An Evening of Words and Music with Yani Batteau & Judah Leblang (June 13, 2012)
Our guest blogger Sarah Wolf has written about Wednesday’s lovely event. Yani and Judah were great!
I turn you over to Sarah,
On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, local artists Yani Batteau and Judah Leblang joined musical and storytelling forces for an evening of poignant laughter and sing-a-longs. Dividing their program into two sets – the first devoted to being in (and out) of love, the second about life outside of romance – they shared the stage in an often lighthearted back-and-forth between Yani and her banjo and Judah and his personal essays.
On the topic of love, Yani strummed out solo banjo versions of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (a song about falling in love), Kitty Well’s “Honky Tonk Angels” (a song about cheating men), and the traditional American song “Frankie and Johnny” (a song about jealousy and murder). In between each song, Judah shared a personal anecdote from his life, starting with “Voices in My Head,” a self-examination that pits his inner-Clevelander with his current day Bostonian self, comparing the two cities sports teams as a metaphor for clinging to mediocrity (the Indians) instead of aligning himself with world champions (the Red Sox). His next piece, called “A Fine Line” discussed what Judah called “the heartbreak of hair loss,” an examination of the emphasis on personal appearance in dating. The first set ended with Judah’s piece “Dating and Middle Age,” a very humorous account of finding his place in the gay community and the difficulties of meeting a potential mate – the biggest laugh coming when he confessed his own profile appeared on random searches on Match.com … and revealed he was only an 83% match for himself!
After a brief intermission, this dynamic duo returned for Part 2. Yani started it off with an original tune called “Riding My Bicycle” (about her daily commute) and did a soulful rendition of “Summertime” from the Gershwin classic Porgy and Bess, then rounding out her portion of the act with a rousing sing-a-long version of the classic Malcolm McLaren tune “Buffalo Girls.” Judah read from an essay called “Jingle Bells” about participating in Medford’s World Record contest to have the most people continuously singing Christmas carols and also from one entitled “The Pierogi Eating Contest,” a tale of a visit back home to Cleveland. His last piece was a touching recollection of his grandfather’s pharmacy called “Papa’s Place,” truly a love song to “the old neighborhood.” The evening ended with Judah and Yani singing a duet called “I Don’t Like You Anymore,” something Judah described as a “heartwarming song.” And it was – as were the two of them.
Yani Batteau is the front woman for the band Yani Batteau and the Styles and an award-winning visual artist. Judah Leblang is a Medford-based writer and storyteller, a columnist for Bay Windows newspaper, and a radio commentator. His book Finding My Place: One Man’s Journey from Cleveland to Boston and Beyond is available from Lake Effect Press.