Kathleen Edwards and Tig Notaro at Wits, 4/19/13
Wits with Tig Notaro and Kathleen Edwards
Photo by Youa Vang
Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul
Friday, April 19, 2013
With a name like Wits, come expecting to laugh, but also come expecting to be moved by the musical guests. Friday's session of Wits had its guests trading roles with musical guest Kathleen Edwards showing off her comedic timing while comedian Tig Notaro, wanting to show off her musical talents, donned an acoustic guitar during a skit.
April 19 was a special day in St. Paul. After four years, Wits has earned its stripes and gone national. To honor the radio show, Mayor Chris Coleman declared Friday Wits Day and was in attendance to congratulate host John Moe and the cast for their contributions to the artistic community. Coleman joked that St. Paul was a pretty funny city, especially with Minneapolis as its big brother, humor is what gets you through.
John Moe brought up his thoughts on how peculiar a name like Tig is, and followed up with a skit that took place in Ashdown Forest -- home to Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. The comedian came casually dressed in jeans and a sweater, perfect for the wintry spring evening, and spoke about her career and many struggles that led to her finding a way in comedy. Beginning with her contracting pneumonia, a rough breakup, the loss of her mother, she found out she had cancer, and that was the moment she snapped and decided to do a comedy special. She aptly puts it, "It wasn't like cancer is hilarious; I was on my knees. I feel it's a gift, and I'm very lucky, so I'm okay with it."
Photo by Youa Vang
Kathleen Edwards has been making music for over a decade, but her latest album, Voyageur, built on heartache over divorce and moving on, has caught the ear of many new listeners. Approaching her mic, she jokingly flipped off the audience and her host. Opening with "Change the Sheets," the Canadian singer was backed on guitar by Chris Koza, and brought out all of the emotions that lived within that time, translating it into a song that let you glimpse into her hurt. "Asking for Flowers" is from an older album, but also talks of the damage of how failed relationship can change a person.
Invited to share her story, Kathleen took a seat and talked about moving from suburban Canada to Seoul, Korea as a young girl. Moving away from the country she knew really put things into perspective for her and allowed her to view the world in a different light. As often with folk women singers, comparisons to Joni Mitchell are a given, but Kathleen admits that she never really listened to Mitchell in her formative years, although she said, "There's no one in the musical world I would love to have lunch with more than her -- just to bitch about what a bunch of jerks the guys in the business are. I'd make her pay for lunch, too."
Edwards has voiced in the past her distress on spending as much time making her last album as she spent doing press for it. She continued, "You put so much of your hopes and past for people to listen while they drink their coffee on a Sunday morning, but when you see people -- even if they're mouthing the wrong words to your songs -- and they come up to you after a show and they how they have a relationship to your song, it's hugely meaningful because your relationship with a song is 'I just hope my life means something.' That's pretty powerful."
Photo by Youa Vang
Chris Koza (full disclosure: I have worked with him) was not only Kathleen's guitarist for the evening, but also a musical guest. His career has a lot of parallels to Edwards' in that he's been playing music for over a decade, and is now on the edge of something new. Debuting a new song off his upcoming album, Chris introduced "Drown" as being a song about the Mississippi. The piece is a metaphor for life, telling of giving up control to make room for redemption and allowing things to progress naturally. "Drown" has all of the classic narrative of a Chris Koza song, but shows a new vulnerability that perhaps maturity has allowed him to reveal.