Reality Christmas with Karin and Linford: Over the Rhine at The Ark

The Ark’s frontal facade has been under construction for some time. I walk past it without recognizing the front door. There’s scaffolding all over it, and they’re putting in a new awning with electric letters.

I get in and get my ticket from will call and go to my seat, saying hi to the sound guy Joe who records my EPs with me.

There’s a lot of older white people in this room and that’s okay. I get merlot and buy a membership to the Ark so I can get into the open stages for free.

I take my seat. A couple banters in front of me. I can’t remember what about.

They appear. A guy introduces them. I can’t remember what he said.

Their opening song involves the poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.

They talk about Little House on the Prairie.

They play classics like Born and Trouble and Latter Days and lots of Christmas songs. They tell a story about their song Poughkeepsie and how it was inspired by a suicide hotline on a bridge.

They do The Christmas Song and after Linford says, “When you write a song that good you get to call it ‘THE’ Christmas Song.”

A guy hums along next to me. He’s not bad so it’s not distracting.

They have a new album out in March, called Love and Revelation.

Karin and Linford say their Christmas songs are their own genre, called Reality Christmas. Haha.

They talk about starting the band in the over-the-rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati, 30 years ago. “The bad part of town,” they call it.

They tell stories about blood oranges and cat litter and meeting their in-laws and being married. I can’t tell if it’s scripted or improvised. Probably a little of both.

They close the main set with We’re Gonna Pull Through.

For the encore their multi-instrumentalist Bradley does a solo. Then they sing May God Love You Like You’ve Never Been Loved which I assume is a new song.

That’s it. It’s succint. It’s a carefully crafted thing. They have a job to do, but they do the job well. It’s like a baker who cares about how his display case looks. They are one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen. They are my favorite songwriters. 30 years on the road and still going.

On an unrelated note, I see a girl named Bethany on my way out. We make eye contact but don’t say anything. We used to sort of know each other. She’s the older sister of an old friend of mine, the friend who first got me into this band. She tried to hook Bethany and me up at one point but I wasn’t interested. Bethany got married and moved to Boston, last I heard, which was ten years ago.

The night is cold. I get a vinyl for my parents for Christmas and go home.

Everything is a work in progress.