Ambrosia Parsley

9 October, 2005 at 5:05 am (music, performance)

“My parents weren’t really hippies. They were a cross between hippies… and bikers, and… and my father was a lineman for the county. And we lived in Reseda, me and my twin brother and my older brother, and my mother and father. And one day we heard that a CostCo was coming to the area. And this was a huge thing, this was like the Emerald City. And my father was able to get a get a card, and so he and my mom went to the store, and left my older brother to babysit me and my twin bother until they got back. And they were gone for, like, three hours. And we sat at home and, and we had all these visions of, you know, these huge packages that they might bring back, like a container with two hundred and eight Twinkies. And when they finally got back, all that they’d bought was an enormous bottle of NyQuil — and really, it was huge, it was like… this big — this huge bottle of NyQuil and a giant container of Flinstones Chewable Vitamins.

“So, the next time my parents went to CostCo, leaving my twin brother and I to be watched by my older brother, we really liked cowboy movies. We would always watch John Wayne movies and so we went out into the back yard and we stacked up six cinder blocks, three on one side, one on top of the other, and three on the other side. And then we put a piece of plywood across it, and this was our bar. Because in cowboy movies, all the important stuff happened at the bar. And we got out the bottle of NyQuil because it came with that little shot glass as part of the cap, and people were always doing shots in cowboy movies. Another thing we used to watch a lot was Three’s Company, and there was a bar in that too, the, uh, the Regal Beagle. Right, the Regal Beagle. And they were always eating little bar snacks out of a bowl at the bar of the Regal Beagle. And, well, we had a bowl… it was wooden, you know, parquet… and so, we poured a bunch of Flinstones vitamins into that for bar snacks and placed it down at the end of the piece of plywood.

“And so we took turns. One would be the bartender, and the other would have to go all the way to the other end of the yard. And you’d hook your thumbs in your belt loops and walk towards the bar. And we made the sound of spurs with out mouths as we walked. ‘Ching. Ching. Ching.’ And when you’d get to the bar, you’d pour out a NyQuil slammer and slide it across the bar and knock it back. And then you’d eat bar snacks. And then we’d switch, and then we’d switch again.

“I don’t know how long we did this, but I remember seeing my brother lying on the floor of the hallway… and then I remember blacking out.

“When I woke up my dad was there and there was a doctor in the house. I’d never seen a doctor make an actual house call, but there he was, and he had a black bag and everything. And out of the black bag he took some Ipecac and he gave it to us. And so we were sitting on the couch, and they brought in these saucepans, and we were throwing up and crying because no one likes throwing up. And my dad was trying to cheer us up, and he was pointing into the saucepans full of this green… and he was saying, Oh look, that’s a good one. Look you can still see Betty’s head. Oh, there’s Dino…

“So, this next song has nothing to do with that. This was written about my first crush. He was 15 and I was 12. And then he was killed. And I went to his funeral. He was my first dead boy. Yeah.”

Ambrosia ParsleyThe above is a approximate and reconstructed retelling of the introduction Ambrosia Parsley of Shivaree gave to a song tonight during a performance at MassMoCA. It was not only hilarious, and a fascinating combination of rambling and expertly-told, but it great fun to watch the other five members of the band settle and wait for the conclusion of the tale. Their reactions ranged from the totally impassive, to the entertained, to the deeply impatient.

Anyway, just to say that I always pay particular attention to a musician’s ability to create patter between herself and the audience, to establish rapport and to speak what is usually fairly canned material in a naturalistic way. In a concert that involved a minor amount of technical heckling from the audience (I rather feel that some people were not expecting the cacaphonic and occasionally dissonant phantasmagoric sound mix that is the predominant sound of the group), and some excellent return heckling from the frontwoman, perhaps ten to fiteen minutes were taken up with similar storytelling. Not seques, particularly, but clearly performances in their own right, even if they weren’t actually on the set list.

Shivaree’s excellent singles are available for MP3 download: “Goodnight Moon” is the potentially-familiar radio single from the 1999 album, I Oughta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump. The newest album, Who’s Got Trouble has a completely different line-up of collaborators and backing musicians, but the single “Close My Eyes” is catchy and fantastic.

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