This coming Tuesday, April 4th, local musicians will gather at Madame Lou's to cover the songs of Low, in tribute to their drummer/vocalist Mimi Parker. KEXP’s Janice Headley spoke with event organizers Josh Golden and Claire Tucker, as well as headliner David Bazan.
In November 2022, the world lost the incomparable Mimi Parker of the band Low. She died from ovarian cancer at the age of 55.
Mimi’s ethereal voice and the resonant harmonies she shared with bandmate and husband Alan Sparhawk made Low’s music unforgettable. Over the span of 30 years, they released 13 albums together, their most recent titled Hey What, released in 2021 via Sub Pop Records.
This coming Tuesday, local musicians will gather at Madame Lou's to pay tribute to the beautiful music Mimi Parker created with Low. The line-up includes David Bazan, Damien Jurado, Loose Wing, Cussing, Young Elk, Robert Deeble, and more, hosted by KEXP’s DJ Abbie. Proceeds from the evening will be donated to Mimi’s family. Event organizers Claire Tucker and Josh Golden told us how the concert came together.
"I know a lot of my friends and I were, of course, very sad when we heard of Mimi's passing," Claire explained. "I kind of envisioned a very small scale event, at first, where it was just some friends and I hanging out, playing Low songs. I reached out to Josh at one point — just mainly to see if his band wanted to play, too — and he floated the idea of making it into a benefit. Once I realized that we had an opportunity to actually give back and help out, I kind of felt like we just had to go for it. So yeah, it's kind of bloomed into a much bigger event than I had originally envisioned, but I'm really happy about that."
Josh added, "The easy part was getting bands to say yes or wanting to do it. I mean, some people wanted to do it and couldn't do it, and then some people wanted to do it that we didn't have enough space for..."
"I think that's just an indication of how much influence Low has had over so many bands and how many people love their music," Claire nodded.
For a headliner, Claire and Josh couldn’t have chosen better than Seattle-based singer/songwriter David Bazan who also records under the name Pedro the Lion. David discovered Low in 1996, when he came across their album The Curtain Hits the Cast.
I saw the cover in a record store with just the snare drum," he remembered. "I was just really blown away. The music that came out of me at the time — and ever since, pretty much — was much slower than the music of my peers. And so I was really struck that there was somebody else who, the music that came out of them was even slower than the music that came out of me. And so there was a kinship that I felt there.
And then also, I had a value for minimally effective songwriting and structures, and they were masterful at that. And then I grew up in church and church music, and there was a little hint of that in there for me with the harmonies and there was, like, a sacredness to that record for me. And then I saw them at the Crocodile – the original Crocodile Cafe, I guess, at that point – and was really blown away by their show. And so, yeah, I've been a huge fan ever since.
David remembers Low, and Mimi’s musicianship, having an immediate impact on him.
Her style of drumming and the effect of the minimal drum kit was extremely moving. And also, just her presence on stage and behind the kit, as it were. And then obviously her voice. It is so unique and special, from the first time I heard it. When I think about her voice or when I think about Al's voice, it's hard to think of them separate from one another sometimes because they had such a way of it being this unified kind of expression. Both are very, very idiosyncratic singers. You know, it's impressive when people can sing long notes or whatever, but it transcended any kind of… It just felt like pure emotion rather than something virtuosic. It was just so personal and unique to what it felt like they were saying and doing.
He befriended Low in 1999, when they invited Pedro the Lion to play a show with them at a coffee shop in their hometown of Duluth, Minnesota. As he told KEXP, they continued to stay friends and tour together in 2001 and again in 2005.
They were highlights of my life, for sure. On tour, energy is something that's hard to... budget, I guess is the word. You don't always have the stamina to listen to the band that you're on tour with every night. And then there are other tours, like the ones with Low, where I just remember feeling like, this is such a rare opportunity every night. And I remember standing in so many venues behind the stage or just listening, and letting it wash over me.
While each artist will perform a few different covers, we asked everyone to share a sneak peek of at least one of the songs we can expect to hear their rendition of this Tuesday night at Madame Lou's.
As a fellow artist with religious upbringing and influences, David plans to cover the track “Murderer” off Low’s 2007 album Drums And Guns.
On that one especially, Al has a way of communicating something really profound about the disconnect between love and wrath or whatever, in a religious kind of context. Or the personality of God, as it's presented through these various religious expressions. In the song, he put something into words that is hard to do. It's a really beautiful boundary setting with something that a lot of us who grew up in that high-control religious culture, were taught that we weren't to do with God, to set boundaries. And, I'm putting air quotes around the word "God."
And that's just one of the things the tune does. They get at something for me, a religious kid who found his way into a different way of thinking about the world. There's something in that song that just really moves me deeply. I can't imagine I'll be able to sing it without tears at that point. And it's not like a sad song. It's just a profound expression that is so succinct. Their songs are these beautiful, minimal poems, along with everything else that they are. That one's really special to me.
Josh’s band Cussing plans to tackle the track “Condescend” off Low’s 1997 EP Songs for a Dead Pilot.
What I like about that record generally is that it's just so sparse. And just the repetitiveness of the simple chords, just kind of strummed very openly. They just hang in the air and they go on longer than you would imagine someone would record those chords.
It's also a song that for Low — who, at that point, were mostly just guitar, bass, drums, and two vocals — they brought in strings, and the strings almost overtake that song. This song is one of my favorite songs, I should say, from them. But also it challenged me to to try to find some friends who also play strings and to try to pull it off, because it's really just the most important part of the song, I think.
And Claire’s musical project Loose Wing will cover the haunting song “Laser Beam” off Low’s 2001 album Things We Lost in the Fire.
On the record, the production of that song is very sparse. We're a four piece band and we're going to Involve everyone. So, it's going to be a little different, but I think it's going to be an interesting interpretation.
Hear all these covers and more on Tuesday, April 4th at Madame Lou’s, with David Bazan, Damien Jurado, Loose Wing, Cussing, Von Wildenhaus, Young Elk, Robert Deeble, Caitlin Sherman, and Lacey Brown. All proceeds to benefit the family of Mimi Parker. Tickets available here, and donations accenpted here.
On November 5, we learned the horrible news that Mimi Parker of the band Low had lost her battle to ovarian cancer. Mimi was only 55 when she passed, but had done so much in her life as a mother, as a musician, and as a human. She was married to Alan Sparhawk, her bandmate. They met in grade school…
Now on their 28th year as a band and their 13th album, titled HEY WHAT out via Sub Pop, the Duluth duo Low talk about the band's longevity and inspirations.
Discussing the band’s 11th album Double Negative, chasing the feeling of starkness, and continuing to experiment after 25 years as a band.