I don’t think there’s a better way to spend a Sunday night in September than sitting cozily in the audience at the Door Community Auditorium, listening to a man who so obviously loves to entertain.
His stories were as memorable as his music. Frequently Kottke chuckled through his tangents, prompting him to comment, “I’m having more fun than you are. You’d think when I realized that, I would stop, but I’m not going to.”
Each song he played he gave an explanation for. He told the audience where the inspiration came from with a thorough background story infused with wry humor. When he sang, “Julie’s House,” he told us it was based on a romance he had when he was only in elementary school.
I climbed the hill to Julie’s house
The place I used to live
I climbed the steps and tried the door
And let myself in
The kitchen clock I used to watch
Had stopped at five to five
A photograph I’d never seen
A car came up the drive
I stood outside the kitchen door
And when she turned her head
I said that I was back to stay
She laughed at what I said
She said that I’d grow old believing
That I was what mattered most
That I’d uncover real feelings
As I got close
Kottke joked that she was too mature for him and scared him away – a sentiment that many people can relate to. It was a lighthearted song, reminiscent of Hendrix’s “Red House Over Yonder.”
“Another dangerous thing – I’m looking you in the eyes,” Kottke said. “I normally don’t do that. It’s uncomfortable for you. You’re not wearing your masks, sitting there in the dark.”
Before “From Pizza Towers to Defeat,” Kottke told the story of the song’s author, Frisbee Boom Boom Fuller, also known as “Frizz,” who he met only once – at James Dean’s old house.
The song “Snorkel,” an entirely instrumental number, was a wonderfully upbeat tune that whisked along as if skimming along ocean waves. “Gewerbegebiet,” the German word for “industrial park,” came after he told the audience how he loved German, but could never learn to speak it. The song gave listeners pause and a moment of meditation during the slow but complex classical guitar original on the 12-string.
He played his version of the old hymn “In The Bleak Midwinter,” which takes the Holst melody and turns it into a medieval sounding folk tune, the “snow on snow on snow,” calling attention to the change of seasons that’s upon us. Another of his great works and instrumental pieces, “Flat Top,” pulsed with movement, interesting textures and complex rhythms.
Kottke captivated the audience with his music, but also the personality and sparkle of his stories. His performance was full of a whole lotta heart, and it was a gift to listen and laugh alongside him.