I had to go way up into the hills of middle
Having been sequestered in the Popular Music archive at MTSU all week, I decided the weekend was a good time to stop reading about gospel music and go hear some. Regular readers might find the McKameys an odd choice for me (and I did choose to go), but I figured, at the very last, I knew I wouldn’t hear any vocal stacks with the McKameys. And I for sure am tired of hearing sing-a-long-with-the-stack passed off as live gospel music. So off I went.
The McKameys didn’t get any help from the song selection Peg called (there might have been three mid- to up-tempo songs all night, or maybe just two, but the entire concert titled so heavy toward the turgid that I counted “I’ve Won” as a mid-tempo tune). And at several points in the night, Rueben Bean sucked all the oxygen and the precious little energy in the air right out of the room with his rudderless stories and digressive monologues. At least twice, he just stopped talking and clearly thought Peg was ready to call the next song, but Peg appeared to be as unsure as the rest of us if he was done or not, and she certainly had no tune to call.
But really, any other night, these would have been endearing authenticities that most crowds would have eaten up. Cause it’s the McKameys. This is their thang. This crowd, though? Boy howdy. I would say they sat on their hands, but people were constantly getting up and walking around – in front of the stage, down the aisle, out the door – with the same detached and disconnected manner in which they received almost every song. It was as if everyone thought it was someone else’s responsibility to … you know, pay attention, and stuff.
Peg worked admirably, enjoyably hard. She’s such a show(wo)man, and seriously capable, even if my tastes don’t run in that direction. She preached a little and cried a lot, and waved the bible and her hanky around. She got down amongst us and brought out “God on the Mountain” just three or four songs in to the night, which felt early to me. But desperate times etc, I guess. And friends, I tell the absolute unadulterated truth when I say my friends and I were the only people who instinctively started clapping the way you do when an old favorite kicks off. And we were sincere. Never would I have thought I’d see a day when your very own Avery was among the most enthusiastic concertgoers – at a McKameys concert!
After Peg shouted and wept her way through a couple of encores of “I’ve Won,” a few folks finally lumbered to their feet, but it was a pitiful scene of half-heartedness. It couldn’t have helped the already moribund mood that just a few minutes earlier, some guy in the front interrupted Peg in the middle of her Jehosophat story to tell a joke:
“Hey, Peggy,” he calls out. She pretends she doesn’t hear him and tries to keep talking, but nothing doing. “Hey, PEGGY!” She has no choice but to stop; he’s 10 feet in front of her, though to her credit she never actually engaged with the guy. “If Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton went down in a boat, who would be saved?” Peg – and the rest of us – stare, speechless: “The
The only person who seemed completely unmoved by this or anything else going on this evening was Roger Fortner. He’s an extremely talented guy, and I don’t think instrumentalists have an obligation to be performers, but his manifest lack of interest in everything going on went way past detachment or coolness to something like a black hole of boredom that was, needless to say, distracting. And it only exacerbated the group’s failure to launch. Sure, he’s seen this show a schmillion times, and I can only imagine how familiar and predictable and artificial it must seem after a while. But crack a smile, raise your chin off your chest, pull your eyes into focus… something to suggest we shouldn’t infer that you find this all painfully unbearable. Because it’s a lot harder to fault an audience too much for not caring if the group performing doesn’t even appear to be entirely on board with its own show.
But I don’t want to end on a bad note because I didn’t have a bad time, really (though not as good a time as I’d have had if they’d have played some fast tunes!). So finally, a word about Sheryl Farris’s return to the group. Carol Woodwards’ virtues notwithstanding, Farris brings her own kind of tactful reserve and, more noticeably, a regularly pleasant vocal style to a group whose singing is often neither reserved nor vocally pleasant. Plus, watching her try and try (and then, with great good humor, just quit trying) to pick up the words to lyrics she’d forgotten or didn’t know by reading lips was some of the best unforced - and much needed — comedic relief of the night.Email this Post