The Cave Singers
San Francisco, CA
May 22, 2008
The Cave Singers: Raw Art
Outsider Art is a term of art that has evolved to describe a kind of folk art created outside the boundaries of the recognized ‘high-art’ establishment- untrained artists following their own muse turning their back on ever shifting trends to form a singular reality for themselves. The term was originally meant to be an English equivalent of the French term Art Brut or "Raw Art." Art Brut enthusiasts believe that this is the most unadulterated and pure form of art since it is a result of the creative impulse in its simplest and most direct form without the artifice of education and the inevitable self-censorship that follows.
In one light, the Cave Singers could be considered Art Brut in their musical expression. The band certainly looked the part at San Francisco’s The Independent with scraggly beards and faded t-shirts, tattered baseball cap or faded fedora, looking like they probably live in the back of a van, down by the river. Certainly the Cave Singers have not strayed far from their origins as part of the DIY punk ethos of Seattle’s post-grunge scene rejecting the triviality of mainstream culture. All of which makes their acoustic-based music even more arresting as the band members shifted from guitar to washboard to harmonica to melodica to drums and tambourine. On one song, singer Pete Quirk beat what might have been a homemade wooden maraca against a small wooden stool. The sparse folk-like compositions of guitarist Derek Fudesco combined with the unique fragile sound of Quirk's nasally voice and his powerful lyrics make the music at times haunting and hypnotic. Their songs can make it seem as if time stood still and that the entire human condition was suddenly rendered in sharp relief.
In Cold Eyes, Quirk sings about the restive spirit of the artist finding redemption after tribulations and heartbreak. "In the cold eyes of criminals, I drank in the wild laughter/ Isn't that my laughter that I'm laughing now? And in the cold eyes a terrible storm reaches with wild thunder/ Isn't that the thunder that I call my home?" While in Seeds of the Night, Quirk sings, “Oh, thinking of heaven, thinking it’s night, maybe next time, next life down the road.” This is music best listened to at 3 am, driving home on an abandoned street after the rain has passed. And though most of the Cave Singers songs are quiet and contemplative, the ecstatic release of the Beats is never far. In the boot-stomping Dancing on Our Graves, Quirk celebrates life by recognizing the release of mortality, singing "Oh my future with these quiet people/ Oh you and me dancing on your grave/ But oh lord, I know what I've done/ And oh lord, I ain't afraid… honey we're bound for the night/ We are bound for the night." The release is like a Dionysian bacchanal, hillbilly style.
The Cave Singers have released only one album, titled Invitation Songs, though at The Independent in San Francisco, they played a couple of new songs that foreshadow a great future for the band. However, with only one album, the performance was very short, just one hour and sadly, there were only around 100 people in attendance for a band that deserves a much larger audience and much greater acclaim.