June 1st, 2009

flock

Pilgrimage to Wentzville

I took Friday off and we headed down the road to Wentzville for the Greater St. Louis Renaissance Faire, because we hadn't heard Owain Phyfe or 3 Pints Gone (who recently acquired a new guitarist/vocalist) live for way too long.

The G3 is so much more comfortable than the Chevy van for long trips it's not even funny--enough so that smaller things, like wallet pressure, became a bother, but a transfer to a front pocket dealt with that--and the gas mileage was a considerable improvement. (Admittedly we weren't bringing along irpooh 's scooter, which makes a big difference.)

We stopped at Eldon, IA at the American Gothic House Center to take a picture for the next Concentio Agnorum CD. Our Garmin nuvi 205 needs updated data--it tried to send us to a dead end--but we found our way there, and the very helpful volunteer took our photo. We let her grab the images (we took two, just to be safe), and perhaps they'll end up on the site. (I also found out that the Grant Wood painting I remembered from seeing it in Life magazine when I was twelve or so was Adolescence; I remembered it as "Threatening Chickens" but my current theory is that that's a caption that the magazine put by the photo.)

We arrived at a reasonable time Friday evening at the Wentzville Super 8, which is about as close as you can get to the fair site (Rotary Park) without finding crash space from someone who lives in one of the housing additions near the park. The outlets by the table in the room were not the usual layout, and I'm embarrassed to say that I ended up calling the lobby for help. Wi-fi, as we have already mentioned, was ghastly; good signal but pathetic throughput.

If you ever find yourself in the St. Louis area, check out Imo's Pizza. (That's pronounced like "Emo" as in Emo Philips.) Wonderful thin-crust pizza.

We arrived at the fair site early--early enough that we could successfully move when we found out that we weren't parked by the entrance. Oops. Got the last handicapped parking spot, and the very last of the morning's rain was a bare sprinkle just before opening.

We were delighted to see Owain Phyfe... and EXTREMELY aufgepissed with the fair for putting him where they did--the "Scene du Troubadour", a tiny stage with two pathetic little benches for people to sit on and listen. I will append the text of an email to the fair Entertainment Director to this post. Owain was excellent, as always, and a very capable gentleman who I hope to hear again accompanied him on guitar on some songs. A madrigal group who came by joined in with some "fa la la" for "A Lieta Vita", which Thomas Morley "Englished" into "Sing We and Chant It", and "Fuggi Fuggi Fuggi".

3 Pints Gone's new (to us!) guitarist and vocalist is very good. He's also a tenor, which has interesting results in the vocal blend and choice of harmonies while remaining every bit as excellent as ever.

As we only caught one 3PG performance during the day, we made a point of going to Maggie Malone's Saturday evening to hear them... which we did, sort of.

Maggie Malone's has decent food (OK, just one sample point--it may well be excellent), and waitresses and cooks who bear up under a humongous crowd with unfailing service and courtesy... but OY, whoever does their sound desperately needs to improve and improve FAST. The sound was so awful and so loud that we begged off and left at the break.

I have studied ASL. I don't want to use ASL by necessity, no offense to the Deaf folks I've had the honor to meet--but I feared for my hearing that night. If I put my fingers to my ears, I could tell that the sound was clean--but when I heard it at full volume, it sounded horribly distorted. It was so loud that it was getting distorted somewhere between my eardrum and my brain.. The only reason I recognized any of the lyrics was that I'd heard a lot of them before and recognized the tunes. Even then it sounded like they were asking Molly when they would be buried, not married. When they said something between songs, I actually had to understand it... and didn't have a chance. (When Alexander Graham Bell was wooing venture capitalists, he didn't send speech over the phone, he sent popular songs of the time, for the very same reason.) Of course, with the sound so loud, everyone was shouting to be heard... nice positive feedback loop. And speaking of feedback, there was some.

We're getting old and decrepit, and I didn't ask for Monday off, so we didn't go to the fair on Sunday--we just drove back... on one tank of gas! w00t!

---------------text of email to the Greater St. Louis Renaissance Faire Entertainment Director

Dear Ms. Russell,

My wife and I made a point of coming to the Greater St. Louis Renaissance Faire this past Saturday, driving down from Des Moines, Iowa, so we could hear Owain Phyfe and 3 Pints Gone live, which we'd not been able to do for some time...

...and we did. 3 Pints Gone had a very good venue in the pub, with reasonable seating for those wishing to listen and have a beverage. Owain Phyfe, on the other hand, was in our opinion very badly served by the "Scene du Troubadour" (BTW, the langue d'oil equivalent of the Provencal trobador, from which the word "troubadour" comes, was the trouvere):

1. The site provides minimal seating. For some years, we would regularly  go to the Jubilee College Olde English Faire because it was relatively nearby (near Peoria, IL) and Owain performed there for several years accompanied by Rio Blue and Judy Pleister. We quickly found that to be assured of a seat, we had to make a point of watching the preceding act on the stage. A goodly number who couldn't sit would stand and watch, and we regularly saw groups of barbarians that one might guess thought "early music" consisted of playing reveille, singing along in Galician as Owain sang one of Martin Codax's "cantigas de amigo". In comparison with the generous (but insufficient for the crowds Owain drew) seating in Peoria, the "Scene du Troubadour" has two pitiful benches. Fortunately my wife and I knew from experience to bring our own chairs.

2. The site was regularly interfered with by noise from the Scene de Jeanne d'Arc, most notably the far too loud and horribly distorted and clipping amplified sound from Pirate Shantyman and his Bonnie Lass. If you permit amplification, please take action to prevent its abuse and keep the sound clean.

3. The site provides the performer no shade during the hottest part of the day. The posts at its corners would easily accomodate a shade made from burlap or some other cloth; I hope you will consider setting one up.

Overall we had an excellent time at the fair, but we sincerely hope that you will reconsider the stage to which you've assigned Mr. Phyfe. He, and his fans, deserve better.

  • Current Music
    "Caballo Viejo", Owain Phyfe