What I’m Spinning – Postcards from Ursa Minor

“And I remembered all the things that I used to care about
and I realized that they have faded; they don’t matter to me now.
They are just moments in a lifetime which I’ll never understand.
Just a glance across a room, a cigarette burn on my hand;
just a second of conversation on a Sunday afternoon,
or a kiss on a bridge after it’s been raining in June.”

I first saw Will Varley a little over a year ago when he toured with Skinny Lister and Beans on Toast. At that time, I had never heard of any of them – I was just going on the recommendation of many newfound gig friends. And it ended up being an epic night…despite the fact that I was an uninitiated observer and couldn’t participate in the singalongs, I don’t think I’ve had more fun at a show (I wrote about it in one of my first blog posts). Will was the first opener and I remember being delighted by him, a shaggy-haired guy with an acoustic guitar, a throaty, gravelly, infinitely pleasing voice, and a wicked sense of humor that came out in his politically charged songs as well as his banter.

Will and Jay, rapping about something, Milkboy, April 2016

I thoroughly enjoyed his set that night, and it’s a good thing too because he opened for Frank and the Souls on nearly all of the dates this fall and winter. Which means that, as it stands now, Will is one of my most-seen artists. So I feel kind of bad admitting that until a few days ago, I had yet to sit down and listen to his albums.

Busking for the queue, pre-Agganis show, February 2017

Last weekend, he came back to Philly as the opener for Lincoln Durham, and though I like Lincoln a lot, Will was the reason we (my parents and I. I told you, I’ve created monsters) headed to the city on Saturday night. I thought giving his music a spin prior to the show was the least I could do. Having seen him live so much, I’m casually familiar with a lot of his songs, but I hadn’t truly listened to them. And on that drive up I-95, I found myself at times fighting either tears or shivers that trailed up and down my spine. I had known his wit and intelligence, but I hadn’t fully appreciated the beauty and thoughtfulness of his words. He is a true poet, a troubadour, and his talent left me awestruck. The show that night was exactly what I’d come to expect from Will – funny, heartening, poignant – and I’ll carry some very special memories from it.

Jubilant in Boston, February 2017

In another weird quirk of fate, I’d read at some point recently that he not only grew up in Kingston-upon-Thames, England, but he played regularly at the Grey Horse, a bar in that town, when he was young. I think I mentioned this a while ago but for those unaware, I spent a year abroad when I was in college, studying at Kingston University…in Kingston-upon-Thames. And one of the places I frequented during that year was the Grey Horse (mostly because you didn’t have to pay a cover for open mic nights). I had the opportunity to ask Will about it prior to the show on Saturday, and it turns out that his time there coincided with mine…so the likelihood is very good that our paths have already crossed, some fifteen years ago.

At Milkboy again, this time in May 2017

So in my roundabout sort of way, we’ve arrived to the point. I cannot stop listening to the album Postcards from Ursa Minor and this song in particular. Tell me it doesn’t give you shivers too.


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