Common Ground Coffeehouse
@ The First Unitarian Society of Westchester
25 Old Jackson Avenue
Jon Brooks, with Fred Gillen, Jr.
“I write songs to calm those who’ve looked into, and seen, what is in their hearts. I also write songs to terrify those who have not.” — Jon Brooks, September 2013
It was in 1997, at 28 years old, and at the end of a year of travelling throughout Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and particularly, throughout war ruined Bosnia-Herzegovina – it was during this time when Jon Brooks discovered what kind of song he wanted to write. It was in 2005, 8 years later, he decided he was ready to write and sing that song.
No Mean City, released in 2006, was the first in a trilogy of albums of sparse instrumentation and densely layered poetry – a singular writing style characterized by paradox, understatement, overstatement, and by allusion to Western literary and folk traditions. It was followed by Ours and the Shepherds in 2007 and Moth Nor Rust in 2009. Each album is imprinted with a theme: architecture and homelessness of the modern urban soul; war; and all the things that neither moth nor rust may touch: love, hope, faith, memory, gratitude, trust, inspiration, and forgiveness.
Delicate Cages was initially released independently in November, 2011 but was formally re-released by Borealis Records in May 2012. The album earned Jon his third ‘Songwriter of the Year’ nomination in 5 years from The Canadian Folk Music Awards. Like its predecessors, the 11 songs on Delicate Cages were inter-woven to the larger common themes of love and fear; and freedom and imprisonment. The idea was inspired by the Robert Bly poem, Taking The Hands: ‘Taking the hands of someone you love,/you see they are delicate cages.’ Also consistent with Jon’s albums, the song subjects were as wide ranging as they were topical and controversial: the Alberta tar sands (Fort McMurray); Bill 101 and Quebec’s language laws (Hudson Girl); Palestinian suicide bombers (Son of Hamas); Bosnian child soldier turned Canadian mixed martial arts fighter (Cage Fighter); and so-called ‘Honour Killing’ (The Lonesome Death of Aqsa Parvez). Morally and politically ambiguous, Delicate Cages, offered what Jon has since called, “necessary and alternative understandings of ‘hope’ and ‘grief’ that are neither sanitized, dumbed down, nor cheapened or degraded by the modern lie of ‘closure.’”
Opening the evening is Fred Gillen Jr. Since his first solo concert in 1996, Gillen has traveled all over the U.S. and Europe singing his songs of hope and struggle at all types of venues, building a devoted following along the way. He feels at home performing at any type and size of venue, from a “house concert” in Indiana to Irving Plaza in New York City, to the main stages of festivals, and everything in between. He has played at many prestigious and famous venues, and just as many farmers markets, coffeehouses, pubs, and union rallies. With his sometimes partner Matt Turk he played for several years in the New York City subways as part of the MUNY (Music Under NY) program. At every performance he opens his heart and pours out the unglamorous but compelling tales of the marginalized and forgotten. His songs have often been described as both painfully intimate and universal, and this is what he strives for in writing them. His live performances are spontaneous celebrations of all that it is to be human; the joy and the pain, the comedy and the tragedy.
Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 at the door