Dar Williams w/ Heather Maloney | 10.19.20, 8:00 PM | Delmar Hall, 6133 Delmar Blvd. | All ages | $30 in advance, $35 day of show
It was one of those hot Missouri evenings where the humidity just slaps you about the head and shoulders. It was Kirksville in the summer, so literally the only thing we could do was get drunk on the front porch and sing while Jon played lesbian folk rock.
Someone put in a CD and the first track had this refrain: “I will not be afraid of women.” I will not be afraid of women.
We had never thought about that as a concept. We were trained, all of us regardless of gender, to be afraid of women. WE learned the whole song that night. We yelled it out and chanted it over and over, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID OF WOMEN I WILL NOT BE AFRAID OF WOMEN.
Dar Williams taught us how to shed the skins we were given and start wearing the ones we grew ourselves.
She made us feral. She woke us up and throughout her career has continued to wake us up.
It’s not just the meaningful and timely music, or the expertly written lyrics. It’s that you believe her. If Dar Williams tells you something, she means it and you can HEAR that she means it. She’s one of the Makers in this world, and when she says,
“And as long as she’s got noise, she’s fine
But I could teach her how I learned to dance when the music’s ended”
We’ve all been there and you know she gets it. Now with the release of her new album, I’ll Meet You Here, we get the “girlfriend with tea with just enough whiskey in it to make you cry and then laugh and then cry again” Dar Williams vibe. And St. Louis? We needed it after the last…ever.
Regarding her first new album in six years, the musician notes, “At some point, you have to meet life where it meets you…I think what the songs all have in common is the willingness to meet life as it arrives.”
Dar Williams is doing okay. I was worried about her, personally, so I reached out to her team and made heart-eyes at them until they let me check on her by way of an interview. She lives in a walking village with her family and friends, and has been doing what a lot of us have been doing. Her best. “I got back into meditation during quarantine,” she says, “and things surfaced during meditation that were really amazing.” One such thing that Williams has concentrated on lately is the feeling so many of us internalize, but especially women: that if you do something badly, then you’re a bad person. “This therapist said [to me], ‘Vigilance is not a creative state,’” she continues. “Decoupling, going through a day without this gauge of being good or bad, is itself a liberation towards feeling all of the energy that’s out there today. The more we can get through what I call ‘the room of weights and measures’—during the quarantine, the small things got big and that was an okay thing to have happened.”
It’s a very strange thing, I noted, to have a shared trauma with the whole world. There’s going to be a lot of healing from all of the raw edges that are still open. “I think there was a reset button that was pushed,” Williams agrees. “The question is, are we going to bring the lessons of the reset back into the world successfully? How to be better for the planet, how to be better aligned, like that work flexibility that worked out so well for people running households, often women. If a kid’s sick, they’re going to be asleep 12-18 hours a day. That’s the difference between part-time and full-time work, you know?
“And nature,” she continues, “there were practically moose on my doorstep. There was so much wildlife around my neighborhood. I loved the idea that we were kind of sharing the world with the birds and the other animals. I liked that. We’ll see how we do now.”
Getting back into touring means rediscovering how to share space with an audience. How does Williams bring herself into that space in these weird-assed days and hold space for herself to perform?
“Putting on the makeup and the dress and the boots and the vocal warmups and checking in with oneself gives you the feeling that you’re entering theatrical space,” she offers. “You’re preparing yourself to walk into a heightened space. Sometimes I don’t have the faith that it’s going to happen, but halfway through the first song, it always does.
“You can always kind of access this universal energy,” she continues. “Even if I brought something that was haunting me a little bit onto the stage, I can move it through the song itself and use the general intensity that I’m feeling to help me perform the song. The song and space and the energy takes me and I’m in the performance time and space. It’s never negative. There’s always something – even if it’s the hardest. You have an audience that is sort of cocking their heads and not really coming with you. Because you’re in that theatrical space, you’re just like, ‘Damn, this is hard’ and ‘How do I get this audience to be with me?’ but it’s not so much, ‘I am terrible.’ There’s only so far that the personal feelings can go when you go into that general space.”
One thing is for certain: for Williams, not touring was never an option. “After the quarantine, a friend said he’s not going to tour again. I heard him in an interview and this other person agreed, that touring is so hard and so exhausting and I thought, wait a second. Noooooo. I decided that I’m going to do my best to recognize the true demands of this job.”
A road trip to West Virginia with Ani DiFranco (cue not-so-silent screaming—your interviewer did, to which Williams laughed) helped her reset her thoughts. “When I came back,” she says, “I collapsed for a day or so. I wasn’t really focused. I thought, ‘This is what’s real. This is why I can keep doing what I do.’ I need to recognize the fundamental ambiguity of life. It used to be that I don’t know what to do with myself, so I’m going to take it personally and beat myself up. But now, it’s like, NO – I just don’t know what to do with myself. That’s all. And that’s ok. It’s just ambiguous. So, if a show doesn’t go well, it’s ok that it happens. Instead of quitting, I’m just knowing what my job is and that it takes a lot of energy.”
Williams wears her new focus and optimism well. “I can be a role model of loose. This is what it looks like to be a happy person. You can be a role model and have holes in your jeans. I just work along with things [as they are]. There is a part of me that loves solutions. Why do we hang ourselves up on what we can’t do? Why can’t we get hung up on what we can do?” | Melissa Cynova
For more information on Dar Williams’ appearance at Delmar Hall or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.thepageant.com/event/dar-williams-101921/.
Dar Williams tour dates
Tues., Oct. 19 SAINT LOUIS, MO Delmar Hall ^^
Thurs., Oct. 21 LAWRENCE, KS Lawrence Arts Center ^^
Sat., Oct. 23 FORT COLLINS, CO Fort Collins Armory ^^
Sun., Oct. 24 BOULDER, CO Boulder Theater ^^
Wed., Oct. 27 IOWA CITY, IA Englert Theatre ^^
Thurs., Oct. 28 MINNEAPOLIS, MN Cedar Cultural Center ^^
Fri., Oct. 29 MINERAL POINT, WI Mineral Point Opera House ^^
Sat., Oct. 30 CHICAGO, IL Old Town School Music Store ^^
Tues., Nov. 9 SEATTLE, WA Neptune Theatre ^^
Wed., Nov. 10 PORTLAND, OR Alberta Rose Theatre ^^
Fri.-Sat., Nov. 12-13 BERKELEY, CA Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse ^^
Sun., Nov. 14 SACRAMENTO, CA Sofia Center ^^
Tue Nov. 16 LOS ANGELES, CA The Hotel Cafe ^^
Wed., Nov. 17 LOS ANGELES, CA The Hotel Cafe ^^
Fri., Nov. 19 PHOENIX, AZ MIM – Musical Instrument Museum ^^
Sat., Dec. 4 ANNAPOLIS, MD Rams Head On Stage ==
Sun., Dec. 5 ALEXANDRIA, VA Birchmere ==
Tues., Dec. 7 RICHMOND, VA The Tin Pan ==
Wed., Dec. 8 CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA The Southern Cafe & Music Hall ==
Fri., Dec. 10 PITTSBURGH, PA Club Cafe ==
Sat., Dec. 11 NEWARK, OH Thirty One West ==
Sun., Dec. 12 ANN ARBOR, MI The Ark==
Mon., Dec. 13 SPRING LAKE, MI Seven Steps Up ==