Last night, my wife and I had a date. Having as many kids as we do makes this rather difficult at times. Granted, we did have some choice in having all of the kids we do, so I can’t really complain too much about our confinement to the Birzer home on the weekends.
Of course, it’s my wife’s fault we have so many kids, but that’s another story.
We only had to travel about 1.2 miles to the site of our date, the Dawn Theater–a restored movie theater from the last century now turned into a nice dinner club with a full bar, great lighting, and nice acoustics. You must understand, we live in a town with a population of only 8,000 and a county that seems to have more Blue Laws than all of the Bible Belt states put together (as a good friend of mine notes, Hillsdale must be one of the view places in which any one can rent the most disturbing and raunchy video imaginable (or, let’s hope, unimaginable) after church on Sunday mornings, but you are forbidden from buying a bottle of vodka–INSANITY!).
So, a nice dinner club is a stunning thing in Hillsdale County, and Peg Williams does a brilliant job of running it. Thank you, Peg.
But, to top it all off, we got to hear The Madeira play. It was my first time to see them, though they’ve toured throughout North America and Europe previously. I pray it will not be my last time.
The Madeira, led by my close friend, political ally, and colleague in the economics department at Hillsdale College, Ivan Pongracic, specializes in Surf Rock. I hate to admit it, but I’m really not that familiar with the genre–coming out of the Middle East originally but exploding in California in the very early 1960s.
As the band explains it on their website:
The Madeira plays surf music born of screaming wind over the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, deafening echoes of waves pounding the Gibraltar Rock, joyous late-night gypsy dances in the small towns of Andalucia, and exotic cacophony of the Marrakesh town square. It is the surf music of the millennia-old Mediterranean mysteries.
To my untrained ear, the music most resembled that of Chris Isaac and of Ennio Morricone from the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s.
From my rather ignorant understanding of Surf, it struck me as possessing a really traditional rock rhythm section (bass and drums in almost perfect syncopation) but with a very mischievous lead guitar and a devastatingly hyperactive rhythm guitar. The drums, especially, had an interesting sound–and for those of you who have any understanding and knowledge of drumming and percussion, please forgive me–as there was an emphasis on the deepest bass drum and on the highest cymbals, with little attention on the middle range.
Overall, the lack of lyrics and the place of Surf in history of the pre-radical sixties, gave the music a real innocence. But, it was the innocence of genius, not of decadence.
The whole show last night–just a little under one hour long–overflowed with the energy of a thousand stars. Amazing. The audience enjoyed it just as much as the band. Everyone enjoyed it.
Granted, I’m biased, as I think the world of Ivan, but he served as the perfect leader of the band. He played with finesse and confidence, and he had the audience completely in the palm of his hand. He joked, often, of the commercial suicide he and the band committed by dedicating themselves to Surf. Well, what may be bad for the pocket book is perfectly healthy for the soul.
The Madeira is Ivan Pongracic (lead guitar), Patrick O’Connor (rhythm guitar) , Todd Fortier (bass), and Dane Carter (drums). Their studio CDs (Double Crown Records) are 1) Sandstorm (2005) and 2) Carpe Noctem (2007), and 3) Tribal Fires (2012). To order The Madeira’s studio CDs (and I very much encourage you to), go here.