and my brain exploded completely (and, boy, do I wish there was video of that).  

After Sixteen Saltines and then Ball'n'Biscuit, he surprised me yet again by having his tech bring out the Kay, which is normally the signal for Seven Nation Army and the end of the night.  It seemed so unusual for him to be done right after B'n'B, that song's usually used mid-set to amp the crowd up. But no, he was just teasing and gave us a heavy cover of Stones In My Passway, then handed the Kay back for two more songs before bringing it out again to finally, triumphantly, call it a night.

 This was the only show that's come close to being anywhere near as powerful for me as the one at the Masonic Temple in Detroit last summer.  And I'm not referring to what happened to me at that show, I'm talking about the whole thing, the energy the Detroit crowd fed to him, the joyfully ferocious way he responded to that energy, the surprises that night...  This one may even have surpassed that show, as I couldn't help but be empathetically proud for him when he announced at the end that the night had been one of his best moments yet in Nashville. As my pal Helen put it, "...by far my most lasting impression will be that everybody deserves, at least once, to look as happy as Jack looked tonight. It was one of the most touching things I've ever seen."   I'm still smiling over it now, almost a week later. 

Up next, Madison Square Garden and more surprises.  But here's where we've been so far.

January 26, 2015

Confessions of a Jack White junkie, part 9: Jack White's ego live and in person, redux

Something about the Dallas/Fort Worth airport seemed familiar and I found myself wondering "Am I even in Texas?"  Must've had a layover there on the way home from another show last summer or fall. But this time I was in Texas to actually be in Texas, catching a connecting flight to Austin for what was supposed to be the second night of two that Jack White was performing at the Austin Music Hall.  I had thought I'd have to work that Saturday, so the plan was to fly into town that evening to meet Sam, Helen, and Kristi after they got out of that show so that I could join them for the second show on Sunday night. By Thursday, I realized that I was wrapping things up early at work and could have made it for the Saturday show after all.  Unfortunately, changing my flight and snagging a ticket for the sold-out show would've cost more than my credit card could bear at this time and would have meant a bit of a scramble to get myself organized to fly out Friday night. For a change, my rational side stood up and took control before the junkie had a chance to, and I resigned myself to sticking with my original plan of missing the first show on the 2015 leg of the Lazaretto tour.  

But you just never know how things are going to work out.  Despite feeling sad, I remained stoic and didn't eat my guts out over a show that I could've gone to "if only".  I got up Saturday morning and thought of my friends lining up for that night's show without me, then took my time packing and cleaning house and headed off to the airport at the scheduled time.  Parked in row 3 on level 3, then found out my flight was departing from gate 33.  Something about that... made me feel that things were happening the way they should. Made me feel better about not letting the junkie rise up and turn everything topsy-turvy.

So when my connecting flight arrived in Austin, I hopped into a cab and had it take me directly to the Music Hall, where I figured I'd wait outside for my friends to come out when the show was over.  I had pictured myself sitting outside all alone, hearing the muffled sounds of the show and pining away.  Instead, I found the front entrance bustling with security staff and people hanging about smoking.  I walked up to the glass doors with my backpack and carry-on bag and realized I could see all the way through to a portion of the stage.  And there was the merchandise table right inside the door.  On an impulse, I opened the door and stepped in to see if there were any new items that hadn't been available last summer.  Almost immediately, a young girl from the security staff was at my side, asking if I had a ticket. I said no, that I was just checking out the merch table.  She eyed my bags and said I had to go back outside.  She was very sweet about it, so I figured I'd explain why I'd just walked up laden with luggage and let myself in.  Again, she was nice as could be and stood talking with me for a while about my situation and Jack's shows. She was apparently a bit of a fan herself and really excited to be working these two nights at the Music Hall.  Then we saw the blue curtains close across the stage and I knew what point of the show I'd arrived at. 

While I was explaining to my security pal about Jack's "intermission" breaks and how his encores are really like a second set, a small stream of people began pouring out the doors. I stopped one group and asked if they were leaving and one of the guys said yes. I asked if I could have his ticket.  He said "Sure", and handed it to me.  I turned to my new buddy on the security staff and asked "Any chance I could go in now?"  She said that she had no problem at all with me going in, but wasn't sure that ticket would work since it'd already been scanned.  Then she was called away for something and I sat by myself for a moment or two, staring at that blue curtain through the glass of the doors and watching more people trickle out to leave.  Since none of them were complaining about what they'd just seen, it was apparent they had just been there so that they could say they'd been there and had no clue of what they were going to miss when those curtains opened again.  Then another security person came out and leaned against the wall next to me and I found myself telling my story all over again.  She said the same at the end, that she'd be happy to let me in but wasn't sure about the used ticket.  But she said "Let me see what I can do".  Then she headed back inside and I was alone again for a few moments.

Right about then, the blue curtains were pulled open, I heard the second set begin and, next thing I know, a third woman on the staff came out the door, walked up to me, and said "Come on in".  She led me to a spot where I was able to stash my bags and told me to go on.  I found a somewhat decent spot behind the sound & light board where I was able to see more than I thought I would, just as Jack began a performance of Ball & Biscuit that included the surprise of Charlie Sexton joining him on-stage to trade guitar solos back and forth. 

Photos by David James Swanson

He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, and I realized I had to try to get closer. Cut along the side of the venue all the way to the front and then managed to slip between people to an empty spot just my size in the second row near the far end of the stage.  Not ideal, not my usual spot on the rail right in front of Daru Jones' drumkit, but pretty damned good considering I thought I wasn't going to see this show at all.  And then Jack launched into one of my favorites, Broken Boy Soldier, and I had not a thing to complain about.  

My pals right there up front. By this point in the show, I was back about where that tall guy is at the far end of the stage (on the right of the photo, under Jack's guitar cord)
 Rocked my ass off to Steady, As She Goes and Seven Nation Army, and then the band took their bow, the crowed cheered like crazy, Jack gave an enthusiastic thank you, and when the blue curtains were pulled shut I pushed my way through the crowd to where I knew my friends would be.  After surprised hellos and hugs, they asked if I'd been there for the second Broken Boy Soldier.  Second?  Yeah, they said, he'd played it during the first set and then busted it out again during the second set.  We joked that he'd done it just for me, that he must've known I was there and I thought of those 3s at the airport.  I honestly don't place stock in things like that and saying he'd done it for me truly was just joking around, but sometimes... sometimes you do have to wonder about synchronicity versus coincidence and how mysteriously the world occasionally works.  (And be very, very thankful when people do you such a kindness as those women on the staff at the Austin Music Hall did for me.)

And then there was night two, the full show I'd come for. 

I've written about Jack's ego before, but in that situation I was using Freud's theory of the three states of the ego as metaphors for the three bands he's most well-known for.  Now that he's performing as a solo artist, albeit with a backing band that he's obviously built a deep connection with, I've had chances to see his ego in the more commonly familiar sense of egotism rather than sense of self.  Do not for a moment think that I'm calling Jack White egotistical.  I've read and watched too many interviews in which his innate humbleness was very clearly apparent (The Dan Rather one that the outtake clip above came from is a perfect example).  But the way he interacts with an audience makes it also apparent that he's accepted his status as a world-renowned Rock Star, at least when he's caught up in the rush of being on-stage.  I've described before how he'll sometimes pause between, sometimes even during, songs and wait for the crowd to begin cheering and then he'll wait some more to see just how loud they can get without him doing a single thing to incite them.  And my friends told me about the multiple times he paused to comb his hair during the Saturday show in Austin, fussing with it at one prolonged point until it became obvious that he was playing to the crowd's laughter and cheers. 

 I don't know how much he did these things in the White Stripes, since I missed that band. But I don't recall seeing this at the Dead Weather shows I attended. And his efforts to get cheers from audiences at Raconteurs shows had a very different flavor, more exhortation than expectation.  But who could begrudge him these moments, with his charisma it was only a matter of time before it'd get to this point.  But sometimes...  

Let me clarify here that when I write about the shows I've been to, in many cases I'm not necessarily talking about "what happened" at the show.  I'm talking about my impressions, my experience, what happened for me.  And sometimes these impressions don't form until after, when I'm thinking back on the experience, comparing it to other experiences, and letting my mind ramble.  In the case of this show, I found myself thinking on the drive home from the airport about how it'd left me feeling exhilarated but at the same time somehow detached.  When the show ended, I turned to Sam and Kristi and said "I have no idea what to write down about this show".  There'd been no highlights, nothing in the setlist that blew me away, no moments that made me feel they just had to be remembered.  And yet as the show was going on, I danced and cheered and and sang along with every ounce of energy and exuberance that I always do.  It was not a bad show.  It was a solid show. But it was just that, a solid, energetic, hard-rocking show. 

There was a bit of this feeling at Sunday's show, that eyes closed, hands on hips, sort of tired feeling.

But there was also this.
And there was this.
And this.

Of course, part of it is due to the fact that I've been to so many shows now.  This was number 34 and a half (counting Saturday night's second set) within five years.  After some of the experiences I've had, my bar for Jack is damned high, probably a lot higher than the average fan.  But I don't have any problem with some shows being just solid and not transcendent.  I can't expect him to pull out surprises and give us treats at every show.  The man's human.  And so am I, my brain probably couldn't handle all the memories it'd need to store if every single show had multiple highlights.  But today, looking back on last night's show, there's still that vague sense of detachment mixed in with the leftover excitement.  Could be due to other things, like the fact that I only got 2 1/2 hours of sleep before I had to get to the airport for today's flight home and that I now have to do laundry and prepare for three more shows this week in Nashville, New York, and Ohio, and the weather forecast for all of those cities is going to make for some hellatiously cold line-standing (though I've survived that before for Jack!).

But I also wonder if it was Jack's posturing.  Twice during the show he yelled to the crowd "Are you with me or against me???", a question he's asked at several shows on this tour.  It seems somehow divisive to me.  My first thought is why would anyone be there if they weren't with him, but then I think of the people who left after the first set the night before.  They weren't with him, not in the way he really wants, but I doubt they would have been against him, either.  Does he really think anyone would yell back "I'm against you, Jack!"?  Combined with the posing and waiting for cheers to ramp up and up, it leaves me bemused. At so many shows I've felt that the unexpected songs and unusual moments he's given us were just that, gifts from him to us, something that we, the crowd, and he shared between us.  But shows like last night make me feel that sometimes he's out there to give but not give quite as much, and in return he wants a more obvious proof of our devotion.  I'm happy to give no matter which mood he seems to be in because I'm so very grateful for what I've already had, so I look at shows like this as just little bumps along the roller coaster.  But it makes the half show from Saturday night in Austin just a little more memorable than the full show on Sunday. 

One thing's for sure, though--  The show coming up this week in Nashville, with Loretta Lynn opening up for Jack, is bound to be one that won't soon be forgotten. I don't know if even my over-blown anticipation is high enough for what this one may turn out to be.

Nashville's where the roller coaster is going next, but here's where it's already been


January 18, 2015

When "Have a good day" isn't good enough

Drove into Baltimore today for lunch and a movie and had a couple of interactions with homeless folks while I was in town. The first offered me a parking ticket that supposedly had an hour of time on it-- Baltimore's got those centralized parking meters at which you pay for a period of time and leave the ticket on your dash with the expiration time showing.  The local homeless folk have started a practice of collecting tickets that still have time on them from people who are leaving their spaces and then selling them to the next person who drives up and parks.  I declined.  Not because I didn't want to help the guy out, but because it just felt so much like a scam.  Which it's not, really (at least I don't think there's a way they could be scamming). So I'm not sure why I feel that way about it.  When I came back to the car after lunch, the guy very pleasantly told me to have a good day. I half-smiled and mumbled a reply, got in the car, and drove off.

The second guy approached my car along MLK Boulevard as I was stopped at a light. He'd already passed a couple of cars that didn't lower their windows, so I fished a couple bucks out of my pocket and lowered mine to hand the money out to him when he got to me.  He said "Thanks, beautiful. How's your Sunday going?" I didn't know how to reply. It was grey and dreary and rainy out, I'd just seen a film that left me devastated (Selma, holy hell), and I was in a bit of distraught mood.  But otherwise my day had been fine.  I had nothing to complain about, especially compared to someone who lived beneath an underpass and might not have any idea when he'd have his next meal.  I finally came out with "Oh, it's going ok". His reply was philosophical, something about at least we both woke up that morning and you've got to be grateful for that.  Then the light changed and the cars in front of me began to move and I had to go. I said "Take care", raised the window, and drove off.

What do you say to a homeless person in these situations?  They're a person like any other, but I always feel like the typical responses of everyday, just-passing-by chit-chat just aren't appropriate.  When someone who's panhandling wishes you a good day, the standard, habitual "Thanks! You, too!" seems dismissive of the difficulty of their existence.  I considered telling the guy I encountered at lunchtime, "I hope you do, too", but then that struck me as presumptuous.  Isn't it patronizing to assume he's not doing just fine despite his circumstances?  I just don't know.

There's no moral to this, and it's nothing fantastic that I wanted to share with others. It's just stuff I had to get out of my head.

January 4, 2015

Another day at the museum: Exploring synchronicity through Setlists for a Setting Sun

On one side of the room, one Setlist for a Setting Sun, The Crystal Palace.  Blues and whites and bone beiges. Glass domes over crystals and shells and butterfly wings.  A Victorian palace inaugurated by Victoria herself.  Four thousand voices singing Handel phoned in via Edison's phonograph. Hearing crystal-clear reality through a scrim of staticky needle scratches is still startling even now. Cylinder rotations thumping like heartbeats or, as John Fahey said, the furious beating of angels' wings. Is this what angels' voices would sound like to our human ears?

A couple of photos I snuck when the museum guard's back was turned.  For more views, go here.

On the other side of the room, another Setlist for a Setting Sun, this time Dark Was the Night.  Still blue and white, with more crystals, shells, and iridescent wings under glass, but this time with rockets taking off for the dark expanses of space. A Voyager in search of other voyagers, carrying the sounds of a man who could only see darkness. We've kept track of Voyager all these years, but have no idea where Willie Johnson, whose spectral humming and eerie bottleneck are an angel's song of a different sort, ended up.  

Again, my own surreptitious photos. More from the artist's site here

It's always exciting to me when I run into things that are meaningful to me presented in entirely knew contexts.  Dario Robleto's current exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art is a perfect example and I got a bit giddy when the pieces came together. At a distance, it's just an assortment of shells and glass and bits of stuff inside a pair of plexiglass cubes and I almost walked past without taking the time to catch the connections.  Fortunately, I stopped long enough to read the little card about the Edison phonograph recording of Handel's oratorio at the London Crystal Palace.  You see, it wasn't too many months ago that I read a book called Perfecting Sound Forever, by Greg Milner, which begins with accounts of several of Thomas Edison's "tone tests" such as took place at the Crystal Palace. So to read that card, then to pop on the headphones hanging next to the exhibit and hear what that London audience heard was fairly amazing. It was a digital copy I was listening to, yes, but still, the effect it must've had on those people, people who were hearing for the very first time an early, unsophisticated version of the recorded sound that we take for granted, was so easy to imagine.  

And then I stepped across the room and put on a second pair of headphones and heard Blind Willie Johnson's Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground, a song I first heard a couple of years ago, early on in my exploration of blues music, and one that immediately defined the blues for me.  And here it was, this primal, innately human sound, linked with man's attempts to communicate with alien species.

What was the one thing that tied all of these elements together and made them significant to me?  If you've read more than a few entries here, I'm sure you can guess. Yup, that's right, it all comes back to Jack White.  The musician who was my gateway to blues music, without whom I'd never have heard of Blind Willie Johnson or known that Johnson's song was chosen by Carl Sagan for inclusion on Voyager's Golden Record (I'd learned about this originally in the companion book to Martin Scorsese's PBS series, The Blues, and it coincidentally came up again recently in an interview that Dan Rather conducted with Jack). Whose songs have inspired a craving in me to learn how music is made and whose mention of Milner's book led me to pick up a copy and learn about the effect of those early phonograph recordings on concert-hall audiences.  Is this meaningful synchronicity or the delusions of apophenia?  I know it seems maddeningly myopic but, from my perspective, it's just the opposite-- The things I've been exposed to through Jack have opened up a whole world for me and broadened my appreciation of so many forms of music and art and even science. If not for my obsession with him, I would have walked right past those plexiglass cubes at the BMA and thought, "Shells and shit under glass. Pretty, but how is this really art?"  I would have missed the connections that made me stop long enough to understand the message of Dario Robleto's art.  The message itself wouldn't have meant as much to me.

And Robleto's message is important. The need to communicate is one of mankind's earliest and most primary. We've been using art and music as means of communication since we could speak, if not even earlier. And we're using music now to try to communicate with species beyond our own world. Art such as Robleto's reminds us of this, makes us understand how music can bring us together and connect us, and how vital it is to not take the need or the method for granted.  Words are great for getting a point across, but music can communicate feelings so much more succinctly.

November 22, 2014

This is Baltimore: Puerh, pierogi, and plique-a-jour

Within the  past week or so, two different articles about the dark side of Baltimore have popped up in my news feed.  One about Leakin Park's notoriety as a dumping ground for corpses, the other about the difficulty of overcoming the negative image created by shows like The Wire and the new podcast, Serial.  I'd heard the reputation of Leakin Park before I ever rode my bike through it along the Gwynns Falls Trail and, yes, I'll admit to moments of paranoia in a few spots, especially opening the door of the public restroom in Leakin where a murder victim had been found just a year before my first ride there.  But on that ride and others since, I've not once experienced anything more alarming than having a homeless person yell at me as I blew past him in the tunnel near Carroll Park Golf Course.  I've not yet listened to Serial, but I have watched The Wire and have driven many times through neighborhoods that feature prominently in it. I've seen kids hanging out around those corner convenience stores who very well could have been dealing drugs just like the kids in The Wire. But mostly I've seen working class folks whose circumstances force them to live in down-trodden neighborhoods that are unfortunately subject to a high level of crime. Those are the same folks I've seen on the last Friday night of the  month when the Baltimore Bike Party rolls past their row-houses, sitting out on their front stoops and smiling while their children line the sidewalk to cheer and high-five us crazy, mostly white, cyclists as we ride by.  The more gentrified neighborhoods we pass through never give us that sort of greeting.

I've gotten to know a pretty large portion of this city, and yet I still feel like there's so much more to explore in its widely varied neighborhoods.  Today I stuck with some old standbys yet still managed to have new experiences.  Started the morning with brunch at Teavolve, a place I've watched evolve from a teeny little tea shop in Fells Point to a terrifically popular restaurant in Harbor East that serves from breakfast through dinner, tea through cocktails, and that has a vibrant connection to the local music and art scene.  Their staff hustles and the brunch maitre'd, Gary, always gets me quickly seated in a nice cozy spot. With a pot of Puerh tea and an Eden omelet (sorry, no food porn photos, I was too busy eating), accompanied by a good book, I have trouble imagining a better spot for breakfast anywhere in the city.

From there I headed over to Canton for some shopping.  It was on the way back towards downtown, passing alongside Patterson Park on Eastern Avenue, that I made an impulsive and fortuitous stop. I've been entranced for years by the golden onion domes of St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church

Image source

For a few years now, I've thought of stopping to see if I could go inside. A place sitting in the middle of Baltimore with such fantastical architecture would have to have an interesting interior, right?  But I just never got around to it.  Until today, when a sign in front of the church reading "PyrohĂ˝ sale 10 - 2" forced me to grab the nearest parking space and bolt across the street.  The wooden doors at the front of the church were locked tight, but in a little annex down some steps next door, I found a small dining hall and kitchen where they were selling boiled potato, cheese, and sauerkraut pierogi from the kitchen service window.  After handing over $16 for a dozen potato and hearing from the woman manning the window about her recently broken tooth, I asked if the church was open.  She said no but asked if I wanted to see inside. When I said I'd love to, she turned around to a gentleman in a sweat suit and said, "Father, this lady would like to see inside the church".  Next thing I know, I'm following the casually-dressed priest back up the steps to a side door of the church, which he unlocked and then ushered me through into a small space so beautifully painted with icons that it literally made me gasp.

Image source
In a Ukrainian accent so thick I only understood about two-thirds of what he was telling me, the priest described scenes painted on the two side walls and the row of icons of saints martyred during the Stalinist era. I must've looked like a wide-eyed fool over it all, it was so gorgeous, but he was very obviously proud of showing it to me and invited me to come back for Sunday mass to hear the church choir-- "No music, only voices like angels", he said. I may very well go back some other weekend, but via the magic of the interwebs, I found a taste of them--


After that impromptu stop, it was back to the day's planned itinerary, which meant heading up Charles Street to the Walters Art Museum to check out the current exhibit on the history and breadth of the collection that William and Henry Walters gifted to the city.  That gift is an incredible treasure.  One of only two free museums in Baltimore (the other being the BMA), it's a labyrinthine building combining 19th century and modern architecture, full of surprises from ancient cultures, through the Baroque, and into the 18th and 19th centuries.  I've a handful of favorite rooms and items there, but today was struck by a piece I've never seen before.  In a dark blue side-room of the From Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story exhibit, I found a deceptively simple little Japanese bowl made of silver and plique a jour.  I've seen plique a jour before, both in the Walters collection and in the vintage estate cases of the jewelry store where I work.  It's a form of enameling that allows light to shine through the enamel and create a luminous effect.  But I'd not seen any like this before. Usually it's in small pieces of jewelry, cigarette cases, small bowls or dishes, sometimes larger dishes on stands.  Louis Comfort Tiffany, famous for his stained glass, also worked in plique a jour, so you may've seen it, too. But this simple Japanese bowl was so very different. It looked to have been made of a single sheet of silver molded into the shape of the bowl, and then pierced with hundreds, I mean hundreds, of small scallop-shaped slivers interspersed with many-petaled chrysanthemums, some singly and some in small groups.  Into the scallops was inlaid pale grass-green enamel.  Into the chrysanthemums, tender gradations of pink and soft bright yellow.  The lighting in the gallery was almost criminally wrong for truly showing off the beauty of this bowl, as it shone straight down from a fixture in the ceiling so that much of it was blocked by the inward curve at the top of the bowl.  You could see the silver framework of the design and the prettiness of the colors, but in order to see the luminous glow of the enamel you had to crouch down next to the display case and look up at the bottom sides of the bowl. But that crouching was worth it, as the thing left me stunned.  Much plique a jour is created like stained glass, with bars or wires of metal laid down in a frame-work and soldered together.  If one piece gets messed up, it can be removed or fixed without disturbing the rest.  But the walls of this bowl were smooth, inside and out. There were no separate sections, no solder.  The artist who created it obviously took the initial solid silver bowl and pierced through the metal to create those hundreds of slivers and petals.  If he'd messed up one, he'd have had to scrap that bowl, melt down the metal, and start all over.  The craftsmanship of it was so exquisite and subtle that it made the Lalique and Tiffany pieces in the same room look ham-fisted and over-wrought in comparison.

And once again, via the magic of the interwebs...

Image source.  For a larger view, click here and then click again.

Don't ever, ever let anyone convince you that Baltimore is a scary place with nothing worth seeing.