Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Music Makes the Wheels Go 'Round. Part 2

Peter Mulvey playing at the Brink Sunday evening
This year, Madison has been lucky to host a plethora of musicians who tour by bicycle.  In August, I had the pleasure of meeting and riding with Leo J who has been riding cross country since Spring and has now, hopefully settled in for the long winter in Vermont.  In October, we'll host Ben Sollee as he cruises through with his cello.  Sunday, however, had me giddy.  One of my all time favorite folk musicians, Peter Mulvey, came through on his annual bike tour, Madison being his final stop prior to heading back to Milwaukee for an all too brief stop at home.

For seven years, Peter has been doing a musical bike tour.  In his words, each year he thinks "WTF was I thinking?"  Playing night after night is hard enough.  Now, add 50-80 miles of riding while pulling all your gear in wind, rain, heat, and cold to the mix.  Could you do it?  Not me!  Heck, yesterday my husband and I were going to ride out and meet the crew--he tours with other musicians as well as friends--about 30-40 miles out of Madison and roll back into town with them.  Thirty miles into the ride, I realized I was too tired, after the gravel event the day prior, to go any further North since the headwinds were coming from the South.  Somewhere just South of Columbus, I had to text Peter telling him we were turning back.  Such a bummer.  I had looked forward to riding with him and Brianna Lane all week.  The only saving grace was Peter told me everything got quiet even in there group as they pushed into the headwinds from Columbus into Madison.

I had to "settle" for just going to the concert, which really wasn't settling at all.  As we entered the Brink, we first noticed Peter's steed parked in the entry way--a laid back recumbent bike in which he pulls a trailer with his guitar and gear.  I hadn't seen Peter play since the previous December when he did his yearly concert at Cafe Carpe with Redbird.  Since we had gotten there a bit early, I was able to a) apologize profusely for wimping out and b) chat with him about his schedule a bit.

There is a song titled "A Folk Singer Earns Every Dime".  I would second that!  Peter, like most folk musicians, spends a good deal of his time on the road.  Although he "lives" in Milwaukee with his wife, this year he was on the road for 160 days.  When I asked him "Isn't that tough?  Don't you miss your wife?"  He gave the perfect answer "But that's 200 days I get to be home."  And that's Peter's personality.  He's a glass half full kind of guy and he said that as he ages--he's 44 now--the transition from being on the road to going home gets easier.  He looks forward to doing house chores like turning the compost.

Brianna Lane

As we gathered in a packed room, I saw several familiar faces from the Madison folk scene.  One of my other favorite musicians, Rick Krause, who is not only an amazing musician but also a cyclist, joined us.  It was a pleasure to sit next to my husband and Rick for the show.  Brianna took the stage wearing a Twin Six Cyclofemme t-shirt--perfect choice I must say.  Although I'm sure she was exhausted, her voice rang out, and such a beautiful voice she has.  Brianna often tours around and plays at bike shops around the country, partially put on by one of my favorite bike bag makers, Banjo Brothers.  I think about this for a moment.  It pleases me so much to see that others see the connection between cycling and music.  It pleases me even more grassroots concerts are popping up all the time in bike shops.

Small chatter filled the room during the break between artists.  When Peter took the stage, the entire room's focus closed in on him.  Not only is Peter an amazing folk singer and writer, but also a fantastic story teller.  The beauty of seeing him perform solo--or mainly solo--is getting to hear his stories.  He speaks about his travels around Europe and the entire United States.  He speaks about his love for poetry.  He speaks about the interesting people he meets along the way.  I would say most of his songs are poetry or life stories set to music.  Prior to starting a specific song about a dream, he told us how he's been committed to writing a song every Tuesday and has to send it to some other song writing friends.  A conversation, if you will, through music.  Not unlike the conversations many painters would have with each other on canvas.

Peter fittingly sang some of his songs which included cycling as well, not bike songs per se, but beautifully capturing the essence of biking.  Weaving the bike into life.  When his set was done, I could only wish him well on his final leg.  From here, he'll head West for a mad dash tour down the coast.  Hopefully, I think, he'll find his way back home sometime soon, to settle into house chores and turn the compost.

Peter's wheels

If you live in Wisconsin, and would like to hear Peter play--of course you do--he will be doing his yearly series at Cafe Carpe in December.

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