Saturday, October 5th
7:00pm / doors at 6:00pm
Advance general admission: $15
At the door: $20
Table of 4 reserved seats: $75
David Berkeley – The Fire In My Head
Itinerant songsmith and author David Berkeley went out into the sagebrush and cactus of New Mexico and found his head was similarly ablaze. Indeed Berkeley’s head has been ablaze for some time now, writing songs capable of both breaking and mending the heart.
Berkeley, along with this wife and two young sons, now calls Santa Fe home; his sixth home in as many years. Within months of arriving and still overwhelmed by the palette of reds and browns, the endless open sky, and the frightening lack of water in his new high desert surroundings, Berkeley wrote and recorded his most haunting and personal songs to date.
The result is The Fire in My Head (Straw Man), Berkeley’s fifth studio album, recorded in two days in Jono Manson’s ramshackle studio in the wilds above town. All the songs were performed live by Berkeley (vocals, guitar, percussion and bass) and his touring trio—Bill Titus (guitar, keys, organ, drums) and Jordan Katz trumpet and banjo).
Berkeley’s doleful baritone and vulnerable falsetto, called “lustrous and melancholy” by the New York Times, is up front in the mix, showcasing his profoundly elegiac lyrics. Indeed, Berkeley cites Yeats and Melville among his greatest influences. For his unique way with words, the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed Berkeley “a musical poet.” Berkeley seems even more reflective and more mature than usual in this collection, confronting themes of aging, mortality, and the enduring and redemptive power of love.
If there is a genre of American literary songwriters out there, Berkeley is its poster child, and not simply because he is an Ivy-League grad. He penned a memoir called 140 Goats and a Guitar, which accompanied his last album Some Kind of Cure. Both were written primarily during the year Berkeley lived on the island of Corsica. Goats tells thirteen stories, which led to the writing of the album’s thirteen songs. This unique concept allowed Berkeley to perform in bookstores across the country, as well as his usual clubs and theaters – something that made him very happy.
“I’m fascinated by the relationship between stories and songs,” Berkeley explains. “What experiences make for a good story? And what is only expressible in song?” It’s a question he’s exploring now as he writes his second book, a fictional set of interweaving short stories called The Free Brontosaurus. The stories are all told in third person, and Berkeley is writing first person songs from the perspective of the each story’s main character. The finger-picked love song “Broken Crown,” from Fire is one of the songs from that project.The most moving song on The Fire in My Head, “Shelter,” has a literary link as well. It was written at the request of New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben, who asked Berkeley to write a song based on
his new novel. Coben has been using the song in the international promotion campaign for his book. This was not the first song Berkeley was commissioned to write. In fact, he’s been moonlighting of late as a sort of Cyrano de Bergerac, writing high-ticket personalized love songs, serenades, and songs to accompany wedding proposals. Perhaps inspired by the hilarious tale Berkeley told on “This American Life” of one such private serenade, Berkeley is frequently flown in to perform these songs in the most intimate situations. “It’s been an honor,” Berkeley explains, “to get to play a role in such important moments in other’s lives, but it can also be incredibly awkward. Some of these situations, wedding proposals for example, are really meant to shared between only two people.”
Berkeley’s gift as a songwriter and storyteller is that he sees both the tragedy and comedy in life, managing to both reveal the sorrow at the heart of the human condition and the blazing joy and beauty in the same. It’s a duality that audiences experience at all of Berkeley’s shows as he tells uproarious stories between heartbreaking songs. It’s also why his fans respond so deeply to his music and why so many look to him to express what they are often unable to articulate. Berkeley’s songs are at once hard and hopeful.
The Fire in My Head showcases this in full measure. “So I sing for the land,” Berkeley sings in the closing epic “Song for the Road,” “for our fields washed away. They flooded the grave where my grandfather lay.” Yet by the final verse, he pleads “come on back from ledge, come on in from the rain. Here’s some things that won’t hurt. Here’s some things that won’t change – like the afternoon light when the clouds break apart, like the way that I feel bout the good in your heart.”