Some of my favorite moments from Lit Cleveland’s Fictionfest on Saturday, which had over 50 attendees: reading Raymond Carver’s short story “Viewfinder” with workshop leader Eric Anderson, Laura Maylene Walter talking about her visit to Centralia, Pa. and how that setting transformed one of her short stories, Kevin Keating on going to St. Ignatius in the 1980’s and the dystopia that lay beyond the campus’ edge, which filtered into his two novels. Purple-tastic Loganberry Books was the perfect setting and folks walked away excited and inspired.
Saturday night Katherine and I went with some friends to Riverdog, a B&B and house concert venue five miles west of Oberlin, to see the Hello Strangers. The band is led by sisters Larissa Chace Smith and Brechyn Chace. It was kind of a magical night. There is something about these two sisters singing about heartbreak (causing it more than enduring it), leaving men, and murder and mayhem in old America that sends chills down your spine. Because I’m that 90s guy, I bought the CD. I’ve listened to it at least five times since then.
It’s hard for any artist to carve out an original space within the well-worn territory of folk music. What I liked about Hello Strangers is that their music felt familiar and uniquely original at the same time. They were not just drawing on timeworn riffs, grooves and structures, but also innovating within those traditions. Not everyone has a song about Conocogeague (a creek in Pa. that apparently runs near their house, pronounced, “Kah-nah-kuh-jig”) and the man that apparently lies at the bottom of it.