Poetry virgin: But musical pros save the night


Poetry Lounge and Folkskonde
At the Live Arts Upstage
December 16

Like clasping an ex-whatever to your chest, poetry and I have always been locked in a nervous embrace. I'm a poetry virgin: Since I have never taken a class or more than a passing interest in the singular form of artistic expression, "meters" are incomprehensible, "pentameters" sound like they should be preceded by the word "Doric," and when lines don't rhyme, I look at my watch.

All right, I'm exaggerating, but other than being able to tell good poetry from bad, I'm quite useless. But I do know a little about music, and when I heard that the one-year anniversary party of that singular Charlottesville scene, the Poetry Lounge, would be featuring music to back the readers' pieces as well as a performance by local band-on-the-rise Folkskonde, I knew I had to show up.

Making my way to the new Live Arts Upstage, I was impressed by the new location's setup. The Poetry Lounge was held in a medium sized room, with fine lighting for the stage area and slightly psychedelic colors on the floor. The room was packed when I arrived, shortly before the poets began reading, leading to basically sitting on the stage. Started in 2002 by Todd Ristau and Ristau Entertainment, Erin Fleck, and Tucker Duncan, the Lounge seems to have a very heavy local resident contingent– some high schoolers, some older folk, generally "townies" as the old phrase goes.

The poets each read one piece in turn, backed by a group of six musicians featuring the likes of Andy Waldeck on bass and Adam Smith from Folkskonde on guitar. Shortly before reading, the poets would tell the band what they wanted, shouting out phrases like "something serene," or "spooky Irish ballad," to which the group answered with a tune that pretty much exactly fit what I, at least, had in mind.

The poetry I saw was generally quite good, and even my un-cultured mind could tell that a few pieces were some of the best work I've ever heard– the official Mark Grabowski Interest Test told me so (if it keeps my interest, it's good).

But what I really came for was the music of Folkskonde, and they did not disappoint. This six-piece, including three guitars, bass, drums, and keys, has really grown into performing since I first saw them early in the fall. Made up of various high school-and-slightly-beyond youngsters, the group features at least three different members who sing and write songs, which makes for an extremely varied and well-stocked set.

Their first tune is one of their best, the slightly Zeppelin combined with Flaming Lips song "Stung by a Wasp." Switching instruments and singers, the group next played "The Economist," a heavy-heavy pop tune in which the "la-la-la" chorus weaves around the guitar lines in a most singular fashion. The greatest moment of the show was when two of the group's singers sang in a "round" fashion on one tune, answering each other's calls as the rest of the band rocked on.

Folkskonde– probably my favorite new band.