It’s difficult to imagine those four elements
from our title coming together in some way.
But, on Saturday, March 14th, they will: David Taylor, of
Empire State Concerts here in Buffalo, NY, is currently working on the
promotion of this year’s edition of “Beautiful Malodies,” an annual Tom Waits
tribute concert. Proceeds from the show
go to help the SPCA.
Oh, and Taylor – he’s the poet.
“The concept of this came to mind in 2002
when I was booking the Continental and I needed something to bring in a crowd
because I hadn’t had many good shows that winter. My dog Corey had just… run
away from earth – and I was in a dark place at the time, so I was listening to
a lot of Tom Waits to help me deal with it.”
Many people seek out a kind of tryst with Waits’
music when times are dark, for the content that can be both beautiful and
melancholy at the same time. You also
get that combination in the concert’s title – “Beautiful Malodies” – taken from
Waits’ own 1998 album release.
“I’d always been a big fan of Tom’s mainly
because of his lyrics. It wasn’t until I got into this business that I really
started to appreciate his melodies. I was sitting around and came up with the
idea, but didn’t know if anyone in the area would want to participate. I posted
a message about doing the event on WNYMusic and musicians came out of the
woodwork. I hastily put it together and I remember everyone at the Continental
asking, ‘Who the heck is Tom Waits?’ They were
certain it was going to be a dog of a show, but the place was packed.”
“Dog” of a show?
Seems Corey is close to Taylor’s mind even now, but if so, it’s not
without meaning to this rust belt town.
“Last year it occurred to me that the event
was pretty well self-contained at that point and word of mouth was bringing
everyone out, so I decided that I would donate all of the door money to the
SPCA, because the event was really started because of my dog and I thought it
was a great way for me to honor my memory of him. It’s always great to see
everyone, and it’s incredible how fast a year goes by. Beginning in November I
start looking forward to the show.”
Behind all the marketing and promotion work,
Taylor is a humble, modest kind of guy – the type that would drop whatever it
is that he is doing to help out a friend any time, any place. It makes sense, then, that he would turn a
personal tragedy into something beautiful for the city that he loves.
Meanwhile, in his spare time, he internalizes
himself to follow the stroke of his pen, writing volumes upon volumes of
poetry. He is a great example of one of
the many Buffalo artists who found a way to supoport themselves while keeping
their art alive, and thriving.
I asked him if he’d share a poem with Buffalo Rising,
but, ironically, that’s the one thing that he’d rather not promote.
“I prefer that the words I lay out just remain
He did open up a little bit for us though. “I’ve been writing since I was about nine
years old, so no matter what I am doing with my life the meter I hear doesn’t
stop. I don’t think that what I write is particularly good and at best I’m an
epigone, but at least I get to quietly lay out words on a sheet that keep
popping loudly in my head.”
And as ‘quiet’ as he keeps his work, poems
sometimes have a way of finding their own way to the eyes of others.
“When I was at Buffalo State I started to study
Emily Dickinson’s work a lot closer and noticed what I thought was an indication in her
writing that she was going blind, so I contacted Amherst
College about it and they amazingly allowed me to view and handle
Emily’s handwritten works. To this day I don’t know why I was allowed, but
while I was there I went to her former home and I sat at a desk in her room. I
wasn’t supposed to, but no one was really watching me, so I stole the
opportunity. It was an electric feeling.”
Taylor did share a few pieces of his work with
me, and I could immediately see why they let him handle her manuscripts. And I imagine that sitting at her desk, and
feeling that electricity – that connection – after all of those years, was all
the reward he will ever want for his writing. And though that desk is located among the
alluring nature of the charming town of Amherst, Massachusetts, Taylor chose
to stay in Buffalo, with all its brickfields and sleepy grain towers.
“I don’t know that Buffalo itself inspires me to
write, but something about the area’s relaxing demeanor allows me to just
think freely. Every time I leave the house I try to find something new,
even if it’s just the way a pattern of leaves has hugged a lamppost.”
“I would suggest to anyone that they take a
new look at the things they pass every day in Buffalo because it has changed
since you saw it last. More often than not, it’s for the better.”
Maybe Buffalo is a bit like an old Tom Waits
record then – at every turn, something new, something better, will emerge.
For those readers anxious to hear something
completely new from Mr. Waits, “Beautiful Malodies” – moved to Nietzschie’s in 2004 when The Continental closed – is on
Saturday March 14th at 8pm, and the cover is only $5.00.
A great show for a great cause.