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Frank Fairfield at the Museum of Jurassic Technology
I went to an exciting concert last Sunday. As I've mentioned I have other musical passions aside from funny stuff, and one of them is American traditional folk music (or indigenous music, to use the preferred scholarly phrase these days).
Frank Fairfield is a 24-year-old singer, fiddler, guitarist and banjo player who grew up somewhere near Fresno (more specific info is a bit hard to come by). He grew up obsessed with fiddle, guitar and banjo music on records made by Southern musicians in the 1920s, and somehow learned to play all three instruments splendidly, just the way they did back then. (For example, he holds his fiddle against his chest, not under his chin in the classical manner). Listening to him, you can easily forget that anything that happened in country music after 1920 singing cowboys, Western swing, the Nashville Sound -- ever happened at all. Yet he never sounds exactly like anyone on an old record...it's his own style, especially his understated singing. It took me a couple of listens to one of his CDs before I quite got it, but its magical.
A few years ago Frank was discovered busking on the streets of Hollywood. This quickly led to numerous club gigs, a tour opening for Fleet Foxes, shows in Europe and Australia, and two CD's (the more recent one produced by Michael Kieffer, who was "Musical Mike" on the Dr. Demento Show before he became an accomplished engineer and a world-class record collector).
The concert last Sunday was in a venue that's very noteworthy in itself (some might even say it's Demented). It was at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City (just a few blocks from PO Box 884). The name may mislead some there are no dinosaurs here but it somehow makes sense. This small privately-owned museum is devoted to the varied obsessions of human eccentrics. Once inside its honeycomb of tiny, hushed, dimly lit spaces, you're a world away from busy Venice Blvd. outside. There are mosaics made from individual scales from butterfly wings, visible only under a microscope. There are photographs and artifacts from house trailers built before WWII. There is an exhibit of artworks made from dice. There is a library of books about Napoleon...and a dozen or so varied and wondrous exhibits. The museum has a web site at www.mjt.org.
Upstairs, along with more exhibits, is a room where tea and cookies are served, and an open-air performance space, decorated like some kind of Moorish villa. It seats about 30, with some standing room. That's where I heard Frank's concert. It was like hearing Frank casually playing a few old tunes for friends and family. Afterward I got to meet him. Wearing a jacket and tie for the concert, he's very polite and softspoken, and seemed genuinely embarrassed when I asked him to sign my CD. He collects 78 rpm records, like I do. He had to get ready for the next sold-out show, but I look forward to talking records with him someday soon. Check out Frank's CD on the Tompkins Square label (http://www.tompkinssquare.com) and if you're in Southern California, the Museum of Jurassic Technology is definitely worth a visit (check the web site for its limited opening hours).
From: Dr. Demento
A small correction: Frank is now 26.