Opened up for Glen Phillips
(Toad the Wet Sprocket) last night.
Amy Penwell

When I was 18 years old there opened a tiny window of opportunity to move out on my own. Away from a spiritually based communal house hold, full of vegetarians and kundulini breathing guru fanatics. I jumped into an apartment with a friend of mine who was a 32 year old musician named Lynn. She was taking a temporary break from being a guru fanatic. I thought at 32 she was ancient, but she smoked pot, liked music and boys as much as I did so I converted her 15 foot ceilinged living room into my own private paradise. I could smoke out the window, drink red wine and let my boyfriend sleep over. Yes, it was heaven…. for a while, the imminent demise is another tale to tell.

This tale is about the night Lynn took me to the Paradise Club in Boston to see Chris Whitley. Chris had just released Living with the Law. I had fallen in love with the song Big Sky Country. Lynn was turning me onto a lot of music. Songwriters like Chris, Luka Bloom,and Bonnie Raitt. I was brought up with Journey, Rush, and Van Halen and U2. This was a new world. These song writers were a new ingredient to my musical education.

Toad the Wet Sprocket opened that night. A band I had never heard of before. Out came this unassuming young guy that kind of reminded me of Shawn Cassidy. They went through their set and I immediately loved them. Yes, they were a nineties, Dawsons Creek chick band, and yes, there was a bit of that in me. Chris followed all wire like with big hands full of silver rings. This was before he trusted his quiet falsetto, the one Daniel Lanois pulled out of him on Dirt Floor. A side from a lame sound guy Chris was amazing. Living with the Law was way over produced and it was a gift to hear those songs stripped down. I made a decision that night that I wanted to write songs that were good enough to stand on their own. In fact they would be better stripped of any fancy arrangements, or layers. It took me fourteen years to accomplish that goal. I did it last night while opening up for Glenn Phillips (the Shawn Cassidy guy) from Toad the Wet Sprocket. It was a full circle moment. I got to hang with him for 20 minutes before we began a Bay Area House Concert that my friend Drew Pearce puts on here in Marin County. It was a big deal that Glen said yes to playing for an intimate gathering of fans, and an even bigger deal for me to land as the opening act. I had the fortune of being able to ask him some questions about what it was really like to be on the road for 6 months a year, away from his family in clubs every night. He was honest, open and unpretentious. I was grateful.

When it was time I gave what I had to give and he gave what he had to give. His performance was comforting, humorous, and sweet. He did a great cover of Radioheads Exit music from OK Computer which is one of my favorites. He hit Thom Yorks high notes with ease. I was impressed. I realized I was standing in a room now with people in their forties who didn’t know any Radiohead. I’m now 33 and can happily admit that I have integrated sensitive songwriters with what ever Radiohead is, into my mesh of influences. The highlight was singing harmony on Walk on the Ocean with Glens invitation of course. After the song was over Glen turned to me and said “Nice Harmony Amie”. Yes, it was a good moment.

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