We live three blocks from a lovely coffeeshop owned by some good friends of ours, and they regularly feature live music. Local, regional, and occasionally touring musicians set up on their humble stage and play everything from Hank Williams covers to original folk and rock. My wife and I try, as often as possible, to take our eight-year-old daughter to these shows to give her the memory of live music, to show her musicians bravely putting themselves out there in the name of art. We recently ventured to The Coffee Pot to watch Michigan musician Anna P.S.
The Coffee Pot’s event page for the concert said absolutely nothing about Anna, beyond sharing a photo of a young woman holding a guitar and sitting on a stool. Fair enough; that’s a good place to start. We settled into our booth while Anna was just getting started, stepping timidly to the microphone. She sang with a softly gravelly grace through a series of original songs and curated covers. Intriguingly, she was sampling and looping her own acoustic guitar so she could pick up a flute to play bridges between vocals. Her covers included Simon & Garfunkle, the Beatles, Corinne Bailey Rae, and, as a beautiful touch that endeared her to me more than anything else, Over the Rhine. “Called Home,” a song from Over the Rhine’s Meet Me at the Edge of the World, talks about finding a broken down beauty in the middle states, places looked over by much of the world, places that show their age and let the grass grow long along the highways. It was the perfect song for Anna to sing, standing behind a microphone in another coffeeshop in another small town on a Sunday afternoon as she tours the midwest.
After the show I walked to her suitcase by the stage to leave a tip and saw she was selling her music and several small souvenirs of her show. I grabbed one of lyric books for her album Umbrella after seeing the booklets were bound in discarded beer six-packs. I picked up one bound in the packaging for Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, one of my favorite beers and one that’s delicately strong palate and beautiful homeland (southern Michigan) felt perfect for Anna’s music. Anna’s lyrics are simple, but deeply felt, often whimsical, often bittersweet: “Will you talk till three with me / balance budgets, climb a tree / under grey skies when it rains.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to watch Anna P.S. perform live or even meet her again, but I wish her all the best. I had the feeling we’d be friends with her if we had more time. Keep singing, Anna. Keep writing, keep believing. Keep listening to good music, and keep playing it for others.