Other NYC rock scene fabulosos were also there in the crowd, e.g., Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, as well as rock critic Robert Christgau, plus quite a few more who seemed vaguely familiar, though perhaps it was just because they had that look. (One of them, sitting next to me, was explaining to Ira Kaplan before the show why Keith Hernandez had mentioned him, i.e., the speaker not Ira, on a recent Mets broadcast.) Though everyone was nice, it gave me a bit of that feeling that you have when you go to a party where all the people know each other, but you have never met any of them. But this only mattered in terms of hanging around (or rather not) after the concert had ended.
This was certainly the oldest audience I've ever seen at a rock concert. I would say that the average age exceeded mine, and that the average number of years since first rock concert attended was probably north of 35.
Rigby is a great songwriter. While not stylistically path-breaking, her influences generally fit my taste. They include Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, other 1960s pop, country music, folk, and singer-songwriter ballads. But her songs are far more than just tuneful & catchy - they're also literate, witty, observational, and very willing to go for the jugular (hers and others).
She's about my age, left Pittsburgh for New York in the late 1970s when she realized what was happening there musically (e.g., Patti Smith and then CBGB), married the DBs' drummer but then got divorced and was left with a small child to raise on her own and very grim economic prospects. She spearheaded a couple of groups that became known in the local scene, but not commercially or to me (although I had followed the great NYC punk and new wave bands of the late 1970s).
Finally in 1996, she went solo with "Diary of a Mod Housewife," followed by "Middlescence" and then three more albums, all of consistently high quality, with a theme that remains somewhat unique in the youth-oriented world of pop music. She decided to write about being a thirty-something single working mom with bad prospects, meeting mostly bad men, and struggling with her own issues and limitations as well. The songs vary from expressing humor to anger to resignation to irony to cynicism to sentiment. And they're not just words strung together - each one tends to be like a short story, or to develop thematically some feeling or situation.
As tends to happen with this sort of artist, her critical acclaim has exceeded her sales, but she does have followers, fans, and friends, and she has been able to keep on recording music and playing shows. She's an artist / craftsperson of a sort that I could imagine myself having been in an alternative universe (e.g., if my upbringing and skill set were different than in the actual universe, but my taste and mentality remained the same).
Great high-energy show in a small venue, with just a guitar, bass, and drums reverberating through one's bones without being deafening.
She'll be back at the HiFi Bar in the East Village one more time (next Thursday, May 28), and I would have planned to attend again if not for the fact that I will be in Seattle at the Law and Society Association's annual meeting, presenting a paper on high-end inequality and the social science literature.
Just as a sample of her live work, try this solo performance on youtube.