New York Concert Review by Ray Jow

Ray Jow, NYC, was kind enough to write this nice piece and submitted it
to be published here. It took just a little arm twisting, not too much.

you had asked me for a review of the fahey concert(s) for the webite.  i wrote
an extensive apology as to why i don't think that i could be able to write a
review of john because i don't feel qualified enough, either "musically" or
knowing the breadth of his works published and unpublished to offer any
critical judgment.  what i proceeded to do is something like the following:

friday night armed with only an idea of where and what the hinthouse was,
having been there two nights prior, i went with my friend after work.  showing
up around seven thirty or so, there was fortunately someone at the door and i
managed to talk with him about, "i'm here to see john fahey" but i didn't know
any times etc.  he turned out to be a member of the no neck blues band, and
they were holding some sort of event to raise money to fix their van which
suffered an accident during the winter.  it turned out that four acts were on
that night, john first, lee renaldo of sonic youth, a band i think called
thirst, and finally the no neck blues band ending the night off.  anyway, the
place turned out to be the home/working place/practice hall of the blues band.
i assumed it was a club or some venue of such sort, no wonder they weren't
listed in any directory.  although i wished they answered the doorbell that
wednesday!  being in harlem, i thought it was an old friend of john fahey's
and he just decided to go for a jam session and the only people who might know
about it was his friends and people who just happened to check his webpages.
while waiting for him, he made the rounds but didn't really speak to many
people except for a guitarist, with whom he shared thoughts i guess on john's
paintings (which he announced he was selling after the show). anyway, the show
started around nine o clock, and fortunately john was the first one up.  he
played a relatively quiet session, including guitar lamento by bola sete.  the
relatively young audience, mostly college age or trendsters, didn't seem so
appreciative.  especially one group of hecklers in the back who insisted on
talking away quite loudly during the show.  if you get the chance to hear a
tape of the show, as the event was taped by nyc downtown music gallery's
bruce, you will amusingly hear some guy yelling, "shut the hell up back
there!"  otherwise, john didn't really have so many comments regarding the
place or the songs, although he did ask for water after the first piece.  i
split after john was done, because i wasn't so interested in the others.

i also went to see him more relaxed at tonic the next day, in the early
afternoon and it was something altogether different.  the audience for the
most part had seats, as opposed to standing the night before and sitting on
the floor.  the audience was also older and seemed to comprise his more older
fans.  not so many trendsters either.  he performed his pieces with a little
humor, interjecting comments and references.  for example, he played artie
shaw's "nightmare", guitar lamento again, variations of what he performed the
night before, and a song whose provenance i think he said was skip james "i
rather be the devil".  at one point he closed a song by saying "i think that's
a good place to end".  he also said hello to his fans afterwards...which leads
into the following bits:

someone in front of me on line had four fonotones, and i had previously only
seen this on website and through hearsay.  i have never seen them and know
about its history only through stories and myths.  there was one by blind
thomas, one which featured robbie basho in a group, and two others i cannot
remember.  when john saw these, he said, "those are collectible but they're
not even good" (repeated twice)  i talked to the guy who had them, but he
didn't want to part with any although i didn't really give him any offer, and
he said he got them in the 60s when he went to maryland to joe bussard's
place.  he said that bussard cut them right there in his place, on vinyl.  the
guy was given a list of songs to choose from, and he would then stamp them.
when chosen, bussard would type on his typewriter the labels for the songs,
and ask which speed 33 or 78 that the guy wanted.  he chose 33 lp.  prior to
this i had thought that the fonotones were issued only between 1958-1960, in
78 rpm only.  so that's one myth which is off, it seems.   anyway, i gave the
guy my business card just in case he was ready to let go of them, but he
seemed to enjoy them, and he said after he died he would have his wife give me
a call.

second thing is that i asked john to autograph his latest lp, georgia stomps
etc on table of the elements.  both he and tim knight were surprised to see this
because neither of them thought that it was even printed.  this got to a
discussion of the record, and records in general and how the cd has superceded
the vinyl format.  i thanked john and was on my way because i needed to go to
work that day.

fortunately i took the same train as tim did, he was on the prowl with his
brother for records.  and he asked me where he could get a copy and i told him
possible places but they probably wouldn't have it because i'm always in the
record stores and have seen it only twice.  we talked about revenant, and i
was wondering why that wasn't issued on vinyl because if anything the reality
of it is so beautiful on wax as opposed to that cold compact disc.  and just
general conversation.

that's pretty much it, i guess i can't really capture the enthusiasm of last
week because i wrote you right after the show from work.  i just remember bits
and pieces now of the whole lot.  it is totally different to see john fahey
live, although it is nicely captured on vinyl as well.

that's that for me, if anything interesting comes up, send it my way.  thanks
a lot melissa, write soon.

all the best from nyc, ray.