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Smiling and Remembering with Patty Larkin

March 27, 2011
Patty Larkin

Photo credit: Jana Leon

 

Last night Michael and I attended the Patty Larkin/Willy Porter concert at the Barrymore. To say that it was one of the more enjoyable evenings we had in a while would be an understatement. It was an evening full of wonderful original music and quite a bit of laughter. Who knew Patty and Willy were comedians as well as gifted singer/songwriters of the ‘folk-rock genre?’ “I’ll be you didn’t even know there was a folk-rock music business,” Patty quipped as she began her solo set (the evening was divided into two short sets featuring Patty, then Willy doing solo work, and ended with both of them joining in song).

Part of the reason I had such an enjoyable time is that Patty and I went to the same grade school in Milwaukee—a Catholic grade school that Patty still credits with turning her into a songwriter. Indeed, Patty’s mother was my Brownie leader when I was in second (or was it third) grade. I had fond memories of Mrs. Larkin teaching us how to make “Buddy Burners” and sit-upons for the ubiquitous Girls Scout camping trips. Mrs. Larkin even taught us a wonderful little Brownie song, which I tried to explain to my husband prior to the concert. He asked me how the song went, and I pondered a bit, began to hum the tune and before my ears could believe what was coming out of my mouth, I began to sing:

I’ve got something in my pocket

It belongs across my face

And I keep it very close at hand

In a most unusual place

I’m sure you couldn’t guess it

If you guessed a long, long while

So I’ll take it out and put it on

It’s a great big Brownie smile!

Patty credits her musical family (as well as Catholic grade school) for inspiring her to become a singer/songwriter and she does a fine job doing both. Her concert at the Barrymore featured songs from her latest album, “25”—a tribute to the 25 years she has been in the business. The double CD set includes original works sung by Patty and some of the musical friends she has made over the 25 years. Suzanne Vega, Will Porter, Chris Smither, Roseanne Cash, Shawn Colvin and of course, the delightful Willy Porter and others blend their voices with Patty’s in a distinctively sublime collection of original music.

In the opening set, she talked about how Wisconsin residents are all over “You Tube” referring, of course, to the demonstrations at the State Capitol and told the audience that a community in Vermont created a proclamation supporting the people of Libya, Egypt and Wisconsin. She also sang and played her guitar with ease and skill, particularly the Fender Stratocaster.

The second set featured Willy Porter. I am familiar with Willy’s music, but had never heard him play. He sang “How to Rob a Bank” to thunderous applause. His virtuosity and vocal ability was magnificent. And, not wanting to show his support for Wisconsin workers, he also mentioned how his wife was a schoolteacher, and they are also supporting the demonstrators. The highlight of his set, however, was when he told the audience we were going to write a song together and asked people to shout out words. “Kill the bill”, “Aaron Rodgers”, and “Killer Grapefruit” were some of the suggestions. Porter deftly took the words and began singing.

The second half of the show featured both Porter and Larkin singing and harmonizing their songs. They sat on the stage, each taking turns singing and playing first a Larkin original, then a Porter original. The chemistry they created offered a most enjoyable hour and before long, the set ended. The audience stood and applauded, Larkin and Porter returned for a few more songs. And, all too soon, the concert was over.

Patty had invited us to meet with her after the show—and I was looking forward to seeing her again. We met briefly, talked a little bit about grade school (really, what else could we talk about?) She had friends and family waiting to for her, so we kept our conversation short. I didn’t get the chance to thank her for putting a smile on my face last night—not unlike her mother did so many years ago.

Patty Larkin and Jean with their great big Brownie smiles

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