Thrilling singer channels the dead

POE with MARK DANIELEWSKI at the NOW Lounge, November 6. Tickets: free. Attendance: 110. Rating: NNNN

Death is a scary thing, but con-fronting it may be even scarier, particularly when it comes with its own soundtrack. Just ask Poe. To promote her new disc, Haunted — inspired by spools of audio tape recorded by her father and discovered by her after his passing — the American singer/songwriter teamed with her brother, horror author Mark Danielewski, for a tour that would cross-promote their current projects while exorcising shared, lingering feelings about their old man.

Not exactly your average night out, but it went like this.

While a DJ scratched out wobbly song fragments, Poe and Danielewski took turns singing and reading. Between performances, both addressed the audience, sharing intimate bits of family history, anecdotes about how this song came together and how that chapter took shape and, surreally, both playing and quoting from the reel containing their father’s voice.

Macabre as it sounds — and it truly was at points — Poe and Danielewski managed both to locate the grim humour that invariably stalks heavy topics and to invite the crowd in as if we were all old friends drunkenly recalling the glory days. When it was all done, they patiently hung around until the very last story was related over autographs and breathless approval.

Actually, the strangest thing about the gig is the fact that the pair have so far been presenting this show in the fluorescent gloom of bookstores. By comparison, the dimness of the NOW Lounge cushioned their performance in a way that made staging it anywhere else unthinkable.

No show in memory has prompted the kind of real discussion — about parents, life, family, mourning — that this show did. An innovative marvel shot straight from the soul.

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