I Am a World Premiere

“This is the world premiere of Libby Hanssen. And in the grand tradition of the People’s Liberation Big Band, it is unrehearsed.” -Brad Cox


Unrelenting thunderstorms washed out some of the crowd for the People’s Liberation Big Band’s regular gig at the RecordBar. My baby and I made it out, despite the rains, for a delicious sandwich and a delightful surprise.

The PLBB had one crazy week. On May 1st, they performed their original score to the seminal silent film Battleship Potemkin at the Plaza Branch of Kansas City Public Library. The screening was on International Workers’ Day, which falls well in-line with the group’s manifesto. Though they’ve done the show a few times now, this was by far the best environment and the strongest showing.  There was a full house, too, with many comrades from all sorts of different walks gathered together. Henry Fortunato, KCPL Director of Public Affairs, suggested during his opening remarks that we all march on the neighboring Kansas City Board of Trade after the film.  KCPL film aficionado Robert Butler set up the background for the film with insightful comments.

My personal viewing was hampered by the fact that a certain small individual had no interest in the film or its historic and artistic significance. He was far more interested in the blinds pulled down over the windows, his sippy cup, the other children in attendance, the sound of his voice and all the things he’d never seen before that he could get his hands on. Therefore, we spent most of the film in a little open area at the back of the Truman Forum Auditorium, crawling around until we started to get fussy and spent the rest of the film in the hallway. Fortunately, KCJazzlark reviewed the performance.

On Thursday PLBB had a command performance at a West Bottoms watering hole, and then Sunday (after most of the band had played late night Cinco de Mayo gigs) showed up at the RecordBar for their monthly installment of well-played weirdness.  So by the time the band assembled on Sunday night, they were pretty worn down. For these guys and gals to come out on a thundery eve after a week like that is almost, well, personal sacrifice for the greater social good. Those commies.

Jack and I arrived early, during a break in the storm, so that we could get dinner sorted before the band began, since bedtime is at 8:30, regardless of your socio-economic philosophy.

Now that my son eats “real food,” dining out has an extra layer of adventure. While we adhere to the school of thought that children should just eat regular food, instead of prepackaged, processed “baby” food, the flipside of this philosophy is that the adults in the party must order what a wee one can eat.

We can’t strongly enough recommend the RecordBar’s “Bat Out of Hell” – a solid slab of slightly spicy meatloaf on Texas Toast accompanied by a hefty serving of peppery tots. For the starter crowd, the meatloaf crumbles into nicely chunky pieces and tots – well, tots are to potatoes what Da Vinci is to paint. With a side of hummus, served with warm pita, feta and olives, it’s a pretty great darn meal.

It took a while for the band to set up, what with the weather and some technical issues. The 8 pm start time passed and a certain someone was having no truck with wearing baby headphones or falling asleep. We were running out of food and patience. After a few tunes, as we neared the 8:30 deadline, I stood up to walk around, to change the pace a little, and give the squirm-worm a new viewpoint. From the bandstand I heard my husband yell “Libby Hanssen can’t leave.”

With that he introduced the next tune, a piece he’d commissioned from Brad Cox as an anniversary present. Titled Libby Hanssen it was a funky, low-voice heavy piece that featured the riotous plink of toy pianos and the smeary wonderfulness of trombones, as well as a sampling from the Beatles’ “The End,” which included the drum solo and the melody for ‘ the love you take/is equal to the love you make.’

In case you’ve never had a piece commissioned for you and performed by one of your favorite performing ensembles, I’d like to inform you that it’s pretty cool.

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