You are here

Mark Erelli

Last Friday night we went to see Mark Erelli (Wikipedia) in concert in Ann Arbor, MI.  It was part of the Green Wood Coffee House Series at the "North Campus of First United Methodist Church."  It's basically a small fellowship hall/sanctuary sort of place...where they have Saturday night service, etc.  I don't remember how I heard about the show.  We arrived about a half hour early, and there were only about 5 other folks in the audience.  By the time the show got started (no opening act), I guess there were about 25 people there...probably half or more of which were associated with Green Wood and the median age was probably 50 or greater.  It's a shame the crowd was so small.  I can only assume they didn't do a good job promoting the show (though, somehow, I heard about it).  I guess Erelli has a history of performing at this venue (it was mentioned that he played there in 2005).

I would have filmed the show, but I had forgotten to ask Mark's permission ahead of time and decided not to embarrass Lisa by filming first and asking forgiveness later.  But here are a couple of photos:



The set was something on the order of 90 minutes.  As expected, it was heavy on material from his most recent album, Delivered (the only one we had heard beforehand).

He mentioned that there was a folk gathering of sorts at the airport.  Dar Williams was on the plane with him and Richie Valens was at baggage claim.

Apparently there was profanity in the first song (I didn't notice it) and afterwards Erelli apologized for using a curse word in front of the kids and jokingly told them that they should "never say that word."

One of the first few songs he played was Volunteers (written from the perspective of a national guard volunteer who ends up in Iraq).  Here it is streaming:

Here is video of an in-studio performance of Volunteers:

Moving to the next song, he commented that he was transitioning from a downer to a song about drinking "Five Beer Moon."  Here is streaming:

Erelli talked about how many of his songs are hybrids, part autobiographical and part not.  He introduced "Baltimore" by mentioning that although it describes a bottle of little white pills to make it through an 8 hour drive, Erelli prefers Starbucks.  Here is "Baltimore" streaming:

He introduced the one song he played on the mandolin, "Imaginary Wars," by saying that based on his clean-cut appearance people don't realize that he almost took a serious wrong turn at age 9 into eco-terrorism.  A developer had plans for a forest next to his neighborhood, and he and his pals made plans to fight back.  Here is "Imaginary Wars" streaming:

Here is video of a live performance of Imaginary Wars:

Mark talked about playing in the opening act on a Tim McGraw & Faith Hill tour during the summer of 2007, mostly playing hockey arenas in Canada.  His was due to deliver their child any day, so he was expecting that call.  He got a laugh when he said he wrote the song "Once" in the shower...fully the locker room of one of those hockey arenas.  Here is "Once" streaming:

Here is a live performance of Once:

At some point he mentioned Ann Arbor's famous music venue The Ark.  He commented that playing Green Wood was nice because he got the chance to play a full set instead of always only playing 4 or 5 songs at The Ark (i.e., always being an opening act there).

Erelli was standing underneath a cross and commented that it always makes him feel a little strange when he performs in that sort of setting.  He mentioned that he was raised Catholic and that, although that's no longer part of his life, he gets some of those familiar feelings (of guilt, if I remember correctly) whenever he is performing in a church.

Mark told the story of his participation in the Darwin Song Project.  As he wrote in his April newsletter:

My other "live wire" moment came during my trip last month to England to take part in the Darwin Song Project. It sounds as much like a reality TV show as it does an artistic endeavor: eight folksingers from across the US and the UK holed up in an English country farmhouse for a week to collaborate on songs inspired by the life and work of Charles Darwin, in honor of the 200th anniversary of his birth. It was an amazing experience, I co-wrote two songs, and as a group we wrote about 18 songs in a week. We were to perform these songs for a sold-out crowd at the week's end, and the real kicker was that they'd be recorded for an eventual live DVD/CD release.

He performed "Kingdom Come" which he described as starting with parasitic wasps and ending with strong agnosticism if not atheism.

At some point towards the middle of the show he commented on the boys making it through the concert with aid from their Gameboys (DSs, actually).  He said he was looking forward to the Gameboy stage with his son who at this point is at the stage of fascination with numbers and letters.  He said that, though he'd been away less than a day, it was already weird not to have his child with him calling out every letter or number he saw.

He also played "Troubadour Blues" (streaming):

and "Not Alone" (streaming):

and "Passing Through" (during which he invited the crowd to join in on the chorus) (streaming):

and "Unravelled" (streaming):

among others that I didn't recognize or can't remember (if I'd been thinking, I'd have consulted the set list).  "Not Alone" is one of my favorites from his most recent album, along with "Hope Dies Last" and "Delivered"; we were disappointed he didn't play "Hope Dies Last."

Mark didn't bother to leave the stage for the encore.  Someone requested "Congress Street" and Erelli was glad to get a request for a "deep cut."  Someone else requested another song too (a "gospel song").  Mark vacillated at first but then took the advice to play both.

Towards the end Erelli commented that our kids had made it through the whole show and took that as a good sign.  As we left, he was sitting in the lobby selling cds.  He shook my hand and thanked us for bringing the kids which he thought was cool.

We really enjoyed the show and the intimate setting.  At first Lisa was skeptical about making the trip to Ann Arbor, but in the end it was well-worth the trouble to see such a talented musician.

Here are some photos of the family before the show:


20090417-194511 20090417-194519 20090417-194631

Next is tomorrow nights "Flight of the Conchords" show in Detroit.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer