Tommy Dean

For the last four days, I've basically been hanging around Seattle not doing anything and trying not to spend any money. As part of that experience, on Saturday night Angel and I took a couple of friends to a free concert by Tommy Dean at a record store in the Ballard neighborhood, north of us. (You should click on that link and listen to some of his stuff at MySpace. Seriously.)

I've posted on this guy before (we first saw him at Seattle's Folklife festival with Baby Gramps, who we happened upon at a restaurant the same night, coincidentally enough), but man, what a surreal experience that show was. First off, we were basically the entire crowd. He had two friends there, and three teenagers showed up, but beyond that it was really just us and a few stray store-browsers who were listening. Secondly, he played for two and a half hours non-stop, and we left before he finished (standing around alone as a musician plays for you for two and a half hours is itself an unusual experience). Third, he was absolutely captivating. The two and a half hours of music were almost all original and almost all really really good, but he hasn't released an album. (He's a busker by trade, and sings for money at the Pike Place Market.) His musical style ranged between Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska" to old timey, bluesy or blue-grassy stuff. He used lots of weird religious imagery, which I always love, and sung about sex, cocaine and the open road.

I'm gushing now (and this post is starting to read like one of his friends wrote it. I don't know him--really! I said "good stuff" to him at the show, but he didn't respond.) but I really don't understand how he hasn't managed to gather a following. Our friend kept referring to him in reference to early Bob Dylan, which is both a kiss of death and appropriate, I think. My comparison is to Daniel Johnston, the schizophrenic musical genius that they made a movie about a few years back. Whoever you compare him to, he comes off as both eccentric and brilliant, and I would guess that people will hear about him at some point. If you're in Seattle, you should really go see him live--it'll probably be free and intimate. If you're not, watch for an album--he's apparently releasing "Introducing Tommy Dean" on Bad Animals before long. His music is beautiful and classic, his voice is high and strange, and his race and descent are indeterminate. It's not an experience I've had at a show before.

Here are a few strange and grainy videos I found of Tommy on YouTube, to add to the mystique. (Thanks veraviolet)

First Tommy on a Beach:

Then Tommy in the Waves:

And finally Tommy doing what he does:


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