Thea Gilmore came in to Chicago to play at the Old Town School of Folk Music -- two gigs in an evening supporting Over the Rhine. And as long-time readers of this blog probably know, I've been a fan of Thea's ever since I heard her song Resurrection Men on an Uncut CD of the Month. She's made four or five CDs since then, and we've become friends in a sort of pleased-to-see-each-other sort of way, but I've never seen her play live -- I've always been on the wrong continent at the wrong time. She's back in the US next month supporting Joan Baez, but those gigs are East Coast, and I'll be in finishing-the-novel seclusion then. So it was Saturday or nothing. I thought about flying then decided that it would be a good thing to go on a road trip in the Mini in the early Autumn, when the leaves are starting to turn. So I drove to Chicago on Saturday, had tea, sushi and a peek in at the Quimby's exhibition with Jill Thompson then saw the two Thea concerts.
Normally, she has a band. This time, since she just flew in for the gig, her backing band consisted of Nigel Stonier, her producer and an excellent singer-songwriter himself, mostly on acoustic guitar and backing vocals, and once using a melodica that had originally belonged to someone in Lindisfarne.
She's as good live as I'd heard she was and as good as I'd expected, which is to say, very, very good.
The most surreal moment of the evening was after the first gig, when I made my way down to the basement, where the dressing rooms are. A helpful man came by. "Do you know where you're going?" he said helpfully. "Yes," I said. "Well, I'm going down to the basement. I don't know where I'm going once I get there." "I'll take you," he said. "You're Neil Gaiman, aren't you?" I allowed as how I might be. "You know," he said, "I just wrote the entry on you for the Encyclopedia Brittanica." And then he showed me, now rather gobsmacked, to Thea and Nigel's room. (His name, it turns out, was Michael, and I think he enjoyed how odd it was every bit as much as I did.)
I think what I like best about Thea as a person is her enthusiasm for music and songwriting. This is someone who grabbed my iPod and went down the "artists" list to see what I was listening to -- "You like I am Kloot!" -- and whose enthusiasm for songs and music and songwriters and songwriting is boundless. Well, I liked that, and her straightforwardness, and most of all I liked the fact that when jammed into the back of a mini, along with two guitars in their cases, she never grumbled once.
Anyway, a total of two wonderful 40 minute gigs, which were worth a 700 mile round trip drive.
(Set-lists, for the Thea fans among you: 1st show: You Tell Me, Rags & Bones, Bad Moon Rising, Red White & Black, Mainstream, Razor Valentine, Juliet, This Girl, Inverigo. 2nd show: Call Me Your Darling, Throw the Bouquet, Bad Moon Rising, Holding Your Hand, Rags and Bones, Juliet, Mainstream, Heartstring Blues, This Girl.)
Thea and Nigel start recording her next album this week.
On the way back the Mini's GPS computer thingie picked a route I'd never taken before, and got me home in five hours. This is, for the record, impossible.
As someone who is a fan, but spent much more time and effort getting your books, rather than the Sandman series (until I got to college and had a friend who let me borrow his) because I wasn't sure if I'd like it, I really like the idea of Sandman omnibuses. Surely there's a good place to split them, isn't there? Maybe there could be an extra volume with all the mini-series collected? (Yes, DC's getting this suggestion,too) I want to have the entire series, but due to limitations in my funds and space considerations, that hasn't been feasible. Also, there's so much of it that's just hard to find or such a pain to order (even over the net, where prices for some of them are getting drastically overinflated) that it hasn't happened yet. How about starting a campaign through your site to get DC to realize how much people want to see this?
But they are collected. And the two DEATH mini-series are collected as well. Honest. Yes, collecting the comics themselves will cost you serious money, and so will a few of the early hardbacks, but everything else is in print in both hardcover and paperback, and available from DC, in "omnibuses". Honest.
They're $19.95 each in paperback, except for Sandman: Endless Nights, which is $17.95, at least according to the information at http://www.neilgaiman.net/comics.php.
What there isn't is a 2000+ page one volume collection, and there isn't a way of buying them slipcased. But buying them collected, that we can do.