Sexton and Seryn at the Sheridan
A friend left his marriage last month. He went outside, and built a big bonfire in the backyard of the house he’d lived in with his family for more than 23 years. It was the eve of his 50th birthday, and after tonight, he knew he would probably never sleep in this house again. “So many memories,” he recalled. “I was listening to music, and this song shuffled on. I was looking up at the sky and falling snow, and it was like the universe was sending it to me. I sobbed till I had no tears.”
The song was “Black Sheep,” by Martin Sexton:
So bye bye black sheep of the family
Bye bye black sheep how that means so much to me
Bye bye to my friends and to my family
Bye bye black sheep goin’ off and set my soul, set it free.
Sexton will play the Sheridan Opera House this Friday. When I told him about my friend, he said, simply, “Wow.” He was silent a moment. “I was the black sheep in my family,” he said. “I’m always very honored when I hear stories of people attaching my music to important moments in their lives. Whether it’s birth, death, marriage, leaving a job – I’ve heard it all. I’m honored because it’s bigger than me. It’s the universal power of music.”
Though he does play with a band, Friday’s concert will be an acoustic show. “Each performance is a different animal,” Sexton observed. “There are no set lists. I’m just winging it. This tour is me, my guitar and the audience. They’re my choir.” His voice is as much instrument as guitar; maybe more. Sexton’s vocal range is huge, and his style is soulful. “He’ll belt out a tune with all the velvet bombast of Stevie Wonder, retreat to a Billie Holiday warble, ascend to an Aaron Neville falsetto, then swagger his way home like Ray Charles,” critic Darryl Cater has written.
Sexton has released over 10 records in the course of his more-than-20-year career, and this tour is in support of his latest. It’s actually an EP, the well-received Falls Like Rain – five songs for $5. Four are originals, and one is the Stephen Sills classic “For What It’s Worth,” immortalized by Buffalo Springfield and feeling particularly relevant these days (“There’s a man with a gun over there/Telling me I got to beware/I think it’s time we stop/Children, what’s that sound?/Everybody look – what’s going down?”). “It’s time for us to pull out these [older] songs,” Sexton said of FWIW. “I believe we’re in troubled times. And red, blue, left, right, gay or straight, we’re in this together.” The concert begins at 8 p.m.
Also upcoming at the Sheridan: the Denton, Texas-based band Seryn takes the stage this Saturday. In contrast to Sexton and his lone guitar, Seryn is six members strong, and the band members often play more than one instrument. Which might well make for a jumble of metal: when Seryn played the South by Southwest music festival a couple of years ago, a sound man reportedly remarked, “Looks like an instrument shop threw up on stage.”
Like Martin Sexton, Seryn is known for their vocals (they sing in perfect six-part harmony) and their live performances. Paste magazine decreed their 2011 star turn at SXSW “the best” of all the bands at that year’s fest. That was also the year that Seryn released its only album (so far), This is Where We Are. Where they are right now is in the midst of scoring music for a documentary being filmed about them entitled The Canvas of Sound.
The group made up the name “Seryn” just because they liked the sound of it, said singer/banjoist/accordionist and ukulele player Trenton Wheeler. “We wanted to find something that was our own and not borrowed,” he added. “Plus, it’s phonetically pleasing. It sounds like ‘surrender,’ and ‘serenity.’ Very positive.” Which pretty much sums up the band’s infectious, eclectic music. To hear one of Seryn’s best, check out “We Will All Be Changed” on YouTube, a song, says Paste’s Josh Jackson, full of “so much unrestrained joy, it gets exponentially better with every decibel you turn it up.”
A Night for Dudes (and Dudettes) in Ouray
Pam Ferman, founder of the Almost-Every-Friday-Night movie series at the Wright Opera House, has been planning this particular Friday evening for months now. She wanted something to appeal to the guys, she said. Plus, she’s keen to add more cult films to the mix, along the lines of say, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which screens at the Wright every Halloween. What better movie to do both these things than Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Big Lebowski?
Like all the best cult films, the 1988 comedy starring Jeff Bridges as “the Dude” Lebowski and John Goodman as the Dude’s bowling buddy and best friend, Walter, only gets better with time. If you haven’t seen the film, suffice it to say that the plot revolves around the Dude’s vandalized apartment, and some thieves who urinate on his rug. Goodman’s performance is so memorable, Ferman named her black-and-white hound-mix Walter. Ferman’s husband and a friend get together every year for a Big Lebowski night, where they screen the film and drink White Russians (the Dude’s beverage of choice). Which is exactly what theatregoers can do this Friday evening at the Wright, where White Russians will be served, Wii bowling will be played, and there will be a screening of the film. Ferman has been booking independent, foreign and now cult films nearly every weekend. Next week brings 56 Up, the latest installment in director Michael Apted’s ongoing documentary series about a group of British schoolchildren who’ve been followed since age seven by the filmmaker, and who are now in their 56th year. The easiest way to keep up on what’s playing at the Wright is to get on the mailing list, by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, also in Ouray County, the Ridgway-Ouray Community Council annual spaghetti dinner is this weekend, where the special guest speaker will be the author Craig Childs. Childs has written extensively on the West, and has published over a dozen books on nature, science, and adventure. He has said he looks for “places in between,” regardless of whether that takes him to New York’s Central Park, the Tibetan plateau, or the scrub oaks in the backyard of his home in western Colorado. On Friday night, he’ll share a few more of them. The dinner is Saturday night at the Ouray Community Center. It starts at 6 p.m.