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Sunday, February 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 16.0° F  Light Snow Fog/Mist
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And the Gates of Heaven opened...
...for a shining night of indie folk rock
The Gates of Heaven synagogue in James Madison Park
The Gates of Heaven synagogue in James Madison Park
Credit:City of Madison

Autumn is upon us -- the season of change. Leaves fall, fields are harvested, and Madison music lovers push away their Memorial Union chairs to take shelter in warmer environments.

In a dimly lit, sparsely furnished venue that could alternately be classified as quaint or modish, Quebec native Woelv (the alter ego of Geneviève Castrée) and Madison's own Vid Libert put on a timeless and dreamy show Thursday night at the Gates of Heaven synagogue in James Madison Park.

Libert is the best singer songwriter you've never seen in Madison -- his folk songs are so potent at cutting to the core of the human experience that a comparison with Townes van Zandt is hardly a stretch. His lyrics produced shivers and more than a few shiny eyes in the crowd as they reverberated against the synagogue's lofted walls: "Sometimes I get so vain, man/I gotta think twice/How it's really not so big/it's just our lives." He's been quietly putting together a follow up album to his 2005 debut that is due for release next month, and Madisonians will be lucky if this shy troubadour plays out more frequently as a result.

The evening digressed from poetic English to a Québécois French, with surprisingly beautiful results. Geneviève Castrée was the first to admit that her songs -- sung solely in her native language -- may not possess a lot of significance for her primarily English speaking audience. "I go through phases where I try to explain what every song means, but I feel like it kind of kills it," she confessed to the small but appreciative crowd.

Accompanied by a slide show of her own whimsical drawings, Castrée -- who incidentally is married to the frontman of The Microphones -- sounded as pure as one imagines the air is in her wintry homeland. By using a looping device to record her electric guitar and her vocals, she was able to create a sound that was delicate yet rippling with intensity. In the end, the lack of comprehensible lyrics is what made the performance so appealing. Her melodies are haunting, and her voice floats effortlessly over them; all the listener has to do is let the sound wash over him like a wave.

The only disappointing part of the evening was the interlude between Libert and Castrée by local avant garde artist Wilhelmina Baker. While the sincerity of her performance was ample compensation for her amateurish talent, her antics seemed too loud, too kitschy, too over the top for such an intimate space, particularly when her cohorts were nothing less than ethereal.

The performance was organizied by music blogger (and The Daily Page contributor) Kyle Pfister.

If the purpose of religion is to mend the rift between man and God, one might argue that the purpose of art is to mend the rift between man and himself. It's rare to hear so much music in one night that can accomplish just that. But listening to Libert's lyrics and Castrée's echoing melodies with free Tootsie Pops in our mouths, it was impossible for Heaven's lucky guests not to have a moment -- however fleeting -- of utter beatitude.

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