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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Kinky Friedman in concert. Brisbane 25 June 2011.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch is the name of a book by the wild man from Austineo - Kinky friedman. But in Australia there are no ranches, they call them stations. Kinky should call the Australian edition Meanwhile, back at the station...

I got introduced to Kinky Friedman from watching an obscure documentary on him many years ago. I have since read many of his books and managed to track down maybe half his musical output.
Kinky Friedman is an outlaw. He is the bold American. He had a hit called "Sold American", about a fallen country star. Kinky’s star is still shining brightly. It was my first time to see him performing live. There he was telling jokes, grinning, squinting, singing
"Remembering the times/ when coffee with a friend was still a dime..."
I just love that line. That’s the best definition of 'reminiscing' I've heard all evening.



Kinky in concert last evening was the best concert I ever attended. I have been to a few concerts by some international and local acts but Kinky topped them all. The venue was at the Visy theatre in the Powerhouse in Brisbane. This was a very intimate setting which holds 200 people – all sold out. So there he was. Just the man and his guitar in front of a microphone. The way intimate music should be played. Almost like the 60s folkscene that we read about. I was seated in the second row, no more than 5 metres from the performer. It felt like he was performing just for me. I make out that 10% of the 200 people there are new fans.
He opened with a disclaimer: ‘we deserve the right to refuse service’ and then followed with a toast to honour, saying “here’s to honor, get on her, and stay on her”. Classic Kinky.
He had many jokes sprinkled between songs throughout the evening. Some of them are funny, a couple are maybe too crude or rude. One may even be politically incorrect in today’s atmosphere, as he himself seemed to concede. That may be so for PC pedants, but in context, it is quite okay. Well he does not even say “fuck” in front of a c-h-i-l-d.

The setlist from what I can remember (Like Kinky I did have a double before the show):
  • We deserve the right to refuse services to you
  • Autograph
  • They ain’t making jews like Jesus anymore (with an audience sing-along)
  • Ol’ ben lucas (written by an 11yr old Kinky - about mucus)
  • Marilyn and DiMaggio
  • Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Sold American
  • Asshole from El Paso
  • Ballad of Ira Hayes
  • The wild man from borneo
  • Pretty boy Floyd (encore)
Like everyone else, the man is getting on in years. But the humorous mischief and twinkle in him remains. He admits to being a young 66 years old. “I’m too young for medicare,” he says, “but too old for women to care.”
He told anecdotes about his dalliance with politics. He says he spells this as 'polyticks' meaning multiple bloodsucking parasites. He is a generous person. He told about him and Van Dyke Parks (co-tourist) drawing the fine line between music and criticism, and snorting it. He has sharp wit and he’s also eagle-eyed. He spotted an audience member wearing a ‘kinky’ shirt.
He confides that he follows current affairs: Libya and Charlie Sheen. He’s thinking of adding disgraced congressman Wiener to the list.

He also related the story of an old couple now hard of hearing, but still finding ways to communicate in their old age. The old man once asked his wife where the rake was, having to mime the question because she could not hear. The old woman replied in kind. She pointed at herself, grabbed her left breast, her backside and then her crotch. The old man could not work this out so he came to the porch for an explanation. The woman said: “I/ left-tit/ behind/ the bush.”

Jokes are often better heard than read. But it was a magic evening. Funny and entertaining. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He quotes distinguished writers such as Oscar Wilde and Joseph Heller, without pretense like many so-called artists. Friedman is an accomplished writer and novelist, and knows whereof he speaks.
He shared a few more jokes. Like about the Native American Indian's concept of ownership - and casinos. Or about the Texan billionaire telling the Mexican with 12 kids to stop bothering Jesus about his problems; or about the guy Uwe (not Hughie or Huey) who he met in NSW. Uwe comes from Kinky's 2nd favorite people in the world, after everyone else.

If you're lost, really you should go and see Kinky.
He may not be in the league of the great satirical comics Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce or Mel Brooks, but he's made a niche for himself. I like a certain kind of outlaw. In music, Kinky Friedman is my kind of outlaw. Like Robin Hood, or Pretty Boy Floyd - the kind of outlaw that he sings about in paean to Woody Guthrie. The guitar-that-kills-fascists man still screams in Kinky’s veins. Indeed, an outlaw who you’ll never see drive a family from their home. The honest type who live outside the law.
If I was a Texan, I’d vote for him all the time, over many of those hypocrites in poly-ticks. Kinky tells it like it is. Behind his songs is couched the grim reality that wetbacks are paid only 20 cents an hour (or today's equivalent). For this he gets criticised for political incorrectness. That Mississippi hall-of-famer Van Dyke Parks is right. Kinky should be canonised. The first Saint from Texas.
Kinky also read from his book “Heroes of a Texas Childhood”. He told a touching tale about his father - how he inspired him to speak out for the underdog. Do keep preaching to the infidels, Kinky.
And Kinky. You may not have made it like Gram Parsons or Barth Grooks, but there’s still some of us who follow quality music (and books). I make out that 10% of the 200 people there are new fans. Kinky, rest assured, there will be people yelling: “what about albinos?” at least for the rest of your life.
If Kinky runs again for Governor of Texas, I fear he’ll lose again, because as he says - he’s got Willie Nelson’s endorsement.
Am sure he’ll win hands down here in Queensland. Look out Anna. And Campbell.
As the lights went back on at the end of the show, I noticed that the audience comprised of goodlooking men and women. Just like the Kinkster.
And Kinky said it himself: "a genius audience makes for a  genius performance."
Couldn't agree more.

I might go and see him again. In 25 years time. They ain't making Jews like Kinky anymore. Hey Kinkster, can you make it sooner? And are you gonna light that cigar or what?