“Musical Mulligan Stew Choirboy or punk rocker? Traditionalist or iconoclast? Folk singer or digital effects nerd? Grounded, yet ethereal. Cynical but sensitive. Peter Evans’ work embraces opposites. He combines seemingly irreconcilable styles to create unusual musical statements.”
Peter Evans is a contemporary folk musician from Philadelphia who’s latest offering is the shimmering “Miss Nomer’s Number” which seamlessly combines elements of swing, gypsy jazz and folk. I want to thank Peter for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.
The first album you ever bought?
Tim Buckley’s “Goodbye & Hello”, purchased at E.J. Korvette’s store inside the newly-opened Cedarbrook Mall in Wyncote, PA in July of 1967. In order to pay for the album, I spent $3.27 of my birthday money. I had just turned 9. My older sister, Laura, made the suggestion to buy TB since I was having a hard time making up my mind. That $3.27 in 1967 is worth $23.30 today. This first pressing LP would only fetch between $9 and $15 if I tried to sell it now. Still, I think Laura made a priceless call.
Your last album bought?
“King Kong” by Bob Schneider.
Favorite album of all time?
Joni Mitchell “Mingus”. Using your celebrity in order to raise up the greatness of someone who is lesser known is such a beautiful gesture. The goodwill was magnified by how close Charles Mingus was to the end of his life when the project was released. So intense and bittersweet.
Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Elvis Costello “King of America”. I was not ready to forgive Costello’s gruesome vocal intonation in this genre in the way I let it go during his work with the Attractions in the ‘70s. The bonus disc was a ballad parade, when I was hoping for more of the back-to-back-to-back dance-able tracks “My Aim is True” magic of ’77. Re-listening to it now, there’s a lot of really interesting stuff, that may have just represented brave choices in 1986. ‘Your Mind is on Vacation’ has long been my favorite Mose Allison tune. I covered ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ with a pick-up a cappella group a few years back. This was decent wine that tasted awful right after it was bottled. The title & the cover picture still haven’t fermented to my liking, though.
First concert attended?
Crosby Stills Nash & Young at the Temple Ambler Summer Music Festival – probably 1970.
Bob Schneider at Ardmore Music Hall Oct 9.
Favorite concert ever?
Friday night concert at Philly Folk Fest, 2013: Stray Birds, Otis Taylor Band, RUNA, Amy Helm, Jake Shimabukuro, Richard Thompson Trio. Varied music, well played, sublime weather, in the company of a dozen friends.
Least favorite concert?
Easy answer – I was a part of it with the Yale Whiffs of ‘80. We were booked to sing at the Podersdorf wine festival, just outside of Vienna. We were picked up at the Hotel Intercontinental by a limo/van & driven about 45 minutes to 1 hour to the gig, which was sort of like a county fair with prizes for the cleanest pig and the best strudel and lots of bean bag tossing games. We were booked to perform in the main tent, which was set up with picnic tables and checkered tablecloths. We changed from our “civvies” into our concert attire in a large storage garage behind the main tent. We warmed up a little & readied ourselves for the gig. As we waited to go on, we browsed through the garage, noticing dozens of partially opened cases of Podersdorf wine. Back in the tent, folks were sitting down with their families and plates full of BBQ chicken & potatoes and bottles of Podersdorf wine – very sweet, like a Mosel dessert wine- auslese (last picked) but not quite ice wine. There was piped in polka music. We sang our 45 minute set on time, dressed in our usual formalwear with white gloves on a nice elevated stage with a curtain and proscenium. Response to our offerings was rather indifferent, even though the sound system was good, and we were rock solid since we had been touring for at least a couple of weeks by that point. As our set was winding up, the crowd was noticeably changing. Young people wearing black were showing up, sitting close to the stage, and were talking and drinking loudly with their backs turned to us. It was as if the tent was turning into more of a nightclub than a rural picnic ground. The families with kids who were at least offering polite applause were beginning to drift off. We sang the ‘Whiffenpoof Song’, our traditional closer, walked off stage to virtually no applause. Behind the curtain, waiting to go on next were a trio of spandex clad, highly quaffed guys (2) and gal (1). They checked out our white tie & tails look and smiled disdainfully in our direction. The crowd was growing larger and louder by the minute, and we were getting kinda freaked at this unexpected turn of events. In minutes the multiplying crowd of young hip urbanites were chanting in Austrian, banging on the tables, and making every effort to convince those in control that the act they came to see should begin asap. When it did, we who remained backstage were astonished. Disco music pulsated. The lights glittered and morphed from one color to another in sync with the music. The spandex clad trio gyrated in synchronized precision and sang into handheld wireless microphones that were… Wait a minute, they were lip-synching those harmonies. No wonder, they were hopelessly out of breath by the time they finished whirling through one of those 150 BPM aerobics workout songs. The crowd was going ballistic. These Austrian wunderkind were the Milli Vanilli of Europe, but nobody cared if they had someone else sing for them… they looked great. Now THIS was entertainment. THEY had talent!!!
After gawking for a few more minutes at this trippy scene, we walked dejectedly back to our storage garage to get changed out of our un-hip formalwear. We remembered the cases of wine & decided to help ourselves to a bottle or two, even though it wasn’t chilled in the storage garage. We hadn’t had anything to drink that night, anyway & we felt the need for some anesthesia, I suppose. Our tour manager called the limo service to get icked up. Um, bad news guys – we’ll have to take the train. They can’t pick us up. I forget at this point if the van broke down, couldn’t get through the pandemonium in the main tent, or our representative in Vienna just screwed up, but we were hosed. Fortunately, the light rail line was about ¼ mile away in the complex where the festival was taking place. We packed up our record boxes (I don’t think we sold many that night!) and our hanging bags with our un-hip formalwear and trundled over to the train stop. After waiting for a few minutes alone on the platform, we were informed that the last train had already left for the evening. At this point, we called for taxis (a fairly expensive proposition since there were 14 of us since we needed 4 of them). We decided to go back to the garage to wait. After all, there was wine in there. Not only did we kill off a few more bottles while waiting for our ride, we filled every gunnell in our hanging bags with more wine. After all, these assholes owed us! By the time we were picked up, the Milli Vanillis and their impassioned followers had vacated the premises. It was basically us & the clean-up crews and the onset of a nasty headache from that wine.
Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
My most vivid recollection is from the cadaver room at the Medical School at the University of Pittsburgh. It was 1981 and I was on my way from Connecticut to Indiana to do some research for my senior thesis. I dropped in on a friend who had been a part of the worst gig ever in Podersdorf, who had made it into med school on the last day of tour. Nobody was more relieved than Bill’s parents, who telegrammed then news to him, at our hotel, I think. Anyway, Bill was always a bit of an edgy guy, and he thought the best way to start a tour of his new school was to look at the pickle jars filled with various organs and the desiccated, sectioned corpses that would form the basis of his anatomy classes. I had not been desensitized to the harsh realities of looking at chunks of deceased humanity in the same way Bill had during the first 6 weeks of Med School & I suddenly found myself reeling, spinning & holding on to the corner of a lab bench to keep myself from hitting the linoleum. End of tour. Bill graduated & went on to become a pathologist in Boston. My thesis on the architecture and metropolitan development of Columbus, Indiana quickly became lost in the library of the School of Architecture at Yale, and I became a restorer of older housing in West Philadelphia.
Thanks, Peter. Pittsburgh and itty bitty bits of human parts aren’t the first two things I think of that go together at all. Well, outside of ‘Night of the Living Dead’, that is.