Last Tuesday we went to see Hammell on Trial in Chapel Hill. I thought it was a perfect way to celebrate the inauguration. Before Hammell this 3-piece played the first set fronted by a young woman named Mysti Mayhem, which is a great roller derby name.
This young woman has a terrific voice that can wail or whisper with the same balls-out conviction. She commands the stage. Her guitar paying is confident and it looked like she was having a good time, and even though the crowd was small, we were enthusiastic.
I even bought her CD, Diversity, produced by the legendary Chris Stamey, and put it in my player for the commute.
But I'm not here to do a CD review. I mean, who the hell am I? No, I'm here to talk about influences. The next day my daughter said she could hear a lot of Ani Difranco in Ms. Mayhem's music. I don't know. But I do know that when you're young, you always sound like someone else. Bob Dylan sounded like Woody Guthrie. Bruce Springsteen sounded like Bob Dylan. Hell, Fountains of Wayne still sound like the Beatles.
When I was young, there was a short period when everything I wrote sounded like Richard Bautigan. Then I went through an extended Updike phase. Now I sound like this, which is like nobody else I know.
That's the way it works. Young people get so hung up (at least I did) on being original, that they freeze up just when they should be soaking up all the influences they can. You sound like people you admire for a while, and then you sound like yourself, which sounds like no one else.
Go get 'em Ms. Mayhem. I loved the set.
Mysti and her band opened for Hammell on Trial, and if you ever get a chance to see him perform, go. Do not hesitate. He's a one man force of nature, beating a 1937 Gibson that looks as tough and put-upon as Hank Williams' bartender.
Support live music. Go see a band this week. You'll be glad you did.