When you attend a live music performance, a history lesson isn’t usually expected. Music fans, and what seemed to be a large portion of Connecticut’s Welsh population got just that Thursday during the kickoff of Gruff Rhys’s ‘investigative concert tour.’
Rhys, also a member of the group Super Furry Animals, is pursuing the venture in honor of his distant relative John Evans. Evans was a Welsh explorer in the late eighteenth century who set out through the Mississippi basin in search of a tribe of Welsh speaking Native Americans.
The tribe was never uncovered, however Evans’s travels helped pave the way for journeymen like Lewis and Clark. Rhys is seeking to follow in those footsteps along this tour, learning more about Evans’s history along the way.
The ‘investigation’ began at Yale because the school possessed some of the maps Evans created.
Using an iPad and projector, Rhys brought guests on a painfully detailed and whimsical journey down his street in Wales, inserting points of dry humor and minutia. Like many history lessons, the projector would periodically go to sleep, or a cable would need some adjusting. It truly seemed appropriate for a Yale crowd.
A visage of Evans apparently does not exist, so Rhys said he commissioned a friend to create a puppet version of the explorer to bring on tour. Stuffed Evans blankly stared on as Rhys performed with his acoustic guitar, layering vocals and instrumentation with echo loops. The occasional record was used as a backing track for his songs.
Rhys said he would be writing concept songs through the duration of tour, and that future performances may determined by his search for new discoveries. It was not clear how much of the tour is preordained and how much will focus on these ‘discoveries,’ but tour dates are planned along the Mississippi through late August
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