Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fullsteam Brewery Hosts Thomas Kieffer and a Network of Friends

It was with great pleasure that I attended the concert by Thomas Kieffer last night at Fullsteam Brewery on Rigsbee Avenue in Durham. Thomas performed songs from his album "Beautiful Hands." To quote from his publicity flyers, "His latest CD release. "Beautiful Hands" (2009), was recorded by David Husser (who has engineered releases for artists such as Indochine, Rodolphe Burger and Speed Caravan). Here, Kieffer shows the true variety of his artistry and talent as he creates and loops rhythms and riffs using a guitar, harmonica and vocals. His melodies are masterful and captivating. On stage his performance is even more mesmerizing as he passionately delivers a unique rock/folk-electro experience."

Click on any image to enlarge it.

My friend, Brian Svedberg of Seattle, alerted me to Thomas' show since he and Thomas have been corresponding for several years now. Brian and I met through the now-defunct 1 Giant Leap fan board, which at one time fostered a very vibrant and caring community of people with varied backgrounds and interests. It has been my pleasure to meet many of my friends from that site. Brian and I have known each other for over eight years now via 1 Giant Leap. When he came to North Carolina earlier this year as part of the road crew for Joseph Arthur's show, we were able to meet and I got to know Brian and Kathi, his partner. I really enjoyed the Joseph Arthur show and especially was intrigued by the use of looping technology that Arthur uses in his show to create the illusion of a full band when he is the only person performing. It was the use of the looping technology that caused Brian to recommend Kieffer's music to me. He said that if I enjoyed Joseph Arthur's show, that I would likewise enjoy the show by Thomas Kieffer. Brian was right!

Before the concert, I was joined by my friend Betsy and her coworker Haas (I am not sure about the spelling of his name. Please forgive me!). We met for dinner at one of my favorite eateries, Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, where the wonderful hospitality of hostess Lilly and co-host Ray is always a heartwarming experience. As Betsy was the common denominator of this trio of soon-to-be friends, she began to explain to Haas and me how our paths crossed to bring us together last night.

The common element in this story is that each of us, including Thomas Kieffer, has lived in France for some part of their lives. Betsy and I grew up together in Sampson County, NC, and were in high school together in 1976. At that time, the US Bicentennial was a huge event and the French government sent two warships on a tour of the east coast of the US to celebrate our country's birth. When the ships stopped in Wilmington, NC, our high school French class took a field trip to meet them at the port. To make a long story short, Betsy met her future husband, Bernard, that day and I translated for the two of them on their first date. We returned him to his ship that evening and several months later when his tour of duty had ended, Bernard returned to visit Betsy again. At Christmas of that year, Betsy visited Bernard in Paris and came home with a diamond engagement ring. They married a few months later in Harrells, NC, and have been together ever since.

Haas explained that he had moved to France from Iran during the tumultuous years in the 1980s and that he arrived in the country not speaking a word of French. My story was that I first went to France on a week-long tour in 1974. I returned alone in 1976 as a naive seventeen-year old and I stayed for a month with a family in Menton on the Italian border. Later, as a recipient of the James M. Johnston Scholarship at UNC, I learned that I could spend my Junior Year abroad in Montpellier, so I signed up and spent the 1979-80 school year there. In the process, I made many lifelong friends and am so very grateful for those experiences.

So, when I heard that Thomas Kieffer was coming to perform in Durham, I invited all of my friends to join us for the concert. As it turned out, Betsy and Haas were the only two who showed up...initially at least. Sadly, Haas had to leave not long after our arrival, so Betsy and I ordered some of the fantastic beer brewed onsite at the brewery. My favorite was a sweet potato beer and if you make it down to Fullsteam brewery, I recommend you give it a try.

As Betsy and I sat enjoying the music and beer, I noticed that my friend Ed walked into the room. He came over and joined us and we started to talk. Ed grew up in Bahama, NC, but, as the world is often quite small, had found his way to friendship with a Christian rock performer back in the 1970s. They met at Appalachian State University when the band Ivanhoe (named for Ivanhoe, NC, a small town within 10 miles of where Betsy and I grew up) came there to perform and the lead guitarist was nearly electrocuted due to a poorly grounded electric guitar! Betsy and I were both familiar with the band Ivanhoe from our teen years and Betsy knew their family. It was fun watching my friends get to know each other a bit and to be reminded of the complexity of paths and crossings (and sometimes, crossed wires) that lead us to become part of one anothers' lives.

I plan to return for the final show of Kieffer's tour at Jessee's Coffee Bar in Carrboro on Thursday night, October 28 starting at 8 pm. I hope that you will come out to enjoy the music as well. There is no cover charge, so you can't lose. Come out to give Thomas Kieffer a good send off so that he will return to North Carolina to share his talents with us again.



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