Here’s a short sample of the sonic adventure that was the KALEIDESCAPE event at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, October 14, 2023. Thanks to Sophia and Sam of Organ Colossal and everyone involved in producing this wonderful show.
Here’s more on the commissioned song I wrote for the event, “Elvis Stepped Away from the Mic,” including annotated lyrics down below.
PS: There’s a studio version of the song in the works. Cheers.
FROM THE TIMES UNION
Just weeks ago, Jive got a jump on the Kaleidescape event and made his Troy Music Hall debut opening for Macy Gray.
Jive recalls that a little while after receiving the Kaleidescape email, he got panicky and tried to dredge up whatever Troy history might have lodged in his memory from his days at WMHT, where he worked on documentaries about local communities. Instead, he’s relying on his experiences as an audience member at the Music Hall.
[Buggy Jive] recalls great nights with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Randy Newman [at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall], to name only a few. But Jive seems to have fixated on a 2013 show by Elvis Costello when the star spontaneously stepped away from the microphones, trusted the hall and performed one song without amplification. “The audience was more attentive to that song than the entire rest of the show,” recalls Jive.
So how will that inform his new song? “Well, I don’t want to give anything away,” replies the artist, using a line heard frequently from theater people but rarely from musicians.
Buggy Jive recently opened for Macy Gray at the hall and was able to experience first hand the magic of the room. “I got to sing from that stage for the first time just last week and wow, I usually don’t like reverb but singing into the NATURAL reverb of that room, the vocals seemed to go on forever and smooth out every flaw. It was magical.”
He isn’t kidding. We were at that show, and his use of the acoustics of the room really became part of the original sound he was producing on stage.
“As I understand it, the acoustics were nice enough when the hall was first built, but the secret sauce came later with the installation of the pipe organ and the curved space beneath it at the back of the stage,” he explained.
Buggy’s original song is inspired by concerts he has personally attended there. “I’m going to play a quiet acoustic song inspired by the many favorite artists I’ve seen at the hall over the years: Michael Hedges, Randy Newman, Hancock and Shorter, Difford and Tillbrook (of Squeeze), Sweet Honey in the Rock and Cecile McLorin Salvant all get name-checked. I tend to go all in on shows with stripped-down performances, solo or duo; the hall is really the perfect room for that kind of intimate presentation.”
Specifically, though, the song’s refrain is a callback to a specific memory Buggy Jive holds dear from 2013. “There was a magical moment during an Elvis Costello solo acoustic show where he stepped off mic and delivered a song without amplification, relying completely on the acoustics of the hall. As I say in the song, the organ is the hall’s ‘accidental amplifier of love and light.’”
ELVIS STEPPED AWAY FROM THE MIC
On the eve of Joni Mitchell’s birthday in 2013
Elvis stood on this stage to offer love and understanding and peace.
And a failed singer-songwriter was there to learn a few things.
(That songwriter was me.)
Elvis was all alone, except for 4 guitars and 88 electric keys.
And with that organ high above and the curved space beneath,
That accidental amplifier of love and light,
The best moment of that night
Was when Elvis stepped away from the mic.
I’ve seen and heard some legendary
Quiet realness in this sanctuary.
Randy Newman, all by himself.
Michael Hedges, all by himself.
And Hancock and Shorter,
And Difford and Tilbrook,
And Sweet Honey in the Rock.
And Cécile McLorin Salvant.
(And just the other day?
Me and Macy Gray!)
See: you can really hear a song make its case
When it’s stripped to its essence up on this stage.
With that organ above reflecting time and space,
That accidental amplifier of love and grace.
And the best moment of all those nights
Was when Elvis stepped away from the mic.
I was in the front row, parquet right,
But as one of the few black men in the room that night,
Floating around in the back of my mind was the
Elvis situation of 1979.
At a Holiday Inn in Columbus, Ohio,
Elvis lost his cool and also his mind.
With some jive-ass slander of Ray Charles and James Brown
He drunkenly tramped the brothas down.
But in attacking those brothas, he inadvertently
Attacked a little black fan boy in Schenectady
(That little boy was me.)
There’s a time and place for me to get all mad,
But these days I’m just filled with a constant sadness.
Be it accidentally or intentionally,
All your heroes will let you down eventually.
So forget about peace and love
But hold on to understanding.
Elvis finally apologized three decades later
To Questlove and to me via Okayplayer.
We’re all a little wiser and a lot more grayer.
It was just 20 days before he stepped inside
This house of prayer.
Where you can really hear a song make its case
When it’s stripped to its essence up on this stage
With that organ above reflecting love and passion.
That accidental amplifier of truth in action.
“Accidents will happen.”
My deepest memory of that night,
I was sitting there in parquet right,
In reflections of love and light,
Elvis stepped away from the mic.