Although their first song on this set, the super fast “Come Back Home” does rather convey what their name does. Bluegrass can be fast (often is, in fact) but, man, this song scorches and the violin solos that flow through the song are totally intense.
So I was a little bummed that the next two songs are really mellow ballads. For “Winners” the band’s harmonies are spot on and I do like the sliding bass line. In fact all of the instrumentation (mandolin, violin, guitars, bass) is really nice. And I think if this didn’t follow that first song, I might like it more. Perhaps they should have ended the set with “Come Back Home.”
Before beginning “Lucy,” they ask if they are doing one more. Bob says yes unless they want to stay longer. The singer asks if they’ve got beer and Bob says they can work something out. The band is not ready to head back to New York yet–they came from New York just to play the Tiny Desk (which elicit’ awww’s from the audience).
“Lucy” opens with some cool staccato strumming. It too is a pretty song that makes great use of all of their instruments9espeicoally the mandolin).
I have recently begun to enjoy bluegrass a lot more and I could see Trampled by Turtles being a gateway into more bluegrass. But I need more fast songs like the first one.
[READ: May 10, 2016] The Moon Moth
This First Second graphic novel opens with a lengthy essay called “The Genre Artist” by Carlo Rotella. In this essay Rotella sings the praises of unheralded genre master Jack Vance (whom I’ve never heard of–which is the point of the essay). Rotella says that Vance has been described by his peers as “the greatest living writer of science fiction and fantasy.” He has been writing for six decades and has won many awards. But this success has mostly kept him in the genre ghetto. Other writers have suggested that if he was born South of the border he’d be up for a Nobel prize [which is a strange thing to say, in my opinion].
The essay talks about how so many other writers love Vance (and the list of writers who contributed to a tribute volume is impressive). So after all of this hagiography, I expected to be blown away by this story. And I wasn’t. Although that might have been because of the illustrations. The illustrations aren’t bad–they’re not my style, but they’re not bad. However, the story is fairly complex, or shall I say it may not lend itself to visuals because so much of the beginning is about sound.
Although while I was confused by the beginning of the story (and maybe I’d have been confused if I read it too), by the end, Vance totally sold me on what was happening.
The book opens with illustrations of various musical instruments with explanations of when they are used. It turns out that this story is set in a land where whenever you speak, you must actually sing while accompanying yourself on a musical instrument. And depending on who you are talking to determines the instrument that you use (so many people carry a dozen or so instruments on their belt). The illustrations are very cool.
Then the story proper opens on a person with a Moon Moth head playing one and then another of the instruments. After several wordless panels, we see a man in a kind of balaclava shout “Ser Thissell?” His words are surrounded by orange. And when the man in the Moon Moth mask replies his words are in triangular red. These colors represent the instruments that each person is playing as they speaks. The man with the balaclava is a slave and he is giving Ser Thissell (the man in the Moon Mask) a message.
And then we flash back three months. The man, Thissell, has been selected to be the new “Consular representative of the home planets on the planet Sirene.” The previous consular representative has been beheaded for his crass behavior. Obviously Thissell isn’t too excited about this. And the next few pages explain a bit about the planet.
You must show virtuosity on each instrument that you play–you cannot communicate without the instruments. There is no currency on the planet–the only way to procure things is by earning them–if you are deemed worthy any craftsman will give you his items. Also, every person wears a mask at all times .
Thissell discovers this when he first leaves his house without the mask and his friend yells at him for not wearing one. When he puts on a mask this same friend freaks out–telling him can’t wear that mask it is only to be worn by people of enormous prestige. He says that if he is caught wearing this mask he will surely be attacked. So the friend gives him the Moon Moth mask–dull and gray. This friend also gives him all of the details that were left out of his briefing–all of the things he needs to know if he is going to survive on this planet. He is outfitted with a house boat and servants and told to meet with someone who will teach him how to play the instruments.
And then we jump forward three months to that opening scene.
The letter informs him that Haxo Angmark, the assassin, has boarded the next shuttle to Sirene. He is dangerous and should be killed without hesitation. That’s when Thissell realizes that he should have been given the letter three days ago and he freaks out. In his panic he tries to communicate but insults people by choosing the wrong instrument. He tries to borrow steeds to ride on and then tries to find out if someone tried to buy a mask. But in both instances, the people he speaks to are insulted by him.
Those he does not offend simply do not care. But his biggest offense is trying to unmask someone in public. He is fairly certain that Haxo is here and he tries to reveal him. But he is very wrong.
For this he is attacked. And all the while Haxo is indeed on the planet but who can tell since he is masked.
Thisell hatches a plan which involves the help of the few people he hasn’t offended. And he puts his plan into place. But how effective can it be if Haxo may have been following him the whole time?
There’s a wonderful twist and then an even better twist at the end. And I found that I really got into this story even though I was really quite confused by it. Indeed, without going back to the beginning and looking at the colors of the instruments it’s virtually impossible to tell how important various people are. (This is not to say one couldn’t do that, but it would certainly ruin the flow).
I would like to read this original story (and maybe some other stories by him) to see if I like anything else he’s done.