HOT METRO FINDS: Robyn Hitchcock live at the ark, ann arbor, mi 2014

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: Out Of The Blizzard Into The Night – HOT METRO FINDS – TED CANTU

LIVE AT THE ARK, ANN ARBOR, MI
NOV. 20   2014

ANN ARBOR, MI – Robyn Hitchock has slipped into view again and in limited portions. He has long held a special place in his heart for Ann Arbor, Michigan which makes total sense. They get him. At least, they used to. Maybe they still do. The core audience has shifted around and have spread across the country since his big heyday in the late 80’s. The iconic School Kids Records has downsized considerably, (I am not even sure if they exist anymore). And the Alternative late night shows on MTV have disappeared into the blasé’ world of reality pregnancy television. Now how in the world do people in Ann Arbor associate Robyn to the cold desolate streets of the college crowd?

So that means the ghosts of the past remember him. I am one of those grey ghosts. I am also a raving fan. I have seen Robyn perform six times and even once with the Soft Boys.  The night he blew into town, literally, there as a torrential snow blizzard out that made travelling ridiculous. Cars slid all over the highway, sometimes sideways, and spinning out of control and you could see them off the side in the ditch. I raced onward because I wanted to go for that special, “Number 7” show. This episode was a real Ann Arbor style homecoming. Robyn would be playing at the ARK. Now, why he didn’t play down in St. Andrews Hall in Detroit I have no idea but if I was his publicist I would most likely say, “Why mess up a good thing?”.

I would have opted for a Blind Pig performance just because it would have seen more appropriate, ( I caught the EYE tour there so many years ago).  But alas, it was the Ark for us and I was just glad to be near the song writing master again. For me, the party with Robyn Hitchcock never really ended. When I lived out in the East Coast this guy would tour constantly and he would pop up in Manhattan, New Jersey and he would come out with a new album with great frequency. He never stopped working. He was also easier to catch than the elusive Lloyd Cole, (who does Manhattan and then races off to London and beyond). Robyn will actually tour different cities in the U.S.

There was a great blend of the old and the new songs on this latest tour. It was like a transmission from some phantom tv station. There were songs in here from the Soft Boys days as well as obscure tracks off of his many releases.  The nights songs started out somewhat ominous with, “The Abyss” and set the stage for some introspection. That was followed up by, “The Wreck of the Arthur Lee”. We picked up with, “Only the Stones Remain” from the –Underwater Moonlight album. Robyn always stays in character throughout his performances and in his interviews. He is a living surrealist and an electric poet and there is never any kind of put on with him. I suppose that is what is so fascinating about him. Ann Arbor really had a strong connection with Hitchcock when, “Fegmania” came out and was even featured on the local radio station for an interview. On that particular time he rambled on about his favorite trees in the city that he liked to climb. Maybe that’s why he treated us to, “I’m Only You”.

There were happy days in the late 80’s. The wide range of musical tracks that flowed from Hitchcock over the years were entertaining, fresh and creative. They took my mind away from what the displeasure I was feeling with the world around me. The radio waves were consumed by a lot of ear splitting negative crap, lots of grunge, lots of droll pontifications of doom. I often needed a break from that type of audio drivel and would throw on some of Hitchcock’s work to even things out. I yearned for balance and his work was so creative and fulfilling that it balanced out the void. The Metro Detroit radio stations stayed in the year 1993 in lots of cases and just keep heaping on the worst of the worst – even still. I think the radio stations in and around Ann Arbor are more giving and I often hear tracks by The Arctic Monkeys, Blur, Hot Hot Heat, and once in a while somebody really obscure. I think that is why Robyn stays loyal to that town. There is a magnetic force field around that town — a kind of frequency, that is welcome. He belongs there. He definitely fits in there quite nicely.

Another area where Robyn fits in is the kind of music he plays. You know he never really let go of his roots. He belted out , “Arnold Layne” from Pink Floyd. In many ways he really is closely related to the creative energy of Syd Barrett and even sounds like him. There is another irresistible source of material here stemming from The Velvet Underground. Robyn treated the room to a  version of, “New Age”.

There is something that Robyn delivers to the audience that goes beyond mere music. It is a gift. He is giving the people an experience and there is a delicate kind of energy to it that stays with you. It is almost a kind of energy transfer that you can take with you and use in your own daily experience, (if you so choose to). He is not just there to rock your ear drums although that does happen.

Then after the applause, he nodded, and then faded back into the night. I don’t know when we will meet up again but I don’t doubt that we will meet up again in the future. I am part of that mysterious frequency that he exists in. Furthermore I happen to like it there.

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