The Inimitable ‘Phoebe Hunt and the Gatherers’ to Open New PAS Season Sept. 28
For info: Ronna Kalish
NM Tech Performing Arts Series: 575-835-5688
SOCORRO – The only way to start is at the beginning, and the soulful singer and her headline musical posse are set to do just that, as the opening event for the new 2018 – 2019 New Mexico Tech Performing Arts Series (PAS) season.
Get ready, concert-goers – prepare for a fabulous ride right from the get-go, with Phoebe Hunt and the Gathers performing at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, at Macey Center on the NMT campus, in the season’s premier concert.
Prior, Tech Club Macey will host its first “Schmooze, Booze and Bites” from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., featuring adult beverages and “succulent salad” lite bites, free to members, and $10 for non-members (you can join at the door).
If you watched a music video of the singer, without prior knowledge about her or the hand-picked musicians who complement the swell and sway of Hunt’s voice and words, one might conjure up images of Joan Baez or Kate Bush, but also jazzy and a little bit down-home.
“Phoebe Hunt and the Gathers are more than a treat, they’re a feast for the ears, the heart and soul,” said PAS Director Ronna Kalish, about the talented singer and her troupe selected to open the new arts and entertainment series.
“Phoebe’s songs can’t be categorized by traditional styles,” Kalish said, adding that the singer’s kaleidoscopic childhood clearly influenced the music that swells, crashes and breathes through her soulful, plaintive voice. But her roots are definitely in Americana, country, gypsy jazz and swing.
For starters, her parents met at a yoga ashram in the Lower West Side of Manhattan in the 1970s, where they spent seven years as disciples of Guru Swami Satchidananda, famous in America for having been opening speaker at the 1969 Woodstock Festival.
Her mother felt compelled to name her Shanti, Hindi for peace. However, to meet a previous commitment to name her Phoebe after the child’s paternal grandmother, she bore the name Shanti Phoebe Hunt, growing up as simply Phoebe, in deference to the grandmother.
From such roots, and following an epiphany at a retreat in India, Hunt remained in the country with her soulmate and musical partner, Dominick Leslie, mandolin and harmony vocals, and began to assemble a group.
In addition to Leslie, the Gathers include Roy Williams, guitar, harmony vocals; Jared Engel, upright bass; Sam Reider, accordion/keys; Nick Falk, percussion; Nat Smith, cello; Alex Hargraves, violin; and Stephanie Hunt and Jazz Mills on vocal harmonies.
The resultant music weaves exotic rhythms with clear tones of Americana, country and what is known as Texas-tinged swing.
In other words, it’s expansive, evocative and entertaining in its own right, but everyone will find in the music of Phoebe Hunt and the Gathers a little bit of themselves.
Take, for example, her album “Shanti’s Shadow” and the double sense of its title name, which, the artist explains, s everyone has a shadow-wide, “refers quite literally to the ego and the inescapable necessity of confronting it and claiming it as one’s own.”
Her music also reflects celestial images and lyrics which filled her mind during daily 10-hour meditations, when she was supposed to be clearing it of all thoughts, during the retreat at the Vipassana center outside Kolhapur.
When the retreat ended and after meeting up with friends and fellow musicians to learn about Indian classical music, Hunt wrote the instrumental part of the song and incorporated her lyrics with the rhythmic and melodic concepts she was studying.
Hunt’s lyrics also explore doubt and regret, vulnerability, forgiveness – and a message of inclusion and openness on the album’s lead track, “Frolic with the Bees”: “Come, all the wild ones / Come, all the thieves / Come, all you furry feathered friends / Where we are headed, no one can harm you / Anyone can stay until the end.”
Her fiddling entwines itself with Leslie’s mandolin in an encounter that amplifies the song’s central premise of communion. “You in the flames there / Burn through the night now,” Hunt sings, as if sounding out a shamanic command to the music itself.
On an album that opens with the joyous “Frolic of the Bees,” it’s only fitting that the final track sum up the record’s major ideas. “I Really Love” opens with Hunt’s soft exhalation, and proceeds as a slow recitation of a few concrete joys that make life worth living:
“I really love putting the phone down and spacing out for an hour / Feeling the water touching my brow in the shower / Hearing the sound of piano downstairs / Watching the smoke disappear into the air / And singing…”
“This is going to be a great concert, and I want to send out a special invitation to the new freshmen at New Mexico Tech, and to all students, to see what PAS has to offer,” said Kalish.
“I want to let you all know that I just saw this band live at the Sisters Folk Festival in Oregon, and for me, they were hands-down, the best band I saw all weekend, heart-felt, impassioned, beautiful songs, delivered by amazing musicians. Don’t miss this, Socorro!” Kalish enthusiastically implores.
Meanwhile, PAS patrons praised Kalish and her staff for putting together yet another smash season, no easy fete. “We are very grateful for the support we’ve received over the years, and continue to receive, and for all our volunteers,” she said. “Somehow, it all comes together.”
Sponsors for Phoebe Hunt and the Gathers are Don and Rosie Tripp, Penny and Jim Lommen, Bob and Kathy Markwell, Joe and Shirley Coursey Bronze Memorial, Socorro Springs, KUNM, Desert Herbals and Comfort Inn.
Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and $8 for youth 17 and under. New Mexico Tech students will be admitted free with their student ID at the door, or can pick up one ticket each at the New Mexico Tech Bookstore.
Tickets also can be purchased online at nmtpas.org, or at the following locations: New Mexico Tech Cashier (Fidel Center), Sofia’s Kitchen or the PAS office, call 835-5688 for directions.
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