There was a faerie princess named Joanna Newsom who hailed from the glens of Nevada City, California and was known for her outstanding beauty and talent. Though she was only 28 (thousand) years old, she had been travelling the realm for six (thousand) years and had been charming both faeries and cranky goblin critics alike with her magical harp, oddball style of singing, and voice of an angel.
Joanna was like all faerie musicians, and had a “magical skill, and many songs and airs which today are widely known in the human world have their origins in Faerie.”*
Glamour and Faerie Music
Her melodies had thrice been captured on something called an “album”, and named with puzzling titles including The Milk-Eyed Mender (all faeries like milk, especially trixter Pixies who steal it from farmers), YS (five songs which to the human seem to last an eternity) and her latest, Have One On Me, an epic three-parter in which she employs glamour, a method used to dazzle humans.
Robin Pecknold, the Forest Gnome
On August 5, Joanna travelled to the western, mountain lands of Vancouver to perform behind an imperceptible (to humans) and magical curtain which would protect her audience from the irritating Faerie “problem” of lulling people into a fatal sleep. She brought with her a dear Gnome friend, younger than she by 4 (thousand) years, Robin Pecknold. Robin had left his Gnomeish red pointed hat (and his former band Fleet Foxes) at home in the Washington forests for this visit. Instead, the scraggly bearded one brought with him all manner of guitars and a voice as equally betwitching as Joanna’s. Along with a smattering of solo tracks, the gnome presented to the reverential audience a version of the Fleet’s “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” which had all swooning. He thanked the humans for sitting so still, so quiet and so wrapt and called us all sweet, several times. He looked to be happy, like all Gnomes do.
Joanna, Faerie Princess
When it was time for Joanna, the Faerie Princess sweltered under the humans’ lights and said it had been “the sweatiest tour” (most Faeries live in shadows near primroses, ragworts and toadstools). Joanna and her band played both human and unique faerie instruments including those most rock: the gigantic harp and the Steinway piano. The others in her band were a mischievous and wonderful barefoot drummer, two violinists, a trombonist and Jew’s harp player, and a chap who rather seriously performed typical faerie instruments including the English flute and mandolin.
Good Intentions Paving Company
Songs like “Cosmia”, “Monkey & Bear” (from YS), “Inflammatory Writ” and the playful “Peach, Plum, Pear (from Milk…), plus many from Have One On Me, including the title air, “Go Long”, “Kingfisher” (a fan fave at the Steinway) and “Soft as Chalk” all enchanted the audience. However, the magic curtain did slip a few times too early. Fellow locals did occasionally become lulled into a light, happy sleep but they awoke in time for perhaps the most wondrous moment of the night: the six-part otherworldly harmony on “Monkey and Bear” (animals who are not friends to the faeries).
Joanna flicked her blondeish locks and looked pretty in her summer dress, and smiled and laughed and made charming conversation with the crowd, (“Phew,” she said, all sweetly sweating, “I feel like the crazy old lady on the bus. Uh, not that there’s anything wrong with old women, crazy people or….uh, the bus.”).
Then her magical fingers began to play a tune and her sometimes baby-like, sometimes dusky, mostly Kate Bush-like voice and fascinating phrasing drifted over the audience. By the last of the encore, the curtain of protection had fallen entirely and the audience had become “drawn into a melancholic forgetfulness hearing forever the vague, yearning music, a constant reminder of the unattainable.”
*With thanks to Brian Froud and Allan Lee, the faerie experts.
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