A Mighty...What?

I'm not sure quite what I saw last night at the McCaw Hall, but it was entertaining. The cast of A Mighty Wind, Christopher Guest's gentle send-up of the 50s folk music world told through a memorial concert, has been touring essentially the front-story for the movie as a live stage show in character.It's a little disconcerting, that concert. I thought the movie was hilarious, partly because I'd grown up listening to a variety of music from that era, and have a pretty close partiality to folks like Pete Seeger. Given little provocation, I'll launch into a rendition of Greenland Whale Fisheries, so don't ask about that song. The concert was quite lovely. (Here's the preview from the Seattle Times). Guest never seems to actually make fun of people in his style, but to embrace their essential charm and warmth, and poke at the pecadillos. His character in the Spinal Tap-successor The Folksmen is such a dead-on summary of Peter Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary, that he can just sing the word "Welllllll...." in that quavery, folky style, and we all burst out laughing. What's great about the ensemble is that they are all talented musicians. I don't know, for instance, if Catherine O'Hara learned the autoharp for the movie or had played it her whole life, but she acquitted herself extremely well. And while the singing voices weren't all perfect, they were genuine. Take Eugene Levy and O'Hara by themselves, and they're okay -- Levy has a very nice tone -- but together, their harmony is gorgeous and moving. The songs were mostly or entirely taken from the movie, but played at full length. You had the usual repertoire of folk-like tunes, including the song devoted to the memory of those who had friends, family, "one a loved one," killed in a train crash in a coal mine. The only thing marring the event was the muddy, blurry sound in that beautiful hall. Only Michael McKean's voice cut through it and "Mitch and Micky's" duets; often, the lyrics were totally unintelligible in the kind of middle-tone blur. I've heard the hall is terrific, so it may be the difficult in getting a clear balanced sound out of a one-shot performance. We didn't know what to expect, and the closest I can come to explaining what it felt like was The Museum of Jurassic Technology. There's an irony nestled inside reality nestled inside irony. I mean, we went to see a concert derived from a movie that was a parody of period of time that only took itself seriously half the time.