Webley on the Road

Sometimes, a musician will read your mind. I saw Laurie Anderson when I was in college, and she closed her performance by playing “Muddy River,” perhaps my favorite of her songs and the one thing I most deeply wanted to hear her perform. Jason Webley did it to me on Friday.

The context, insofar as is herein relevant, is that I got into Webley when I lived in Seattle. Where he still does. He’s started touring nationally in the summer, now, but it’s still very hit-or-miss—he didn’t come close to anywhere that I was at a time I could make at all in the last few years. So I was pretty psyched to see that he was playing an internet cafe about an hour away.

Unfortunately, I was pretty unpsyched to learn when we arrived that the concert promoter had put him on second, and that we’d just missed him. Back where I come from—a.k.a. “civilization”—the headliner hits the stage last. He gets the longest set; if you only want to see him, you get there late. We didn’t even get there all that late—we caught the entire third performance, as well as the one in the last slot. (And, let me tell you, those two bands were nothing to write home about. Except, perhaps, in tears and agony.)

Apparently, though, we weren’t the only ones to be lulled into a false sense of temporal security. Some other folks came out just to see him and missed his set entirely. (They were pretty easy to spot; the other bands all appeared to be local high-schoolers, and the Webley fans were a good five-ten years older than pretty much everyone else there. Other Seattle exiles, and their confidants, I suppose.) Mr. W. was kind enough, though, to pull out his accordion, gather us round, and play two songs for us. Song-for-song, it was the best live set I’ve ever seen.

Someday I’ll see one of his deathday or rebirth shows. Someday. But for now, it’s amazing how far two songs will go when there’s tickling, stomping, and raucous accordion-work involved.