Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Jun 30th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Fountain of Youth

music LoudonLoudon Wainwright III talks family, folk music, and the art of being funny

Aside from being a talented singer/songwriter, Loudon Wainwright III has become a household name for his sense of humor. From the road in the Northeast, where Wainwright is beginning a tour that runs through the fall, he confesses, “I’ve always liked making people laugh, if possible. I have friends that are comics and I certainly have watched a lot of stand up. When I perform, I have a guitar that acts as a fig-leaf and as a shield for protection—so I’m relaxed.”

 

With 22 albums under his belt, appearances on TV—including M.A.S.H and Judd Apatow’s underrated Undeclared—and a hilarious role as an irreverent gynecologist in Apatow’s big-screen hit, Knocked Up, Wainwright is now facing the inevitable task of aging with grace.

On his latest achievement, Older Than My Old Man Now, the silver-haired fox digs deep into his familial relationships, featuring duets with his kids, ex-wife, and special guest appearances from Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Dame Edna Everage. “I had other people on the record so people wouldn’t get completely bummed out by one voice,” says Wainwright. “That was the concept.”

Like the Kennedys, several generations of Wainwrights have mass appeal and are fascinating branches on the family tree. For one, Wainwright shares a grandchild with Leonard Cohen through his son Rufus. Rufus is the living definition of a cult singer/songwriter, Wainwright’s daughter Martha has gained a wide following for her work with everyone from Nelson Mandela to Hole, and his youngest daughter Lucy is tearing up Brooklyn’s folk scene.

Wainwright understands the benefits of working with his infamous relatives. “I’ve worked with my family before, certainly my kids—a lot of the songs have family aspects.” He is practical, but also knows talent when he hears it. “My kids are pretty good singers and have interesting, distinctive voices, so it seemed like a logical choice to bring in the progeny. It was also a good way to sell records.”

His ex-wife, Suzzy Roche—a former member of the successful all-girl, all-family band, The Roches—explains what its like to collaborate with Wainwright. “Loudon is great to work with because he knows what he likes, respects what other artists bring to the table, but is fiercely committed to staying true to his own vision,” says Roche. “You ask: Is he hilarious? The word I’d use is authentic.”

Although Wainwright’s songs have been compared to humorists Tom Lehrer and Stan Freberg, he insists that his songwriting process is not focused on writing wacky tunes, but on writing well-structured ones. “I don’t think quirky when I write a song—I think beginning, middle and end,” he says. Wainwright does not mnd the comparison, however, seeing as Lehrer is one of his heroes. “I really wanted Tom Lehrer to sing on this album, and if he’s reading this, please come to the show, you’re on the guest list.”

With more than 40 years of touring experience, Wainwright understands the importance of getting the audience to identify with the performer. “The trick is to get a group of people together in a room or a cow pasture, or wherever it is, and do a show for them,” he says. “Audiences are much the same after a while, and they’re either good or bad—they’re either laughing or they’re not. The trick, or the goal, is to turn them into a good audience, to the best of your ability.”

But humor took a backseat to substance on one of Wainwright’s most recent projects, a contribution to Occupy This Album, a compilation of songs performed by artists that were inspired by the Occupy movement. “The song that I contributed to the record is a song I didn’t write,” he says. “It was written by a great singer/songwriter, Hezekiah Jenkins, who wrote it for the first Depression. I was happy to make that kind of historical contribution—it’s a great song called, ‘The Panic is On.’”

The Occupy movement has gotten Wainwright thinking a lot lately about the state of the world, and his feeling of helplessness regarding the direction in which society is heading. “I don’t know what to do about damn near anything,” he admits. “But things are f*cked up, and it’s good to remind people—because it’s incredible how it’s possible to forget that.”  Photo: Ross Halfi

Loudon Wainwright III will play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 29 at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $25/adv, $25/door. For more information, call 427-2227.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

I Was a Teenage Deadhead

Memories of life on tour, plus the truth about that legendary Santa Cruz Acid Test

 

I Build a Lighted House and Therein Dwell

Wednesday, June 24, Chiron turns stationary retrograde (we turn inward) at 21.33 degrees Pisces. We usually speak of “retrograde” when referring to Mercury. But all planets retrograde. Next month in July, Venus retrogrades. What is Chiron retrograde? Chiron represents the wound within all of us. Wounds have purpose. They sensitize us; make us aware of pain and suffering. Through our wounds we develop compassion. Through compassion we become whole (holy) again. Chiron helps develop these states of consciousness. Everyone carries a wound. Everyone carries family wounds (family astrology tracks the astrological “DNA” through generations). Chiron wounds are deep within. We’re often not aware of them until Chiron retrogrades. Then the wounds (through pain, hurt, sadness, suffering) become apparent. They seem to break us open emotionally, psychologically. Painful events from the past are remembered. They are brought to the present for healing. Through experiencing, talking about and deeply feeling what is hurting us, healing takes place. We begin to understand and bring healing to others. All week, Jupiter and Venus move closer together in the sky. They meet in Leo at the full moon, Cancer solar festival, on Wednesday, July 1. The Cancer keynote is, “I build a lighted house and therein dwell.” The soul’s light has finally penetrated the “womb” of matter. The New Group of World Servers is to radiate this light. At the end of each sign are keywords to use and remember during the Chiron retrograde.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of June 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Kickin' Chicken

Local kitchen alchemist Justin Williams is fast becoming a cult flavor master. His late-night wizardry, which began last fall delivering mainly to starving UCSC students, is catching on with taste buds beyond campus. Kickin’ Chicken delivers its spicy-sweet fried chicken and waffles to Westside residents between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. nightly. Or you can catch him and his brother and sister, Candice and Danny Mendoza, serving it up at their “Sunday Mass” at the Santa Cruz Food Lounge at 1001 Center St. in Santa Cruz. Using sous vide, a French method of cooking chicken in a water bath at a tightly controlled temperature, they then flash fry it for an amazingly crispy coat. Candice Mendoza spoke to GT about Kickin’ Chicken’s rise.

 

What’s a creative new approach to addressing summer beach litter?

Robotic dogs, with duct tape on their paws, that walk around picking up litter wherever they go. Joaquin Heinz, Santa Cruz, Barista

 

Pelican Ranch Winery

The most popular red wines found on store shelves are also those most commonly known, such as Pinot, Zinfandel and Merlot. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Pelican Ranch Winery’s Cinsault ($19), it opens up a whole new world. Cinsault is a grape that can tolerate heat, so it is found in countries with warmer climes such as Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, and France. It’s rare in California but grows well in places like Lodi—Silvaspoons Vineyard in this particular case—where it’s hot and dry. Often used as a blending grape, the silky Cinsault is just fine on its own.

 

Open Wide

Soif’s soft reboot leads to expanded menu, plus the ‘thinking woman’s ketchup’