I went to see Peter Katz last Friday. He was concluding a tour around the world, returning home to Toronto, for the release of his new CD, The First of the Last To Know. I’d never seen him in person. My boyfriend had once mixed for him (sound mixing that is, as opposed to mixing drinks) at a charity benefit, and since then we’ve both been listening to him. He has such a boyish face, with a permanent smile that lacks only dimples. His smile spreads widely across his face as he plays; I cannot imagine watching someone having so much fun, or moreover being so pleased at playing for an audience. He keeps time with a bounce in his knees, making him hunch a bit over his guitar – he cradles it like it’s his dance partner swooning in a dip.
Katz is an emotional singer. He plays each song as if he’s just figuring out how to make it great for the first time. There is delicacy, experimenting, and yes, love. It’s as if the song is a young child that he’s delighting, taking for a spin.Still mind still, lullaby to yourself Still mind still, lullaby to yourself
I’ve hardly been to any concerts in my life, and most of those I’ve seen were classical sopranos. But I was really enjoying the concert. There were clearly people who knew him in the audience, and I felt the emotion all around me, like being at a warm family’s dinner table. I don’t know how much of that was the audience, the space or the performer, but it affected me. In fact I began to feel more and more affected, emotional, and listening to the lyrics I was close to tears.
He mentioned a music critic who once said he was “sentimental.” He responded then on stage, “Yes I am! And so shall I always be!”
He sang many songs from his previous CD, Still Mind Still, and eventually he came to the title track of that disc, which was inspired by a friend of his.
“She was going through a – well a dark period in her life. She was struggling with anxiety and depression, and as a result had a lot of insomnia. I wanted to make her a song, a lullaby, that she could put on her headphones and listen to when she couldn’t find quiet and get to sleep, by herself. So I made this.”
I quote inaccurately, I’m sure, because by this point I was struggling to hold in tears.When your dreams are so damn windy, they’re just wailing at your door They’re banging on your windows and creaking in your floors And every time you let them in they need a little more While screaming out the time ticking louder a war.
He hit the nail on the head, with “still mind still” – it really is about needing the voices to stop talking and have some peace. It isn’t happiness we seek, only quiet, some time with the real self alone.Still mind still, lullaby to yourself Still mind still, lullaby to yourself Still mind still, lullaby to myself Still mind still, lullaby to yourself
I thought about leaving, to be honest. I thought about running into the hall or taking a break or a breather outside. Emotion is Not Ok in my head. It leads to all my problems. And his set list went so frequently between sad and happy and dear that I felt all over the place and really sappy.
I didn’t leave. I wish I could say a specific lyric or event suddenly showered light into my brain, but it wasn’t that. The sense of kind people around me, and such a hard working performer with such sweetness in his voice, soothed me like the lullaby he wrote for his friend. A sort of note struck in my head and a quiet voice said, “Maybe it’s ok if you feel a bit – a little bit – of emotion.”
It wasn’t a huge event. It wasn’t a resounding, “I can love and live and learn with ease and vigour!” But the soft little thought was the first of its kind.
I went home feeling nostalgic, giddy and giggly. I made my boyfriend dance with me to no music while we waited for the bus. I’ve been singing Still Mind Still ever since, whenever I’m in need of a calming thought.Though the high and lows, though the rain and wind blows Put them on the shelf, lullaby to yourself Though the high and lows, though the rain and wind blows Put them on the shelf, lullaby to yourself
In a warm summer evening, last week, at the end of a quiet day, I grew a little better. Thank you, Peter Katz.