Sam Amidon @ Museum of Arts and Design
I sometimes wonder if everyone needs some mode of creative expression in order to survive. It makes me feel better to see people giving themselves a creative outlet, whether it’s writing, singing, playing, dancing, cooking, painting, gardening, building or sketching. I imagine it would be tough to keep everything stored in your head forever, so it’s good to somehow process the stuff that’s in there to make room for the new.
I have certainly seen a lot of people expressing themselves in the form of song, but sometimes I witness a performance that displays an artist ‘s expression using a variety of media. This happened when Sufjan Stevens showcased his performance piece called “The BQE,” which featured music, film images, and dancing. And it happened again last night at Sam Amidon’s show at The Museum of Arts and Design. The show did not take place in the exhibit hall, but in a small auditorium downstairs. I knew the show was going to be different from my usual fare when I looked around before and saw one of the performers. She was sitting on the stage floor, sewing a blanket by hand.
Because the show was part of a curated performance series, it had a name: “Home Alone Inside My Head: Sam Amidon.” This did not help to clarify anything, so I still had no idea what to expect. The evening ended up being part song, part video installation, part musical history lesson, and part comedy routine. I’m guessing it wasn’t meant to be a comedy show, but Amidon’s lack of inhibition was endearing, and his unique take on life was so off-beat it ended up being funny.
Amidon is a folk singer and songwriter, and as far as I saw he plays the guitar, fiddle, and banjo. He played solo for most of the night, but he did invite his band mate Thomas to the piano for a couple of songs. The first part of the show featured two of Amidon’s musical inspirations—fiddle-player Bruce Greene and artist/singer Loy McWhirter. Greene had taught Amidon some of the fiddle tunes he learned in Kentucky over the past 30 years, and he performed some for the audience. During a break from the music, Amidon began the musical history portion of the night. He and Greene sat down for a short interview session where Greene talked about this experience learning fiddle music from some “old-timers” in Kentucky. This particular music has been passed on from the time of the Civil War, but it is quickly dying out. It reminded me of a movie I saw called The Linguists, which documents the efforts made by two researchers to record the last remaining speakers of languages on the verge of extinction.
Throughout his own performance, Amidon offered up images projected on a large screen behind him. It was interesting to have sort of a runnning commentary from the artist during the songs. There were comics, sketches, notes about songs, comments about movies, and funny coversations between Maple Syrup and Broccoli Man. One thing is for sure, Sam Amidon is not inhibited in his creative expression. He even break-danced a bit and pranced around the stage and aisles, “loping like a buzzard.” There was a little of everything last night, as it was truly a multimedia performance. To end the evening, Amidon chose to share some quotes with the audience. First, he blurted out a reminder that “life is beautiful” and then he proceeded to read quotes from the commencement address given by Mr. Rogers at Dartmouth College in 2002. He shared lines like “Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space. Every one of us is a part of that jewel.”
Here’s a video for Sam Amidon’s song “Saro,” which features some of his drawings. This video was part of last night’s performance, where Amidon sang the lyrics live while the video and music played behind him.
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