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Amos Lee in Seattle

A few years ago, I heard some Amos Lee song on the radio, or more likely the internet, and promptly bought his self-titled first album. After transferring the music to my computer, I proceeded to play it multiple times a day for weeks, then with somewhat less frequency for a few more months. And by then I was thoroughly sick of it. Not a smart strategy, especially since much of my listening was passive, as I worked or surfed the web, so I was wasting something wonderful.

Initially, I thought I’d make it a point to see Lee whenever he next passed through Seattle. By the time he came, I had lost my enthusiasm. Plus, I may actually have been out of town. I dutifully got his second album, Supply and Demand. Or maybe Gail bought it for me. But by then the thrill was gone.

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of the arrival of friends from Glasgow who would be staying with us, Gail saw that Lee would be in town this month and asked Irene if they would want to join us in seeing him. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to join us, but they said yes and I thought it might be fun. Then Gail discovered that he was performing not in a regular concert setting but as part of some sort of festival called GreenNote. I wasn’t feeling so good about our decision at that point, but Gail went ahead and ordered tickets.

Here’s GreenNote’s description of the event:

On Saturday, July 24, GreenNote welcomes Amos Lee to our stage at the Mural Amphitheatre [in the Seattle Center]. What can we say about Amos Lee except that he’s one of the most compelling singer-songwriters in America today, combining folk, soul, and jazz into some great lyrical storytelling. Opening for Amos are two Seattle notables: Star Anna and Ian Moore. This is a 100% net proceed benefit for our beneficiaries [Sierra Club, People for Puget Sound, People’s Waterfront Coalition]. The GreenNote Benefit Concert is being held on the wide, comfortable grassy expanses of the Mural Amphitheatre. An amazing summer night of acoustic music!

The scheduled time for the event was 4:30 to 9:30. I wasn’t keen to lie on the grass for 5 hours. Ultimately we arrived at 6:30, which turned out to be during the lull between Ian Moore and Star Anna. There was a fourth act too, Rocky Votolato, listed at the GreenNote website though not in their homepage blurb.

The event was well run. We must have just missed Moore. After about 15 minutes, the emcee came on stage to talk to us about sustainability and the recycling and composting bins for our garbage, reminded us of the food available from Ballard Brothers Seafood and Burgers, made further comments about green-ness, then introduced someone from People’s Waterfront Coalition. After she spoke, out came Star Anna, with an accompanying guitarist. Looking at her website, I see that he was Justin Davis, a local musician and member of her band. She explained at one point that normally she plays with a full band, but they were going acoustic for the night as part of the GreenNote theme, making reference to the notion that this approach had less impact on the environment. Sustainable or not, the music was excellent. She has quite a compelling voice and we enjoyed her.

During the break before Rocky Votolato came on, we got some dinner from the Ballard Brothers booth. The cycle repeated — remarks from the emcee, remarks from a local Sierra Club representative, music. We weren’t too inspired by Votolato. I don’t know if that was his doing or ours, but we were distracted.

Then more remarks from the emcee, including the helpful note that Amos Lee would be coming on at 8:20. This was at about 8:05. Time for dessert. And at 8:20 sharp, on came Amos.

You know what? He’s fabulous. I felt I was re-discovering his old music, which he played and sang differently from on his albums. He played solo, rather than with his band, and between his voice and guitar playing, he produced a full and compelling sound. He’s also quite the humorist, in an ironic, self-referential way. He finished at around 9:30, then came back to play four more songs, finishing for good at 9:50.

The weather, I should add, was perfect, as it has been for days. An absolutely clear sky, temperatures in the 70s, the Space Needle rising just a couple of hundred feet away, a full moon slowly rising.

A perfect evening. Thank you, Gail. And thank you, Amos.

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