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The dodo bird

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I grew up hearing the word “dodo” tossed around. Although applied to a variety of circumstances, being called a dodo was never complimentary, and eventually (because Mom told me to) I looked it up and learned that the dodo was a large flightless bird, now extinct, with a reputation for being stupid. Hmmm.

I don’t know that I felt “stupid,” per se, when I attended the opening night premiere of director Martha Shane’s documentary “Narrowsburg” at the eighth annual Big Eddy Film Festival, but I certainly felt a little out of the loop. Or, as Wikipedia defines a modern-day dodo as “hopelessly behind the times,” since it seemed that everyone but me knew all about the story we were about to see play out on the big screen.

According to the film’s official website, “‘Narrowsburg’ tells the stranger-than-fiction story of a French film producer and her Mafioso-turned-actor husband who attempt to turn a tiny town into the ‘Sundance of the East.’” And that tiny town is (drum roll please) Narrowsburg, NY. In fact, the small-time mobster-wannabe Richie Castellano is infamous in these here parts, but (not unlike the poor dodo) I’ve been a little slow on the uptake. In truth, the aforementioned bird was not actually stupid at all, but trusting and friendly, like many of the citizens of Narrowsburg. When the snake-oil salesman and his gun moll Jocelyne breezed into town some 20 years ago, they unscrupulously took advantage of a bunch of nice folks who bought what they were selling.

In striking similarity, that trust is what led to the dodo’s demise and a town being swindled. Since the affable bird had no reason to not be afraid of humans, sailors literally hunted them into extinction and left their habitat in the Indian Ocean without a care in the world, just like the Castellanos (metaphorically) did to this lovely little hamlet overlooking the river. The Narrowsburg Union’s Delaware Hall was packed to the rafters, with people who remember it well and are either in the documentary or know someone who was taken for a ride by the poor man’s Bonnie and Clyde. Unlike the flightless bird, this film will undoubtedly soar, as it is (IMHO) beautifully made and bound to fascinate filmgoers everywhere, not just “right here in River City” as “The Music Man” professor and flimflam artist Harold Hill might have said.

DVAA performing arts director Matt Carpenter greeted film buffs packing the Delaware Hall for the premiere of Martha Shane’s “Narrowsburg” at the Big Eddy Film Festival last weekend. | TRR photo by Jonathan Charles Fox

While the dodo has been extinct (I mean eaten to death) for only several hundred years, last Saturday night, I felt more like a dinosaur—(they went the way of the dodo millions of millennia ago, and that’s how old I feel). One of the contributing factors was catching 21-year-old Gabby Borges at Rafters Tavern in Callicoon. Along with musician Evan Kleinert, Borges performed two full sets of a unique blend of musical genres. Some of these genres have been described to behind-the-times me as “American folk punk,” (what?) and the somewhat more familiar but no less loud and often strident “indie,” or “alternative rock,” which, admittedly, (“caw-caw” cried the dodo) I’ve never really grasped.

Borges was headlining the second presentation of ‘The River Recordings,” a new musicians’ showcase series sponsored by The River Reporter that highlights established and emerging local artists. The series invites musicians to TRR headquarters for a short show and interview. River Recordings then teams with local venues to showcase these artists, all while providing opportunities to some of our readers who, perhaps like me, also may have never heard of “American folk punk.”

“I don’t get it,” I said to one of the patrons nearby. “Am I that old?” I whimpered. “It’s a little atonal for me.”

Given the opportunity to chat with Gabby and Evan in-between sets, I asked permission to ask some frank questions. “How would you define your music?” I asked Borges, who was petting the dog and grinning, in total contrast with the angst-ridden, in-your-face kind of music and lyrics that had me a little wobbly.

“People ask me that all the time,” she responded with a smile. “I’m never sure what to say.”

“Is that a good thing?” I asked with a tilt of the head. “We had a term for it back in my day.” I continued just before shoving said foot into open mouth. “What’s that?” Gabby innocently asked, unaware that I had lost all sense of decorum. “Music to slit your wrists to,” I chirped, as both musicians audibly gasped. “I think you young people call that ironic, no?” I continued blithely unaware that I had surely crossed some sort of line.

“Don’t get me wrong,” I said with a wave of the hand, hearing, but not stopping the words coming out of my mouth. “When I say ‘slit my wrists,’ I really mean, well, yeah… I guess a little suicidal. You know,” I blurted, “Ish.” By the time I got to “ish” I knew there was no turning back, and Borges, I gotta say, took it on the chin like a champ. While it was clear that both musicians are skilled, I just didn’t really get it and continued to pepper poor Gabby with more. She was quite charming, which belied her gritty, wild-westy and purposely-off-key rendition of “I Will Survive” which I had just informed her made me “want to put a noose around my neck.”

Still showing tremendous grace under fire, Gabby soldiered on, long after I would have told rude, wrinkly old me to take a hike. “Yeah, everything I do is a little bit tongue-in-cheek” she said, as I scanned my notes scribbled furiously during her first set. “Google the Front Bottoms (a band referenced by one of the attendees) and a group called Cake,” my notebook revealed. “And dude,” I read in my own shaky writing, “You are so not a hipster, you simply need a new hip. Remember that the next time you open your mouth, dodo.”

To check out the latest installments of The River Recordings, visit www.riverreporter.com/river-recordings

Interested in sponsoring the series? Email parep@riverreporter.com and send your music to owen@riverreporter.com if you are interested in performing. As for me and my big mouth? Feel free to send admonishments and/or hate mail to jonathanfox@riverreporter.com. 

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