By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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He is a “beatnik monologist,” said Bill Kiely of UpWest Arts, presenter of Kottke’s concert at the Chimacum High School auditorium, 91 West Valley Road, this coming Sunday at 7 p.m.
“He dazzles,” added Kiely, “with remarkable finger-picking, beautiful vocals — and then moments later he has listeners cracking up, laughing with some whacked-out story or bizarre wandering around the edges of his brain.”
Then, “he picks up a steel-stringed guitar. His fingers race across the strings with uncommon speed, developing a deep, churning groove . . . like several people playing at once. He seems to play guitar at 78 rpm, yet he speaks at 33.”
Over the years, others have reached for fresh ways to describe Kottke’s style: “He plays guitar like it’s a fishing pole, grinning and grimacing as he verges on losing the catch, then reeling it in just when it looks like it’s gone for good,” wrote Jim Bessman of Billboard.
At 68, Kottke continues to tour relentlessly. This month alone, he’s doing shows in Olympia, Bellingham, Vashon Island, La Jolla, Calif., Minneapolis and Evanston, Ill.
Tickets to Sunday’s performance, presented by UpWest Arts and KPTZ-FM 91.9, are $30 at 800-992-8499, www.TicketsWest.com or at Quimper Sound, 230 Taylor St. in downtown Port Townsend. On Sunday at 6 p.m., any remaining tickets will be sold at the door of the Chimacum auditorium.
“It is festival seating, so first come, first seated,” Kiely noted. “It starts at 7 p.m. sharp, and it’ll be over at 8:30.”
Kottke doesn’t go on long in interviews, either. And he prefers email.
When asked which musicians or genres are inspiring him right now, he wrote: “I don’t think inspiration exists. Appetite does. Mostly I read. I’ve been stuffing myself with Marguerite Yourcenar,” the late French novelist.
Might Kottke give us some hints about what he’ll include in Sunday’s concert?
“Oh, boy. I never know. I play solo — actually solo — talk too much and sing a little,” he replied. “A lot of rhythm, a lot of major thirds, a bad attitude reined in.”
Kottke’s lengthiest response in this email exchange addressed a question about what advice he would give a young guitarist-singer-songwriter who is starting out, hoping to make music his or her livelihood.
“I’d tell them the truth: There’s no ‘way,’ no system, and you’ll need a ton of dumb luck,” he said.
“They’ll think I’m lying when I say that, so that leaves: Take ANY job you can get.
“Money is no object, meaning: Work for free. Play.
“It’s surprising how often musicians refuse to play.
“And expect nothing.”