|Peter Gutteridge, Brooklyn, August 2014|
Monday, September 15, 2014
Shocked last night by the news of Peter Gutteridge's passing, and shocked that I could be shocked by the news, given his reputation for rigorous life-doings and a pervading sense that few people have ever engaged their demons more fully, or for a longer time. I met him once, but I didn't know him.
I'll spare you here the story of the time I met him (find me on Earth and I'll tell it), because much more important is that he was just here, not three weeks ago, to play what I'm pretty sure was his first-ever gig, solo or otherwise, in the U.S. Possibly his first ever outside New Zealand. It was not a great show — familiar songs veered miles off-course as he peered at his array of pedals, looking for the right cosmic-buzzsaw sound, almost as if a crowd wasn't there. And he did not look so great either, his face drawn tightly and his body hidden underneath incongruous, oversized clothes. BUT, the record will show that he did come to Brooklyn to play us his songs, and those songs are amazing things that he wrote and played, and when he did acknowledge the crowd, he smiled a lot, and his eyes were aflame, and when he spoke, he expressed a very plain and genuine gratitude that the few dozen of us had come to meet him at an out-of-the-way club deep in Brooklyn, so incredibly far from his territory. When he idly scratched out what my brain thought were the opening notes of "Born in the Wrong Time" ("I can name that song in one note"), and then took another spell to sort out his pedals, I was left with a vast handful of seconds to wonder if that was the closest I'd ever get to the song . . . and then he did play it, and the goosebumps went up all over, and he sang not in the biker-growl he'd employed most of the night but in a brilliant and unexpected Lou Reed-ish poem-sing . . . Well, it was all this fan could've asked for. "Yeah they're pushing his bags out the door . . . " Not this guy. He carried his own bags everywhere. R.I.P.