Saturday, November 08, 2008

Billy Bragg Loves Asheville

Joining the Asheville Orange Peel Fan Club (current members include David Byrne and Smashing Pumpkins) is the political English folk musician, Billy Bragg.

From his blog:

JFK airport is full of people wearing medals they won for completing the New York City marathon yesterday, looking tired but happy. After three weeks and nearly 3000 miles in our Econoline van, I feel the same, buoyed by the fact that the best show was saved until last.

Asheville is a town in the Appalachian Mountains renowned for its activism. Across the road from the Orange Peel, a huge hoarding keeps a toll of the cost of the Iraqi occupation in dollars as well as Iraqi and American lives. I’ve been here once before, five years ago on the Tell Us The Truth tour, and have a strong memory of a well attended after-show discussion at a nearby squatted community cafĂ© with most of the audience and all of the artists.

This time I had a little longer to check the place out. We got to town around 3pm and I took a leisurely stroll in the afternoon sunshine down to the venue past shops selling second hand clothes and American folk art. We even found our first Indian restaurant of the tour. Joy.

The gig was highly charged from the start, the audience responding as if it were Saturday night, not Sunday. They pulled songs out of me that I hadn’t been playing thus far, including the first US performance of One Love/Drop the Debt, along with all the arm waving actions. They seemed to be all ages, from earnest young beardies to old whiskery wobblies, and they knew most of the words too. By the end my voice was hoarse and my fingertips sore, but we’d all had a great time.

(Hat tip to Ashvegas!)

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