Heather Alexander/Uffington Horse and Gaia Consort, West Hills Unitarian Fellowship, Portland, Oregon, USA, October 2002

fey \FAY\, adjective:
1. Possessing or displaying a strange and otherworldly aspect or
quality; magical or fairylike; elfin.
2. Having power to see into the future; visionary; clairvoyant.
3. Appearing slightly crazy, as if under a spell; touched.
-- American Heritage Dictionary

Last night I saw a concert that could have been held as easily in Newford or Bordertown as in Portland, Oregon. Seattle band Gaia Consort and perennial modern folk favorite Heather Alexander with her Celtic trio Uffington Horse performed a rollicking and exuberant show worthy of any fey gathering on either side of the Faerie Border.

Gaia Consort opened the show and they were captivating from the first note. This is a band that knows what it means to rattle the rafters and rock the house down. This was an extremely intimate show in a small and comfortable venue and the band is absolutely suited to such an atmosphere...the feeling that the extremely welcoming and open group brings to an audience is less that of a paid entertainment than of a reunion with old friends.

Singer/songwriter/lead guitar player Chris Bingham has a powerful yet soothing voice and his partner/backup singer Sue Tinney adds a lovely alto harmony and a glowing presence to the stage. Bingham's passion is evident in every song he writes, and the Consort performs his work with equal fervor. Each song they chose for their set was an intense experience, from the swirling melody and tender words of "Just Because",

Do you ever wonder whose face makes the moonlight?
Do you ever look up and find your face there?
Is it any wonder we find ourselves laughing
with your tongue at my lips and my hands in your hair?

to the hard-driving pounding thunderstorm of "Gathering"

Building up a bonfire -- calling back the light
Calling up a green man -- WE ARE GATHERING
Calling up a storm cloud -- calling back the light
Calling up a horned one -- WE ARE GATHERING

At one point during their performance, I turned to my husband and told him "This music makes me want to dance naked." He simply nodded. Gaia Consort includes Dan Mulder on bass guitar, Betsy Tinney on a really cool electric cello, Larry Golding on violin, and drummer Dan Ochipinti (who's also the drummer for Uffington Horse, but we'll get to that in a moment). The band fits together like parts of one body. Most bands require thousands of hours of practice to work this well together, and yet Gaia Consort makes it seem organic, as though they're simply parts of a living being.

Uffington Horse, the Celtic trio composed of Heather Alexander, Dan Ochipinti, and Andrew Hare, took the stage for the second half of the show. Heather is a woman of many talents, from songwriting to singing to playing a variety of instruments including a funky electric fiddle. And she's not your stereotypical sweet voiced blonde soprano folkie in a long patchwork dress, strumming an acoustic guitar and warbling about her womb. Heather is a sexy, earthy redhead given to belting out bawdy lyrics and punctuating her songs with wicked pelvic thrusts. She's the Joan Jett/Pat Benatar/Ann Wilson of folk music -- a rock chick if ever there was one. It's just that when Heather sings heavy metal, she's singing about a dragon's hoard or a broadsword...The group performed "Festival Wind", an amazing, lilting song from her upcoming album that she's in the process of recording at live performances this month and next. I was overjoyed when they performed "Creature of the Wood", a dark and mysterious song about a satyr, and thrilled to hear the wild and discordant "Black Unicorn", as well as a marvelous rendition of the traditional tune "King Henry". I loved the creepy "Up in the Loft":

Something's Up in the loft,
better shake it down
Cobweb trim on a corseted gown,
Mirrors reflecting an alien face,
daggers dissecting and leaving no trace
Something's Up in the Loft

Andrew Hare is fun to watch...he's very serious yet plays with zeal. Dan Ochipinti is crazy, the way all good drummers are crazy. His drum kit includes all sorts of interesting little percussive devices, and he uses them all to fantasticallly good effect. Heather plays the electric fiddle and sings at the same time, and sometimes switches instruments several times during one song. Uffington Horse is a fascinating group to watch -- you never know who's going to play which instrument next, or what sounds they're going to produce! The only guarantee is an exciting performance and incredible music.

I would be surprised if there were any audience members who didn't have a fabulous time at this show. Both groups filled the venue with rich and potent music, energizing, enthralling, and entertaining all at once. Fey in the best sense of the word, both Gaia Consort and Uffington Horse provide a positive and uplifting experience that is truly rare and gratifying. Superb show, ladies and gentlemen, superb show.

[Maria Nutick]

Gaia Consort has a wonderful site here, and you can download some of their delightful music.

Visit Heather Alexander's excellent Web site here.