As a basement is expected, it’s at the bottom. An entrance off the back end of the Grimey’s record store. I deke through smokers with my best of manners catching looks like I clearly am not from the scene. My most comfortable outfit completed with a silk neckerchief tied in a stereotypical wild west fashion, triangular and loose, relaxed until I need to save my face from a rolling dust storm. An ascot as my urban contemporaries have called it. I would have taken the brown accessories a little too far if it wasn’t for Marshall stopping me on my way out the door to suggest my silverbelly hat – “white” in his words – would look like I’m not trying as hard. So I swap my old brown felt for the sweat stained Resistol.
It is getting pretty worn. My father, a creature of habit, had a couple easy years with Christmas shopping alternating my gifts between boots and hats. I wore my brother’s old Stetson before my dad filled my ego with how good I would look in a one of my own. Brand new and classy. A habit of taking it off my head by squeezing the curve in on itself has weakened the crease to a tear, leaving it look like a lobe whose earring was forcefully torn out. When I would once place it on a random child’s head if caught staring, I now resist for hygienic-sake.
I meet Easton as we simultaneously pass through the entrance. He is in pre-performance mode, his hand on my shoulder as a greeting, looking back to point at the doorman with a “he’s good”. Industry slang for “this cat pays nothing and can walk right in”. There’s no line-up so I don’t battle with the special treatment as much but still flip-flop between the guilt of not paying and the appreciation of saving the money.
The entry lit, merchandise to the left displayed out of suitcases. A typical collection of shirts and vinyl, the latter propped up inside the opened lid. In it’s base, jewel cases. Compact discs still fighting the good fight for their place as a recognized medium. I’m confused by some attendees motives when coming to a merchandise table to ask if they can buy our music online. It warrants a slap. The inquiry itself offensive to question our worth in today’s digital age but it’s also obvious lip-service, unable to summon expressing their enjoyment of the show paired with the confidence of choosing to not buy a record. A purchase never expected, it still creates an awkward evident answer. I’m going to begin approaching this issue aggressively by requesting their phone, opening iTunes and purchasing it on the spot for them – smiling the whole time as if I’m saving them the difficulty.
A lit up vintage sign glows over the table, split into three separate sections of design. The left square as the main advertisement; “Falls City Beer” – “Pick a City”. The middle in a frosty cartoonish font; “COLD BEER”. The right, a picture of two mugs of the Kentucky pale ale…assuming. I walk through the brick archway into the second opening. With a capacity of two hundred, a quarter of that would make the room seem filled. I tremble a Coors Banquet tallboy can to establish whether the empty table is reserved or not, its empty so I turn the chair ninety degrees, face the stage and sit.
An earlier performance is clearing props, a megaphone and numerous blanks picket signs. The larger of the two men lift a 4×12 bass cabinet alone and walks it out the door, a rear suspender clip letting loose. The back left corner of the stage has my detested icicle lights in their usual twist and a disco ball hanging. Knick-knacks as part of a honky-tonks identity, I have no choice but to forgive them both. The stripping of the stage is shared by inhabiters with opposite intent. One placing symbols on the house kits and the other playing passing chords on an unidentifiable twelve-string acoustic while running vocal scales into the microphone. He interrupts his melodies with the predisposed, “ch-ch” and “ah, yah, yeeah”. A keen ear, picking up on a feedback in his high register.
Reuben Bidez is denim clad and lean. His lengthy brown hair and fine pencilled moustache lend to a knight-like image, a travelling court troubadour with his instrument – the doubled strings giving a chorus effect. He has a noble approach to his crowd, appreciative of all and softly spoken to, recognizing them amidst the continued effort to locate the rogue frequency. He opens up as a Soprano to expose the squeal and the sound-tech snags it at 10-20 kHz.
A microphone’s intimate nature makes it a quick contaminant. If shared, like unprotected sex, a herpes virus can nestle itself in the moist metal cross-stitching and leave it as communally filthy as the plastic couch cover at a swinger’s party. A history of lovers left to dry on the mouthpiece. A vocalist should be rigorous in replacing house microphones with their own at the very least to avoid catching the sniffles. Bidez is left with no choice but to request a swap urging the sound-tech to smell it. Knowing better, Bidez’s word is taken and a clean Shure 58 is granted.
He’s left alone at the front of the room with a posture that soothes the chatter.
An opening slot treated like a laboratory, its semi-controlled setting allowing for experiment. Bidez takes advantage of the opportunity by sharing his intent. In his rawest form he’s supporting the release of a record but not balking from unrecorded material beginning.
“It’s always easy to blame someone for running around,” a precursor to the first song of the evening, “Lily”.
Bidez is a folk singer at its truest. Comfortable with his autonomy and well versed. He conveys a clear message in and around the material with a voice that cuts. His modest demeanour is enduring and treble dominated range, captivating. As I’ve discovered the strengths of my own voice I’ve come to favour a more talking based lyrical execution, but Bidez beautifully sings in a range unique to him alone. His guitar creates a pad that further adds to the allure and is well rehearsed. He writes at times through obscure structural decisions but ties them together with the usage of repetition. An audience comfortable with verbally complimenting his abilities outside of applause.
Bidez commends the room, “When you show up on time, the musicians play on time and everybody can be home on time.”
He offers mutual respect and directs our attention under the Falls City Beer sign where his debut record is available, “next to all twenty of Tim Easton’s albums,” he exaggerates.
Bidez’s confidence shines with a third unknown song, acknowledging the frustrations of the masses. His “American Dream” is acerbic. He patronizes the rat race and modern complacency. The mutiny in his content is being heard and with the chance one listener is questioning their own perspective, Bidez has a successful evening. In his own words he is a vulnerable young man with a voice. One which I see the importance in as he concludes his stand with a message of hope.
The New Revivalist will influence through grace. The beginning stages of this revolution has individuals embracing their weaknesses and exposing them as an offering to kinship. A sense of compassion will draw opposing sides closer to the chance of an effective interaction – seeing their problems as similar and the solution by uniting.
Tonight Reuben Bidez initiated that shift. He softens guards through humour and allows his listeners to open up. His art form is disciplined and acts as a well crafted vehicle for change. An emotional connection through his material that was hailed by American Songwriter magazine as “treds in a vulnerable direction with a rich soulful sound” and The Repertoire adds “[Bidez] channels a certain natural memoir of a 1970’s songwriter while pushing the bounds of conventional rhapsody and inventing “counter-culture” music.”
Counter-culture music. That which will motivate acceptance and indoctrinate a more tolerant set of beliefs.
Bidez is on the forefront of our movement.