I, once again, had a fabulous, wonderful time at The Pink Line Project‘s Salon Contra. For the benefit of the uninformed, a Salon Contra is reminiscent of the salons held in Paris during the reign of Louis the XV–lots of art and culture, people drinking wine and talking about culture–before all the beheadings began.
In any case, this week’s Salon Contra featured Julie Feeney, the “Madonna of Ireland.” I hope this accolade refers only to fame, because I could never feel as warm and filled up by a Madonna performance as I did while hearing Julie sing on Wednesday evening. Performing five or six songs with, alternatively, toe tap, drumsticks, keyboard, I had the sensation that I was somewhere else entirely. Am I secretly Irish and this is just my home calling to me? Or is she really that good?
I think she’s really that good, folks. Julie is in the States (I love the way Europeans call the US the States) under the semi-supervision of Solas Nua, the Irish cultural
Festival organization in DC (to be featured in future). Julie performed wearing a gown of stitched sheet music of her own composition and a headpiece, the exact miniature of a real turreted house “in a garden in Gallway” (see pics on the Solas Nua blog). I see the reputation for inventive headwear, a woman after my own heart. What she wears is not for shock value however, but because each piece means something. She urges people to think first, “Why am I wearing this?”
The songs are the result of writing, writing, and rewriting her lyrics. Once she has sorted her ideas into categories, she mixes them up again, rewrites them into new categories, then decides whether the result is good enough to really “inflict on anyone.” But for all this, she is a melody first songwriter. The lyrics are stunning, but the melodies are stuck-in-my-head-but-still-love-them amazing.
In her live shows, she has been known to take the mic into the crowd and whisper lyrics to successive audience members to sing. Tonight she is singing in the shop window of Kultura, a used bookstore in Dupont. Passersby can stop and listen on headphones. You want more? She conducts orchestras playing the arrangements she composes. And did I mention the hats?! Oh mercy, the fabulous hats!