Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
Early in the Gossip concert last Friday night, Beth Ditto asked her family and close family friends to raise their hands. Half the arms in the club shot up.
The love showed. At one point, Ditto brought her mother and sisters, cousins, aunts, nieces, nephews — who knows who else — onstage to dance. Mid-song, her mother reached across her face to brush a piece of hair away in that motherly way. Later, she came back and did an arm-in-arm duet of “What's Love Got to Do with It.” Siblings and cousins got shout outs. In a tone of mock incredulity, Ditto said a cousin had told her earlier in the day “she looked a little chunky.” In a tight, floral-patterned dress and with heavy eye shadow and tangerine hair, she joked from onstage to the same cousin. “I know you're going to tell me that I look like Ursula from ‘The Little Mermaid,' but that's on purpose.”
Maybe from all the reuniting, or maybe because our concert came at the end of a long tour stretch, Ditto's voice wasn't at full capacity. Which didn't so much prevent her from unleashing the diva wail — it works just as well a little bit broken — as it hurt her ability to maintain any sort of dynamics. She couldn't do quiet to loud very well. But no one seemed to care. The crowd was too busy taking cell-phone pictures and singing loud enough to carry songs. Sometimes Ditto let it.
The band, in full disco-punk mode for the first time ever in Little Rock, kept all a-sway. Tour bassist Chris Sutton maintained an awesomely goofy grin throughout. It was his first show at Vino's, but at least his second in Arkansas.
More than a decade ago, before Gossip formed, when guitarist Nathan Howdeshell still lived in Searcy, he wrote a letter to DIY/punk hero Calvin Johnson, and asked him to bring his band Dub Narcotic Soundsystem to play the Searcy American Legion Hut. The band, which featured Sutton, came and performed. It's something people from Searcy of a certain age still talk about.
Stories like those, of transcending whatever baggage comes from growing up in a small town, make it hard not to root for Gossip (particularly if you're from White County). Stay tuned, we'll keep following.