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Our Welsh Cupid


When we moved to Cincinnati a year ago, J and I figured we might have to give up what had become a nearly-annual tradition: seeing Gruff Rhys perform. We'd gone to see him for years in whatever incarnation he happened to be playing in at the moment: Super Furry or solo, acoustic or plugged in. Mostly in crazy weather, shielding our faces from torrential rain as we trudged through the Lower East Side to a darkened theater. Just to see Gruff play. 

"There always seems to be a storm rolling in when we see Gruff play," said J. 

So it was last night: a line of thunderstorms rumbling through Indiana on their way to us, as we raced down 75 to unexpectedly take part in our nearly-annual tradition: Gruff was coming to Cincinnati.

This, to us, was an important and romantic tradition. Our first date was a Super Furry Animals show. Well, our real first date. This was months after we'd starting dating, months even after we'd moved in together. But one day in February, not long after we'd started seeing each other, J showed me two tickets he'd bought for us to a Super Furry Animals show. The date of the show was in May. And I thought then: he thinks we'll still be together in May. 

We were still together in May. We probably held hands in the back of the Shepherd's Bush Empire as they played "Demons." And we were still together last night, when, amongst the lead-footed and awe-struck people of Cincinnati, we helped Gruff stack chairs (oh, Contemporary Arts Center and your impossibly complex stacking chairs!) and danced to foreign disco in a corner under spinning laser lights. (I felt like Sophie Marceau in La Boum, all googly-eyed for her Alexandre Sterling. I don't know if Gruff considers himself a romantic, but wouldn't he know it: he's our Welsh cupid.)

The entire reason for Gruff's visit to Cincinnati was as part of his "investigative tour" researching the path of his distant relative, John Evans, who himself came to the States in search of the truth of the legend of Madoc, the Welshman who allegedly discovered America 300 years before Columbus. As the legend goes, John Evans made a stop in Cincinnati, where I'm sure he tasted the chili and the goetta and the sausage and looked out across the rolling hills and thought it so beautiful that he wished he never had to leave. And then he starred in an Aha video.

After Gruff's presentation, during which he serenaded us with songs we knew and songs we didn't and made us laugh with jokes some of us understood and some of us didn't, J was interviewed by a film crew about what he thought of it all. He brought up the storms. Then he asked me what I would have said if they'd interviewed me: what did I take from Gruff's story of John Evans?

"That you can have wonder, that you can believe whatever myths you want to believe in, and when you follow the path your belief takes you on, you never know what might happen."

"Ooo, that would have been good," he said.

"Really? Ugh. I think it's horribly cheesy." And then we shrugged and we danced like we were young again and we were full of wonder and we knew there were a million different paths we still might follow. 

Or, more likely: we danced like a couple of old farts who still make references to Sophie Marceau. But who cares. The storms were in Indiana and Gruff was spinning records: we still had our time.

Gruff Rhys still has a few dates left on his investigative tour: St. Louis, MO Contemporary Art Museum (August 12), Omaha, NE Slowdown Jr. (August 14), Columbia, MO Les Bourgeois Vineyards (August 16), Memphis, TN Hi-Tone (August 18), ending with New Orleans, LA One-Eyed Jacks (August 22). More information can be found on his website.

© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.

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