The Point  5-26-02
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"Silence is the perfectest herald of joy...I were but little happy, if I could say how much."    Claudio, Much Ado About Nothing

While I don't know that "happy" -- at least in its most accustomed and frivolous context -- is really the most fitting word to describe any night of music by Michael McDermott, yet neither does the term "festival"  or its definition of merrymaking (according to Webster) seem a setting quite appropriate for him, either.  And as I have mulled over precisely what words would best serve as a suitable preface for yet another performance by this incomparable artist at this (surely one day) legendary venue, I've become increasingly frustrated at the realization that maddeningly few words have seeped into my mind...and more maddeningly, among those, even fewer still that I could possibly use to help those of you not privileged to share in this truly auspicious occasion obtain any sense whatsoever of exactly what you missed.   

Be that as it may, whether it's because of or perhaps even despite this, still the only seemingly at all relevant thought that's kept returning is the above quote by William Shakespeare.  And yet, not comprehending for the longest time how I might utilize these words in a practical way, as you've already gathered from the above paragraph, at last I turned to my dictionary in the hope of some assistance.  And indeed what I found there did serve as something of a beacon to perhaps shed just a tiny bit of light on this matter after all.  For I'm told there that "happy" can also be defined as a circumstance not merely giddy, but rather characterized by joy.  And a festival is not necessarily in all cases centered around merriment, but rather simply a word to describe "a series of performances".  

With that in mind, of course, just as (so I contended in the essay preceding Michael's April visit here) the words "home", "family" and "insanity" take on new, and newly appropriate, definitions when applied to art, so too do those which had on this occasion initially prompted so much confusion.  For not only did this event serve as an incorporation of various artists into one show, indeed it served, too, as yet another event in the ongoing festival represented by Michael McDermott's own series of performances at The Point.  And while not every moment may have proved cheerful by any means, nonetheless the evening was undoubtedly one from which every audience member carried away -- in addition to, pain, grief, conflict, self-examination and a beauty sometimes difficult to grasp -- the unmistakable joy found only in experiencing the greatest works of art.  And, having been among those once more experiencing Michael's art on this occasion, I can only at last reiterate, and much more clearly understand the assertion, truly "I were but little happy, if I could say how much."


Bryn Mawr Folk Festival
THE POINT, Bryn Mawr, PA

After a brief bit of preparation...

...aided by the festival's sound tech, Brian...

Michael quickly grabbed the attention of the room with a characteristically intense performance of one of the finest arguments ever composed as proof that despair and hope can, in fact, be beautifully united...and that hope will indeed prevail... "Wounded".




          "I will implore

           This dirty sky
                for rain...






  To wash away my

     So I may rise


Then, moving to the guitar, Michael asked a question surely echoed the world over..."When's it all gonna end?"...a question that could only mean the next song must be the succinct, and unfortunately far too accurate account of "Hellfire In The Holy Land"...




   "'Listening to bullets talk

     Is a language  hard to
         grasp', he said."




After this came (okay, I admit least favorite new song...only one person's opinion, mind you, but for me its lyrics are just too unrelentingly bleak) "Can't Sleep Tonight"...





"I can't sleep

 How is it anyone

  I'm holding this

  Like a gun in
     my hand..."




...which was followed by the likewise sober, though (albeit subject to one's interpretation, of course) far less hopeless -- and yet deeply challenging, "Sword of Damocles"...



    "Find an ember and
       fan it ablaze...

     Snap me right out
        of this cruel

      A potion of

       A dream and
           some faith...


      Is it your reflection
         or just a disease

      When you gaze upon
          the sword of



... and the hauntingly  beautiful "Annie and the Aztec Cross"...



    "Annie painted
          pictures of

      Talked for hours
         about Magdelene,

     And how the gates
          of the free and
          the righteous

      Are open to hearts
         heavy with sin..."



After this, Michael returned to the piano and embarked on "Boubon Blue".  Unfortunately, it seemed the piano couldn't sleep on this night, either, and had apparently decided to transform itself into an organ rather than count sheep while he was away. For, after the first few bars, well, it was clear things had gone a bit awry...

..."hmm.. what the...?  Uh oh...

"hmm, I wonder what  this button does...

"Uh oh... BRIAN!!!

"Still??? I've been sabotaged!"

"Okay, that's it...

"This thing's goin' out the window!!!"

"he he...only kidding..."

All right, I confess I may have embellished the above incident ever so slightly for dramatic effect here on this page, but since a picture's worth a thousand words, you can decide for yourself just how accurate (or not!) my interpretation...and the circumstance did at any rate (as you can see below) provide a bit of levity for the audience following what had clearly been a pretty serious experience up to this point (and by the way... as that face on the right probably looks familiar, yes that's Brian Fitzpatrick and his lovely girlfriend, Melissa, enjoying the show)...

In any case, while on the lighter side of things, before resuming Michael briefly shared the story of a radio contest that had taken place a couple years which the winner would be treated to a private performance by Michael himself.  And, as it turned out, the winner was a cemetery which cheery location Michael was directed to play the gig.  "I was waiting for someone to pop out and say 'You're on Candid Camera' at any moment."  What's more, the guy had a business card identifying him as "Digger"...whose motto was "the last guy to ever let you down."

The last guy to ever let an audience down, Michael at last returned to the music with the wistful "Summer Days"...



      "Mom always told 

        'Girl, stand up

         And be strong

         Like a woman'..."



...then left the apparently demon-possessed keyboard and returned to his far more companionable Takamine for a performance of "Wall" dedicated to James O'Brien, a fellow singer/songwriter with whom he'd shared another festival bill just the day before in Boston... 



  "I shall receive
      my passion


   From beyond
      the bitter stars
      that shine...


   Doubt is a 
     wall I must



 After this came the rarest of treats, "Right Here With You" -- a song Michael announced he'd only days earlier recorded in L.A. with members of Jackson Browne's band...



    "I've painted your
          picture 'cross
          the sky a thousand

     We've reinvented
         languages and



 ...before Michael announced he would perform just one more guessed it -- the beautiful "Around the World" (oh no, not the dreaded keyboard again...*&*^*#!)


  "I've been in books,

   I've been in movies;

   I've flown over five (?)
    of the seven seas...


   I had to travel around
     the world

   Just to find my way home."



 And on that note Michael's latest show at his "home away from home" concluded.  But, of course, I couldn't find my way home without the traditional photo reminder that I'd really experienced this amazing night of music...uh, well, actually there may have been just a wee bit of ulterior motive in you may recall on the web page from last August's Point show, I offered the advice "Never pass up the opportunity to stand so close to genius; some might rub off. And without a doubt this genius has enough to spare a little"...   As an artist always striving for improvement myself, you can probably tell from this photo that the truth of the matter is I was once more simply heeding my own advice!!!

 As always, Thank You, Michael,

And again,

Please Come Back Soon!!!


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